The title race suffered yet another casualty in the form of Arsenal after the Gunners drew 2-2 with Swansea. Wenger said his side are now out of the race for the Premiership and will concentrate on finishing in the top four. Three teams, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, now remain to fight it out for that all important top spot. With so much to play for, every point matters. With plenty of spills, thrills, goals and controversy in store, here are five games to watch this weekend:
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea:
With the relegation battle in full swing and every side in the bottom half desperate for points, Palace know that they can’t afford to drop points, particularly at home. The Eagles are just three points outside the drop zone and will need to make their home ground a fortress if they wish to stay up. However, their home form will be put to the test by current league leaders Chelsea who will travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Blues are three points ahead of second placed Man City but the Manchester club do have two games in hand over their title rivals. Jose Mourinho has repeatedly claimed that the title is City’s to lose and with their fate apparently in their own hands, it now seems difficult to disagree. However, there is no doubt that Chelsea will do everything they can to win the title. With top players such as Hazard, Oscar and Schurrle, things look very bleak for Palace on Saturday. Yet, Pulis’s men are desperate for points and football is a funny old game at times. Stranger things have happened. With silverware and survival in the balance, this is definitely one to watch.
Liverpool vs Tottenham:
“One down, two more to go,” is the thought that will be running through the minds of Liverpool fans after they saw their title rivals Arsenal draw and drop out of the title race. It is now a three horse race between City, Chelsea and Liverpool, who still appear to be the big underdogs, which suits Brendan Rodgers and his men. The Reds are just one point off the top spot after beating Sunderland in midweek. Tottenham, in contrast, have suffered a disappointing season. The London side never really coped with the loss of Gareth Bale and after some ineffective big spending, they are currently 6th, seven points off a top four spot.
The Reds will look to take full advantage of Spurs poor form but the Londoners have had more time to recover for this game unlike Liverpool who played in midweek.
Arsenal vs Man City:
Arsenal suffered a potentially devastating setback to their title hopes in midweek while City moved one step closer to lifting the fabled Premiership trophy. The Gunners conceded a late goal in a 2-2 draw with struggling Swansea. Wenger conceded that his team were all but out of this year’s title race after such a disappointing result. Gunners fans will be disappointed following another “maybe” season where they came so close to winning the title but failed once again. However they do have an FA cup final to look forward to so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Arsenal were thrashed 6-3 at the Etihad earlier in the season so the Gunners will be out for revenge this time out. As well as regaining pride, if Wenger’s men win, they could derail Man City’s title challenge. However, Arsenal’s form has been less than stellar against the top sides. The Londoners have conceded over five goals in individual defeats against Chelsea, City and Liverpool this season and City will look to add to their tally this time out. Pellegrini’s men know that with two games in hand and just three points behind, their fate is in their own hands. A win against Arsenal this weekend could set the ball rolling. With world class players on display and the title in the balance, why wouldn’t you watch this?
West Brom vs Cardiff:
The Relegation battle has been one of the most intense scraps ever seen in the Premiership and with plenty more games to play, expect even more feisty encounters. West Brom vs Cardiff is a game that could drastically change the bottom of the table depending on the outcome. Cardiff are currently 19th, just three points off 16th placed West Brom. Cardiff lost 6-3 to title chasing Liverpool on Saturday while the Baggies lost 2-0 to Hull City.
In a tight relegation battle, both sides will be desperate to take all three points this weekend. Both managers know that there are no room for mistakes or niceties at this late stage of the season when three points can determine who stays up and who drops to the Championship. With the heat and the tension rising, the noise in the stadiums getting noisier and every game meaning more who will be able to handle the pressure? Can Cardiff battle their way out of the drop zone or will the Baggies remain defiant and heap even more misery on the Welsh club? Only one way to find out. This relegation six pointer is definitely one to watch.
Sunderland vs West Ham:
In the second relegation six pointer of my “Five to Watch” segment this week, we will take a look at Sunderland and West Ham. The Black Cats 17th but have at least a game in hand on most sides on the bottom half. Sunderland fans witnessed heir side put in a good performance against Liverpool in midweek in which they gave the Reds a late scare but in truth they would have been lucky to take anything from the game. With just three points separating Sunderland and relative safety, the Black Cats need a victory this weekend.
West Ham on the other hand are relatively safe in 11th place, with nine points separating them from the drop zone. In recent years, they would have been safe enough. However, this season, the relegation battle has been even more ferocious and the Hammers will want to avoid being dragged into peril at this late stage. If Sunderland win they could drag the London side into murky waters and Sam Allardyce will want to avoid that. The relegation battle couldn’t be any closer. With survival to play for, Sunderland will be desperate for three points this weekend and after seeing his side put in a good performance at Anfield, Gus Poyet may feel his side deserve a bit of luck. However, we can expect West Ham to have something to say before the final whistle blows in what is sure to be a hard fought tie.
At this late stage of the season, we all know what’s at stake. There are goals to be scored, saves to be made, points to be won and wrong players to be sent off (if you’re Andre Mariner). Of course, there are titles to be won and Premiership status to be retained. With this in mind, these five games should be hard fought, gritty and feisty ties with both sides holding nothing back. These five games are set to have a major impact on both the race for the title and the relegation battle. Long story short, these games are definitely “Five to Watch.”
Darragh Bermingham, Pundit Arena.