It’s another massive weekend in the top division of English football with a top-four clash which could decide who will become this year’s champions, a relegation dog-fight and a derby day on the south coast, all on the cards.
Having seen a travelling Newcastle side grind a hard-fought victory out over hosts Leicester City last night, the pressure is mounting for the league’s remaining relegation fighters.
Huddersfield – who have already been relegated after a dismal campaign this season – kick Saturday’s action off with a trip to White Hart Lane as they face-off against a high-flying Spurs side who are brimming with confidence having beaten juggernauts Manchester City in their Champions League first-leg during the week. Mauricio Pochettino’s ranks will be without their talismanic forward, Harry Kane, after he limped down the touchline an hour into Tuesday’s game – though it’s unlikely that his absence will have much of an impact on the game’s result.
This afternoon’s fixtures see the fight for survival in the Premier League take centre stage as all of the bottom five – discounting Huddersfield and Fulham as they’ve already been relegated – find themselves in action. First is a trip down south, where tensions in the south-coast derby are set to go through the roof. While it’s unlikely either side will find themselves in the Championship next season, it’s not out of the question yet and so both hosts Brighton and visitors Bournemouth will want to ramp up the pressure on the other and put the 3 points between themselves and the drop zone.
Next up, we move west to Southampton as the Saints take on Wolves at St Mary’s. Having put in a string of impressive performances of the past couple of weeks – albeit having lost to Liverpool in their previous match – Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men will be optimistic and full of life heading into the fixture and Nuno Espirito Santo’s imperious Wolves side will need to be on their game if you want to get anything out of the match.
Moving further north, Fulham host Everton, who come into the game off the back of a decisive victory over Arsenal last week, in what is arguably the game with the least on the line. Fulham, having already been relegated a fortnight ago will be playing for pride at this point, while their Merseyside opponents are mathematically too far out for a challenge for the league’s European spots.
Finally, in the last 3:00pm kick-off, is a cataclysmic clash between league strugglers Burnley and Cardiff at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche’s charges seem to have turned a corner in recent weeks and will be hoping to deal a hammer blow to their relegation rivals with a home victory today. Neil Warnock, on the other hand, will take solace from Burnley’s recent struggle for form and his own team’s performances against Chelsea and Manchester City – despite losing both games. It’s all to play for down the bottom of the table and there’s sure to be plenty more twists and turns as the season comes into its final stretch.
Saturday’s final game sees Manchester United play host to West Ham as they aim to bounce back after something of a rough patch under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – defeats to Arsenal, Wolves and Barcelona have signalled the end of the Norwegian managerial honey-moon period. United’s opponents, West Ham, have had a hot-and-cold season under Manuel Pellegrini and will be hoping to end strongly to confirm their place in the premier league next season.
On to Sunday and the pressure has by no means diminished. The early kick-off, which sees Crystal Palace set out to replicate their famous victory over opponents Manchester City earlier in the season, promises to be a tense affair with the home side’s hopes for survival standing directly in the path of Pep Guardiola’s quadruple hopes. City will be out of revenge and all 3 points, but will Guardiola have his head turned by his team’s mid-week reverse fixture against Tottenham in the Champions league, or is the premier league a priority for the citizens?
Manchester City’s title rivals, Liverpool, find themselves in action directly after the sky blues as they welcome an up-and-down Chelsea side to Anfield in the late kick-off. Jurgen Klopp’s men have stood up to the pressure impressively so far this season but find themselves faced with a potential stumbling block with painful echoes of the past today – Sunday fixture mirror the same infamous games which destroyed the Merseysiders’ title dreams back in 2014. With Mo Salah finally coming back into form and a two-goal cushion in their Champions League fixtures, expect the Reds to come out all guns blazing as they fight to keep themselves in the running for this season’s title. But with Chelsea’s star forward, Eden Hazard, finding himself in a scintillating run of form of late, will the Reds be able to stand up when the going gets tough, or will the Premier League slip through their fingers once again?
Rounding off the weekend’s games is a Monday night battle between Watford and Arsenal – both of whom will be full of confidence and raring to go after landmark wins against Wolves and Napoli respectively. Arsenal, who have been let down by their inconsistency this season under Unai Emery, are capable of playing some great attacking football and Javi Garcia’s high-flying Watford team will be aware and ready for that. After a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Napoli in the Europa League, Emery’s charges now turn their attention to the battle for top four and will be fighting tooth and nail to push further up the table.
The Premier League – Available on Sky Sports and BT Sports all weekend.