The fixtures are coming thick and fast in the Premier League. There’s another set of midweek top-flight matches but it’s the weekend’s games that are coming up first!
Game of the week
Arsenal vs Manchester United: Emirates Stadium, 17.30 (Sky Sports)
Arsenal’s 3-1 win against a strong Southampton team is testament to their progress since December. Mikel Arteta might be disappointed at how the Gunners tamely exited the FA Cup to the Saints, but the Spaniard will be pleased at how his players responded in their quickfire rematch. The Gunners have been excellent in the league.
By contrast, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s happiness at the top of the league was incredibly turned on its head by bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United. This season, that is unlike any other, has thrown up some shocks and this was a big one. The Blades went to Old Trafford with lots of fight and desire, two traits that were not matched by the limp Red Devils.
This should be an intriguing clash between two teams who have been on an upward trajectory over the past month. Solskjaer’s tendency to deploy pragmatism in the biggest matches has certainly been telling, of late, and one imagines that he might put the safety nets up again, especially after losing unexpectedly in midweek.
Everton vs Newcastle United: Goodison Park, 12.30 (BT Sport)
Steve Bruce’s explanation of “his way” was comparable to an Alan Partridge sketch, but the Newcastle manager will have taken a little bit of pride from his team’s second-half efforts against Leeds United. Unfortunately for Bruce, Everton are a better team than Leeds and they will be frustrated after sloppily losing two points in their midweek tie with Leicester City.
Crystal Palace vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Selhurst Park, 15.00 (Sky Sports)
Roy Hodgson’s team were hammered by West Ham United, despite the close nature of the scoreline, and he will be anticipating a response against one of their fellow strugglers. But Wolves worked hard to deny Thomas Tuchel a victory on his Chelsea managerial debut. Whether they can push on in the capital remains to be seen.
Manchester City vs Sheffield United: Etihad Stadium, 15.00 (Sky Sports)
City were at their rampant best against West Bromwich Albion but their opponents were at their battling best when they won at Old Trafford. Maybe this isn’t the landslide that many predicted? It’s tough to see anything other than a home victory, although Chris Wilder’s men might hold more resistance than Sam Alladryce’s players did.
West Bromwich Albion vs Fulham: The Hawthorns, 15.00 (BBC Sport)
Allardyce has conceded 17 goals in just four home matches at The Hawthorns. Too often, his players look short of hunger and desire, the two vital ingredients of any team that wants to stay in the top division. Those characteristics are well and truly alive with their opponents, but Scott Parker's group lack a ruthlessness in the final-third.
Southampton vs Aston Villa: St Mary’s, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Villa forced Nick Pope into eight saves on Wednesday night, whilst seeing a number of other shots fly wide or get blocked. It just wasn’t their day! This game is arguably tougher than their midweek trip to Burnley, however, with the Saints looking to bounce back from their own recent loss.
Chelsea vs Burnley: Stamford Bridge, 12.00 (BT Sport)
Tuchel drew his first match and he faced a big challenge against this resilient Burnley team. His desire to build an identity is obvious from the get-go, but that tactical transformation will take time to implement. They showed promise against Wolves, however, they ultimately couldn’t find a victory against a badly out-of-form team. Burnley could cause some problems.
Leicester City vs Leeds United: King Power Stadium, 14.00 (Sky Sports)
Leicester did well to fight back against Everton, extending their unbeaten to nine matches in all competitions. Their push for a Champions League spot is well on track and, in the other camp, Leeds’ survival attempts are also on course. This should be a game with plenty of goals because both teams struggle to keep clean sheets.
West Ham United vs Liverpool: London Park, 16.30 (Sky Sports)
West Ham are very much in-form and Liverpool are in desperate need of a victory. Jurgen Klopp will know that this is very much a potential banana skin. Nonetheless, this Liverpool team has an incredible mentality that has appeared for so much of Klopp’s time at the club. They are never down for long.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur, 19.15 (Sky Sports)
No team has drawn more matches in the Premier League than Brighton (9) and they are yet to win a league match at the AMEX this season. The omens aren’t great for them but Jose Mourinho’s visitors have a habit of allowing their opponents into matches; the absence of Harry Kane will not help their cause.