Friday, March 29, 2024

Premier League Preview: Match Week 30

The three title contenders all play on Sunday with the weekend’s feature match pitting Arsenal against Manchester City at the Etihad. Earlier that morning, Liverpool will play host to Brighton. Eight consecutive league wins have moved Arsenal to the top of the table, the Gunners having defeated and overtaken Liverpool in the process. A fearsome attack has seen the Gunners score 33 goals during that eight-game stretch. And yet the match at the Etihad is widely regarded as a must win for Arsenal. The Gunners were run down by the Citizens in the closing stages of last season and a loss on Sunday would be devastating for the belief that they can avoid repeating a similar fate. Arsenal leads Liverpool on goal differential while Manchester City lurks just a point back of the other two contenders. The Citizens’ chances at home on Sunday will be greatly improved if Kevin De Bruyne is able to return from a recent groin injury. The Belgian superstar returned to training this week and should make the bench if not start this weekend. Arsenal, meanwhile, is holding its breath on the availability of Bukayo Saka who withdrew from the English squad due to a muscle concern.

Liverpool can again top the table should the Reds beat Brighton Sunday morning and then witness an Arsenal draw or loss to Manchester City later that afternoon. Liverpool fell from the top of the table when it dropped points in its own 1-1 draw versus Manchester City preceding the break. A victory over Brighton would mark the 300th win for Jurgen Klopp across all competitions for Liverpool as the charismatic manager chases a second Premier League title in his final season for the club. Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi has been rumored to be a potential successor to Klopp. His Seagulls, however, have been bang average of late with three wins, three losses and a draw in their last seven matches Brighton appears to be struggling with the cumulative demands of domestic and first time European  competition, its first ever participation on the continent.

Aston Villa leads Tottenham Hotspur by only three points in the race for fourth place and the Villans will be tested when Wolverhampton visits Villa Park on Saturday. Wolves are still in the fight for one of the lower hanging European qualification berths as Manager Gary O’Neil has done a remarkable job after being unceremoniously sacked by Bournemouth last season.

Tottenham Hotspur is home to Luton Town, a lesser opponent though one which presents just enough danger to create some worries. The Hatters have drawn two of their last three matches and should have beaten Bournemouth but for a memorable collapse some weeks ago.

Nottingham Forest replaced Luton Town in the relegation zone when the Premier League chopped down the Trees with a four-point deduction for financial violations. The Trees will try to escape the shade of relegation this weekend when they host Crystal Palace. Nottingham Forest has never lost in its seven previous Premier League matches with the Eagles. Forest desperately needs to keep that record intact this weekend.

Newcastle finds itself tenth in the table after dropping eight of the 12 points available from its last four Premier League matches. The club’s recent meek capitulation to Manchester City in the FA Cup further disappointed supporters of a Magpies’ side which is already guaranteed to finish with fewer league points than last season and is currently on the outside looking in with respect to next year’s European competitions. The Magpies will try to recharge their season at St. James Park on Saturday versus visiting West Ham. The Hammers will be without suspended midfielder Edson Alvarez and that could spell trouble as West Ham has been unable to win any of the four previous matches Alvarez has missed this season. West Ham is currently seventh in the table as it works to qualify again for a Europa League berth. Of course, the Hammers could also be in the Champions League if they win this season’s Europa League.

Chelsea can advance its own hopes for Europe by taking care of Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blues are showing some brief glimpses of improvement from their young roster, winning five of their past ten matches and drawing on two other occasions. Burnley won for just the fourth time this season in the Clarets’ last outing against Brentford.

Things do not get better for Brentford this week as Manchester United pays a visit. The Red Devils still have fading hope of a Champions League berth and cannot afford a slipup against a Brentford side that has accumulated fewer points than any other Premier Legue team over its last 18 matches.

Fulham is only six points behind seventh place West Ham and thus has an outside shot at Europe despite four other clubs sitting between the Hammers and the 12th place Cottagers. A visit to bottom of the table Sheffield United this weekend is a golden opportunity to enhance Fulham’s faint hopes for Europe. Everton has other concerns. The Toffees are only four points above the relegation line with a potential second points penalty still possibly to come from the Premier League. Everton has not won a Premier League match since mid-December as the Toffees head to Bournemouth on Saturday. Five draws in their last eight matches, however, have kept the Toffees safe so far. The Cherries, meanwhile, have lost only to title contenders Liverpool and Manchester City over their last nine league matches.  

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