English Premiership

Crunch time for Premier League teams

2018-03-25 06:02
Roy Hodgson and Jason Puncheon (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - With Pep Guardiola resting one hand on the English Premier League (EPL) trophy, attention switches to the race for the European places and the battle for survival.

Ahead of next Saturday’s early kick-off at Selhurst Park between Crystal Palace and Liverpool, struggling Palace have dropped back into a relegation battle after initially enjoying a resurgence under Roy Hodgson.

The Reds are in ominous form, having scored 27 goals in their past 10 matches in all competitions. At the heart of the attack is Mohamed Salah, who has a chance to extend his advantage for the EPL Golden Boot.

In a relegation dogfight, West Ham United take on Mark Hughes’ Southampton at London Stadium. The Hammers are in some dire form, with four defeats in five games under boss David Moyes and crowd trouble that rocked their recent 3-0 loss to Burnley at home.

After Hughes won his first game in charge against Wigan Athletic to advance to the semifinals of the FA Cup, it could be the outfit from Hampshire that holds the upper hand.

Brighton & Hove Albion, meanwhile, take on Leicester City. While the Foxes should be out of danger, having reached the traditional safety mark of 40 points, the Seagulls could still be dragged back into trouble.

Manchester United seem to have sealed a top-four place on 65 points, ahead of their clash with Swansea City. However, all eyes will no doubt be on the likes of Paul Pogba and manager José Mourinho as reports continue to circulate about a deteriorating relationship.

The Swans, meanwhile, are one point clear of the bottom three and a second win at Old Trafford could be monumental.

At St James’ Park, Rafael Benítez continues his smart management of Newcastle United in their battle to survive when the Magpies meet Huddersfield Town. The Terriers are one point clear of safety and, with United just a point ahead, the clash in Tyneside appears to be a six-pointer.

Watford and Bournemouth in mid-table are four points clear of the 40-point mark before their encounter at Vicarage Road. A victory for either team could be a boost as the season reaches a climax.

At The Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion seem dead and buried. Alan Pardew’s charges have lost eight games in a row and are rock-bottom of the standings. They take on Burnley, who are comfortable in seventh spot with 43 points.

In a more meaningless contest, Everton, safely in ninth place, take on champions-elect Manchester City. Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is one to watch as he chases down Thierry Henry’s record of 20 assists in a season, with his at 14.

In next Sunday’s games, sixth-placed Arsenal should rule the roost when they match up against Paul Lambert’s Stoke City, who are in 19th place, at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are seemingly out of the race for a Europa League spot behind Chelsea in fifth place, meaning winning the tournament in 2017/18 seems their only hope of qualifying for Europe.

In arguably the game of the weekend, Chelsea meet Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have an excellent opportunity to get back into the race for a top-four finish, but have to beat the Lilywhites on home soil.

Currently, Antonio Conte’s men are five points behind fourth-placed Spurs and a victory could see them close in on the Champions League places. The absence of an injured Harry Kane could hurt the visitors’ chances in London.

Read more on:    english premiership  |  soccer
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Fixtures
Sunday, 21 October 2018
Everton v Crystal Palace, Goodison Park 17:00
Monday, 22 October 2018
Arsenal v Leicester City, Emirates Stadium 21:00
Saturday, 27 October 2018
Liverpool v Cardiff City, Anfield 16:00
Fulham v AFC Bournemouth, Craven Cottage 16:00
Southampton v Newcastle United, St. Mary's Stadium 16:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers, The American Express Community Stadium 16:00
Watford v Huddersfield Town, Vicarage Road Stadium 16:00
Leicester City v West Ham United, King Power Stadium 18:30
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