Six questions for the weekend
Titles, promotion, play-off spots, relegation - this weekend will decide the fate of many clubs as the EFL draws to a close and the Premier League serves up its penultimate round of fixtures.
Premier League: Rodgers/Benitez to help/hinder old club?
It looks as if Liverpool will need a helping hand from somewhere if they’re to end nearly three decades without a league title. Will that come in the shape of former Reds boss Brendan Rodgers who takes his revitalized Leicester to Man City on Monday?
The Foxes have taken 16 points from the eight games the Northern Irishman has presided over, a record only bettered by the two teams contesting the championship. Can Rodgers, so close to winning the title himself at Anfield, do his former employers a favour by ending City’s run of 12 straight wins?
Course, this could all be irrelevant if Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle stop Liverpool in their tracks on Saturday night. The Magpies were the last side to take points from City before their sequence of successive victories and should they raise their game once more, Rafa could be the man to end Liverpool’s title dream once and for all. He couldn’t, could he?
Saturday: Newcastle vs. Liverpool (19:45)
Monday: Man.City vs. Leicester (20:00)
Premier League: Can Cardiff win to stay alive for one more week?
Cardiff are four points adrift of safety and face Crystal Palace in their final home game. And the objective is a straightforward one: take all three points to take survival to the final weekend. Anything less and it’s curtains for the Bluebirds after just one season back at this level.
Palace have safety secured and little else other than eleventh place to play for - what Neil Warnock would give for that scenario - and the cynics may well point to the prospect of Palace seeing fierce rivals Brighton sweat on their status a little while longer.
But Roy Hodgson has his side playing a refreshing style of counter attacking football away from home. With six wins from the last nine under their belts - most notably at City and most recently at Arsenal - Palace own the sixth best away record which doesn’t translate to an easy task for the hosts.
Championship: Who will secure final play-off berth?
One playoff spot remains and there are three contenders to fill it. Current occupants, Derby County, hold the advantage being a point ahead of Middlesbrough and two in front of Bristol City in eighth.
However, they have arguably the toughest of the final fixtures, at home to confirmed play-off contender West Brom who could still steal in ahead of Leeds in third and avoid a Midlands derby with rivals Aston Villa, with three points.
Any slip-up from the hosts at Pride Park and one of Middlesbrough, away at already relegated Rotherham, or Bristol City away at Hull, could well sneak in sixth. You’d expect one, if not both, to take advantage of fixtures against teams with nothing left to play. This said, nothing can be taken for granted, this is the Championship after all1
Sunday: Derby County vs. West Brom
Sunday: Hull City vs. Bristol City
Sunday: Rotherham United vs. Middlesbrough
(All Championship games to kick off at 12:30)
League One: How will relegation dogfight end?
It has been some season in League One at both ends of the table. But the relegation battle, for some while featuring almost 12 of the division’s 24 clubs, has been a compelling watch to say the very least. And, still three of the four places need to be decided.
Going into the final round of games, Wimbledon, Southend, Plymouth, Walsall and Scunthorpe remain none the wiser of the division they’ll be in when next season swings around with three points separating the five teams.
Fingernails at the ready then for the supporters of each involved particularly at Home Park where Plymouth, winless in eight and manager-less since Derek Adams was sacked on Sunday, host Scunthorpe in a winner-takes-all clash.
Elsewhere, Wimbledon will head to Bradford, confident of getting the win they need to secure safety and the greatest of escapes, while Southend host Sunderland for whom promotion via the play-offs is the best they can hope for now.
Saturday: Bradford vs. AFC Wimbledon
Saturday: Plymouth Argyle vs. Scunthorpe
Saturday: Shrewsbury vs. Walsall
Saturday: Southend vs. Sunderland
(All League One games to kick-off at 17:30)
League Two: MK Dons or Mansfield for promotion?
Bury joined Champions Lincoln in securing promotion midweek leaving just one automatic spot to be filled. Incredibly, the two teams in contention, MK Dons and Mansfield face off in the 46th and final round of games that will feel like a cup final given what’s at stake.
Both locked on 76 points, there’s barely daylight between the sides though a draw will see The Stags hold onto the third place they occupy courtesy of their better goal difference.
With neither coming into the pivotal clash in good form though (one win in five for MK and two straight defeats for Mansfield), it may well turn into a war of attrition.
League Two: Can Sol secure survival?
Sol Campbell’s first foray into management has been far from easy. But Macclesfield Town, bottom when Campbell took over, are still alive and kicking.
They’re arguably favourites to stay up, ahead of Notts County who need to collect all three points at Swindon and rely on The Silkmen not winning, to avoid losing their football league status for the first time in their history. Town host Cambridge, one place and three points above but with safety assured.
The former England international has won it all in the game but can he keep Macclesfield up for what will surely go down as one of his best achievements yet?
Saturday: Macclesfield vs. Cambridge
Saturday: Swindon vs. Notts County
(All League Two games to kick-off at 15:00)