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The Premier League title race is realistically down to Manchester City and Liverpool now, after Chelsea’s latest stumble at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho’s team was held to a 0-0 draw by Norwich on Sunday, meaning City and Liverpool would have to lose both of their final games to give Chelsea any hope of capturing the trophy.
Chelsea is a point behind City and Liverpool in third but has only one game remaining with an inferior goal difference. Chelsea did, however, secure the third automatic Champions League qualification spot, with fourth place going to Arsenal, which beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 through Olivier Giroud’s goal on Sunday.
The drab Stamford Bridge draw also did little to ease Norwich’s relegation fears. Norwich needs to beat Arsenal next weekend, while hoping Sunderland loses its two remaining games, in order to avoid the drop.
The only drama on the final day of the season could be for the trophy. Before then, Liverpool is at Crystal Palace on Monday, and City hosts Aston Villa.
Arsenal, having spent the most weeks at the top 17 before the injury-hit squad collapsed, seemed relieved just to qualify for the Champions League for a 17th consecutive year.
By finishing fourth, Arsenal has to go through an August playoff to reach the group stage. Even though he is yet to sign a new contract, Arsene Wenger, who has been Arsenal manager since 1996, insists he will still be in charge of the team going into next season.
“I told you many times that my word is my word,” the Frenchman said. “I am from a period where you didn’t need a pen to commit.”
The only goal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday came in the 14th minute when Giroud scored his 22nd goal of the season in all competitions. The France striker met Santi Cazorla’s corner with a header after holding off West Brom defender Craig Dawson. Despite a 14th loss of the season, West Brom’s place in the topflight was secured by Norwich failing to win at Chelsea.
A point for Norwich would usually be classified a success _ especially as it delivered Neil Adams’ first point after four games as interim manager _ but it leaves the team on the brink of relegation.
It might have been a different story had Chelsea captain John Terry been penalized early on for fouling Martin Olsson in the area, but Norwich’s penalty appeals were dismissed.
“I thought we had a stonewall penalty denied,” Adams said. “In terms of player effort it was exceptional.”
The woodwork denied Chelsea either side of half time, with Andre Schuerrle hitting the post and David Luiz striking against the crossbar. Chelsea had unsuccessful penalty claims of its own waved away, with Schuerrle first brought down by Alexander Tettey before Ryan Bennett making slight contact with Eden Hazard.
But Chelsea, which lost its last league home game against Sunderland, had the price for its strikers’ struggles to score once again.
“When the team is in a difficult situation they are not able to normally resolve that situation for us,” Mourinho said.