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[EPL] MatchWeek 33 – Homestretch

Thankfully, April’s Fool Day is over and done with, so you wouldn’t think what comes next is a joke. To begin with, starting tonight, MatchWeek 33 gets a little complicated. There’s a couple of clubs playing twice, some matches are supposed to have been this weekend and there’s a bunch that were postponed earlier in this season that will now be played here. I for one can’t really explain the whole rigmarole but getting to the point – there’s eleven matches spanning seven days and plenty of opportunities to get involved. The midweek fixtures include Manchester City attempting to regain top spot and Tottenham playing in their spanking, new stadium for the first time.

Before we get into the nitty-gritties, let’s look back at the wild weekend just gone by. Liverpool and Manchester City kept the pressure on each other in the league title race, with ‘Pool only salvaging a win through a miraculous last-second Spurs own-goal. Arsenal leapfrogged Spurs to 3rd spot finally and now lead the UCL chasing pack by two points with Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea all vying for the coveted 3rd spot.

Aaron Ramsey’s parting gift to Arsenal might just be helping them back into the Champions League. Ramsey scored in the 30th minute, setting Arsenal on their way to a 2-0 home win over Newcastle United that lifted them above Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United and into third place in the Premier League. Alexandre Lacazette added the second goal in the 83rd minute in a dominant performance as the Gunners won for the 10th-straight league game at Emirates Stadium. Ramsey is leaving Arsenal after 11 years to join Juventus on a free transfer in July. He remains important to Arsenal manager Unai Emery, however, and was handed the armband against Newcastle in the absence of regular captain Laurent Koscielny, who was out injured.

And while a handful of teams are still firmly entangled in the struggle to stay up, Huddersfield was mathematically relegated on Saturday (with Fulham all but sure to follow). The biggest mismatch though would appear to be Manchester City’s home tilt with drop-zone dwellers Cardiff. City are a juggernaut, and a furious Neil Warnock is threatening to field a youth side against them after Cardiff’s loss to Chelsea was marred by questionable officiating. 

But there’s no time to dwell on the past. A new game-week starts tonight, with two clubs scheduled for a double, and that’s no April Fools joke.

SCHEDULE

RESULTS

POINTS TABLE

WHAT WE LEARNED IN MATCHWEEK 32
A look at the must-know facts from the latest round of Premier League matches

Fulham 0-2 Manchester City
Sergio Aguero has been involved in 36 Premier League goals against promoted teams (29 goals, 7 assists) since the start of 2011/12, more than any other player
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Southampton
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has four Premier League goals this season, twice his total from the past six campaigns in Europe’s big five leagues
Burnley 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Dwight McNeil has been directly involved in seven Premier League goals this season (three goals, four assists), the joint-most of any teenager, level with Ryan Sessegnon
Crystal Palace 2-0 Huddersfield Town
Wilfried Zaha has won five penalties this season, more than any player in the PL
Leicester City 2-0 AFC Bournemouth
Jamie Vardy has five goals in his last five Premier League appearances, after just one in his previous six
Manchester United 2-1 Watford
Since his debut in February 2016, Marcus Rashford has scored 45 goals for Man Utd in all competitions, more than any other player
West Ham United 0-2 Everton
Everton’s Bernard scored his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance in the competition, ending a run of 1585 minutes without a goal
Cardiff City 1-2 Chelsea
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s goal for Chelsea was their first winner in the 90th minute or later in the Premier League since Frank Lampard scored against Everton in February 2014
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool’s total of 79 points is their best tally after 32 matches of a top-flight season, adjusting to three points for a win, surpassing the 76 they had in 1987/88
Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United
Arsenal have won 10 consecutive Premier League home matches within the same season for the first time since May 1998  

MATCHWEEK 33 STATS: Chicharito targets more joy at the Bridge
West Ham striker seeking to join elite band of players with a goal at Chelsea on Monday night
For more and all the must-know stats for MatchWeek 33, read below

Southampton vs Liverpool
Liverpool are aiming to secure a fourth successive league victory over Southampton for the first time in their history

AFC Bournemouth vs Burnley
A goal from Dwight McNeil would make him the first teenager to score in three consecutive PL matches since Romelu Lukaku in March 2013

Huddersfield vs Leicester
Wes Morgan could become the first Jamaican to score in three straight PL matches since Ricardo Fuller in May 2009

Newcastle vs Crystal Palace
Newcastle United are targeting a sixth successive top-flight home win for the first time since April 2004

Everton vs Arsenal
Arsenal have scored 107 Premier League goals against Everton, more than against any other side in the competition

Chelsea vs West Ham
A goal against Chelsea would make Chicharito the fifth player to score in five consecutive PL away matches against the same opponent, after Dion Dublin (vs Tottenham Hotspur), Alan Shearer (vs Leeds United), Ruud van Nistelrooy (vs Newcastle) and Robert Pires (vs Spurs)

Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

GAME REVIEW
Watford vs Fulham
History: Played 28: Fulham 10 – Watford 9 (9 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): 1-1 draw @ Craven Cottage

After occupying a spot in the top eight for most of the season, Watford are in danger of slipping into the bottom half after losing three of their last four. But the tough run of results has come through a brutal part of their schedule – going down to Liverpool (3-1), Man City (3-1) and Man United (2-1), all on the road.

Second-last Fulham, 16 points adrift of 17th with six games to go, are heading straight back to the Championship. The Cottagers are currently on an eight-match losing streak, though they did well to hold Man City scoreless for the last hour of a 2-0 loss on the weekend.

Watford are unbeaten in their last five against Fulham, who have only scored one goal in the last four matches between the sides. They drew 1-1 at Fulham in Week 6 after Alekasandar Mitrovic’s late leveller for the hosts.

Fulham have lost their last four games on the road by two-goal margins – a good sign for a Watford side that is unbeaten in their last four at home and will be champing at the bit to take on a non-heavyweight.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United
History: Played 100: Man United 48 – Wolverhampton 35 (17 Draws)
Last meeting: March 16, 2019 (FA Cup): Wolverhampton 2 d Man United 0 at Molineux Stadium

Man United will be seeking revenge for last month’s FA Cup loss to Wolves at Molineux Stadium.

Woverhampton remain in seventh, despite going down at Burnley on the weekend. The 2-0 result was just their second loss in nine games – and a far cry from their 1-1 draw at Chelsea in their previous outing. Wolves have overachieved in their promotion season already, but will be eager to finish ‘best of the rest’.

Manchester United are fifth, sitting level on points with Tottenham but with an inferior goal difference. Their 12-match unbeaten run was ended in a 2-0 loss at Arsenal, but they bounced back with a 2-1 win over Watford at home on the weekend.

Wolves have managed two wins and a draw in their last five clashes with superpowers Man United. They grabbed a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in Week 6 of the EPL season and carved out a 2-0 FA Cup upset only two weeks ago.

Chelsea vs Brighton and Hove Albion
History: Played 11: Chelsea 9 – Brighton 1 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: December 16, 2018 (EPL): Chelsea 2 d Brighton 1 at Amex Stadium

Sixth-placed Chelsea are the outsiders in the race to finish in the top four, but they are only a point shy of Spurs and United. Their form remains dubious, however, backing up a 2-0 loss at Everton with a 2-1 win at Cardiff City that required two goals in the last 10 minutes.

Brighton sit in 15th but are only five points ahead of the bottom-three. Invaluable back-to-back wins over Huddersfield and Palace were followed by a 1-0 loss at home to Southampton on the weekend.

Chelsea have won their last nine straight against Brighton, including a 2-1 away victory in December. The Blues won both encounters last season by a combined 6-0.

As bad as they’ve been on the road recently, Chelsea have lost just once at home this season and should bank all three points.

Manchester City vs Cardiff City
History: Played 51: Man City 22 – Cardiff 9 (20 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): Man City 5 d Cardiff 0 at Cardiff City Stadium

Man City are two points behind league leaders Liverpool but have a game in hand. The Citizens are also on a seven-match winning streak, outscoring their opposition 17-2. They accounted for Fulham 2-0 away on the weekend.

Cardiff are 18th and their prospects of avoiding the drop don’t look great, but all hope is not lost. They are five points shy of a three-team logjam directly above them. Cardiff have won three of their last seven games and followed a 2-0 victory over West Ham up with a desperately unlucky 2-1 loss to Chelsea.

Man City romped to a 5-0 away victory over Cardiff in Week 6. Riyad Mahrez scored a second-half double in the rout.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Crystal Palace
History: Played 54: Tottenham 29 – Crystal Palace 12
Last meeting: January 27, 2019 (FA Cup): Crystal Palace 2 d Tottenham 0 at Selhurst Park

Tottenham have been in the top four since Week 15, but on current form that status won’t last much longer. Their only point in their last five fixtures came from a 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Wembley, following that up with losses to Southampton and Liverpool by 2-1 scorelines. A late own goal foiled them against the Reds, however, and the club’s first match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will surely provide some impetus this week.

Crystal Palace have climbed to 13th with four wins and two draws from their last eight games. And when they win, they win well – each of the four victories were two goals or more. They bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Brighton with a 2-0 defeat of Huddersfield on the weekend.

Tottenham are looking to avenge an FA Cup exit at the hands of Palace in January. Spurs have won the last seven EPL encounters between the clubs – including the last five straight by 1-0 scorelines.

Tottenham should rise to the occasion, but given the teams’ recent form they will have to lift a couple of notches to get the win.

Southampton vs Liverpool
History: Played 109: Liverpool 54 – Southampton 30 (25 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): Liverpool 3 d Southampton 0 at Anfield

Southampton have sensationally pulled themselves out of the bottom-three – but the fight isn’t over yet. An unlucky 3-2 loss to Man United is the Saints’ only loss in their last four games, beating Fulham and Brighton either side of a boilover win over Tottenham. They sit five points clear of 17th.

Liverpool hold a two-point lead at the top of the ladder but have played one more game than Man City. They still have just one loss against their name this season and have won three straight against Burnley, Fulham and Tottenham, netting the winner against Spurs in the 90th minute.

After a five-match winless run in the rivalry, Liverpool have won their last three against Southampton by a combined 8-0. All three goals came in the first half of the Reds’ 3-0 home win over the Saints in Week 6.

Southampton should be applauded for their recent turnaround but another heavyweight scalp seems unlikely.

AFC Bournemouth vs Burnley
History: Played 29: Burnley 12 – Bournemouth 6 (11 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): Burnley 4 d Bournemouth 0 at Turf Moor

Bournemouth are safe in 12th with a 10-point break between themselves and the bottom-three. But they will be hoping for a late-season form turnaround after winning just one of their last eight. They have been held scoreless four times during that stretch – including in a 2-0 loss at Leicester last weekend.

Burnley lifted five points clear of the relegation zone with a clutch 2-0 win over Wolverhampton at Turf Moor, snapping a four-match losing streak. It was their first win to nil since December and could not have come at a better time.

Burnley stormed to a 4-0 home win over Bournemouth in Week 6, with Ashley Barnes notching a late brace. The Clarets also won 2-1 at Vitality Stadium last season.

Chris Wood – who was hot with six goals in an eight-game run – is goal-less in his last five games. Back him to get the Clarets on course for an upset.

Huddersfield Town vs Leicester City
History: Played 62: Huddersfield 28 – Leicester 24 (10 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): Leicester 3 d Huddersfield 1 at King Power Stadium

It is now mathematically impossible for Huddersfield to avoid relegation. But their fate was effectively sealed long ago. Town have picked up three points from their past 19 games and went down 2-0 to Palace last weekend.

After bumbling through January and February, Leicester are suddenly on fire, winning four of their last five – including their last three straight against Fulham, Burnley and Bournemouth.

Eighth-placed Leicester are unbeaten in their last five against Huddersfield and have won nine of the last 12 clashes between the clubs. The Foxes prevailed 3-1 at home earlier this season.

Huddersfield have been held scoreless in eight of their last 11 games. And although their relegation confirmation could provide them with a spur in front of their home fans, Leicester should continue their winning run.

Newcastle United vs Crystal Palace
EPL History: Played 44: Newcastle 26 – Crystal Palace 9 (9 Draws)
Last meeting: September 22, 2018 (EPL): 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace will back up from their midweek clash at Tottenham with a trip to Newcastle less than 72 hours later. But they take the confidence of four wins and two draws from their last eight games into the arduous double-assignment.

Newcastle have had a miserable time of it on the road – including a 2-0 loss at Arsenal last weekend – but the 15th-placed outfit are on a remarkable five-match winning streak at home, outscoring their opposition 12-3.

Palace have won just one of their last 16 against Newcastle and are searching for their first victory at St James’ Park since 1998. The last two encounters – both at Selhurst Park – finished in draws, but Newcastle won the last two at St James’ Park by 1-0 scorelines.

The Magpies’ rampant home form and the short turnaround is set to prove Palace’s downfall.

Everton vs Arsenal
EPL History: Played 211: Arsenal 106 – Everton 60 (45 Draws)
Last meeting: September 23, 2018 (EPL): Arsenal 2 d Everton 0 at Emirates Stadium

Everton have endured a largely indifferent campaign but look determined to finish it on a high. The Toffees climbed back into the top half with back-to-back 2-0 wins over Chelsea and West Ham, and have kept four clean sheets in their past five games.

Arsenal are in tremendous touch, picking up five wins and a draw at Tottenham in the past six games. They are also coming off consecutive 2-0 wins, over Man United and Newcastle. They sit in third spot but the chasing pack of Spurs, United and Chelsea are all within three points.

Arsenal have won eight of their last nine against Everton, including the last four straight by a combined 15-4. The Gunners won 2-0 at home in Week 6. Everton have scored at least two goals in four of their last five EPL clashes with Arsenal at Goodison Park.

The Toffees’ recent upswing renders them a great chance of taking a share of the spoils at home, despite the Gunners’ outstanding form.

Chelsea vs West Ham
EPL History: Played 111: Chelsea 49 – West Ham 40 (22 Draws)
Last meeting: September 23, 2018 (EPL): 0-0 draw at London Stadium

Chelsea get five days to recover from their midweek showdown with Brighton. Both games being at home is another bonus, but it will interesting to see how coach Maurizio Sarri rotates his squad.

Eleventh-placed West Ham have been locked in a win-loss pattern for six rounds, culminating in a 2-0 home loss to Everton last week. They are looking to break a six-match winless run on the road, which includes a dismal 2-0 loss at Cardiff City in Week 30.

West Ham have won three and drawn three of their last eight against Chelsea. But Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 13 against West Ham at Stamford Bridge. The teams played out a scoreless draw at West Ham’s home ground in Week 6.

Despite the heavy workload, Chelsea should grind out a tough win.

CURRENT TOP SCORERS
1. Sergio Aguero – 19
2. Mohamed Salah – 17
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 17
4. Harry Kane – 17
5. Sadio Mane – 17

After Wednesday’s match with the Bluebirds, City play an FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, followed by Leg 1 of their Champions League Quarterfinal next Wednesday. Having already won the Carabao Cup in February, Pep Guardiola is on record stating that he intends to mount serious a serious challenge for all three of those remaining trophies. With almost his whole squad fit and available, Pep’s Wonderful Wheel of Rotation will be particularly difficult to predict this week.

United are warming up for next week’s Champions League quarterfinal against Barcelona as well and will want to make light work of the inconsistent Wolves outfit. Solskjaer is locked in and they’ve been terrific under his care; they righted a disappointing loss to Arsenal with a win over Watford most-recently and look well positioned for a strong run home. They’ve registered some excellent results but have remained capable of a shocker; case in point their 2-0 loss to Burnley last weekend. This looks a pretty tough task for them. 

The packed week continues and expect a lot more changes at both ends of the table before MW34.

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