Can you really say there has been a shakeup in the title race when just about everyone in the top six drops points? If you ever want proof this might just be Liverpool’s season, in the week where they were held to a draw by Leicester City, Man City went ahead and lost to Newcastle. While Liverpool wasted a chance to cement their stranglehold on the title race, Chelsea suffered their worst defeat for 23 years when Joshua King scored twice as AFC Bournemouth overwhelmed them with a 4-0 victory at Vitality Stadium.
Handed a lifeline by Liverpool’s failure to beat Leicester, Manchester City will now begin a crucial week in the 2018/2019 English Premier League title race. They host Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday, needing all the points at stake to keep the chase alive. Manchester City’s shock 2-1 defeat at struggling Newcastle United offered Liverpool the chance to open up a seven-point lead but Juergen Klopp’s side could only manage a point.
That leaves the Merseysiders five points clear. But that advantage could be cut to just two points before they play West Ham on Monday, provided Manchester City can take care of business against Unai Emery’s Gunners. That is the first of three key matches in seven days for the defending champions who travel to Everton on Wednesday for a re-arranged fixture and then host Chelsea on Sunday.
“The next week or so will be tough with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea. I know the challenge is big. If we want to go up as a club we have to accept that challenge,” said manager Pep Guardiola.
While Liverpool have the upper hand in the race, 14 games remain. And, as the midweek round of fixtures showed, the unpredictability of the league means there could be many twists and turns to come.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning run since taking over as caretaker manager of Manchester United has brought memories flooding back of Alex Ferguson’s golden years in charge at Old Trafford when the Norwegian was a player. To add to the daring, attacking brand of football, United’s current crop have now also shown the ability to fight back at the death that characterised Ferguson’s title-winning sides, most notably when Solskjaer scored the second of two goals in stoppage time to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the 1999 Champions League final.
Yet, even two goals in the final minutes were not enough for a ninth straight victory under Solskjaer in a 2-2 draw with Burnley on Tuesday, although Chelsea’s 4-0 thrashing at Bournemouth means United are now just two points off a top-four place.
It is an intense stage of the campaign for the front-runners who are back in European action next month with round-of-16 matches in the Champions League adding to their workload. Tottenham are only two points behind Manchester City and will still believe they can yet pull off a surprise with a late season tilt towards the title. Spurs could move ahead of Manchester City into second, for 24 hours at least, if they can beat Newcastle United at home on Saturday.
It is no less tight at the bottom where 16th-placed Southampton visit Burnley, a place below them on Saturday. Crystal Palace, who are level on points with both those teams, host next-to-bottom Fulham, whose fight against the drop has been given a boost by Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Brighton.
MATCHWEEK 24 – RESULTS
MatchWeek 24: What we learned
The standout statistics from MatchWeek 24’s fixtures
Arsenal 2-1 Cardiff City
Mesut Ozil created his 500th goalscoring chance in the EPL, second only to Christian Eriksen’s 510 since his debut in September 2013
Fulham 4-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Glenn Murray opened the scoring in a PL match for the sixth time this season. Only Mohamed Salah, in nine matches, has done more
Huddersfield Town 0-1 Everton
Richarlison has scored 11 goals in all competitions for Everton this season, the same tally as the club’s top goalscorer in 2017/18, Wayne Rooney
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 West Ham United
Joao Moutinho, left, has provided two assists in back-to-back PL matches after having only two in his first 22 appearances
Manchester United 2-2 Burnley
Man Utd came from two goals down to draw at home to Burnley for the second time in as many league meetings
Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester City
Sergio Aguero’s goal after 24 seconds was the quickest PL goal this season and the fastest City have scored since Jesus Navas’s after 13 seconds v Spurs in November 2013
AFC Bournemouth 4-0 Chelsea
This is only the second time in PL history that Chelsea have lost a match by a four-goal margin, after losing 5-1 to Liverpool in September 1996
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace
All four of Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha’s PL goals this season have been away from home; the highest number scored by a player not to have scored at home
Liverpool 1-1 Leicester City
Liverpool failed to win at Anfield for only the second time in the PL this season (W9 D2), having also drawn against Man City in October
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Watford
Spurs have scored 13 headed goals in the PL in 2018/19, their most in a single top-flight season since 1999/00, when they netted 16 under manager George Graham
MatchWeek 25: Ten key facts
Man Utd and Burnley are seeking to extend unbeaten runs plus the weekend’s other standout stats
Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United
Spurs have won their last two PL matches despite conceding the first goal. They could now win a third successive match in that manner for the first time in the competition
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Watford
This will be Javi Gracia’s 39th PL match in charge of Watford, more than any other manager for the club in the competition
Burnley vs Southampton
Only Manchester United, with seven matches, are on a longer unbeaten PL run than Burnley, with five
Chelsea vs Huddersfield Town
Chelsea are aiming to avoid a third consecutive PL defeat, having last suffered a hat-trick of losses in November 2015
Crystal Palace vs Fulham
Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 20 PL goals, with 10 those coming for Newcastle United and the other 10 for Fulham
Everton vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves are looking to score three or more goals in a third consecutive top-flight match for the first time since March 1980
Cardiff City vs AFC Bournemouth
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scored his first PL goal in Cardiff’s 2-1 midweek defeat at Arsenal, becoming only the second player to score in all four English league divisions since the 2014/15 season, after Alfie Mawson
Leicester City vs Manchester United
Since the start of the 2014/15 season, no player has scored more Premier League goals against Man Utd than Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, whose four strikes puts him level with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Sergio Aguero
Manchester City vs Arsenal
Man City have won their last three Premier League matches against Arsenal and can make it four in a row in the top flight against the Gunners for the first time since April 1937
West Ham vs Liverpool
West Ham have lost their last four PL matches against Liverpool, conceding exactly four times in each defeat. They have lost 4-0, 4-1, 4-1 and 4-0 Courtesy – PremierLeague.com
Spurs vs Newcastle
Tottenham will be feeling a lot better about its come from behind win against Watford midweek looking at others dropping points around them.
Newcastle helped them out by picking up a massive upset over Manchester City, putting Spurs back within touching distance.
Wembley has not really been the “fortress” as Spurs have been forced to extend their lease on the ground as they wait for the new White Hart Lane.
It’s hard to see Newcastle being able to back up from the massive high of upsetting the defending champions and bring that same intensity to Wembley, and they might just be in for a bit of a letdown.
Brighton vs Watford
Things are not great for Brighton with just five points from its last nine Premier League matches.
Watford on the other hand will just be kicking themselves after letting a lead slip at Wembley, costing themselves three points.
The Hornets are one of the better travelling sides, picking up 16 points on the road this season, a better tally than Arsenal and with Brighton down on confidence, you have to like the value on offer for a road upset.
There is a little bit of extra motivation on the line for two sides that have spent plenty of time facing off in the Championship prior to last year, this will be Watford’s chance for back to back wins over Brighton since 1973
Burnley vs Southampton
Both of these sides picked up draws during the week, although one will feel much better about their point than the other.
Southampton well feel like they missed a chance against Crystal Palace while Burnley will be ecstatic after being the first side to take points off Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.
Both of these sides are actually in pretty good form and this game has a definite watchability to it – Southampton are unbeaten in four and Burnley are unbeaten in five.
The last two meetings between these sides have ended in draws and another level pegging looks good here.
Chelsea vs Huddersfield
If there was ever a good time to catch a side like Chelsea, this week might just be it.
Back to back Premier League losses (either side of back to back Cup wins) has them out of the top four but as they prepare to take on bottom placed Huddersfield who have lost their last two as well, you have to wonder what is going on with Chelsea.
Aside from Wednesday’s loss, every other time the Blues have come off a Premier League loss they have scored two goals in a win, so a low scoring, get right game is the play here.
Crystal Palace vs Fulham
With 12 points from their last 12 games, Fulham are slowly working their way back towards safety.
This weekend they take on one of the sides potentially in their sights with a six-pointer against Southampton.
Palace kick started Fulham’s rough start to the season with a 2-0 win on opening day and would love to pick up it its first league double over Fulham since 1929/1930 in Division Three (South).
Palace know what is riding on this game and this should be a high scoring clash between two sides desperate for a win.
Everton vs Wolves
Two straight wins for Wolves has them up to seventh spot despite a negative goal difference and they could put some distance between themselves and seventh placed Everton with a win here.
Whoever gets to dictate this game will probably be the more successful team, with Wolves looking to score a bunch while Everton will likely want this to be a much lower scoring encounter.
Four of Everton’s last five games have had two or fewer goals while four of Wolves’ last five have had three or more goals.
There is more than enough talent here for both teams to score here so that is the straight up play.
Cardiff vs Bournemouth
Bournemouth are coming off a massive 4-0 thumping of Chelsea during the week but there won’t be too much time to celebrate with a quick turnaround ahead of their trip to Wales.
The Cherries took the Round 1 meeting 2-0 in the first clash between the sides since March 2015.
On the face of it, this one actually looks relatively straightforward with the in form Cherries justifying their position as favourites.
Leicester vs Man Utd
Well, well, well… Solskjaer is in fact human, that massive winning run to kick start his managerial tenure at Old Trafford finally came to an end, now it’s just an unbeaten run.
Things are looking much brighter for the Red Devils now as they host a Leicester side they did enough to beat in the season opening match.
The Foxes snapped a two game losing run with a draw at Champions-elect Liverpool during the week and would love to play spoiler once more.
Man City vs Arsenal
Unfortunately for people looking to have a punt on this game, the head to head market looks pretty much spot on.
Arsenal are not a good side away from home, especially when facing a fellow top four contender and that is probably why City are looking more likely win this one and they have won each of the last four meetings between these sides as well.
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