Challenges for Chelsea and Manchester United as things look bad for Brighton: Premier League talking points
With Saturday’s early kick-off between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur undoubtedly the marquee match in the Premier League this weekend, we look at some of the other main talking points from the upcoming set of fixtures
Brighton, beware of Wolves
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton are in free fall. They have lost their past four matches without scoring a goal, and were thumped 5-0 at home by Bournemouth last weekend. Then came the dispiriting loss to Cardiff City on Tuesday.
So, as it is, Chris Hughton’s side are battling for survival. What is more, influential Frenchman Anthony Knockaert is absent through suspension from Saturday’s tricky trip to Wolves.
Granted, Wolves have been rather inconsistent of late, but they are unbeaten at Molineux since January 2, a sequence that spans seven wins from eight matches, including successes against Liverpool and Manchester United (twice). And they are chasing seventh (Wolves are eighth, behind Leicester City on goal difference, although they have played a game less).
All in all, it does not bode well for Brighton.
Saints are up against it
Newcastle United v Southampton
Last Friday, Rafa Benitez offered another reason as to why Newcastle are fortunate to have him.
The Spaniard masterminded a characteristically resolute display away to Leicester, securing an unexpected 2-0 victory that lifted the northeast club almost to safety. Afterwards, counterpart Brendan Rodgers doffed his cap. Now, it’s Southampton’s turn to find a way through a frustratingly obdurate opponent.
The Saints are one place below Newcastle, in 16th, and only five points above the relegation zone, so cannot afford to relax. However, they have been transformed by Ralph Hassenhuttl. Nathan Redmond, scorer of two goals in last weekend’s win against Wolves, has been a particular highlight.
Breaking down Newcastle at St James’ Park will not be easy – Benitez will not necessarily alter his approach at home – but even a point for Southampton could prove vital.
Importance of going fourth
Everton v Manchester United
Ole is at the wheel, but United have veered significantly off course.
Tuesday’s comprehensive defeat to Barcelona in the second leg of their Uefa Champions League quarter-final was not totally unexpected, but the 3-0 loss means stretches Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s recent record to five defeats from the past seven matches.
Already, questions are being asked if the club, enthused by Solskjaer’s instant impact, were premature in awarding the Norwegian a three-year contract last month.
United’s quest to get back into the Champions League is in danger of running aground, so the trip to Goodison Park on Sunday represents a must-win. With five matches remaining, United sit sixth, two points off the hallowed top four.
A swift response to Tuesday, against an inconsistent Everton, is a necessity.
A tale of two ambitions
Cardiff City v Liverpool
Two teams with very different desires, but both equally as important to each.
Tuesday’s 2-0 victory at relegation rivals Brighton & Hove Albion emboldened Cardiff to the extent that they reckon they can break free of the one remaining relegation spot and stay up. The win drew them to within two points of 17th-placed Brighton.
They will have their work cut out on Sunday, though, since they host a rampant Liverpool intent on making history. Jurgen Klopp’s men lead the standings by two points – Manchester City have a game in hand and can go back on top on Saturday – as the pressure mounts and the conclusion to that 29-year wait creeps agonisingly closer.
Chasing Premier League and Champions League glory, Liverpool are heavy favourites to inch nearer the former.
Chelsea can't chill just yet
Chelsea v Burnley
Before Liverpool last week, things seemed altogether rosier around Stamford Bridge. Four successive wins had lifted the mood a little, with three of those pushing the club into the top four.
Yet the 2-0 defeat at Anfield means Chelsea are now fifth and, while that may be only on goal difference, they have played a game more. And so the discontent surrounding Maurizio Sarri sustains.
Therefore, the upcoming clash with Burnley, on the surface eminently winnable, could be a fraught affair, especially since the match takes place on Monday night. Conceivably, Chelsea might be sixth by kick-off. Nevertheless, Burnley should not pose too much of a threat, although Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain would best be rather more clinical than they were at Liverpool.
Champions League qualification may depend on it.
Updated: April 19, 2019 08:41 AM