Duo handed opportunity to seize initiative
With their rivals involved in the FA Cup quarter-final action tomorrow, Liverpool and Chelsea have the opportunity to seize the initiative in their quest for Premier League and top-four success, respectively.
Sitting just a point behind leaders Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds could regain top spot with victory away to relegation-threatened Fulham, while, on the same day, Chelsea, sitting in sixth and three points below fourth-placed Arsenal could heap pressure on the Gunners with three points away at inconsistent Everton.
Of the three matches taking place tomorrow, Burnley, sitting one place and only two points above danger, will be desperate to pull away from the relegation zone when they host Leicester City.
AFC Bournemouth v
Newcastle United 11am
Newcastle travel to Vitality Stadium for their clash with AFC Bournemouth, in good spirits after escaping the immediate danger of the Premier League relegation zone with three wins bagged in four outings.
However, all three came in front of the home fans, with Rafa Benítez’s men struggling for points on the road, winning twice in their last six trips away ,including defeats to Tottenham and West Ham.
Bournemouth sit just three points clear of their visitors, ahead of the clash, after they ended a five-match winless streak with victory against Huddersfield last week, where in-form Callum Wilson opened the scoring in the first half before Ryan Fraser added another in the second.
Encounters have always been tight between the two, with two wins apiece and a draw in their last five meetings.
Leicester City 11am
Brendan Rodgers got up and running as Leicester City’s new manager with his first victory last weekend, a 3-1 success at home to Fulham, and he will be confident of following that up against an increasingly worried Burnley side.
Although not a spectacular performance, at least it confirmed Leicester are well capable of taking care of teams struggling towards the bottom of the table – and that unquestionably now includes Burnley, who have slipped back into a position where they have increasing fears of the dreaded drop.
Sean Dyche’s team are only one place and two points above the relegation zone having suffered three straight defeats with nine goals conceded, picking the worst possible time to plummet into an irreversibly poor run of form.
None of the last seven matches between these clubs, hosted by Burnley, has ended as a draw, but that run could be set to end.
West Ham United v
Huddersfield Town 11am
Huddersfield may now only be a few weeks away from having their relegation from the Premier League confirmed and they look set to move a step closer to the drop tomorrow against a West Ham side who relish playing at home.
The Terriers have not scored a goal in the last 542 minutes of football they have played away from home and although they are better defensively than going forward, it will take one of Jan Siewert’s side’s stronger rearguard performances if they are going to claim anything at the London Stadium.
West Ham are much more effective at home than on their travels, as last weekend’s surprise 2-0 defeat at Cardiff demonstrated.
Marko Arnautovic clearly remains out of favour after his January wantaway episode, but manager Manuel Pellegrini may need to reinstate the forward to enhance their goal threat.
West Ham have lost only one of their last nine home games and I can’t see them losing this one. Prediction 2-0
Fulham v Liverpool
Liverpool are expected to spend the upcoming international break at the top of the Premier League table with a victory that would push Fulham ever closer to relegation.
The Reds can move two points clear of Manchester City, who are in FA Cup quarter-final action and would thus have a game in hand – albeit the local derby away to United.
Fulham’s results have not improved since Scott Parker became their third manager of the season, being soundly beaten 3-1 at Leicester last weekend.
In fairness, Parker’s side were still in that match until the final few minutes when they conceded the third goal, but they are showing nothing to suggest they can take points off the top clubs or get themselves out of trouble before the end of the season.
Fulham have lost ten of their last 11 matches and, to compound their misery, Liverpool have won their last five matches against them by a 16-3 aggregate.
Everton v Chelsea
Everton need a response after last weekend’s dramatic collapse at Newcastle and their fans will demand a positive performance against Chelsea.
The Toffees were on course for an excellent win when leading 2-0 approaching the final quarter of their match on Tyneside, but turned victory into defeat as they went down 3-2.
Chelsea, meanwhile, needed a last-gasp equaliser to avoid defeat at home to Wolves last weekend, but this is a chance for the Blues to boost their top-four hopes as their three closest rivals in the table are not in league action this weekend.
Everton have won only one of the latest eight meetings between these clubs, failing to score in their last five league matches against Chelsea.
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