We’re into the final stretch of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign and the games are coming thick and fast.
With teams having games in hand, midweek ties are likely to become a common occurrence.
This is the case this week. After two games on Tuesday, there are three to be played on Wednesday – and it could be a night of high drama at both the top and bottom of the table.
Here, we preview Wednesday’s action.
Chelsea v Brighton
Chelsea are looking to keep up with the teams ahead of them in an increasingly engrossing race for Champions League qualification.
Following Arsenal’s victory over Newcastle United on Monday night, the Blues find themselves three points behind the Gunners and with no option but to beat Brighton.
The Seagulls, who face Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final this weekend, are still not safe and defeat will further suck them into the relegation race. With Huddersfield gone and Fulham likely to join them soon, it looks as though Brighton, Southampton, Burnley and Cardiff will contest a four-way battle to avoid finishing in the final relegation spot.
Chelsea have won all three previous Premier League encounters with Chris Hughton’s side but haven’t been at their best recently. Indeed, they needed late goals and some frankly awful refereeing to see off Cardiff on Sunday, so Brighton can draw encouragement from the Bluebirds running Maurizio Sarri’s side close.
Eden Hazard, who didn’t start at Cardiff, has scored three goals in his previous two appearances against Brighton, so don’t be surprised if the Belgian turns on the style at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
Things really aren’t going well for Spurs. With just one point from their last five games, they are experiencing their worst league run during Mauricio Pochettino’s five-year reign as manager.
And the North Londoners will have felt hard done by on Sunday, undone by Hugo Lloris’ blunder against Liverpool on Sunday having controlled most of the second half.
At one point seemingly assured of third place, Spurs now face a fight to stay inside the top four and must stop the rot against Palace, who knocked them out of the FA Cup in January.
Quite astonishingly, though, Spurs haven’t conceded a goal in the league against the Eagles since January 2016, a run of five consecutive clean sheets. Six of their last seven wins have been by a 1-0 scoreline, so naturally expect a 4-3 thriller. That is an impressive record but Roy Hodgson’s side have done well on the road recently, running out 4-1 and 3-1 winners at Leicester and Burnley respectively.
This game will be the first played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. We’ve heard of a new manager bounce – Pochettino will be hoping his players benefit from a new stadium bounce.
Don’t expect the Eagles to be overawed by the occasion, though. After all, they stunned Manchester City at the Etihad earlier in the season, so they are no strangers to silencing a big arena.
Manchester City v Cardiff City
Neil Warnock is never boring. The Cardiff City manager provided one of the images of the season on Sunday when, after watching his side go down 2-1 to Chelsea in a game defined by poor refereeing decisions, he stormed onto the pitch and simply stared at the officials with his hands to his head.
Warnock would later admit to feeling ‘sickened’ by their inability to spot an obvious offside during Chelsea’s equaliser and their failure to send Antonio Rudiger off despite the defender’s professional foul on Kenneth Zohore.
The 70-year-old coach is unlikely to find solace at City, where Pep Guardiola’s champions have scored 53 times in 16 games.
The Chelsea defeat was a bitter pill to swallow but Cardiff, Warnock will feel, can get something from this game if they perform with the same spirit and organisation they showed on Sunday.
The incentives are just as rich for City, however, as victory would see them reclaim their place at the league summit, a point above Liverpool. Guardiola’s men strolled to a 5-0 win over Cardiff in September; at this stage of the season, the Catalan tactician would be happy enough to take a 1-0.