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.

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