Darragh Bermingham gives the lowdown on five Premier League matches to watch this week.
It was a weekend of scintillating football. The title race took another twist and the relegation battle gained even more momentum. We barely have time to digest the results before another series of Premiership matches are upon us. Here are five games to watch this week:
1. West Brom vs Chelsea:
With the Baggies in the relegation zone and Chelsea top of the Premier league but with Man City breathing down their neck, both sides will be desperate for points. Chelsea thrashed Newcastle 3-0 on Saturday while West Brom lost 3-1 to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace. The Blues will be hoping that Arsenal drop points at home to Man United and that City slip up against Sunderland.
With Eden Hazard in majestic form of late, Pepe Mel will be fearful that his defence won’t be able to handle the Belgian wizard. Hazard, who scored a hat-trick at the weekend, is playing so well recently that even his warm-up would be entertaining to watch. It will be interesting to see if the struggling Baggies’ defence can deal with an attack force that, as well as Hazard, includes Oscar, Willian and Eto. With West Brom vying to stay in the league and Chelsea looking to win the title, this should be an interesting clash.
2. Man City vs Sunderland:
City are currently secondwhile Sunderland are 17th in the table and both sides will be desperate to take points from the upcoming midweek fixtures. City’s unbeaten home record came to an end last weekend against Chelsea and having dropped points away to Norwich on Saturday, they have allowed the Blues to steal first in the table. City boss Manuel Pellegrini will want his side to bounce back at home to Sunderland on Wednesday night.
Gus Poyet’s revitalised Sunderland will look to use City’s slump to their advantage. However, they will find it very difficult to beat a top side in City, especially at the Etihad, which has become a fortress for the blue half of Manchester. Sunderland’s Adam Johnson has been in top form recently and will be looking to take the sword to his old club on Wednesday. The City defence will also have to deal with in-form Fabio Borini, who has been performing consistently well for the Black Cats. However, with home advantage and the likes of Negredo and Aguero in their side, it is difficult to see anything other than a City win.
3. Arsenal vs Man United:
Arsenal dropped to second in the table after being thrashed by Liverpool, while United’s season took another turn for the worse when Fulham scored a late equaliser at Old Trafford. The Gunners are just a point behind the new leaders, Chelsea, but are being chased by Man City and Liverpool, who are back in the title race. United are currently seventh in the table, nine points off the top four. With such a gap between them and fourth place Liverpool, it will be hard for United to achieve a top four finish this season. The Red Devils will need to take at least a point from the Emirates on Wednesday if they are to stay in contention.
Wenger was self-critical after the defeat on Saturday and will be looking for a reaction from his side against their old rivals, United. The Gunners will be desperate for points if they are to keep the pressure on Chelsea. After a poor display on Saturday, Wenger will be looking for his top players such as Wilshere, Giroud and Mertesacker to bounce back and lead the side.
This fixture has been known to produce feisty encounters but Wednesday’s game has taken on added importance. United are having one of their worst seasons to date while the Gunners are trying to stop their silverware drought. Man United boss Moyes will be vying to topple their long term rivals while Wenger will settle for nothing less than all three points.
4. Newcastle vs Tottenham:
Newcastle need to bounce back after losing 3-0 to Chelsea on Saturday, while Spurs will hope they can push on from their win against Everton at the weekend. The Toon Army are currently in eighth place, 10 points behind Tottenham in fifth place. Spurs are looking to finish in the top four and are currently three points behind Liverpool. Tim Sherwood will hope that Liverpool slip up against Fulham so his side can take full advantage.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will be looking for his side to recover after losing 3-0 to Chelsea at the weekend. The Tyneside club were unlucky to lose by such a big margin, especially after they squandered so many good chances, the best of which fell to winger Sylvain Marveaux. With both sides looking to finish as high as possible this season, this is a clash that every football fan will be looking forward to.
5. Fulham vs Liverpool:
Fulham are propping up the table at the moment but will be slightly more optimistic having drawn at Old Trafford on Sunday. Liverpool are currently fourth in the table and Reds fans are on cloud nine after seing their side thrash Arsenal on Saturday. The shock of the weekend, however, was not the 5-1 result but that Luis Suarez failed to score in the route. Instead the scoring was left to Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. Phillipe Coutinho tore the Arsenal defence apart with quick runs and devastatingly accurate passes. The Fulham defence will definitely have their work cut out for themselves on Wednesday night.
Fulham fans will be hoping that their last minute draw at United can inspire their side to up their fight for survival. The London side are currently four points from safety. Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen must be hoping that Liverpool were in a slump when the two sides met. However, with the Reds in scintillating form and pushing for a top four place, Meulensteen will be fearful that his side will be overrun by the Liverpool attack. Fulham are desperate for points but with Liverpool in frightening form, it is difficult to see anything other than an inevitable Reds win.
In a league where three points can make or break a team’s season, the upcoming midweek matches have taken on added importance. These five games will all be fiercely competitive and will be well worth watching this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Pundit Arena, Darragh Bermingham.