1) Win or lose for Liverpool and Spurs
For the second week in a row, Liverpool can get their work done before sitting down to see how Manchester City fare. The extent of any European rebound or, in City’s case, hangover may be difficult to predict, but Jürgen Klopp’s men have certainly built up a fearsome head of steam to carry into the last four games. Like Liverpool, Spurs have a rival just above them who are, on the whole, still winning – falling five points behind Arsenal this weekend could prove very costly ahead of Thursday’s North London derby and adds to the feeling that neither team can really afford it. anything but victory at Anfield. The Spurs were not especially convincing by beating Leicester but, with a song that Harry Kane and Son Heung-min kept fresh for the better part of a week, you might want to expose that guy’s tired legs. monumental comeback in Villarreal. Seasons are on the line for both sides, who would no doubt have preferred different opponents at this point. N/A
2) You have to build a city for El Gasico
Even before their midweek Champions League loss at the Bernabeu, Manchester City’s home game against resurgent Newcastle looked like one of the most likely banana skins in their top-flight clash. Until, that is, you examined Eddie Howe’s record against Pep Guardiola: a measly 11 losses out of 11 with an aggregate score of 34-5. All but one of those losses occurred before Wor Eddie joined Pep in the managerial ranks of the nation’s state-owned car wash sports cars, only to lose his first El Gasico derby. 4-0 at St James’ Park in December. His much-improved team travels to the Etihad Stadium to take on a team left stunned and visibly distraught by the Real Madrid heist. It is up to Guardiola to rally his troops, a task that may take some time. Later the failure of the city In a massive midweek test of his mettle, a season that promised so much could be completely derailed on Sunday night. BG
3) United ending the season of broken dreams
Manchester United’s penultimate match of a season when their pending goal is a place in the 2022-23 Europa League. A win against an in-form Brighton will get them there, but that wasn’t how it was supposed to be when Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club last summer, as optimistic fans dreamed that Ole Gunnar Solskjær might be able to restore the days of Glory to Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick was later brought in to change the culture of the club, but he will depart to coach Austria and periodically return to the role of advisor to him as the outsider he has always been. What legacy will the caretaker leave? Álvaro Fernández, the 19-year-old Spaniard, making his debut to follow the few minutes granted to Alejandro Garnacho against Brentford on Monday is all that remains. United fans have spent much of the season as spectators hoping that Liverpool and Manchester City could fail in some way. JB
4) Burnley owners make high-stakes games
The release of Burnley’s accounts on Wednesday revealed exactly how financially ruinous relegation could be for a club that had extremely healthy cash reserves before his leveraged buyout by ALK Capital in December 2020. Simply put, if Burnley go down, they won’t be financially well-placed to get back up and their situation could get a lot worse before it gets better. On the plus side, interim coach Mike Jackson has enjoyed a dream start after scoring 10 points in four games in charge, managing a team that has shown no shortage of character since Sean Dyche’s departure. Aston Villa travel to Turf Moor on Saturday for another game that Burnley will see as eminently winnable against struggling opponents who have taken our points from the last 18 available. While avoiding relegation would constitute Houdini’s heroics for Burnley and their unsuspecting fans, it remains to be seen whether their owners deserve such a reprieve. BG
5) Will Watford’s fate be sealed by Palace?
Meetings with Crystal Palace can bring back bitter memories for Watford fans. 2013 playoff final or the 2016 FA Cup Semi Final, for example (even if that was avenged in the 2019 quarterfinals), and Saturday will most likely bring another. Watford’s visit to Selhurst is likely to end with relegation confirmation and an unhappy return for Roy Hodgson to a former club where he is fondly esteemed. of Watford outgoing manager he says this will be his last job in the Premier League and he will hope his team will at least go down fighting. They’re doomed if they don’t win, so they’ll have to start with the same intensity they initially showed against Burnley last week before bowing out at the end. The problem is that it is likely to expose their defense to an attack that separated them in a 4-1 win at Vicarage Road in February. Wilfried Zaha, Jean-Philippe Mateta, Connor Gallagher and company have the shape and power to capitalize. SD
6) Nketiah can hinder former teammates
Opportunity beckons Arsenal on Sunday and it will be a positive slam at the door if they take on Leeds knowing Spurs have failed to win at Liverpool. A fourth consecutive victory could give them a foot in the Champions League; their previous three haven’t been particularly smooth, but the team’s players have stepped up and served them admirably. Chief among them has been Eddie Nketiah, who put in his best overall performance for Arsenal at the victory at West Ham even if he didn’t score. Nketiah’s contribution outside the box has raised questions about him for a long time, but he stretched the Hammers with smart runs, pressed fiercely and held the ball well. Whether it’s enough to keep him at the Emirates beyond this season remains to be seen, but Nketiah has a crucial role to play over the next two weeks, particularly as Alexandre Lacazette has looked so lackluster in recent weeks. Against his former club on loan, relegation-ridden Leeds should be given another chance to be a hero. N/A
7) Can the Wolves get away from the beach?
Aside from marching into Molineux to face Brighton last Saturday wielding buckets and shovels while wearing bandannas knotted at each corner of their heads, the Wolves players could hardly have looked more ‘on the beach’ and they were duly beaten, leaving his manager, Bruno Lage, understandably furious. He said after the game that many of his pupils are playing for his future and even several of them may not be too worried if that future lies elsewhere. It was long assumed that Chelsea would finish in the top four, but with four games to go they have a lot of work to do. They’ll hope Lage’s warning falls on closed ears and the Wolves continue their current sleepwalking until the end of the season. BG
8) Will Leicester’s trip to Rome benefit Everton?
Leicester, flying to Rome for a Europa Conference League tie on Thursday night, would appear to play into the hands of Everton, who remain in the relegation places despite achieving a unlikely win against Chelsea last Sunday. The problem? The only time Everton have won away from home this season was against Brighton on 28 August, a result that left them sixth, with two wins and a draw from their opening three games. heady days. Fast-forward to the current anxiety-ridden matchup and Sunday would seem like a good time for them to double their away win tally for the campaign. Leicester won’t be at full strength after their efforts in Europe, which must be a concern for fellow relegation contenders Everton, Leeds and Burnley. How much has Everton’s fragile confidence been boosted by that heartwarming win against Chelsea? LM
9) The bees and the saints need a victory for safety
When the games came out last summer, Southampton at home in May might have been the sort of game Brentford fans hoped would be an end-of-season ramble, a quiet celebration of safety, like a pre-season friendly but with a real. Full house. It has almost come to pass. Almost. What could have been an opportunity for fans to simply kick back and enjoy the elegance of Christian Eriksen or a James Ward-Prowse piece or two will be matched with just a touch of anxiety. With Burnley and Everton fighting hard under them, both sides could use more than their 40-point tally. Despite having the rare misfortune of catch Manchester United on a good day on Monday, Brentford should be in current form to take them home, while Ralph Hussenhüttl’s side have also put on some decent displays of late, notably in the win over Arsenal. All of which should provide the mix of quality and urgency to make this a game worth watching. SD
10) Smith has a career direction to ponder
A penny for the thoughts of Dean Smith, who could have enjoyed some well-earned downtime after his dismissal from Aston Villa but chose to dine immediately from what turned out to be a predictably poisoned goblet offered to him by Norwich. While he hasn’t done a particularly bad job at East Anglia with the very limited players at his disposal, he certainly hasn’t done very well and now has the stain of relegation on an impressive managerial resume. With West Ham visiting on Sunday for a game of little consequence to either team, this keen chess player could be forgiven for giving serious thought to his next move. BG