Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League. (AFP)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.


Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

Updated 23 September 2020

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

  • The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99

ORLANDO: Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in game three to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — who had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in game two on Sunday — were determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive ... but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my team-mates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early, we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”