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Premier League Preview - Week 35

Whilst the coronation of King Charles III will dominate the back pages of Britain this weekend, there are a mouthwatering set of fixtures to be played in the Premier League as the season reaches a conclusion.

Manchester City are still hoping to retain their crown atop the Premier League pile, but Arsenal are breathing down their necks in the hope of being crowned champions themselves. Elsewhere, Aston Villa will be hoping to continue their European surge away to Midlands rivals Wolves, while Nottingham Forest could land the final nail in Southampton’s cottage in their basement battle to conclude the weekend’s action.


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AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea 

Had Thomas Tuchel not claimed 10 precious points for the Blues before he was crudely sacked by Todd Boehly, Chelsea would be 18th in the Premier League table and level on points with Nottingham Forest. Reappointing Frank Lampard to replace Graham Potter has been nothing short of a disaster, with Chelsea not winning any of their last nine games and losing six on the bounce.

Conversely, Bournemouth have lost just four of their last five games and are cruising to Premier League safety under Gary O’Neil. They now sit on the same number of points as the Blues, having won more games and scored more goals. In fact, Chelsea have not scored in their last two Premier League matches, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being withdrawn at the Emirates on Tuesday night after having just eight touches.

The defeat to Arsenal further cemented Chelsea’s decline this season, with Noni Madueke perhaps the only bright spot. With top scorer Kai Havertz unlikely to play through injury, the Englishman is likely to retain his starting spot in attack.

Chelsea’s run of just 13 goals in 20 games is their worst run since the Premier League’s inception. Bournemouth however, demolished Leeds 4-1 last time out and wins against Liverpool and Fulham mean they will head into the game with bundles of confidence.

Although Chelsea won the reverse fixture 2-0 in December, Bournemouth are unbeaten in three of their last four against the Blues. The game will take place at the Vitality Stadium at 3pm GMT.

Manchester City v Leeds United 

There is perhaps no bigger task in world football right now than trying to stop Manchester City, yet that is the challenge presented to new Leeds boss Sam Allardyce this weekend.

‘Big Sam’ claims to have more football knowledge than Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, yet we doubt the 68-year-old will have ever witnessed a goalscoring phenomenon quite like Erling Haaland. The 22-year-old broke the Premier League goalscoring record for a season with his 35th goal in the 3-0 win against West Ham United. Yet City are more than just a one-man team.

The Cityzens have won 13 home games in a row, not losing in 16 at the Etihad, but are also unbeaten in their last 18 games in all competitions. Conversely, Leeds haven’t won in their last five games and have won just twice on the road all season. Javi Gracia’s sacking to get Allardyce in is a gamble that the Whites will hope pays off, but it would require a monumental effort.

Alf Inge Haaland played for Leeds during his career, with his son Erling actually being brought up in Yorkshire. Yet the Norwegian scored twice at Elland Road in the reverse fixture, with City travelling back down the M621 with three points courtesy of a 3-1 victory.

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace 

Tottenham’s wretched season creaked towards a sorry conclusion when they suffered injury-time heartbreak against Liverpool to lose 4-3. Despite being 3-0 down after just 16 minutes, Spurs fought back to level the game - only to concede virtually from kickoff. Crystal Palace virtually secured their Premier League safety against West Ham United last weekend with one of the most one-sided 4-3 victories you are ever likely to see.

The resurgence under the returning Roy Hodgson for Palace has been inspiring, with three wins from their last five. However, they haven’t beaten Spurs away from home since 2016 and have won just one of their last five against their north London rivals. The return of Wilfried Zaha against West Ham coincided with a wonderful attacking display and Spurs will have to be on their guard.

Ryan Mason has just four games to try and close a five-point gap on Liverpool in fifth place, but the former Spurs midfielder knows Aston Villa and Brighton beneath them could well shunt them down as far as eighth if they don’t start to pick up points.

A 4-0 win under Antonio Conte in January feels like a distant memory now, with Spurs winning just twice in the Premier League since March 11. The game kicks off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 3pm GMT.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Aston Villa 

When this Midlands derby took place back in January, a 1-1 draw did little to assure either of their Spanish managers that Premier League safety was guaranteed. Fast forward four months and Julen Lopetegui has steered Wolves well away from danger, while Unai Emery has led Aston Villa to the brink of European football.

Villa have not lost in their last five games away from Villa Park, whilst Wolves are unbeaten in three from home. However, goals are to be expected in this game as Wolves have scored at least once in all of their previous eight games, while Villa have scored at least once in their last 19. This incredible run is undoubtedly helped by the incredible form of Ollie Watkins, who has scored 14 times already this season, assisting six.

Both teams lost last time out, but had won three of their previous four games prior to that. Villa are just five points behind Liverpool in fifth place with four games to play and know that Brighton still have three games in hand below them. For Wolves, local pride is up for grabs more than anything else, with the chance to hit the mythical 40-point mark also attainable.

Liverpool v Brentford 

No side has scored more injury time winners in Premier League history than Liverpool, with Diogo Jota’s strike against Tottenham at Anfield surely one of the most dramatic the famous old ground has seen. Conversely, Brentford have been the epitome of calm and composure since joining the Premier League in 2021, with Thomas Frank steering clear of relegation battles and instead flirting with Europe.

It has been an admittedly strange season for the Reds, with Jurgen Klopp all-but admitting Champions League football is out of reach. Five straight victories has kept the race interesting, but it appears Europa League football for next season is the best the German can hope for. The game also pits two of the marksmen in the Premier League against one another as Mohamed Salah (17) and Ivan Toney (20) meet for a straight shootout.

The importance of this cannot be lost, with stats suggesting whoever scores first will win the game. When Liverpool go 1-0 up at home, they win 88% of games, while Brentford win 77% of their Premier League clashes away when they go 1-0 up.

The game takes place at Anfield on Saturday at 5.30pm.

UFC 288 Preview – Sterling v Cejudo

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Newcastle United v Arsenal 

It was this exact fixture last season that killed off Arsenal’s hopes of beating north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League, as Newcastle claimed a 2-0 victory. Fast forward 12 months and both sides will almost certainly be at Europe’s top table next season.

Arsenal are of course still chasing for the Premier League title, but have stuttered in recent weeks and an eight-point gap at the top has dissipated to see them trailing City by a point and with one game more played. As for Newcastle, they are nine points clear in third place with a game in hand on Liverpool and just need to see the season out.

Arsenal have conceded at least once in their last eight games and Callum Wilson is a man they cannot afford any space to. The Englnd international has scored 15 goals in the top flight this season, the same number as Gabriel Martinelli. The defeat at St James’ Park was Arsenal’s only defeat to the Magpies in their previous five, but a loss on Sunday would be absolutely devastating to their championship hopes.

West Ham United v Manchester United 

After a brief flurry of positive performances, which coincided with reaching another European semi-final, West Ham’s bubble has well and truly burst and they are still languishing at the wrong end of the table. They welcome a Manchester United side to the London Stadium who are certainly depleted, yet still fighting for a Champions League return.

Harry Maguire had joined Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez in the treatment room, but Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof have marshalled United’s defence exceptionally well without their first choice centre-backs. West Ham were hit by an illness before their defeat to Manchester City, with Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Nayef Aguerd all hoping to be back for the clash at the London Stadium.

At this stage last season, former United manager David Moyes had accrued 52 points and was seventh - a far cry from the meagre 34 he has managed this year. On the contrary, Erik ten Hag’s debut season at Old Trafford has already yielded one trophy, with a Manchester derby for the FA Cup final still to come in June and Champions League qualification a real possibility.

Fulham v Leicester City 

Two of the most out-of-form sides in the Premier League meet in the first game of Bank Holiday Monday, as Leicester City travel to the banks of the Thames to face Fulham.

After roaring back from the Qatar World Cup to challenge for an unlikely European spot, Fulham’s season is in danger of plateauing out. The Cottagers have lost their last three games and slipped to mi-table, whilst also crashing out of the FA Cup. They lost Aleksandar Mitrovic in that game to suspension, while Andreas Pereira and Tim Ream are both out now for the rest of the season.

Leicester have won just once in their last 12 games, with Dean Smith hoping to repeat his relegation escape act of 2020. A 2-2 draw against Everton last time did little to boost their chances of staying in the Premier League, with James Maddison missing a crucial penalty which could have put the Foxes 3-1 up.

They have also been particularly porous away from home, conceding 36 goals, and Carlos Vinicius will hope to add another home strike to his tally this season - with just one goal away from Craven Cottage this season and his strike against Manchester City still leaving a lasting impression on home fans last weekend.

Brighton and Hove Albion v Everton 

Everton are perilously close to losing their 61-year record of staying in the top flight and have just four games left to secure Premier League safety. With no win in seven games and sitting in 19th, Sean Dyche knows he has a job on his hands.

In stark contrast, Brighton are reaping the rewards of investing in unheralded talents like Evan Ferguson, Moises Caicedo and Kaoru Mitoma and are pushing for a European place this season. Victory at the Amex Stadium would keep the pressure on Tottenham and Aston Villa ahead of them, but the Seagulls still do have five games left to play after this.

The reverse fixture ended in a 4-1 thrashing for Brighton at Goodison Park at the start of 2023, with the Toffees also going to be without influential captain Seamus Coleman. The Irishman was crudely injured at the KingPower Stadium after coming off second best in a challenge with Wilfried Ndidi. 

Nottingham Forest v Southampton 

Southampton will officially be one step closer to the Championship if they suffer a defeat to Nottingham Forest in the final game of the weekend, while the Tricky Trees can climb one step closer to safety.

This fixture pits 18th against 20th in the table, although Forest can close the gap on West Ham United in 15th to just one point with a victory at the City Ground. Home comforts are a real thing for Steve Cooper’s side, who have just won once on the road all season. However, Southampton are actually better travellers this season, winning four of their six games on the road this season. 

That sole victory on the road for Forest actually came out Southampton in January and they can complete a first league double on the banks of the River Trent since 1996. However, their defence is a real concern; Forest have not kept a clean sheet in their past 13 games and they have won just one of those games. With Dean Henderson out for the season, Keylor Navas will need all of his European pedigree to help keep the club up.

 

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