Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Fight for Safety: Bottom Half of The Premier League Table

As the Premier League pauses for the international break, it is worth looking to see how the fight to avoid relegation stands and how teams in the bottom half of the table are faring as the league season prepares to enter the final stretch.


Leeds United – Leeds has impressed in its first year in the Premier League since the 2003/2004 season. The aggressive attacking style of Marco Bielsa is entertaining and bears both high risk and high reward. There is nothing indecisive in Leeds’s results. The Whites have won just two fewer matches than Chelsea but only Newcastle, West Brom and Sheffield United have more losses than Leeds. Patrick Bamford (14 goals) and Rafinha have been star quality for a club which currently sits 11th in the table and seems recovered from a recent stretch where they lost four of five matches. More than half of Leeds’s remaining matches will feature opponents currently below them in the table so Leeds should enjoy a smooth finish to a successful season.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace, currently 12th in the table, is on track for an 8th consecutive season in the Premier League finishing between 10th and 15th. The Eagles, currently 11 points removed from the relegation zone, should be safe despite a difficult run-in. A pedestrian style of play built on disciplined defense, hope, and a bit of Wilfried Zaha has delivered results if not excitement. Zaha’s desire to play for a bigger club is a constant worry for Crystal Palace and numerous players and 73-year-old manager Roy Hodgson are out of contract this summer. Hodgson’s teams have been grindingly efficient, though some fans would like some flair.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves have taken a step back this season for several reasons.  Somewhat embarrassingly, Diogo Jota left Wolves and became a star for bigger club Liverpool. Raul Jimenez suffered a season ending injury in December. Expensive youngster Fabio Silva is nowhere close to being able to replace Jota or Jimenez at this point in his career. A top half finish may not be completely out of the question though as Wolves are six points from 10th place Aston Villa and five of Wolves’ last nine matches are against clubs in the bottom six.

Southampton – No club has suffered as steep a decline this season as Southampton. Sitting as high as third in the table as of mid-December, the Saints have done little but sin since then in falling to their current 14th position. The club has lost 10 of its last 12 matches, one of which was a 9-0 thrashing by Manchester United. Fortunately, the Saints enjoy a favorable schedule for the run-in where they face 3 clubs below them and have winnable games against two other bottom half teams. Shockingly, helped by favorable draws, the Saints are also in the FA Cup semifinals against Leicester.

Burnley – Sean Dyche and his players exemplify grit and determination as no other team does more with less than Burnley. Virtually devoid of any form of attack, the Clarets engage each opponent in a slogging defensive match with the Clarets squeezing just enough results to stay safe.  There was concern earlier this year that luck had run out for the Clarets as the club wallowed in the relegation zone through week 10, but Dyche and his charges have righted the ship and Burnley are now seven points clear of danger, having just lost once in their last eight matches. New ownership is under scrutiny to see if additional investment in the squad will be made and whether Sean Dyche, the club’s most valuable asset will be retained.

Brighton and Hove Albion   The amount of praise accorded Brighton manager Graham Potter by pundits would seem disproportionate to the Seagulls’ actual achievement. Potter has installed a free flowing, possession-based attack which, while pleasing to the eye, often fails to produce goals in the final third.  Part of this is not Potter’s fault, of course, as the team’s attacking talent must be questioned. Still, Potter’s project has not progressed, and the Seagulls have disappointingly been part of the relegation discussion this year.  A much needed 3-0 pounding of listless Newcastle improves survival chances but a daunting run-in awaits where Sheffield United is the only remaining opponent currently below Brighton in the table.

Newcastle United – The Magpies were fortunate to amass points earlier in the season when forward Callum Wilson was one of the Premier League’s leading scorers. As Wilson’s performance cooled and he later fell to injury, Newcastle faltered.  Attacking failures have been  exacerbated by additional injuries to players such as Miguel Almiron.  Newcastle, currently two points above the relegation zone, is just hoping to hang on and fight off Fulham for the final safe position in the table.  Newcastle goes to Fulham on the final day of the season in what could be the determining match.  Other key matches include Burnley on April 11 and Sheffield United in the penultimate match before the finale with Fulham.

Currently Subject to Relegation:

Fulham  – Fulham has injected interest into the relegation battle by closing the gap with struggling Newcastle from ten points in early February to a current two-point deficit.  The Cottagers, however, will rue having drawn so many games this season. Fulham has only one more win this season than Sheffield United.  If just one of their league joint high 11 draws could have been moved into the win column, the Cottagers would be ahead of Newcastle on goal differential. The Cottagers’ best chance for victories in the final stretch fall in their final four matches where three of the opponents will be Burnley, Southampton, and Newcastle. The finale versus Newcastle could well decide Fulham’s’ fate.

West Brom   West Brom fans must give credit to ownership for trying. At signs of trouble earlier this season, ownership hired as manager the never relegated “sultan of survival,” Sam Allardyce, and made several moves in the winter transfer window to avoid relegation. Unfortunately, the West Brom roster is still not Premier League quality and the club looks to be going down. West Brom is currently ten points from safety and six of its remaining matches are against teams in the top half of the table.  The Baggies’ leaky defense has allowed 57 goals in 29 matches, six more goals than the next most generous squad.  

Sheffield United – While West Brom is league worst in defense, Sheffield United is the league’s worst attacking side. The Blades have amassed only 16 goals through 29 matches this season. A surprisingly successful debut season in the Premier League last year, helped by manager Chris Wilder’s innovative ploy of overlapping center backs, gave a sense of overconfidence to ownership heading into this season. Appropriate investment in the roster was not made, the league adjusted to Wilder’s tactics, and performance plummeted. Wilder has been dismissed and, with recent elimination from the FA Cup, Sheffield United has nothing to play for.

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Fight for Europe: Top Half of The Premier League Table

As the Premier League pauses for the international break, it is worth looking to see how the fight for European qualification stands and how teams in the top half of the table are faring as the league and cup seasons prepare to enter the final stretch.


Manchester City – Secure in their league title chase with a present 14-point advantage over Manchester United, the question for Manchester City is whether it can accomplish a “quadruple” of titles. The Citizens face Spurs in the final of the League Cup on April 25th, after squaring off against Chelsea in a difficult FA Cup semifinal on April 17th. In the Champions League, Manchester City faces Borussia Dortmund in a first leg match on April 6th with a semifinal looming against the winner of a Bayern Munich and PSG tie. Goalkeeper Ederson has posted a Premier League leading 16 clean sheets for the Citizens in front of the solid center back combination of Reuben Dias and John Stones. Offensively, Ilkay Gundogan has progressed from a holding defensive midfielder role to lead the team with 16 goals across all competitions.

Manchester United – With the Red Devils being highly unlikely to catch Manchester City and the club’s qualification for next year’s Champions league seemingly secure (currently eight points safe) the focus for supporters may be the Europa League where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempts to win his first silverware. An FA Cup elimination against Leicester was particularly disheartening for fans who might well riot in the streets if the Red Devils do not advance from their Europa League quarterfinal tie versus Granada. The progress under Solskjaer in the league is clear but the team still shows vulnerability in key matches. There is perhaps too much reliance on midfielder Bruno Fernandes and the defense can be susceptible to pacier squads.

Leicester –  Leicester was impressive in booting Manchester United from the FA Cup and a winnable match against Southampton awaits the Foxes in the FA Cup semi-final.

In the league, the third place Foxes would seem secure in their top four standing as they currently hold a seven-point advantage over fifth place West Ham. The Foxes will be wary, however, of repeating their 2019/20 season stumble when Leicester lost 3 of its final 4 matches to tumble from Champions League qualification. This season’s final match against Spurs could be meaningful for both clubs. The emergence of Kelechi Iheanacho as a top scoring threat and improved play from midfielder Youri Tielemans has given Leicester a boost in recent weeks.

Chelsea  – Chelsea is yet to lose in 14 matches under Manager Thomas Tuchel who has taken  the Blues from ninth position at the time of his hiring into the top four. The club also impressed in a 3-0 aggregate defeat of Atletico Madrid in their recent Champions League tie. Chelsea has been getting results from a suffocating defense which has conceded just two goals under Tuchel while the Chelsea attack, populated with high priced talent, has had less success but holds promise for the future.  A match against fifth place West Ham on April 24th will be impactful toward finishing in the top four. A difficult FA Cup seminal match against Manchester City awaits while Chelsea’s resurgence also poses some interesting Champions League possibilities. Chelsea face Porto in the Champions League quarterfinals and would potentially advance to meet one of two struggling giants, Liverpool or Real Madrid, in the semifinals.

West Ham  – European qualification would be a magnificent and clearly unexpected accomplishment for the Hammers, who finished the 2019/20 season just five points clear of relegation. Manager David Moyes has the Hammers playing with both discipline and drive and the loan acquisition of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United has worked brilliantly for the former Red Devils Manager. West Ham still need to finish the job, however. The more difficult league tasks ahead involve home matches against Leicester, Chelsea, and Everton.  Qualifying for Europe will raise interesting offseason questions in east London. Lingard is not expected to return for the team and the retention of Declan Rice will be critical for future success. Added depth and a true striker would also improve the Hammers.

Tottenham Hotspur –  Spurs fans would grudgingly have to concede that a League Cup trophy  and top four finish would mean success from a tumultuous season where fan dissatisfaction peaked with the recent embarrassing collapse versus Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League, which followed a week earlier loss in the north London derby to Arsenal. Following the break, the club enters a final stretch of winnable games where they will face only two clubs with better records. Manchester United visits Spurs on April 11th and Spurs go to Leicester on the final day of season in a match which could determine a Champion’s League slot.  The quality of play in the final weeks, for a club which led the table as recently as mid-December, could impact the futures with the club of Manager Jose Mourinho and star Harry Kane.

Liverpool – An exceptionally difficult season for Liverpool sees the defending league champions two points behind sixth place Spurs for the final Europa League position in the table. While injuries to their defensive corps derailed Liverpool early in the season, questions exist with respect to the continued effectiveness of their high pressing philosophy, cohesiveness of their front three and adequacy of squad depth. Liverpool has remarkably lost six of their eight league matches. A favorable run-in should help their aspirations for European competition next year as Liverpool face only one club, Manchester United, currently above them in the table for the balance of the season. The Reds have looked a much better side in Champions League competition as they approach a quarterfinal showdown against Real Madrid in April.

Everton  – The credibility of the Carlo Ancelotti project in Everton would be greatly enhanced if the Toffees can secure a place in Europe for next season.  Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has had a breakout season for the club with 14 league goals. Excitement for the future is growing with this week’s government approval for a new Everton stadium.

The Toffees have stumbled of late, however, losing two straight matches and four of their last six.  Currently level on points with seventh place Liverpool, the Toffees should benefit from a run-in of ten games which includes only two top six opponents. Everton also has a match in hand versus the clubs currently above them in the table.  An April 17th visit from Spurs looms large while the season ends with a trip by the Toffees to Manchester City.

Arsenal  –  Wildly inconsistent Arsenal is six points removed from Europa League table qualification. Worse yet, the long-term future remains unclear. Martin Odegaard has been the recent subject of enthusiastic talk and praise from supporters but there is no indication that Real Madrid will be willing to part with the young midfielder following his one-year loan to the Gunners. Arsenal leading scorer Alexandre Lacazette remains the subject of transfer rumors while Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has underperformed in the first year of his massive contract.  Still, the Gunners remain alive in this year’s Europa competition and face only three teams currently above them in the table during the final nine games of Arsenal’s season.

Aston Villa  – Early season promise has paled in recent weeks for Aston Villa which has shown little creative spark and miniscule goal production during the prolonged injury absence of captain Jack Grealish.  The club is very solid defensively but lacks offensive creativity and production.  Only Manchester City’s Ederson has more than the 14 clean sheets of Aston Villa Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Unfortunately, a formidable early season attack has all but disappeared. The club scored 28 goals in its first 14 matches versus only 11 goals in their last 14 contests. Aston Villa has scored but two goals in their last five matches. Seven of ten remaining matches are versus clubs above the Villans in the table. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Matchweek 29 Results: West Ham Fails To Drop Hammer on Arsenal; Seagulls Fly; Spurs Respond

West Ham squandered a three-goal advantage in a 3-3 London derby draw with a grateful Arsenal. The Hammers conceded two own goals before an 82nd minute header by Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette grabbed the point for the Gunners. Jesse Lingard had a goal and an assist, and Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek each scored, as the Hammers built a 3-0 advantage before own goals by Soucek and Craig Dawson. The draw leaves the Hammers in fifth position, two points behind Chelsea and seven points above ninth place Arsenal. West Ham has not finished above Arsenal in the table in 35 years.  

Brighton soared six points clear of relegation with a 3-0 defeat of hapless Newcastle. Leandro Trossard, Danny Welbeck, and Neil Maupay provided the goals for a Brighton team which last scored more than once in a game on January 2nd. A second consecutive victory by the Seagulls at least temporarily removes them from the survival death match playing out between Newcastle and Fulham.  Newcastle remains two points ahead of Fulham with the Magpies enjoying a match in hand.


Fulham’s 2-1 loss to visiting to Leeds on Friday was a third loss in the last four matches for the Cottagers. Patrick Bamford scored his 14th goal of the season for Leeds’s opening tally while Rafinha provided the winner at the 58-minute mark after a tying goal by the Cottagers’ Joachim Andersen. Leeds won for a first time in four matches.  

Spurs made a strong statement that their league season retains meaning as Jose Mourinho’s squad recovered from their embarrassing Europa League exit by posting a 2-0 league win over Aston Villa. Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius scored his first Premier League goal, assisted on the play by countryman Lucas Moura. A Harry Kane penalty kick completed the scoring for Spurs. Aston Villa has scored just twice in their last five matches as early season hopes for a European berth appear dashed.

FA Cup Quarterfinal Results: City Strike Late at Goodison; Chelsea Blunts Blades; Leicester Eliminates Manchester United; Saints Be Praised

Manchester City left it late at Goodison Park before Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne both scored in the final ten minutes to propel Manchester City to a hard fought 2-0 victory over Everton in their FA cup match. Forced by injuries to play with third string goalkeeper Jao Virginia, the Toffees remained stout on defense, despite conceding 74% possession for the game to the Citizens, until Gundogan’s  breakthrough at the 84-minute mark. De Bruyne sealed matters with a 90th minute goal as the Citizens continued their quest for a quadruple this season. Gundogan leads all Manchester City scorers with 16 goals across all competitions after scoring in a third consecutive appearance for the Citizens. Everton lost for a seventh consecutive match in all competitions against Manchester City. The Citizens move on to face Chelsea in the semi-finals.

Chelsea extended their undefeated run under manager Thomas Tuchel to 14 matches in all competitions with a 2-0 FA Cup quarterfinal win over Sheffield United. Sheffield United conceded an early own goal with no further scoring until injury time when Hakim Ziyech scored in a second consecutive appearances for Chelsea. The Blades’ dullness in front of goal helped Chelsea to a seventh consecutive clean sheet across all competitions. Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick missed on two golden first half opportunities against a Chelsea line-up reflecting nine line-up changes from their Champions League elimination of Atletico Madrid. 

Leicester continues to ride the scoring prowess of forward Kelechi Iheanacho as the Nigerian striker found the net twice in the Foxes’ 3-1 defeat of Manchester United. Iheanacho’s FA Cup brace comes just a week after his first Premier League hat trick and the Leicester forward has struck for 13 goals in 18 FA cup appearances. Youri Tielemans also scored for Leicester as the Foxes created constant stress for a Manchester United defense which may be showing fatigue from a crowded schedule. Red Devils Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rested several players, including full back Luke Shaw and midfielder Bruno Fernandes, before a mass second half substitution which hinted of desperation and failed to turn the match. Mason Greenwood’s first half goal was a solitary highlight for the Red Devils whose fans are likely disappointed to see their club let up with a winnable match against an underperforming Southampton team awaiting in the FA Cup’s next round. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains without a trophy as Manchester United manager. Leicester’s win snapped a 13-match winless streak in all competitions versus United.  

Southampton will face Leicester in the semifinals after Nathan Redmond powered the Saints to a 3-0 FA Cup victory over Bournemouth with his two goals and an assist. The FA Cup has provided welcome respite for the Saints from their progressively miserable march through their Premier League season. Redmond’s two goals were as many as he had scored in his previous 34 matches for Southampton. The match’s opening goal by the Saints’ Moussa Djenepo, assisted by Redmond, was Djenepo’s first goal in 20 matches across all competitions. For the Saints, no good deed goes unpunished as they move on to face a Leicester club which administered the infamous 9-0 thrashing of the Saints in a 2019 Premier League match. Both FA Cup semifinal matches are scheduled for April 17th at London’s Wembley Stadium.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Matchweek 29 Preview: Key Relegation Matches; London Derby; Can Jose Spur Tottenham?

 The Premier League plays a reduced schedule this weekend due to the FA Cup quarterfinal matches. Weekend league action begins with Leeds going to London Friday to face Fulham. Leeds is comfortably situated mid-table but have lost four of their last six matches and Marco Bielsa’s normally free flowing attack has failed to score in the Whites’ last three matches. Every match now has heightened importance for Fulham as each point achieved could mean the difference between survival and relegation for the Cottagers. Fulham has lost two of its last three matches as the club remains two points behind Newcastle and safety entering the weekend.  

Newcastle and Brighton are the two clubs most at risk to be overtaken by the Cottagers in the table and the Magpies and Seagulls face each other on the south coast Saturday in a match with major survival implications. Brighton is one point ahead of Newcastle, three points above Fulham, after the Seagulls ended a three-match losing skid with a victory over Southampton last week. Newcastle has clawed and scratched its way to three consecutive draws as the club struggles to overcome injuries to its top scoring threats. 

Fifth place West Ham continues its bid for a European place when the Hammers host Arsenal in a London derby on Sunday. The Hammers will be trying to win a fourth consecutive league home match for the first time in 19 years. Arsenal is five points from a top six berth as the inconsistent Gunners sit 10th in the table.


Spurs head to Aston Villa on the heels of being tossed out of the Europa League and losing their north London derby to Arsenal last weekend. Jose Mourinho went on quite the rant after the Europa League loss about a worrying lack of desire by his team. Still, Tottenham are but a point from the top six in the league title so European qualification remains a possibility if the ship can be righted. Aston Villa are 4 points behind Spurs in the table though the Villans hold a match in hand. Villa has struggled of late, scoring just 3 goals in 6 matches.

Premier League in Europe: Chelsea Shines; Liverpool and Real Madrid Renew Acquaintance; Manchester City Draws Dortmund and Haaland; Spurs Implode; United Foil Zlatan; Gunners Barely Hit Target

Chelsea was a 2-0 victor over Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge, closing out their Champions League tie with the La Liga leaders. The Blues held Atletico scoreless in both matches of the tie as Chelsea continued its excellent defensive play under Tuchel, conceding just two goals in his 13 matches with the club. The opening goal in Thursday’s match also hinted of yet unrealized possibilities in attack as Kai Havertz triggered a breathtaking counterattack, taking the ball from Atletico and passing to a racing Timo Werner whose cross found Hakim Ziyech for the goal. Defender Emerson, a late substitute, added the second goal for Chelsea.  Chelsea will face Porto in their quarterfinal draw with the winner taking on the victor of the Real Madrid v. Liverpool tie.

Liverpool, after their tidy elimination of RB Leipzig in the Round of 16, face Spanish giant Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals.

The two clubs most recently met in the 2017/18 Champions league final which Real Madrid won and in which Mohamed Salah was controversially injured on a questionable challenge from Sergio Ramos. The two giants on the European stage have both faced some adversity in league play this year, Liverpool more than Real which is currently third in La Liga.  Manager Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool impressed in posting consecutive 2-0 victories over RB Leipzig in the last round.  After a late winner in a 1-0 opening leg match with Atalanta in the Round of 16, Real Madrid were more decisive 3-1 winners over the Italian squad on Thursday.

Manchester City had little trouble eliminating Borussia Monchengladbach, triumphing 2-0 in both legs of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. The Citizens now move on to face another Bundesliga side in Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund’s attack is led by Erling Haaland who has 10 goals in 6 champions league appearances this season and has been rumored as a possible Manchester City transfer target.  Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho will be facing his former team in the Citizens.  Manchester City, one of the Champions League favorites this year,  has won only once in its last six quarterfinal appearances in all European cup competitions.  Should  Pep Guardiola’s side advance and continue this year’s chase for a “quadruple” of titles, the next round opponent will be the winner of the tie between Bayern Munich, who Guardiola once managed, and PSG.

Spurs exited Europa League in spectacular fashion, imploding in the second half of their match against Dinamo Zagreb.  The London team held a 2-0 aggregate advantage heading onto the second half of Thursday’s game only to yield a hat trick to the Croatian sides’ Mislav Orsic, the last of Orisic’s goals coming in extra time.  Dinamo Zagreb were playing without manager Zoran Mamic who left the club earlier in the week to begin serving a prison sentence for fraud.  It was Spurs, however, who were fraudulently impersonating a Premier League team on Thursday as Manager Jose Mourinho did not parse his words in post-game comments where he questioned the commitment of his players. While the skies are darkening for Jose and Spurs supporters, the club still has a League Cup final against Manchester City in its future and the team remains in competition for a European qualification in the league table.

Manchester United received a rare goal from the enigmatic Paul Pogba in a 1-0 win to advance, 2-1 in aggregate, past AC Milan in their Europa League match at San Siro on Thursday.  Pogba’s second half substitution paid immediate dividends in livening a Red Devil attack which had struggled in the first half.  AC Milan continued to struggle with its own attack until Zlatan IbrahimoviΔ‡, a late substitute for the Italian team, soared above Luke Shaw only to have his header guided away from the net by Red Devil goalkeeper Dean Henderson.  The victory puts Manchester United into the quarterfinals against Spanish club Granada, currently eighth in La Liga.  A semifinal matchup awaits against the winner of the Ajax versus Roma tie.

Arsenal A 1-0 loss at the Emirates allowed Arsenal to eliminate Olympiakos 3-2 in aggregate and advance the Gunners to a Europa League quarterfinal matchup with Slavia Praha.  Slavia Praha, victors over Rangers in the Round of 16,  had eliminated Premier League side Leicester in the round previous.  If Arsenal can get by the Czechs in the next round, their semi-final opponent will be either Dinamo Zagreb, conquerors of Spurs, or Villareal who are managed by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery. 

FA Cup Quarterfinals: South Coast Losers Bracket; City Face Everton; Foxes and Red Devils; Chelsea Host Blades

Seven Premier League teams and a lone representative from the Championship participate in the FA Cup quarterfinals this weekend. Championship side Bournemouth hosts Southampton in a south coast battle as one of these poor performing clubs will move on to the FA Cup semi-finals.  Bournemouth is 7th in the Championship table after being relegated from the Premier League following last season. Southampton have lost 9 of their last 11 Premier League matches. Premier League leader Manchester City continues its quest for a “quadruple” this season when the Citizens travel to Everton for their FA Cup quarterfinal match. City have won six straight matches against Everton, all in league competition. City are looking to reach an FA Cup semifinal FA for a third consecutive year. James Rodriguez and Jordan Pickford are ruled out for Everton. Coming off their impressive defeat of La Liga leader Atletico Madrid in the Champions League this week, Chelsea face Premier League cellar dweller Sheffield United in their FA Cup quarterfinal. Chelsea is looking for a trip to the semi-finals for the fourth time in the past 5 years. The Blades have beaten Chelsea but once in the FA Cup, a 1915 victory in the FA Cup final at Old Trafford. Leicester play host to Manchester United in the final quarterfinal match. A Manchester United victory would mean a record 31st trip to the semi finals for the Red Devils, currently tied with Arsenal for most semi-final appearances. Leicester have won just one of their last 25 matches across all competitions against Manchester United.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Matchweek 28 Results: Gunners Defeat Spurs; Red Devils Blunt Hammers; Citizens Enjoy Cottage Visit; Foxes Trot; Toffee Home Woes Continue; Reds Escape Wolves; Seagulls Soar

The north London derby delivered more than the usual controversy when Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta benched leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before the match with Spurs for disciplinary reasons. Various reports indicated tardiness on the part of the Arsenal captain in arriving to the stadium Sunday. The Gunners provided covering fire for their manager by defeating their archrival, 2-1, without the Gabonese striker. A sweeping “rabona” goal by Erik Lamela provided Spurs an early lead before Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard tied the match shortly before halftime with his first Premier League goal. The Gunners’ Alexandre Lacazette converted the winning second half penalty kick after being fouled by Davinson Sanchez.

Spurs’ goal scorer Lamela had an eventful day as he received a red card in the 76th minute.  Spurs missed out on a potential point when Harry Kane’s late header glanced off the woodwork.  Arsenal moved to within four points of Spurs with the victory and were five points behind 6th place Liverpool for a European place.  

An own goal by West Ham defender Craig Dawson was the only scoring at Old Trafford as Manchester United posted a fourth consecutive clean sheet in a 1-0 defeat of West Ham. The Hammers failed to register a single shot on the correct target as manager David Moyes lost for the 11th time in a winless stretch of 15 visits to Old Trafford as a visiting manager. The Hammers have not won at Old Trafford since 2007. The victory for Manchester United continues a streak where they have lost only once in their last 23 league matches and yet remain 14 points behind league leading Manchester City.  

Following a competitive first half against Fulham, Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage. John Stones opened the second half scoring with starting forwards Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero also registering goals for the Citizens. Defensive mistakes contributed Fulham’s fifth defeat in its last seven home league fixtures as the Cottagers failed to escape the bottom three. Fulham are two points behind Newcastle for the final safe position in the table. After enjoying their trip to the Cottage, Manchester City has scored 22 goals while conceding three in winning their last eight league away matches.  

No manager this weekend had a more difficult task than new Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Appointed this week to replace club legend Chris Wilder, Heckingbottom had no practices or meetings with his team prior to a match day which saw Leicester thrash the Blades by a 5-0 margin. Kelechi Iheanacho scored a hat trick as the Foxes trotted to an easy victory over the unsettled Blades.

A goal by Ayoze Perez, his second of the season, and an own goal by Sheffield United’s Ethan Ampadu, on loan from Chelsea, completed the scoresheet for Leicester. Sheffield United suffered its worst defeat of a terrible season just days after parting with Wilder, who had led his boyhood club through two levels of promotion to reach the Blades’ soon to end Premier League status.  

Chelsea missed out on the opportunity to solidify their top four standing in a goalless draw with Leeds. Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy recorded his 14th clean sheet of the season and Chelsea remained unbeaten in 12 matches under manager Thomas Tuchel. Despite conceding only two goals under Tuchel, the Blues still have work to do to generate more production from their attackers. Leeds earned a hard-won point against Chelsea but saw leading scorer Patrick Bamford go down with an injury in his 100th appearance for the Whites.  

Liverpool eked out a 1-0 win at Wolves as Diogo Jota scored a first half stoppage time goal against his former club. The Reds’ starting center back combination of Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips was effective in a second consecutive clean sheet following the mid-week Champions League whitewashing of RB Leipzig. Liverpool eased past Everton and Spurs into sixth position in the table with the victory at Molineux Stadium.  A frightening head injury was sustained late in the match by Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio in a collision with teammate Conor Coady. The Portuguese keeper was thankfully reported in good condition by manager Nuno Espirito Santo in comments following the match.  Thirteenth place Wolves failed to win for a fourth consecutive league outing and have lost their last nine league matches to Liverpool.  

Everton lost a second consecutive match in a surprising 2-1 defeat to visiting Burnley. Burnley uncharacteristically sprinted to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Chris Wood and Dwight McNeil before Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin halved the Claret lead 32 minutes into the match with the Toffee striker’s 14th league goal. The Clarets defense then shut down the Toffees to secure the three points for Burnley. Everton lost for a seventh time this season at Goodison, five of those home defeats occurring in 2021. Burnley moved seven points clear of relegation following the victory. Everton fell out of the top six with the loss.  

Newcastle moved two points clear of the relegation zone after their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.  The Magpies secured the point in dramatic fashion on a stoppage time header by defender Jamaal Lascelles after an own goal by teammate Ciaran Clark had given Aston Villa the lead late in regulation. Ninth place Aston Villa remain five points away from a top six place in the table.  

Crystal Place held West Brom to a single shot on target as Roy Hodson’s methodical Eagles grabbed three points in a 1-0 defeat of the Baggies. The lone Crystal Palace score came on a Luka Milivojevic penalty kick following a Baggie handball offense.  With their 17th loss of the season, West Brom falls 10 points from safety as hopes of league survival become dimmer with each pointless match.  

Brighton captured a vital three points in the Seagulls’ bid to fly clear of relegation when they defeated Southampton in a 2-1 victory at St. Mary’s. Brighton is three points better than currently relegation bound Fulham. Lewis Dunk and Leandro Trossard scored for the Seagulls. Che Adams tallied for the Saints who are seven points clear of relegation after losing 10 of their past 12 league matches.


Premier League in Europe

Manchester City will look to close out their Champions league tie with Borussia Monchengladbach in Budapest, Hungary on Tuesday. The Citizens have a 2-0 goal advantage heading into the second leg. Chelsea will be home at Stamford Bridge when they play Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League tie on Wednesday. Chelsea holds a slim 1-0 advantage over Diego Simeone’s club after the first leg. Manchester United and AC Milan are deadlocked at 1-1 entering the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie to be played at Milan’s San Siri Stadium on Thursday. Arsenal and Spurs hold comfortable margins heading into the second legs of their Europa League ties on Thursday. Arsenal holds a 3-1 advantage as they host Olympiakos at the Emirates in their rematch. Spurs hold a 2-0 edge as they head to Croatia to face Dinamo Zagreb in the second leg of their tie.  


Friday, March 12, 2021

Matchweek 28 Preview: Hammers and Moyes Visit Old Trafford; North London Derby; City Defends Away Streak

This weekend’s matchups include West Ham’s visit to Manchester United and the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. West Ham manager David Moyes has not won in 13 matches as a visiting manager at Old Trafford, but the former Manchester United manager has the Hammers just 2 points outside the top four as he travels to face his former club. The Hammers have won 3 of their last 4 matches, losing only in their last Manchester visit to the league leading Citizens, and have accumulated more points in 2021 than all but Manchester City. Manchester United have kept clean sheets in their last three league matches. Goals have come in bunches of late at Old Trafford for the Red Devils who have scored 15 in their last 3 home matches which includes the 9-0 destruction of Southampton. United forwards Rashford, Cavani and Martial are all injury doubts against the Hammers.  

Spurs make the short trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal hoping to continue a run in which they have won three consecutive league matches to put them again in the conversation for European places. The improvement of Gareth Bale provides Spurs with a fearsome attack when the Welshmen joins Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in Jose Mourinho’s lineup. Spurs are undefeated in their last 5 matches against the Gunners. Arsenal’s performance has been patchy this season and the Gunners sit 10th in the table.


Manchester City travels to London to face Fulham this weekend. The Cottagers will be looking to end a stretch in which City has outscored Fulham 18-0 in 6 consecutive matches won by the Citizens. Fulham’s defense, however, has been much improved during a current run of form which has rekindled hopes of league survival. The Cottagers have conceded but twice in their last 7 league matches. City is unbeaten in its last 16 away matches across all competitions and will be anxious to put last week’s home loss to Manchester United behind them.  

Leicester will face cellar dwelling Sheffield United who announced the departure this week of manager Chris Wilder. The Blades have won but 4 times in the league this season. Forward Kelechi Iheanacho has provided production for Leicester in the recent absence of the injured Harvey Barnes and James Maddison. Iheanacho is looking to score in a third consecutive league appearance.  

Chelsea travels to Leeds looking to extend an 11-match unbeaten run under manager Thomas Tuchel. The Blues have conceded only two goals during those 11 matches which includes clean sheets against their last three league opponents. Leeds have failed to score in their last two league matches while losing five of their last seven.  

Everton hopes to improve on its poor home form when Burnley visits Goodison Park. Six of the Toffees’ nine league defeats this season have come on their home turf and the Toffees have managed only seven goals in their last 10 league matches at home. Burnley has lost seven and failed to score in eight of 13 away matches. Sixth in the table Everton continues to battle for a European place while Burnley sits just 4 points from the relegation zone after winning just one of their last nine league matches.  

Liverpool, losers in six of their last seven matches, travels to Molineux Stadium to face Wolves. Wolves has lost but once in the past seven league contests while conceding more than a single goal only in their match with Manchester City during that stretch. 

Aston Villa, winners of just one match in their last 5 league contests, visits St. James Park on Friday to face Newcastle. Aston Villa, expected to still be without the injured Jack Grealish, has failed to score more than one goal in any of its last eight league matches. Newcastle’s eight defeats in 2021 are more than any Premier League club not named Southampton as the Magpies have fallen to within one point of the relegation zone.  

Nineteenth place West Brom, winners of just one of 13 away matches this season, have scored just twice in their last six matches as they wearily trudge to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Place. Crystal Palace will hope not to equal a club record of four consecutive home matches without a goal. The Eagles’ leading goal scorer, Wilfried Zaha, could possibly make his first start since February 2nd.

Premier League in Europe

Liverpool defeated RB Leipzig 2-0 to advance in the Champions League with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane providing the goals just as they had in the first leg of the tie. The Reds defense was solid against the Germans with center backs Nathaniel Phillips and Ozan Kabak playing behind defensive midfielder Fabinho.  Arsenal and Spurs both won their Europa League matches this week in advance of the clubs’ derby this weekend.  Arsenal spotted Olympiakos an early goal before gunning to a 3-1 victory.  Martin Odegaard scored his first Arsenal goal with defender Gabriel and midfielder Mohamed EIneny also finding the net for the Gunners. Elneny’s goal was his fourth for Arsenal, all his goals coming in European competition.  Much maligned Willian assisted on the Gabriel goal and now leads Arsenal in assists across all competitions this season.  Harry Kane’s brace delivered a 2-0 win at home for Spurs in the opening leg of their tie with Dinamo Zagreb.  The Spurs fifth consecutive win in all competitions is their longest under manager Jose Mourinho.  Manchester United conceded an injury time goal to Simon Kjaer of AC Milan in a 1-1 Europa League draw at Old Trafford.  Poor marking by Nemanja Matic coupled with a poor effort by United goalkeeper Dean Henderson allowed the key away goal to AC Milan.  Eighteen year-old Amad Diallo scored on his first ever shot for Manchester United.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Matchweek 27 Results: City's Streaks Crumble In Derby Loss to United; Reds Lose Again; Havertz Hums For Chelsea

Manchester City’s 28 game unbeaten run and streak of 21 consecutive wins in all competitions were ended in a 2-0 defeat at home to cross-town rival Manchester United. An early penalty kick by Bruno Fernandes, his 16th goal of the season, gave the Red Devils a lead just 2 minutes into the game after Gabriel Jesus interfered with Anthony Martial in the box. A second half goal by full back Luke Shaw, who impressed both in defense and going forward, cemented the victory for United who extended their away winning streak to 22 matches.  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer becomes the first Manchester United manager to win his first three away matches versus Manchester City and is the only active manager to have a winning record versus Pep Guardiola after more than three contests against the City manager. Manchester City, despite the loss, retains an 11 point lead on the Red Devils in the title race. 

Liverpool lost for a 6th consecutive time at Anfield in a 1-0 defeat to Fulham as the Reds have now failed to score from open play in all 7 of their 2021 home matches. Jurgen Klopp made 7 changes to his starting line-up in a futile attempt to end a slide which has now seen his team lose as many games this season as the prior 3 campaigns combined. Liverpool has lost 6 of its last 7 league matches, the sole victory coming over cellar dwelling Sheffield United. Fulham received a first half goal from Mario Lemina and employed dogged defense to win for a third time in a six-match streak in which they have lost only once. The Cottagers, winners at Anfield for the first time since 2012, drew level on points with 17th place Brighton but remain in the relegation zone on an inferior goal differential to the Seagulls.  

Leicester won for a first time in three matches with a 2-1 come from behind victory over a Brighton team suffering its third consecutive confounding defeat. The Seagulls took a first half lead on a goal by Allan Lallana who played perhaps his best game for the club since his arrival from Liverpool. Kelechi Iheanacho knotted matters for the Foxes in the 62nd minute. Disaster then struck in the 87th minute for Brighton goalkeeper Roberto Sanchez as the Seagull could only flap at a Marc Albrighton corner ball which found the head of the Foxes’ Daniel Amartey before settling in the net for the winner. Leicester won for a 10th consecutive away match. Brighton falls level on points with 18th place Fulham as the Seagulls have deposited themselves squarely in the relegation battle.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel became the first Premier League manager to have his club post clean sheets in his first five home matches as Chelsea defeated Everton 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.  Kai Havertz was the latest hero for Chelsea as the German made a rare start and was integral to both Chelsea goals. It was Havertz’ touch that deflected off an Everton defender for Chelsea’s opening tally. Chelsea’s final score came on a second half penalty kick by Jorginho after Havertz was taken down in the Everton box. Jorginho has scored all 6 of his penalty tries this season. Chelsea, currently 2 points ahead of West Ham for the final Champions League slot, have yet to lose in 11 matches across all competitions under Tuchel. Everton’s defeat ended a nine-match unbeaten run in away matches for the Toffees who sit 6th in the table, 4 points behind Chelsea. Everton failed to win for a 26th consecutive time at Chelsea. 

Jesse Lingard put in the rebound of his own missed penalty and defender Craig Dawson added an insurance goal in West Ham’s 2-0 defeat of Leeds. Lingard has scored 4 goals for the Hammers since coming over on loan from Manchester United during the winter transfer window. Dawson’s goal was also his fourth of the season for the Hammers.  West Ham have climbed from 10th in the table entering 2021 to their current 5th position by accumulating more points than all but Manchester City in the new calendar year.  

North London was a cut above south London as the talent of Spurs overwhelmed Crystal Place, 4-1, in their London derby. Gareth Bale scored an opening brace while Harry Kane added two goals of his own, in addition to assisting on both Bale goals, to help keep hopes of Champions League qualification alive for Jose Mourinho’s club. Tottenham moved to within a point of 6th place Everton and are 5 points away from the top four. Christian Benteke scored his fifth goal of the season for Crystal Palace on the Eagle’s only shot on target in the match.  

Aston Villa was unable to put a shot on target until stoppage time and Wolves managed only two shot on target of their own as the two clubs played to a scoreless draw in their West Midlands derby. Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez posted his 14th clean sheet of the season, just 1 short of the league lead of Manchester City’s Ederson. Villa are 6 points removed from European qualification in a season that started with great promise but is quickly wilting in the absence of the injured Jack Grealish. Villa have not won a home match in either the Premier League or Championship without Grealish since April 2019. Wolves have won just 1 of their last 10 Premier league away matches.  

It was a match to forget for Arsenal as the Gunners diminishing hopes for European qualification were further damaged in a 1-1 draw at Burnley. Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka played a billiards shot off Burnley’s Chris Wood into the Gunners’ goal to provide the Clarets with their only score. Burnley survived two second half potential handball assessments, both incidents involving the Clarets’ Erik Pieters on balls struck by the Gunners Nicolas Pepe. One might say the Clarets were handed the point Saturday. 

Southampton won for a first time in 10 matches with a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. The Saints’ Nathan Tella tormented the Blades all evening with his pace and was taken down by the Blades Ethan Ampadu to give Southampton a first half penalty which was converted by the Saints’ spot kick specialist James Ward-Prowse. The insurance goal was provided by Che Adams for the Saints who received mixed blessings on the day as striker Danny Ings was injured once again. Sheffield United lost for a 22nd time this season as the dull Blades attack failed to score for a 4th time in their last 5 matches. 

Newcastle battled to a goalless draw with West Brom at The Hawthorns. A point versus the 19th place team in the table would not normally be a point of satisfaction but Magpies manager Steve Bruce was happy with the result as the Magpies played without their injured top three attackers and were coming off a week where a training ground dust-up between the manager and winger Matt Ritchie dominated media coverage. The draw for West Brom was the club’s third in the last five matches as the Baggies try to avoid manager Sam Allardyce’s first relegation from the Premier League. The Baggies have scored but twice in those 5 matches. The only mid-week league match is Southampton’s visit to Manchester City as the focus this week shifts to Europe.

Premier League in Europe

Liverpool plays the second leg of its Champions League tie with RB Leipzig in Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday.  Despite their recent struggles in the Premier League, the Reds were impressive in a 2-0 defeat of the German side in the opening leg of the tie.  The Europa League commences its Round of 16 play on Thursday.  Manchester United hosts AC Milan as the clubs meet for an 11th time in European competition. Dinamo Zagreb comes to London to meet Spurs.  Arsenal travels to Greece to face Olympiakos.  Manchester City and Chelsea play the second legs of their Champions League ties next week.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Matchweek 27 Preview: Manchester Derby; Chelsea, Everton, Hammers Battle For Fourth; Reds Try Again At Anfield

This weekend’s Manchester derby at the Etihad is sure to be hotly contested even though its importance to the title chase has lost much of its luster. Manchester United was 1st in the table as late as January 20th but, after winning just twice in the 8 matches since that time, the Red Devils find themselves currently 14 points behind their cross-town rivals. Manchester City has won 21 consecutive matches and a win or draw will set a club record of 28 matches unbeaten across all competitions.


Third place Leicester has struggled with injuries recently but remains unbeaten in 12 away matches in all competitions as the Foxes travel to Brighton this weekend. Leicester’s 9 wins away from home this season are joint highest in the Premier League. The Seagulls are but 3 points from the relegation zone after losing twice and winning not at all during a 4-match  run in which they have scored only two goals.  

Chelsea gets little time to celebrate its victory at Liverpool which returned the Blues to the top four. Everton visits Stamford Bridge on Monday with the Toffees only 1 point behind the Blues with a match in hand. Chelsea is unbeaten in 10 league matches under Thomas Tuchel, winning 8 times. Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton side have won 3 consecutive matches while not conceding a goal.  

West Ham, 2 points behind Chelsea, will look for a return to the top four when the Hammers host Leeds on the weekend. Last week’s loss to Manchester City was just the second defeat in 12 matches for the Hammers. Hammer goalkeepers Luka Fabianski and Darren Randolph are both nursing minor injuries entering the match with Leeds. Leeds is looking to earn its first point in London this season.  

Liverpool, 7th in the table entering the weekend, have lost 7 of their last 9 matches as they prepare to host Fulham. The Reds will be trying to end a five-match losing run at Anfield where they have not scored in more than 10 hours of play. Fulham, currently fighting to escape the relegation zone, is unbeaten in its last 7 league away matches.  

Spurs will be hosting Crystal Palace, having not lost a home match to the Eagles in over 23 years.  Two consecutive wins have improved Spurs hopes for a European place. The north London side are 3 points from the top six, 5 points from the top four Champions League places entering weekend play. Crystal Palace is on a 3-match unbeaten run despite placing only 4 shots on target during that stretch. The Eagles hope to have Wilfried Zaha back for the tilt with Spurs.  

Aston Villa will host Wolves in their West Midlands derby. The Villans are expected to be again without Jack Grealish and they have been struggling in his absence, losing 2 of their last 3 matches. Goals have been scarce for Aston Villa who have not scored more than a goal in 7 consecutive matches.  Wolves, meanwhile, have won only once in their last nine away matches.  

Arsenal, 10th in the table entering the weekend, travels to Burnley where they are unbeaten in their last 8 visits to Turf Moor. The Gunners, however, have not been firing on all cylinders this season and have failed to score in a total of 10 league matches, one short of a club season record. Only Sheffield United has scored fewer goals than Burnley this season as the Clarets battle to stave off relegation.  Burnley was 6 points north of the relegation zone following this week’s draw with Leicester.  

Southampton travels Bramall Lane to face Sheffield United. The struggling Saints have not won in nine matches, losing 8 during that stretch. Sheffield United will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.  

A key bottom of the table matchup features Newcastle visiting West Brom. Newcastle is but three points clear of the relegation zone and will be without attackers Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin due to injury.  Under siege Manager Steve Bruce was involved in a training ground incident with Newcastle player Matt Ritchie this week. Survival hopes are quickly fading for West Brom as Sam Allardyce’s Baggies are 9 points behind the Magpies and safety.

Midweek Results: Citizens Tame Wolves; Manchester United Draws at Foggy Selhurst; Foxes Drop Points; Chelsea Crash Top Four; Blades Cut down Villa

Chelsea handed Liverpool a 5th consecutive loss at Anfield as the Blues remained unbeaten under manager Thomas Tuchel in a 1-0 defeat of the Reds. Only Manchester City has earned more league points than Chelsea during Tuchel’s 8 match tenure in charge of the Blues. Mason Mount’s first half goal on Thursday held up as Chelsea controlled play and Liverpool managed just one shot on target. Chelsea moved to 4th place with the win while Liverpool continued its tumble down the table to 7th. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was removed from the match shortly after the hour mark to the displeasure of both he and his agent.  

Manchester City danced with Wolves for 80 minutes before the first of two Gabriel Jesus goals broke up a tie game, beginning a late scoring burst which led to a 4-1 taming of the Wolves for the Citizens 21st consecutive win.

Riyad Mahrez also scored late for Manchester City while a Wolves own goal had accounted for the Citizens’ initial score. City’s early lead, courtesy of the Wolves’ own goal, marked the 19th consecutive league match in which they have not trailed, equaling the record set by Arsenal. With the win, Pep Guardiola’s team become only the third club in Europe’s top five league to have exceeded 20 consecutive victories. The loss snapped a 4-match unbeaten run for Wolves who continue to field a version of the Portuguese national team as the 8 Portuguese starters against City were the most for a club in Premier League history.  

Manchester United failed to score for a third consecutive match across all competitions with its goalless draw with Crystal Palace at a fog shrouded Selhurst Park. The result left the Red Devils 14 points behind league leading Manchester City heading into the clubs’ Manchester derby. Despite disappointment at the dropped points, the draw extended the Red Devils unbeaten run away from home to 21 matches. Defensive minded Crustal Palace, playing without star Wilfried Zaha, have earned 5 points in their last 3 matches while attempting only 4 shots on target. The play of Eagles defender Joel Ward was critical in the clean sheet against United and the Palace veteran has now started in 5 of the 6 clean sheets that Crystal Place has recorded this season, despite starting only 14 of the club’s 27 matches.  

Third place Leicester also dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Burnley.  A goal by Kelechi Iheanacho salvaged the point for the Foxes who also benefitted from key saves by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Matej Vydra scored for Burnley in a 4th consecutive Premier League draw at Turf Moor. Leicester remained 1 point behind Manchester United following the draws by both clubs.  

A headed goal by Richarlison, his 4th goal in his last 4 Premier League appearances, captured all three points for Everton in a 1-0 win at West Brom. The 3rd consecutive win for the Toffees left them 5th in the table, just 1 point behind 4th place Chelsea, as the Toffees continue to chase possible Champions League qualification. The loss snapped a 3-match unbeaten run for 19th place West Brom.  

A 1-0 victory over Fulham provided Spurs with the club’s first back-to-back league victories since November. It was a crushing defeat for Fulham who conceded an own goal and had a potentially tying goal nullified by a VAR ruling. Fulham was held scoreless for an 8th time this season, joint highest in the league.  

Aston Villa lost for a second time in 3 matches as they were cut down by the Blades of Sheffield United who won for just a 4th time this season in a 1-0 final. The Blades’ David McGoldrick scored on 1 of only 2 Sheffield United shots on target. Sheffield United played for more than a half hour with only 10 players following a red card to 38-year-old Phil Jagielka, the oldest Premier League player to be sent off. Villa have lost 10 of 11 league matches this season where they have conceded a goal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Mid-Week Preview: Reds Host Blues; Key London Derby At The Cottage; Citizens and Red Devils Look to Extend Streaks

14 of the 20 Premier League teams play for a second time this week in matches scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday. The highlight of the mid-week clashes may be Chelsea’s visit to Liverpool on Thursday. Liverpool will be trying to avoid a 5th consecutive defeat at Anfield and would leapfrog over currently 5th place Chelsea with a victory. Chelsea have drawn 2 consecutive league matches as the Blues’ attack under manager Thomas Tuchel has yet to fully engage.


Manchester City will look for a 21st straight victory when they play host to Wolves on Tuesday. The recent dominance of Pep Guardiola’s team has been such that the Citizens have not trailed in their last 18 league matches, one short of the league record held by Arsenal. 

Crystal Palace is unlikely to have leading scorer Wilfried Zaha back when Manchester United visit Selhurst Park on Wednesday.  The Eagles have failed to score in 17 of the last 22 Premier League matches they have played without Zaha. The Red Devils will look to extend their club record away match unbeaten run to 21.  

Burnley will host struggling Leicester at Turf Moor. The Foxes are reeling from injuries to key players and will need Jamie Vardy to awake from a slump which has seen him score but a single goal since Christmas.  

Spurs head to Craven Cottage for a London derby versus Fulham with both teams’ seasons at a critical juncture.  Fulham is fighting to escape relegation. Spurs, 8th in the table after this past weekend, are trying to secure their ticket for Europe next season. 

West Brom will look to extend their current 3 match home unbeaten run when Everton visits The Hawthorns. A 9th away goal by Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin will match the club record held by former striker Romelu Lukaku.  

Sheffield United will look to avoid a 5th consecutive defeat when Aston Villa visits Bramall Lane. Aston Villa enters the week  4 points outside the European places. Villa captain Jack Grealish remains a question for the match as he continues to recover from a lower leg injury which has cost him the last two matches.

Matchweek 26 Weekend Results: Citizens Put Hammers Down; Snooze At The Bridge; Gunners Bag Foxes; Spurs Romp

Manchester City posted their 20th consecutive win across all competitions in in a challenging 2-1 victory over an in-form West Ham squad. Center backs Ruben Dias and John Stones provided the goals for the Citizens. Dias became the 19th player to score, excluding own goals, for Manchester City across all competitions this year, the most players to score for any club in the Premier League this season. The Hammers’ Michail Antonio became the first West Ham player to score at home and away in the same season against City in 25 years.  The spirited Hammers battled to the wire against City with Issa Diop missing a header opportunity in the City box in the dying moments.  With the win, Pep Guardiola recorded his 500th career victory as a manager and 200th win as the manager of Manchester City.


West Ham remained fourth in the table even with the loss as Chelsea shared points with Manchester United in a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge. Neither Chelsea nor the Red Devils generated many goal opportunities in a match where neither team showed much ambition in attack. United goalkeeper David DeGea made a critical save on a first half shot by Chelsea’ Hakim Ziyech in foiling perhaps the most dangerous scoring chance for either club. Manchester United remained unbeaten in 20 away league matches but fell 12 points behind league leader Manchester City. Chelsea have now kept a clean sheet in all four league home matches under Thomas Tuchel but remain fifth in the table, one point behind West Ham for the final Champions League slot.  

Arsenal spotted an opening goal to 3rd place Leicester before roaring back for a 3-1 victory over the Foxes. Leicester experienced a miserable week which included their elimination from the Europa League on Thursday and saw a knee injury to second leading scorer Harvey Barnes in the second half of the loss to Arsenal. Contributing to the surprising outcome at King Power was Arsenal choosing to rest Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka who had starred in the Gunners’ Thursday Europa League victory over Benfica. David Luiz, Alexandre Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe scored for manager Mikel Arteta’s side who finished the weekend 10th in the table, 6 points from a top six berth and 8 points removed from the top four.


Liverpool ended their 4-match losing run in the league with a 2-0 victory over cellar dwelling Sheffield United. Following a scoreless first half, Curtis Jones opened the scoring for Liverpool before Sheffield United suffered an own goal as a shot by Liverpool’s Bobby Firmino caromed into the net off Blades defender Kean Bryan. The Blades were again less than sharp in attack, missing badly on their few created opportunities and providing clear evidence of why they have scored 32 fewer goals than Liverpool this season.  

Everton stayed level on points with 6th place Liverpool, though trailing in goal differential, with a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park over Southampton. Richarlison scored for a third consecutive league match as Everton ended a 3-match home losing run. Midfielder Allan made his first start since mid-December and contributed to a strong defensive performance by the Toffees who won back-to-back matches for a first time in 2021. Southampton  lost for an 8th time in a current 9 match winless run in the league and are 7 points above the relegation zone after Monday’s match.  

Spurs exploited a surprisingly porous Burnley defense for a 4-0 rout of the Clarets. Gareth Bale had 2 goals and an assist for the north London club who also received goals from Harry Kane, his 14th of the season, and Lucas Moura.  A re-energized Bale could significantly alter the outlook for 8th place Spurs who were 6 points removed from a Champions League spot at week’s end. Burnley are 5 points above the relegation zone following the snapping of a 4-match unbeaten run.  

A first half goal by Anwar El Ghazi was all that Aston Villa needed as they grabbed all three points in a 1-0 defeat of Leeds. The 8th clean sheet on the road for Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is the best in the Premier League.  The 27th goal conceded before halftime by Leeds this season is also a league leading statistic.  

Newcastle stayed 3 points above the relegation zone by drawing 1-1 with Wolves while Fulham drew with Crystal Place. Jamal Lascelles gave the Magpies a second half lead before Ruben Nieves tied the game for Wolves. The final score was predictable based on the two team’s history. Newcastle and Wolves have played to a 1-1 draw the last five times they have faced each other and 75% of their 12 Premier League matchups have ended in a draw.  Fulham registered their 10th draw in their last 15 matches in a goalless visit to Crystal Palace which paused Fulham’s recent progression towards safety in the table. The Cottagers, who remain three points in the table behind Newcastle and safety, had a 16-3 shot advantage against a Crystal Palace side which failed to put a single shot on target.  The Eagles have been outshot in their last two matches by an aggregate 41-6 margin and yet have picked up 4 points.  Fulham extended their league away match unbeaten run to 7 consecutive matches.  

Brighton increased their relegation worries by missing two penalty attempts in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom. The Seagulls’ recent descent has left them level on points with Newcastle with the two clubs just three points above Fulham and the relegation zone.  The frustrated flock of Seagulls saw a goal disallowed on a controversial “double whistle” by referee Lee Mason on a Brighton free kick. West Brom’s normally porous defense has registered two consecutive clean sheets as they attempt to keep their faint hopes of survival alive. The Baggies trail currently safe Brighton and Newcastle by 9 points in the table.