Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Barry Glendenning, Daniel Harris and Rob Smyth on 19 April 2019

1) Liverpool’s steel spells danger for Cardiff

Before the run-in even started, Liverpool looked like they might be consumed by nerves during it, so tentative were their performances against Leicester, West Ham and Manchester United. But they battled hard to avoid disaster, and now that the run-in is actually under way, are playing like a team who expect to be champions, either riding their good form or maintaining the patience and composure necessary to force the issue. Against both Tottenham and Chelsea, they could easily have flapped in frantic, frenetic style, but instead were able to increase intensity without sacrificing control, which brought them the goals that they needed. Or, put another way, Cardiff are in deep, deep trouble. DH

2) A test of Man City’s mental strength in Spurs saga, part three

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 34 57 85
2 Man City 33 64 83
3 Tottenham Hotspur 33 30 67
4 Arsenal 33 26 66
5 Chelsea 34 21 66

Not another one! Manchester City and Tottenham will complete their 12-day trilogy this weekend, and you don’t need to be a movie nerd to know that this threequel won’t be the best of the lot. They could play a match each day for the rest of their lives and they would struggle to exceed the drama of that deranged Champions League classic. Quite how City go again after such a savage blow is not clear. This will be the acid test of their mental strength, because even a draw would hand the initiative to Liverpool in the title race. If things get hairy, it may need somebody to produce a Thierry Henry moment to calm everything down. Or City could marmalise Spurs in a 90-minute revenge attack. After that Champions League game, not even Nostradamus would fancy predicting this one – except to say it cannot possibly top what happened on Wednesday night. RS

3) Palace will travel to fortress Emirates without fear

The Emirates has quietly become a fortress. Over the past three seasons, only Manchester City have picked up more points at home than Arsenal, and City are also the only team to win there in the Premier League this season. Arsenal’s away form remains iffy, despite Monday’s 1-0 win at Watford, and it’s probably fair to assume that they need to win both their remaining home games if they are to have any chance of finishing in the top four. The second of those, against freefalling Brighton, looks a sure thing. But Crystal Palace, who travel across London on Sunday, are dangerous visitors, mainly because of Roy Hodgson’s defensive organisation and the individual ability of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend. Palace scored three at both the Etihad and Anfield, and they are the only team in the Premier League who have won more games away than at home. They won’t be scared of going to Fortress Emirates. RS

4) Everton look well equipped to trouble Solskjær’s side

Building a football team is not easy, so how hard Marco Silva is finding it it is not entirely surprising – and that’s even without the Everton-being-Everton element. Over the past few weeks, though, it looked like a corner had been turned, with wins recorded over Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal … and then came last weekend’s abomination, ending Fulham’s run of nine straight defeats thanks to a performance more craven than the Cottage itself. Against Manchester United, they will surely find something better. In midfield they have the quality to pose United a problem, while Richarlison has the all-round game to bother any defence in the league, never mind one whose only left-back is suspended. If United are to finish in the top four, they almost certainly need to win this game, and Everton are well-equipped to make that extremely difficult for them. DH

Everton’s Andre Gomes puts in a cross during Everton’s defeat at Fulham.
Everton’s Andre Gomes puts in a cross during Everton’s defeat at Fulham. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

5) The scramble to avoid the Europa League at the London Stadium

Years ago, Harry Redknapp famously referred to “the scramble to avoid the Europa League” and the battle to avoid being forced to begin playing competitive football in late July, as Burnley had to as their reward for finishing seventh last season, seems to be on in earnest (although it should be said there’s no guarantee, various cups still being up for grabs, that seventh will in fact mean Europa League football next season). Leicester, Wolves, Everton, Watford and West Ham all lost their most recent games and two of these contenders for Best of the Rest meet when Brendan Rodgers takes his side to the London Stadium this weekend. “There’s an argument for and against,” said the Leicester manager, when asked about qualifying for the preliminary rounds of European competition. “You could say it would come too early for us, especially when we’re trying to create something but it’s always difficult to turn it down.” While Rodgers is to be commended for making all the right noises, one can’t help but feel he and other like-minded colleagues embroiled in the largely meaningless “battle for seventh” would all quite happily settle for eighth. BG

6) Catch Hazard while you can at Chelsea

Chelsea have three home games left this season, and their supporters should savour every last minute watching one of the greatest players in the club’s history. It won’t be a shock if Eden Hazard moves to Real Madrid this summer; if he does, he will at least leave dozens of glorious memories. In Chelsea’s last home league game, against West Ham, he scored a solo goal of bewildering brilliance, and he is so far ahead of any other Chelsea player that it’s probably not worth supporters dwelling on where their team might be without him. In years to come, they will wistfully recall the days when the great Eden Hazard played for their club. They should catch him while they can, because defenders can’t. RS

Eden Hazard charges between West Ham defenders before firing home to score the first of his two goals in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Eden Hazard charges between West Ham defenders before firing home to score the first of his two goals in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Michael Zemanek/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

7) Brighton running out of tactical options as slump deepens

Pos Team P GD Pts
16 Southampton 33 -15 36
17 Brighton 33 -21 33
18 Cardiff 34 -33 31
19 Fulham 34 -44 20
20 Huddersfield 34 -48 14

For most of the past few months, Brighton have looked relatively safe, but all of a sudden, they absolutely are not. The manner of their thrashing by Bournemouth was problematic, the reality of their defeat by Cardiff horrific. And now it is hard to see where many more points are coming from. After Wolves, they have Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City, all of whom need points, along with Newcastle, who have beaten far better teams than them this season. Cardiff, on the other hand, can look forward to playing Fulham away and Crystal Palace at home, both winnable fixtures, which mean that Chris Hughton’s men will need something at Molineux on Saturday. Quite how they go about that, though, is trickier to fathom. They do not score many at the best of times, and Wolves’ slow, possession-heavy style will not give them too many opportunities to build pressure. Other than hope that Wolves are still sulking after FA Cup elimination, it is hard to see too many options for them beyond putting it in the mixah. DH

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8) Mounting evidence of an anti-Dane stance at Huddersfield

Huddersfield Town entertain Watford on Saturday in their penultimate home game of the season. They have given their supporters little to cheer about this season, winning only two and losing 13 of the 17 matches they have played at the John Smith’s Stadium, scoring only 11 goals in front of their home crowd. With his team already relegated and playing for little more than pride and their futures with the Terriers or elsewhere, Jan Siewert appears to have adopted a peculiarly anti-Danish stance. Jonas Lössl, Mathias Jorgensen and Philip Billing have not featured in any of Huddersfield’s past three games amid unsubstantiated rumours they have fallen out with their boss. It may simply be a case that Siewert has decided they have no future at the club beyond this season, a state of affairs that will look increasingly likely if all three are sidelined once again this week. BG

Huddersfield’s Philip Billing hasn’t featured for three matches
Huddersfield’s Philip Billing hasn’t featured for three matches. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

9) A Premier League debut for Harvey Elliott?

Fulham travel to the Vitality Stadium for a meeting between two sides who arrive on the back of unlikely victories but have punched well below their respective weights this season considering the talent of the players at their disposal. With little or nothing at stake for either side, this is not a fixture to get the pulse racing but could be the one in which the Fulham winger Harvey Elliott makes his Premier League debut. The 16-year-old became his club’s youngest ever player when he stayed up past his bedtime to come on as a late substitute against Millwall in the Carabao Cup last September and was on the bench for last weekend’s victory over Everton. “Harvey has got unbelievable talent,” said Parker ahead of this weekend’s game against Bournemouth. “Ultimately it will be down to him, how hard he works and how quickly he can make that transition to men’s football.” Whether or not he is given the opportunity to continue that transition on the south coast this weekend remains to be seen. BG

10) The shackles coming off at St James’ Park

With the Premier League survival of both teams almost but not quite guaranteed, both Newcastle and Southampton will both view their match at St James’ Park as an opportunity to banish any lingering doubts about which division they’ll be playing in next season. Nevertheless, with relegation for either club already extremely unlikely, fans can look forward to an open and entertaining game. “It doesn’t mean we will sit back and relax, but we can play with more freedom and enjoy it more,” said Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yueng. Assuming Southampton’s players are of a similar mindset, an unlikely weekend treat could lie in store. BG

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Liverpool 34 57 85
2 Man City 33 64 83
3 Tottenham Hotspur 33 30 67
4 Arsenal 33 26 66
5 Chelsea 34 21 66
6 Man Utd 33 19 64
7 Leicester 34 1 47
8 Wolverhampton 33 -1 47
9 Everton 34 2 46
10 Watford 33 -1 46
11 West Ham 34 -10 42
12 AFC Bournemouth 34 -12 41
13 Crystal Palace 34 -6 39
14 Burnley 34 -18 39
15 Newcastle 34 -11 38
16 Southampton 33 -15 36
17 Brighton 33 -21 33
18 Cardiff 34 -33 31
19 Fulham 34 -44 20
20 Huddersfield 34 -48 14

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