Friday, March 17, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 28

Newcastle faces a tricky trip to the Tricky Trees as the Magpies visit a City Ground venue where Nottingham Forest has notched five of its six league victories this year. Along with five draws, Forest has been formidable in its 13 home matches this season. Newcastle is still in the hunt for a top four finish as the Magpies are four points behind Tottenham Hotspur with two matches in hand.

Spurs are at Southampton to face the Saints this weekend. St. Mary’s has been far from a fortress for Southampton this season. Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Brentford was a sixth defeat in the Saints last seven home matches. Southampton is having dire troubles finding the opposition net after scoring just three goals in the club’s last eight Premier League matches. Spurs, however, have not traveled well in a four-match losing run away from home in all competitions. The London side has failed to score in the last three of those losses. Perhaps Richarlison can help remedy matters for Spurs Manager Antonio Conte. The former Everton player, seeking his first Premier League goal for Spurs, has five career Premier League goals against the Saints.

Brentford is back on a winning track after a 2-0 defeat of Southampton Wednesday which moved the Bees into eighth position in the table ahead of Fulham. Ivan Toney scored for a 16th time this season and the Brentford striker has been rewarded with a call up from England manager Gareth Southgate for England’s upcoming European Championship qualifiers. Next up for the Bees is Leicester on Saturday. Leicester is currently on a four-match losing run, failing to score in three of those defeats. Despite Leicester’s troubles this season, only two clubs outside the top four have more away wins than Leicester this season.

Bournemouth is level on points with the Foxes but remain in the drop zone by virtue of goal differential. The Cherries have played better in recent weeks, putting a scare into Arsenal and then defeating Liverpool last week. Bournemouth travels to Aston Villa this week hoping a result can lift the Cherries from the relegation zone. Remarkably, Bournemouth has won its last four meetings with Aston Villa, scoring twice in each of those matches. Aston Villa, meanwhile, has won only two of its last six Premier League matches at Villa Park.

Wolverhampton is home to Leeds in another match with relegation implications. Leeds is above only Southampton in the Premier League table as new manger Javi Gracia has a mountain to climb. Wolverhampton, meanwhile, had seemed to claw free of the relegation fight but three losses in their last five matches has left the club just three points clear of the drop. Goals remain the problem for manager Julen Lopetegui’s Wolves who remain the league’s joint lowest goal scorers.

Chelsea has begun to find the net and takes a three-match winning run, across all competitions, into its home match versus Everton. The Blues have bagged five goals in their last two outings. Everton, meanwhile, has worked its way clear, at least temporarily, of the relegation zone under pragmatic tactician Sean Dyche. Dyche will likely be parking the bus at Stamford Bridge and daring Chelsea to break through and find the net, something the Blues have recently shown a proficiency for. Chelsea and Manager Graham Potter need to sustain their current momentum if the club is to qualify for the European places in the table.

A London derby between Arsenal and Crystal Palace on Saturday seems wholly uncompetitive on the surface. The Gunners have won 10 of their 13 Premier League matches at the Emirates this season. Crystal Palace has won only twice away from home. League leading Arsenal has scored 62 goals this league season versus the 21 scored by Crystal Palace. Arsenal has already won seven games since the turn of the new year while Crystal Palace is still seeking a first 2023 victory. The Eagles attack has been absent for much of the year. Remarkably, prior to Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Brighton, Crystal Palace had not even put a shot on target in its three prior matches. Though finally putting three shots on target against the Seagulls, Crystal Palace failed to beware the Ides of March as Brighton’s Solly March scored the only goal of Wednesday’s March 15th match in the 15th minute. 

FA Cup

The FA Cup quarterfinals take place on Saturday and Sunday. Manchester City plays Burnley in Saturday’s only match. Burnley Manager Vincent Kompany returns to the Etihad where a statue actually exists honoring the former captain’s service to the Citizens. Manchester United and Fulham square off Sunday in the only one of the four quarterfinal matches pitting two Premier League sides. The Red Devils will be without midfielder Casemiro who received his second red card of the Premier League season last weekend. Brighton will take on League Two Grimsby Town in a nautically themed contest as the Seagulls will try to take down the Mariners as   Grimsby fans again wave their inflatable “Harvey Haddocks.” The fish has become perhaps the most well-known mascot of this football season as Grimsby has advanced through the Cup. Championship sides Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield United will battle for the final semifinal berth and a trip to Wembley Stadium. 

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