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[EPL] MatchWeek 26 – The Tide Turneth

Manchester City are no longer in Liverpool’s rear-view mirror. It was not a statement victory over Everton midweek to restore the champions to the Premier League summit. However, it does qualify as one of their most symbolic this season, completing a two-month chase of Jurgen Klopp, gnawing away at the belief as much as the lead of their rivals. “Jurgen’s cracking up,” sang the City fans at full time.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side could have gone seven points clear of Manchester City by beating Leicester last week, but only drew 1-1 and were held by the same scoreline at West Ham on Monday but Pep Guardiola says the race isn’t over. Those two draws have allowed City back into the race, and having beaten Arsenal 3-1 on Sunday, the champions go top on goal difference with a win at Everton on Wednesday. However, after a topsy-turvy week that began with City falling to a shock 2-1 defeat at relegation-threatened Newcastle last Tuesday, Guardiola is sure there will be plenty more twists before the end of the season.

“Three or four days ago, we were already done, and the champions were Liverpool. Now we are the favourites. We try to be calm.

Manchester City takes centre stage as they continue a massive month for their title defence. Having comfortably taken care of business against Arsenal at the weekend, they are pulling double duty in Week 26 with their visit to Everton brought forward due to the Carabao Cup Final next weekend. City then hosts next weekend’s opponents Chelsea in a big clash at the Etihad, with European competition on the horizon for all of the big clubs.

Liverpool meanwhile will look to get back on track after dropping points and losing top spot.

However, the Manchester City boss has brought into attention that even Chelsea can become the title contenders with only a few wins. This claim is certainly interesting and appears to be a strategic move ahead of back to back fixtures between the two sides in discussion.

In the Premier League, Chelsea and Manchester City will take on each other on Sunday night at the Etihad Stadium. And then, two weeks later, the Blues will battle for the League Cup title against the blue half of Manchester at Wembley Stadium. With these two crucial ties in the fore, the sudden praise for Maurizio Sarri’s men can well be perceived as a tactical move from the boss of the defending Champions.

Tottenham are five points off top spot, with Chelsea 12 off the pace and Manchester United 14 behind in fifth.

“There are 39 points to play and it is not too much if you are nine or 10 behind,” said Guardiola.

“I never said Tottenham are not there. United making this run every single week and they will be there.

“Now we see the table and see the first two or three and we don’t look further than that. Chelsea can win games in a row and be a contender.

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Points Table 

MatchWeek 25: What we learned
Marcus Rashford is emulating Ryan Giggs as he reaches a landmark appearance for Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Newcastle United
Son Heung-min has been directly involved in 14 goals in his last 10 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur across all competitions, with nine goals and five assists
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Watford
Two of Watford’s last three Premier League fixtures have finished goalless, as many as in their previous 57 in the competition
Burnley 1-1 Southampton
All five of Nathan Redmond’s Premier League goal involvements this season have come under Ralph Hasenhuttl, with three goals and two assists in 10 appearances
Chelsea 5-0 Huddersfield Town
Gonzalo Higuain is the first Chelsea player to score twice on their home league debut for the club since Mario Stanic v West Ham United in August 2000
Crystal Palace 2-0 Fulham
Since his Premier League debut for Crystal Palace, Luka Milivojevic has scored 19 goals, more than any other player at the club
Everton 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 11 Premier League wins this season is already equal to their highest tally in a campaign, in 2010/11
Cardiff City 2-0 AFC Bournemouth
Bobby Reid’s goal 15 seconds into the second half was the fastest after half-time in the PL since Marko Arnautovic after just 11 seconds for West Ham vs Huddersfield Town in January 2018
Leicester City 0-1 Manchester United
Only Ryan Giggs, at 21 years and 74 days, has reached 100 Premier League appearances for Man Utd at a younger age than Marcus Rashford’s 21 years and 95 days
Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal
Sergio Aguero has scored both of the two quickest goals in the PL this season, 24 seconds against Newcastle United and 46 seconds against Arsenal, with both coming in Manchester City’s last two league matches

MatchWeek 26: Ten key facts
Manchester City aim to set a goalscoring record at Etihad Stadium while Raul Jimenez bids to make history for Mexico, plus the weekend’s other standout stats

Fulham vs Manchester United
Eight of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 10 PL goals this season have come at home
Crystal Palace vs West Ham
West Ham can win a fourth consecutive PL London derby for the first time since February 1996. Their current run of capital victories started against Palace in December
Huddersfield Town vs Arsenal
Seven of Alexandre Lacazette’s nine PL goals this season have been winners. Only Mohamed Salah, with eight, has scored more in the competition this season
Liverpool vs AFC Bournemouth
Sadio Mane could score in a fourth consecutive PL match within the same season for the first time
Southampton vs Cardiff City
Cardiff have the chance to secure a second consecutive top-flight victory for the first time since April 1962
Watford vs Everton
Watford can secure a third successive PL home win over a single opponent for the first time in the competition
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Burnley
Chris Wood has scored five goals in his last eight league starts against Brighton, although he has been unable to find the net in five of the last six
Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City
Son Heung-min has had a hand in five goals in his last two PL starts against Leicester, scoring three times and providing two assists
Manchester City vs Chelsea
Chelsea are unbeaten in seven fixtures against reigning PL champions and can become only the third team to win four such matches in a row, after Liverpool and Man City
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Newcastle United
Raul Jimenez, who has scored nine PL goals for Wolves, could become only the second Mexican to reach double figures in a single campaign after Chicharito Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

Game Review
Fulham vs Man Utd
Fulham is slowly finding ways to improve, taking points from four of its last eight matches but it’s going to be a whole other test when Manchester United comes to town.

United’s last Premier League loss came on December 17th, a week after crushing then bottom placed Fulham 4-1 at Old Trafford.

Perhaps the only thing that might slow United down in this one is the looming Champions League clash with one of the few clubs that can make the Red Devils look poor, PSG.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might rotate his squad just a bit but the depth on offer with United means they should have more than enough goal scorers on the pitch to come away with a comfortable win here.

Crystal Palace vs West Ham
From a punting perspective, West Ham are the definition of a worst nightmare.

Some weeks they look like a side that should be battling relegation when they lose to Bournemouth and Wolves by a combined score of 5-0.

Then they will look like one of the best sides in the competition topping Arsenal and holding Liverpool to a draw.

Palace have been somewhat inconsistent this season as well but with just three losses in their last nine games, they are starting to put something together.

West Ham won a phenomenal clash 3-2 in early December and what stands out about this one, is the possibility that anything could happen.

Huddersfield vs Arsenal
As expected, Arsenal dropped to a loss away to Manchester City starting off what was a pretty rough day for its owner Stan Kroenke, whose LA Rams side also lost the Super Bowl.

The Gunners look to bounce back from that disappointment when they host a Huddersfield side that has won twice all season and is coming off a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Chelsea.

It was a tight clash at the Emirates in early December with just the one goal in it but there should be a few more in this one. The Gunners should win this one.

Liverpool vs Bournemouth
The Premier League leaders suffered their second straight draw after West Ham picked up a point last weekend.

With Manchester City going table top on goal difference, Liverpool are now burdened with the knowledge that their next loss could see them relinquish the league lead.

It is very unlikely that loss will come in this game however, with Liverpool favourites to return to the winners circle.

Liverpool’s once impenetrable defence has looked more than a bit shaky in the past month, conceding goals in five of its last six Premier League matches.

Southampton vs Cardiff
It took until February but Cardiff finally picked up its first Premier League win of 2019 in an emotion charged clash with Bournemouth.

Another three points here and the side could find themselves out of the relegation zone while simultaneously sending this weekend’s opponents into the danger zone.

They would have every reason to feel confident going into this one having beaten Southampton two months ago but the Saints are doing just enough to pick up results at the moment.

They are on a five game unbeaten run in the Premier League and dating back to December 16th, have been able to take 15 points from their last nine league games.

A Cardiff double chance is quite possible but it is too hard to ignore the Saints’ recent form.

Watford vs Everton
Everything about this game screams bad spot for Everton.

Coming off their midweek loss to Manchester City, the Toffees now have to deal with a Watford side that will no doubt be high on confidence.

With one point between these sides, this should be a good marker for both teams.

All things considered though, Everton seem like they are going to be a bit fatigued going into this game and Watford looks like they could take it home.

Brighton vs Burnley
Another Premier League side on a long unbeaten run helping keep them afloat is Burnley who have not lost in six matches.

Three straight wins have been followed by three straight draws but there is not a lot of opportunity to enjoy that streak with just two points keeping them above the relegation zone.

It’s worth remembering that this Burnley side did finish seventh last season and still has plenty of quality in it.

Spurs vs Leicester
It’s been four long matches since Leicester recorded a Premier League win and a visit to Wembley will cap what has been a very trying three weeks.

Having drawn with Liverpool and lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the last 10 days, Leicester will feel like they can at the very least press a Tottenham side that could be forgiven for overlooking their opponents.

Spurs will have one eye on their Champions League tie with Dortmund coming up next week and while logic dictates some rotation will be in order, injuries may force a lot of players into double duty.

This one could go about four or five different ways depending on what you like but Leicester look good for an upset here given Spurs have not drawn a Premier League match since April 18th last year.

Man City vs Chelsea
The first of two meetings between theses in the space of the week ahead of the Carabao Cup Final.

Chelsea righted the ship in the best way possible with a 5-0 win after two straight losses and they do have the confidence of being the first team to beat City this season.

At the Etihad it is hard to back against City but for a game of this magnitude anything is possible.

Wolves vs Newcastle
Wolves are on a three game winning run, the equal longest in the Premier League at the moment.

In that time they have been one of the most entertaining sides to watch, scoring 11 goals as their attack really starts to gel.

This represents a great chance to further solidify their position in seventh place on the table and a repeat of their 2-1 over Newcastle at St James’ Park earlier this season would go down very well.

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