1) Welcome to Manchester and the Europa League, Pep
When Pep Guardiola agreed to become Manchester City coach at some stage last year, he probably did not expect to arrive at the world's richest club to be greeted by the Europa League group stage. Yet that is the unappealing scenario that suddenly confronts the outgoing Bayern Munich manager next season unless City get their finger out over the final eight games of this one. United's 1-0 win over City at the Etihad Stadium moves Louis van Gaal's hitherto unconvincing United team up to fifth in the standings. United and West Ham are only a point behind a City side who look about as unconvincing on defence as the Monster Raving Loony Party.
With Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling joining Vincent Kompany on the treatment table for the next month, it does not rain but it pours over the Etihad. Of course, it won't cost the departing Manuel Pellegrini his job, he's already leaving, but it could Pep all those big European nights he thought he was signing up for. The title has gone for City, but so too could their place in the Champions League, a tournament they may have to win to qualify for next season. Fifth for City or United really is the definition of failure in football after so many hundreds of millions spent on fresh faces.
2) Newcastle and Sunderland will meet next season – in the Championship
From Sky Sports Super Sunday to Channel Five’s main game of the day on a Saturday night. That is the fate which awaits Newcastle and Sunderland after a pulsating derby match that suggests neither side are certain to extract themselves from another fine mess they’ve got themselves into. As Aston Villa are discovering, there are only so many times you can give the noose the slip in the Premier League nether regions before years of underachievement finally catches up with you. Of course, they could both avoid the drop.
But what appears more likely is that at least one will go, and even two could be for the exit door. Look at the bottom three now: Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland. That could be your three for relegation, arguably the biggest clubs in the 24-year history of the Premier League to suffer such a fate. It appears to be a straight fight between Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich to see who joins Villa in the Champo.
Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey looks dejected after a missed chance.
Image credit: Reuters
3) Brilliantly inconsistent Liverpool’s season summed up at Southampton
Two steps forward, three steps back. Only Liverpool could rampage into a 2-0 lead at Southampton with some glorious play before somehow contriving to blow it by shedding three in the second half. Just when Jurgen Klopp appears be to be leading Liverpool into the promised land, his squad reminds you why he was handed the job in the first place.
These remain the men that encouraged Liverpool to dispense with Brendan Rodgers, and all the goings on at St Mary’s do is remind you, if you needed reminding, that Klopp’s future health in the role depends upon reconstructing over the close season. First to go could be substitute Christian Benteke, a figure Klopp inherited, but not a man whose style matches what the German coach is searching for. Martin Sktrel must wonder what the future holds for him after replacing Dejan Lovren before being party to all three goals.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp with Christian Benteke.
Image credit: Eurosport
4) Rust moves quicker than Manchester City stopper Martin Demichelis
Fair enough, Martin Demichelis is giving 17 years away to 18-year-old Marcus Rashford, but that does not explain the hopelessness of his defending against Manchester United. The legs might have gone, but so too had his head. His decision to dive into a challenge that handed Rashford the chance to pot the winning goal in the derby is a cardinal sin in football at any level, but just as poor was the lunge on Rashford before half-time that should have led to the award of a United penalty.
The only worse decision-making than Demichelis was that of referee Michael Oliver, who somehow decided to opt against awarding United a penalty that could sealed a 2-0 half-time lead for the visiting side. If City are going to move forward next season, they are unlikely to do so with Demichelis, a figure whose lack of movement in a stodgy City defence can’t simply be rectified by a helping of fibre. When he was sacrificed on 53 minutes for Wilfried Bony, it was a mercy substitution. WIthout the captain Vincent Kompany, City are lost. There is a fair chance Pep Guardiola will love to move on men like Demichelis when he washes up at the Etihad this summer.
Manchester City's Martin Demichelis clashes with Manchester United's Marcus Rashford.
Image credit: Reuters
5) Tottenham might be the best team in the league but Leicester are looking more like champions
Eddie Howe was full of praise for Tottenham after Mauricio Pochettino’s team beat his Bournemouth side 3-0 on Sunday. In fact, he said that Spurs are the best side his team have faced this year. He is not the first manager to say as much. However, being the best team does not guarantee winning the league.
Leicester may have not been as aesthetically pleasing these last few weeks but they are increasingly looking like champions. They are grinding wins out and their ability to do so looks like it is going to edge them over the line. Tottenham have style and substance under Pochettino but that it is looking increasingly as though it might not be enough. Strange times.
Tottenham's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their first goal.
Image credit: Eurosport
6) Buffon an all-time great who is getting better with age
Gianluigi Buffon went 974 minutes without conceding a goal in Serie A. In doing so, he broke Sebastiano Rossi's previous record of not conceding in 929 minutes for AC Milan, set in the 1993-94 season. It represents an outstanding achievement. Buffon is 38 years old and the late thirties usually represent a time for consolidation for keepers – a period to sustain performance rather than enhance it. Buffon is bucking that trend and it cements his status as an all-time great. It is now approaching a point where it is realistic to ask whether he is the greatest keeper of all time.
Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the match.
Image credit: Eurosport
7) Barcelona’s own success might be the only thing that can stop them
The problem with winning football matches is that they lead to more matches. The most successful teams play the most games, and teams don’t come more successful than Barcelona right now. Luis Enrique’s side have played 22 fixtures since the turn of the year, and that started to show - perhaps for the first time - against Villarreal. Barca were weary in the second half at El Madrigal, letting slip a two-goal lead to eventually draw 2-2. Enrique has largely stuck with the same starting line-up all the way through the season, but is it possible that such a resistance to truly rotate is catching up with the Catalans? It might be the only thing that can stop them this season.
Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez puts his hands on his head during the Spanish league football match Villarreal CF vs FC Barcelona at El Madrigal stadium in Vila-real on March 20, 2016
Image credit: AFP
Des Kane, Marcus Foley, Graham Ruthven