Football: Hello Europe, farewell Premiership: Lasting impact of season's last day

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Aston Villa v Southampton

IT might not be the judgement day Graeme Souness envisaged when his Saints went marching into the home dressing-room after their 6-3 demolition of United in October. But being the least threatened of the Premiership's endangered species was more than he could have hoped for after the recent collapse against Coventry. A point will guarantee Southampton's top status for a 20th successive season. Even if they lose, Sunderland need to win and Boro do likewise and overturn an inferior goal difference of four to terminate their stay in the elite. Villa need a point for a Uefa Cup place.

Manchester Utd v West Ham Utd

SO SKY have chosen the crunch game of the day to screen live on their second channel. Can they do it? The nation holds its breath as Manchester United prepare for the big one. After three games without a win are Fergie's champions chumps already? They have not won for three weeks now, since their Saturday morning jaunt down the East Lancs Road. And their last triumph at Old Trafford dates back eight weeks, to 15 March, a 2-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday. Can the yesterday men become a winning team of today? Tune in if you can stand the tension - and afford the dish, of course.

Blackburn Rovers v Leicester City

ROY HODGSON, Blackburn Rovers' manager-to-be-soon, knows he will not be forsaking the San Siro for a trip to Stockport County next season. And Martin O'Neill, his Leicester counterpart, can start preparing to challenge for the Uefa Cup Hodgson hopes to deposit as a leaving present in Milan on 21 May. "It's a mighty relief not to have to go to Blackburn needing something," O'Neill says. Rovers celebrated their safety on Thursday night but today's game could be more than a just a seasonal finale. It could be adieu from the restless survivors of the championship team of two years ago.

Newcastle Utd v Nottingham Forest

FOR THE second season in succession Newcastle could secure a European Cup place on the final day. This time their prospects are brighter. Victory by England's Uefa Cup quarter-finalists of 1997 against the last-four flag-fliers of 1996 will be enough if Arsenal fail to win at Derby by a greater margin and Liverpool collect fewer than three points at Hillsborough. The five points Newcastle have earned on the road in the last week at Highbury, Upton Park and Old Trafford, are five more than they gained at the same grounds last season, when they finished four points behind Manchester United.

Derby County v Arsenal

POINTS have always been hard to come by at the Baseball Ground. Needing three from the last league hurrah at Derby's cramped domain is not a promising prospect. To join Manchester United as England's championship- less representatives in the Champions' League next season Arsene's Arsenal need a superior winning margin than Newcastle might achieve against Nottingham Forest and a Liverpool defeat. The pride at stake for Derby is not just the winning send-off they will want to provide for the Baseball's sell- out crowd but a healthy finishing position in the top half of the table.

Sheffield Wednesday v Liverpool

WHAT better setting for a European summit than the city with the seven hills. To have European nights on Tuesdays next season Wednesday must win, hope that Villa lose to Southampton and that Chelsea either fail to win or win by three goals fewer. Wednesdayites have not had much to shout about of late but memories of the day they banged the drum at Anfield will provide inspiration. Liverpool are doomed to their longest title-less spell since Bill Shankly's rebuilding, but the consolation of a European Cup campaign beckons. They will need to win if either Newcastle or Arsenal collect three points.

Everton v Chelsea

MIDDLESBROUGH'S failure to win at Blackburn on Thursday snatched Everton from the jaws of a potential last-day disaster. Without a manager and without apparent direction, other than down from the underachievement zone, the Toffees can only hope to provide a rare sweetener for the frustrated Goodison faithful. They may be fortunate in catching the more cosmopolitan Blues with an eye on the Twin Towers, though defeat by Villa and anything less than a Sheffield Wednesday win by two goals will guarantee Ruud's boys a European place ahead of the FA Cup final.

Tottenham Hotspur v Coventry City

BEING sent to Coventry is in danger of assuming a whole new meaning. It will apply to the second-class citizens of English football next season - to the Burys, the Stockports and, possibly, the Juninhos and Ravanellis - if the Sky Blues fail to salvage their spurs at White Hart Lane. Coventry have clung to first-class status since 1967 (longer than all but Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal). A win will save them if Sunderland fail to beat Wimbledon (they would have the same points but a superior goal difference) and if Middlesbrough take fewer than three points at Elland Road.

Leeds United v Middlesbrough

THE omens, for Middlesbrough, are not good. They need to win to have any hope of beating the drop, and to hope that either Sunderland do not or that Southampton lose not just their game but their four-goal advantage too. Boro have won away in the Premiership just once since September and Leeds have not lost at home in the league since Boxing Day. Indeed, George Graham's side have not conceded a goal in the eight games and 12 hours of Premiership action at Elland Road since that 3-1 defeat against Coventry. The most crucial battle for Boro might be getting Fabrizio Ravanelli fit to play.

Wimbledon v Sunderland

WHO said Wimbledon would have no say in the Premiership denouement? Having relegated Forest and curtailed Liverpool's challenge, they go for the triple whammy of sending Sunderland down. Peter Reid's players are on pounds 40,000 a man to gain the win that would secure Premiership football. The 15,000 Wearsiders expected today might argue the money would have been better spent on mid-season reinforcements. A draw will not be enough if Coventry and Middlesbrough both win, and Sunderland have not won outside the North-east since November.

Analysis by Simon Turnbull

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