Kai Havertz’s sublime finish ensured there was a calm ending to Chelsea’s chaotic week with a 1-0 win over Newcastle edging the Blues closer to the now much-needed financial boost of a place in next season’s Champions League.
The race for the top four was the theme of the weekend with league leaders Manchester City having to wait until Monday to respond to Liverpool’s comfortable 2-0 win at Brighton that closed the gap at the top to three points.
Manchester United and West Ham kept themselves in the hunt with emotional wins as Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick beat Spurs, while Ukrainian international Andriy Yarmolenko broke down in tears after scoring in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
However, it is Arsenal who have a grip on fourth with three games in hand to come after seeing off Leicester 2-0.
Chelsea’s calm before the storm
The European champions are still coming to terms with what UK government sanctions slapped on owner Roman Abramovich for his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin will have on the long-term future of the club.
Chelsea’s technical and performance advisor Petr Cech refused to guarantee they will be able to complete the season unless the terms of a licence granted by the government to continue operating are altered.
The Blues are expected to quickly run out of cash as they try to meet a £28 million ($36.5) monthly wage bill at a time when all their avenues to make money are frozen.
Ticket and merchandise sales have been blocked, while shirt sponsors Three and Hyundai have withdrawn their support.
Bar the closed signs on the club shop, there was little evidence of change at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in front of a full house with all tickets sold prior to Thursday’s announcement of sanctions.
Havertz ensured it was business as usual on the field for Thomas Tuchel’s men. But the German international, signed for £71 million in 2020, is just one example of the luxuries Chelsea could afford under Abramovich.
Those days may soon be over even if a new owner is allowed to take charge in the coming months.
Ronaldo spark too late for United?
Ronaldo ended a barren run of one goal in 10 games in emphatic fashion with all three to beat Tottenham 3-2 to keep United in the top four race.
However, a return to form for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner may prove too little, too late to save a desperately disappointing season for the Red Devils.
Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford in August sparked hopes of challenging for a first title since 2013.
Instead, they find themselves 19 points off the top and struggling to hold off the likes of West Ham and Wolves for a place in Europe next season.
Ronaldo’s first United hat-trick in 14 years took his overall tally for the season to a respectable 18.
Indeed, only Mohamed Salah has now scored more in the Premier League this season.
But for the man who used to routinely make exceptional feats look easy, Ronaldo’s performance stood out in stark contrast to many of his lacklustre displays this season.
“Today he showed for sure that he is physically capable to do that,” said United interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
“We also have to admit that it has not always been like that in the past weeks and months.”
Everton teetering towards the drop
Not since 1954 have Everton fallen out of English football’s top tier, but they are dangerously close to doing so after eight defeats in their last nine league games.
A 1-0 loss to Wolves on Sunday leaves Frank Lampard’s men above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
The Toffees do have games in hand on their rivals to beat the drop.
But there is no evidence they will reap much needed points with four of their next five league games against sides in the top six.