The Premier League continues to throw up surprises at every juncture. On Tuesday night, the race for the top four took another turn with Manchester United falling to defeat at Wolves.
This weekend, Arsenal can move one step closer to Champions League qualification while, with Manchester City in FA Cup action, Liverpool can swing the title race momentum pendulum back in their favour.
There are five Premier League games in total this weekend. Let’s preview them.
Southampton v Liverpool
After Manchester City’s comfortable win over Cardiff City, Liverpool have the chance to reclaim top spot for the next week (City don’t play again until Sunday 14 April because of FA Cup commitments) with Friday night’s trip to St Mary’s.
Southampton have been reborn to a degree under Ralph Hasenhuttl but are not yet clear of relegation. Three points here, however, would be a massive step in securing their top-flight status for next season.
Unfortunately, they haven’t had much to shout about in recent encounters with the Reds, having failed to score in each of the last five, with Liverpool running out comfortable winners in the most recent three.
Jurgen Klopp’s men tend to get their business done early against the Saints, with seven of their last eight goals coming before half-time. The last Southampton player to score against Liverpool, in fact, was Sadio Mane, who will hope to continue his recent good form against his former employers.
Bournemouth v Burnley
This season has proven to be yet another false dawn for Bournemouth. After a fast start, the Cherries looked set to challenge for seventh place before inconsistency got the better of them.
They’re now 12th but three points against struggling Burnley can set them up for a strong finish to the campaign.
Sean Dyche’s Clarets have been nervously looking over their shoulder all season. A great run of form around Christmas hauled them out of the bottom three but they haven’t managed to claw their way up the table, with four straight defeats from the end of February sucking them back into the scrap for survival.
Things are looking up again, though, following last weekend’s 2-0 win over Wolves at Turf Moor. They’ll be eager to reunite with Bournemouth, too; September’s meeting produced a 4-0 win for Dyche’s men.
Before that, this fixture saw both sides getting on the scoresheet six times in a row. It should be another intriguing tactical battle between the Premier League’s two longest-serving managers.
Huddersfield Town v Leicester City
Huddersfield are already relegated, so every game between now and the end of the season is essentially a free hit, with manager Jan Siewert able to carry out some tactical experiments ahead of the club’s return to the Championship.
But Leicester will fully expect to continue their encouraging start under new boss Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman has led the Foxes to a hat-trick of wins after losing his first game in charge at Watford.
There are signs that the players are responding to his instructions, too, having dominated much of last weekend’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth.
Jamie Vardy is certainly enjoying his football again. The 31-year-old striker has four goals in as many games and will fancy his chances against a leaky Terriers defence which has kept just four clean sheets all season.
Newcastle United v Crystal Palace
Thirteenth meets 14th in the table in a fixture that rarely produces a lot of goals.
In fact, the last four meetings have seen only four goals scored. Palace don’t have the greatest record at St James’ Park either, having failed to win in any of their last four visits.
Both sides are looking to bounce back after defeats. Newcastle were soundly beaten at Arsenal on Monday while Palace failed to ruin Tottenham’s big day at their new stadium.
Everton v Arsenal
At this stage, the odds are in favour of Arsenal qualifying for the Champions League. Since losing to Manchester City, the Gunners have taken 16 points from a possible 18 to seize the momentum in the race for the top four.
Even if they falter in the league, however, they have a fair chance of winning the Europa League, a competition Unai Emery won for fun during his time at Sevilla.
Everton will provide a robust test, though. Marco Silva’s Toffees have come into form at the right time and retain an outside chance of finishing seventh, with back-to-back wins over Chelsea and West Ham boosting their European hopes.
But they own a wretched recent record against Arsenal, having lost each of the last four while conceding 15 goals. Last season’s clash at Goodison Park started promisingly with an early Wayne Rooney opener before descending into farce, eventually losing 5-2, having fallen apart following Idrissa Gueye’s dismissal.
Everton have been involved in only two scoreless draws this season (albeit against top-six sides Liverpool and Chelsea) while Arsenal are yet to play out a 0-0 draw in the league under Emery. We’re expecting goals from this one.
Chelsea v West Ham United
Fresh off beating Brighton 3-0, Chelsea look to continue their search for a top-four finish against Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham on Monday night.
The Hammers have shown flashes of quality this season without maintaining enough consistency. Saying that, they are still only five points off seventh and boost their hopes of finishing there by taking three points away from Stamford Bridge.
That will be a big ask, of course; Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 home games against the Irons. Interestingly, the Blues have not lost a league game at home on a Monday since December 1994.
Equally of note, Javier Hernandez has scored in each of his last four visits to Stamford Bridge, stretching back to his time with Manchester United.
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