Hull and Newcastle fighting for survival on final day
May. 21, 2015
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The Premier League is set for an afternoon of goodbyes on Sunday — to either Hull or Newcastle as the relegation places are decided and to two of English soccer's top midfielders.
Most of the focus in the final round of games will be on which team joins Burnley and Queens Park Rangers in losing its status in the world's most lucrative league.
Hull is in most danger. Occupying the final relegation spot, the northern club needs a win to stand a chance of staying up — and the schedule hasn't been kind to its manager, Steve Bruce.
Manchester United is the visitor to the KC Stadium and Bruce has never beaten England's most successful club in his 17 years as a manager. Bruce spent nine years as a player at United, appearing in more than 300 games, and said his old team owes him after "wrecking his knee, hip and ankle."
"Is there one final twist? Can we upset the apple cart? Let's hope we can do it," Bruce said. "We have to believe we can beat Manchester United."
Even that might not be enough for Hull, which is also relying on a result at St. James' Park going its way.
Newcastle is two points clear of Hull heading into a home match against West Ham, whose manager won't be short of motivation even if his mid-table team is. Sam Allardyce was fired by Newcastle in 2008, just months into his job.
Hull will finish above Newcastle should they end the season on the same points because of a superior goal difference.
There are two other loose ends to tie up before the season is over.
Third place — and automatic qualification for the Champions League — is still up for grabs for either Arsenal or United. Arsenal is three points ahead and has a superior goal difference of seven, so United is likely to finish fourth and need to win a playoff in August to reach the group stage of Europe's top competition.
Arsenal hosts West Bromwich Albion and could rest some key players ahead of the FA Cup final on May 30.
The Europa League spots for fifth and sixth place will go to two of Liverpool, Tottenham or Southampton. Currently, fifth-place Liverpool has 62 points, Tottenham has 61 and Southampton has 60. The team that places seventh will also be in the Europa League if Arsenal wins the FA Cup.
It will be an emotional day for two Premier League stalwarts, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who will play in Major League Soccer next season for the Los Angeles Galaxy and expansion team New York City FC, respectively. They have made a combined 1,317 Premier League appearances.
Gerrard will play his 710th and final game for Liverpool at Stoke, while Lampard — the former West Ham and Chelsea midfielder — ends his one-year loan spell with Manchester City in a match against Southampton.
Here are some other things to know:
While Gerrard will receive rapturous acclaim by Liverpool's supporters at Britannia Stadium to mark the end of his 17-year professional career with the club, that might not be the case for teammate Raheem Sterling.
The 20-year-old England forward was heckled by some fans at Liverpool's end-of-season awards evening on Tuesday, following speculation in the British media that he is set to ask if he can leave the club. A meeting with Liverpool officials, scheduled for Friday, was cancelled on Thursday.
Sterling, who has two years left on his deal, gave an unauthorized interview with the BBC last month in which he said he had turned down a new deal and would wait until the end of the season to decide his future. British newspapers on Thursday said Man United, Liverpool's fierce rival, had inquired about signing Sterling, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Middlesbrough will play Norwich at Wembley Stadium on Monday in the playoff final in the second-tier League Championship. At stake, a place in the Premier League and a jackpot of at least $180 million in future earnings from prize money and television deals, making it the richest club game in world soccer.
Middlesbrough is managed by Aitor Karanka, Jose Mourinho's assistant coach from their time at Real Madrid, and was last in the top flight in 2009. Norwich is looking to get back in the Premier League at the first attempt after relegation in 2014.