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.


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