Friday, March 8, 2024

Premier League Preview: Matchweek 28

League leading Liverpool faces defending champion Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday with just a single point separating the two giants. Liverpool has enjoyed a resurgence in Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge of the Reds after last year’s disappointing fifth place finish. A win on Sunday would leave Liverpool just a point short of their full season 2023/24 Premier League total with 10 matches still to be played. Klopp’s men have lost but twice, once to third place Arsenal and once, in controversial fashion, to fifth place Spurs. Liverpool has navigated a difficult stretch of injuries in recent weeks to deliver results in both league and cup play. Mohamed Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai should be fit and ready for Sunday’s high stakes clash although Trent Alexander -Arnold remains absent with 20-year-old Conor Bradly likely to deputize. Manchester City, meanwhile, is hitting its stride with only a frustrating draw versus Chelsea preventing a ten-match winning run. Erling Haaland and Phil Foden have been terrorizing opponents in recent matches while the Manchester City defense has conceded only two goals in the Citizens’ last five Premier League matches.

Arsenal could leapfrog to the top of the table should Liverpool and Manchester City draw their titanic clash. The Gunners will first need to take care of business on Saturday when they host Brentford, a club floundering just six points above the relegation line. After losing just 1-0 to Manchester City in February, the Bees have conceded a total of 10 goals in their last three matches. Arsenal, meanwhile, has scored 24 goals in their last five matches and have won seven consecutive Premier League matches to stay in the think of the title race, two points from the top and one point back of Manchester City.

The battle for fourth place heats up this weekend when Tottenham Hotspur visits Villa Park. The host Villans maintain a five-point lead over fifth place Spurs, though having played one additional match than the London side, as the two clubs battle for Champions League qualification. Though a fifth spot may be granted to the Premier League for next season’s tournament depending on this year’s performance by league teams in European competitions, both Villa and Spurs would rather be safe than sorry as they approach their head-to-head match. Aston Villa has won three consecutive matches after navigating a rough patch which notably had proved them vulnerable at  their previously imposing home ground. The recent resurgence has seen striker Ollie Watkins catch fire with five goals in his last three matches. Tottenham Hotspur is hoping to see  Pedro Porro and Richarlison return from the injury list for Sunday’s match. Richarlison has stepped up his game this season with 10 Premier League goals.

Two consecutive losses have dented Manchester United’s Champions League hopes as the Red Devils prepare to host Everton at Old Trafford on Saturday. Everton’s last win was on December 16th although The Toffees have relied on draws, five of them in their last ten matches, to provide enough points to stay above the relegation line. Manchester United has historical dominance on its side when the clubs meet on Saturday. A win by the Red Devils will establish a new record for the most wins by one club over another in the topflight. A victory would mark the 41st time Manchester United has trumped Everton, with the Toffees winning only two of 31 matches played at Old Trafford between the clubs.

West Ham is just two points below Manchester United in the table after back-to-back wins. After failing to score a goal in three consecutive Premier League matches, the Hammers have broken out with seven goals in the last two victories. Chances are that scoring will continue against a porous Burnley defense when the Clarets visit London Stadium on Sunday.

Fulham, winners of three of their last four league matches, will try to end a hex when they play Wolverhampton Saturday at Molineux Stadium where the Cottagers have not won since 1985.

The Cottagers blanked Brighton last week as the Seagulls continue to lose attitude. Even as Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi is rumored to take over a larger club (Liverpool ?), his current charges have stumbled and bumbled of late, winning just two of their eight 2024 matches to fall to ninth place in the table, out of the European places for now. The Seagulls were beaten 4-0 in the Europa League by Roma this past week and must quickly pull it together for a home match versus Nottingham Forest on Sunday. The Tricky Trees are desperate for points as Forest sits just four points from the relegation zone after losing three of the past four matches.

Newcastle sailed past Brighton in the table with a win last week and the Magpies will look to keep up that momentum Monday at Stamford Bridge against unpredictable Chelsea. Mauricio Pochettino is coming under increasing pressure from Blues supporters who have lost patience with the progress of the Chelsea project. Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe, meanwhile, may be out of a job if his Magpies fail to qualify for Europe. Newcastle is eighth in the table after last week’s win over Wolverhampton.

Current relegation sides Sheffield United and Luton Town follow their trail of tears to Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, respectively, this weekend. Sheffield United is just playing out the schedule. Luton Town still has hope as the Hatters are four points behind Nottingham Forest and five points behind Everton in the struggle for safety. Both of those clubs are facing possible point penalties to be assessed by the Premier League which could prove a boon to the Hatters.

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