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.

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