Tue, May 22, 11:41am by Staff Writer
A huge week in English football kicked off with the 2018 FA Cup Final, with Manchester United taking on Chelsea. It was the precursor for the week that will also see English club Liverpool appear in the Champions League Final before Fulham and Aston Villa meet in the Championship Playoffs to battle for a spot in next season’s EPL.
Before all that though, Chelsea were crowned the FA Cup Champions end a difficult season on a high. Despite finishing the EPL season outside of the top four, they have finished the year with silverware in their trophy cabinet. Something Manchester United failed to do with the loss in the final ending their hopes.
A first half penalty from Eden Hazard was the only thing that separated the two EPL giants on the day. It was tense affair that lacked the attacking football that most neutrals would have been hoping for on the day that the FA Cup final went up against the Royal Wedding.
United failed to have a shot on target in the entire first half but created more chances in the second as they pushed for an equaliser. Phil Jones was denied from a great stop by Thibaut Courtois, the Chelsea goalkeeper. The fact that Romelu Lukaku started on the bench for United due to injury dented their chances as Chelsea defended resolutely throughout.
Neither of these teams will register the 2017/18 season as a resounding success as Chelsea missed out on Champions League qualification and never seriously looked like defending their title. An FA Cup win may add a little shine, but speculation will continue about Antonio Conte’s future as the club’s owners have huge expectations.
For Manchester United, a 2nd placed finish in the EPL is a massive improvement on recent seasons. Yet the failure to add silverware will still be viewed as a failure by many fans. Next season may well define the direction that the club goes in as they look to chase down Manchester City.
Away from the domestic competition, Liverpool have shined above all other English clubs as they reached the Champions League final in emphatic style. They take on Real Madrid this week, with both sides holding incredible histories in the tournament. That will not matter when they meet in Kiev, with Real standing as favourites at $2.20 compared to Liverpool at $3.
The week of football will come full circle with all attentions once again returning to Wembley Stadium, where Aston Villa and Fulham will meet for the chance to win a place back in the EPL. Fulham have been in the Championship since 2014, whilst Villa dropped down in 2016. The playoff system provides a dramatic end to the season, with one match deciding the fate and finances of two clubs who want to be back at the top table of English football.
Fulham have the edge at $2.10 after finishing one place above Villa in the league. Villa stand at $3.10 to realise their dream of returning to the EPL.
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