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More fuel to the fire
What was already going to be a brilliant battle for Champions League spots only got closer got this weekend, and the future promises more twists and turns ahead. Only one of the top seven lost (more on the top two in a bit), with Southampton slipping in the weekend’s final game against Swansea to drop below Manchester United into fourth. The Saints showed some positive signs in the game, but they were frustrated by a tough Swansea defense, and the other sides in the top half are the beneficiaries. United now hold a one-point lead on Southampton and Arsenal, with both Spurs and Liverpool lurking in the shadows. Aside from Southampton, those
Chelsea maintain their advantage
Entering this weekend’s clash at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea held a five-point edge over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League Table. After the game, nothing has changed, as the sides battled to a 1-1 draw in London. It was generally a pretty unspectacular game, with Loic Remy finishing off a great Chelsea move with a tap-in in the 41st minute before David Silva equalized four minutes later. From there, the teams battled to a stalemate, with Chelsea unable to muster another shot on target the rest of the way. That won’t matter all that much to Jose Mourinho’s men, who now have the league trophy in their sights. While the lead is the same points-wise, it’ll feel much safer for Mourinho now that the final matchup with the top challenger is in the past. Both sides will drop points before the end of the season, but Chelsea now has the breathing room to do so and remain ahead of their rivals, a luxury even City don’t have right now.
Everton finally defend
Everton’s problems this season have been difficult to diagnose (link to first story), but they’ve mostly revolved around individual defensive mistakes and an overall inability to keep the ball out of the back of their own net. Things finally took a step in the right direction with a 1-0 win at Palace in which they did what they haven’t the whole season: They defended. Romelu Lukaku scored in the second minute, and the defense held firm for the next 90-plus to end a run of eight games without a win in all competitions. It was a resolute effort from the Toffees, who allowed eight shots — three on target — to a Palace team coming off back-to-back league wins since the hiring of Alan Pardew. Most importantly for Everton, the Toffees have some breathing room from the scrapheap trying to avoid the drop. They’re now seven points clear of 18th-place and three ahead of the team behind them, the same Palace side they just beat on the road. February will be a tough test, with matchups against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and a two-legged Europa League tie, but if Everton can get a couple of good results, they could truly free themselves from the possibility of relegation, which would save a lot of fans a lot of fingernails.