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.  

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