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Commentary: Plenty to play for as English Premier League enters its final weekend

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for most of the journey, but the Barclay’s Premier League is finally entering its penultimate weekend.
If you have time before your Mother’s Day brunch, all 20 teams will be kicking off at 10 a.m. with FOX carrying nine of the 10 matches on its various networks and ESPN broadcasting the remaining game.
Here are some of the headlines from the 2011-2012 Premier League season.
The race for the championship
For all intents and purposes, the title fight has been held in the city of Manchester, England, all season long. Manchester City F.C. has led inner-city rival Manchester United for most of the season, but ended up slipping late. The uneasy play opened the door for United who, however, also ended up losing a costly game against Wigan Athletic on April 11 and drawing, 4-4, with Everton on April 22.
The fate of both teams came down to the Manchester Derby on April 30, a match between the two Manchester clubs which City took, 1-0.
The win tied both teams with 86 points at the top of the league, but Manchester City went in front thanks to an eight-goal differential over Manchester United.
The battle for Champions League qualification
The top four teams at the end of the English Premier League season are granted bids to the UEFA Champions League, a tournament considered by some to be one of the most prestigious club competitions in world soccer.
Entering the season, some predicted Chelsea F.C. and Liverpool F.C. as favorites to win the league. Both teams were considered to end the campaign in the top four in the standings, but this isn’t the case. Chelsea will end their season sixth in the standings, likely leaving them out of an automatic bid for the Champions League, while Liverpool will end their season around the middle of the pack within the 20-team table.
As Chelsea’s season began to go sour, the club terminated its $13.3 million deal with Portuguese mananger André Villas-Boas. Former player Roberto Di Matteo replaced Villas-Boas after just eight months on the job.
There’s still hope for Chelsea, though, as returning champions are granted automatic bids for the Champions League, and Di Matteo has led Chelsea to the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich on May 19. Beating Bayern figures to be Chelsea’s only option for returning to European competition next season.
Arsenal F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. are holding the third and fourth positions, respectively, after 37 games. Newcastle F.C. is in fifth position, one point back of Tottenham and could snatch a top-four spot if Tottenham ties or draws on Sunday.
Clint Dempsey sets career goals mark for an American in EPL
Clint Dempsey, a striker for Fulham F.C. and the U.S. national team, set the goal record (50) for most goals by an American in the history of the Premier League.
His 50th career goal came against Sunderland F.C. on a free-kick from outside the penalty box.
The constant improvement over his almost six-year career has led many of the top clubs to eye the American striker. The first club set to make an offer is Arsenal, according thesun.co.uk.
The U.S. men’s national soccer team will come to Columbus on Sept. 11 to play Jamaica in a qualification match for the 2014 World Cup.

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