Friday, January 21, 2022

Premier League Preview Match Week 23: Battle for Fourth at Old Trafford; Chelsea and Spurs in London Derby; Gunners Host Rusty Burnley; Hornets and Canaries in Basement Brawl; More Goose Eggs for Eagles?

West Ham visits Manchester United in a battle of two clubs vying for the final spot in the Top Four. The Hammers sit fourth currently but three clubs, including their Saturday opponent, are within two points of West Ham. The Hammers have dropped three of five matches to endanger their Champions League position. Manchester United, meanwhile, remain the object of criticism from media and supporters for spotty play and locker room drama. The Red Devils, however, have lost just once in their last nine league matches.

Tottenham Hotspur is another club vying for the coveted fourth Champions League slot. Antonio Conte has won six of nine while going unbeaten in the league to date as Spurs manager. The north London club is just a point outside the top four as it travels cross-town to face third place Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea squad has struggled of late, winning just one of their last eight league outings to fall out of title contention.

Arsenal is the fourth club in the fight for fourth, two points adrift of West Ham. The Gunners host a presumably well rested Burnley side at the Emirates.

Sean Dyche’s bottom of the table Clarets, whose last league match was January 2nd, have played five fewer matches than some of the other Premier League clubs due to multiple Covid and weather postponements. Burnley have played just 17 matches as they enter a weekend where they should be playing their 23rd of the season.

Two other clubs battling to avoid relegation will face each other when Norwich visits Watford. The Canaries trail the Hornets by a point in the race for the final safe position in the table.

The league’s top two teams are on the road this weekend as Manchester City travels to Southampton and Liverpool will be in south London to face Crystal Palace. League leading Manchester City has won a dozen straight league matches though they were held to a scoreless draw at the Etihad by the Saints earlier this season. Liverpool has hammered the Eagles by an aggregate score of 16-0 in winning the last four mismatches between the clubs.

Wolverhampton also makes a London visit when eighth place Wolves takes on a Brentford squad which has lost four of its last five league matches. Wolverhampton has won three of four matches, conceding only once during that run as their defense is surpassed only by that of Manchester City.

Leicester will try to recover from a staggering midweek collapse versus Spurs when the Foxes host Brighton this weekend. The Seagulls currently hold a four-point advantage over 10th place Leicester in the table standings. Brighton manager Graham Potter will be absent from the sidelines due to a positive Covid test.

Everton will play their first match since the sacking of Rafa Benitez when the Toffees host Aston Villa. Villa’s performance has been spotty, winning just one of its past five league matches, but Everton’s performance has been dreadful. The Toffees won just one of its 13 league matches preceding the sacking of Benitez.

Another manager who could desperately use a win right now is Newcastle’s Eddie Howe. Newcastle has won just one of eight matches with Howe in charge. The Magpies are at Leeds this weekend.

Midweek Results: Spurs in Shocker

Tottenham Hotspur engineered the latest come from behind win in Premier League history, scoring two goals in the fifth and seventh minutes of stoppage time to defeat Leicester 3-2 at King Power Stadium. Steven Bergwijn scored both historic goals as Spurs manager Antonio Conte remained unbeaten in nine matches since his return to the Premier League.

Leicester lost for a third time in its last five outings as deplorable defense was once again its undoing.

Manchester United overcame a poorly played first half to deliver a convincing  3-1 defeat of Brentford. The Red Devils moved to within two points of the Champions League places in the Premier League table and hold a game in hand on fourth place West Ham. Despite the positive result, drama still continued for United with Ronaldo sulking after his removal from the match and Manager Ralf Rangnick having to console him on the sideline.

Two trends continued in the 1-1 draw between Brighton and Chelsea on Tuesday. Brighton are masters of the draw, leading the league in the inconclusive result category. Chelsea, for all the riches showered on its forward players, is having difficulty finding the net as the Blues have scored one or fewer goals in five of their last seven matches, winning just once during a stretch which has effectively removed them from title contention.

Liverpool defeated Arsenal 2-0 to set up a Carabao Cup final versus Chelsea. Diogo Jota scored a brace for Liverpool. Another Arsenal midfielder received a red card and suspension when Thomas Partey, newly arrived back from the Africa Cup of Nations, was penalized in the 90 minute.

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