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Life at Real Kashmir FC: How to survive one of the world's most dangerous coaching jobs

One of the first things Davie Robertson did when he returned home was tuck into a portion of fish and chips.

Robertson was recuperating after another season in charge of Real Kashmir. Despite the modest budget and facilities in Srinagar, the Scotsman has guided the club from the obscure depths of Indian soccer to the very top in two-and-a-half years.

But Real Kashmir’s lacking amenities are the least of Robertson’s worries. He happens to work in one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

“Maybe 15 minutes before the end of the game, the other team equalized, and they were on the pitch again,” he described of a match against a nearby village team early in his reign. Opposing fans had already braved the armed security and stormed the pitch on multiple occasions, but things were about to get much worse under the flickering floodlights.

“This time one of our players got hit in the head with a gatepost. He was obviously knocked out and everybody’s on the pitch – it was probably the scariest moment of my life. Then the (home team) owner’s security guy just grabbed me and ran me into a car. I had to hide in the back of this 4×4.”

Into the unknown

Paul Marriott – EMPICS / PA Images / Getty

Robertson was a hard-tackling left-back in his playing days. As a youngster, he worked his way through Aberdeen’s ranks to become a first-team regular under Alex Ferguson. Scottish giants Rangers then signed Robertson for a club-record £1-million fee in 1991. There, he won six consecutive league titles before joining English champions Leeds United. Injuries caught up with Robertson, but his footballing education and fierce competitiveness promised a fruitful coaching career.

But it wasn’t that easy. Robertson found himself a victim of an era during which a glut of ex-players were applying for the relatively few coaching gigs available in British football. He moved to the United States and had been overseeing youth training drills for the best part of a decade when Real Kashmir called.

“It wasn’t so much cutting off options because I didn’t really have any options,” Robertson told theScore when asked if he was concerned about shifting even further off the U.K. radar.

“I knew Kashmir was in India but I didn’t know anything about it, the troubles there. I just jumped on a plane and had a go at it.”

His wife Kym single-handedly moved the family home back to Aberdeen when her husband took what she describes as a postman’s wage in Kashmir. The transition wasn’t easy for Robertson, either, who sought comfort back in the States after less than a month in India. He was a stranger braving the Kashmiri winter, with no knowledge of the area and no internet to contact loved ones back home.

“I just couldn’t cope with it, but the owners persuaded me to come back. I’m really glad they did; otherwise, this would’ve never happened.”

So Robertson finally set to work in a battleground for Indian troops and Islamic militants. The club itself seemed to clash with its setting: it was a brand-new outfit owned – perhaps encouragingly, given the area’s issues – by one Muslim and one Hindu, and Robertson proudly claims the squad he hastily assembled represented seven different religions.

‘A very bleak and bad picture’

TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP / Getty

Of course, homesickness can creep in when stints away reach seven months, but it can be treated. Robertson tempted his eldest son, Mason, from part-time Scottish football to join Real Kashmir’s first season in India’s top flight. Robertson Jr. initially spent hours in his hotel room playing video games but is now embracing the local area, often dining out with teammates in Srinagar.

Robertson Sr. believes his son was one of the division’s best players during the 2018-19 I-League season.

“He’ll give coaching points to some of the players, he’ll shout, he’ll encourage them. I think it’s maybe a comfort that I’m here but it’s maybe confidence that he’s doing well,” the 50-year-old said of Mason’s personal growth in Kashmir.

“I think at the start he was a bit quiet but he’s played really well, he’s confident, and he’s more outgoing than what he was.”

Kallum Higginbotham, an English forward who was playing in Scotland for Dunfermline, signed with Real Kashmir last month. The British contingent is growing – the assistant manager, Jimmy Lindsay, was brought aboard two years ago and a Scottish goalkeeping coach is en route – but Robertson “paints a very bleak and bad picture” before they arrive. He wants to ensure they’re prepared for life in one of the world’s most militarized zones.

“I was always concerned when I’d go to training after there’d maybe been a shooting or something but it’s just normal. It’s just daily life. It’s what they’re used to,” he said.

“You think, ‘Oh my God, what’s he doing out there?’ but when you know the people and how it all works it’s actually a great place to be.”

Mellowing amid the bombs and bedlam

STR / AFP / Getty

Real Kashmir were closing in on the 2018-19 I-League title, but then the bomb went off. On Feb. 14, 2019, Adil Ahmad Dar drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a center of a 78-bus convoy carrying Indian forces in Pulwama, a settlement under 20 miles south of Srinagar. Dar, who was just 22, killed 40 people.

Robertson was used to death, protests, and strikes being a daily occurrence in Kashmir – at least 492 soldiers, militants, and civilians were killed in the valley in 2018 – but the Pulwama attack put the region under the global microscope. Traveling to Kashmir was to put your own life at risk.

Two teams refused to play matches in Kashmir near the end of the league campaign. Real Kashmir’s home tie with Minerva Punjab was abandoned, with both teams awarded a point. Robertson’s side was defeated in another “home” match against East Bengal, which the league moved to a neutral venue over 500 miles away in New Delhi.

Real Kashmir finished the I-League season in third place.

“If we’d have actually played those two games at home, I think we would’ve won the league. But these things happen and it’s just part of it,” Robertson reflected. “Bizarre things happen.”

Robertson admits the bombs and bedlam of Kashmir have, somewhat contradictorily, mellowed him. He thinks he’s a better person. The competitive full-back who hoarded medals for Rangers would stew over missing out on a title but, in India, the human aspects far outweigh football. He cares deeply about his players and loves the “fantastic people” of Kashmir. He’s brought an embattled area happiness and pride through football.

“It would be very difficult to see somebody else coach them,” he admitted.

“Out of all the clubs I’ve been at, played at, coached at – it’ll probably be the saddest day ever when I leave there.”

Job offers have arrived from Asia and the Middle East since his successes with Real Kashmir, but none from Scotland. Maybe it’s for the best. Robertson has found an inner peace in Kashmir that can’t be found at the bottom of a bag of fish and chips. His tumultuous “second home” is calling.

“There’s a lake. There’s street food, barbecued chicken and things. I love just sitting on the water’s edge.”

“Real Kashmir FC,” a documentary that follows Davie Robertson’s chaotic 2018-19 campaign in India, will soon be available on Amazon Prime.

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Premier League

Premier League exit survey: The good, bad, and ugly this season

The final whistle has been blown, the final goal scored, and the trophy hoisted after a captivating campaign that saw Manchester City stave off Liverpool in dramatic circumstances. theScore looks back on it all, breaking down the best – and worst – the Premier League had to offer over the past season.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the 2021-22 season?

Michael Regan / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Anthony Lopopolo: Midseason hirings yield mixed results. Despite claims to the contrary, clubs don’t always see an uptick in form when they swap managers. Norwich City and Watford couldn’t escape relegation despite changing coaches in November and January, respectively. Burnley waited until mid-April to fire longtime manager Sean Dyche and suffered the same fate. Aston Villa, Everton, and Leeds United did enough to avoid the drop, but none of them played much better under new managers.

Gianluca Nesci: We’re witnessing football’s great new rivalry. Manchester City and Liverpool are, by some margin, the two most dynamic teams in both England and Europe. Watching them go blow-for-blow each week is engrossing, and their direct matchups are essential viewing. There’s clearly respect between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp but also some bubbling animosity that can only be born when a competitor pushes you to the absolute limit. Long may it last.

Daniel Rouse: January signings can work. The midseason market is usually rife with panic purchases that fluster rather than fortify squads, but this season was different. Eddie Howe resisted the urge to rush a revolution at Newcastle United; sensible buys such as Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes, and (briefly) Kieran Trippier were all key in pulling the Magpies toward midtable. Christian Eriksen, Luis Diaz, and Dejan Kulusevski also hit the ground running at their respective clubs.

What was your favorite moment or storyline?

Rob Newell – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty

Lopopolo: Andriy Yarmolenko’s winner. The Ukrainian international missed four games in February and March as he digested the news about Russia’s invasion of his homeland. West Ham United granted Yarmolenko compassionate leave, and he received a standing ovation when he returned and later scored in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa. In tears, the 32-year-old dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky, reflecting on all the terror his relatives faced in Ukraine and his own difficulties. The goal was his first in the Premier League since July 2020.

Nesci: Eriksen’s emotional return. Football, so often a tribal and divisive sport, can, on occasion, bring people together to celebrate something objectively uplifting. Few moments were as unifying as seeing the Danish midfielder resume his career in late February, 259 days after his harrowing collapse at Euro 2020. He was greeted by thunderous applause from the crowd and opposing players, and he went on to become an integral member of Brentford’s squad. “I’m one happy man,” Eriksen said after his first appearance for the club. Same, Christian. Same.

Rouse: David Moyes’ resurgence. The Scot was that close. Another poor tenure and he would be filed alongside Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and the other uninspiring British bosses who lived on the managerial carousel. But then Moyes slowly changed the mood at the London Stadium with wise investments from the EFL and Eastern Europe. He’s forged a squad that was two points from pipping United to sixth place and also reached the Europa League semifinals. Good for you, Moyes.

What about your biggest disappointment?

Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Lopopolo: Romelu Lukaku. Chelsea spent £97.5 million to bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge last summer. All they have to show for it is a hefty bill. Lukaku made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he openly questioned manager Thomas Tuchel’s tactics in an unauthorized interview with Italian TV in February. In the end, he scored just eight goals in 16 starts in the Premier League.

Nesci: Fan violence. A spate of late-season pitch invasions heightened the issue, but incidents involving supporters have seemingly been on the rise since stadiums were opened to patrons following the COVID-19 lockdown. “As a coach, manager, player, or staff, we want to be safe in our workplace,” Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira said after his own altercation with a fan at Goodison Park. He’s right, of course. Nobody should feel unsafe doing their job. This isn’t unique to England – Ligue 1, in particular, has been marred by problems in the stands of late – but it’s undeniably something the FA needs to devote time and resources to eradicating.

Rouse: Norwich. In 12 months from now, will we all be greatly underwhelmed by the news that, once again, the Canaries have flown back into the Premier League? This latest attempt to stay in the top flight was pitiful as Norwich scored 23 times while conceding three or more goals in 16 of their games.

Who was this season’s MVP?

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Lopopolo: Heung-Min Son. Not even Antonio Conte can explain why Son is so good with both of his feet. The South Korean scored 12 goals with his left foot and 11 with his right to finish as the Premier League’s joint-top scorer alongside Mohamed Salah. He starred for Tottenham Hotspur down the stretch, scoring 12 times in his final 10 league appearances to help Spurs finish above Arsenal in the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Nesci: Kevin De Bruyne. The best, most influential player on the best team in the Premier League. Chalk, yes, but it’s impossible to overstate how vital the Belgian wizard is to Manchester City. Quite simply: Guardiola’s team wouldn’t have held off Liverpool for the crown without De Bruyne orchestrating operations. It was fitting that he set up the title-clinching goal in Sunday’s manic finale.

Rouse: Mohamed Salah. Granted, the Egyptian attacker had a slight dip in productivity after the Africa Cup of Nations, but he was easily the best player on the planet over the opening half of the Premier League campaign. He scored 16 goals and assisted nine times over his first 20 appearances.

Best signing of the season?

Steven Paston – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Lopopolo: Eriksen. The 30-year-old made an astonishing return to competitive top-flight football in February, turning out for Brentford eight months after suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020. But he ended up doing more for Brentford than they could’ve ever imagined. Joining on a free transfer after terminating his contract with Inter Milan, Eriksen led the Bees out of a midseason funk and on to a winning run that culminated in a 4-1 victory at Chelsea. The playmaker finished the season with one goal and four assists in 11 appearances, and Brentford staved off relegation.

Nesci: Luis Diaz. It’s exceedingly rare that a January addition turns out to be the most prominent of all, but Diaz fit seamlessly into Klopp’s team upon his arrival from Porto for an initial £37.5 million. He added an extra spark whenever the Reds labored and helped take some of the creative and scoring burdens off his new teammates. Guimaraes and Jose Sa deserve consideration here too, but Diaz was the standout signing.

Rouse: Marc Cucurella. The £15.4-million fee that Brighton & Hove Albion paid to acquire the wild-haired wing-back proved to be one of the bargains of last summer. His boundless energy and quality in both defensive and attacking situations has led to links to a move to Manchester City.

Worst signing of the season?

Chris Brunskill/Fantasista / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Lopopolo: Jadon Sancho. Manchester United dropped £73 million on the 22-year-old with the expectation he’d form a formidable front line with Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bruno Fernandes. Apart from scoring a consolation goal in United’s 4-1 loss to Manchester City, Sancho achieved little in his first season back in England. Anthony Elanga, a homegrown talent who shares duties on the left wing, has shown more promise than his high-priced teammate.

Nesci: Bryan Gil. Remember him? Tottenham reportedly paid €25 million – and parted with Erik Lamela – to secure the services of the Spanish winger from Sevilla. He made nine league appearances, totaling just 94 minutes, didn’t score a goal, and attempted only one shot before being sent back to La Liga on loan. Spurs then promptly signed Kulusevski in January, a superior winger who effectively renders Gil useless.

Rouse: Dele Alli. The 26-year-old was famously branded “a f—— lazy guy in training” by Jose Mourinho in Amazon’s “All Or Nothing” docuseries on Spurs’ 2019-20 season. He’s not the kind of player you want for a relegation battle, which explains his zero starts until Everton secured safety, and there’s been little indication over the past four seasons that he’s worth the £40 million he’ll cost the Toffees if he hits all of his appearance targets.

Which ‘outsider’ is likeliest to crack the top six next year?

Naomi Baker / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Lopopolo: Brighton. Graham Potter is building a credible project in the south coast of England. He led the Seagulls to ninth place in 2021-22 – their highest-ever finish in the Premier League – and helped them post impressive victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Manchester United late in the season. Leandro Trossard scored a single-season career-high eight goals, and even Danny Welbeck found the net with greater regularity. A few more targeted signings could push Brighton into Europe.

Nesci: West Ham. Were it not for Conor Gallagher’s impending return to Chelsea, Crystal Palace would have been the selection here – Vieira’s team, despite finishing 12th in the table, produced the sixth-best expected goal difference in the league this season. But West Ham, having come so close to pipping Manchester United to a Europa League place, already have the foundation in place to go one better in ’22-23. Keeping hold of Declan Rice will be essential if the Hammers are going to make that leap.

Rouse: Leicester City. The Foxes had a wretched time with injuries. Wesley Fofana was missed most of all during his prolonged spell on the sidelines, James Justin and Wilfred Ndidi dealt with lengthy absences, and Jamie Vardy raced to 15 Premier League goals despite missing 13 games. If his most important players can stay fit, Brendan Rodgers can guide his team into Europe once more.

Are you going to miss any of the relegated sides?

DANIEL LEAL / AFP / Getty

Lopopolo: No. Burnley’s expiration date had long passed, Watford couldn’t win at home, and Norwich City were as good as done in December.

Nesci: Negative. Having correctly predicted the three clubs to be relegated prior to the campaign, I’ve been ready to wave goodbye to them for quite some time. As an aside, please don’t look at any of my other preseason predictions. They were all good and correct, honest.

Rouse: Nope. Leeds United are a huge club blessed with a passionate fan base, and they’ve largely played entertaining football since they belatedly returned to the top flight in 2020. They survived, so all was good with the world.

Which club intrigues you most going into the transfer window?

Alex Livesey – Danehouse / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Lopopolo: Newcastle. The budget is there, but how will they spend it? Manager Eddie Howe has certainly done enough to gain significant backing in the transfer window, and the club’s new Saudi owners will have more time than they did in January to splash the cash. They can probably do better than Chris Wood up front, and they’ll likely need more help at the back.

Nesci: Manchester United. There’s a prevailing thought that retooling a squad takes several transfer windows. That may be true in some cases, especially when financial limitations are at play, but Manchester United are able to operate outside of that realm. Independent of the Premier League’s financial might, this is one of the most commercially powerful clubs in the world. That means new manager Erik Ten Hag can revamp quickly if United hit the mark with their summer signings.

Rouse: Wolverhampton Wanderers. If it wasn’t for Jose Sa – winner of the players’ Player of the Season award – who knows how this season would’ve fared. Wolves’ promising period around the turn of the year has descended into relegation form. Changes are needed.

Is Erik ten Hag the man to turn around United’s fortunes?

Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Lopopolo: Who knows. Ten Hag is undoubtedly a capable manager who can develop young talent. He’s also an attack-first coach who fits into Manchester United’s ethos. But this job is about more than coaching. It’s politics. He’ll need to establish a culture of accountability at United and push out the passengers in this side. Easier said than done.

Nesci: Manchester United damn well hope so! The Red Devils can’t afford a repeat of the disjointed, garbled mess of a season they just endured. If there’s a willingness at the executive level to let the Dutch tactician implement his philosophy – and crucially, some patience – Ten Hag can be the manager who brings the club back to the upper echelon of the Premier League.

Rouse: Unless Ten Hag suddenly develops a knack for psychokinesis, nobody can confidently answer “yes” to this question. The main thing that will dictate the success of the Dutchman’s tenure will be his relationships at the club. Holism is so important during a rebuild. Ten Hag must also be given time to restore belief in an unhappy squad.

How long will Chelsea’s rebuild take?

Naomi Baker – The FA / The FA Collection / Getty

Lopopolo: It all depends on ownership. If the U.K. government approves the U.S. consortium’s £4.25-billion takeover and allows Chelsea to operate normally in the transfer market, the club could turn it around in a year. But maybe the new owners will decide to take a more holistic approach. Thomas Tuchel has a fairly young squad at his disposal, and he may fancy the opportunity to build from there.

Nesci: Not long. Their season fizzled out badly, but this isn’t exactly a club stuck in the doldrums, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the ownership situation; Chelsea, at least for another few days, are the reigning European champions, remember. The team is still loaded, even if defensive reinforcements are needed, and Tuchel is an elite manager. If all else fails, the Blues can lean on their “loan army” to help alleviate lingering squad concerns.

Rouse: We don’t even know when the purse strings will be loosened for Tuchel. The sale narrative has been topsy-turvy and tiresome. If it’s sorted with time to conduct business in the transfer window, it could take just a couple of months. Even after this summer’s departures, it’s a stacked squad awash with cup-winning experience.

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Manchester City beat Liverpool to EPL title after miraculous comeback win

Manchester City dragged their supporters through a gamut of emotions before capturing their fourth Premier League title in five years with a stirring 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

On one of the most intense final days in Premier League history, Kevin De Bruyne had the presence of mind to slide the ball across for Ilkay Gundogan to score the 81st-minute goal that would eventually secure City’s breathless comeback victory. Five minutes earlier, City were two goals down to Steven Gerrard’s side and facing the prospect of surrendering the title in deeply embarrassing circumstances.

The result meant Liverpool’s nervy 3-1 home win over Wolverhampton Wanderers couldn’t trouble Pep Guardiola’s side in first place. City won the title by a single point.

Tom Flathers / Manchester City FC / Getty

City weren’t themselves for the majority of Villa’s visit. Fernandinho, in his last appearance for the club, was vulnerable at center-back. City’s attackers struggled to make an impression while the Villans defended stoutly. And Aston Villa threatened to burst forward each time they got hold of the ball and resisted the home team’s press.

It was a swift attack that put City on the back foot. Aston Villa quickly moved up the gears from defense before Lucas Digne’s teasing cross was powered home by Matty Cash’s head.

City still had a tentative grip on top spot at halftime despite the one-goal deficit. With Liverpool only drawing 1-1 against an out-of-form Wolves on Merseyside, Guardiola’s outfit was ahead of their northwest rivals on goal difference.

But City made it more difficult for themselves. They entered the second half with more impetus, stronger for Oleksandr Zinchenko replacing Fernandinho at the break, until former Liverpool favorite Phillippe Coutinho punctured the hosts’ growing belief and stunned the Etihad Stadium.

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty

Robin Olsen smashed his goal-kick long upfield, Ollie Watkins beat Rodri to flick the ball on, and Coutinho skipped inside Aymeric Laporte before putting Villa 2-0 ahead in the 69th minute.

Liverpool were still level with Wolves but a goal from the Reds seemed an inevitability. City’s title, after being 14 points ahead in mid-January, was slipping away.

But City evoked memories of their comeback against Queens Park Rangers from a decade earlier, offering a three-goal punch which began in the 76th minute.

Matt McNulty – Manchester City / Manchester City FC / Getty

Gundogan, who was brought on in Bernardo Silva’s stead just moments before Coutinho’s goal, started the fightback when he rose at the far post to meet Raheem Sterling’s cross with a bullet header.

Rodri leveled the game. Zinchenko wriggled his way toward the box from the left flank before picking out the Spaniard on the edge of the box. Rather than a customary smash from Rodri, he coolly side-footed the ball into the bottom corner.

Then, everything that went on down the M62 in Liverpool wouldn’t matter. De Bruyne collected a spillage from the edge of the area, powered through three Villa players, and passed the ball across the goal. Gundogan tapped home, firmly establishing himself as a legendary figure in Manchester City’s history.

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Premier League

What's at stake on the final day of the Premier League season?

The exhilarating 2021-22 Premier League season comes to a close Sunday, with plenty still at stake as all 20 clubs take the pitch at 11 a.m. ET. Below, we examine what’s left to play for heading into the final matchday.

Title race

Simon Stacpoole/Offside / Offside / Getty

The big one.

An engrossing scrap between Europe’s two most dynamic teams comes to an end Sunday, with Manchester City looking to retain their domestic crown and, in the process, scupper Liverpool’s pursuit of a historic quadruple.

The battle, overseen by Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, has quickly developed into the Premier League’s best modern rivalry. While there’s still much to play for elsewhere in the table, most eyes will be on the Etihad Stadium and Anfield this weekend.

Matches:

  • Manchester City vs. Aston Villa
  • Liverpool vs. Wolves
POSITION CLUB GD POINTS
1 Manchester City +72 90
2 Liverpool +66 89

City, who have 21 goals in their last five league matches, control their own destiny. They’ll be crowned champions once again with a victory over Aston Villa, regardless of what happens at Anfield. In a delicious twist, Villa boss Steven Gerrard, a Liverpool icon who famously never lifted the Premier League trophy with the Reds, could play a key role in delivering a league crown to Merseyside after all.

Liverpool, who still have the Champions League final on the horizon, will be scoreboard watching and hoping for a favor. Whatever happens, this will go down as one of the most captivating races in recent memory.

The Premier League went to a 38-match schedule beginning in 1995-96. Since then, a haul of 92 points – Liverpool’s total if they win Sunday – would’ve been enough to win the title in all but five campaigns, excluding this season. That highlights how brilliant both teams have been this year; Liverpool have lost just two league matches, yet City, who are approaching the 100-goal mark for the campaign, are still keeping them at bay. It’s been a titanic tussle. It’s a shame it has to end.

Champions League qualification

Visionhaus / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There’s only one Champions League place left up for grabs heading into Sunday’s concurrent fixtures, with the bitter north London foes Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal set to conclude what’s been an erratic, back-and-forth battle for fourth place.

The Gunners, in a position of extreme strength just a week ago, have crumbled down the stretch, losing consecutive matches – including a 3-0 setback against Spurs – to give their rivals the advantage. The situation for Antonio Conte and Tottenham is, therefore, painfully simple: don’t lose to the worst team in the league Sunday, and you’re in the Champions League.

Matches:

  • Norwich City vs. Tottenham
  • Arsenal vs. Everton
POSITION CLUB GD POINTS
4 Tottenham +24 68
5 Arsenal +9 66

Even a draw will be enough for Spurs, who boast an enormous advantage on goal difference; should the two sides finish level on 69 points, Tottenham will snatch fourth via that tiebreaker, barring an inconceivable 15-goal swing.

Conte, hired in November to replace the floundering Nuno Espirito Santo, has faced a checkered spell at Tottenham – often by his own making through a series of interesting soundbites and interviews. However, he looks destined to accomplish a feat that appeared nigh impossible when he arrived at the club.

Whoever misses out on fourth place will go into next season’s Europa League.

European places

PAUL ELLIS / AFP / Getty

It’s not much in the grand scheme, but Manchester United have a chance to salvage their season by clinching sixth place and a berth in the Europa League. West Ham United, who at times threatened to blow up the top-four hegemony before eventually dropping off the pace, could yet upset the applecart and head to the south coast knowing there’s still hope.

Matches:

  • Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
  • Brighton vs. West Ham
POSITION CLUB GD POINTS
6 Manchester United +1 58
7 West Ham +11 56

The Red Devils travel to Selhurst Park in full control of their own fate. A win will end Ralf Rangnick’s erratic coaching tenure on a high note and give incoming bench boss Erik ten Hag another target to obtain next season. A failure to win, though, gives the Hammers a golden opportunity to run it back after their impressive Europa League adventure this season.

If the two teams finish level on points, David Moyes’ squad will pip United to sixth by virtue of a superior goal difference. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. haven’t taken the pitch since May 7, when they were thumped 4-0 by Brighton. Will the break prove beneficial?

Whichever team finishes seventh will play in next year’s Europa Conference League, ensuring that, one way or another, continental football beckons for both clubs.

Relegation battle

Alex Dodd – CameraSport / CameraSport / Getty

And then there were two.

Everton secured their Premier League safety with a miraculous 3-2 win over Crystal Palace on Thursday, coming back from two goals down in the second half to ensure they won’t suffer a humbling relegation to the Championship.

The manic celebrations at Goodison Park – fans invaded the pitch before the full-time whistle to celebrate Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s match-winning goal – were met with disdain in Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Everton’s desperate escape means one of Burnley or Leeds United will finish 18th and drop to England’s second tier next season.

Matches:

  • Burnley vs. Newcastle
  • Brentford vs. Leeds
POSITION CLUB GD POINTS
17 Burnley -18 35
18 Leeds -38 35

Burnley, who earned a potentially invaluable point against Aston Villa on Thursday, boast a superior goal difference and only need to match Leeds’ result Sunday to survive. Neither team has won since April. There is, quite literally, no better time for either club to break that slump.

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