Tuesday, January 31, 2023

FA Cup Fourth Round

Non-league Wrexham extended its FA Cup run to a forced second leg with Sheffield United after a 3-3 draw, providing more content for its television documentary. The television darlings were poised to travel on the to the next round till a late goal by the Blades extended the fourth round matchup.

The Welsh side, disappointed at the postponed opportunity, suffered a better fate than Arsenal and Liverpool, among other Premier League sides, after the Gunners and Reds went down to fourth round defeat. The much anticipated matchup of Arsenal and Manchester City was a drab affair with the Citizens taking a 1-0 decision on a goal by defender Nathan Ake. Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta made six changes to the lineup which had defeated Manchester United in league play the previous weekend and the Gunners displayed none of the form which has put it them at the top of the Premier League table. Manchester City weren’t much better as they advanced on the merit of a single well-placed shot by Ake who found himself unmolested in the Arsenal box in the 64th minute.

Liverpool was also swept from the tournament in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton. It was the Seagulls’ second win over Liverpool in the past two weeks and piled further misery on Liverpool’s disappointing season. Kaoru Mitoma delivered the winner in stoppage time to complete Brighton’s comeback form an early one goal deficit. The loss means Liverpool is eliminated from both domestic cup competitions in a year of league struggles as well as the Reds currently sit ninth in the Premier League table. Qualification for European competition next year could be in doubt as Liverpool supporters are nonplussed by the rapid decline. Liverpool faces Real Madrid in the next phase of this year’s Champions League which could well add to this year’s failures. Brighton, currently sixth in the table, is delivering results even as it hemorrhages managers and players this year. Manager Roberto De Zerbi took over from Chelsea bound Graham Potter and has continued the Seagulls’ ascent despite the poaching of key players by larger clubs. The circumstances under which Leandro Trossard recently left for Arsenal irritated the Italian manager who benched midfielder Moises Caicedo for Sunday’s match while rumored interest from Arsenal and Chelsea is sorted out. De Zerbi just makes do with whoever’s left. Mitoma is now becoming one of the new rising stars on the south coast.

Fulham will be pushed to a fourth-round replay after the Cottagers were held to a 1-1 draw by Sunderland. It was Fulham that needed a second half goal from Tom Cairney to force the additional fixture. Leicester, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham and Manchester United all took care of business and will proceed to the fifth round. Casemiro had a rare brace in Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Reading. The victory could prove costly to the Red Devils, however, as midfielder Christian Eriksen was injured and could be lost until May. Eriksen’s injury could result in a frantic last minute transfer window foray by the Red Devils to address its sudden midfield need. Manchester United will face West Ham in the next round of the FA Cup after the Hammers eliminated Derby 2-0 on Monday. Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio provided the goals.
The need to replay six different fourth round matchups clouds several of the remaining fifth round draws. Leeds will await the winner of the Fulham and Sunderland replay for what could be the only other all Premier League matchup next round. Leeds has acquired yet another American talent as Weston McKennie joins on loan from Juventus. The midfielder joins USMNT teammates Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams in playing for Leeds’s American manager Jesse Marsch. 


Everton Rolls With Dyche

Everton has a new manager. Former Burnley manager Sean Dyche will be the replacement for the recently sacked Frank Lampard after the Merseyside club briefly flirted with former Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa. Supporters saw further validation of the confused Everton leadership as Dyche represents a completely different approach to the game than the attack minded Bielsa. Dyche’s Burnley clubs were defensively oriented, grinding out results in a near constant battle to avoid relegation during Dyche’s last nine year Premier League run. Working on a tight budget, Dyche did lead the Clarets to a noteworthy seventh place finish and European qualification in his most successful year at Burnley. Dyche’s experience in battling at the bottom of the table, however, will be of the most near-term value for Everton. The Toffees are next to bottom in the Premier League table with a roster which is not appreciably better than what Dyche had at Burnley. Perhaps Dyche’s best player at Burnley, defender James Tarkowski, is now a Toffee who will be reunited with his former manager. Dyche will look to rescue Everton from what would be the club’s first relegation from the Premier League in a comparable fireman role to that once played by short term Everton manager Sam Allardyce. Dyche and Allardyce are two of seven managerial appointments in a turbulent decade for Everton since the departure of long term manager David Moyes. Dyche signed a two and a half year contract with the hope that success might extend that stay. 

Friday, January 27, 2023

Premier League On Hold As Cups Runneth Over

The Premier League is on pause this week as domestic cups dominate the English footballing landscape. The Carabao (EFL) Cup saw the first leg of its semifinal matchups midweek. There were no surprises as Manchester United and Newcastle seem to be hurtling towards the final with both fan bases anxious to secure the silverware.

It’s been a longer wait for Newcastle as the Magpies’ last domestic cup championship was in 1955 with no other major trophy being brought home to Tyneside since 1969. Manager Eddie Howe has raised hopes for the Toon Army by leading the club into the Premier League top four this season and landing in the semifinals of the Carabao Cup. The success has been based on solid defense with Howe’s men registering yet another clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Southampton Tuesday. Joelinton scored the winner in the 73rd minute for Newcastle with the second leg scheduled next week at St James Park.

It’s been five years since Jose Mourinho delivered the last trophies at Manchester United. The Red Devils won the Carabao Cup, then unsponsored as the EFL Cup, in 2017. Mourinho led the club to the Europa League title that same year. Current manager Eric ten Hag is trying to get the historic club back to its trophy winning ways and took another step in that direction with the Red Devils’ convincing 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest Wednesday. Marcus Rashford scored for the tenth time in his last ten appearances and recent transfer signing Wout Weghorst scored his first goal for the club before Bruno Fernandes concluded the fun with a late goal. The action shifts to Old Trafford for the second leg next week.

The FA Cup now takes over the weekend with a tantalizing Friday match leading the schedule. Premier League leader Arsenal travels to the Etihad to face its closest league pursuer and defending league champion Manchester City. Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta faces former mentor Pep Guardiola in a classic match between the Premier League’s top two clubs, each of which plays an entertaining form of football attractive to neutrals and supporters alike. While Arsenal has a five point lead in the league table, the Gunners’ depth isn’t comparable to the Citizens and Arteta will need to decide if he rotates his squad against the league rival. Guardiola, on the other hand, can choose names out of a hat and still field an all-star lineup. So strong is the City roster that Guardiola had no problem in selling Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to the rival Gunners last summer. Jesus is injured but Zinchenko could feature against his old club.

The FA Cup’s fourth round features one other clash of Premier League sides as Liverpool visits Brighton on Sunday. Liverpool was thrashed by the Seagulls 3-0 in league play just two weeks ago at Amex Stadium.  There’s thus a revenge factor in play but Brighton is legitimately and consistently playing far better this season under new manager Roberto De Zerbi than Liverpool is under Jurgen Klopp. The Liverpool manager found it necessary to apologize to traveling fans after the league debacle at Brighton.

Numerous other Premier League sides are in FA Cup action against lower division sides over the course of the weekend. The most notable of remaining matches, however, could be that of former Premier League side Sheffield United which visits non-league Wrexham. The small Welsh club was purchased two years ago by Hollywood celebrities Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny who are featuring their ownership journey in a currently airing television documentary.

The Premier League schedule will resume next week when Everton may, or may not have a new manger in place. Sean Dyche is the reputed new frontrunner as Marcelo Bielsa is reportedly no longer in contention. Whoever might be considering the job might want to defer their start date. The 19th place Toffees are scheduled to host league leading Arsenal next Saturday in front of the opinioned Goodison Park crowd.    

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Matchweek 21 Results: Nketiah Brace Leads Arsenal Over Manchester United; Haaland And City Ravage Wolves; Newcastle Drops Points At Crystal Palace; Liverpool and Chelsea in Snooze Fest; West Ham Escapes Drop Zone With Bowen Double; Everton Sacks Frank Lampard

Eddie Nketiah is serving as more than a satisfactory replacement for the production of injured Gabriel Jesus. The young striker first countered an opening goal by Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford to tie matters at the Emirates before later deciding the match with a 90th minute winner for the 3-2 Arsenal victory. Arsenal maintained a five point advantage over Manchester City, with a game in hand, by avenging its only loss of the season which occurred back in early September to the Red Devils at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashofrd continued his goalscoring spree by putting the Gunners on their heels with a 17th minute goal for the visitors. Nketiah responded seven minutes later for the first of two deadlocks before his late winner put an exclamation point on a well played match by both top four clubs.

There does need to be concern on the part of Manchester United regarding its attack should Marcus Rashford cool off from his current goal scoring spree. Antony was again ineffective for a Manchester United side which remains without enigmatic Jason Sancho. Wout Weghorst, the striker just acquired on loan in the January window, is unlikely to strike fear in opponents despite his towering size. Arsenal’s young stars again rose to the challenge as the Gunners continue to set the pace at the top of the table. Bukayo Saka had the second goal for Arsenal and terrorized the Red Devils over the course of the second half, barely missing a brace of his own when hitting the post with a late chance. 

Manchester United and Newcastle are deadlocked at 39 points for third and fourth place in the table after the Magpies grabbed an away point at Crystal Place. Newcastle kept a sixth consecutive league clean sheet but frustratingly dropped points against a Crystal Place side more than content to play for the dreary draw. Newcastle’s ninth draw of the season ties it with Brentford for the most non-decisions in the league this season, no other clubs having more than six draws. Crystal Palace took a point from two top four clubs inside a space of four days despite generating little threat. The Eagles problematically lost star Wilfried Zaha to a hamstring pull versus the Magpies. 

Manchester City had little trouble in maintaining its distance behind Arsenal as the Citizens rolled over Wolverhampton 3-0 with Erling Haaland finding the net for his 23rd goal of the season. Haaland’s goal total after 20 matches would have tied him for the full season Golden Boot award in the Premier League last season. 

Harry Kane, meanwhile, scored his 266th career goal for Tottenham Hotspur, tying the club’s all-time record and propelling his side to a much needed 1-0 victory over Fulham in a London derby played Monday.

The three points moved Tottenham Hotspur to within three points of fourth place Manchester United though the London club has played one additional match than the Red Devils. Fulham’s second consecutive loss by a 1-0 margin dropped the Cottagers to seventh in the table, trailing sixth place Brighton on goal differential. 

The Seagulls surprisingly picked up only a point in a 2-2 draw at struggling Leicester. The Foxes snapped a four-match losing run to lessen some of the pressure on Manager Brendan Rodgers though all three points were there for the taking by his club. Brighton needed an 88th minute goal from substitute Evan Ferguson to salvage the point at King Power. It was the third Premier League goal of the season by the 18 year old Ferguson. 

The pressure is off for Everton Manager Frank Lampard as the Chelsea legend was sacked after the Toffees 2-0 defeat to West Ham. Lampard inherited a difficult situation at Everton but was unable to make a bad situation any better as the club is in a relegation battle for a second straight year. Everton majority owner Farhad Moshiri attended Saturday’s match, his first game day appearance during Lampard’s tenure, and got a firsthand view of the dysfunctional side which has driven Everton supporters to outright revolt as they are face to face with the first Premier League relegation for their historic club. Lampard was hired one year ago and lost 24 of 44 matches while in charge, winning only 12. The Toffees had won just once in their last 14 outings. Rumored replacements for Lampard comprise a diverse slate of possible candidates such as Wayne Rooney, Sam Allardyce, Marcelo Bielsa and Sean Dyche. West Ham emerged from relegation and moved three points ahead of the Toffees thanks to two first half goals by Jarrod Bowen. It was the Hammers first win in their last nine matches. 

Only Southampton is south of Everton in the table after the Saints were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa. Ollie Watkins scored in the 77th minute to keep the Saints looking up at all 19 of the other Premier League squads. 

Aston Villa is 11th in the table, just a point behind both Liverpool and Chelsea. Those two diminished giants played to a miserable scoreless draw at Anfield. The match was largely devoid of creative energy as both attacks struggled. Perhaps the sole bright spot for either side was the play of Chelsea’s recently signed Mykhailo Mudryk whose initiative on his 55th minute introduction provided a stark contrast to his teammates. Liverpool’s recent transfer addition Cody Gakpo unfortunately has yet to make much impact for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. 

An under the radar signing by Bournemouth sparked a rare point for the Cherries in a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. Dango Quattara, a 20-year-old Burkina Faso international acquired from FC Lorient last Thursday, helped end a seven hour goal drought for Bournemouth when he assisted on Jaidon Anthony’s 28th minute goal for the Cherries. The lead didn’t last, however, and the point was not enough to prevent Bournemouth from falling into the relegation zone after a long descent down the table. Sam Surridge, a former Bournemouth academy product, scored the equalizer in the 83rd minute which, combined with West Ham’s win over Everton, relegated Bournemouth to the bottom three. Saturday’s draw delivered just the 5th earned point for the Cherries out of an available 33 from their last 11 league matches. Surridge’s late goal extended a four-match unbeaten run for Nottingham Forest which has seen the club climb to 13th in the table. 

In a crowded bottom half of the table, Leeds is just three points back of Nottingham Forest but only one point above the drop zone after a goalless draw with Brentford. In a game which Brentford will want to quickly move on from, the Bees failed to register a single shot on target against the normally vulnerable Leeds defense. Despite the dropped points, Brentford remained just two points behind seventh place Fulham and Europa Conference League qualification.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Matchweek 21 Preview

League leading Arsenal will look to avenge its only defeat of the season when the Gunners host Manchester United at the Emirates. The north London side has gone unbeaten in twelve matches, winning 10, since the September loss at Old Trafford. Manchester United has lost just twice since the clubs last met as the Red Devils have risen to third in the table behind Arsenal and defending league champion Manchester City. Perhaps looking ahead to the show down at the Emirates, United dropped points earlier in the week, allowing a stoppage time goal by the Eagles’ Michael Olise in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace. Even more damaging for the Red Devils was the loss of defensive midfielder Casemiro to suspension ahead of the Emirates clash. The Brazilian registered his fifth yellow card of the season at Selhurst Park and will be sidelined Sunday’s critical match. Growing confidence from their five point advantage in the table over second place Manchester City and the desire to avenge their earlier loss should have the Gunners come out firing in front of the home supporters. 

Manchester City played Thursday and will have a quick turnaround when it hosts Wolverhampton on Sunday. Despite a 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur during the week, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was highly critical of his team’s performance. The Spanish manager is likely trying to avoid a letdown by his team against a Wolves side which has proved more dangerous since the appointment of new manager Julen Lopetegui and have climbed ever so slightly out of the relegation zone. Wolverhampton lost an FA replay 1-0 during the week to Liverpool. 

Manager Jurgen Klopp’s Reds return to action Saturday at Anfield in a match which in recent years would have had title implications. Instead, it is ninth place Liverpool which will be hosting a 10th place Chelsea side.

Both sides have been injury plagued this season but can’t attribute their dismal performance to that fact alone. Chelsea have been in seeming turmoil under new owners and a new manager in Graham Potter. The club’s confusing transfer policy has continued with the recent signing of Mykhailo Mudryk, a move for the Ukrainian winger who was more publicly linked with Arsenal and seems not to address Chelsea’s more critical needs at striker and in defense. Chelsea’s earlier January acquisition, Joao Feliz, is suspended after being red carded in is first appearance for the Blues. Liverpool has certainly been crippled by key injuries but also reflects an aging roster with key positions, such as in midfield, requiring refurbishment is the success of recent years is to be repeated. 

Newcastle has taken advantage of the downturn by clubs such as Liverpool and Chelsea to mount its own top four challenge under manager Eddie Howe. The fourth place Magpies have lost just one game all season as they head to Crystal Place on Monday. 

Tottenham Hotspur are on the outside, looking in at the top four as manager Antonio Conte’s side has lost three of its last four matches as it approaches a London derby with Fulham on Monday. The newly promoted Cottagers have impressed in their return to the league and are just two points behind fifth place Spurs. 

Brighton is also in contention for the European places as the seventh place Seagulls visit troubled Leicester on Saturday. Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers appears on borrowed time as his Foxes bob just two points above the relegation zone after four straight defeats. Brighton, meanwhile, is riding high after a 3-0 pasting of Liverpool last weekend which was the Seagulls’ fifth win in their last seven league outings. 

Brentford is another club playing well. The Bees have won three straight and are unbeaten in seven matches to sit just a point back of Brighton. Striker Ivan Toney has 13 goals this season, good for third in the league. Brentford travels to Leeds on Sunday to face the high wire act of Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch. Leeds is balanced just wo points above the relegation zone as the jury remains out whether Marsch’s attacking philosophy that exposes a porous defense can prove successful enough to see the Whites survive another season. 

Two other managers on the hot seat will face off on Saturday when Everton Manager Frank Lampard brings his bedraggled club to London Stadium to face the equally disappointing Hammers of Manger David Moyes. Both clubs reside in the relegation zone to the angst of their supporters. Everton fans have been particularly strident to the unacceptable extent of posing a threat to board members. Everton owner Farhad Moshiri continues to back manager Frank Lampard despite the club’s on-field performance worsening from an already poor starting point over his tenure as manger. West Ham Manager Moyes, however, experienced success the last two seasons as the Hammers competed in Europe. This season has thus been a shocking fall from grace as the Hammers have struggled to put the ball in the net. West Ham and Everton have each scored 15 goals for the season, an output greater than only Wolves among Premier League clubs. 

Everton and West Ham currently share the relegation zone with Southampton, but the Saints have begun to make some noise, winning their last three matches across three different competitions. Southampton won at Everton in a league match last weekend and will look to make it two in a row when they host Aston Villa at St. Mary’s. That outcome could prove a tough ask as Villa has lost just once in its last six league matches under new manager Unai Emery. 

Nottingham Forest has been moving up the table, taking 10 points from their last five league matches, and should be well positioned to continue that trend by taking points at Bournemouth on Saturday. The Cherries have been increasingly uncompetitive against all opposition save for relegation bound Everton in recent weeks.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Matchweek 20 Results: Gunners Pull Away From Pack; Rashford Keys Manchester United Win; Newcastle Edges Fulham; Seagulls Embarrass Liverpool; Turmoil at Everton; Wolves Consign Hammers To Drop Zone

Arsenal put further distance between the Gunners and their Premier League pursuers with a win at rival Spurs while Manchester City were defeated at Manchester United. Manger Mikel Arteta saw his club extend its lead in the table to eight points over Manchester City with a 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Gunners’ first league win at the home of their rivals since 2014. Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was a gracious host as his own goal upon fumbling a cross by Bukayo Saka handed Arsenal the early lead in the 15th minute. Lloris, who recently retired from international football for France, was also slow to react on Martin Odegaard’s strike later in the first half which gave the Gunner’s their 2-0 final margin. Arsenal won for a 15th time in 18 Premier League matches this season.

Tottenham Hotspur lost further ground in its bid for the top four, falling five points behind Manchester United after the Red Devils’ conquest in the Manchester Derby over rival City.

Manchester City lost ground in its pursuit of Arsenal partly due to a controversial call in a 2-1 Manchester United win. Marcus Rashford, in an offside position, created confusion for Manchester City defenders but did not touch a ball, just inches from his own feet, which teammate Bruno Fernandes fired into the Manchester City net. Fernandes’s 78th minute goal leveled a match which the Red Devils went on to win when Rashford scored less than five minutes later. Rashford’s goal marked a ninth consecutive match at Old Trafford where the in-form forward has found the net, equaling a 64-year-old club record. Rashford has now scored in all seven matches he’s played across all competitions since the World Cup.

The victory pulled his team within one point of their crosstown rivals and positions the Red Devils to make a run at Arsenal. Manchester United can move to within six points of the Gunners should Rashford and friends defeat Crystal Palace on Wednesday. United will then visit Arsenal next weekend with a chance to present their title credentials. Manchester City fell for a second consecutive outing after being eliminated from the Carabao Cup by Southampton earlier in the week.

Newcastle remains level on points with Manchester United in the top four mix after the Magpies defeated Fulham 1-0 at St. James Park. Aleksander Isak returned to Premier League action to score the winner in the 89th minute for Newcastle. Fulham had an earlier chance to take the lead on a penalty chance by Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian striker’s penalty kick found the net but was disallowed as Mitrovic touched the ball twice as he slipped in approaching his penalty kick. The disallowed goal marked the third time this season that Mitrovic has missed from the penalty spot. The defeat ended a four-match winning run for the Cottagers. Newcastle remained one of two clubs, along with first place Arsenal, to be undefeated at home this season.

Brighton moved to within a point of sixth place Fulham with a convincing 3-0 defeat of Liverpool. The benching of leading scorer and malcontent Leandro Trossard did nothing to deter a Seagull attack which has scored 12 goals in its last four league matches. Solly March scored twice early in the second half and Danny Welbeck contributed a stylish goal in the 81st minute for Brighton’s fifth win its last seven matches under Manager Roberto De Zerbe. Liverpool fell to ninth place in the table after a poor performance which had manager Jurgen Klopp apologizing to his away fans after the match.

Brentford, as well as Brighton, moved past Liverpool in the table as the Bees defeated woeful Bournemouth 2-0.  Ivan Toney’s penalty kick was his fourth goal in his last five league matches for Brentford. Bournemouth, meanwhile, lost for an eighth time in their last nine matches as they appear to be taking the express train to relegation. The Cherries are one point above the drop zone.

Wolverhampton pulled itself out of the relegation places with a 1-0 win over West Ham which dropped the Hammers into the bottom three. Daniel Podence scored for a third time in Wolverhampton last four league matches to secure the win. West Ham lost for a sixth time in its last seven matches as the pressure ratchets up on manager David Moyes.

Another under fire manager is Everton’s Frank Lampard as the Toffees lost for a fifth time in six outings in a 2-1 home loss to bottom of the table Southampton. Things are spiraling out of control on Merseyside as Everton board members were instructed not to attend the match at Goodison due to concerns regarding their personal safety. A post-game sit-in was conducted by some protesting fans while others confronted Everton players such as Yerry Mina outside the stadium in potentially dangerous circumstances. Southampton, meanwhile, is showing signs of life as the Saints won for a third consecutive time across all competitions. Two cup victories and now a win in the league has markedly improved the perceptions held of new manager Nathan Jones. 

Chelsea Manager Graham Potter enjoyed a reprieve from the incessant criticism which has circled his troubled side as the Blues squeaked out a 1-0 victory over goal challenged Crystal Palace. Kai Havertz had the winner at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea moved into a tie for ninth place with Liverpool as two league powers of recent years stumble through difficult years. Crystal Palace remains 12th in the table despite losing for a fourth time in their last five league matches. The Eagles failed to score for a fourth time in their last five matches as Chelsea were able to capitalize on facing a squad which is having even more problems scoring than the goal challenged Blues.

Aston Villa, wedged between Chelsea and Crystal Place in the table, won for a fourth time in six league matches under Manager Unai Emery as the Villans downed Leeds 2-1 at Villa Park. Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch strangely claimed his side’s performance was the best in his 11-month managerial tenure with the club. That tenure could be tenuous as the Whites remain only two points above the drop zone.

Nottingham Forest continued its improved form in a 2-0 win over Leicester. Forest won a second consecutive league outing and for a third time in its last five matches as manager Steve Cooper’s squad, once given up for dead after 13 weeks in the relegation zone, moved to 13th in the table. Leicester, meanwhile, lost a fourth straight match as the Foxes continue to dig a hole.

The Premier League has two rescheduled matches mid-week as  both Manchester clubs, currently a point apart in the table, are in action. Manchester United travels to Crystal Palace on Wednesday before Manchester City hosts Tottenham Hotspur the following day. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Matchweek 20 Preview: Derbies Take Center Stage

Two classic derby matches dominate the weekend schedule for the Premier League. Top of the table Arsenal makes the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur to take on their north London rivals who are scratching for a return to the league’s top four and Championship League qualification. Arsenal leads second place Manchester City in the table by five points, having won all but two matches during an 11-match unbeaten run. The Gunners haven’t lost a Premier League match since their solitary blemish in early September. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, fell from the ranks of the top four for the first time this season with a New Year’s day loss to Aston Villa. Spurs then stomped on Crystal Palace in their next league match before squeaking past Portsmouth on a Harry Kane goal in the FA Cup last Saturday. Kane is now one goal from the all-time Tottenham Hotspur career record. Matching or exceeding that milestone against his club’s historic rival would come with even greater meaning for the Spurs talisman. Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, has four goals in four matches since stepping in after the World Cup break for the injured Gabriel Jesus. The 193rd meeting between the bitter rivals promises to be a hard fought affair as the league leading Gunners seek to end a three match losing run at Tottenham Stadium.

Manchester City also visits the home of their archrival this weekend as the second place Citizens are at Old Trafford for their match with Manchester United. Pep Guardiola’s side was shocked in the Carabao Cup during the week by Premier League cellar dweller Southampton. The manager will hope that match served as a wakeup call to a squad which has not looked sharp after the World Cup break. Inevitably questions are being asked whether Erling Haaland’s role as a traditional number nine striker fits with Guardiola’s preferred style of play. City have scored multiple goals in only three of their last eight league matches despite Haaland himself being only two goals away from the goal total which won the Premier League Golden Boot last season. Manchester City smashed their rivals by a 6-3 margin at the Etihad in October but will be facing a much-improved Manchester United side under Manager Eric ten Hag. The Red Devils have won their last eight matches across all competitions and have won nine consecutive matches at Old Trafford. Ten Hag’s men have won their last four league matches to overtake Spurs for fourth position in the table. Marcus Rashford is in scintillating form for Manchester United, scoring in all six matches his club has played since the World Cup.

Surprisingly a third match this weekend could have European qualification implications. Fulham smashed Chelsea on Thursday for the club’s fourth consecutive league win. The surprising Cottagers are now sixth in the table and get suspended striker Aleksandar Mitrovic back for Fulham’s match with third place Newcastle on Sunday. Mitrovic, fourth in the Premier League with 11 goals this season, will be anxious to increase his goal tally against his former club. Newcastle, however, hasn’t conceded a goal in their last four league outings as the Magpies look to equal a club record 14 match topflight unbeaten run. Manager Eddie Howe could have forward Alexander Isak back from injury for his first league appearance for Newcastle in four months.

Everton Manager Frank Lampard could be facing a critical match when Southampton comes to Goodison Park Saturday. The Toffees have entered the relegation zone after losing four of their last five matches. Everton have lost 19 of 36 Premier League matches with Lampard in charge and a loss to bottom of the table Southampton, a club which has only won once before in Premier League play at Goodison, could be fatal to the manager’s job security.

The Saints, meanwhile, come marching in after victories in FA Cup and Carabao Cup contests which have come since their last league match. Southampton shockingly defeated Manchester City in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals Wednesday. No manager is receiving more current criticism than Chelsea’s Graham Potter. Potter’s patsies have lost seven of their last 10 matches across all competitions as the once proud club experiences its worst run of performance in more than a decade. In Potter’s defense, injuries have been crippling for the Blues as the manager will face Crystal Palace on Sunday without 10 injured first line players. Adding insult to injury will be the absence of newly acquired Joao Felix who was red carded in his Premier League debut on Thursday and will be forced to miss the next three matches. Crystal Palace enter this London derby having lost three of their last four league matches and three consecutive home matches across all competitions. Questionable defending has plagued the Eagles of late, a circumstance which could be good news for Chelsea’s struggling attack.

Liverpool are three points outside the top six as the Reds travel to Brighton on Saturday. The Seagulls, meanwhile, are just a point behind Liverpool in the table after winning  four of their last six matches. Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbe, however, is sidelining top scorer Leandro Trossard for the match versus Liverpool over attitudinal issues amid transfer rumors swirling about the midfielder. The Seagulls will thus look to Kaoro Mituma and Evan Ferguson to carry the attack with each player having scored in each of Brighton’s last two league matches. Darwin Nunez will miss the match for Liverpool, putting more pressure on Mohamed Salah to replicate his historic success against Brighton. Salah’s six career goals versus Brighton are tied with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for most Premier League goals scored against the Seagulls.

A midlands derby will see Leicester playing at Nottingham Forest. The Foxes have lost three league matches on the trot and continue to suffer from the injury absence of playmaker James Maddison. Forest, meanwhile, moved out of the relegation zone with a win at Southampton in their last league match. Manager Steve Cooper’s promoted side are unbeaten in their last five matches at their home City Ground.

Wolves will try to claw their way out of the drop zone when manager Julen Lopetegui and his charges host West Ham Saturday. Wolverhampton is just a point behind West Ham which is just barely safe at 17th in the table. The Hammers had lost five in a row before snapping their loss streak in the league with a draw at Leeds. Wolves have looked better under Lopetegui but remain the league’s lowest scoring club.

Bournemouth is one of the clubs who Lopetegui will feel he can surpass in the table. After an initial bounce following the appointment of Gary O’Neil, the Cherries have steadily descended to their current position just one point removed from the drop zone. O’Neil takes his club to Brentford Saturday where the Bees have lost just once this season. Brentford Manager Thomas Frank has his club on a six-match unbeaten run in the league and leading scorer Ivan Toney has been announced as fit to compete versus the Cherries.

Weekend action begins Friday with Leeds travelling to Aston Villa. Leeds suffered a critical injury when forward Crysencio Summerville was injured in the club’s recent FA Cup match. Leeds forward Patrick Bamford is reportedly healed from his latest injury but remains a fitness question mark. Leeds is one of five clubs which are currently safe but hovering within two points of the relegation zone. Aston Villa, for now, is comfortably mid-table. Emery has faced Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch previously when his Villareal side defeated Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg club in 2020/21 Europa League play. 

Carabao Cup: Praise The Saints; Rashford Rolls On; Forest Shades Wolves; Newcastle Advances

Southampton is amid a terrible season in which the Saints are likely to be relegated from the Premier League. It was a shock then to see to see the Saints defeat the Manchester City juggernaut in a 2-0 victory on the south coast. Manchester City failed to put a shot on target versus the Saints as frustrated manager Pep Guardiola brought Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne off the bench in the second half in a futile effort to create some spark. Former Leeds defensive midfielder Kalvin Philips, playing in his first start for Guardiola’s side, may be waiting awhile for his second start after an unimpressive performance. Southampton will hope to  leverage their shocking Carabao Cup win and last weekend’s FA Cup victory over Crystal Palace to perhaps improve their league results under manager Nathan Jones.

The Saints will host Newcastle in the Carabao Cup semifinals after the Magpies swept Leicester from the tournament with a 2-0 home victory over the Foxes. Newcastle find themselves in a Carabao (or EFL) Cup semifinal for the first time in 47 years. The other side of the semifinal bracket will see Manchester United host surprising semifinalist Nottingham Forest. The Red Devils were easy 3-0 winners over League One Charlton as red-hot Marcus Rashford registered a brace. Rashford has now scored in eight consecutive home contests across all competitions to break Wayne Rooney’s club record. Nottingham Forest was pushed to penalties to eliminate Wolverhampton after the clubs were unable to resolve a 1-1 tie in open play. The tense contest saw a brawl break out between the players after Forest prevailed in the shootout.

The first legs of the Carabao Cup semifinal ties will take place on January 24th (Southampton versus Newcastle) and January 25th (Nottingham Forest versus Manchester United).

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

FA Cup Results: Surprise Exits By Premier League Sides As Newcastle, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth Fall To Lower Division Sides; Hammers Finally Nail A Result; Streaking Manchester United Rolls Past Everton; Manchester City Demolishes Chelsea; Liverpool, Wolves and Leeds Face Replays; Arsenal Advances To Fourth Round Manchester City Matchup

A number of Premier League clubs rotated their sides for their third round FA Cup matches and some of those clubs will be ruing that decision. Newcastle has a squad this year that could actually have made some noise in the competition to the delight of long suffering fans. Manager Eddie Howe, however, made eight lineup changes and League One Sheffield Wednesday upset the Premier League’s presently third ranked club 2-1 in their Saturday FA Cup match. Newcastle dominated possession but it was Sheffield Wednesday, second in the third tier of English football, which controlled the scoreboard as it built a two-goal advantage before a goal by the Magpies’ Bruno Guimaraes proved too little, too late. Newcastle lost for the first time in any competition since August and Howe was left to express regret over his lineup decisions in comments after the match.

Another upset unfolded at Villa Park as League Two side Stevenage scored two goals in the final two minutes to shock Aston Villa 2-1. A penalty kick awarded upon a red card to Aston Villa’s Leander Dondecker tied the match for Stevenage in the 88th minute. Twenty-one year-old substitute Dean Campbell then won the match for the fourth-tier club with a 90th minute strike against ten-man Villa.

The shocking home loss to a lower-level side was even more surprising given the past record of tournament success that Aston Villa manger Unai Emery brings to his new club. The Spanish manager has won a record four Europa League titles but was unable to prevent an eighth consecutive first match defeat in the FA Cup by the Villans.

Nottingham Forest Manager Steve Cooper paid the price for fielding a lineup with 11 changes against Championship division Blackpool. The Forest subs were not up to the task as Cooper’s squad fell 4-1 at the home of a club which is poised to be relegated from England’s second tier. Nottingham Forest was presumably resting players in advance of a Carabao Cup quarterfinal match on Wednesday but couldn’t have expected how poorly their benchwarmers would have performed.

Perhaps less surprising than the losses of other Premier League clubs was the departure of Bournemouth from the FA Cup. The Premier League could well be saying goodbye to struggling Bournemouth and welcoming their FA Cup opponent Burnley back to the league next season. Relegated last season, the Clarets are currently dominating the Championship division, sitting atop the second-tier table as they seek promotion back to the Premier League. Burnley continued its good form in a 4-2 home win at Turf Moor. Bournemouth, meanwhile, made critical errors leading to three of the Burnley goals as the Cherries lost a fifth consecutive match across all competitions. Burnley’s Manuel Benson and Anass Zaroury each scored a brace to capitalize on the Cherries’ mistakes.

Leeds narrowly avoided defeat to a lower tier opponent when 18-year-old substitute Sonny Perkins scored in injury time to force a replay against Championship division Cardiff City. The lowest scoring team in the Championship accumulated a two-goal lead against their Premier League opponent before Rodrigo scored Leeds’s first goal at the 65-minute mark. Rodrigo would later miss a potential game tying penalty before Perkins salvaged things for manager Jesse Marsch’s Whites.

Liverpool and Wolverhampton will also be replaying their match after a deflected ball glanced into the net off Wolverhampton’s Hwang Hee-Chan to tie matters in the 66th minute of a 2-2 draw at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp will once again have opportunity to complain of schedule congestion as his side will face an additional contest to settle their third round matchup.

Manchester United manager Eric ten Hag fielded a strong lineup which was tested by the determined effort of an overmatched Everton squad in a 3-1 win for the Red Devils at Old Trafford. Everton, despite losing for a sixth time in seven matches, kept the match in play until Marcus Rashford’s injury time penalty kick put the match out of reach for the Toffees. Rashford has scored in five consecutive appearances as the red hot Devils have won 10 of their last 11 matches across all competitions.

Brentford sat several of their key players, including forwards Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumu, and the result was something of a buzzkill as the Bees fell 1-0 in an FA Cup derby match with West Ham. The Hammers Said Benrahma scored the winner with West Ham’s first and only shot on target in the 79th minute of a tedious contest.

Crystal Palace provided some levity with comical errors providing both of its opponent’s goals in a 2-1 loss to Southampton which swept the Eagles out of the Cup. After an Odsonne Edouard goal had given the Eagles an early lead, Palace faced a free kick from Saints dead ball specialist James Ward-Prowse. The ball fell untouched into the six-yard box, unmolested by the heads of leaping Palace defenders, to then bounce over the outstretched arm of an out of position Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. Guaita then compounded his poor day by giving the ball away in his own end for the winning goal by the Saints’ Adam Armstrong. The home supporters at Selhurst Park were less than amused by their heroes’ howlers.

Manchester City heaped further indignity on Chelsea’s troubled season by easily disposing of the Blues in a 4-0 whitewashing at the Etihad. Manchester City had defeated their opponent just three days earlier in a more competitive league battle. In contrast to Thursday’s hard earned win, however, Manchester City waltzed to a win on Sunday as Chelsea were poor throughout. Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola rested Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Ederson as the deep roster of the defending Premier League champions dealt Chelsea their earliest FA Cup exit in 25 years. Riyad Mahrez scored a brace, World Cup winner Julian Alvarez successfully converted a penalty, and England international Phil Foden also made the scoresheet for Manchester City in the lopsided contest. Chelsea managed just a single shot on target in losing for a fifth time in their last seven matches.

League leading Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Oxford FC to set up a tantalizing fourth round match with Manchester City at the Etihad as the top two teams in the Premier League table will face each other in the domestic cup. Eddie Nketiah scored two goals in the Gunners’ defeat of Oxford as the 21-year-old continues to successfully deputize for the injured Gabriel Jesus. 

Carabao Cup Preview

The quarterfinal matches of the Carabao Cup take place Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Manchester United is home to League One Charlton while Newcastle hosts Leicester on Tuesday. Manchester United has been on a tear of late and Manager Eric ten Hag is unlikely to allow his charges to be complacent in their bid to progress to the semifinals despite facing a much lesser opponent. Leicester’s difficult season would be brightened by an extension of their cup run but the Foxes will be hard pressed to get a result at Newcastle’s St. James Park. Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe prioritized Tuesday’s match by resting key players in an FA Cup loss over the weekend. Not getting a result versus the Foxes would bring resounding criticism down upon Howe’s strategic ploy. Wednesday action has Wolves travelling to Nottingham Forest while Southampton hosts Manchester City. Nottingham Forest also rested key players in an FA Cup loss over the weekend. Wolves, playing well under new manager Julen Lopetegui, put in a strong effort in Saturday’s 2-2 FA Cup draw with Liverpool as Lopetegui paid more respect to the FA Cup competition than did Nottingham Forest Manager Steve Cooper. Southampton is home to Manchester City Wednesday. The Saints only prayer in that match could rest upon the Citizens looking ahead to their weekend Manchester derby. Southampton, however, will be hard pressed in their bid to advance to the semifinals. The talent differential between the clubs, no matter which players Manager City Manager Pep Guardiola chooses to field at St. Mary’s, would point towards the Citizens continuing their quest for a sixth Carabao Cup championship in the last eight years. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 19: Newcastle Takes Point At Arsenal; City Closes In As Chelsea Slide Continues; Rashford Scores Again In Manchester United Win; Spurs Smash Crystal Palace; Bees Sting Liverpool To Extend Unbeaten Run; Everton Tumbles Into Drop Zone

Arsenal dropped points for only the third time in 17 matches this season as Newcastle held the Gunners in check during a scoreless duel at the Emirates. The Magpies delivered their eighth draw of the season at the home of the league leaders as Manager Eddie Howe’s side posted a fourth consecutive clean sheet. The tense match saw seven yellow cards and Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta lost his mind on multiple occasions, screaming and gesticulating at match officials and Newcastle staff alike over uncalled penalty grievances, time wasting actions by the Magpies and too little time added by the referee to regulation. It was a well-earned point, however, by defensively superb Newcastle.

Manchester City took advantage of Arsenal’s dropped points with a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Pep Guardiola, disappointed with his club’s first half performance, changed out three players at halftime. Two of those subs then combined for the winning goal as Jack Grealish set up Riyad Mahrez for the winner.

Manchester City moved back to within five points of league leading Arsenal with the win. Chelsea, meanwhile, is a shocking 10th place in the Premier League table after capturing only is of its last 24 points available in league play. Supporters are calling for manager Graham Potter’s head which would already have rolled under Chelsea’s former ownership. The new ownership, however, shares responsibility with Potter for Chelsea’s currently dismal state. Chelsea forward and former Arsenal star Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang entered the match for the injured Raheem Sterling and played so poorly that he himself was yanked by Potter. Aubameyang and fullback Marc Cucurella are two of the higher profile transfer misses to date of Chelsea’s new ownership. Chelsea are now ten points behind Manchester United for fourth place and the final Champions League qualifying spot.

Marcus Rashford continued his outstanding run of form as he scored for a third consecutive league match in Manchester United’s 3-0 win over Bournemouth. The victory was a fourth straight win for the Red Devils who have lost but once since early October. The Cherries, meanwhile, fell to within a point of the relegation zone by posting a third straight loss without scoring a goal.

Everton fell into the drop zone after the Toffees put on an embarrassing home performance in a 4-1 loss at Goodison Park to Brighton. Everton conceded the first four goals of the match before a meaningless penalty kick in stoppage time provided little consolation for supporters who have become increasingly vocal in their demands for change from the Everton board. Manager Lampard hangs by a string but truthfully is working with a poor roster in desperate need of refurbishment. The Everton financial condition does not make such repair likely in the upcoming window. Brighton responded to their loss to league leading Arsenal by winning for the fourth time in the Seagulls’ last six league matches under Manager Roberto De Zerbe. Brighton youngster Evan Ferguson scored against both the Toffees and Gunners as the 18-year-old became the youngest player to score in consecutive Premier League matches in more than a decade. Ferguson also had an assist in the lopsided win over Everton.

The Seagulls moved to within just a point of sixth palace Liverpool after the Reds put in a poor defensive performance in a 3-1 loss at Brentford. Liverpool defenders were no match for the swarming Bees. Ibrahima Konate, returning to Liverpool from World Cup duty, was victimized for an opening own goal and then was muscled aside by Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo on the Bees’ final goal. Center back Virgil van Dijk also played poorly before being removed for a reported hamstring pull. Brentford extended their league unbeaten run to six matches despite the absence of injured striker Ivan Toney. The victory marked the first win for the Bees over Liverpool since 1938. Liverpool, meanwhile, have dropped more points to date than the entirety of last year’s Premier League season.

Tottenham Hotspur remained two points behind Manchester United for the final Champions League slot as Harry Kane struck for a brace and Son Heung-min made the scoresheet for just the second league match this season in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace. Kane broke open the match after a scoreless first half with goals in the 48th and 53rd minute in what was his 300th Premier League appearance. After Matt Doherty scored his first goal of the season, stretching the advantage to three goals, Kane assisted on Son’s goal to cap the scoring. Crystal Palace has conceded seven goals in its two losses since the break which bracketed a win over helpless Bournemouth.

Nottingham Forest escaped the relegation zone for the first time since August with a 1-0 win over Southampton. Taiwo Awoniyi  scored the winner as Forest won away from home for a first time this season. Manager Steve Cooper’s side has captured eight of the last 15 points available to the club to emerge from the drop zone. Southampton, meanwhile, lost a sixth consecutive match as the Saints appear to have no prayer of surviving this season.

Wolves took a point in a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa to improve their own survival chances. Wolverhampton looked poised to take all three points before Danny Ings came to Villa’s rescue with a 78th minute goal. Wolves moved to just one point back of currently safe West Ham and are now only three points behind three clubs tied for 13th place in the congested bottom half of the Premier League table.

One of those clubs, Leicester, lost a third consecutive match, falling 1-0 at home to Fulham as the Cottagers won a third consecutive match to maintain their seventh-place position in the table. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 11th goal of the season was the match winner for Manager Marco Silva’s men.

West Ham is ahead of Everton and relegation infamy by the thinnest of goal differential margin after the Hammers dropped more points at Leeds in a 2-2 draw at Elland Road. Rodrigo’s 70th minute goal salvaged the draw for Leeds which is two points ahead of the Hammers in the bottom of the table scramble. Notable in the match was how Leeds dominated the midfield despite the presence of West Ham and England midfielder Declan Rice. Leeds is also getting a spark from 19-year-old Serie A product Wilfried Gnonto who not only scored against the Hammers but has been consistently bringing additional energy to the already frenetic Leeds attack. Leeds supporters already have a song for Gnonto, though club management would prefer the lyrics of the raunchy ballad to be more family friendly. 


FA Cup Third Round

The Premier League clubs enter the fray effective with the third round of the FA Cup this weekend. All 20 top tier clubs are in action in the domestic cup as the hectic Premier League schedule is temporarily paused. Five FA Cup matches pit Premier League rivals against each other. Headlining those matches is a rematch between Manchester City and Chelsea following their Thursday league clash. The action shifts from Stamford Bridge to the Etihad as the Citizens look to repeat their league success and Chelsea Manager Graham Potter gets another chance to try to dampen calls for his ouster. Frank Lampard is another manager under the microscope as he brings his reeling Everton squad to Old Trafford on Friday. Any game in any competition is vital now for the embattled Lampard who has guided the descent of the proud franchise into its current relegation zone position. To his credit, Lampard has pulled off the occasional unexpected result with the Toffees when things have been dark before. Everton fell into the Premier League relegation zone this past week after a brutal defeat to Brighton. Manchester United, conversely, is on a four-match winning run in the league as Marcus Rashford has been superb for the Red Devils, finding the net in three consecutive league matches. Manager Eric ten Hag’s squad rotation will be interesting for his club. Captain Harry Maguire has been relegated to a substitute’ role but may have opportunity to capture minutes on Friday. Saturday’s schedule includes a London derby as West Ham visits Brentford. The Hammers have been dreck in the league where only three clubs have scored fewer goals. The Bees came away with a 2-0 league win at West Ham little more than a week ago. Liverpool begins defense of its 2021/22 FA Cup title when the Reds host Wolves on Saturday. Another successful FA Cup run could be the high-water mark for the struggling Reds who have fallen down the league table, are already eliminated from the Carabao Cup, and face a tough Champions League matchup with defending champions Real Madrid. Jurgen Klopp would normally be tempted to heavily rotate his side for Saturday’s match but could be rethinking that approach as an FA Cup run takes on greater importance. Crystal Palace is home to Southampton in a match of interest only to supporters of the two clubs. The combined goal output in league play for these two clubs equals that of Brighton. Southampton is on a six-match losing run and Crystal Palace has been blasted in two of its three Premier League matches since the break. Premier League leader Arsenal caps the weekend action with a Monday FA Cup match versus League One side Oxford. 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 19

Matchweek 19 plays out over the course of this week with games scheduled Monday through Thursday. Monday features Liverpool visiting Brentford. In somewhat of a surprise, Brentford striker Ivan Toney may participate after a favorable muscle injury update was provided after the forward was stretchered off from Friday’s match with West Ham. Toney’s presence as the league’s third leading goal scorer is a massive consideration in the Bees’ chances. Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate is poised to be available for his first league match since returning from World Cup duty.

The headline match for Tuesday and indeed the entire week takes place at the Emirates on Tuesday when table leader Arsenal hosts third place Newcastle.

Arsenal has been prolific in scoring seven goals in its two wins since the break despite the absence of injured striker Gabriel Jesus. Newcastle is the only other club besides the Gunners to have incurred just a single loss all season. Eddie Howe’s Magpies, however, have seven draws from their 17 matches and trail the Gunners by nine points in the table. Tuesday’s match is thus critical to any thoughts Newcastle may have regarding a title chase this season.

Manchester United hosts Bournemouth that same day as the Red Devils look to maintain their newly acquired top four status. Defender Lisandro Martinez is expected to make his return for United after the Argentinian’s extended World Cup celebration.

The mysterious absence of winger Jaden Sancho, however, continues for Manager Eric ten Hag’s side. Overmatched Bournemouth enters the match at Old Trafford having lost six of their last seven league matches and having never won in league competition at the home of Manchester United.

Fulham visits Leicester on Tuesday. Leicester Manager Brendan Rodgers has won eight of his nine previous contests against the Cottagers but now faces a version of Fulham which is eight points above Leicester in the Premier League table. The surprising seventh place Cottagers are having their best season in the topflight in more than ten years.

The remaining Tuesday match is Brighton at Everton. The Seagulls’ Moises Caicedo returns from suspension and World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister could make his first appearance for Brighton since helping Argentina raise the Cup. Everton will try to keep some momentum going after securing a surprising point at Manchester City on New Year’s Eve.

Another four matches take place on Wednesday with a key relegation scrap occurring when Nottingham Forest heads to Southampton. Forest could use the match as a launching pad to emerge from the drop zone while Southampton have earned their bottom of the table position with five straight losses.

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch will be in the unusual position of facing a manager who is on even shakier ground than Marsch himself. Leeds nicked a valuable point off Newcastle in the Whites last outing while West Ham Manager David Moyes watched his underperforming side fall for a fifth consecutive league match in a loss to Brentford last Friday. The Hammers have scored but two goals over those five losses and only goal differential separates Moyes’s men from the drop zone.

Wolverhampton is one of those relegation dwellers looking to climb over the Hammers as Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui takes his squad to Aston Villa Wednesday. Lopetegui, who has a win and a loss in his first two league fixtures, will see a familiar face on the touchline for his opponent at Villa Park. Villa Manager Unai Emery and Lopetegui quite recently were facing each other in the Spanish La Liga. Lopetegui has won twice and drawn twice in five previous matches versus Emery across all competitions. The battle of Spanish managers Wednesday, however, will see Emery with a currently stronger roster and home stadium advantage. Villa is currently eight points ahead of relegation bound Wolverhampton in the Premier League table. Villa thumped Tottenham Hotspur in their last outing, knocking Spurs from their top four perch.

Harry Kane and the gang will try to regroup when Spurs visit Crystal Palace Wednesday. The Eagles will be trying to show that their improved attack in Saturday’s win over Bournemouth was not an anomaly. Palace has been surprisingly good at home versus Spurs. The Eagles are unbeaten in their last four home matches across all competitions versus their London rivals. Anything short of a victory at Selhurst for Spurs will further raise alarm bells for supporters of Manager Antonio Conte’s side who have fallen from the Champions League places after capturing just four of twelve available points in their most recent league matches.

Matchweek 19 concludes on Thursday with what once would have been a critical top four match. Unfortunately, Chelsea is floundering as the eighth place Blues host Manchester City. Stamford Bridge may provide some much-needed energy for Chelsea, but Manchester City will be anxious to avoid another blow to their title chances after dropping points to Everton in their last outing. The Citizens are a full seven points behind Arsenal after this past weekend’s results.