Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Kai Havertz’s sublime finish ensured a calm end to Chelsea’s chaotic week with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle, bringing the Blues one step closer to the now much-needed financial boost of a Champions League place next season.
The race for the top four was the theme of the weekend, with league leaders Manchester City having to wait until Monday to respond to Liverpool’s comfortable 2-0 victory at Brighton that cut the gap at the top to three points.
Manchester United and West Ham continued in the chase with emotional wins as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick beat Spurs, while Ukraine international Andriy Yarmolenko broke down in tears after scoring in a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa.
However, it is Arsenal who have a grip on fourth with three games to go after beating Leicester 2-0.
Chelsea’s calm before the storm
The European champions are still coming to terms with British government sanctions imposed on owner Roman Abramovich for his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the club’s long-term future.
Chelsea technical and performance adviser Petr Cech has refused to guarantee they will be able to complete the season unless the terms of a government-issued license to continue operating are changed.
The Blues are expected to run out of cash quickly as they try to meet a monthly wage bill of £28m ($36.5) at a time when all their money-making opportunities are frozen.
Ticket and merchandise sales were blocked, while shirt sponsors Three and Hyundai withdrew their support.
Apart from the closed signs on the club shop, there was little evidence of change at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in front of a full house with all tickets sold before the sanctions were announced on Thursday.
Havertz assured that everything was business as usual on the pitch for Thomas Tuchel’s men. But the Germany international, signed for £71m in 2020, is just one example of the luxury Chelsea could afford under Abramovich.
Those days could soon be over even if a new owner is allowed to take over in the coming months.
Is Ronaldo triggering too late for United?
Ronaldo ended a barren one-goal-in-10 run in emphatic fashion, with the three beating Tottenham 3-2 to keep United in the top four.
However, a return to form for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner could prove too little, too late to salvage a hopelessly disappointing season for the Red Devils.
Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford in August raised hopes of challenging for a first title since 2013.
Instead, they find themselves 19 points off the top and struggling to hold off West Ham and Wolves for a place in Europe next season.
Ronaldo’s first hat-trick at United in 14 years took his tally for the season to a respectable 18.
Indeed, only Mohamed Salah has now scored more in the Premier League this season.
But for the man who regularly made exceptional feats easy, Ronaldo’s performance stood out in stark contrast to many of his lackluster displays this season.
“Today he showed for sure that he is physically capable of doing it,” United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick said.
“We also have to admit that it hasn’t always been like this over the past few weeks and months.”
Everton wobble to fall
It hasn’t been since 1954 that Everton have fallen from the top flight of English football, but they are dangerously close to doing so after eight defeats in their last nine league games.
A 1-0 loss to Wolves on Sunday leaves Frank Lampard’s men above the relegation zone on goal difference alone.
The Toffees have games in hand over their rivals to beat the drop.
But there is no evidence that they will pick up the much-needed points with four of their next five league matches against top-six sides.
© 2022 AFP