Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Premier League Preview Matchweek 27: Manchester Derby Headlines Weekend Schedule

Manchester City sent a frightening message to its Premier League rivals in Tuesday’s FA Cup match when Erling Haaland found the net five different times, assisted four different times by Kevin De Bruyne, in a 6-2 rout of Luton Town. Goals had been scarcer in recent Premier League matches with Manchester City scoring but a goal in each of its last three league outings. The defending champions have still been able to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 11 matches by relying on a defense which has conceded only two goals to the opposition in the Citizens’ last five league matches. The re-emergence of Haaland and the attack could not come at a better time as Manchester City will be tested with its next five matches coming against top seven clubs in the Premier League table. How the Citizens, currently a point back of league leading Liverpool, fare during that run will have a large say on this season’s title race.

The challenging stretch begins with Sunday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad. Manchester United was on a run of four straight Premier League victories before it all came crashing down on Sunday at Old Trafford. The Red Devils’ loss to Fulham highlighted how dependent the squad has been on the goals of injured striker Rasmus Hojlund. Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been but a shadow of the player who netted 17 Premier League goals last season and provided little threat against the Cottagers. Manchester City has won five of the last six matches between the cross-town rivals.

Liverpool should have Mohamed Salah, and potentially Darwin Nunez, back in the lineup when the Reds visit Nottingham Forest this weekend. Forest have been in a rough patch of late, losing four of six matches to enter the relegation discussion.

Luton Town is four points back of Forest and possible survival as the Hatters host Aston Villa on Saturday. While the Hatters are just trying to survive, Aston Villa has its eyes set on a Champions League berth.

Manager Unai Emery has his club five points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur in the battle for a top four finish. Spurs host a London derby against Crystal Palace on Saturday. New Eagles Manager Oliver Glasner will get a much truer test of Premier League competition at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend after winning his debut against 10-man Burnley last week. Spurs have won the last four matches between the two London clubs by an aggregate 10-2 margin. Eberechi Eze may return for Crystal Palace this weekend which will help but probably not be enough against a Tottenham Hotspur side still smarting from a home loss to Wolves two weeks ago which allowed Aston Villa to leapfrog into the top four.

Wolverhampton is at Newcastle this weekend with Manager Gary O’Neil’s side harboring dreams of European qualification. Three wins in four matches have advanced Wolves to just a point behind seventh place Brighton in the Premier League table. Wolverhampton has moved a point ahead of their Saturday opponent as Newcastle have won but two of their seven 2024 matches. The Magpies were pounded by Arsenal last weekend as whispers have begun regarding Manager Eddie Howe’s job security.

The scramble for the presumptive final European qualification spot sees two points separating clubs currently in the seventh through tenth places in the table with Chelsea a further two points back. Brighton is currently in seventh place by a goal differential edge over West Ham. The Seagulls must travel to Fulham this weekend where the Cottagers have won seven of their thirteen matches at Craven Cottage. Fulham have been a much more formidable opponent at their home ground, winning but once away from Craven Cottage before historically triumphing at Old Trafford for the first time in 20 years on Saturday. A low scoring affair might be expected as Brighton and Fulham have only scored six goals between them in the last five matches played between the clubs. Only once did either side score more than a goal in those matches, three of which resulted in draws.

Everton has drawn five of its last six matches as the Toffees battle to stay above the relegation line. That cause was helped this week by four points conceded back to the Toffees via reduction of their league imposed financial misdeed penalty. The Toffees are five points above the line as they host West Ham this weekend. The Hammers ended a six-match winless run in emphatic fashion at London Stadium last week when Jarrod Bowen scored three times in a 4-2 defeat of Nottingham Forest. The Hammers are still battling for a European berth as manager David Moyes looks to silence his critics once again.

Chelsea are four points south of West Ham in the table as their own European hopes remain on life support. The 11th place Blues are at Brentford for a London derby this week. The Bees have even bigger problems as losses in five of their last six matches has placed Brentford in relegation danger, five points from the drop line. Only those clubs sitting below the line have shipped more goals than Brentford this season, welcome news for Chelsea’s gang of inaccurate young marksmen up front.

Burnley’s defense is even leakier with the Clarets’ having conceded 58 goals this season. Bournemouth will take aim at the Burnley defense when the Cherries visit Turf Moor on Sunday. Bournemouth has lost two of its last three matches but will have its best chance yet to score the Cherries’ first victory of 2024.

Sheffield United, of course, is the worst defense in the league, its 66 conceded goals setting a new standard for Premier League helplessness. The Blades host Arsenal on Monday in a massive mismatch. The Gunners’ 62 goals scored are second only to Liverpool. While the Blades cleaned things up a bit by conceding just one goal to Wolverhampton last week, Monday’s match could get ugly. Arsenal was a 5-0 winner when the teams met in October and, given Arsenal’s recent goalscoring proclivity, a comparable rout might be in store.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment: