Friday, February 18, 2022

Match Week 26 Preview : Spurs Stagger Towards Etihad: Leeds Fans Await Manchester United; Welcome Back Chelsea; Gunners Seek Revenge; Wolves Face Foxes; Watford Woes

Following this week’s scathing assessment of his club and players by Spurs manager Antonio Conte, the outspoken manager drags his bedraggled group, losers in their last three outings, into the Etihad to face the league’s top team. Conte is likely setting the stage for his departure from the club while Harry Kane can only rue the failed summer transfer which would have had him playing for the Citizens this weekend.

Liverpool is undefeated at home this season as the Reds welcome Norwich to Anfield. Norwich currently looks headed for relegation as Newcastle has recently distanced itself from the bottom three.

The Magpies visit West Ham for a contest between two clubs running two different races. Newcastle is on a run of three consecutive wins and are undefeated in their last five matches, a run which has seen them rise to safety in the table, four points ahead of Norwich. Survival, though, is still far from assured for Eddie Howe’s Magpies who received a blow with a long-term injury to Kieran Trippier in their last match. West Ham is trying to stay in the chase for a top four slot and possible Champions League competition next year. David Moyes’s side have tumbled from their fab four position by winning just once in their last four matches.

Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Brighton during the week vaulted them over West Ham into the fourth table position. The Red Devils now face long ago rival Leeds this weekend. Supporters at Elland Road will be present for a match between the two clubs for the first time in 18 years.

Chelsea will be playing a Premier League match for the first time since January 23rd when the newly crowned Club World Cup champions host a London derby versus Crystal Palace. The Eagles’ top scorer, Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher, will need to sit out the match against his parent club. The Eagles have yet to win in 2022, drawing three of their five matches. Chelsea are 16 points behind Manchester City as their league mission now focuses on staying in the top four where they currently own a six-point cushion on fifth place West Ham. 

Arsenal will hope to avenge an early season loss to Brentford when the Bees invade the Emirates this weekend.

Brentford’s fine start to the season is a fading memory as the team has struggled in recent weeks with the Bees capturing just one of the last 18 available points from their matches. Arsenal should be well rested for the derby rematch, having played just once in 2022. The Gunners are just four points form the final champions league berth, having played three fewer matches than currently fourth Manchester United.

Wolverhampton is home to Leicester for a Midlands derby this weekend. Wolves have won five of seven matches as they contend for the European places whereas Leicester is without a win its last four league outings. A smothering Wolves defense has not allowed more than a goal in the club’s last twelve Premier League matches. Conversely, the defensive minded club has failed to score in its last five meetings with the Foxes. Disappointing Leicester sits two points outside the top half of the table after running fifth in the last two campaigns.

Southampton currently occupies the tenth position in the table after losing just one of its last eight matches. Everton will be at St. Mary’s this weekend to face a Saints team which has lost just once at home this season. The Toffees, meanwhile, have won just once away from Goodison Park this season.

Inconsistent Aston Villa hosts woeful Watford at Villa Park. The Villans have lost four of their past eight matches. The Hornets have yet to score in three matches under new manager Roy Hodgson. Watford has lost 9 of its last 11 matches to sink deep into the relegation zone. 

Champions League

The top two teams in England were victorious in their opening Round of Sixteen ties in Champions League. Manchester City rolled to an easy 5-0 victory in Portugal over Sporting Lisbon. Bernardo Silva had a brace and a third goal disallowed in the rout. Liverpool was challenged by defending Serie A champion Inter Milan but ultimately prevailed 2-0 on second half goals by Bobby Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Chelsea and Manchester United resume their Champions League quest next week.

Europa Conference League

Leicester was an easy 4-1 winner over Rangers in a match that saw the Foxes direct 15 shots on target. The outcome in Glasgow may have caught the attention of Fox supporters. With Leicester’s Premier League season having been a major disappointment and the Foxes eliminated from both domestic cup competitions, a possible trophy from Conference League suddenly becomes more enticing. 

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