Friday, April 30, 2021

Matchweek 34 Preview: Klopp Hoping To Break Old Trafford Hex; Everton Need to Improve Work At Home; Spurs Look to Rebound; Chelsea Can’t Overlook Fulham

Liverpool head to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in a critical match to keep its top four hopes alive. Liverpool are four points behind Chelsea for the final Champions League slot after dropping four points in drawing their last two outings. Jurgen Klopp has never won at Manchester United’s historic venue and this would be a terrific time for the German manager to break though.

Notwithstanding the intense rivalry between the clubs, the stakes are not as high for Manchester United which is comfortably situated second in the Premier League table and should secure a place in the Europa League final this coming week. The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions against Liverpool. 

Everton trails Liverpool by only two points with a match in hand as the Toffees prepare to host Aston Villa. Everton has been poor at home this season with only five Premier League clubs having won fewer matches at home than Everton’s five victories at Goodison Park. Aston Villa are struggling with just one win in their last seven matches as the Villans have tumbled from the top half of the table. Villa has picked up just a point from its last three away matches. 

Tottenham Hotspur will try to rebound from a disappointing performance in last week’s Carabao Cup final when Spurs welcomes Sheffield United to north London. European qualification remains a possibility for a Spurs club which faces clubs currently in the bottom half of the table in three of five in their final five matches. Caretaker manager Ryan Mason, however, will be challenged to inspire a seemingly less than excited group of Spurs players. Sheffield United, already relegated, shocked Brighton last week to show the Blades are not going quietly. 

West Ham hopes to keep its top four hopes alive when the Hammers travel to Burnley. Burnley has not won in its previous seven home matches but are coming off an impressive 4-0 taming of Wolves last week. Burnley striker Chris Wood scored three goals last week, has six goals in seven career matches against the Hammers, and has scored in each of the last three matches played against West Ham at Turf Moor. The Hammers have dropped two straight matches to fall from the top four as David Moyes’s side has struggled to deal with key injuries which has left the Hammers without Declan Rice and Michail Antonio in recent weeks.


Chelsea hosts a London derby versus visiting Fulham. The Blues under manager Thomas Tuchel continue to battle on three fronts with a massive Champions League match approaching Tuesday with Real Madrid. Chelsea, however, enjoys just a three-point advantage on fifth place West Ham and cannot afford to slip up in the league. Fulham would appear an appetizing opponent for Chelsea as the Cottagers have lost four of five matches to largely destroy their chances of Premier League survival. Fulham sits seven points below Brighton in the race for safety. 

Leicester travels to Southampton with the Foxes holding a seven-point advantage over West Ham to ensure a Champions League place for next season. Kelechi Iheanacho is on a remarkable run for the Foxes, scoring 14 goals in his last 14 appearances in all competitions for Leicester. Including assists, Iheanacho has more goal involvements in all competitions in 2021 than any Premier League player but for Harry Kane. Southampton has been miserable with the ‘Aints having lost four of their last five and 12 of their last 15 matches. 

Manchester City will be rotating its squad as the Citizens visit Crystal Palace in advance of next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg match with PSG. Manchester City, with a ten-point lead at the top of the table, will be looking for its 25th win in 34 league matches.  An 11th consecutive league away win by Manchester City will equal the Premier League record. Crystal Palace is safely mid-table as it plays out its schedule. 

Tenth place Arsenal will be trying to stay in the top half of the table when the Gunners travel to Newcastle. Newcastle has successfully pulled away from the relegation fray by losing just one of its last eight matches. The Magpies will look to extend a current four match unbeaten run against an Arsenal squad possibly looking ahead to its critical Europa League second leg versus Villareal. 

Leeds is unbeaten its last six matches as the 9th place Whites continue to impress in their return to the Premier League. Manager Marcelo Bielsa’s entertaining side have both scored and allowed 50 goals and both won and lost 14 matches while drawing but five times. Brighton has drawn 13 times, the most in the Premier League and only Burnley and the three relegation teams have scored fewer than the Seagulls’ 33 goals in as many matches. Brighton is seven points above currently relegation bound Fulham. 

West Brom, with their survival hopes dashed by two consecutive non-winning matches, host Wolves in a Black Country derby at The Hawthorns. Matheus Pereira has caught fire amid the dying embers of the Baggies campaign as the Brazilian has been involved in six goals in the Baggies’ last four matches. Pereira scored twice in West Brom’s win at Wolves earlier this season. Wolves, mired mid-table, have been slow to pounce this season, scoring first in fewer matches than all but the Baggies and Sheffield United.


Premier League in Europe

Chelsea scored a critical away goal in their 1-1 Champions League semi-final draw with Real Madrid. Christian Pulisic scored in the 14th minute for a Chelsea side which dominated early before a first half tying goal by Real’s Karim Benzema. Timo Werner was again guilty of missing numerous chances, including an early golden opportunity from six yards out. Chelsea controlled second half play but was unable to find a winner. Manager Thomas Tuchel will be pleased with the away goal but also disappointed at a missed opportunity to take a win away from the rain drenched contest. But for an acrobatic effort by Benzema on his goal, Chelsea’s defense again impressed with Real Madrid launching just the one shot on target for the match. Pulisic is the first American to score in a Champions League semi-final. Benzema’s 71st Champions League goal ties him for fourth in the competition’s history behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Robert Lewandowski. 

Manchester City took advantage of a sloppy performance by PSG to post a 2-1 victory in Paris. Pep Guardiola’s side overcame an early headed goal by PSG’s Marquinhos to grab the away win on two errors by PSG. Keven De Bruyne’s cross bounced in the box and proceeded unmolested into goal as PSG’s defenders and goalkeeper were inexplicable bystanders. The second goal came on a Riyad Mahrez free kick which found its way to goal when PSG’s wall inexcusably parted.

Adding insult to injury for the beleaguered Parisians was a 77th minute red card assessed Idrissa Gueye. City’s victory was an 18th consecutive win in away matches across all competitions for the Premier League leaders. Manchester City heads to the Etihad for the second leg next week with the lead in the tie and two away goals to their account. PSG remains dangerous, particularly if Kylian Mbappe should awaken from his sleepwalking performance in the first leg. 

Manchester United shattered Roma’s hopes in a 6-2 victory at Old Trafford in the opener of the clubs’ Europa League semi-final. The Red Devils trailed at halftime before overrunning the outmatched Italian side with five second half goals. Edinson Cavani notched a second half brace, Bruno Fernandez added a penalty kick to his first half goal, and Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood each scored as part of the second half onslaught. The impressive win resoundingly ended a string of four consecutive semi-final defeats in all competitions by Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The six goals by United were the most scored by a club in a European semi-final since Real Madrid in 1964. The Red Devils are poised to reach their eighth European final. 

Arsenal were exceptionally fortunate to escape their opening Europa League semi-final match at Villareal with only a 2-1 deficit to be overcome at the Emirates. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette out of the starting lineup, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta employed Emile Smith-Rowe in a false nine position for the opening leg, a move which proved ineffective. Down two goals early, Arsenal went down to two men when Dani Ceballos received a red card in the 57th minute. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno limited further damage to his undermanned team with two subsequent critical saves on Villa real star striker Gerard Moreno. Gunner hopes for the tie were then salvaged when Bukayo Saka was able to craftily draw a penalty which Nicolas Pepe converted. The crucial away goal keeps Arsenal in contention as the teams move on to the second leg at the Emirates.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Premier League In Europe

Chelsea visits Real Madrid on Tuesday in the opening leg of the clubs’ Champions League tie. Despite a recent spate of goalless draws, Zinedine Zidane’s squad are unbeaten in 17 matches across all competitions. The Spanish club, though, is battling several injuries with Captain Sergio Ramos among those unavailable for the match with Chelsea. Former Chelsea player Eden Hazard, however, could see action for Real Madrid after a long injury absence. Chelsea has lost just two matches in 21 matches under manager Thomas Tuchel, both those losses coming at Stamford Bridge. The Blues return to the Champions League semi-final for the first time since 2014.


Manchester City visits Tuchel’s former team, PSG, in Paris Wednesday in the Champions League’s other semi-final match. The Citizens of manager Pep Guardiola won the English Carabao Cup over the weekend and could clinch the Premier League title as early as next weekend. The Champions League trophy, however, remains the Holy Grail for Manchester City and they may well need to improve in attack to capture the prize. Absent production from the striker position, City has used Kevin De Bruyne in a false nine position and benefitted from the emergence of Phil Foden to generate goals. Foden scored the winner in both legs of the Champions League tie versus Borussia Dortmund in the last round of the competition. Manchester City visits the Champions League semi-finals for just a second time while PSG will look to reach the final for a second consecutive year. PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino, led Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final two years ago, losing to Liverpool. PSG star Kylian Mbappe is expected to play Wednesday after suffering a minor quad strain in a league match over the weekend. 

Following their crushing league loss to Everton in league play, next up for Arsenal is their Europa League match on Thursday against former manager Unai Emery and his Villareal side. Emery won three Europa League titles while managing Sevilla and the former Arsenal manager brought the Gunners to the 2019 Europa League final before losing to Chelsea. A loss to their former manager would be highly embarrassing for the Gunners who have shown little to no improvement under current manager, Mikel Arteta. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette remain injury doubts for Arsenal which struggled going forward versus Everton without their prime offensive weapons. 

Manchester United hosts Roma in the opening leg of their Europa League tie on Thursday. The Red Devils are undefeated in their last six matches and have lost just one of their last 21 matches across all competitions. The storied club will be making its 18th appearance in a European semi-final, second only to Liverpool among English teams. Roma has never won a European away match versus an English club and has won just one of seven previous Champions League meetings with Manchester United. The Italian club has struggled in Serie A this season and is currently seventh in its domestic table. There are several familiar faces to Manchester United fans on the Roma roster. Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitayan are former Red Devil players while Roma Striker Edin Dzeko played for Manchester City.

Matchweek 33 Results: Chelsea Defeats Hammers; Foxes Trot Past Palace; Newcastle Strikes Late at Liverpool; Gunners Self Implode; Burnley Dances On Wolves

Chelsea fortified its hold on fourth place and a spot in next year’s Champion League with a 1-0 defeat of West Ham in the clubs’ London derby. Timo Werner’s second premier league goal since November and his first goal in all competitions since mid-February proved timely as the Blues opened a three-point lead on West Ham in the race for fourth. Werner’s score came off a well-placed cross from Ben Chilwell with Christian Pulisic also flashing some fine form in the build up to the goal. The clean sheet for Chelsea was the club’s 10th  in 14 league matches under manager Thomas Tuchel. Following the win at London Stadium, Tuchel is also undefeated in 10 away matches for Chelsea. West Ham will feel wronged by a questionable red card sustained with nine minutes to play by defender Fabian Balbuena which damaged hope for a late equalizer from the Hammers. Despite the defeat, West Ham should continue to contend for European qualification as the Hammers play four of their final five matches against teams in the bottom six of the table. 

Third place Leicester won for a second consecutive match by downing Crystal Palace 2-1 at King Power Stadium. The Foxes clawed back from a goal deficit at halftime after Wilfried Zaha had scored his tenth league goal of the season for Crystal Palace, matching his career high. Kelechi Iheanacho then continued his outstanding form for Leicester by first assisting on Timothy Castagne’s tying goal five minutes into the second half and then unleashing the winner on an 80th minute strike.

The match winner was Iheanacho’s 9th goal in his last seven Premier League matches. Palace were again well disciplined and organized but suffered from a lack of threat apart from Zaha. 

Liverpool dropped points in allowing a tying goal in the 95th minute of play in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle. Joe Willock scored a critical goal for Newcastle as a late substitute for a second consecutive week and now has four goals in 10 appearances for the Magpies during his loan from Arsenal. A Callum Wilson goal for Newcastle had been disallowed just minutes before the Willock score but Newcastle persevered and now looks to have ensured its Premier League survival by extending a current unbeaten run to four matches. Much maligned manager Steve Bruce should be accorded some credit for steering the Magpies to safety. Newcastle has lost just once in its last eight matches. Mohamed Salah scored his 20th goal for Liverpool. Despite dropping points in a second consecutive draw, the Reds remain sixth in the table with still an outside chance at Champions League qualification where they currently trail Chelsea by four points. 

Amid the sounds of angry fan protests against ownership outside the stadium and the sound of helicopters circling above the Emirates, Arsenal responded with a poor performance in a 1-0 home defeat to Everton which likely renders the rest of its league schedule irrelevant. Absent both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners managed no attacking threat with Eddie Nketiah proving ineffective as a lone striker. Everton’s goal resulted when Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno bungled an errantly struck cross from the Toffees’ Richarlison into the Arsenal net in the 85th minute. A seventh home loss by the Gunners ties a club Premier League record as Arsenal lost at home to Everton for the first time since 1996. Arsenal ended the weekend eight points behind sixth place Liverpool as chances for European play next year for the Gunners would seem to rest solely on the outcome of this year’s Europa League competition. The victory by Everton keeps the Toffees’ hopes alive for European qualification. Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s men are just two points behind crosstown rival Liverpool. 

Burnley would seem to have ensured a sixth consecutive Premier League campaign with a rare offensive outburst in a 4-0 taming of Wolves. A first half hat trick by the Clarets’ Chris Woods gives the underrated New Zealand striker double digits in goal production for a fourth consecutive season. Burnley’s Ashley Westwood scored a late second half goal as Burnley snapped a three-match losing run to move nine points clear of relegation.

The sheepish performance by Wolves adds further indignity to a listless season which is likely to see a bottom half finish for Manager Nuno Espirito Santos’s club after two consecutive seventh place finishes in the Premier League. Only Burnley and the three relegation clubs have scored fewer goals than Wolves this season.  

Leeds extended its unbeaten run to six matches in a goalless draw with historic rival Manchester United. The Whites have drawn with Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea while defeating Manchester City during that run. After combining for eight goals in a 6-2 Manchester United win earlier this season, the two squads combined for only seven shots on target in a grueling rematch. While the Red Devils extended their away unbeaten run to 24 matches, the end of Manchester United’s five match winning streak sets up the possibility that Manchester City could clinch the league title as early as next weekend.  

Aston Villa defender Keinan Davis barreled into the six-yard box to clatter home the tying goal in stoppage time as Aston Villa drew 2-2 in a West Midlands derby against West Brom. Anwar Al Ghazi scored early for Aston Villa before a goal by West Brom’s Matheus Pereira and an own goal by the Villans’ Tyrone Mings gave Sam Allardyce’s Baggies the lead and perhaps hope for Premier League survival. Davis’s goal then dashed all hope for the Baggies. 

Sheffield United shocked Brighton in a 1-0 victory by the relegated Blades. David McGoldrick scored his seventh goal of the season to give caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom his first victory as Sheffield United manager. Brighton dominated possession but was unable to score for a third consecutive match as the low flying Seagulls refuse to free themselves of relegation concerns. Graham Potter’s side failed to win for a ninth time in their last 11 matches and have yet to win a match this season against a team in the relegation zone.

Carabao Cup

Manchester City won its fourth consecutive English Football League Cup (Carabao Cup) with a 1-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Aymeric Laporte scored the winner, heading in a  free kick from Kevin De Bruyne with eight minutes of regulation time remaining. Laporte was playing in place of the suspended John Stones, who was sitting after a red card this week in league play. City dominated play despite scoring just once, controlling 63% of the possession and launching 21 shots. Spurs managed just two shots, one on target, as the club failed to win their first trophy since 2008. Harry Kane was valiant in taking the pitch but was far from fit as he struggles with an ailing ankle. The lackluster performance by his teammates raises question as to the wisdom of removing cup winning manager Jose Mourinho one week before the crucial match.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Matchweek 33 Preview: West Ham and Chelsea Battle For Fourth; Liverpool Tries To Stay In The Hunt

The London derby at London Stadium between West Ham and Chelsea is arguably the most significant match of the season to date. The two clubs are level on points with Chelsea currently holding onto the final Champions League berth only by virtue of goal differential. Only Manchester City has a better home record this season than West Ham, but the Hammers will be missing striker Michael Antonio and defensive midfielder Declan O’Brien. Chelsea  is largely healthy, but squad selection will need be made with a view towards Tuesday’s Champions League match with Real Madrid. Following the lethargic goalless draw with Brighton this week, Chelsea have allowed only nine goals in 20 matches under Thomas Tuchel with five of those goals conceded to West Brom in Tuchel’s only league loss.


Liverpool wants to join the top four conversation with a result versus Newcastle. The Reds, unbeaten in four matches following their draw at Leeds, are just two points behind West Ham and Chelsea in the race for the coveted fourth position. Liverpool won its last outing at home versus Aston Villa to break a six-match losing run at Anfield. Newcastle is breathing easier regarding its survival chances as the Magpies have lost just one of their past seven matches to rise eight points above the relegation zone. Newcastle’s defeat of West Ham last week was a resounding blow for relegation bound Fulham.  

Manchester United visits Leeds for the first time in over 17 years as the Red Devils take their five-match winning run in the league to Elland Road against an-in form Leeds side. The Whites are on a five-match unbeaten run, notching three victories during that span. Leeds has drawn with Liverpool and Chelsea and defeated Manchester City with only ten men during the recent five match run. Manchester United has lost but one of its past 25 Premier League matches.  

Arsenal will face Everton without the ill Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and injured Alexandre Lacazette. Meanwhile, Dominic Calvert-Lewin returns for the Toffees’ visit to the Emirates. Eighth place Everton can only hope the advantage in attacking manpower can stop a five-game winless streak and prevent the Gunners from moving above the Toffees in the table. Arsenal have lost just once in their last seven matches as they hope to improve on last season’s eighth place finish in the league.  

Aston Villa will be without Jack Grealish for a ninth consecutive match when they face West Brom in their West Midlands derby. The Villans have struggled without their captain and have lost three of their last four matches as a once promising season loses luster. Following a poor effort in a loss to Leicester on Thursday, West Brom finds itself nine points from safety with only six matches left to play.  

Burnley has lost three consecutive matches to raise some minor relegation concern as the Clarets prepare to face Wolves. Sean Dyche’s charges are six points clear of Fulham with a match in hand. Wolves, 12th in the table, has won two consecutive matches against relegation zone clubs Fulham and Sheffield United.  

Already relegated Sheffield United plays host to a Brighton club which should be safe with a seven-point current advantage on Fulham. The Seagulls have been relying on defense with eight clean sheets in their last 14 matches.  

Leicester, four points above West Ham and Chelsea entering the weekend, will be looking to secure its top four standing over the next three matches when all three of the Foxes’ opponents are currently 14th or worse in the table. The Foxes begin that run when they host Crystal Palace on Monday. Crystal Palace, safe for another season, is winding down its schedule before an offseason filled with question regarding the fate of its manager and 17 different players who will have their contracts expire. The Eagles capacity to surprise bigger clubs, though, should not be underestimated.

Carabao Cup

Manchester City faces Spurs in the Carabao Cup this weekend at Wembley Stadium. Manchester City has won the Cup each of the past three seasons while Spurs will be seeking the club’s first trophy since 2008. Manchester City will be without defender John Stones due to the red card he incurred in the league match with Aston Villa this week. Spurs striker Harry Kane is a major question mark for the match due to an ankle injury. Twenty-nine-year-old Ryan Mason, undefeated in his managerial career after this week’s Spurs league win over Southampton, is the youngest manger to reach the final. Gareth Bale, who started and scored versus Southampton, could provide a boost for Spurs, particularly if Kane is forced to the bench. Up to 2,000 fans from each club will be allowed to attend Sunday’s match.

Midweek Results

Spurs overcame a sluggish first half performance to deliver a comeback 2-1 over Southampton  in their first match of the post-Mourinho era. Ryan Mason, making his managerial review, awarded a rare start to Gareth Bale and saw the Welshman tie the game after Southampton had taken a first half lead on a goal by Danny Ings. Bale’s sixth goal of the season came in just his seventh league start. Son Heung-min then dramatically clinched the win with a 90th minute penalty. The victory by Spurs keeps them in the thick of the European qualification race, particularly given the dropped points by West Ham, Chelsea, and Liverpool this past week.


Leicester similarly improved its top four prospects with a dominating 3-1 defeat of West Brom. Jamie Vardy opened the scoring with his first tally in more than two months. Jonny Evans headed in Leicester’s second goal before the electrifying Kelechi Iheanacho scored for an eight time in his last six appearances. The Foxes moved four points ahead of West Ham and Chelsea with the victory.  West Brom came out flat for a match they had to have as their two-match win streak ended in dismal fashion. 

An Aston Villa goal by John McGinn in the first minute of play went for naught as Villa fell 2-1 to league leader Manchester City.  Phil Foden and Rodrigo scored to give City the lead by halftime.  City’s John Stones was then red carded late in the first half and Villa’s Matty Cash was red carded in the 57th minute. Villa offered little in attack over the balance of the match and City were content to maintain possession and the lead.

Super League

The European Super League quickly unraveled over a period of 48 hours as all six Premier League teams withdrew from the proposed venture. Clubs and owners issued apologies to their fans for the ill thought initiative. Repercussions such as potential penalties to be levied against the renegade clubs by the Premier League or UEFA remain to be seen. Additional damages may also be demanded by the European Super League against those members defecting from a legal agreement. Fan backlash against club owners was in evidence Thursday  when Manchester United fans organized at the team’s Carrington training ground to demand the ouster of the Glazer family as owners. Overshadowed by the Super League controversy were announced changes Monday to the Champions League which included expansion of the competition from 32 to 36 teams and the elimination of the group stage concept. The changes, scheduled to go into effect with the 2024/25 season, are already rumored to be under reassessment for possible adjustment.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Matchweek 32 Results: Super League Announcement; Spurs Move On From Jose; Newcastle Takes Hammers Down; Fulham Fail Again; Chelsea Eke Into Top Four; Blades Fail To Make Cut

This week’s Premier League weekend was dominated by off field news. Six Premier League teams were announced late Sunday as founding members of a new European Super League. The announced English clubs were Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Twelve teams in total were announced as founding members with the balance of members comprised of top clubs from Spain and Italy. No clubs from Germany or France were announced as part of the new league. Founding members would be guaranteed participation in the league each season. The envisioned league, playing mid-week games, presents a direct threat to UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League and the qualification process for those competitions within the domestic leagues. 

Negative outcry was immediate from world, European, national and league organizations opposed to the league. Government officials have also decried the league proposal. Fans and even players have been vocal in their criticism of the new venture. Players from Leeds, in warm-up for their game with Liverpool on Monday, wore tee shirts protesting the new league. Liverpool players issued a statement in protest of the new league on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Chelsea and Manchester City were reported to be stepping away from the proposed Super League. Manchester United Vice-Chairman Edward Woodward, a key architect of the Super League plan, also resigned Tuesday amid the backlash against the proposed venture. Developments, including further rumored defections and potential penalties against those still associated with the rogue league, continue to unfold.


Partially obscured by the “Super League” announcement was Spurs’ sacking of Jose Mourinho as manager which was also announced late on Sunday. Mourinho was  dismissed as manager after 17 months with the club. The legendary manager will thus miss the chance to earn Spurs their first trophy in 13 years when the north London club face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final next Sunday.

Spurs currently sit seventh in the table, were embarrassingly eliminated by Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League, and have been engulfed by rising locker room tension. Mourinho did well last season to take Spurs from their 14th place in the table at the time of his November 2019 hiring to a sixth-place finish and qualification for Europa League competition. Spurs were in first place this season as late as December 14th after winning seven matches in an 11 match unbeaten run. Spurs’ fortunes have since declined with the club having lost seven of its last 14 matches amid criticism of both Mourinho’s match tactics and man management. Spurs hopes for European qualification were dealt a blow on Friday in a 2-2 draw with Everton which saw Harry Kane limp off in stoppage time with another ankle injury. Spurs took an early lead on a goal by Kane, lost the lead on two goals by Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, and then salvaged a point on Kane’s second goal of the match. After relinquishing the early lead versus the Toffees on Friday, no team has dropped more than Spurs 20 points from winning positions this year. Kane has now scored 20 or more goals in a Premier League season for a fifth time. Only Alan Shearer and Sergio Aguero have more seasons with 20 or more goals. Everton, victimized by the misplays of defender Michael Kean on both Kane goals, is winless in its last five league matches, their longest such streak in more than two years.  

West Ham fell from the top four by becoming the first Premier League club to concede an own goal and receive a red card inside of a minute in a 3-2 loss to Newcastle. Craig Dawson received a second yellow card on the same sequence in which defender Issa Diop committed the own goal for the Hammers. Moments later, West Ham goalkeeper Lukacz Fabianski fumbled the ball in front of net to gift Newcastle a two-goal lead. West Ham gamely clawed back on goals by Diop and Jesse Lingard before Joe Willock’s third goal in nine appearances for Newcastle grabbed all three points for the Magpies. Newcastle have lost but once in seven matches as they work to secure Premier League football for next season. The own goal by West Ham was the club’s fourth of the season, highest in the Premier League and joint highest in club history. Lingard’s converted second half penalty gives him nine goals in 10 appearances for the Hammers. West Ham dropped to fifth in the table as a result to Chelsea’s win over Brighton on Tuesday.  

Newcastle increased their distance form the relegation zone to eight points as Fulham once again suffered a late collapse in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal. The Cottagers conceded the tying goal deep into stoppage time to drop two points at the Emirates. Just the week before, Fulham conceded a winning goal to Wolves in stoppage time. Against Arsenal, a penalty conversion was the Cottagers only shot on goal. Eddie Nketiah scored the late goal for the Gunners more than six minutes into the stoppage period.  Arsenal remain seven points behind sixth place Liverpool as the Reds were also involved in a 1-1 draw, conceding an 87th minute goal at Leeds. Sadio Mane scored his first league goal for Liverpool since January. Diego Llorente’s goal captured the point for Leeds.  

Chelsea edged back into the top four on goal differential, pulling even on points with West Ham after the Blues earned a point in a drab goalless draw with Brighton.  Brighton had the better of play as the Seagulls’ Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck missed second half chances. Brighton moved seven points clear of relegation with the point. Chelsea and West Ham will go head-to-head over the fourth spot when the two clubs meet this coming Saturday in a London derby.  

Manchester United won for a fifth consecutive league match in a 3-1 defeat of Burnley.  Mason Greenwood had a brace for the Red Devils to tie him with Wayne Rooney for the most goals scored for Manchester United as a teenager. Edinson Cavani scored a stoppage time goal for finish off the Clarets.  Burnley, which received a goal from defender James Tarkowski, suffered a third consecutive defeat and are six points clear of relegation. 

Sheffield United were mathematically eliminated from next year’s Premier League competition in a 1-0 defeat to Wolves, the 26th loss in a disastrous season for the Blades. Sheffield United’s relegation with six matches remaining is the earliest relegation from the English topflight since 1985.  

The Premier League continues a stretch of 11 consecutive match days Wednesday when the Spurs begin the post-Mourinho era by hosting Southampton and Manchester City visits Aston Villa. Thursday, West Brom travels to Leicester. 

FA Cup Semi-Finals

Chelsea dashed Manchester City’s hope for a quadruple when the Blues defeated the Citizens 1-0 in the clubs’ FA Cup semi-final match at Wembley Stadium.  Hakim Ziyech scored the winner for Chelsea on a play nicely set up by the run and pass of Timo Werner.  The clean sheet for Chelsea was the 14th under Thomas Tuchel across all competitions, the most by any club in Europe’s top five leagues since the Chelsea manager’s hiring.  Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola rotated his squad by making eight changes to the line-up which faced Dortmund in the Champions League earlier in the week.  Manchester City face Spurs in the Carabao Cup this coming Sunday as the Citizens now pursue a “triple.” Chelsea will face Leicester in the final on May 15th.  The Foxes defeated Southampton 1-0 on a goal by Kelechi Iheanacho ensure their participation in an FA Cup final for the first time since 1969.  Iheanacho, with 14 goals, is the FA Cup’s leading scorer since the Nigerian made his Cup debut with Manchester City in January 2016.  Southampton has lost more matches across all competitions in 2021 than any Premier League club except for Sheffield United.  

Friday, April 16, 2021

Matchweek 32 Preview: Spurs visit Goodison in Key Top Six Match; Hammers Go To Newcastle; Liverpool Begins Stretch Run at Leeds; Gunners Take Aim at Fulham

Tottenham Hotspur travels to Goodison Park Friday to face Everton in a key top six battle. Spurs trail sixth place Liverpool by three points and sit one point above their Friday opponents. Everton will again be without striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as they try to avoid an eighth home loss of the season which would equal the club record. Only Fulham and Liverpool have accumulated fewer than the Toffees’ five points earned at home this season. Spurs’ Harry Kane has 10 goals in his last 11 matches against Everton in all competitions.  

West Ham will try to extend its top four stay when the Hammers travel to Newcastle. Newcastle is breathing just a bit easier of late, having now put six points between themselves and the relegation zone after losing just once in their last six matches.  West Ham has not lost to a bottom half side in the 22 matches since David Moyes returned to the club as manager.


Fulham have never beaten Arsenal in any competition but will try again at the Emirates this weekend. The Cottagers’ hopes for survival are all but extinguished after the club has lost its last four matches. Alexander Lacazette, scorer of a brace in league competition last week and in Arsenal’s Europa league match Thursday, has scored in each of his last three matches against Fulham. Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, meanwhile, has not scored in any of his 16 London derbies, the longest such stretch for a Premier League player.  

Wolves face Sheffield United with little for either team to play for. Wolves are safe from relegation but hold no hopes for a European place and are likely to not even finish in the top half of the table after a disappointing season. Adama Traore, though, appears to be enjoying a late season awakening for Wolves. The winger has either scored or assisted in each of the last two matches after recording no goals or assists in his previous 35 league matches. Sheffield United could be mathematically relegated as early as this weekend.

Manchester United would prefer to be playing in the FA Cup semi-final after a disappointing quarterfinal exit, but instead will host Burnley this weekend in a league match at Old Trafford. Burnley is surprisingly undefeated in its last four visits to play the Red Devils. Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood has scored in each of the last two league matches after the youngster scored just once in his first 23 league appearances this season. 

Liverpool, now eliminated by Real Madrid from this year’s Champion’s League competition, can put its sole focus over the coming weeks on qualifying for next year’s tournament. The Reds begin their stretch run with a visit to Leeds. Leeds delivered a determined and gritty performance last week in defeating Manchester City despite being down to ten men for the entire second half. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is seeking a 20th goal for his third time in the Premier League.

Chelsea, following their FA Cup semifinal this weekend, will return to league action Tuesday when the Blues host Brighton at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have lost but once in the league since the first week of January.  Brighton, meanwhile, has been doing just enough to stay clear of the relegation battle as Graham Potter’s men play some attractive football but suffer difficulty in finishing their chances. 

Manchester City versus Aston Villa, Leicester versus West Brom, and Tottenham v Southampton will be played Wednesday.

FA Cup Semi-Final

The FA Cup semi-final matches will take place this weekend at Wembley Stadium in London. Chelsea face Manchester City on Saturday as the Blues attempt to reach the final for the fourth time in five years. Chelsea lost to Arsenal in last year’s final. Manchester City has, somewhat surprisingly, only reached the Cup final once in the last eight seasons. The powerful Citizens remain contenders for four different crowns this season and, like Chelsea, advanced to the Champions League semi-finals this week. The other semi-final will match Leicester and Southampton on Sunday. Leicester will see a chance at Wembley to get back on track after two consecutive  losses in the Premier League. James Maddison, Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury will be available for the Foxes as they return from suspension for their violation of COVID 19 protocols. Southampton is the surprise contestant of the four FA Cup semifinalists as the Saints have experienced little success in the Premier League this season, winning just three of their last 19 matches. The FA Cup final will be May 15th.

Premier League in Europe

Chelsea moved past Porto on aggregate despite a 1-0 loss in the second leg between the clubs which featured a spectacular bicycle kick by Porto’s Mehdi Taremi in stoppage time.  Chelsea played defensively after entering the match with a two-goal advantage in the tie. The Blues now will face Real Madrid in the semi-finals. The Spanish side played to a goalless draw at Liverpool and advance on the strength of their 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in Madrid. Liverpool was meek in attack in both legs versus Madrid, mustering just a single goal by Mohamed Salah in the opening leg. The other Champions League semi-final will see Manchester City face PSG.  The Citizens scored a second consecutive 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund to advance. Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden scored for City while 17-year-old English prodigy Jude Bellingham scored his first Champions League goal for Dortmund. PSG eliminated Bayern Munich despite losing the clubs’ second leg match 1-0 on a goal by former Stoke striker Choupo-Moting. PSG advanced on the away goal tiebreaker because of their 3-2 first leg win in Germany. Bayern Munich played both legs without the services of the injured Robert Lewandowski. Arsenal played arguably its best game of the season in blitzing Slavia Praha 4-0 to advance to the Europa League semi-finals. Alexandre Lacazette had a pair of goals, including a penalty, and Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka scored for the Gunners. Emile Smith Rowe, who had a goal disallowed, assisted on Pepe’s goal, and played well in midfield as Arsenal barely missed the injured Martin Odegaard. Arsenal’s success was also achieved without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is ill with malaria. Arsenal will face former manager Unai Emery and Villareal in the Europa League semi-finals. Manchester United advanced to the Europa League semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over Granada. The Red Devils received an early goal from Edinson Cavani and then easily controlled matters until Granada suffered an own goal in stoppage time. Manchester United faces Roma in the semi-final after the Italian club eliminated Ajax.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Matchweek 31 Results: West Ham Takes Hammer to Leicester; Chelsea Romp; Liverpool Enjoy Home Visit; Red Devils Burn Spurs; Fulham Fail Again

West Ham sprinted to a three-goal lead before hanging on for a 3-2 victory over Leicester which keeps the Hammers in the top four for a second consecutive week and pulls the Foxes into a dogfight for the final two Champions League slots.  Jesse Lingard scored twice for the Hammers before Jarrod Bowen’s score gave West Ham a three-goal lead for a third consecutive match. Lingard’s scoresheet now reads eight goals and three assists in his nine appearances for West Ham since joining on loan from Manchester United.

Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice for Leicester to create another nervy finish as the Hammers, playing without injured defensive midfielder Declan Rice, persevered to their ninth victory at home. Only Manchester City has more home victories on the season or more league wins in 2021 than West Ham. Iheanacho has scored 11 times in his last 11 matches for Leicester and his 14 goals across all competitions matches his season high achieved with Manchester City five years ago. The Foxes played without James Maddison, Ayoze Perez and Hamza Choudhury who violated COVID 19 protocol violations. Leicester’s second consecutive defeat leaves them just two points ahead of fifth place Chelsea for the final top four place.  

Chelsea strolled to a 4-1 victory at Crystal Palace as Christian Pulisic scored twice, Kai Havertz had a goal and assist for his first time in a Chelsea jersey, and defender Kurt Zouma notched his fifth goal of the season. Havertz played in a false nine role as manager Thomas Tuchel continues to tinker with the Chelsea attack. Christian Benteke had the goal for Crystal Palace which lost for a seventh consecutive time versus Chelsea.  

Liverpool are three points behind West Ham in the race for Champions League qualification after the Reds recorded their first home win of 2021 in a 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa. Trent Alexander Arnold secured Liverpool’s third consecutive league victory with a stoppage time goal. Mohamed Salah’s tying goal earlier in the second half, his 19th of the season, represented Liverpool’s first goal from open play at home in 2021.

Villa’s Ollie Watkins, who had a hat trick in Villa’s 7-2 October pasting of Liverpool, had opened scoring in the rematch and became the first player in more than a decade to score four times against Liverpool in a Premier League season.  Aston Villa fell from the top half of the table as the Villans failed to win for a fourth time in their last five matches.  

Manchester United avenged an early season pummeling of their own, an October 6-1 loss to Spurs at Old Trafford, by dealing a crushing blow to Spurs’ hopes for Champions League qualification in a 3-1 win by the Red Devils at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Manchester United responded to a first half goal by the Spurs’ Son Heung-min by scoring three times in a dominant second half performance. An unlikely goal by Fred, his second in a Manchester United shirt, opened second half scoring. Second Half substitute Mason Greenwood then assisted on Edinson Cavani’s goal to put Manchester United ahead before Greenwood’s stoppage time goal sealed the victory. Greenwood’s 13 career league goals are more than any teenager has scored for Manchester United with the exception of Wayne Rooney. Manchester United have captured 28 points from losing positions this season, more than all but two Premier League clubs have ever accomplished. With the win, Manchester United extended its league away match unbeaten run to 23 matches, second longest in league history. Spurs have dropped 18 points from a winning position this season, the most dropped points by a Mourinho managed club in a Premier League season. Mourinho also suffered a tenth season loss for the first time in his managerial career. With the loss, Spurs are six points outside of the top four and three points behind sixth place Liverpool. 

Manchester City’s lead in the table over Manchester United was reduced to 11 points as the Citizens were stunned 2-1 by ten-man Leeds. A stoppage time goal by Stuart Dallas of Leeds was his second of the match for a Leeds side which played the entire second half at a man disadvantage following a red card assessed against Leeds’s Liam Cooper. Ferran Torres was the goal scorer for Manchester City which fired 29 shots versus just two shots taken by Leeds. Unfortunately for the Citizens, both Leeds shots were on target and found the back of the net. Tenth place Leeds won a third consecutive league match for the first time this season.  

Eighth place Everton did nothing to improve its European qualification prospects by failing to win for a fourth consecutive outing in a goalless draw with Brighton. The Toffees missed injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as Everton registered just one shot on target versus the Seagulls. The draw was business as usual for Brighton which leads the league with 12 draws this season. 

Arsenal received a brace from Alexandre Lacazette and a goal by Gabriel Martinelli in a 3-0 pounding of Sheffield United. The clean sheet for Arsenal was the first in 10 matches for the Gunners as Sheffield United was held to two shots on target. Lacazette’s goal was his team leading 13th of the season for Arsenal which remains seven points from a top six berth.  The ten goals conceded by Sheffield United under manager Paul Heckingbottom are as many as any manager in Premier League history has suffered in their first three matches.  

Newcastle widened its lead on Fulham in the teams’ relegation battle by overcoming an early goal by Burnley’s Matej Vydra to defeat the Clarets 2-1 at Turf Moor. Substitute Allan Saint-Maximin ignited the comeback for Newcastle by assisting on the tying goal by the Magpies’ Jacob Murphy before scoring the winner for just Newcastle’s third victory in its last 20 matches. The win puts six points of separation between Newcastle and Fulham, survival and relegation. Vydra’s goal was his third in his past five appearances for Burnley which sits just one point above Newcastle in the table after a second consecutive loss.  

Fulham were nipped by Wolves 1-0 at Craven Cottage as Adama Traore scored the match’s only goal two minutes into stoppage time. The Cottagers would seem to have destroyed their chances for survival with a fourth consecutive loss. The improvement which saw Fulham inject some excitement into the relegation fight now appears fleeting as the current four match losing streak matches the four-game losing run with which Fulham started the season. Traore’s goal was his first of the season for Wolves who won for a first time in five matches.  

West Brom continued its recent fine form in a 3-0 defeat of Southampton. The Baggies have scored eight of their 17 goals this season in just their last two league matches, both victories. Matheus Pereira, Matt Phillips, and Callum Robinson found the net for Manager Sam Allardyce’s suddenly explosive West Brom club.  Unfortunately, the Baggies remain eight points from safety after posting back-to-back wins for the first time this year. Southampton were dreadful and have picked up just 10 points in 15 2021 league matches.

Premier League in Europe

Chelsea takes a 2-0 advantage into the second leg of its Champions League tie with Porto on Tuesday. Chelsea is technically the home squad in the match being played in Seville, Spain. On Wednesday Liverpool will host Real Madrid following the Spanish club’s decisive 3-1 victory over the Reds in Madrid last week in the first leg of their Champions League tie. Manchester City continues it Champions League journey with a trip to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund who the Citizens defeated 2-1 at the Etihad last week. Thursday’s Europa League second leg quarterfinal matches include a home match for Manchester United which enjoys a 2-0 goal advantage over visiting Granada. Arsenal is in a more perilous position as the Gunners are knotted at one goal apiece with Salvia Prague entering the second leg of the tie to be played in Czechoslovakia.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Matchweek 31 Preview: Foxes Hope to Put Down Hammers; Manchester United and Liverpool Seek Revenge; Wolves Enter Cottage

Leicester travels to London Stadium Sunday to face West Ham in a critical top four matchup. The Foxes have a four-point lead in the table on a Hammers squad which is a point above Chelsea for the final Champions League slot. The Foxes, losers to Manchester City last week, can be forgiven for looking over their shoulder after last season’s late collapse which saw the club relinquish a top four position it had held for 30 weeks. West Ham is unbeaten in its last four matches at home but will be missing both leading scorer Michail Antonio and captain Declan Rice for the pivotal match.


Spurs will try to work back into the top four conversation when it plays host to Manchester United. Spurs demolished the Red Devils in a 6-1 match back in October at Old Trafford. Spurs’ season has been filled with drama as one might expect under manager Jose Mourinho, but the club is just three points from the top four despite recent embarrassing results against Arsenal, Dinamo Zagreb and Newcastle United.  Harry Kane leads the Premier League with 19 goals. Manchester United has righted its season and is currently unbeaten in nine league matches as the Red Devils look to repay Spurs for what was United’s joint heaviest home loss in club history.  

Liverpool will look to avenge its own epic loss when it plays host to Aston Villa. Villa defeated the Reds 7-2, also in October, in an early season omen of what would be a failed title defense for Liverpool. While still in the chase to qualify for next season’s European competitions, the Reds currently sit seventh in the table. Home form has been a major challenge for Jurgen Klopp’s men who have yet to win at Anfield in 2021. Aston Villa enters the weekend five points away from sixth place and a possible Europa League berth. The Villans have been largely treading water as they await Grealish’s return from injury. 

Chelsea will look to recapture top four standing when it travels to Crustal Palace. The 12th place Eagles will have a say about European places this season as their remaining schedule includes three of the top five sides. Both Chelsea and Crystal Palace enter the match having lost but once in their last six matches. The Blues rebounded nicely from their shock defeat to West Brom last week with an impressive 2-0 Champions league victory Wednesday over Porto. Crystal Palace loanee Michy Batshuayi, who scored the tying goal versus Everton last week, will be unavailable to play against his parent club. 

Manchester City, enjoying a 14-point lead at the top of the table, faces Leeds. Pep Guardiola’s line-up will likely see rotation as the Citizens remain active in their pursuit of four different titles this season with a Champions League match upcoming on Tuesday versus Borussia Dortmund. Leeds have won back-to-back league matches as the Whites try to overtake Arsenal and finish in the top half of the table in Leeds’s first season back in the Premier League following a 16-year absence.  

Everton will hope to continue their strong away form this season when they head south to face Brighton. The Toffees have won nine of their 14 away matches and will be facing a Seagull squad which has won but twice this season on their home grounds. Everton are two points outside the top six but have a match in hand on the teams they must overtake as Carlo Ancelotti prepares to manage his 100th career Premier League match. The inconsistent Seagulls are six points clear of the relegation zone.  

Newcastle should have Allan Saint-Maximin back and potentially even long injured striker Callum Wilson could be available as the Magpies continue their fight for survival when they travel to Burnley. The Magpies have done well to avoid defeat in four of their last five matches despite an injury depleted attack. Still, if Fulham win versus Wolves on Friday, Newcastle will be trying to escape from the relegation zone when they take to the pitch at Turf Moor. Burnley are four points above Newcastle as the Clarets look to punch their own ticket for 2021/22 Premier League play.  

Wolves enter Craven Cottage to face a Fulham team which has won but twice at home. Fulham have lost four of five matches after putting pressure on Newcastle by going unbeaten in eight of ten matches from the end of January through early March. Ademola Lookman will be an injury scratch for the Cottagers against a struggling Wolves side which has lost three of four matches entering the encounter at Craven Cottage.  

West Brom will try to keep its slim survival hopes alive when it welcomes Southampton to The Hawthorns. The Baggies shocked the league last week by defeating Chelsea, but wins will need continue for Sam Allardyce to avoid his first ever relegation from the league. The Saints have lost ten of thirteen matches but played well in a 3-2 win over Burnley last week.  

Arsenal seeks its first victory in a month when Mikel Arteta’s club visits Sheffield United.  The Gunners, winners of just three of their last ten league matches, are looking for their first win in a month.  Sheffield United are just waiting for the season to end as the Blades will not make the cut for next season.


Premier League in Europe Results

Manchester City and Chelsea were victorious in their opening Champions league quarterfinal matches while Liverpool suffered defeat to Real Madrid. Manchester City defeated Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad by a score of 2-1 on a 90th minute goal by Phil Foden. Kevin De Bruyne had opened scoring for City before a potentially meaningful away goal was scored by Dortmund’s Marco Reus. Reus’s 18th Champions League goal made him Dortmund’s all-time leader scorer in the competition, surpassing Robert Lewandowski. The score by Reus ended a run of seven consecutive clean sheets in Champions League matches by Manchester City. Despite an outstanding effort, Dortmund will feel some bitterness concerning a controversially disallowed goal by Jude Bellingham.  

Chelsea rebounded strongly from its shocking league loss to West Brom by defeating Porto 2-0 in the opening leg of their Champions League tie played in Seville. England players Rick Mount and Ben Chilwell were the goal scorers for Chelsea while goalkeeper Edouard Mendy recorded his 10th clean sheet under manager Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea’s seven clean sheets and two goals conceded in Champions League play represent the joint best defensive performance in the competition this season, matched by Manchester City. 

Liverpool was overmatched in a 3-1 defeat at Real Madrid. Liverpool’s midfield was overrun, particularly in the first half before Naby Keita was replaced by Thiago, and the Reds’ fullbacks were often out of position against a resurgent Real Madrid which has not lost in any competition since January after a poor start to their season. Vinicius Junior had perhaps his best game for Real Madrid in scoring two goals which bookmarked a score by Asensio. Mohamed Salah scored for Liverpool which now faces a daunting two goal deficit at its no longer formidable fortress of Anfield next week.  

Manchester United eased to a 2-0 win at Granada in their Europa League quarterfinal match as the Red Devils have now lost but once in their past 17 matches across all competitions. A first half goal by Marcus Rashford and 90th minute penalty kick converted by Bruno Fernandes accounted for the Red Devils scoring while David De Gea posted a clean sheet in his return to the line-up for United.  Of some concern for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the clubs head to Old Trafford for the second leg will be the absence due to accumulated yellow cards of Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw, and Harry McGuire.  

Arsenal failed to keep a clean sheet for a 14th consecutive time across all competitions in a 1-1 Europa League draw against Dinamo Zagreb. The Gunners conceded the tying goal to Dinamo’s Tomas Holes in extra time after substitute Nicolas Pepe had put the Gunners in front at the 86th minute mark. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had assisted on the Arsenal goal after both he and Pepe were late substitutes for the Gunners. The two high priced talents had begun the match on the bench due to their poor recent form. Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka were among Arsenal players missing clear chances which would have ensured victory for the frustrated Gunners.    

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Matchweek 30 Preview: Hammers Crash the Party; Chelsea Smashed; Liverpool Rises; Spurs Sputter; Fulham Collapses

Chelsea opened the door and West Ham burst through to replace Chelsea in the top four as the race for Champions League qualification heats up. West Ham and manager David Moyes took advantage of a shocked Chelsea loss to West Bromwich Albion by defeating Wolves 3-2.  West Ham fans were understandably nervous as their team, playing without injured captain Declan Rice, went ahead by three goals before hanging on for the one goal victory. In their prior match versus Arsenal, the Hammers had squandered all of a three-goal lead. Wonder transfer Jesse Lingard opened the scoring for West Ham who padded their advantage on goals by Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen. Lingard’s goal was his sixth in eight appearances for West Ham.

Leander Dendoncker and Fabio Silva closed the gap for Wolves before West Ham was able to see out a seventh road victory of the season, tying a club record. The Hammers moved a point ahead of Chelsea for the coveted fourth Champions League place.  

In the most stunning outcome of the weekend, Chelsea was smashed 5-2 by Sam Allardyce’s battling Baggies. Chelsea had conceded only two goals in 14 previous matches under Tuchel while the five goals for West Brom were more than the Baggies had accumulated in their eight previous matches. A second yellow card by Thiago Silva reduced Chelsea to ten men after just 29 minutes with the Blues leading 1-0 on a goal by Christian Pulisic. West Brom’s Matheus Pereira then scored twice in first half stoppage time to put the Baggies in front before two second half goals by Callum Robinson and a tally by Mbaye Diagne completed the scoring explosion for the Baggies. Mason Mount scored Chelsea’s second goal when the Blues were already at a three goals deficit. Chelsea’ response to adversity will be subjected to scrutiny with this week’s Champions League match versus Porto. While the match with Chelsea was clearly the highlight of West Brom’s season, the reality remains that it is likely too late for the Baggies to escape relegation as they remain eight points behind Newcastle and safety. 

Missing the opportunity to gain on Chelsea in the race for the top four was a Spurs club who again came up flat for their manager Jose Mourinho. With a chance to move into the top four following Chelsea’s stumble, Spurs were unable to hold onto a 2-1 lead. A rare goal by Newcastle’s Joelinton had given Newcastle an early lead before two goals by Harry Kane inside a four minute first half stretch seemed to have the Spurs on course to crash the top four party. An 87th minute Newcastle goal scored by Arsenal loanee Joe Willock, however, evened matters at two goals apiece and secured a valuable point for the Magpies in their own relegation battle with Fulham. The missed opportunity for Spurs, despite the 18th and 19th goals of the season by their leading scorer, was a third disappointment in four matches following the club’s loss in the north London derby to Arsenal and elimination from the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb.  

Defending Champion Liverpool moved back into the thick of the top four chase with a 3-0 defeat of Arsenal. A second half brace by Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah’s 18th goal of the season propelled the Reds to a statement win whereby they reasserted themselves in the race for the top four. Liverpool, who face Real Madrid this week in the Champions League, are now but three points short of qualifying for next year’s competition through the league table.

The loss to Liverpool was Mikel Arteta’s 50th Premier League match in charge of Arsenal and the Gunner manager has four more losses than those sustained in the first 50 games of predecessor Unai Emery. Both managers suffered more losses in their first 50 matches than Arsene Wenger incurred in his final 50 games at the helm of Arsenal. The lack of progress is disturbing and currently 10th place Arsenal will be absent from Europe next year unless the Gunners can surprisingly win this year’s Europa League.  

Everton, as with Spurs, failed to capitalize on Chelsea’s misfortune, conceding a late goal to Michy Batschuayi in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. The 86th minute goal by Batshuayi, expertly assisted by Jeff Schlupp, offset a first half score by the Toffees’ James Rodriguez. Crystal Palace goalkeeper Vincente Guaita delivered a strong performance for the Eagles, but Everton will rue numerous missed opportunities by forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. All is not lost for the Toffees as, with a game in hand on the four other clubs currently battling for fourth, eighth place Everton’s five-point gap to a Champions League spot may still feasibly be bridged.  

At the top of the table, Manchester City continued their seemingly inexorable march to the league title with a 2-0 victory at Leicester. Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus scored second half goals as the Citizens sent off the Foxes. Mendy’s goal was just his second in league competition for Manchester City while the Jesus goal was his eighth league tally this season. The deep Manchester City squad had players such as Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden starting on the bench as Manager Pep Guardiola rotates his squad in their pursuit of the quadruple. Leicester had no first half shots and managed only two shots on target in the second half against a dominant Manchester City defense which recorded its 28th clean sheet across all competitions this season, more than any club in the top five leagues of Europe. Leicester remained third in the table, four points ahead of new top four addition West Ham and five points ahead of Chelsea.  

Second half goals by Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in a 2-1 win against Brighton enabled Manchester United to overcome an early Brighton goal by former Red Devil Danny Welbeck. Greenwood’s winning goal was his first score at Old Trafford. The 19-year-old striker becomes a key figure now for Manchester United who may be without injured striker Anthony Martial for the balance of the season.  Dean Henderson started in goal for Manchester United amid continuing uncertainty over the future of long-time goalkeeper David De Gea. The third consecutive league win puts Manchester United nine points clear of a potential fall from the top four. Brighton remains winless in thirteen matches at Old Trafford. In relinquishing their first half lead, Brighton missed an opportunity to distance themselves further from relegation and perhaps remove all doubts of survival. Instead, they remain on the periphery of concern, six points clear of Fulham and the drop.  

With just over 10 minutes left in their game with Aston Villa, Fulham had the lead and an opportunity to escape the relegation zone for the first time since December. The Cottagers then collapsed, losing 3-1 for a third consecutive loss and a fourth defeat in their last five league contests. The Cottagers had broken a scoreless tie in the 61st minute on a goal by striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who has been mysteriously absent from the Cottager line-up much of this season. With 12 minutes remaining in the contest, Aston Villa’s Mahmoud Trezeguet scored his first goal of the season and added his second just three minutes later to give the Villans the lead. Ollie Watkins added an insurance goal for Villa which matched the accumulated goal total for its prior five matches with the three-goal outburst. The squandered opportunity on Sunday for Fulham may prove devastating for their survival hopes. Fulham are three points behind Newcastle and have already played one more match than the Magpies.  

Southampton battled back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Burnley 3-2 for just the Saints’ second victory in their last 13 league matches. The Saints had not overcome a two-goal deficit in five years while the normally stout defense of Burnley had not relinquished a two-goal lead in six years. The Clarets built their lead on goals by Chris Wood and Matej Vydra before goals by Start Armstrong and Danny Ings enabled the Saints to claw level at halftime. Nathan Redmond’s winner and two vital stops by Southampton goalkeeper Frazier Foster then secured victory for the Saints who ascend 10 points clear of the relegation zone, three points above Burnley. The disappointing end to Burnley’s three match unbeaten run indicates there may still be work to do to ensure a sixth consecutive Premier League season for the Clarets.  

Sheffield United continued its tortured journey to relegation with a 2-1 defeat at Leeds in the clubs’ Yorkshire derby. The winner for Leeds came on an own goal by the Blades Phil Jagielka after Sheffield United’s Ben Osborn had tied the match in first half stoppage time to negate an earlier goal by Leeds’s Jack Harrison. Jagielka’s seventh career own goal is the second highest total by a player in Premier League history. Sheffield United lost for a 24th time in their 30 matches this season. Leeds won for a second consecutive outing to come level on points with tenth place Arsenal.

The Premier League in Europe

The Champions League on Tuesday will see Liverpool at Real Madrid while Borussia Dortmund, with Erling Haaland, visits the Etihad to face Manchester City.  Chelsea returns to action Wednesday when they face Porto in a match to be played in Seville, Spain due to COVID restrictions.  Thursday’s Europa League matches include a visit by Slavia Praha to the Emirates to face Arsenal while Manchester United travels to Spain to face Granada.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Matchweek 30 Preview: European and Relegation Implications; Leicester Look For Double v. Manchester City

The Premier League returns from international break with a full slate of games this weekend. While the title seems secure in Manchester City’s hands, there remain key races for European qualification while other clubs battle to avoid relegation. 

Liverpool travels to the Emirates to face Arsenal hoping to still salvage something from a disappointing league season by qualifying for 2021/22 European competition. While manager Jurgen Klopp has expressed pessimism on Liverpool’s Champions League qualification chances, the Reds trail fourth place Chelsea by only five points while sixth position and a Europa League slot is only two points from Liverpool’s reach. Arsenal faces longer odds for Europe as they trail sixth place Tottenham Hotspur by six points. Despite league difficulties this season, Liverpool have won four of their five matches in London, their most London wins in any league campaign, while Arsenal has lost only once in their last eight home matches.


Spurs travel to Newcastle for a match impacting both the European qualification chances for the north London side and the survival chances for the Magpies to remain in the Premier League. Sixth place Spurs are only three points behind Chelsea for the final Champions League berth. Overshadowed by disappointing recent losses to rival Arsenal and to Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League is the fact that Jose Mourinho’s charges have won four of their last five league matches. Newcastle, having earned fewer points than any Premier League club since December 12th, is trying to hang onto their ticket for next year’s Premier League and defend their current two-point advantage on presently relegation bound Fulham. Fortunately for the Magpies, manager Steve Bruce’s club also have a game in hand versus Fulham.  

Fulham visit Aston Villa this weekend as the Cottagers try to escape the relegation zone. Fulham are unbeaten in their last eight league away matches but are desperate for points after losing their last two matches, both at home, before the international break. The Cottagers’ match with Aston Villa could hinge on the potential return from injury of Villa captain Jack Grealish. Grealish has missed the last six matches with injury and the Villans have managed just three goals in those six matches. 

The only matchup of top four teams this weekend sees Manchester City travel to Leicester with the Citizens having won their last 14 away matches, a record for an English team. Leicester, meanwhile, has been vulnerable at home, losing six of their fourteen home matches, the joint highest home loss total for teams in the top half of the league. City’s dominating defense, which has conceded the fewest goals and recorded the greatest number of clean sheets in the league this season, will face a challenge from Leicester’s in-form striker Kelechi Iheanacho who has scored seven goals in his last four appearances for the Foxes. Manchester City has a comfortable 14-point lead over second place Manchester United in the table while Leicester has a seven-point cushion on fifth place West Ham for the final Champions league slot in the league table. Leicester defeated Manchester City 5-2 earlier this season, one of only three losses on the season for the Citizens.


Chelsea, two points ahead of West Ham, looks to defend its top four standing as West Brom visits Stamford Bridge. Chelsea is yet to concede a goal at Stamford Bridge under manager Thomas Tuchel and will be seeking an eighth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions. West Brom has also improved on its league worst defense in recent matches, conceding only three goals in its last six matches. The Baggies have never won at Stamford Bridge while Chelsea has won its last 11 matches against clubs in the relegation zone. West Brom is currently 10 points from safety as the air is quickly escaping from the Baggies season.  

Manchester United, unbeaten in their last nine league matches, hope to post a fifth consecutive league clean sheet when facing a Brighton and Hove Albion club which has never won at Old Trafford. The Seagulls have taken flight of late, though, and will be targeting a third consecutive league win as they try to separate themselves from the relegation fray.  

West Ham continues its chase of a European qualification berth when the Hammers travel to Wolves hoping to complete a double over the West Midlands team for the first time since 1922/23. West Ham trails Chelsea by two points for a possible Champions League qualification but have only a three-point lead on Liverpool for a Europa League spot. The Hammers' fortunes have been greatly improved by the winter transfer window loan acquisition of Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United man has averaged a goal or assist every 88 minutes for West Ham, a club best in the Hammers’ Premier League history. Wolves have won just one of their last five matches while never scoring more than a single goal during that recent stretch.  

Eighth place Everton is five points removed from the top four, two points short of Spurs and Europa League qualification. To stay in the hunt, the Toffees need to put a quick end to a two-match league losing run when they host Crystal Palace, a club which has failed to best the Toffees in twelve consecutive matches between the clubs. Everton hopes to have James Rodriguez back from injury.  

Crystal Palace would seem safe for another year with the Eagles currently eleven points above the relegation zone.  Speculation continues regarding the future of 73-year-old Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who is out of contract following the season and could thus be facing his final try to win a match at Goodison Park, a feat that has so far eluded the accomplished manager.  

Leeds still has a chance to finish in the top half of the table and that ambition should be helped by a visit from floundering Sheffield United.  Entering their Yorkshire derby match, Sheffield has lost six of seven matches, failing to score in all but one of those losses. The 45 goals scored by Leeds this year is the most by a promoted side in more than a decade. Conversely, the Blades have managed just 16 goals this season.  

Moveable object meets resistible force when Southampton hosts Burnley this weekend. The Saints have allowed the second highest number of goals in the league while Burnley has scored more than only West Brom and Sheffield United. Southampton has lost four of their last five matches while Burnley have lost just once during that same stretch and is coming off an impressive win over Everton just before the break. The Clarets will leapfrog 14th place Southampton in the table with a win.