Though the score lines were each 2-0, Saturday home victories from Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool against Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United, respectively, both felt even more comfortable. With those teams each taking the three points, they put some pressure on the rest of the Big Six teams (other than Manchester City, of course) in the race to finish in the top four for automatic Champions League qualification.
Meanwhile, the nil-nil draw between Southampton and Stoke City left Crystal Palace in the drop zone, while Swansea City’s 4-1 victory over West Ham United pushed the Swans to a mere point behind Brighton & Hove Albion, which stands only four points ahead of the 17th place Eagles.
In other words, time is getting short and things are getting fun! What should we look for on Sunday and Monday?
Brighton v. Arsenal
Brighton is on fire with four wins and two draws in its past six games across all competitions. Arsenal, on the other hand, is a dumpster fire, with only win along with four losses in its past five games across all comps. Successive 3-0 defeats at the hands of Manchester City have given the Gunners a whiplash feeling reminiscent of its demolition at the hands (and feet) of Bayern Munich in last year’s Champions League.
For “Wenger Out” to be anything but a foregone conclusion, Arsenal is going to have to turn things around in a hurry; the Gunners now sit 13 points behind fourth place Tottenham. This one’s not going to be easy, as Arsenal have taken only 13 points from its 14 away games thus far. By comparison, Brighton have 21 points from their 14 home tilts. So, Brighton is in much better form, while also performing better at home team than Arsenal does away. The Seagulls have plenty to play for, as a win would put them in 10th place, whereas a loss would leave them in a much more precarious spot, risking the possibility of relegation. If Arsenal can’t win this one, it truly will be all about taking the Europa League title.
Manchester City v. Chelsea
The Sunday night special is still the marquee game of the week, but it has lost a bit of luster due to Chelsea’s form. The Blues have only two wins in their past six games across all competitions, with a draw and three losses including last week’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford. Traveling to the Etihad will be expected to prove even more difficult.
Chelsea has actually been strong on the road, taking 24 points from its 14 away games this season. However, Manchester City is simply a buzzsaw at home, with 40 points in its home games (13 wins and a single draw). On top of that, the team is getting healthy, with Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, and Vincent Kompany recently returning to action. Another loss would leave Chelsea five points behind Spurs for the fourth spot in the league.
This game represents a passing of the baton from the reigning title holders to this year’s inevitable champs. The only question is whether the Blues can claw a result to keep their Champions League ambitions alive for next season, all the more pressing as the squad is in danger of being knocked out of this campaign’s contest by Barcelona in mid-March.
Crystal Palace v. Manchester United
The second place Red Devils come in on a high following the victory over Chelsea, but have lost two straight league games on the road (1-0 at Newcastle, 2-0 at Tottenham). The Eagles, though, have taken the fourth fewest points from their home games (17) among Premier League squads, while Manchester United have 24 points from away games, so the visitors will expect a result. Meanwhile, if Crystal Palace can defy the odds and take the three points, it would move from the drop zone up to 13th place.
How do you expect the long weekend’s remaining games to turn out? Which players are you counting on for fantasy glory? Let us know in the comments!