Everton have relegation battle in their own hands, Aston Villa fans face a dilemma and there will be emotional farewells galore
https://www.theguardian.com-by Guardian sport
1) Defining afternoon awaits Toffees
For the third time in 29 years, Everton’s Premier League status is on the line on the final day at Goodison Park although, unlike against Wimbledon in 1994 or Coventry in 1998, survival is in their own hands. The task sounds straightforward enough: beat a Bournemouth team with nothing to play for and a 70th consecutive season in the top flight is guaranteed. Everton, though, have an aversion to the straightforward. Sean Dyche does not have a decent striker available as Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been integral to the team’s recent improvement, is hamstrung again. Unless Vitaliy Mykolenko recovers from a thigh injury, he will not have a recognised full-back (left or right) available either. Everton have not won at home since 11 March and were soundly beaten twice in five days by Gary O’Neil’s team just before the World Cup break, 4-1 in the Carabao Cup and 3-0 in the Premier League. A defining afternoon, laden with consequence on and off the pitch, awaits. Andy Hunter
- Everton v Bournemouth (all games Sunday 4.30pm BST)
2) Last roll of dice for Smith and Foxes
Leicester could scarcely have asked for kinder opposition than West Ham in a match they must win to have even a puncher’s chance of avoiding relegation on the final day. David Moyes’s side have the distraction of a looming Europa Conference League final and are likely to field a weakened side. In the final game before his contract expires, Dean Smith must decide whether to start with the belt-and-braces back five that kept a rare clean sheet at Newcastle or recall one or both of James Maddison or Harvey Barnes, his most creative sparks who started that game on the bench. It seems inconceivable that a player as gifted as Maddison won’t line up for what may well be his final game for the club, and his selection would mean Harry Souttar or Wout Faes dropping out. Smith has some big and potentially unpopular decisions to make, albeit ones that will be rendered moot if the result at Goodison Park doesn’t go his side’s way. Barry Glendenning
- Leicester v West Ham
3) Rutter to emerge from obscurity?
While Harry Kane looks well placed to end his Tottenham career with at least one goal at Elland Road – if indeed the England striker really is leaving Spurs this summer – Leeds lack a fit natural goalscorer. With Patrick Bamford hamstrung and Rodrigo nursing a troublesome foot injury – although there is a chance the latter could feature at some point – what does Sam Allardyce do? Like his predecessor, Javi Gracia, it is clear the latest Leeds interim manager does not believe that Georginio Rutter, the France Under-21s forward signed from Hoffenheim in January, is remotely ready for Premier League combat. Yet in a match where even a win for Leeds may not avert relegation while Spurs aim to secure a Europa Conference League place by leapfrogging Aston Villa, Allardyce may have no option but to hurl Rutter in at the deep end. Right here, right now, luck surely matters more than tactical ingenuity. Deploying Robin Koch as an out-of-position midfield enforcer is all very well but on what appears poised to be a day of farewells, Big Sam can realistically do little more than hope for the best. Louise Taylor
- Leeds v Tottenham
4) A European dilemma for Villa fans
Aston Villa can finish no higher than seventh and Brighton nowhere other than sixth whatever the outcome at Villa Park on Sunday. The home side do have something more than pride to play for, as anything less than a win for Unai Emery’s side could cost them qualification for the Europa Conference League. A four-time Europa League winner with Villarreal (one) and Sevilla (three), Emery knows what it takes to triumph in Europe and the prospect of seeing their team play in continental competition for the first time since 2010 will have many fans excited. But given the transformation in Villa’s fortunes since the Spaniard’s appointment, some might happily forego the prospect of the Thursday-Sunday grind in favour of a far less hectic schedule that could conceivably end with them knocking on the top-four door next season. BG
- Aston Villa v Brighton
5) Can United launch a title bid next season?
With Champions League football secured there could be something of a party atmosphere inside Old Trafford against Fulham but the same Groundhog Day of a question nags at Manchester United: will next season finally be the one when England’s record title-winners become true challengers again? The smart money has to be on “no” as United remain a club in flux, an operation that may or may not be partly or fully taken over this summer, depending on the deal the Glazers agree to. Factor in Manchester City, who have just completed a three-peat championship triumph and are gunning for a treble, and the scale of Erik ten Hag’s challenge seems close to insurmountable. But this is sport, so who knows … Jamie Jackson
- Manchester United v Fulham
6) Bees still in hunt for European place
Manchester City’s victory parade moves on from one lower-budget success story to another. Brighton gave them a tremendous game on Wednesday night and now it is the turn of Brentford, who can still qualify for the Conference League. Thomas Frank’s side need a lot to go their way, including the small matter of a first defeat for the champions since 5 February, but they have confounded enough predictions to ensure nobody should dismiss them out of hand. Few teams mix things up more effectively and among the keys to that has been the goalkeeper David Raya, whose long and short distribution are up there with the best. He will probably leave this summer, with Brentford asking for £40m, and Spurs are among those with a long-term interest. It would speak volumes for the strides made by player and club if the Spaniard says farewell by helping Brentford leapfrog his potential new employers into the European spots. Nick Ames
- Brentford v Manchester City
7) Ward-Prowse to wave goodbye?
There will probably be a muted atmosphere at St Mary’s on Sunday as relegated Southampton take on a Liverpool side who have seen Champions League qualification slip away. Saints are at least showing signs of planning early for next season, with the well-regarded Russell Martin set to take over as manager. How much of the current squad he will get to work with is harder to gauge, and this could well be James Ward-Prowse’s final appearance in a Southampton shirt after 342 Premier League appearances and 48 – frequently stunning – goals for the club. The midfielder offered little clarity about his future this week, while Spurs and West Ham among his possible suitors. Liverpool too will be saying goodbye to a clutch of stalwarts but are well placed at least to end a season of underachievement on a high, having lost only to Manchester City in the past 11 weeks. Tom Davies
- Southampton v Liverpool
8) Xhaka departs with reputation restored
If anybody had told Granit Xhaka on 27 October 2019 that he would one day be given a hero’s send-off from the Emirates, he would have needed a good sense of humour. Back then his spell at the club appeared to have passed the point of no return amid ugly scenes when he was substituted against Crystal Palace, but the picture on Sunday will be immeasurably different. Xhaka is likely to join Bayer Leverkusen soon and will almost certainly play his final game for Arsenal when they host Wolves. Now that everyone has had a couple of weeks to reconcile themselves to second place, the atmosphere ought to be celebratory. Mikel Arteta’s side have had a superb season, regardless of their recent form. It is to Xhaka’s immense credit that he has played a key part but, at 30 and with Arteta needing to reduce his midfield’s age, it feels a good time to leave on a high. Xhaka will not be around for the next stage of Arsenal’s journey but his contribution has been significant and the ovation on Sunday will be heartfelt. Nick Ames
- Arsenal v Wolves
9) A merciful end to season for Chelsea
Having been playing with the air of men hoping to put this season behind them as quickly as possible for almost two months now, Chelsea will finally get their wish on Sunday but may have to endure further embarrassment before the curtain comes down on a calamitous campaign. Like a speedboat given away at the end of Bullseye, Newcastle will roar into Stamford Bridge looking the sleek embodiment of what Chelsea could have won if their new owners had operated a recruitment policy even half as shrewd as their more wealthy but comparatively parsimonious counterparts at St James’ Park. Whatever dutiful, disingenuous nonsense Frank Lampard and Eddie Howe might come out with in their pre-match press conferences, the result of this game doesn’t matter. For all that, one last humbling on their own patch to round off this bin fire of a season would, for neutrals if not Lampard, be undeniably funny. BG
- Chelsea v Newcastle
10) Palace fans say goodbye, but to who?
Selhurst Park will be the scene of some fond farewells after Crystal Palace’s match against Nottingham Forest, but exactly how many remains a mystery. Having devoted the thick end of 50 years’ service between them to the south London club, Wilfried Zaha, Luka Milivojevic, Joel Ward, Nathaniel Clyne, James Tomkins and James McArthur are all approaching the end of their contracts, but only Milivojevic and McArthur have confirmed their departures. Marc Guéhi is also likely to be sold, with Tottenham and other, more elite, clubs interested. The future of Roy Hodgson also remains up in the air, although the 74-year-old may be asked to extend his latest stint at the club for another year. Few know what the near future holds for Palace but it looks considerably brighter than when Patrick Vieira was bid adieu. BG
- Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest