Friday, March 4, 2022

Match Week 28 Preview: Manchester Derby; Hammers Visit Reds; Abramovich selling Chelsea; Jesse Marsch Leads Leeds; Key Relegation Clashes; Saints Versus Villans

Two clashes of teams among the top five in the Premier League highlight a full Match Week 28 slate of ten matches. A Manchester Derby will be played at the home of league leading Manchester City as the Citizens face their fourth-place crosstown rivals, Manchester United.

City has little margin for error with second place Liverpool now within striking distance.

Manchester United, meanwhile, faces challenge from West Ham and Arsenal to secure Champions League football for next season. The fifth place Hammers and Gunners both trail the Red Devils by two points as West Ham heads to Liverpool this weekend.

Liverpool are six points off the league lead but hold a game in hand over Manchester City as the sides head towards a fateful April face to face clash. West Ham is currently fifth in the table due to a slight goal differential advantage over Arsenal which is level on points with the Hammers despite having played three fewer matches. The Gunners are riding a three-match win streak and have taken all three points in seven of their last nine league fixtures. Mikel Arteta’s men will have opportunity to overtake the Hammers when Arsenal is at Watford on Sunday.

Wolves had flickering hopes of a top four chase themselves before dropping their last two matches. The stingy but goal poor Wolves host Crystal Palace next. The Eagles rescued a point from their last outing versus in-form Burnley. Burnley’s three match unbeaten run was ended by Leicester Tuesday and the Clarets now return home to face Chelsea. Burnley is one point behind Everton for the final safe position in the table. The Clarets can only hope for fatigue on the part of a more talented Chelsea squad which has juggled competition in four cup competitions in addition to its league schedule in recent weeks.

The biggest news this week for Chelsea supporters is the news that Russian owner Roman Abramovich announced he will be selling the club after a spectacularly successful 19-year run. Abramovich hopes to outrun the increasing sanctions against Russian oligarchs because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Chelsea will be hard pressed to find new ownership which will spend to the degree they have become accustomed. Abramovich reportedly will not be collecting on massive personal loans he made to the club.

Everton, meanwhile, is severing  relationships with firms tied to Alisher Usmanov, another Russian oligarch and one-time Arsenal shareholder. Everton travels to London Monday to face erratic Tottenham Hotspur. In its last four matches, Spurs has defeated league leading Manchester City before being tripped by currently relegation bound Burnley, and then demolished Leeds before being bounced from the FA Cup by lower tier Middlesbrough. The Toffees looked better in their recent loss to Manchester City but have dropped six of seven matches to put themselves in relegation peril.

Leeds is part of the relegation fray as new manager Jesse Marsch makes his Premier League debut versus Leicester. Leeds is two points above the drop line. Leicester is 12th in the table and played well in a 2-0 mid-week defeat of Burnley wherein Jamie Vardy established a new record for most goals scored after the age of 30 by a Premier League player. The prolific Vardy did not enter the league until he was 27 and has scored 94 of his 128 league goals since his 30th birthday.

Newcastle will hope to put more distance between the Magpies and the drop zone when Manager Eddie Howe’s charges try to win for a fifth time in six matches when they host Brighton. The Seagulls have failed to score in three consecutive losses.

Losses in 9 of their last 11 matches have left Brentford just three points above the relegation zone. The Bees have scored fewer goals than all but the three teams currently in the relegation zone. Still the Bees have scored 12 more goals than Norwich, their opponent this Saturday. Norwich has played better since manager Dean Smith took charge, but the Canaries’ efforts have been eclipsed by the better results of relegation rivals such as Newcastle and Burnley.

Southampton has lost only once in its last ten matches as the Saints head to Aston Villa this weekend. The Villans have been inconsistent as new manager Steven Gerrard continues to search for his most effective line-up.

FA Cup

A torturous season for Tottenham Hotspur supporters continued with the club’s 1-0 elimination from the FA Cup by Championship division Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough scored in extra time to boot Tottenham Hotspur from another competition. Spurs previously were forced to forfeit their continued participation in the Europa Conference League and lost in the Carabao Cup semi-finals to Chelsea. Middlesbrough registered a second consecutive FA Cup win over a Premier League side, having bounced Manchester United on penalty kicks in the previous round. Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Southampton, Liverpool, and Everton were Premier League sides advancing into the quarterfinals.

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