Friday, April 1, 2022

Match Week 31 Preview: Gunners, Spurs and Devils Vie for Final Champions League Slot; Top Three Face Lesser Opposition; Lampard Seeks First Away Win; Wolves and Villa in Midlands derby; Seagulls and Canaries Is One For The Birds

The two teams battling for the Premier League title face relegation quality opposition this weekend in the lead up to their titanic April 10th clash at the Etihad. League leader Manchester City travels to Burnley which has failed to score in five of its last seven matches. Manchester City has won the last four meetings between the two clubs by an aggregate 14-0 margin.

Liverpool, trailing Manchester City by a point in the table, is home to Watford. The Reds are seeking a tenth consecutive win at Anfield where they have outscored the opposition by a 27-2 margin in their past nine wins. Liverpool was a 5-0 winner at Watford earlier this season in Claudio Ranieri’s first match in charge of the Hornets following the sacking of Xisco Munez. Ranieri was subsequently sacked in favor of current Watford and one-time Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has feasted on Watford’s defense in the past as the Egyptian star has scored nine goals and provided two assists in his seven Premier League matches versus the Hornets.

Third place Chelsea is home to Brentford as the Bees visit Stamford Bridge for the first time as a Premier League team. Chelsea forward Kai Havertz is seeking to score a goal in a fourth consecutive match for the first time in his Premier League career. The Bees, bolstered by the Premier League return of Christian Eriksen, have won two of their last three matches to help their survival campaign. The Bees are now hovering eight points above the drop zone.

Arsenal will try to win a sixth consecutive league away match when the Gunners visit Crystal Palace.

The Eagles could present a challenge despite a winless league record at Selhurst Park in 2022. Former Arsenal great Patrick Vieira has Crystal Palace on a four-match unbeaten run and the two clubs have drawn four of their last five league meeting, including a 2-2 draw earlier his season at the Emirates which Arsenal salvaged on an extra time goal by Alexandre Lacazette. The fitness of Palace stars Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise could be pivotal after the two Eagles suffered knocks on international duties. Arsenal youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have each scored nine league goals this season as they seek to become the first teammates aged 21 or younger to score in double figures since Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. The Gunners have won five of their last six league matches as they lead Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United by three and four points, respectively, in the race for Champions League qualification.

Tottenham Hotspur has won four of five matches to put the club back in contention for a top four spot. Entering this weekend’s home contest with Newcastle, Spurs star Son Heung-min has eight goals in his last eight league home appearances. Newcastle stumbled before the break, losing consecutive 1-0 matches. The Magpies have not conceded more than a goal in any of their last 11 matches.

Manchester United hopes to regroup following international break after having won only three times in their last ten matches across all competitions. Cristiano Ronaldo rescued the Red Devils in their last match with a hat trick to lift the struggling Devils to a key win in the top four race over Spurs. Ronaldo needs three more goals to set a new Premier League record for most goals in  a season by a player aged 36 years or older. Leicester visits Old Trafford Saturday hoping to defeat the Red Devils for a fourth consecutive time across all competitions. The Foxes have won three of four league matches to climb back into the top half of the table.

Everton manager Frank Lampard looks to win his first away match in charge of the Toffees when his club visits West Ham. Everton have lost their first four away matches under Lampard by an egregious margin of 14-1. The Hammers are looking for a third consecutive home win and to return to the European places in the table after their league standing was damaged by two losses in the three matches leading into the break. Jarrod Bowen remains an injury miss for the Hammers.

A Midlands derby features two clubs just one position removed in the table but Wolves having a 10-point advantage over Saturday opponent Aston Villa. Eighth place Wolves still have hope of Europa League or Europa Conference League qualification. Aston Villa, meanwhile, wants to complete a top half finish. The Villans could have the edge at Wolves as the hosts will be without a suspended Raul Jimenez and injured Ruben Neves. Villa is looking to respond after consecutive losses to difficult opponents Arsenal and West Ham.

The Jesse Marsch experiment continues at Molineux Stadium when Leeds plays host to Southampton. American manager Marsch has now won two consecutive matches as Leeds battles to avoid the relegation scrap. Leeds forward Rodrigo will need to continue the form he displayed in scoring in each of Leeds’s last two victories as striker Patrick Bamford is out again for the Whites in an injury plagued season. Marsch will be facing another former RB Leipzig manager in Southampton’s Raph Hasenhuttl. Hasenhuttl’s Saints have stumbled of late, losing three consecutive matches, including a surprising defeat to relegation zone Watford heading into the break.

Two of the three lowest scoring teams in the league meet when Norwich visits Brighton. Both clubs have lost six consecutive league matches. Bottom of the table Norwich has accumulated 20 losses in 29 league matches, scoring a league low 18 goals. Both the score and television viewership can be expected to be low when the Seagulls and Canaries collide.  

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