Friday, April 8, 2022

Match Week 32 Preview: Clash of the Titans; Spurs Try To Keep Seat at the Table; Hammers Head to Beehive; Manchester United Could Deal Relegation Blow to Everton; Burnley Looks For Great Escape

Manchester City and Liverpool collide with the Premier League title in the balance on Sunday. A 10-match winning run by Liverpool, during which Manchester City has dropped seven points, leaves the league’s top two clubs just a point apart entering the weekend clash. The title chase was thought done and dusted when earlier this season Liverpool was as many as 14 points behind the Manchester juggernaut. Sunday’s match pits the past two winners of the Premier League and two clubs who once again have separated themselves from the rest of the league.

Third place Chelsea is a distant 13 points behind second place Liverpool. Both Manchester City and Liverpool have accumulated positive goal differentials in excess of 50 versus 35 for Chelsea. Liverpool leads the league in goals scored with 77 while Manchester City has conceded a league low 18 goals this season. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola have faced each other 22 times with each winning nine matches.

Fourth place Tottenham Hotspur, currently fourth in the table, continues its quest for Champions League qualification with a trip to Aston Villa. Spurs have won five of six matches since a dispiriting loss to Burnley to climb from eighth in the table and displace rival Arsenal in the top four with last weekend’s results. Villa have lost three in a row to fall out of the top half of the table.

A London derby will see surprising Brentford host West Ham. The Bees have won three of their last four matches as the promoted side has been energized by the addition of Christian Eriksen who is once again displaying his elite skills following a life-threatening health scare at Euro 2020.

The Bees have captured 11 points in London derbies this season including a win at West Ham. Only Chelsea has garnered more points this season from contests with London rivals. West Ham is locked in a battle with Manchester United and Wolverhampton for the sixth spot in the table which would mean automatic Europa League qualification for next season. The Hammers also have an outside chance to overtake north London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur for a Champions League berth.

Arsenal are home to Brighton with the Gunners still licking their wounds from a surprising loss at Crystal Palace. Manager Mikel Arteta will be pleased to have the Seagulls in his sights as the south coast club has been abysmal, scoring just a single goal in losing five of its last six matches.

Chelsea visits the south coast hoping for a restorative stay in Southampton. The once stingy Chelsea defense has been ravaged for seven goals in smashing defeats to Brentford in the Premier League and Real Madrid in the Champions League. Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel has never lost consecutive Premier League matches. Southampton had lost three in a row before the Saints’ draw at Leeds last weekend.

Leeds visits Watford in a match with relegation implications. Watford sits three points behind seventeenth place Everton for the final safe table position. Leeds is positioned six points above the dreaded relegation zone after two wins and a draw under Manager Jesse Marsch in their last three matches.

Burnley heads to Norwich with a chance to emerge from the relegation zone for the first time since August. The Canaries appear cooked, but Burnley edged closer to survival with a critical 3-2 win over Everton on Wednesday. Maxwell Cornet’s 85th minute winner moved the Clarets to within one point of the Toffees and safety in the table.

Downward spiraling Everton will try to regroup at home this weekend versus Manchester United. Everton, while burdened with the worst away record in the league this season, has more home wins than any team in the bottom half of the table. Manager Frank Lampard is desperate for points to avoid the relegation of the historic club he has so recently joined. Manchester United, meanwhile, visits Goodison engaged in a battle for European places which may not have the full attention of all of its players. The dispirited squad awaits the appointment of a new manager for next season as several players shun the system and practices of interim manager Ralph Rangnick. Disgruntled players such as Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo could be pondering their futures more than the current race. A vast difference in roster quality, however, should lift the Red Devils and potentially drop the Toffees into the relegation zone.

Leicester drew at Manchester United last weekend and now face an unexpected challenge at King Power from a Crystal Palace side which has been wreaking havoc in the past few weeks. The Eagles have lost just once in their last eight league matches which have included a draw with Manchester City and wins over Arsenal and Wolves. Leicester has also been an improved club in recent weeks as long injured defenders have returned to the line-up. The Foxes have won three of their past five matches.

Wolves face a Newcastle side which has experienced a rough stretch in recent weeks. The Magpies have lost three straight matches following an impressive nine match unbeaten run which removed them from the relegation discussion. Wolves have won three of four as they chase a Europa League berth. 

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