Ahead of this Sunday’s monster clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford, United fans hoped their side would be bringing a much more positive string of form into the tie.
The Red Devils held Sevilla to a draw in the Champion’s League, failing to bag a vital away goal, while Chelsea also drew against their European opponents – except they faced Barcelona…
Still managing to clinch onto second place, despite losing away to Newcastle last week, Chelsea and Liverpool are both hot on the heels of United, with both teams playing a much more convincing style of football.
However, in the same fixture last season, United managed to topple the Blues 2-0 thanks to an Ander Herrera performance that may well have been his best in a United shirt. The Spaniard completely pocketed Pedro and Hazard for the whole game, bagging an assist and a goal as well. However, given the midfielder hobbled off after just 16 minutes against Sevilla, it’ll be up to another of Jose’s men to fulfil a similar duty.
Scott McTominay put in another impressive performance alongside Nemanja Matic in mid-week, and Jose’s praise of the youngster means that he’ll likely get the nod again. Although, Chelsea got the better of United on Bonfire Night at Stamford Bridge, the only fireworks coming in the form of an impressive Alvaro Morata header.
The support of the home fans will definitely benefit United, but Chelsea’s attacking prowess may require another tactical masterclass from Jose to avoid complete embarrassment.
In the first of Saturday’s games, West Ham visit a Liverpool side whose only losses in the last six games come at the hands of West Brom and Swansea. In their last game, Jurgen Klopp’s men brushed aside FC Porto in a 5-0 win at the Estádio do Dragão, near enough guaranteeing their spot in the last 16.
Senegalese sensation, Sadio Mane, could make his return against the Hammers according to Klopp, while Adam Lallana has made his return to first team training. Meanwhile, West Ham hope to welcome back Argentine maestro, Manuel Lanzini, who has been out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Having beaten fellow Londoners, Watford, 1-0 at the London Stadium in their last game, Moyes’ men look to perform another upset of a top four club – having beaten Spurs and Chelsea already this season – though the odds definitely do not go in their favour.
Speaking of Watford, they welcome Sam Allardyce’s Everton to Vicarage Road, having won only one of their last six in all competitions – albeit being a 4-1 thrashing of Chelsea at home. The Hornets currently sit in 11th place, their opponents in 9th, but the Toffees’ record away from home isn’t exactly impressing.
Everton have been beaten by the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, and Liverpool recently on the road, though they beat Crystal Palace 3-1 in their last game. Momentum sways in favour of the Toffees, as they race to challenge for European football once more.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Leicester City welcome Stoke, who have the least points total for away games so far this season, with just one win on the road.
Leicester are without a win in three league games, but are still favourites against a Stoke side who still lie in the relegation zone. The Foxes progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last Friday thanks to a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at the King Power.
Riyad Mahrez has been recalled by Claude Puel, while captain Wes Morgan made his first appearance since New Year’s Day last week.
Leicester will be hard to overcome for Stoke, given their impressive run of form since Puel’s appointment, but the Potters’ powerful arsenal of players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, and Choupo-Moting, they might just be able to nick three points.
A few months ago, Burnley were sitting in 4th place, with Sean Dyche being nominated for Manager of the Month in October and November. Since then, results have seemed to have gone downhill for the Clarets, yet they’ve still managed to cling onto 7th place.
They welcome Southampton on Saturday night, who sit 10 points behind in 18th place. Southampton haven’t lost in any of their last eight PL matches in which they’ve started in the relegation zone, and have only lost one out of their last six in all competitions.
Elsewhere on Saturday, bottom of the table, West Brom, host Huddersfield. The Baggies have become stern favourites to go down this season, having lost their last four games in all competitions and fans are already calling for their second manager this season, Alan Pardew, to be sacked.
David Wagner’s Huddersfield sit just one point above the drop zone, losing their last game to United in the FA Cup. Before then, the Terriers beat both Bournemouth and Birmingham City 4-1 in back-to-back games.
Even if Huddersfield’s fortunes aren’t great in the grand scheme of things, they are certainly better than those of West Brom.
Newcastle United fans still living the high of last week will make the long trip down south as they are welcomed by 10th placed AFC Bournemouth on Saturday. Rafa Benitez’s bus-parking masterclass saw the Geordies get the better of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, in a game that featured a serious lack of attacking fire from Jose’s men.
A win for the visitors could mean that they leap ahead of Eddie Howe’s side on goal difference. But the hosts’ impressive form has seen them get the better of Chelsea and Arsenal since the start of the year, which could be too much for Newcastle to overcome.
Elsewhere on the south coast, Chris Hughton’s Brighton host Carlos Carvalhal’s Swansea City in the last of Saturday match-ups.
The Swans’ miraculous turnaround in form since the appointment of Carvalhal has been universally praised and continued after forcing Sheffield Wednesday to a replay at home in the FA Cup.
The side has managed to rise from the ashes after inhabiting the relegation zone for quite some time, and are now unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions, beating Notts County 8-1, Leicester, and Arsenal in the process.
However, the hosts remain the bookmakers’ favourites, having beat Coventry City 3-1 in the FA Cup, a win aided by the long-awaited debut of record-signing, Jurgen Locadia, who managed to bag a goal.
The first of the rest of Sunday’s games see another London derby as Crystal Palace welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Selhurst Park. After two 2-2 draws in two games, Spurs visit a Palace side who are one of the many sides floating above the relegation zone.
Spurs are struggling to reach the heights of the last two seasons, failing break into a Champion’s League qualification place. However, the side have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and United in their last six games, making them heavy favourites.
Palace haven’t won a game since the 13th January, but need to grab some crucial points if they look to steer away from the drop zone. Although, it seems that no team outside the top six is guaranteed a spot in the top flight next season, with this year’s relegation battle being bigger and tighter than ever before.
However, the biggest game of the weekend comes from outside the Premier League, as Arsenal take on Man City in the final of the Carabao Cup.
This season’s runaway leaders will look to secure their first piece of silverware of the year, with their names already being engraved in the Premier League trophy for this year – I imagine.
Arsenal’s lack of consistency in big games this season may come back to haunt them. City have been relentless in the league, and with a trophy on the line, Pep can only ramp it up to the next level.
The signing of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang excited fans as the Gunners had finally signed a world-class striker. However, in his biggest test yet under Wenger, what better way to make your mark on English football?
Ozil vs De Bruyne, Mkhitaryan vs Bernardo Silva, Aguero vs Aubameyang, all matchups that’ll leave neutral fan’s mouths watering. But the true difference between the two sides comes in midfield and defence, where City are simply far superior.
However, City’s shock exit in the FA Cup by Wigan may have steered the concentration of the side momentarily, Pep again has made back pages for his antics during and after the match, Arsenal will hope to pounce on this and force City to wait a tad longer for a first taste of silverware.