Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Mid-Week Action: Champions League On Line In North London; Key Relegation Battles

Arsenal can punch its Champions League ticket this week if the Gunners defeat Tottenham Hotspur in Thursday’s north London Derby. Arsenal leads its historic rival by four points with three matches left for each team entering Thursday’s clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A victory over Spurs would return Arsenal to Europe’s most prestigious club competition next year after a five-year absence.

Tottenham Hotspur is already assured of Europa League competition next season, but Champions League has far greater financial and talent retention benefit. Champions League qualification could have bearing on the future of Harry Kane and Antonio Conte whose potential departures from Tottenham Hotspur have often been the subject of speculation. Qualification for the Gunners, meanwhile, would validate the success of Mikel Arteta’s often painful roster transforming project at Arsenal.

A busy midweek schedule also has both league title contenders in action as well as two of the three clubs battling to avoid relegation. Liverpool, now trailing league leader Manchester City by three points, visits Aston Villa on Tuesday. Further derailing of Liverpool’s title hopes by former Liverpool captain and current Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard would be a bitter pill for Red supporters.

Manchester City visits Wolves the following day. The Citizens have been steamrolling league competition in recent matches even as the lack of a true striker has proved problematic in European competition. The club took a step toward addressing its striker deficiency when it announced this week an agreement with Borussia Dortmund to acquire the services of Erling Haaland. The long-rumored transaction remains subject to finalizing personal terms with Haaland, such terms widely believed to have already been agreed. Haaland adds more firepower to a team that has scored the most goals in the Premier League this season. The recent wild scoring spree for Manchester City, where the Citizens have struck for 17 goals in their last four league matches, should be tempered this week by a Wolves defense which has allowed fewer goals than all but the league’s top three teams. Wolves are barely hanging on to European hopes, trailing West Ham by five points for the chance to compete in the Europa Conference League next season.

Chelsea has not yet clinched Champions League qualification entering its match at Leeds Wednesday. A poor run of form has seen the London club win just one of its last five league matches and leaves the third place Blues one point ahead of Arsenal, five points above fifth place Spurs. Leeds, meanwhile, would be relegated if the season ended today as Manager Jesse Marsch’s Whites have been unable to keep pace with recent successful runs by Burnley and Everton in the survival battle. Leeds have lost two in a row and have won just one of their last five to fall into the relegation zone.

Everton, winner of back-to-back matches, faces newly relegated Watford on Wednesday.

The Toffees have taken command of the survival race by taking 10 of the last 15 league points available to them. Of less consequence this week is the match between Leicester and Norwich at King Power Stadium. Leicester has fallen all the way to 14th position in the table as the disappointing Foxes prepare for their Wednesday match with relegated Norwich. 

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