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[EPL] MatchWeek 35 – A Time Of Reckoning

With four MatchWeeks to go in the 2018-2019 season, Man City must really wonder what went wrong this time round – last year at this stage they were already confirmed champions. But, all credit to Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool boys who unrelentingly kept the heat on at the top.

After a game of musical chairs that went well into MW34, there’s a status quo at the top as both Liverpool and City notch up wins with five and four games remaining respectively. Liverpool remains on course for their first top tier title since 1990 after another aggressive assault on an EPL club, this time beating Chelsea at Anfield, with Manchester City also bagging three points in their more predictable win over Crystal Palace.

The relegation battle just went to the wire too with Cardiff winning against Brighton to keep survival hopes alive and dragging the Seagulls with them into the relegation dogfight. Cardiff are still alive. Victory on the south coast against the only team they can realistically catch in the scramble to remain in the Premier League means reports of Welsh demise were more than a little premature. There were those who wondered how Neil Warnock had managed to get his side promoted last season. If he maintains this sort of momentum, heads need not be scratched as to exactly how he kept them there.

It’s the tightest finish to an EPL title race in years. The lead has changed hands ten times in the past 67-days. And with the campaign rattling towards a thrilling end, this weekend, like all those remaining in the campaign, will be key in determining who gets their hands on the trophy.

Liverpool.

Man City.

Who will it be?

If you’re a City fan, you needed Chelsea to beat Liverpool. Visits to Cardiff and Newcastle and home games against Huddersfield and Wolves are not likely places for Jürgen Klopp’s side to drop points. Despite being two points clear of City with only four games remaining, City are the favourites to become the first side to defend the title since Man Utd managed it in 2008/09.

Pep Guardiola’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace – courtesy of a Raheem Sterling double and a last-minute strike from Gabriel Jesus – was their 15th victory in 17 games, with only last week’s and mid-week’s Champions League defeat to Spurs spoiling the picture. This will be the biggest test of the season for Manchester City yet. Up first is a clash with Tottenham just two and a half days after their Champions League tie wrapped up. Then on Thursday morning is a Manchester Derby that could prove decisive for both their title hopes and United’s top four ambitions.

“We expect them to win every game,” said Klopp.

Spurs on the weekend.

Man Utd four days later.

Don’t be too sure.

SCHEDULE

RESULTS – MATCHWEEK 34

POINTS TABLE

ALAN SHEARER’S TEAM OF THE WEEK – MATCHWEEK 34

WHAT WE LEARNED IN MATCHWEEK 34
From Liverpool’s record-equalling win to Lucas Moura’s Brazilian rarity, we highlight the standout stats from MW34

Leicester City 0-1 Newcastle United
Newcastle have won back-to-back league visits to Leicester in the top flight for the first time since September 1959 under manager Charlie Mitten
Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Huddersfield Town
Lucas Moura is only the fourth Brazilian to score a Premier League hat-trick, after Afonso Alves, Robinho and Roberto Firmino
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-5 AFC Bournemouth
Ryan Fraser has scored seven and assisted 12 goals this season, the most goal involvements by a Scot in a single campaign since Charlie Adam’s 20 in 2010/11
Burnley 2-0 Cardiff City
Since the start of last season, Chris Wood has scored 20 PL goals for Burnley, more than any other player
Fulham 2-0 Everton
In his 103rd PL appearance, Ryan Babel both scored and assisted in a match for the first time
Southampton 3-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Southampton have won six of 13 Premier League matches in 2019, as many as they’d won from 37 in 2018
Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United
Man Utd’s Paul Pogba has been directly involved in 22 PL goals this season, with 13 strikes and nine assists, his best return in a single campaign in the top five European leagues
Crystal Palace 1-3 Man City
Manchester City have won five PL away matches against London sides this season, their highest number of victories in the capital in a single top-flight campaign
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
This was Liverpool’s 26th PL victory of the season, equalling their record from the 2013/14 campaign under Brendan Rodgers. They last won more in a top-flight season in 1978/79, when they claimed 30 wins
Watford 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal kept their first away clean sheet in the Premier League this season at the 16th time of asking
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Cardiff City
Sean Morrison scored his third Premier League goal, his first for the Bluebirds and his first for 2327 days since scoring for Reading against Man Utd in December 2012

MATCHWEEK 35: KEY FACTS
Cherries offer high-scoring entertainment – History suggests that goals are almost guaranteed as AFC Bournemouth host Fulham on Saturday. There have been more goals scored in matches involving Eddie Howe’s side this season than any other team, making them the Premier League’s great entertainers.

For more on this and all the must-know stats for MW35, read on.

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs have won all five of their PL matches without Harry Kane this season. They last lost without the England striker featuring against Manchester United back in October 2017
AFC Bournemouth vs Fulham
There have been 110 goals scored in AFC Bournemouth’s PL matches this season, more than any other side in the competition (F49 A61)
Huddersfield Town vs Watford
Gerard Deulofeu has been involved in 14 goals in all competitions this season, scoring nine times and providing five assists. He has averaged a goal involvement every 129 minutes, the best ratio of any Watford player
West Ham United vs Leicester City
Marc Albrighton has been directly involved in five PL goals against West Ham, scoring once and getting four assists, more than against any other side. He has scored or assisted a goal in all three of his top-flight away matches against them
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Brighton
Diogo Jota has had a hand in nine goals in his last seven PL home matches, with six strikes and three assists. He has only failed to score or assist in one of those fixtures, against Newcastle United
Newcastle United vs Southampton
Ayoze Perez has been involved in five goals in his last six PL home matches for Newcastle, scoring four and assisting another
Everton vs Manchester United
Anthony Martial has scored in his last three PL matches against Everton. The last Man Utd player to score in four straight matches against a single opponent was Wayne Rooney against Hull City in November 2014
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
Having drawn this season’s reverse fixture 2-2, Crystal Palace are looking to avoid defeat in both league meetings with Arsenal in a campaign for the first time since 1979/80
Cardiff City vs Liverpool
Mohamed Salah is one goal away from becoming just the third Liverpool player to score 20 in consecutive PL campaigns, after Robbie Fowler in 1994/95 and 1995/96 and Luis Suarez in 2012/13 and 2013/14
Chelsea vs Burnley
Eden Hazard has scored nine goals in 17 Monday matches in the PL, more than any other Chelsea player. He netted a brace in his last Monday match against West Ham United earlier this month   Courtesy – PremierLeague.com

GAME REVIEW – Our Super 8
Man City vs Spurs
Just shy of three days after concluding their Champions League obligations against one another, City and Tottenham play out the third act of their April trilogy. Just where do we start after the teams played out an incredible Champions League 2nd leg quarter final where City won 4-3 on the night but went out on the away goals rule. City need to win this game or that could be the title over too. They will be utterly determined to win this game at home at all cost. Watch out for Raheem Sterling who was denied a hat trick because of VAR, a system not used in the Premier League yet.

In City’s last 14 games they have claimed 39 of a possible 42 points as they have see sawed with Liverpool at the top of the table.

As for Tottenham their league form has not been quite so imperious as of late as they have only just come out of a streak where they went five games without a win to fall out of title contention and into a battle for third place.

After back to back wins in the league it certainly looks like they are finding their bearings once again and it could not come at a better time with the chasing pack ready to pounce on any dropped points.

When playing at home this season, City have picked up 48 of 51 points and they are a much better side here, they should win and be able to score a few goals.

Our Super 8
Man City: Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva
Spurs: Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen, Lucas Moura, Fernando Llorente

Bournemouth vs Fulham
Bournemouth’s weekend could not have gone much better as they heaped more pressure on relegation threatened Brighton with a 5-0 win.

Up next is the already relegated Fulham who is coming off an upset win over Everton and is playing solely for pride.

The Cherries won the meeting in October 3-0 at Craven Cottage and will look to improve on their 26 points at home in this game.

These games can be a little tough to read with both sides seemingly locked into their fate but you have to like Bournemouth as a home favourite here.

Our Super 8
Bournemouth: Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, David Brooks, Junior Stanislas
Fulham: Ryan Babel, Tom Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon, Aleksandar Mitrović

Huddersfield vs Watford
Watford will feel pretty hard done by after being reduced to 10 men early in their defeat to Arsenal but facing Huddersfield should give them the perfect get right opportunity.

The Terriers have picked up just eight points at home all season but just three have come since the start of December.

They have given up four goals in each of their last two games and Watford did blast Fulham 4-1 earlier this month.

Considering their recent form, Huddersfield is one of those sides you have to find a way to back against and this is not a time to abandon that strategy.

Our Super 8
Huddersfield: Aaron Mooy, Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Karlan Grant
Watford: Gerard Deulofeu, Abdoulaye Doucoure,  Andre Gray, Daryl Janmaat

West Ham vs Leicester
Leicester’s charge up the Premier League ladder was brought to a halt by Newcastle last weekend, ending a four game winning streak.
West Ham has dropped from ninth to eleventh on the back of a three game losing streak, most recently going down to Manchester United.
Of the last six meetings, Leicester has won two, West Ham have won one and the other three have finished as draws.
Remarkably this season, Leicester has actually picked up more points on the road that it has at home.
Because of that and West Ham’s struggles, Leicester should take this one.

Our Super 8
West Ham: Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson, Marko Arnautović, Javier Hernández
Leicester: Youri Tielemans, Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy, James Maddison

Wolves vs Brighton
It’s been a rough last couple of weekends for Wolves, since beating Manchester United on April 2nd, they have given up a two goal lead in the FA Cup Semi Final and lost to Southampton.

Brighton, also licking their wounds after a Cup Semi Final exit, would love to have the same outcome as their fellow strugglers in this game as three points might just get them to safety.

You can’t feel confident in the Seagulls after shipping five to Bournemouth and three to Chelsea in the game before.

In fact, Brighton has not scored in 285 minutes of Premier League football, the last one coming from Anthony Knockaert in their win over Crystal Palace on March 9.

Brighton might be playing with more urgency but Wolves still have the quality to win this game and Brighton might be in for a few more days of looking over their shoulders.

Our Super 8
Wolves:  Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho, Willy Boly
Brighton: Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Glenn Murray, Anthony Knockaert, Florin Andone

Newcastle vs Southampton
Both of these sides are, for all intents and purposes, safe from relegation but this weekend they could mathematically secure it with a win here.

It’s unlikely that Cardiff will go on a massive run and overtake Southampton and either team here but you would imagine they would like to try and secure safety on their own.

All things considered it’s very tough to split either of these teams and with both sides full of confidence after their victories, there is every chance they won’t be split on the pitch either.

Our Super 8
Newcastle: Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie, Fabian Schär, Jamaal Lascelles
Southampton: Nathan Redmond, Danny Ings,  James Ward-Prowse, Angus Gunn 

Everton vs Man Utd
“If Everton lost to Fulham, how are they going to beat Manchester United?” is a question many will be asking.
For all intents & purposes you have to like United to win this game, especially at over even money, but there has to be a bit of a red flag considering they will be returning from a draining clash in Barcelona.
That being said, Everton last beat United almost four years ago and United really can’t afford to drop points in this game with a derby on the horizon.
A flat United performance would not be that surprising but this is the time of year where it doesn’t have to be pretty.

Our Super 8
Everton:  Kurt Zouma, Richarlison, André Gomes, Gylfi Sigurðsson
Man Utd: Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
Back in October, Crystal Palace held Arsenal to a frustrating 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park but there’s a massive difference with this game being at the Emirates.

If the Premier League was just decided on home form, Arsenal would be contending for the title, with 44 points, only four below Manchester City.

Their away form is the reason they are battling for third place instead and with just one point between them and Tottenham, they know how important getting three points is here.

Because the Gunners are so strong at home, they aren’t a great value play head to head, but you can add some value in the doubles market.

In each of their last eight home games, there has been two or more goals.

Our Super 8
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang,  Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey
Crystal Palace: Martin Kelly, Luka Milivojevic, Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend

Cardiff vs Liverpool
You could say with a high degree of certainty that the Liverpool of old would drop points in this game.
But not this side, not this season and not against this opponent.
Cardiff haven’t exactly had a great run of luck lately getting stiffed on a few calls, although five losses from their last six kind of says it all.
Liverpool should win this game, but how will they back up after the Champions League?
They put four past them in the first meeting this season and Jurgen Klopp should have them firing once again here.

Our Super 8
Cardiff: Sean Morrison, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, David Junior Hoilett, Víctor Camarasa
Liverpool: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson

Chelsea vs Burnley
You can’t hold too much against Chelsea going down to Liverpool on the weekend, most sides do.

With some of their rivals for the Champions League placings making up their games in hand midweek, nothing less than three points will do here.

They had no trouble accounting for Burnley at the start of the season but their opponents do bring a three game winning streak to Stamford Bridge having conceded just one goal in that time.

This could very well be a low scoring clash with both teams scoring.

Our Super 8
Chelsea: Emerson, Eden Hazard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek,  David Luiz
Burnley: Chris Wood, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Joe Hart, James Tarkowski

UPCOMING FIXTURES – RACE FOR TOP 4
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (3rd)
(Currently: Played 33, 67 points)
Manchester City (A)
West Ham United (H)
Bournemouth (A)
Everton (H)
Crystal Palace (H)

ARSENAL (4th)
(Currently: Played 33, 66 points)
Crystal Palace (H)
Leicester City (A)
Brighton (H)
Burnley (A)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)

CHELSEA (5th)
(Currently: Played 34, 66 points)
Burnley (H)
Manchester United (A)
Watford (H)
Leicester City (A)

MANCHESTER UNITED (6th)
(Currently: Played 33, 64 points)
Everton (A)
Manchester City (H)
Chelsea (H)
Huddersfield (A)
Cardiff City (H)

MW35 is the pivotal moment in the 2018-19 title race.

If Manchester City get through their back-to-back matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United with six points, they will be well on course to retain the championship. The Sky Blues have had to play catch up with Liverpool recently as they have played a game fewer, and they go into the Easter period behind the Reds in the table. However, while City will expect Liverpool to beat Cardiff City on Sunday, they will know that two victories of their own will establish them as the front-runners.

City have the sterner task this week, as they host Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium for the second time in four days following their UEFA Champions League clash. If Pep Guardiola’s side can claim victory, they will move a point clear at the summit of the table.

Then it will be the turn of the Reds to respond on Easter Sunday, and they will be big favourites when they travel to Cardiff City, who need to find something special in the remaining weeks of the season to avoid relegation. 

This is the week of reckoning. Either way, a few teams’ fates will be made a lot clearer over the next few days.

Who makes your Super 8?

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