Friday, February 16, 2024

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 25

Chelsea fans will see whether recent wins over Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace in the Premier League represent a turning point for Manager Mauricio Pochettino's project when the Blues visit Manchester City on Sunday. Chelsea has teased before this season before again frustrating supporters with poor finishing and leaky defense that has characterized the young squad for much of this season. One of those illusory moments occurred at Stamford Bridge versus Manchester City when a late Cole Palmer goal delivered a thrilling 4-4 outcome. The point versus City followed a win over Tottenham Hotspur where the Blues also netted four times. Things appeared to be looking up, but Chelsea would proceed to lose three of their next four matches as grumbling and hand wringing resumed for supporters. Manchester City, of course, is intent on another title and is known to be inhospitable to Etihad visitors. The Citizens are yet to lose at home this season, a distinction matched only by Liverpool.

The league leading Reds are at Brentford this week where Mohamed Salah could potentially make a return. The prolific goal scorer joined training this week after time missed with a hamstring injury. Even without Salah, Liverpool has averaged three goals a game over its last six matches.

Arsenal is also away this weekend as the Gunners travel to Burnley where the Clarets and Manager Vincent Kompany have just one win this season at Turf Moor.

Arsenal’s north London rival, Tottenham Hotspur, will try to maintain its top four standing at home against Wolverhampton. Spurs are undefeated in their last five matches at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but face a Wolves side which is unbeaten in its last three away matches. Wolverhampton is often problematic for Spurs. In the last six clashes between the sides, Wolves have come out on top three times while drawing once. The most recent clash between the sides at Molineux Stadium in November saw Wolves prevail 2-1. Spurs, however, have not lost yet this year and will be keen to continue the momentum that has put them back in the top four.

Aston Villa sits a point behind Spurs in the table after losing two of its last three league matches in addition to the FA Cup loss to Chelsea. Manager Unai Emery will try to get his side back on track when Aston Villa visits Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Saturday. While Villa is clearly experiencing a rough patch, Fulham’s largely positive recent performance has also featured some quizzical results. In a five-match run that has seen only one defeat, the Cottagers have beaten Arsenal but only managed to draw versus relegation sides Everton and Burnley. Fulham smashed Bournemouth at Craven Cottage last week so the troubles for Aston Villa may not be over.

Manchester United, victors over Aston Villa last weekend, will try to continue its recent run of positive form with a visit to Luton Town. The Hatters were embarrassed last weekend by Sheffield United at Kenilworth Road and have lost more home matches than any Premier League sides but for recently promoted and soon to be relegated Sheffield United and Burnley. Another home loss would seem to be on the cards as Manchester United has been on a roll of late, moving into the top six with three consecutive Premier League victories. Young striker Rasmus Hojlund has scored in five consecutive matches for the Red Devils.

Everton could have a chance to leap over Luton Town into a safe place in the table when the currently relegation bound Toffees host Crystal Palace on Monday. The Eagles are sinking in the table and are just five points above Everton as the clubs approach Monday’s match. Crystal Palace Manager Roy Hodgson’s job hangs by a thread as the Eagles have won just twice in their last fifteen matches. Sadly, the venerable manager was taken ill at practice this week and hospitalized. While his condition is stable, he will not be on the touchline Monday and might well have managed his last match for the Eagles.

Nottingham Forest has already fired a manager and yet the Tricky Trees could still fall into the relegation zone if a current four match winless run is not remedied soon. The Trees are two points north of the drop line as they prepare to host West Ham this weekend. The new manager bounce, which saw Nuno Espirito Santo win his first two matches in charge, did not last long as Forest lost three of its next four contests. West Ham Manager David Moyes, meanwhile, is once again on the hot seat after back-to-back losses and a five-match winless run in the league. The poor stretch was capped by a 6-0 annihilation at the hands of Arsenal last weekend. Moyes’s style of play, more cautious and even boring than that of most other Premier League clubs, is often subject to criticism from supporters. When the results tank, the temperature instantly rises on Moyes.

Bournemouth plays a much more upbeat style but is also struggling. Manager Andoni Iraola seemed to be finding his stride as his Cherries went on a run of seven wins in nine matches, losing just once, before a sobering New Year’s Eve loss at Tottenham Hotspur. The Cherries now are yet to win in the new year and have not scored more than a goal in any of their last five matches. Bournemouth travels to St. James Park to face Newcastle this weekend. The Magpies have regrouped to win two of three matches after a string of four losses in a row. The recent three match run has seen the Magpies register 10 goals with a different player contributing a brace in each of those three matches.

A win over rival Crystal Palace is Brighton’s only win since December as the Seagulls visit Sheffield United on Sunday. Brighton will be wary of this trip to the league’s basement dweller. The two sides played to a draw in the reverse fixture and the Blades are coming off a win at Luton Town.

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