Cyprus Mail

Focus on Pellegrini and Van Gaal as season reaches climax

Louis van Gaal

Manuel Pellegrini takes charge of Manchester City for the last time and Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal could also be waving goodbye to the Premier League when a staggering season concludes on Sunday.

With Leicester City already champions and three clubs condemned to relegation, this season’s final day will lack the usual tension. There are issues to be resolved though, principally who will finish fourth and secure a place in next season’s Champions League final qualifying round.

That doesn’t sound much of a prize for two clubs who would have begun the season with far higher goals.

Pellegrini, who won the title for Man City in 2014, will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season. Should his side succumb at Swansea City, he could be handing the Spaniard a bunch of tiring Thursday night Europa League assignments.

Just a point would clinch fourth place for them and shut Manchester United out of Europe’s elite competition for the second time in three seasons, even if United beat Bournemouth.

United looked poised to leapfrog their local rivals on Tuesday when they led 2-1 at West Ham with 15 minutes remaining but they collapsed to a 3-2 defeat as the Hammers bid an emotional farewell to the Boleyn Ground.

“I think it is still possible but it is not in our own hands and that is the difference,” Van Gaal said of his side’s slim chance of a top-four finish.

The Dutchman still has an FA Cup final against Crystal Palace to win but even that might not convince the Old Trafford hierarchy that he should see out the final year of his contract.

Arsenal are guaranteed a top-four finish for a 20th consecutive season under Arsene Wenger. A point on Sunday against bottom club Aston Villa would secure them the third spot and a place in the group phase of the Champions League for a 19th straight year.

They could even finish second if they win and north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur lose at Newcastle United, whose relegation was confirmed on Wednesday when north east rivals Sunderland crushed Everton 3-0, also sending Norwich City down.

After pushing Leicester hardest and challenging for their first title since 1961, a point on Sunday would guarantee Tottenham second place — their first runners-up spot since 1964 — and see them finish above Arsenal for the time in 21 years.

Failing to secure rare bragging rights over their neighbours would be a bitter pill for Spurs to swallow even if Champions League qualification is assured.

West Ham face Stoke City away on Sunday knowing a win would probably seal a place in the Europa League next season as they begin a new era at the 60,000-seater Olympic Stadium.

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