As the Premier League season approaches its conclusion there is still plenty to play for at both ends of the table.
Manchester City and Liverpool are separated by just a point in the race for the title, while Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are embroiled in a fight to finish in the top four.
And the final relegation spot – with Fulham and Huddersfield out of the picture – remains open. Here are some of the standout fixtures in the Premier League this Saturday.
Manchester City vs Watford
Manchester City were four points behind Liverpool having played a game more than their rivals when they lost 2-1 at Newcastle at the end of January. “We thought we had lost the Premier League,” Bernardo Silva admitted. Many others thought so too.
Now, though, Pep Guardiola’s side are above Liverpool, top by a point having won five league games in a row. That has included a 6-0 thrashing of Chelsea, victories over Arsenal and Everton and, most recently, two narrow 1-0 wins against West Ham and Bournemouth.
City have stepped up when needed and are now back in the driving seat in a fascinating title race. On Saturday, they host Watford, looking to temporarily extend their lead at the top to four points – Liverpool do not play until Sunday, against Burnley.
Last season’s champions have won all but one of their league games at the Etihad this season, so Javi Gracia’s Watford are faced with a daunting task. But the Hornets have proven themselves capable travellers this season and will be buoyed by their late win over Leicester last weekend.
Crystal Palace vs Brighton
A rivalry based on recent feuds rather than geographical location, this is an important game for both sides.
Brighton, in particular, are in need of points to put some distance between themselves and the bottom three. Chris Hughton’s side, having looked comfortable in midtable for most of the season, endured a run of seven games without a win that saw them slip dangerously close to the relegation zone.
But they returned to winning ways last weekend, edging to victory against bottom side Huddersfield at the Amex Stadium thanks to a late goal from Florin Andone.
Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park is likely to be more difficult. Crystal Palace have moved away from trouble with two wins from their last three, including impressive away victories at Leicester and Burnley, and will be in confident mood for the visit of Brighton. Wilfried Zaha is a man in form, having scored four in his last four league appearances, so the Seagulls will be wary of the threat he poses.
Interestingly, though, Palace have been much better away from Selhurst Park this season. Roy Hodgson’s side have won just three of 14 games on home turf. That will encourage Brighton as they look to leave London with three points.
Southampton vs Tottenham
Tottenham, on the back of a testing trip to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, travel to the south coast on Saturday, hoping to bring to an end a run of three games without victory in the Premier League.
Spurs just about held on for a point in the north London derby against Arsenal last weekend, having fallen to back-to-back defeats against Burnley and Chelsea prior to playing their rivals.
And having been an outside bet in the title race, they are now simply focused on securing Champions League football for next season. Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are not far behind Spurs after their dip in form, so victory against struggling Southampton is crucial.
For the Saints, a result here would be a bonus. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are not expected to win – or draw for that matter – and the pressure has been relieved somewhat following their vital triumph over Fulham a week ago.
Southampton know, though, that they must start to pick up more points soon. They were narrowly beaten and performed commendably at Old Trafford last weekend, falling to a late 3-2 defeat. But points are essential with just nine games of the season remaining.
Cardiff vs West Ham
Cardiff, put simply, need wins. They have proved elusive of late: the Bluebirds, after beating Southampton last month, have fallen to three successive defeats, scoring just once and conceding ten goals in the process.
Recent form, then, suggests they are faced with a tough task when West Ham come to town on Saturday. The Hammers come into the game on the back of a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle, a result that saw them climb to ninth in the table.
Away from home, though, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have not always convinced this season. They have won just four of 14 away matches and face a Cardiff side who have already proven themselves capable of competing on home soil – despite a recent 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Watford.
Neil Warnock and his players need the points more in this one, but it remains to be seen whether they will have the quality to trouble West Ham.
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