Friday, November 24, 2023

Premier League Preview Match Week 13: Manchester City Hosts Liverpool; Everton Returns To Pitch 10 Points Lighter

The Premier League returns to a crowded title chase and a major change at the bottom of the table. The weekend begins with a blockbuster match for its first scheduled contest on Saturday. League leading Manchester City is home to second place Liverpool with the lead in the table at stake. Liverpool and Arsenal are both just one point behind the defending champions with Arsenal visiting Brentford later Saturday. Manchester City returns after a wild 4-4 result at Stamford Bridge. Can Mohamed Salah and his linemates also exploit a potentially vulnerable Manchester City defense? Keeping Erling Haaland and Manchester City’s other weapons quiet on the other end of the pitch, however, remains a daunting task. Winning as an opponent at the Etihad is also just a little bit difficult. Manchester City will be seeking a 24th consecutive home win across all competitions on Saturday. A win will  eclipse the consecutive victory record for an English topflight club which dates all the way back to 1892. Other historic marks which could be reached in this match include Mohamed Salah scoring for the 150th time and Erling Haaland for the 50th time in the Premier League.

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta, meanwhile, will be in charge of the Gunners for his 200th match on Saturday and already has more wins than any other Arsenal manager to that point in their managerial tenure. The Gunners’ match-up on Saturday is with a Brentford side which Liverpool spanked 3-0 just before international break. Gabriel Jesus and his finicky hamstring remain a doubt for Arsenal. The Brazilian is just back in town after testing that hamstring over 90 minutes in his country’s defeat to Argentina.

When last we left off, Tottenham Hotspur were spiraling amidst injuries, suspensions and losses. Manager Ange Postecoglou’s magical season was experiencing its first rough patch as the club dropped from first to fourth with consecutive losses before the break. It won’t be an easy return to the pitch when fifth place Aston Villa visits Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday with a chance to leapfrog their opponent into the top four. James Maddison remains out till January and Spurs desperately miss his creativity. Villa, meanwhile, can struggle a bit away from its Villa Park fortress where the club has won all six Premier League home matches this season. The Villans have won only two of their last 10 away contests.

Nottingham Forest is undefeated at the City Ground as they prepare to host Brighton this weekend. Goals on Saturday could be hard to come by, however, for the Tricky Trees. Striker Taiwo Awoniyi aggravated his groin issue over the break and is out for months after undergoing surgery. Manager Steve Cooper has no like for like option who can replace the pace and physicality of Awoniyi who had scored in 10 of his last 14 appearances. The goals haven’t been coming for Brighton of late. The flowing attack which scored 18 goals in the first six games of the season has seemed to dry up with the Seagulls finding the net only seven times in the last six matches. The Seagulls have drawn four of their last five matches and the dropped points have seen Brighton fall to eighth in the table.

The earthshaking news over the break that Everton would be penalized 10 points for violating financial fair play rules violations changes the face of the table. The Toffees descend into the relegation zone in the current rankings because of the penalty. It’s a gut punch for an Everton side which had played well in recent weeks and seemed bound for a relatively comfortable survival season after tumultuous relegation battles the last two years. So much for that. The Everton news also can’t help but raise the anxiety level for Manchester City and Chelsea who are also under review for possible violations in more complex financial investigations. In the meantime, Everton Manager Sean Dyche needs to pick up the pieces and soldier on with the Toffees now two points from safety as they host Manchester United on Sunday.

Chelsea was showing signs of life before the break, capturing four of six points against league leading clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the two weeks preceding international break. A win at Newcastle on Saturday would go a long way to ascertaining that success wasn’t a temporary anomaly for Mauricio Pochettino’s Blues. St. James Park is a difficult place to play but injuries have made the Magpies vulnerable of late, evidenced in a 2-0 loss to Bournemouth heading into the break.

Bournemouth visits Sheffield United this weekend in what could be an important relegation battle. Bournemouth has kicked clear of the drop zone with two victories in its last three matches, the first two wins of the season for the Cherries. The south coast club now has a four-point advantage over 18th place Sheffield United. The Blades, however, have grabbed four of their five points this season in their last two matches. A win by the Blades on Saturday could move the Blades out of the relegation places for the first time since the third week of the Premier League season.

Burnley remains in the league basement despite Everton’s penalty. The Clarets, level on points with the penalized Toffees, have a goal differential of -21 versus -3 for Everton. Burnley hosts West Ham this week hoping to earn its first home points of the season at Turf Moor.

Luton Town will try to remain clear of the drop when the Hatters host Crystal Palace at Kenilworth. The Hatters moved out of the relegation place by virtue of Everton’s penalty induced descent. Crystal Palace has lost three of its last four matches, two of those defeats coming at home. The Eagles have proven road warriors this season though with three wins in their six road matches representing the fifth best away record in the league this this season.

Wolverhampton, like Crystal Palace, is comfortably safe right now with both clubs standing on 15 points, 10 points clear of 18th place Sheffield United. Manager Gary O’Neil’s side travels to London Monday to face Fulham. The Cottagers have earned 12 points to date, but the arrow is turning down. The London club has lost three of four, scoring just twice during that run. Worse yet, they have won just once in their last 14  league meetings with Monday’s opponent. 

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