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Ronaldo keeps Manchester United in Premier League top-four race

With title rivals Liverpool and Man City in FA Cup action, the Premier League focus over the weekend was on the top-four race and the relegation battle.

Original article published 29 August 2022

In the race for the Champions League, both Tottenham and Arsenal faltered, while West Ham drew and Man Utd squeezed past Norwich City.

That defeat for the Canaries means they remain seven points from safety, while Watford's defeat to Brentford suggests they too are on course for an immediate return to the Championship.

Standings in battle for top-four finish




Man Utd




Ronaldo rescues Red Devils

The debate over Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Old Trafford remains, but while his team-mates flounder, the Portuguese's goals will remain critical to his side's hopes.

On another uninspiring afternoon for United, Ronaldo's second hat-trick in three Premier League games ended a run of three without a win in all competitions and left the Red Devils fifth in the table.

Ralf Rangnick's side are now on 54 points, three behind Tottenham, who were uncharacteristically sluggish in going down 1-0 at home to Brighton, with Antonio Conte admitting his players "have to learn" from the defeat.

Spurs are 1/2 to finish in the top four, with United 7/1, but the two other candidates also failed to capitalise.

Capital pair fail to take advantage

Mikel Arteta admitted Arsenal's drop in form was a worry after seeing them suffer a third straight Premier League defeat, with Jan Bednarek's goal for Southampton the difference on Saturday at St Mary's.

Meanwhile, West Ham were perhaps lucky to draw 1-1 at home to Burnley, with Maxwel Cornet missing a first-half penalty for the managerless Clarets.

Arsenal are also on 54 points, but have a game in hand and are 9/4 for a top-four finish. The Hammers are now on 52 points, but have played more games than their rivals and have the added distraction of Europa League football.

David Moyes' men are 2/1 to win that tournament and, like Spurs, they have the upcoming midweek off.

However, the next seven days could be crucial for United and Arsenal, who meet at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.

Before that, the former are 13/2 to win at Liverpool on Tuesday, while 24 hours later the Gunners are 16/5 to succeed at Chelsea.

A win for the Blues at 17/20 would all but seal third place behind City and Liverpool, but who finishes fourth remains in the balance.

None of the four candidates can be relied upon to produce regular results, but in Ronaldo United at least have someone they can hang their hat on when it comes to trying to take them over the line.

Canaries and Hornets shine but fail to win

Both Dean Smith and Roy Hodgson must have been cursing their luck on Saturday.

Norwich were arguably the better side in their 3-2 reverse at Old Trafford, but again failed to take their chances, while Watford had 17 shots, but could only score once as they lost 2-1 at home to Brentford.

Pontus Jansson's stoppage-time header sealed the Bees' fifth win in six Premier League games, but left the Hornets six points from safety with as many matches remaining.

Next up for Watford is a trip to Man City, but they may already have an eye on the visit of Burnley to Vicarage Road on 30th April.

Hodgson is also set to face former club Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester City and Chelsea, while Norwich are still to meet Newcastle United, Norwich, West Ham, Leicester, Wolves and Tottenham.

There are certainly winnable games on those lists, but can they get the job done?

Battle to beat the drop

16thLeeds United3233
20thNorwich City3221

Burnley provide a response

Friday's news that Sean Dyche had left Burnley came as a surprise, but the board clearly felt they had to make a call after the Clarets won just one of his last seven games in charge.

Interim Mike Jackson has been put in the hotseat while the board recruit a new coach and will have been pleased with how the players responded in Sunday's 1-1 draw at West Ham.

The point against the Hammers leaves them three points shy of safety and they are 9/5 not to be relegated and a new man might be in charge in time for Thursday's visit of Southampton to Turf Moor.

Burnley are 7/4 to claim what could prove to be a crucial three points and it looks to be a straight shootout between themselves and the Toffees for the drop.

Will the decision to drop Dyche pay off? Only time will tell.

Bruno emerges as the man for Magpies

Like West Ham, Leicester also progressed in Europe in midweek and were also a yard off the pace on Sunday, losing 2-1 at Newcastle.

The hero for the Magpies? Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.

Bruno came in from Lyon in January and while he has taken time to settle, now really looks to be motoring towards the end of the season.

The 24-year-old cost £37.89m from Lyon and his arrival in England felt like a long-time coming after previously being courted by Arsenal.

Primarily a defensive midfielder, he has also demonstrated a flair for going forward at St James' Park, with his second goal against the Foxes a flying head from a deflected cross.

The former Athletico Paranaense man is 6/1 in the anytime market to score against Crystal Palace on Wednesday and looks like he could be the man for the Magpies to build their new-look team around.

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