After a decade in the top flight, Stoke City were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday when they blew a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace.
Paul Lambert’s side are second bottom, three points from the safety zone, but with only one game remaining they are doomed.
With fourth-bottom Swansea and third-bottom Southampton playing each other in midweek, it is impossible for Stoke to collect enough points to avoid slipping into the Championship.
Stoke spent 10 seasons in the Premier League, but a run of 13 games without a victory ensured that streak is over.
Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland was in tears at the final whistle and City fans were just as emotional as the realisation of their team’s relegation sank in.
Hundreds left the bet365 stadium in the closing minutes before those that remained sang “City til I die” in a defiant rallying cry.
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross conceded the players had only themselves to blame.
“It’s difficult obviously but it’s not just about one game. It’s over a season and we’ve not been good enough all season,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s down to the players. Since the gaffer has come in we’ve had a right go and been in every game.”
The blame for Stoke’s predicament lies jointly with Lambert and Mark Hughes, who was sacked in January after a wretched run culminated with an embarrassing FA Cup third round defeat against fourth-tier Coventry.
“My emotions are up and down. It is a tough afternoon. I am feeling for everyone connected with the club,” Lambert said.
“When teams don’t get results you can be sleep-walking into positions you don’t want to be in. We never had enough.
“Since I came in the lads have given everything but we came short. It is a chance to rebuild.”
The Potters won their first match with Lambert in charge against Huddersfield, but that was a false dawn as they remained deep in trouble for the rest of the season.
Hughes could suffer the indignity of having a role in two relegations in one season as his Southampton side, who face Everton later on Saturday, are in severe trouble themselves.
Xherdan Shaqiri had described the Palace clash as “a war we have to win” and the Stoke star landed the first blow in the 43rd minute.
Having been fouled on the edge of the penalty area, Shaqiri picked himself up and exacted his revenge.
Shaqiri’s superb left-footed free-kick took a slight deflection off Palace midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek as it curled past Wayne Hennessey before he could react.
It was the Swiss forward’s first goal since February and he celebrated by sprinting to the touchline to jump into Lambert’s arms.
But Stoke’s nerves were still frayed.
They couldn’t cling onto their lead and Palace midfielder James McArthur equalised with a clinical finish in the 68th minute.
Forced to throw men forward in search of a winner, Lambert’s side were carved open in the 86th minute as Patrick van Aanholt slotted home to seal Stoke’s fate.
Arsenal warmed up for their crucial Europa League quarter-final with a flattering 3-0 victory against relegation-threatened Stoke on Sunday.
Three goals in the final 15 minutes put a gloss on a largely soporific performance at a well-below capacity Emirates Stadium.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the first two, including a penalty opener.
Substitute Alexandre Lacazette netted the third, also from the spot, after he had been fouled.
Arsenal clinched back to back league wins for the first time since November.
But the result left both clubs in the same positions in the Premier League table, with Arsenal sixth and Stoke second bottom.
The Gunners will have to play better in the first leg against CSKA Moscow on Thursday in Europe.
With little chance of finishing in the Premier League’s top four, Arsenal must win the Europa League to qualify for next season’s Champions League — a target that looks essential for under-fire Gunners boss Arsene Wenger as he fights to save his job.
Jack Wilshere may have missed both England’s friendlies with the Netherlands and Italy but theArsenal midfielder recovered from a knee niggle to claim the captain’s armband for the day, with goalkeeper Petr Cech absent and defender Laurent Koscielny on the bench.
Stoke’s preparations had seen Ibrahim Afellay jettisoned by manager Paul Lambert for not trying in training, but Eric Pieters was restored to the starting line-up after being fined for going clubbing before the previous match.
The game’s first chance belonged to Stoke, the team with the greater need of three points, as Mame Biram Diouf laid the ball back to Xherdan Shaqiri, who shifted the ball onto his preferred left foot and curled it inches wide of David Ospina’s right-hand post.
Stoke continued to take the game to the hosts, who were giving away possession cheaply.
Aaron Ramsey and Wilshere were both culpable in the first 15 minutes.
Arsenal almost took an undeserved lead when Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland produced a punch that will not have improved his chances of being England’s number one in the World Cup.
It landed at Ramsey’s feet on the right of the six-yard box and the Welshman’s hook cleared the goalkeeper and bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Barren desert of mediocrity
It was to prove a shallow oasis in a desert of barren first-half mediocrity however as Arsenal continued to waste possession.
Neither side made any changes in the interval but Arsenal at least began with added urgency, with Danny Welbeck lashing a chance just wide.
Mohamed Elneny saw a shot blocked before Butland dived to deny Nacho Monreal.
Wenger finally made a switch as the fit-again Lacazette came on for Welbeck, while Diouf, having taken a knock, was replaced by Saido Berahino.
Shaquiri curled a right-footer straight at Ospina before seeing a corner deceive the keeper and bounce off the back post.
Aubameyang was denied by a good block by Butland moments before the award of the game-deciding penalty in the 75th minute.
Bruno Martins Indi’s clumsy trip of Mesut Ozil was needless and Aubameyang made him pay as he sent Butland the wrong way from the spot.
Stoke gave Aubameyang too much space for a simple second goal in the 86th minute.
And when Badou Ndiaye bundled over Lacazette in the 89th minute, the France striker was given a chance to convert the penalty instead of Aubameyang going for a hat-trick.
Greek international full-back Kostas Stafylidis became Paul Lambert’s first signing since taking over as manager of Premier League strugglers Stoke City taking him on loan from Bundesliga outfit Augsburg.
Lambert, who played in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund and won the Champions League with them, will hope the 24-year-old defender adds much-needed solidity to a defence that has the worse defensive record in the league having conceded 50 goals this term.
“Having played in Germany himself, Paul Lambert is a keen observer of the Bundesliga and I know he has been impressed by what he has seen of Kostas in action for Augsburg,” Stoke’s chief executive Tony Scholes told the club website.
“We have moved quickly to add to our defensive resources by bringing him to the club and we’re delighted to have secured his services until the end of the season.”
Stafylidis — who has fallen out of favour at Augsburg — has experience of English football having played for second-tier Fulham in the 2014/15 campaign.
He is the second full-back Stoke have signed during the January transfer window, right-back Moritz Bauer having joined before Lambert filled the vacancy left after the sacking of Mark Hughes on a permanent deal from Russian side Rubin Kazan.
Mark Hughes was sacked as Stoke manager just hours after his struggling side’s shock FA Cup third round defeat at minnows Coventry on Saturday.
Hughes was already on the brink of being dismissed prior to the 2-1 loss at fourth-tier Coventry following a miserable run that left the team languishing in the Premier League relegation zone.
The limp nature of Stoke’s FA Cup exit proved the final straw as Hughes was axed three hours after the final whistle at the Ricoh Arena.
“Stoke City can confirm that the contract of manager Mark Hughes has been terminated with immediate effect,” a statement on the club’s Twitter account read.
“We would like to thank Mark for all he has achieved for the club over the last four and a half years, notably in guiding us to three successive ninth places finishes in the Premier League, and we wish him every success for the future.
“The club will look to appoint a new manager as soon as possible and will be making no further comment at this time.”
Hughes’ 200th game in charge of Stoke proved to be his last after Jack Grimmer’s second half strike gave Coventry the biggest upset of the third round so far.
Charlie Adam had equalised with a 54th-minute penalty after Jordan Willis opened the scoring for Coventry.
Speaking immediately after the match, former Manchester City manager Hughes was hopeful he would be given more time to lift Stoke out of the relegation zone.
“The fact we’ve gone out, even if it’s a little bit raw at the moment, might help us,” he said.
“Has it changed anything (his future) markedly from this afternoon? Is it any different from the situation after the Newcastle game? I don’t think it is. It just highlights we need to do better.
“But in the long term, certainly until the end of the season, it might be a blessing for us.”
But Stoke’s hierarchy have decided they must act to avoid the club plunging into the Championship.
Hughes looked to be on borrowed time when he rested all his established players for a 5-0 defeat at Chelsea in a bid to keep them fresh for a match against Newcastle.
However, Stoke lost to Newcastle, despite Hughes restoring the key players to his starting line-up, in a damaging result that triggered an avalanche of criticism for the former Manchester United striker.
Hughes, who was appointed as the replacement for Tony Pulis in 2013, leaves with Stoke in the bottom three on goal difference after winning only one of their last seven league games.
Sergio Aguero fired Manchester City to a 4-1 win over Burnley in the FA Cup, while Mark Hughes is fighting to remain Stoke boss after a 2-1 loss at minnows Coventry on Saturday.
While City strolled into the fourth round, Chelsea face an unwanted replay after being held to a 0-0 draw at Championship side Norwich.
City boss Pep Guardiola named a strong team including Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling at Eastlands, but the runaway Premier League leaders fell behind in the 25th minute.
Ashley Barnes blasted into the top corner after City defender John Stones sliced his attempted clearance.
However, Burnley hadn’t won at City since 1973 and Argentina striker Aguero ensured that run continued.
City, who last tasted defeat in domestic competition in their FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in April, were level in the 56th minute when Aguero fired home from Ilkay Gundogan’s pass.
Aguero then finished off a superb backheeled pass from Gundogan in the 58th minute.
Sane prodded home to put the result beyond doubt in the 71st minute and Bernardo Silva made it four in the 82nd minute.
Hughes could face the sack after fourth tier Coventry rolled back the years with a memorable cup result at their Ricoh Arena.
With Stoke in the relegation zone, it was reported this week that the club’s hierarchy had considered dismissing Hughes and whether he can survive any longer must now be in doubt.
Coventry have fallen on hard times since winning the FA Cup in a classic 1987 final against Tottenham and now reside in League Two — their first time at that level since the 1950s — after a spell having to play their home matches in Northampton due to a stadium row.
Jordan Willis put the underdogs ahead in the 24th minute with his first goal in a year.
Willis conceded a 52nd-minute penalty with a foul on Ramadan Sobhi and Charlie Adam stepped up to equalise.
But Coventry right-back Jack Grimmer weaved his way through Stoke’s defence and side-footed past Jack Butland in the 67th minute.
– Bournemouth escape –
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made nine changes at Carrow Road, with Eden Hazard rested and Alvaro Morata only used as a substitute for last season’s FA Cup runners-up.
The result was a disjointed display from the Blues, who now face an extra match that will add to Conte’s frustration after his recent complaints about the draining effects of fixture congestion.
The only flash-point in a tame tie saw Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger square up to a fan after the supporter threw away the ball when the defender tried to retrieve it.
At the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe made eight changes as he prioritised Premier League survival and it needed a second-half revival from his understudies to rescue a 2-2 draw against Wigan.
Northern Ireland forward Will Grigg gave Wigan a fourth-minute lead from close-range and there was worse to come for Howe in the 29th minute when Emerson Hyndman’s own goal doubled the visitors’ lead.
Yet Lys Mousset reduced the deficit for Bournemouth in the 55th minute and League One leaders Wigan, who won the FA Cup in 2013, were denied a surprise win by Steve Cook’s goal two minutes into stoppage-time.
Newcastle had been tipped as potential upset victims, but they swept away fourth tier leaders Luton with a 3-1 win at St James’ Park.
West Bromwich Albion won for the first time in 21 games in all competitions, 2-0 at fourth-tier Exeter giving boss Alan Pardew his first victory since replacing the sacked Tony Pulis.
Salomon Rondon’s long-range drive put Albion ahead in the second minute and Jay Rodriguez added the second goal in the 25th minute.
Watford avoided more cup misery against giant-killers Bristol City with a 3-0 win at Vicarage Road.
City had also won at Vicarage Road in the League Cup this season, but Watford avoided another embarrassing loss thanks to goals from Andre Carrillo, Troy Deeney and Etienne Capoue.
Southampton won 1-0 at Fulham, Huddersfield beat Bolton 2-1, Swansea drew 0-0 at Wolves and Leicester were held to a 0-0 draw at third-tier Fleetwood.
Manchester City maintained their blistering start to the season as the Premier League leaders demolished Stoke 7-2, while champions Chelsea crashed to a shock 2-1 defeat at lowly Crystal Palace on Saturday.
With second-placed Manchester United settling for a drab stalemate at Anfield earlier in the day, it was their Manchester rivals who provided the thrills as City moved two points clear at the top.
Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring side struck three times in the first 27 minutes at Eastlands, securing their sixth successive league win in swashbuckling style.
City took the lead through Gabriel Jesus in the 17th minute and Raheem Sterling doubled the advantage two minutes later with a tap-in that capped a flowing move.
David Silva got City’s third with a simple finish after another incisive raid in the 27th minute.
Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf reduced the deficit with a deflected effort in the 44th minute and City’s defence was breached for just the fourth time in the league this season when Kyle Walker scored an own goal two minutes after the interval.
But Jesus’s second goal in the 55th minute restored order and his compatriot Fernandinho put the result beyond doubt five minutes later.
City reached six goals in a game for the second time this season as Leroy Sane netted in the 62nd minute.
Bernando Silva’s first City strike, in the 78th minute, made it 24 goals in his team’s last five league games.
Bottom of the table Palace had lost their opening seven league games without scoring a goal, the worst start to a season in English top-flight history.
But stunningly it was Chelsea who were the victims as they finally ended that goal drought at Selhurst Park.
Palace took the lead in the 11th minute when Yohan Cabaye’s effort was deflected in for an own goal by Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Tiemoue Bakayoko equalised for Chelsea seven minutes later as the France midfielder headed his first Premier League goal from a Cesc Fabregas corner.
However, Chelsea were already without injured duo Alvaro Morata and N’Golo Kante and they suffered another setback when Victor Moses limped off in the first half.
There was even worse to come for Chelsea as Wilfried Zaha restored Palace’s lead with a fine curling strike in first half stoppage-time.
A Willian brace helped Chelsea beat Stoke City to claim their 13th consecutive Premier League win and equal Arsenal’s record for the most successive victories within the same season.
Gary Cahill opened the scoring from Cesc Fabregas’ 100th Premier League assist – only the fourth player to reach the milestone – before Stoke equalised via Bruno Martins Indi’s first PL goal 56 seconds into the second half.
The Blues made it 2-1 when Willian fired through the crowd after Eden Hazard’s cushioned pass, but Stoke levelled for the second time through Peter Crouch.
Chelsea hit back immediately to take the lead for the third time as Willian rifled into the roof of Lee Grant’s net, while Diego Costa completed the scoring on his return from suspension with his 14th of the season.
Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scored two late goals as Manchester United deservedly beat Middleborough.
Hal Robson-Kanu scored a stunning winner on his first Premier League start in over three years as West Brom came from behind to beat Southampton.
Managerless Swansea City remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table after they were thoroughly outplayed by Bournemouth.
Chelsea FC captain, John Terry, will miss Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Paris St Germain at Stamford Bridge due to injury.
Diego Costa, Pedro and Kenedy were all involved in the team’s final training session before the game, but John Terry was absent as the 35-year-old central defender is still struggling with a hamstring problem that has kept him out of the last five matches.
Confirming the fears, Terry said on Instagram on Tuesday. “I’m gutted to be missing the PSG game.
“It’s so frustrating missing any game but these big Champions League nights at the Bridge are unbelievable and it hurts as a player not to be involved.
“I have thrown everything at my injury trying to get back fit but sometimes you have to let the injury settle. thankfully I’m on the mend and hope to be back soon.”
Diego Costa missed Saturday’s draw with Stoke because of a minor tendon injury, but he joined the group in training on Tuesday, as did Pedro who suffered a hamstring injury at Southampton.
John Terry and Kurt Zouma were the only absentees from the Chelsea first team squad.
Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, has praised the way his team adapted to different challenges throughout the 90 minutes of a comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham United on Boxing Day.
Chelsea maintained their 100 per cent Premier League home record with a goal in each half, the first by John Terry, his second in a week, and the second a clinical finish by Diego Costa, in what can be termed a dominant Chelsea performance.
Mourinho told Chelseafc.com; “There’s no perfection but we played very well against a difficult team.
“We played well in two different versions; the first against a defensive side, and we were very good, we moved the ball, there was a good dynamic and lots of chances.
“In the second half we played against an attacking team that made changes by putting on faster players and playing direct balls into space. We coped well and found ways to counter attack.
“It’s very important for a team to identify different moments of the game and to be able to adapt. Today was a good example of that, the players did very well.”
Mourinho also explained why there was only one change to the side which beat Stoke on Monday.
“My players are human like all the others but the point is that every match is fundamental, there are no better points than others, every match is an important match.
“We played Stoke on Monday and after that we had three days to recover the players well. Everybody was in condition to play. I made just one change, Oscar for Mikel, because I wanted to give a different design to the team.”
Expressing satisfaction that the current season has turned out better than the last for Chelsea, Mourinho said; “Last year we were very strong defensively and very well organised but we lacked a bit of creativity when we had the ball.
“The challenge this year was to bring that creativity and dynamic without losing the defensive qualities of the team… The team is happy to have the ball but also comfortable when the opposition has the ball. I think we are a very good team.”
The Portuguese also had kind words for Captain, John Terry after another impressive performance crowned with the opening goal.
“He’s always had that, normally four or five goals a season. He’s full of confidence. I see my John of 2004, 2005 and 2006 here, I don’t see any difference. He’s playing so well but when the team is playing so well it’s easy for individuals.”
The victory would be the ideal way for the Blues to prepare for two away fixtures over the next week, firstly against Southampton on Sunday, and then at Tottenham next Thursday.