A dream Premier League run nears its end

Bournemouth had been weaving such a nifty story by sticking around the Premiership for five seasons after winning promotion — its first entry into England’s top flight — in 2015.

Multiple seasons of Premier League lucre is critical to staying in it. Last season, Bournemouth received $135.8 million (USD) from the league, which doled out $3.1 billion to its 20 members. The fat check it receives at the end of this summer, however, might be its final one from the Premiership treasurer.

After the 5-2 thrashing the Cherries sustained Saturday at Manchester United, NBC studio host Rebecca Lowe said, “Difficult day and horrible run for Bournemouth.”

Indeed, the Cherries, whose red-and-black vertical stripes are a nod to AC Milan, are stuck in relegation muck, having gone 0-7-1 over their past eight by getting outscored 21-7. All of that was against 22-year-old Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who has allowed a league-worst 56 goals.

To those who rate Norwich lower, the Canaries have drawn and won against Bournemouth this season. Also, Norwich won consecutive matches in late February and early March; Bournemouth last accomplished that feat in September.

Bournemouth’s rise coincided with Russian petrochemicals chief Maxim Demin’s ownership — his wife Irena once gave a halftime pep talk to the squad, when it trailed 1-0; it drew, 2-2 — and coach Eddie Howe’s guidance. Management supposedly has confidence in Howe, which will be confirmed in August.

Things could be going from bad to worse for Bournemouth. Tottenham Hotspur, which got a positive result Monday with its 1-0 win over Everton at White Hart Lane, visits Vitality Stadium on Thursday. South Point oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo projects the opening line, as he does with below selections, at Tottenham -1 (+115). At a listed capacity of 11,329, the smallest stadium in the league did not even sell out for Bournemouth games against Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea this season.

Among Europe’s Big Five leagues, Bournemouth is in the bottom 10 percent of the 98 teams in both tackling rate and shots per game, so aggression is questionable. This should be a mismatch. Spurs are 5-0-1 in its past six against the Cherries, outscoring them 17-4.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min will poach and pounce up front for Tottenham. Bournemouth, however, had better deny Dele Alli, who scored twice when they met Nov. 30 but has been nursing a sore hamstring. TOTTENHAM

Wednesday

Espanyol at Barcelona -2 (-140): These two occupy opposite ends of the universe. Barcelona is in yet another Battle Royale with Real Madrid for the La Liga crown, while the visitors are one of the worst sides in Europe.

Of the past 15 La Liga seasons, Barça and Madrid have accounted for 14 titles. (Atlético Madrid, in 2013-14, was the interloper.) Barcelona, Juventus of Italy and PSG of France are the only Big Five teams that have not dropped consecutive matches this season.

All-world Barcelona striker Lionel Messi (27 goals, 21 assists overall) is especially strong inside Camp Nou, where he’s tallied 18 goals and 7 assists. WhoScored.com rates him as the best player on his home turf.

Espanyol is the Spanish league bottom-feeder, destined for La Liga 2 next season. That, though, is hardly the worst of it. In the Big Five, Espanyol is 98th — dead last, leaking oil all over Europe — by WhoScored. Barcelona is 10th.

The visitors have lost five in a row, getting outscored 8-2. In their past six meetings, Barcelona, which owns an eight-match undefeated streak, is 4-0-2 against Espanyol with an 11-2 goals differential. BARCELONA

Saturday

AS Roma -1 (-150) at Brescia: For the first time since Dec. 14, 2019, an 0-10-5 stretch over all competitions, Brescia finally won a match Sunday, 2-0 over Verona, to escape the Serie A cellar.

Still, FBref.com tabs the Little Swallows’ expected goal differential at -0.85, with only Lecce (-1.07) worse among the Big Five. In 18th, Roma checks in at +0.49.

Edin Džeko, the 34-year-old “Bosnian Diamond” and Roma captain, has been showing his best form in three seasons. Teammate Lorenzo Pellegrini, a master midfielder, is ninth in the Big Five at 6.03 scoring chances created per 90 minutes.

Roma is not in Champions League contention, which go to the top four in Serie A. But it has firm control of a Europa League berth and can’t afford to slip into sixth place, the Europa playoff spot. AS ROMA

Sunday

Lecce at Cagliari -1 (-170): In its first four after the long break, all defeats, Lecce got outscored 14-4. This is a play against Gabriel, its Brazilian 'keeper whose 2.41 goals-against-per-90-minutes average is the worst among Europe’s power leagues. CAGLIARI

Last week: 0-2

Season: 0-2