Chelsea made a big step towards sealing up the Premier League title race with a solid 1-0 win over Manchester United this weekend, while Manchester City recovered to keep up some pressure on the race for second. At the bottom, the Foxes showed they are in for a fight while the woes deepened at Tyneside as thousands protested against Newcastle owner Mike Ashley. Here’s the five key points from the weekend:
Eden Hazard, player of the year
The Premier League has seen a number of superb individual performers this year. Alexis Sanchez is surely responsible for much of Arsenal’s success; David De Gea deserves plaudits for keeping Manchester United in it while Louis van Gaal’s system gelled. Harry Kane will get more than a few nods after a fantastic, breakout season with Spurs. But one player stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that is Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. The left-sided, attack-minded midfielder has emerged as one of the best players in the world this season, and showed his importance again on Saturday, clinically pouncing on a Manchester United mistake to all but coat the Premier League trophy in blue and white. Chelsea are lucky to have him: while the rest of the squad looks gassed, Hazard alone has displayed the pace and poise to haul the Blues over the line.
AFP/Getty ImagesBEN STANSALL
Manchester United, back for real?
For all the drama and dismay that surrounded Old Trafford at the start of the season, there is a real sense that the Red Devils are finally back on track. They look sure to return to the Champions League, they are starting to display the snap and bite of old, and even in a loss, they looked by far the better team. There have been some bad misfires, mind you: Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao have been disappointments and one does expect a summer housecleaning in Salford. But overall, this is a team that feels a few pieces short, as opposed to a squad in chaos. Give credit where credit is due: van Gaal has managed to turn it around.
Man Utd via Getty ImagesMatthew Peters
Frisky Foxes, making it a fight
A month ago, if you had said that Leicester would be on a three-game tear and had a decent chance of clawing their way out of the mire, you would have been laughed at. After all, they had been rooted to the bottom of the table since last November and showed no signs of life at all. But, hot off a big 2-0 win over Swansea, the Foxes look as if they might actually pull off the escape. They have a six-pointer looming against Burnley next week; a match against Chelsea that might ensure the Blues mathematically wrap up the title; and then games against very beatable Newcastle, Sunderland and QPR sides. Four of their final games are at the King Power, which may prove to be a critical advantage. Can they do it? Don’t count them out.
Getty ImagesJordan Mansfield
The furor around Newcastle
Pity poor John Carver. A nice man in an impossible job, Carver has won just two of his 15 games since taking over from Alan Pardew. Newcastle, fresh off a 3-1 thumping by Spurs, have now dropped six straight. Thousands filled the streets outside St. James on Sunday, demanding that their mercurial owner, Mike Ashley, sell the club. Newcastle are terrible -- but are probably safe given that there are clubs below them who look far worse. However: they face a series of games against teams who have to win, and it’s hard to see where the Toon collect the five points they need to ensure safety -- especially since Carver’s team appears to have quit on him. Can Newcastle go down? Yep. Will they?
Getty ImagesJan Kruger
Manuel Pellegrini gets some room to breathe
History will probably not remember Sunday's 2-0 victory over West Ham as a critical fixture, but make no mistake: this was a vital win for a reeling City side. The result gave them some space ahead of trailing Liverpool (who do have a game in hand due to the FA Cup) and likely ensured that they will at least make the Champions League playoffs. There’s a lot of work ahead at City -- they need a major housecleaning and there’s no guarantee of a successful rebuild -- but against a sloppy, lethargic West Ham, they got the job done. In these days of diminished expectations, they will surely take it.