Friday, April 28, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 34

Aston Villa visits Manchester United with a puncher’s chance to crash the Champions League party. Manager Unai Emery’s club can pull within three points of the Red Devils with a win at Old Trafford. United would still have two matches in hand over the Villans, however, which leaves Villa’s bid for the top four a long shot.

Brighton has fallen out of the European places altogether after its disappointing loss to Forest during the week. The Seagulls have lost two of three in the league and also lost in the FA Cup semifinals to Manchester United last weekend.  Eighth place Brighton, however, has played fewer matches to date than any other Premier League club, so the Seagulls still have the opportunity to make up ground. The task begins with a visit by a Wolves side which has won three of four matches, all those victories coming by clean sheet.

Liverpool is four points ahead of Brighton but has played two additional matches than the Seagulls. The Reds are targeting a fourth consecutive victory when Tottenham Hotspur comes to Anfield on Sunday. A victory by Jurgen Klopp’s resurgent side would launch Liverpool past currently fifth place Spurs in the Premier League table.

Arsenal will try to rebound from its crushing loss to Manchester City when the Gunners host Chelsea in a match postponed till Tuesday from its original Saturday scheduling. Policing issues dictated the postponement which gives the Gunners more time than desired before they can eradicate the bad taste left by Wednesday’s defeat. Chelsea, meanwhile, has appeared to just want to get the season over with. The prospect of a win over its London rival which would essentially doom any remaining Arsenal title hopes, however, might just serve as a motivational tool for beleaguered Chelsea Manager Frank Lampard to rally his troops.

Manchester City will also be in London when the Citizens take their title chase to Fulham. The Cottagers have lost their last 13 matches against Manchester City across all competitions.

The bottom end of the table will see a proverbial “six pointer” between relegation zone occupants Leicester and Everton. The Monday match at King Power Stadium could well decide which, if any, of the two clubs survive to compete in the Premier League next season. Everton, a founding Premier League member, has not been relegated from the topflight since 1951.

Leeds and Nottingham Forest are the two clubs to be overtaken if both Leicester and Everton hope to survive. Both the Whites and Tricky Trees are a point above the Foxes, two points above the Toffees. Leeds will visit in-form Bournemouth without the services of injured winger Luis Sinisterra who has been ruled out for the balance of the season. Forest, meanwhile, faces a difficult test at Brentford.

Southampton looks to be no longer harboring a prayer of survival as the Saints head to Newcastle. Despite its recent surprise draw with Arsenal, the bottom of the table club has lost four of five to drift six points south of the drop line. Newcastle, meanwhile, has won seven of eight matches to all but lock up a Champions League slot.

West Ham is five points clear of the relegation places and could nail down its survival with a win at Crystal Palace Saturday. A win would put the Hammers level on points with the currently 12th place Eagles.  

Premier League Results Matchweek 33: Manchester City Closes On Title With Win Over Arsenal; Spurs Claw Back At Old Trafford; Newcastle Pounds Toffees; Seagulls Ambushed at Forest; Survival Hopes Blossom For Fighting Cherries; Foxes Fall Into Drop Zone

Kevin De Bruyne was the best player on the pitch as the Belgian midfielder scored twice and assisted a third Manchester City goal in a 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal at the Etihad. It was a De Bruyne free kick that was headed in by John Stones in first half stoppage time to break the back of an Arsenal side which was on its back heels for the entirety of the first stanza. Erling Haaland assisted both of De Bruyne’s goals before scoring his own in the 95th minute to cap the scoring for City. The Norwegian wonder’s 34th Premier League goal broke a tie with Mohamed Salah for the league’s scoring record for a 38-match season. Manchester City overwhelmed an Arsenal side which has been flagging in recent weeks, the Gunners now having gone four matches without a win as their time at the top of the table quickly winds down. Arsenal’s defense, weakened by the absence of the injured William Saliba, has conceded 11 times during the winless run. Manchester City, meanwhile, seems to be peaking at the very best time and now trails by just two points in the Premier League title race with two matches in hand. City can thus afford to lose one of its remaining matches, an unlikely event based on current form, and still win the title.

The race for the top four looks just about run as Manchester United holds a six-point advantage with two matches in hand versus closest pursuers Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa. United Manager Erik ten Hag still can’t be overly pleased with Thursday’s 2-2 draw with Spurs. The Red Devils sprinted to a two-goal lead over a Tottenham Hotspur squad reeling from poor results and managerial chaos. The north London side responded, however, under latest interim manager Ryan Mason. The familiar combination of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min delivered the equalizer when the former crossed to the latter who found the net in the 79th minute. The point kept Spurs in fifth place above Aston Villa and Liverpool in the battle for a Europa League spot with Brighton lurking not far behind.

Newcastle United likely sealed its Championship League qualification with another scoring outburst in a 4-1 defeat of Everton. The victory at St. James Park marked the third time in the last five league games that the Magpies have scored at least four times. Callum Wilson struck for a brace as the Magpies have now scored ten goals in their last two matches. Newcastle has an eight-point edge in the table over fifth place Spurs in its bid to return to the Champions League for the first time in 25 years.

Aston Villa and Liverpool, meanwhile, are making a late sprint to lock in Europa League competition for next year. Aston Villa took another step towards Europe with a 1-0 home win over Fulham which saw defender Tyrone Mings score his first league goal in 55 appearances. Villa has now won eight of its last ten matches to surge up the table to sixth position, a point above Liverpool.

The Reds continued a late season run to salvage something of a disappointing season with a 2-1 win at West Ham. Defender Joel Matip’s first goal of the season proved the winner in the 67th minute of play.

The Reds survived a late match controversy when an apparent handball by Thiago in the 88th minute went uncalled, much to the vocal consternation of West Ham Manager David Moyes.

Brighton is still in contention for Europe, but the Seagulls did their cause damage in a shocking 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. Perhaps fatigued and dispirited by their FA Cup semifinal loss on the weekend, the Seagulls became the first club to lose to Nottingham Forest in almost three months. The Forest victory shakes up the relegation picture as the Tricky Trees moved out of the drop zone with the victory at their City Ground home where six of their seven wins this season have been achieved.

Manager Steve Cooper’s side moved a point beyond new relegation zone occupant Leicester with the win. The Foxes descended into the realm of doom despite salvaging a point with a late Jamie Vardy goal in a 1-1 draw at Leeds on Tuesday. Leeds improved on its two recent back-to-back drubbings at home but will rue dropping two points in a match the Whites dominated for long stretches and where striker Patrick Bamford muffed a close-range opportunity in the final minute. Luis Sinisterra’s 20th minute goal for Leeds ensured that Leicester remains the only club in the five major leagues of Europe to not keep a clean sheet since play resumed after the World Cup break. The Leicester defense, stingier than usual against Leeds, has conceded more goals this season than all but two other Premier League clubs. The Foxes even conceded three goals to Chelsea early in March, one of only two times this season that the London club scored three or more goals.

Chelsea’s goal production has almost completely disappeared under interim manager Frank Lampard as the Blues once again failed to score in a 2-0 home loss to Brentford on Wednesday. Chelsea has scored just once in its last seven matches across all competitions with a Conor Gallagher deflected score versus Brighton the only goal in five matches under Lampard. Chelsea fans are anxiously waiting on the rumored finalization of negotiations with Mauricio Pochettino to become the next Chelsea manger. Brentford won for the first time in more than a month as the Bees, once challenging for the European positions, are now looking to cinch a top half finish. Brentford is currently eight points above 11th place Chelsea.

Bournemouth, with its highly economical roster, is only three points below mega spending Chelsea in the Premier League table after the Cherries notched a 1-0 victory at Southampton. While the managers of clubs farther up the table such as Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Newcastle’s Eddie Howe, Aston Villa’s Unai Emery and Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi understandably dominate the conversations for Manager of the Year, the job done by Bournemouth’s Gary O’Neil should not be overlooked. The Cherries have made little change to the roster of a promoted squad which even former manager Scott Parker claimed was not Premier League quality. O’Neil and his “Fighting Cherries,” however, have defied the odds and are now seven points above the drop line after winning three of their last four and five of their last eight league matches.

Crystal Palace is safe, its mission accomplished after enjoying a new manager bounce under Roy Hodgson. The uncharacteristic goal flurry which marked the three early wins under Hodgson, however, appears over after the Eagles were held without a goal for a second consecutive match in a 2-0 loss to Wolves. The match was essentially over when Eagle defender Joachim Anderson deflected a ball into his own net in the third minute of the match. The victory for Wolves was the club’s third clean sheet win its last four matches and drew Manger Julen Lopetegui’s squad even with the 12th place Eagles in the table.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Midweek Matchweek 33 Premier League Preview

All eyes are focused on Wednesday’s match at the Etihad where defending Premier League champion Manchester City will host current league leader Arsenal. While Arsenal is five points ahead in the title chase, the Gunners have been stumbling of late with three consecutive draws. The Gunners conceded seven goals in those three matches and have failed to keep a clean sheet in five matches. The absence of injured center back William Saliba has been impactful for an Arsenal squad which may still be lacking the necessary depth for a Premier League champion. The Gunners showed heart in coming back from a two-goal deficit at Southampton, however, and hopefully regained some of their moxie as they head to the Etihad. Manchester City is in peak form, having won 11 of their last 12 matches across all competitions. While Arsenal is focused solely on the Premier League, Manchester City is still vying for Champions League and FA Cup tiles as well. Wednesday could well decide whether the Citizens successfully defend their league title.

Tottenham Hotspur’s top four hopes could be extinguished on Thursday when new interim manger Ryan Mason takes charge in front of the home fans as Spurs host Manchester United. Mason, who has been in this interim position before for Spurs, takes over the role while chairman Daniel Levy continues to look for a permanent solution. Mason replaced former interim manager Cristian Stellini after the debilitating loss to Newcastle last weekend. A loss to the Red Devils would drop Spurs nine points in the table behind United while having played one more match than the Manchester club. Back-to-back losses to the clubs they are chasing for Champions League qualification would put an exclamation point on Spurs’ recent failings.

Sixth place Aston Villa is vying for a Europa League berth as Manager Unai Emery’s side host Fulham on Tuesday. Villa is unbeaten in its last nine league outings to put itself in the European hunt. The Cottagers, meanwhile, have rebounded with back-to-back wins after sustaining four straight defeats in what has otherwise been a successful promotion season. Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic continues to serve a lengthy suspension for the Cottagers.

Leeds returns to Elland Road where they have conceded eleven goals in their last two home matches. A better performance will be required on Tuesday against Leicester if the Whites plan on playing Premier League football next season. The managerial tenure of Javi Gracia has gone into a tailspin after promising early returns. Eighteen goals conceded by the Whites so far in April is just two short of the Premier League record for any month, also held by Leeds. Three straight defeats have left Leeds just a point clear of the relegation line. Leeds is also a point clear of Leicester, with the Foxes safe only by virtue of a better goal differential than Everton. Leicester is hoping to have goal threats James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy healthy and available for Tuesday’s match which could spell more woe for the leaky Leeds defense.

Everton are home to Newcastle Thursday. The Toffees are without a win in their last five league matches and their survival chances could take another blow against a Newcastle side which steamrolled Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend.

Nottingham Forest, above only Southampton in the table, faces its own daunting task when the Tricky Trees host Brighton. Smarting from their penalty shootout loss in the FA Cup this past weekend, the Seagulls should be flying as they try to move up from their current eight position in the table and secure a place in Europe for next year.

Liverpool is a point above Brighton in the table but has played two more matches than the Seagulls. The Reds will be seeking a third consecutive league victory when they visit West Ham on Wednesday. The Hammers have also been exhibiting some late season form in winning three of their last five league matches while also advancing to the semifinals of the Europa Conference League. Not that many weeks ago, the Hammers were entangled in the relegation scuffle.

Southampton is still scuffling, barely, as the Saints are five points from safety entering Thursday’s home date with Bournemouth. The Cherries were hammered by West Ham in their last outing and a loss to the Saints could resurrect survival concerns for the Cherries.

Crystal Palace will try to extend its unbeaten run under Manager Roy Hodgson to five matches when the Eagle travel to Wolverhampton Tuesday. Hodgson has moved his boyhood club nine points clear of the drop line with his stellar return to south London. Notably, star Wilfried Zaha was injured in Hodgson’s first game in charge and has been sidelined during the subsequent success. Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has also ably filled in for the injured Vicente Guaita during the Eagles’s success and is keeping a now healthy Guaita on the bench. Wolves are three points behind the Eagles in the table after a disappointing loss to Leicester over the weekend. Goals are still scarce for Manager Julen Lopetegui’s side with only Everton and Nottingham Forest having found the net fewer times than Wolves this season. Crystal Palace has won the last four Premier League meetings between the two clubs.

Frank Lampard is still looking for his first win back as Chelsea manager when Brentford visits Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. The Blues have scored only one goal, that being a deflection, in four matches under Lampard. Brentford has also seen its performance tail off in the latter part of the season as the Bees have now gone six matches without a win. Both Chelsea and Brentford sit in the middle of the table, well beyond relegation worries but with no hopes for Europe.  

Arsenal Drops Points Again Despite Late Comeback; Newcastle Demolishes Spurs; Stellini Sacked; Foxes Trot Past Wolves; Toffees Fall Into Relegation Zone; Hammers Smash Cherries

Arsenal drew a third consecutive match as its title hopes further dimmed heading into Wednesday’s match at Manchester City. Title race nerves seemed on display when goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale passed inexplicably to a Southampton player to gift the Saints a goal only 30 seconds into the Gunners 3-3 tie. Southampton would extend to a 3-1 advantage, former Gunner Theo Walcott scoring the second goal for the Saints, before Arsenal staged a dramatic late comeback. Goals by Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka in the 88th and 90th minutes, respectively, had the Emirates Stadium rocking and imploring their heroes for a winner. The comeback fell short, however, as a Leandro Trossard shot sailed over the crossbar in stoppage time and the Gunners were left to rue their damaged title chances. The lead is now five points with Manchester City having two matches in hand.

The factual implication of Friday’s result is that Manchester City needs only a draw on Wednesday to control its own destiny. The psychological effect of Friday’s result is muddied. Clearly, Manchester City is thrilled. Arsenal cannot feel good about dropping points to the worst club in the league, by record, at such a critical juncture of the season. Arsenal did, however, show character in their late comeback, digging deep and getting clutch goals from two of their young stars. Even so, points were dropped and a title further endangered. The Gunners have now dropped six of the last nine points available to them during this run-in. Southampton will also have mixed feelings about Friday’s outcome. A point against the league leaders would have been unexpected entering the match. The relegation threatened Saints, however, had a two-goal lead with two minutes to play and collapsed, allowing two vital points to slip away.

Newcastle United humiliated Tottenham Hotspur in a 6-1 shellacking of a team chasing the Magpies for a top four berth. Spurs, however, showed none of the quality or grit of a Champions League participant when the north Londoners shipped five goals in the first 21 minutes at St. James Park. Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy scored two goals in the first 10 minutes. Alexander Isak had his two goals by the 21-minute mark. Joelinton scored in the 6th minute for the Magpies while Callum Wilson added the sixth goal in the second half after matters were already settled. Tottenham Hotspur Manager Cristian Stellini instituted an unfamiliar back four alignment for this match which his defenders seemed unable to comprehend. The former Antonio Conte assistant was sacked the next day. Newcastle and Manchester United are now both six points ahead of Spurs in the final four chase.

Aston Villa, meanwhile, captured a point at Brentford to move within two points of fifth place Spurs. An 87th minute goal by Douglas Luiz extended Villa’s unbeaten run to nine matches but ended a five-match winning streak.

Leicester is out of the relegation zone after the Foxes captured a much needed 2-1 win over Wolverhampton in Manager Dean Smith’s home debut as Leicester manager. Playing without unwell star James Maddison, Leicester got goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Tim Castagne to put down Wolves and earn the first win for the Foxes since February 11th.

Everton fell into the bottom three after a goalless draw at Crystal Palace. Despite the effect in the table, the Toffees did well to snap a three-match winning run by Crystal Palace and Manager Roy Hodgson. Everton held the Eagles to no goals and only two shots on target after Palace had scored nine goals in winning Hodgson’s first three matches in charge. The Toffees live to fight another day with the Evertonians trailing 17th place Leicester on goal differential alone and Leeds just a point beyond the Toffees and Foxes.

Leeds lost a third consecutive match, their fourth defeat in five matches, as Fulham were 2-1 victors at Craven Cottage. Leeds looked better after humiliating losses in their previous two outings, where they conceded 11 goals in aggregate, but moral victories are worth little at this time of year. Harry Wilson and Andres Perriera scored for Fulham while teammate Joao Paulinha was guilty of a 79th minute own goal which provided a glint of hope for Leeds and made the final minutes interesting.

Nottingham Forest lost for the sixth time in their last seven matches as the tricky Trees were unsurprisingly cut down 3-2 at Liverpool. Diego Jota scored a brace and Mohamed Salah had the winner to keep Liverpool’s European hopes alive. The Reds moved past Brighton, otherwise occupied with FA Cup business this weekend, into seventh place in the table with the win.

FA Cup

It will be Red versus Blue in an all-Manchester FA Cup final on June 3rd. Manchester City advanced 3-0 over Sheffield United as Riyad Mahrez took a star turn with a hat trick against the Blades on Saturday. Mahrez’s goal haul was the first hat trick in an FA Cup semifinal since 1958. The victory kept Manchester City in the chase for a title treble while the ease of victory allowed Guardiola to give some of his stars a rest before Wednesday’s showdown with Arsenal in the Premier League title chase. The Citizens will face their cross-town rival Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

The Red Devils eliminated Brighton 7-6 on penalty kicks when Victor Lindelof converted his penalty after the Seagulls’ Solly March committed the only miss of 14 kicks by the two clubs. The match was goalless through regulation and extra time as goalkeepers David De Gea and Robert Sanchez were the star performers for the Red Devils and Seagulls, respectively. United have a chance to capture a second cup title of the season, having already won the Carabao Cup back in February. The two Manchester sides will face each other in an FA Cup final for the first time.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 32

Arsenal has the perfect opportunity Friday to correct its current wobble and regain some confidence in advance of next Wednesday’s match with Manchester City. The top of the table Gunners are home on Saturday to bottom of the table Southampton. Arsenal has scored fifty more goals this season than the Saints and are 51 points above them in the table. Look for the Gunners to get back on track against a young and inexperienced Southampton club which will be playing in the second-tier next season.

The top four race, meanwhile, will see Tottenham Hotspur away at Newcastle. A win by Spurs would place the north London side level on points with the fourth place Magpies. Newcastle, however, has lost just once this season at St. James Park while Tottenham Hotspur has lost its last six away matches across all competitions.

The top four may be out of reach for eighth place Liverpool but the Reds are still contending for a Europa League berth. Liverpool is home to Nottingham Forest this weekend for what should be an automatic three points. Anfield remains an intimidating fortress for the Reds while Forest seems ticketed for relegation after losing seven of ten matches since their last win in early February.

Aston Villa has entered the conversation for Europe by winning their last five matches. Manager Unai Emery has his club sixth in the table as the Villans head to Brentford. The Bees have drifted down to ninth in the table following three straight losses.

Crystal Place has won three consecutive matches since the appointment of Manager Roy Hodgson, scoring nine goals in the process. The Eagles are home this weekend to struggling Everton. The Toffees will be hoping for a boost from the return of striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Everton’s 24 goals on the season are the joint lowest in the Premier League.

Leeds, on the other hand, have conceded the most goals in the league. The Whites visit London this weekend for a match with Fulham. The Cottagers remain without suspended striker Aleksandar Mitrovic but should be able to find some goals at home against the leaky Leeds defense.

Manager Dean Smith has a better chance this weekend to notch a first win in charge of Leicester after the Foxes were easily handled by Manchester City in Smith’s debut. This weekend the Foxes are home to Wolves. A victory at King Power could lift the Foxes to safety.

Wolverhampton, however, has kept clean sheets in back-to-back wins as Manager Julen Lopetegui’s squad continues to push clear of the relegation battle.

Bournemouth has also improved its survival chances by winning three of the Cherries’ last four matches to rise six points above the drop line. Fourteenth place Bournemouth is two points better in the table than Sunday opponent West Ham as both clubs try to pull free of the relegation fight. The schedule is limited to eight matches this weekend due to three Premier League clubs participating in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley.

FA Cup

The FA Cup semifinals will see Manchester City face Championship squad Sheffield United Saturday with Brighton taking on Manchester United on Sunday. Sheffield United looks headed back to the Premier League as they close in on automatic promotion from the second tier.  The Blades will be forced to bench two of their better players, however, as Tommy Doyle and James McAtee are both on loan from the Citizens. Manchester City is competing to complete a treble by winning the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League. Brighton will be trying to reach an FA Cup final for the first time in forty years when they face Manchester United on Sunday. Coincidentally, it was the Red Devils who defeated Brighton in that 1983 final. Manchester United is stumbling into this match after a poor outing in Sevilla on Thursday where the Red Devils were bounced from the Europa League.

Premier League in Europe

West Ham, still engaged in the Premier League relegation fight, will nevertheless be in a European cup semifinal for a second consecutive year. The Hammers won Thursday’s Europa Conference League match 4-1 over Gent to advance in the tournament as Michail Antonio found the net twice.

Manchester United was embarrassed in a 3-0 Europa League defeat to Sevilla. Harry Maguire and David De Gea were guilty of gaffes and the rest of the squad contributed little as the Red Devils exited European competition. After holding a two-goal lead with ten minutes remaining in last week’s first leg, the Red Devils conceded five consecutive goals to the Spanish side.

Manchester City will face Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals. A 1-1 draw was more than sufficient on Wednesday to eliminate Bayern Munich 4-1 on aggregate. Erling Haaland scored his 48th goal of the season for Manchester City.

Real Madrid advanced with a second consecutive 2-0 win over Chelsea. Frank Lampard lost a fourth consecutive match since taking over as Chelsea manager. Chelsea’s problems in front of net continued as N’Golo Kante inexplicably fired wide on a clear and unmolested chance while Marc Cucarella took an eternity to settle the ball on a golden opportunity ultimately saved by Real Madrid, and former Chelsea, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 31: Arsenal Draws Again; Two More for Haaland; Lampard Still Seeking Win; Eagles Soar Over Saints; Villa Closing In On Europe; Spurs Topped By Cherries; Liverpool Crushes Leeds

Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead for a second consecutive week as the Gunners’ hopes for a title took yet another hit. The advantage over second place Manchester City is now just four points after the Gunners’ 2-2 draw at West Ham. The Gunners have dropped four points in their last two matches, which has opened the door for Manchester City. Arsenal started well again, blitzing the Hammers for two goals in the opening ten minutes of play. Gabriel Jesus opened scoring with his fourth goal in his last three appearances. Marin Odegaard then doubled the lead before Gunner mistakes provided hope for a West Ham club which had been thoroughly outplayed in the game’s early stages. A careless giveaway by Thomas Partey preceded Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes taking down the Hammers’ Lucas Paqueta inside the box. Said Benrahma buried the penalty kick, and the Hammers were in the match. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka had a chance to regain control for Arsenal but failed on his own penalty kick, unfortunately linking the standout young player with yet another penalty kick miss in a big moment as was the case with England’s loss in the 2021 European Championship final. Three minutes after Saka’s miss, Jarrod Bowen scored the equalizer to damage Arsenal’s title chances. Credit to West Ham and Manager David Moyes for clawing back from the brink by getting a result in four of the last five league matches to move four points above the drop zone.

Manchester City won their sixth consecutive Premier League match as Erling Haaland registered a brace in a 3-1 defeat of Leicester. Haaland’s goal count in the league is now 32, matching Mohamed Salah’s record for a 38 match Premier League season, with eight matches left to be played. No player has scored 40 in the English topflight since Jimmy Greaves in 1960/61. The Citizens are in the FA semifinals next weekend so their next league match will be the likely season decider versus Arsenal on April 26th.

New Leicester Manager Dean Smith was rudely welcomed back to the league as many question why he would make the jump onto the sinking Leicester ship in the first place.

Newcastle had a five-match winning run snapped at Aston Villa where Villa manager Unai Emery has turned things around since taking over for Steven Gerrard with the Villans in 16th place earlier this season. Emery could now be headed back to the Europa League where the Spanish manager has won the title on four different occasions. Aston Villa have crept up to sixth in the table after winning seven times in a current eight match unbeaten run in the league. Ollie Watkins posted a brace in the 3-0 defeat of Newcastle and now has 14 goals on the season.

The Villans are just three points behind fifth place Tottenham Hotspur after Spurs was shocked at home by Bournemouth. The Cherries continued their surprising late season run with a dramatic 95th minute goal by Dango Ouattara which delivered Bournemouth’s third win in its last four matches.

Six points now separate Bournemouth from the drop line. Spurs, meanwhile, continue to frustrate and befuddle their fan base with wildly inconsistent results. Failing to capitalize on Newcastle’s loss to Aston Villa was another blow to Tottenham Hotspur’s top four hopes as the fifth place north London club remained three points behind Newcastle while having played one more match than the Magpies.

Seventh place Brighton has played two fewer matches than the two clubs immediately in front of them as the Seagulls lurk one point behind Aston Villa and four points behind Spurs. The south coast club enjoyed their trip to London over the weekend as the Seagulls overcame an early deficit to win 2-1 at Chelsea. Conor Gallagher scored Chelsea’s first goal in five matches on an 11th minute deflection to give the Blues an early lead at Stamford Bridge. Brighton, however, dominated play by controlling possession and launching no less than 26 shots, 10 of which were on target. The 26 shots were the most ever faced by Chelsea in a Premier League match. The equalizing and winning goals by Danny Welbeck and Julio Enciso, respectively, thus had an air of inevitability as Chelsea kept a perfect record of losses in all three of Frank Lampard’s matches since his return as Chelsea manager.

Manchester United broke a deadlock with Newcastle to take sole possession of third place in the table with a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest. Antony scored the opener and assisted Manchester United’s second goal by Diogo Dalot. Playing without both staring center backs and leading soccer Marcus Rashford proved no obstacle to prevailing over a Forest club languishing in the relegation zone and seeking a first win since the 5th of February, a run of ten consecutive non-winning efforts.

Crystal Palace is now perfect in three matches under new and former manager Roy Hodgson. Eberechi Eze, who struggled for playing time in the latter stages of Manager Patrick Vieira’s reign, scored both goals for the soaring Eagles in a 2-0 win over Southampton. Hodgson is delivering on his mandate to keep Palace safe as the Eagles moved nine points clear of the drop line with a perfect nine points from the manager’s three matches in charge. Southampton meanwhile continues to drift south as it seems a miracle will be required for the bottom of the table Saints to survive.

Everton’s survival hangs by a thread after the Toffees were chewed up by Fulham in a 3-1 loss at Goodison Park. Everton have the same number of points as Nottingham Forest but would stay up on goal differential if the season were to end today. The capitulation at home to an out of form Fulham club was a surprise as Everton surrendered three goals or more for just the second time under Manager Sean Dyche, the other time being against league leading Arsenal. The Cottagers ended a run of five straight defeats. Still missing the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham got goals from Harrison Reed, Harry Wilson and Daniel James to capture the away win.

Wolves clawed further away from the relegation battle with a 2-0 win over Brentford which puts Wolves seven points clear of the drop. Brentford lost for a third consecutive match and is perhaps losing interest in the season. The Bees are safe in the middle of the table with European qualification now unlikely as Brentford finds itself six points behind seventh place Brighton despite having played two additional games. Former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid star Diego Costa scored his first Premier League goal in over six years in the first half of Wolverhampton’s win while Hwang Hee-Chan provided the insurance goal.

Leeds was humiliated for a second consecutive week on their home pitch at Elland Road in a 6-1 Monday loss to Liverpool. The scoreline last week was 5-1 in a home defeat to Crystal Palace. Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota had braces for Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold  had two assists to reach 50 in his Premier League career. Leeds remains two points north of the drop with a worrying degradation in goal differential after the two heavy losses. Leeds now leads the league in the dubious category of conceded goals, having shipped 60 to the opposition in their 31 matches.

Premier League in Europe

The second legs of the European cup competitions take place this week. Chelsea can shock the world if the underperforming Blues can overcome a two-goal deficit versus Real Madrid when the sides line up Tuesday for a Champions League match at Stamford Bridge. Manchester City, meanwhile, brings a three-goal advantage into its Wednesday match at Bayern Munich. Erling Haaland leads this year’s Champions League with 11 goals to date. Manchester United travels to Sevilla Thursday for a Europa League rematch with the two clubs level on two goals apiece after the first leg at Old Trafford. The Red Devils squandered a two-goal lead in the first meeting against the Spanish side which is struggling domestically this season to avoid La Liga relegation. West Ham, having much improved its own domestic standing in recent weeks, tries to keep its European cup hopes alive when the Hammers host Gent on Thursday for the second leg of their Europa Conference League tie. The two clubs drew 1-1 in Belgium last week.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 31

Arsenal will look to bounce back from last week’s Liverpool draw when the Gunners visit London Stadium to face West Ham. The lead in the table is down to six points over Manchester City which has a match in hand. Given the form of Manchester City, Arsenal might well have to win all their remaining matches which will include a titanic battle with City at the Emirates in less than two weeks. In the meantime, Arsenal can’t let down against lesser opponents such as the Hammers. West Ham is just three points from the relegation places entering Sunday’s match. West Ham Manager David Moyes has taken only one point out of a possible 18 for the Hammers in six previous Premier League matches against Arsenal and Manager Mikel Arteta.

Manchester City, meanwhile, plays host to a Leicester side which has already settled into the drop zone. The Foxes have lost seven of eight in the league as they take the pitch for the first time under new manager Dean Smith.

Two of the hottest clubs in the league square up at Villa Park where sixth place Aston Villa, winners of six of their last seven matches, play host to a Newcastle side which has won five straight matches to move into third place in the Premier League table. Newcastle has struggled at Villa Park, failing to win in its last six league visits.

Manchester United is level on points with the Magpies but trails Newcastle on a much poorer goal differential. The Red Devils will be on the road at Nottingham Forest Saturday without the services of Manchester United leading scorer Marcus Rashford and its first-choice center back pairing of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. The Trees have also been far trickier at home this season where five of their six victories have occurred. Forest is currently in the drop zone due to a worse goal differential than Everton.

The Toffees are home at Goodison Park to host struggling Fulham and former Everton manager Marco Silva. The Cottagers remain without suspended striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and have lost their last four league outings.

Tottenham Hotspur remain in the top four chase under interim manager Cristian Stellini as they host Bournemouth on Saturday. The north London squad is three points behind Newcastle and Manchester United and has a better goal differential than the Red Devils. Spurs, however, have played a game more than either of the other two top four contenders. Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil continues to work wonders with arguably the league’s thinnest roster. The Cherries have won three of their last five matches to rise from the dead and are currently three points above the drop line. Leeds is a point behind the Cherries, two points above the drop zone, as Manager Javi Gracia tries to rally his troops after their demoralizing home defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Whites remain at the scene of last week’s crime, Elland Road, as they are home to Liverpool on Saturday. Eighth place Liverpool is on the fringes of the fight for European qualification as Jurgen Klopp’s multi-year run of high-level success, at least with this group of players, seems to be nearing an end.

Chelsea is yet another club which has tumbled from its accustomed place in the table. There seems little chance that the 11th place Blues will have to worry about the distractions of European qualification next year. Manager Frank Lampard takes a third swing at getting a result in his current interim gig when Chelsea face Brighton at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard replaced Graham Potter at Chelsea. His opposite number this weekend, Roberto De Zerbi, replaced Potter at Brighton when the currently unemployed Potter left Brighton for Chelsea. Things have gone remarkably better for Brighton than they have for Chelsea since Graham Potter changed clubs. The seventh place Seagulls are seven points better than the Blues despite having played two fewer matches. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be trying to score for the first time in five matches across all competitions. Lampard made his debut in a 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton which lifted Wolves four points clear of the drop zone.

Wolves are again at home where they will face Brentford. The Bees have been stung for back-to-back losses which have muted talk of a European berth for Manager Thomas Frank’s squad. Saturday’s match presents quite a contrast between the two attacks. The Bees, led by the 18 goals of striker Ivan Toney, are the seventh highest scoring team in the Premier League. The 24 goals scored by Wolves are the joint second lowest total in the league.

Southampton has scored the same number of goals as Wolverhampton as the Saints pray for more against high flying Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace looks like a different team in two victories in as many outings since Roy Hodgson began a second managerial stint with the club. The Eagles found the net five times versus Leeds last weekend as young players like Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze flashed their potential.

Premier League in Europe

The Champions League matches for Premier League sides featured two clubs moving in different directions. Manchester City seems to be approaching peak form as the Citizens swept aside Bayern Munich 3-0 on Tuesday. Chelsea, meanwhile, continues to unravel as the Blues failed to score for a fourth consecutive match across all competitions. A 2-0 loss at Real Madrid was the second consecutive loss for Chelsea under new manager Frank Lampard. Manchester City were magnificent. Their defense blunted the attack of the German side while their attack sparkled. Rodri opened the scoring with a long-range wonder goal from the defensive midfielder. Erling Haaland then showed he can create as well as finish goals by setting up teammate Bernardo Silva’s header for a two-goal advantage. Haaland then capped the scoring with his 45th goal of the season across all competitions. Chelsea can only dream of such scoring prowess. Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling had chances which they muffed. No one else came even close to finding the net as a lot of Chelsea’s high priced attacking talent, such as Mykhailo Mudryk, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech remained on the bench while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t even make the squad. Defensively, transfer acquisitions Wesley Fofana and Marc Cucarella weren’t up to the task and Ben Chilwell, attempting to cover for an error by Cucarella, was red carded in the 61st minute. Given the circumstances, Chelsea was fortunate to come away with just a 2-0 deficit, victimized by goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Ascensio.

Two early goals by Marcel Sabitzer had Manchester United on cruise control in their Europa League match at Old Trafford versus Sevilla. Things did not remain that way as a series of disasters unfolded. Both United center backs, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez left the match due to injury. Martinez was stretchered off and presents a potentially longer-term issue. A Bruno Fernandes yellow card means he won’t be available for the second leg. Fearing a potential red card for the emotional Fernandes, Manager Eric ten Hag removed the midfielder from the match. The decision to remove Fernandes and to substitute out Anthony Martial hurt the Red Devils’ chances to kill off the match with a third goal. Victory still seemed assured until misfortune stuck in the form of two own goals in the closing stages of the match. Manchester United defender Tyrell Malacia was victimized for Sevilla’s first score in the 84th minute. Harry Maguire, the much-maligned club captain forced into service by the earlier injuries, then diverted the equalizing Sevilla goal off his head into the Manchester United net in the 92nd minute of play. Manchester United thus scored all four goals in a match which keeps Sevilla’s chances alive as the tie heads for Spain. Sevilla, despite fighting for survival this season in La Liga, can’t be easily dismissed based on its historical success in this tournament.

West Ham also posted a draw in a 1-1 Europa Conference League result at Gent. Balancing the club’s Premier League relegation battle against the possibility of a cup title, and European qualification next year, made for some difficult personnel decisions by West Ham Manager David Moyes. Moyes made six changes to his line-up Thursday and a weakened Hammer side was perhaps fortunate to keep matters level heading into the second leg at London Stadium. Supporters won’t feel that way, however, after the Belgians equalized in the 54th minute after a Danny Ings’s first half stoppage time goal for West Ham. The Hammers would manage only four shots in total and two shots on target for the match.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 30: Arsenal Drops Points at Anfield; Lampard Fails in Chelsea Debut; Sparks Fly in Spurs Win; Streaking Newcastle Overcomes Early Bee Sting; Eagles Soar Over Leeds; Villa Cuts Down Forest

Arsenal missed a chance to snap a ten-year winless streak at Anfield and take a step closer to the Premier League title, when the Gunners fumbled away a late lead in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool. The league leaders sprinted to an early two-goal lead in the match on goals by Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus. The Gunners then seemed to tap the brakes and Liverpool took advantage, spurred on by the vocal Anfield faithful. Mohamed Salah would narrow the deficit for Liverpool shortly before halftime. The Reds were then the more aggressive team in the second half as the Gunners resorted to time wasting tactics only to be caught out by a Bobby Firmino equalizer in the 87th minute. A missed second Salah penalty kick between the two Liverpool scores would have given the match to Liverpool and truly demoralized the Gunners. As it is, the dropped points by Arsenal injects drama back into a title race which Arsenal has led for most of the season. A curious event occurred at the end of the first half when Liverpool player Andy Robertson was apparently elbowed in the throat by a linesman annoyed with Robertson’s whining complaints. The official has been suspended as an investigation ensues.

Manchester City had little problem in downing Southampton 4-1 as Erling Haaland scored twice, including a stunning overhead bicycle kick goal. Haaland’s goal haul in the league now stands at an eyepopping 30 goals.

The Citizens trail in the title race by six points with a game in hand and look towards a possible season deciding match with the Gunners at the Etihad later this month.

There was no new manager bounce from the Frank Lampard appointment as Chelsea exhibited its usual failures in a 1-0 loss at Wolverhampton. Yet another poor performance by Chelsea attackers, unfazed by a new manager, leaves Chelsea with fewer goals than matches played in the Premier League this season. The Blues managed just a single shot on target for the match. Wolverhampton secured a useful three points in their survival battle on a 31st minute goal by Matheus Nunez, putting Wolves four points clear of the drop zone.

Newcastle extended its winning run in the league to five matches with a 2-1 win at Brentford. Two second half goals gave the Magpies a come from behind win after an Ivan Toney penalty kick had given the Bees a one goal halftime lead. After being held without a shot on target in the first half, Newcastle knotted the score when a cross by the Magpies’ Joelinton was deflected into the goal by Brentford goalkeeper David Raya. Newcastle’s Alexander Isak would later hit the winner for the visitors, assisted by fellow striker Callum Wilson. Newcastle is third in the table, remaining level on points but with a better goal differential than Manchester United. Two consecutive losses and a four-match winless run have put a serious dent in ninth place Brentford’s hopes of European play next season.

Manchester United rolled past Everton 2-0 at Old Trafford despite nine saves by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Scott McTominay and Antony Martial provided the scoring for Manchester United. Marcus Rashford assisted on Martial’s goal in the 71st minute before pulling up with a suspected groin injury eight minutes later. The loss of Rashford to injury could have major consequences for Manchester United’s season where the club is contending to win the Europa League and FA Cup titles while securing a top four finish in the league. The Red Devils lead Spurs by three points in the Premier League table with a match in hand in the battle for the final Champions League place. United could also qualify for Europe’s top competition by taking the Europa League title this season.

There were fireworks on and off the pitch in a 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur win over Brighton. Son Heung-min scored his 100th Premier League goal and Harry Kane became the first Premier League player to score 100 goals both home and away in the league.

The match was marked, however, by questionable officiating and friction between Brighton manger Roberto De Zerbi and interim Spurs manager Cristian Stellini. Both managers were tossed after a pre-match argument exploded into more ugliness during the second half of the match itself. Unflattering comments purportedly made by Stellini to the press about his fellow Italian manager apparently caused De Zerbi to feel disrespected. The fiery De Zerbi faces his third touchline ban of the season. De Zerbi and the Seagulls also have reason to be unhappy with the match officials on calls which went against them in Saturday’s match. An apology was issued Sunday by the referees’ association admitting Brighton should have been awarded a penalty kick when Kaoru Mitoma was clearly fouled in the penalty area. Mitoma and teammate Alex Mac Allister also had goals disallowed on handball findings as Spurs were fortunate to emerge with the three points on the day.

Aston Villa continued a stealthy rise in the table with a 2-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest. Villa moved a point beyond Brighton into sixth with the win, though having played two additional matches than the Seagulls. Ollie Watkins scored for a third consecutive match as he and Bernard Traore provided the goals just as the duo had done in Tuesday’s win over Leicester. Nottingham Forest descended into the relegation zone with a fourth loss in its last five league matches.

Crystal Palace has now won both of its matches since Roy Hodgson’s return to the club as the change from Patrick Vieira to the 75-year-old Hodgson seems a master stroke off early returns. The Eagles are suddenly dangerous. After a 5-1 demolition of Leeds, the Eagles have the same number of goals in two matches under Hodgson as they had scored in the previous 15 matches under Vieira. Leeds looked headed for a fine day after Patrick Bamford scored his 50th goal for the club in the first minute. Marc Guehi, however, equalized for Palace just before halftime. Four second half goals by Crystal Palace then stunned the Leeds supporters at Elland Road. Jordan Ayew had two second half goals for Crystal Palace while Michael Olise orchestrated the Palace attack with three assists. Eberechi Exe and Odsonne Edouard were the other second half goal scorers for the high-flying Eagles. Leeds’s defensive collapse, meanwhile, reminded the home crowd why Leeds is in a relegation fight.

Only Bournemouth have conceded more goals than Leeds this season. The Cherries, however, have allowed only one goal in three wins they’ve notched since going bottom of the table on March 4th. Bournemouth’s 1-0 win over Leicester on Saturday moved the Cherries three points clear of the drop zone. The feeble Foxes, meanwhile, lost for a seventh time in eight matches as they languish in the bottom three. Into the fray now marches new interim manager Dean Smith who presided over Norwich’s relegation last season. Former  Leeds Manager Jesse Marsch was reportedly also in the mix to take on the failing Fox project.

West Ham kept pace with Bournemouth as the two survival scrappers remained level on points after the Hammers won a 1-0 decision at Craven Cottage. A 23rd minute own goal by the Cottagers’ Harrison Reed gave the points to an underwhelming West Ham. Fulham, meanwhile, lost a fourth consecutive league match as leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic as well as Manager Marco Silva were serving suspensions on the weekend.

Premier League in Europe

The quarter finals of the European Cups kick off this week. Former Chelsea Manager Thomas Tuchel returns to England as he leads Bayern Munich against Manchester City in a Champions League match on Tuesday. Tuchel defeated Manchester City and Manager Pep Guardiola in Chelsea’s 1-0 win in the 2021 Champions League final. Current Chelsea Manager Frank Lampard faces a tall task on Wednesday as he leads the Blues against defending Champions League winners Real Madrid and yet another former Chelsea manager in Carlo Ancelotti. Manchester United will host another La Liga club when Sevilla visits Old Trafford for a Europa League match with the Red Devils on Thursday. Another Thursday match will see West Ham at Gent in a Europa Conference League quarterfinal.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 30

Frank Lampard makes his return as Chelsea manager when the Blues visit Wolverhampton this weekend. The surprise move for Lampard as interim manager after the sacking of Graham Potter does nothing to dispel fears that Chelsea ownership may not yet have the hang of this Premier League thing. The American owners have now dismissed world class manager Thomas Tuchel to hire the unproven Potter only to now bring back a Chelsea manager who the club sacked two years ago and who was found wanting by Everton earlier this season. Maybe it will work. While the focus is on Lampard’s return, the match may be more important for Wolves who are just a point from the relegation zone after winning just one of their last seven league matches.

League leading Arsenal, meanwhile, has won seven consecutive matches to put a foot on the throat of second place Manchester City. The Gunners travel to Anfield Sunday to try to win at Liverpool for the first time in ten years. Liverpool and Manager Jurgen Klopp earned their first point in three matches in an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Chelsea under the temporary management of career assistant Bruno Saltor. Manchester City is expected to have Erling Haaland available when the Citizens take to the pitch at Southampton Saturday.

Newcastle will be in London for a second consecutive match when the Magpies visit Brentford just days after the Magpies’ dominant 5-1 win at West Ham. The Bees will be motivated to re-energize their hopes for a European place after dropping seven of their last nine available points in the league.

Aston Villa has moved past the Bees in the table by winning five of six matches capped by a 2-1 win at spiraling Leicester Tuesday. The Villans, who will host relegation battler Nottingham Forest this weekend, are in seventh position in the table which would mean a Europa Conference League berth for Manager Unai Emery and his resurgent club. Emery’s men were 2-1 winners over spiraling Leicester during the week.

Brighton remains two points above Aston Villa after a 2-0 win over Bournemouth during the week. Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi has been a roaring success for the Seagulls. A club which struggled to score goals under former manager Graham Potter has now notched 51 goals in the Premier League this season, just three fewer than the club’s full season record. Brighton is on the road at Tottenham Hotspur this weekend. Spurs have won just one of their last six matches across all competitions and looked particularly poor at Everton last Monday. Harry Kane, however, can make some more history. A goal on Saturday would make Kane the first Premier League player to score 100 goals both home and away.

Manchester United are back in the top four after Marcus Rashford scored his fifteenth Premier League goal of the season in a 1-0 home win over Brentford during the week. The Red Devils are again at Old Trafford where they will host Everton. The Toffees are on a four-match unbeaten run, though drawing three of those contests. Everton is on 27 points with three other clubs occupying places 15 through 18 in the table as they battle to survive.

Bournemouth is currently the odd man out in the survival scrap based on goal differential and the Cherries have a key relegation rumble at Leicester on Saturday. The Foxes are two points deeper into the drop zone, above only Southampton, and have lost seven matches and one manager in recent weeks.

West Ham, meanwhile, faces a critical London derby at Fulham. The Hammers were embarrassed in their 5-1 home defeat versus Newcastle Wednesday. Manager David Moyes’s underperforming group are outside the drop on goal differential alone after the mistake filled capitulation to the Magpies. Fulham are safe in the middle of the table despite three consecutive league defeats and an eight-match suspension levied on striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for accosting a match official.

Leeds took a big step towards survival with a 2-1 win at Elland Road over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday. The victory was the second in three matches for the Whites who moved two points above the drop line. Leeds will be home again on Sunday to face Crystal Palace. The 12th place Eagles are just a point above Leeds in the table as they try to navigate their own survival battel under familiar manager Roy Hodgson.