Football Features

Cole Palmer equals Frank Lampard as Chelsea lead European race ahead of Man Utd and Newcastle

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:24, 15 May 2024 | Updated: 9:30, 18 May 2024

There were two big games in the Premier League on Wednesday night that would have a big say ahead of the final day.

While the focus was on the title race on Tuesday, Wednesday brought the battle for the Europa League. Manchester United hosted Newcastle and Chelsea travelled to Brighton and Hove Albion, with the former three teams all eyeing up sixth.


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Of course, these were the final games to play to bring all 20 sides level on 37 matches in the Premier League this season.

Here’s what you might have missed from the two games.

‘Cold’ Palmer for a reason

A lot has been said about Cole Palmer at Chelsea this season, and his maiden campaign at the Blues just keeps getting better. There’s no denying that Palmer is more comfortable at Stamford Bridge, scoring 16 goals in the league at home. So there may have been low expectations going into Chelsea’s trip to Brighton.

But Palmer has been defying expectations and proving his doubters wrong all season. The Englishman put Chelsea ahead in the 34th minute with an expert header, stooping low and lifting it over the goalkeeper.

It was Palmer’s 22nd Premier League goal of the season, 13 of which have come from open play, and his second header. He’s now levelled Frank Lampard’s best-ever goalscoring season for Chelsea, with only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink having a better debut campaign for the Blues in the league.

The Dutchman scored 23 league goals in his first season at Chelsea in 2000/01, with Palmer now just one behind that. Hasselbaink is also one of just two players to score more Premier League goals in a single season for Chelsea than Palmer’s 22, hitting 23 twice alongside Didier Drogba’s 29 in 2009/10.

The kids are alright

Man Utd’s senior stars have often failed to perform this season, but the Red Devils know they can rely on their youngsters to get through the tough moments. And that was the case against Newcastle on Wednesday.

The Red Devils beat Newcastle 2-1 to end a three-game winless streak in the Premier League, and they had their young players to thank. Kobbie Mainoo scored the opening goal of the game and his third of the season, showing coolness inside the box to beat Martin Dubravka having been played onside.

Amad Diallo then put Man Utd ahead just before the hour mark, scoring his first Premier League goal having previously netted at Old Trafford against Liverpool in the FA Cup. And then Rasmus Hojlund put the icing on the cake in the final 10 minutes, securing the 3-2 victory (after Lewis Hall scored late on).

Three goalscorers, all aged 21 or under. The future is bright.

Anthony Gordon joins select group

Anthony Gordon loves playing the big sides. He has scored against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United in the Premier League this season, completing the Big Six set.

Gordon scored the only goal against Man Utd in the 1-0 win at St James’ Park in December, and netted at Old Trafford on Wednesday. He’s just the fourth Newcastle player to score home and away against Man Utd in a single Premier League season.

The Englishman joins Andy Cole, Demba Ba and Matty Longstaff in achieving that feat, an interesting quartet to say the least.

Marc Cucurella gets the last laugh

Brighton fans were targeting their two ex-players when Chelsea visited the Amex. Every touch for Marc Cucurella and Moises Caicedo was booed by the home support, but the Blues pair got the last laugh.

Cucurella in particular has been a growing part of the Chelsea team of late, pushing into central midfield to help the Blues when on the ball. It was an inside run from Cucurella that brought the opening goal as the Spaniard found space inside the box to cross to Palmer, who scored.

The Spaniard ended the night with two tackles and two fouls won alongside his assist, leaving the Amex with a smile on his face.

Reece James’ season to forget comes to an early end

This was meant to be a special season for Reece James. He was named captain of his boyhood club last summer, taking over from Cesar Azpilicueta.

But the armband has been cursed. James has suffered with injuries once again, playing just 10 games in the Premier League. He made a triumphant return at the weekend, coming off the bench to set up Chelsea’s winger against Nottingham Forest. But this cameo was the complete opposite.

James was sent off 20 minutes after coming on for violent conduct, kicking out after going down. It’s his second yellow card of the season, ruling him out for the final day and the start of the 2024/25 campaign.

Fittingly, James is the first Chelsea player to be sent off twice in a single league campaign since John Terry in 2015/16.

What it all means

As we go into the final day of the season, Chelsea have the control on the race for sixth. The Blues need just one point against Bournemouth on Sunday to secure sixth, with both Newcastle and Man Utd three points behind.

Sixth will also guarantee European football, though which competition remains to be seen. Should Manchester City win the FA Cup, the sixth-placed side will qualify for the Europa League group stage. If Man Utd win the FA Cup, and don’t finish sixth, then it’s the Europa Conference League play-off round.

The Blues may even be sniffing fifth…

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