LONDON: Sheffield United dealt a major blow to Chelsea’s chances of a Premier League top-four finish by thrashing the Blues 3-0 on Saturday.
But Manchester City guaranteed their presence in the top four for a 10th successive season with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
However, they will have to wait for the outcome on Monday of their appeal against a two-season ban from European competitions to see if they will play Champions League football next season.
In their first season in the Premier League for 13 years, Sheffield are still eying the top four themselves as they moved within five points of fourth-placed Leicester City.
Hakim Ziyech, Chelsea’s new signing from Ajax, arrived in London on Friday and took part in his first day’s training on Saturday though he won’t be available until the start of next season.
How Chelsea needed him against Sheffield.
With Christian Pulisic having a quiet day, Chelsea failed to put up a fight against one of the surprise packages of this season and were overwhelmed at Bramall Lane.
David McGoldrick’s long wait for a first Premier League goal came to an end when he was quickest to react after Kepa Arrizabalaga saved Oli McBurnie’s deflected shot.
More slack defending from the visitors then allowed McBurnie a free header to double the hosts’ lead.
Frank Lampard sent on Antonio Rudiger at the start of the second-half, but the German international did little to improve Chelsea’s defending as his attempted clearance from Lys Mousset’s cross only teed up McGoldrick to score his second 13 minutes from time.
“They were better than us, physically, in the mind and with the ball,” said Lampard. “I learned a lot and I won’t forget that.”
City scored four or more goals for the fourth time in six league games at Brighton.
Sterling’s treble took his best ever season’s tally to 27, while Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva also netted in another rout for a pleased Pep Guardiola, who is hoping his players’ efforts on the pitch are rewarded by playing Champions League football next season.
“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday UEFA can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to,” said Guardiola.
On Sunday, Wolverhampton Wanderers boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League with a 3-0 home win over Everton.
Victory lifted Nuno Espirito Santo’s side up to sixth in the standings — provisionally four points behind fourth-placed Leicester City.
After a slow start at Molineux, Wolves slowly took control and went in to the break 1-0 ahead after scoring in first-half injury time through Raul Jimenez’s penalty.
The home side doubled its lead 46 seconds into the second half when Leander Dendoncker glanced in.
Diogo Jota made it 3-0 with 16 minutes remaining when he latched onto a brilliant pass and rifled low past a helpless Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal.
Also on Sunday, Aston Villa revived their hopes of avoiding relegation as two goals by Egyptian forward Trezeguet gave them a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
The result lifted Villa one place to 18th but they are still four points adrift of safety.