A huge Sunday of football sees Manchester City attempt to take another step towards the title against Burnley whilst Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are also in action as the battle for fourth place heats up. Ed Acteson previews the action and thinks there could be shocks in store. You can play our football pools by clicking here.
Leicester vs. Arsenal
What a dreadful week it’s been for Arsenal. With the Champions League firmly in their grasp, they conceded three goals to Crystal Palace and Wolves, losing both matches. Arsenal fans would have watched on is misery as their arch-rivals Tottenham scored a last-gasp winner against Brighton, putting Spurs four points clear and probably delaying St Totteringham’s Day for another year.
With Chelsea also nabbing a midweek point, Arsenal now face an uphill battle to finish in the top four and won’t be relishing the prospect of having to bounce back against Brendan Rodgers’ in-form Leicester.
The Foxes have been ticking over nicely since Rodgers took charge, winning five and drawing one of his opening eight games. It’s been a generous run in terms of fixture difficulty but they will be brimming with confidence nonetheless and Arsenal should indeed be fearful of a third straight reverse.
There will be no questions over motivation, with both sides still chasing European participation next season, albeit on different stages. Arsenal have picked the wrong time to collapse defensively and now face the threat of Jamie Vardy who is arguably the division’s form striker. The Leicester ace just seems to get better with age and has been revitalised under Brendan Rodgers, scoring in nine in his last ten games.
I fear for Arsenal in this one. Even the removal of the derided Shkodran Mustafi wasn’t enough to save them defensively midweek, suggesting that their defensive problems run deeper. With the ninth best away record in the division, they aren’t strong away from home and I can see another miserable afternoon for the Gunners.
Burnley vs. Man City
Everybody seems to have awarded the title to Man City after their impressive win in the Manchester Derby on Wednesday, yet the Citizens still have plenty to do.
They travel to a Burnley side who have won three of their last four and managed a 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Monday, so definitely can’t be written off.
Another concern for City must be fatigue. Since March 30th they have played a ridiculous eight matches across three competitions, including three against Tottenham and one against Man United. Even with the squad that City possess, playing every three days has to take a toll eventually and, sure enough, Fernandinho limped off during the week to join Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan on the sidelines, possibly leaving Pep Guardiola with a midfield dilemma.
I’m going to go out on a limb by suggesting that everyone is overlooking Burnley and I think there are twists and turns in this title race yet. There is absolutely no way that City aren’t feeling any signs of tiredness and I imagine the last thing that they want right now is to travel to Turf Moor and be kicked by a physical Burnley side who have had two days extra rest.
On paper City are comfortably superior in every single position but I’m going to be brave and suggest that Burnley can take advantage of City’s fatigue and claim a draw. Apologies in advance if City win 4-0.
Man United vs. Chelsea
Arsenal may have picked the wrong time to let their form drop but Manchester United did it weeks ago. They may never appoint another permanent manager after the announcement of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s permanent deal acted as a death knell to United’s good form; they’ve lost five out of seven since then and seven of their last nine in total.
The Red Devils were guilty of a lack of desire against Everton and lack of quality against Manchester City. They haven’t scored from open play in their last five matches and have conceded nine in their last three. Things are looking bleak.
Chelsea aren’t in great nick either, having taken a single point from their last two matches. Yet the form of Arsenal and United has been so poor that it was enough to move them into fourth place and pole position for a Champions League place. With Arsenal facing a tough test against Leicester, this is a genuine six pointer in the race for Europe.
United’s need here is greater. Chelsea know that, owing to their superior goal difference, it would take a four goal defeat for United to leapfrog them and that surely plays into Maurizio Sarri’s hands. The Red Devils have little choice but to attack and you would expect Chelsea to sit back, soak it up, and look to feed Eden Hazard on the counter-attack. Playing through desperation rarely reaps rewards, so it’s a Chelsea win for me.