Friday, April 26, 2024

Premier League Preview: Match Week 35

The north London derby takes center stage this weekend as the rivalry match takes on greater importance with the races currently being run by both teams. The Gunners are chasing a title. Tottenham Hotspur is dueling for a Champions League slot. Aspirations collide when the rivals meet at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. Arsenal is a point ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League title chase though the Citizens have played one less match than the Gunners. Arsenal has been in peak form but for the club’s potentially season spoiling loss to Aston Villa two weeks ago. The Gunners have outgunned opponents by an aggregate 12-0 in the two matches preceding and two matches following that Villa loss. Spurs will be trying to rebound from a 4-0 thrashing by Newcastle which leaves the club six points behind Aston Villa in the chase for a top four and Champions League berth.

Manchester City will be at Nottingham Forest’s City Gound on Sunday where the Tricky Trees are still trying to put down roots and stay in the Premier League for another season. Forest enters the weekend one point ahead of currently relegation bound Luton Town and three points above Burnley. Luton Town is at Wolverhampton on Saturday while Burnley is at Manchester United that same day.

Aston Villa is currently holding onto the fourth and presumably final Champions League qualification slot as Manager Unai Emery’s side prepares to face Chelsea at Villa Park on Saturday. A fifth slot in the prestigious competition is likely being awarded to Germany after English failures in Europe last week. While Aston Villa might be six points clear of Tottenham Hotspur for the top four spot, the Villans have also played two additional matches than the London club. Goal differential favors Aston Villa should they finish the season deadlocked with Tottenham Hotspur. Aston Villa is riding back-to-back league victories with two of its main trigger men stepping to the fore. Ollie Watkins had a goal and two assists in the victories. Winger Leon Bailey had two goals and an assist. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be trying to rinse the bad taste of Wednesday’s shellacking at the hands of Arsenal. Cole Palmer is expected to be back in the Chelsea lineup after missing the debacle at the Emirates. Even that will not matter unless Manager Mauricio Pochettino can figure out something to improve his defense. Following their 5-0 annihilation versus Arsenal, the Blues have already conceded the most goals in their Premier League history with six matches still left to play.

Now written off by most, Liverpool will try to prove it is still in title contention when the Reds visit London Stadium to face West Ham. Hammer Manager David Moyes will have noted Liverpool’s problems defending Everton’s free kicks in a midweek loss to Everton. Moyes’ men also present a dead ball threat with James Ward-Prowse being one of the most dangerous takers of free kicks in Premier League history. The Hammers, however, have won only one of their last seven Premier League matches as West Ham’s European hopes for next year are now on life support. Like Klopp, Moyes could well be managing his final matches at the helm of his current club. Klopp was despondent in his comments leading into Saturday’s match as he addressed Liverpool’s slim title hopes after losing two of its last three league matches. A miracle finish would need to see an unlikely collapse by both Arsenal and Manchester City to send Klopp off with another parade.

Spirits are brighter at Crystal Palace. While the Eagles have nothing left to compete for this season, their recent upturn in play under Manager Oliver Glasner has energized the fan support with hope for the future. The Eagles take a three-match winning run to Fulham for a London derby on Saturday. Fulham are three points above Crystal Palace in the netherworld of the Premier League table where clubs must find their motivation in causes not involving titles, Europe or, more worryingly, survival from relegation. Unlike Palace, the Cottagers have been struggling, losing three of their last four matches.

Newcastle remains a club with much to play for this season. The Magpies start the weekend only three points behind Manchester United for a likely Europa League berth. Alternatively, seventh place Newcastle is only two points ahead of West Ham. Though having played one match fewer than the slumping Hammers, Newcastle could still be at risk of losing out on even Europa Conference League qualification should they not take care of business in the final weeks. The first step in avoiding such a fate should be relatively easy this weekend when cellar dwelling Sheffield United visits St. James Park. The Blades have already conceded 92 goals, the  most ever by a Premier League side in a 38-match season. They also have only scored 33 times and leading scorer Olie McBurnie is out for the rest of the season.

Three wins in four matches has Everton all but safe as the Toffees sit eight points above the drop line entering this weekend’s home match versus Brentford. The recent run has been all the more remarkable as it began after a club record 13 match winless streak which had relegation nipping at the Toffees’ heels. Brentford, two points above Everton in the table, is also in a good run of form. The Bees have strung together a five-match unbeaten run capped by victories in their last two outings, albeit those wins came against relegation stragglers Sheffield United and Luton Town.

Brighton has failed to win any of its past five matches and will try to rebound from its 4-0 pummeling by Manchester City when the Seagulls alight in Bournemouth on Sunday. Bournemouth leapt over the Seagulls and moved into the top half of the table for the first time since the opening weekend of the season when the Cherries defeated Wolverhampton during the week. 

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