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Last day of Premier League sees Hull, Newcastle fight for survival; 2 stars leave English game


By Steve Douglas

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MANCHESTER, England _ The Premier League is set for an afternoon of goodbyes on Sunday _ to either Hull or Newcastle as the relegation places are decided and to two of English soccer’s top midfielders.

Most of the focus in the final round of games will be on which team joins Burnley and Queens Park Rangers in losing its status in the world’s most lucrative league.

Hull is in most danger. Occupying the final relegation spot, the northern club needs a win to stand a chance of staying up _ and the schedule hasn’t been kind to its manager, Steve Bruce.

Manchester United is the visitor to the KC Stadium and Bruce has never beaten England’s most successful club in his 17 years as a manager. Bruce spent nine years as a player at United, appearing in more than 300 games, and said his old team owes him after “wrecking his knee, hip and ankle.”

“Is there one final twist? Can we upset the apple cart? Let’s hope we can do it,” Bruce said. “We have to believe we can beat Manchester United.”

Even that might not be enough for Hull, which is also relying on a result at St. James’ Park going its way.

Newcastle is two points clear of Hull heading into a home match against West Ham, whose manager won’t be short of motivation even if his mid-table team is. Sam Allardyce was fired by Newcastle in 2008, just months into his job.

Hull will finish above Newcastle should they end the season on the same points because of a superior goal difference.

There are two other loose ends to tie up before the season is over.

Third place _ and automatic qualification for the Champions League _ is still up for grabs for either Arsenal or United. Arsenal is three points ahead and has a superior goal difference of seven, so United is likely to finish fourth and need to win a playoff in August to reach the group stage of Europe’s top competition.

Arsenal hosts West Bromwich Albion and could rest some key players ahead of the FA Cup final on May 30.

The Europa League spots for fifth and sixth place will go to two of Liverpool, Tottenham or Southampton. Currently, fifth-place Liverpool has 62 points, Tottenham has 61 and Southampton has 60. The team that places seventh will also be in the Europa League if Arsenal wins the FA Cup.

It will be an emotional day for two Premier League stalwarts, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who will play in Major League Soccer next season for the Los Angeles Galaxy and expansion team New York City FC, respectively. They have made a combined 1,317 Premier League appearances.

Gerrard will play his 710th and final game for Liverpool at Stoke, while Lampard _ the former West Ham and Chelsea midfielder _ ends his one-year loan spell with Manchester City in a match against Southampton.

Here are some other things to know:

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