Friday, May 5, 2023

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 35

Arsenal’s fading title hopes face a major challenge on Saturday when the Gunners visit third place Newcastle. Arsenal trails Manchester City by a point and the Citizens have a match in hand. A loss to Newcastle could prove fatal for the Gunners as Manchester City shows no signs of letting up, having won nine consecutive league matches. Arsenal rebounded from its recent loss to City by beating up on defenseless Chelsea at the Emirates on Tuesday to end a four-match winless run. Newcastle, meanwhile, is trying to put the finishing touches on a top four season. A two-point lead on Manchester United is not as critical as the six-point advantage the Magpies currently hold on a late charging Liverpool club. Newcastle should present a formidable threat for the Gunners at St. James Park where the Magpies have lost just once this season.

Manchester City is home to Leeds where Sam Allardyce will make his debut as manager for the survival threatened Whites. Allardyce’s task will be daunting as Manchester City knows it can afford no letup in its race with Arsenal despite next week’s looming Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid. Limiting the damage at the Etihad could be important for Leeds, however, as the tight relegation race could well come down to goal differential tiebreakers.

Manchester United’s grip on its top four position looks just a little less assured after its defeat at Brighton on Thursday. The Red Devils’ lead on streaking Liverpool is four points with a match in hand as United heads to West Ham this weekend. The Hammers are trying to swim clear of the relegation scramble as they currently sit four points above the drop line.

Liverpool, at home to Brentford this weekend, is making an unexpected late season run as the Reds try to crash the top four party. Liverpool has won five consecutive matches to close in on Manchester United in a late bid for Champions League qualification.

Not far behind Liverpool is Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls flew by Tottenham Hotspur in the table to land in sixth position in the table after the dramatic win over Manchester United Thursday. Brighton will be home to a desperate Everton side on Monday. The Toffees are next to bottom in the table as they face the prospect of their first ever relegation from the Premier League.

Nottingham Forest is one of three clubs just a point above Everton in the table. Forest is currently the odd man out in the congested survival race as Leicester and Leeds are presently safe on goal differential. Manager Steve Cooper’s side should have a golden opportunity to improve its position when the Tricky Trees host cellar dwelling Southhampton on Monday. The Saints are six points south of the three clubs in the current thirty-point club.

Leicester has been able to rise out of the relegation zone, albeit only on goal differential, by capturing five of nine available points in a three-match unbeaten run. The Foxes trot off to London on Monday to face Fulham. The 10th place Cottagers have lost three consecutive matches, all to clubs above them in the table.

Crystal Palace is five points back of Fulham. A top half finish by either the Eagles or Cottagers would not have been a popular bet before the season. The Eagles have soared up the table after the appointment of Manager Roy Hodgson. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, has fallen out of the top four since the departure of Manager Antonio Conte. The north London side has lost three out of four matches to drop to seventh in the table and raise concern that there will be no European football next season for whoever the new manager is. Interim Manager Ryan Mason will try to get the club back on track Saturday when Spurs host a London derby versus Palace.

Aston Villa is level on points with Spurs, with a razor thin deficiency in goal differential, as the clubs battle for Europa League and Europa Conference League qualification. Manager Unai Emery takes his Villa squad to Wolverhampton Sunday as he tries to lead the Birmingham club back into European competition for the first time since the 2010/11 season.

Chelsea is shockingly closer to relegation than European competition. The Blues visit Bournemouth Saturday for their latest attempt to win a game under beleaguered manager Frank Lampard. Chelsea has lost all six matches, scoring just two goals, since Lampard took charge. A seventh consecutive loss would equal a club record. Bournemouth, on the other hand, is on a remarkable run of success under Manager Gary O’ Neil. The Cherries were in the relegation zone as recently as April 4th but are now level on points with Chelsea after winning five of their last six matches.  

Premier League Midweek Results

Erling Haaland established a new single season Premier League goal scoring record with his 35th league goal of the season in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over West Ham. Haaland surpassed Andy Cole and Alan Shearer, each of whom had scored 34 goals in a longer 42 match season. Haaland’s teammates rewarded him with a guard of honor following a match which marked the Citizens’ ninth straight victory in the league and pushed Manager Pep Guardiola’s squad to the top of the Premier League table, one point above Arsenal.

A Mohamed Salah penalty kick, his 18th goal of the season, gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Fulham. The victory at Anfield was a fifth straight win for Liverpool as it continued a late season surge which has seen the Reds rise to fifth in the table.

Brighton is only four points behind Liverpool, with two matches in hand, after the Seagulls defeated Manchester United 1-0 on Thursday. Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty kick in the final seconds of the match delivered revenge for a Brighton side which lost its FA Cup semifinal match with Manchester United less than two weeks ago in a penalty shootout. Luke Shaw inexplicably committed the handball leading to Mac Allister’s try as the Red Devils lost their seventh away match of the season.

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