Gun­ners’ im­pres­sive streak in dan­ger

Arse­nal in jeop­ardy of fail­ing to earn Cham­pi­ons League spot for first time in 20 years

The Province - - SPORTS - Bob Lenarduzzi

T he Premier League sea­son con­cludes Sun­day, and while most things are set­tled, still up in the air are the fi­nal two Cham­pi­ons League places.

Manch­ester City is in third place, Liver­pool is two points be­hind, while Arse­nal, a fur­ther point back, is in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy of miss­ing out. The Gun­ners have qual­i­fied for the Cham­pi­ons League for 19 years in a row, so it would be quite a blow for that streak to end.

Arse­nal hosts Ever­ton on Sun­day in what’s pretty much a must-win game, but it’s all aca­demic if Liver­pool and City win their re­spec­tive matches.

Liver­pool hosts rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough, while Manch­ester City is at lowly Wat­ford, so the odds aren’t in Arse­nal’s favour. Goal dif­fer­ence makes it dou­bly un­likely Arse­nal can over­take City, as the Gun­ners are five goals worse off com­pared with the Sky Blues.

Still, any­thing is pos­si­ble, and there are even a few sce­nar­ios where teams could fin­ish dead­locked for fourth place, in which case a one­match play­off would de­cide the Cham­pi­ons League spot.

Manch­ester United, mean­while, plays Ajax on Wed­nes­day in the Europa League fi­nal in Stock­holm. If the Red Devils win, they get a Cham­pi­ons League spot as a bonus. Ajax is a very tal­ented young squad, though, and United is with­out in­jured top scorer Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic.

The bonus round

Real Madrid is in the driver’s seat in La Liga, as the fi­nal round of games con­cludes this week­end. Real is at Malaga on Sun­day need­ing only a point to claim the tro­phy, while Barcelona, three points back, is in a must-win sit­u­a­tion at home to Eibar.

A sur­pris­ing as­pect of the Madrid game is that, if Real wins the tro­phy, they have to pay Malaga $1.5 mil­lion! This is be­cause of a bonus clause in the con­tract of mid­fielder Isco, who joined Real from Malaga in 2013. Isco help­ing Real win the league earns Malaga a pay­out. It’s a crazy sit­u­a­tion, as Malaga would profit for fail­ing to beat their op­po­nent. That doesn’t seem right.

Ti­tle chasers

In Serie A, Roma made things in­ter­est­ing last Sun­day with a 3-1 win over Ju­ven­tus to spoil their ri­val’s vic­tory plans. Juve still holds a four-point ad­van­tage with two rounds left. Roma and third-place Napoli are both in ac­tion on Satur­day, and if the re­sults don’t go their way, then Juve will claim the ti­tle on their day off.

Oth­er­wise, the cham­pi­ons have a chance to clinch the crown on Sun­day at home to lowly Cro­tone. The vis­i­tors, though, are in the rel­e­ga­tion zone, and fight­ing for their lives to stay up. An up­set is un­likely, but pos­si­ble.

Mean­while, the ti­tle race is also still on in Turkey, where Be­sik­tas and Cana­dian in­ter­na­tional Atiba Hutchin­son hold a two-point lead over Is­tan­bul Basak­se­hir, with three rounds re­main­ing.

Both teams face their tough­est op­po­nents this week­end, as Be­sik­tas hosts sev­enth place Kasim­pasa on Satur­day, while Basak­se­hir vis­its fifth place Trab­zon­spor on Sun­day.

Stand up for Travis

White­caps fans will have a chance to hon­our for­mer Res­i­dency player Travis Selje on Satur­day at B.C. Place Sta­dium, when Van­cou­ver hosts Sport­ing Kansas City.

The 17-year-old died two weeks ago fol­low­ing a tragic car crash.

Travis was part of the White­caps FC Res­i­dency Pro­gram from 201216, and more re­cently was team cap­tain at Sur­rey United. The crash oc­curred as he was re­turn­ing home from soc­cer prac­tice.

Caps play­ers will wear arm­bands in Selje’s mem­ory, and there will be a mo­ment of si­lence be­fore Satur­day’s game.

Then, in the 35th minute, friends of Travis are plan­ning to stand and ap­plaud in his mem­ory. Travis wore No. 35 with the res­i­dency team, which also sig­ni­fied his birth­day, March 5. All at­ten­dees Satur­day are en­cour­aged to stand up for Travis in the 35th minute.

Bob Lenarduzzi is pres­i­dent of Van­cou­ver White­caps FC. For tick­ets, visit white­capsfc.com/tick­ets.

Canada’s Atiba Hutchin­son (be­hind, in red) bat­tles El Sal­vador’s An­dres Flores for the ball dur­ing FIFA World Cup qual­i­fy­ing ac­tion last Septem­ber in Van­cou­ver. Hutchin­son now plays for Be­sik­tas, a club that’s bat­tling Is­tan­bul Basak­se­hir for the ti­tle in Turkey. — CP FILES

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