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.  

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