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.

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