18 Apr Rezzil weekly: Clashes of the traditional ‘top 4’ take centre stage as the Premier League enters its final furlong
Following a depleted round of Premier League fixtures due to the return of the FA Cup at the weekend, the top-flight continues this week and there are two huge games between four of the division’s biggest clubs taking centre stage.
First, Manchester United travel to Liverpool on Tuesday evening looking to build on their 3-2 victory over Norwich on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo once again spared the Red Devils’ blushes at Old Trafford by scoring a sensational hat-trick – remarkably his 30th since turning 30 – after the Canaries had fought from 2-0 down to level things.
Ralph Ragnick’s side have kept themselves in the race for the top-four thanks to that win after both Tottenham and Arsenal slipped up against Brighton and Southampton respectively on Saturday; the pair both losing 1-0 to the south coast clubs. Just three points now separates United in fifth and Spurs in fourth and both have now played the same amount of games.
A win this week will be extremely hard to come by though, given United’s opponents, Liverpool, lie second in the table and are fresh from a hugely morale-boosting win over Manchester City in the semi-final of the FA Cup.
The Reds are unbeaten in the Premier League this calendar year, with their last defeat in the top-flight coming on the 28th December. They enter the game just one point behind City at the summit of the division and could go top with a win, even if it’s just for a day, with Pep Guardiola’s side not in action until Wednesday night when they welcome Brighton to the Etihad.
Wednesday sees another hugely important clash in the race to secure a space in next season’s Champions League, as Chelsea host Arsenal. The Gunners’ form has started to waver and they have now lost their last three games, picking up just three points from a possible 15 since mid-March. A win is vital for Mikel Arteta’s side if they are to keep themselves in contention for a top-four finish but the challenge posed by Chelsea is sizable.
The Blues have pretty much secured third-place and have looked really sharp in their last two outings against Real Madrid in the Champions League and Crystal Palace in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final clash at Wembley. With confidence low at Arsenal and momentum firmly with Thomas Tuchel’s side, it is somewhat difficult to envisage anything other than a home win but the tie promises to be a thrilling affair.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Everton will look to build on their 1-0 win over Manchester United last week and further distance themselves from the relegation zone when they face off against Leicester. The Toffees have bridged a much-needed three-point gap between themselves and Burnley but will know just how important another victory is for their chances of survival this season.
Burnley themselves are in action on Thursday evening when they welcome Southampton to Turf Moor, in what is an enormous clash which they desperately need to take three points from in their bid for Premier League survival.
Newcastle play host to Crystal Palace in the week’s other fixture, although with both sides now safe from the drop but too far from the European spots, it is somewhat of a dead rubber tie in mid-table but could present an opportunity for both managers to rotate their squads.