English Premiership

City bearing down on title as Premier League returns

2018-03-30 10:59
Pep Guardiola and Sergio Aguero (Getty Images)

London - The Premier League roars back into action this weekend for the season's home straight after a two-week hiatus for the final international break of the campaign.

With a maximum of eight games left, a look at what is still to be decided at both ends of the table.

City's title to lose

Manchester City travel to Everton on Saturday looking to take the penultimate step towards a first Premier League title under Pep Guardiola and kick off a huge week in City's season in style.

City lost 4-0 on their last visit to Goodison during a hugely disappointing first year under Guardiola but are a team transformed under the Catalan this season as they storm towards the title at a record-breaking pace.

The runaway league leaders boast a 16-point lead over Manchester United and could seal the league in the sweetest fashion against their local rivals at the Etihad next weekend.

However, Guardiola could have a daunting return to Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on his mind.

City's only league defeat of the campaign so far came on Merseyside, when Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller 4-3 in January.

Chelsea out in the cold

Behind City, the race for three remaining Champions League places will leave one of United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea disappointed.

Spurs travel to Chelsea this weekend seeking to end a 28-year wait to win a league match at Stamford Bridge.

Should they shake off the absence of the injured Harry Kane to do so, they could end Chelsea's realistic hopes of a top-four finish. Antonio Conte's men already trail fourth-placed Spurs by five points.

Liverpool are two points further ahead in third having played a game more and second-placed United are even more secure of a return to the Champions League, holding a nine-point lead over Chelsea.

Arsenal appear resigned to having to win the Europa League if they are to return to the Champions League next season as they trail Spurs by 13 points down in sixth.

Relegation roulette

Rock-bottom West Brom seem doomed on the back of eight straight defeats in all competitions but the battle to avoid joining them in the Championship next season is very much alive with eight teams separated by just seven points between 12th and 19th.

West Ham, just one place and two points above the drop zone, are calling on their fans to play their part in lifting the team during Saturday's six-pointer at home to Southampton.

An extra security banner will be erected near the directors' box while extra policing and stewarding will be in place at the London Stadium.

The measures are aimed at avoiding a repeat of shocking scenes when fans invaded the pitch while insults and missiles were thrown at joint owners David Sullivan and David Gold during a 3-0 home defeat to Burnley on March 10.

"Negativity can undoubtedly affect players' concentration and confidence, as I believe it did in the second half against Burnley," said West Ham captain Mark Noble.

Southampton will be hoping to deepen the Hammers' crisis with a new manager bounce as Mark Hughes takes charge of the Saints for the first time in the Premier League after overseeing an FA Cup quarter-final win over Wigan.

Newcastle and Huddersfield also have a big chance to move further clear of the bottom three when they meet at St James' Park, with Crystal Palace, Swansea and Stoke facing much tougher tests against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Fixtures (all times SA):

Saturday, March 31

Crystal Palace v Liverpool - 13:30

Brighton v Leicester - 14:00

Manchester United v Swansea - 14:00

Newcastle v Huddersfield - 14:00

Watford v Bournemouth - 14:00

West Brom v Burnley - 14:00

West Ham v Southampton - 14:00

Everton v Manchester City - 18:30

Sunday, April 1

Arsenal v Stoke - 14:30

Chelsea v Tottenham - 17:00

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Fixtures
Saturday, 22 September 2018
Fulham v Watford, Craven Cottage 13:30
Liverpool v Southampton, Anfield 16:00
Cardiff City v Manchester City, Cardiff City Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v Huddersfield Town, King Power Stadium 16:00
Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Old Trafford 16:00
Crystal Palace v Newcastle United, Selhurst Park 16:00
Burnley v AFC Bournemouth, Turf Moor 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur, The American Express Community Stadium 18:30
Sunday, 23 September 2018
West Ham United v Chelsea, London Stadium 14:30
Arsenal v Everton, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Saturday, 29 September 2018
West Ham United v Manchester United, London Stadium 13:30
Arsenal v Watford, Emirates Stadium 16:00
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion, Etihad Stadium 16:00
Everton v Fulham, Goodison Park 16:00
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Southampton, Molineux Stadium 16:00
Newcastle United v Leicester City, St. James' Park 16:00
Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur, The John Smith's Stadium 16:00
Chelsea v Liverpool, Stamford Bridge 18:30
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