It’s wild! It’s wacky! It’s the Premier League
This English Premier League campaign has thrown up some truly unpredictable results and this week proved no different.
Tuesday evening saw Southampton suffer their second 9-0 defeat in as many seasons, going down to the record-equalling loss away to Manchester United, while champions Liverpool suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion.
The latest loss comes just weeks after a similar defeat by another lowly team, Burnley, leaving Liverpool with successive setbacks at Anfield and manager Jürgen Klopp questioning his side’s physical and mental state. They are now seven points behind league leaders Manchester City, having played a game more.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for such anomalies in the schedule, it is clear that high-level football has probably dipped in such a strange environment.
The end of last season was compressed, the off-season was curtailed and this season has been compacted. There is no proper time for preparation, either in terms of the basic foundational work clubs usually do in preseason or for match-to-match analysis.
That will have an effect, physically, tactically and probably also psychologically. Add to that the impact of still having no fans in stadiums, and it would not be a shock if this season continues to throw up such unusual results.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
Both teams head into this encounter aiming to make amends for defeats last time out.
Having clinched all three points away to Southampton on Saturday, Villa were brought back down to earth in a 3-1 defeat at home to in-form West Ham on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Arsenal endured a horror show away to Wolves in which they took the lead before being reduced to nine men after David Luiz and goalkeeper Bernd Leno were shown straight red cards and ultimately succumbed in a 2-1 defeat.
Just one point separates ninth-placed Villa and Arsenal immediately below them, with the latter having played three games more.
Burnley v Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run and continue their move away from the relegation zone.
Graham Potter’s side are unbeaten in four games in which they secured three wins, including impressive successes at home to Tottenham and away to Liverpool.
That run of form has taken the Seagulls ten points clear of the drop zone and looking up the table rather than over their shoulder.
Back-to-back wins at the end of last month had Burnley moving in the right direction; however, since then they have suffered successive defeats, albeit away to Chelsea and home a to Man City.
Sean Dyche’s side still remain eight points clear of the bottom three and will be keen to widen that gap.
Newcastle United v Southampton
Two other teams who will desperate for victory meet at St James’ Park this weekend.
The humiliating 9-0 thrashing away to Man United made it four losses on the spin for the Saints, who have gone from being on the cusp of the top six to dropping down to twelfth position, seven points adrift of that section of the table.
Having halted a five-match losing streak with a welcome 2-0 victory over Everton at the weekend, Newcastle reverted to previous form, letting a goal lead slip in an eventual 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
Sitting eight points clear of the drop zone, Steve Bruce’s position at the helm remains in threat, with a strong contingent of Geordies still demanding his immediate departure.
Fulham v West Ham United
Despite a 3-1 defeat at home to Liverpool at the weekend, West Ham bounced back with victory away to Aston Villa on Wednesday to get their encouraging campaign back on track.
The Hammers are in fifth place, just two points and one place behind Liverpool in the final Champions League qualification spot.
David Moyes’s men will be confident on maintaining the pressure on the top four with another victory across London when they visit struggling Fulham.
The Cottagers remain winless in 11 games and find themselves in eighteenth, the final relegation place and eight points adrift of safety.
Manchester United v Everton
Manchester United fans would have been demanding a reaction after a two-match winless run and that is exactly what they got in emphatic fashion on Tuesday evening.
United struck nine goals against helpless Southampton, who in fairness found themselves down to ten men from the second minute, before being reduced to nine men in the closing stages.
The Red Devils remain three points behind neighbours City at the top of the table but have played a game more than the leaders.
Visitors Everton continue to be inconsistent, following up a surprise 2-0 defeat at home to struggling Newcastle on Saturday with a 2-1 victory at home to Leeds United on Wednesday.
Despite failing to string a consistent run of form together of late, Carlo Ancelotti’s side are still in a healthy sixth position, just four points adrift off Merseyside neighbours Liverpool in the top four with two games in hand.
Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion
What is happening at Tottenham?
They were sitting strong at the top of the league earlier in the campaign but in recent times they lost their way completely to now find themselves in eighth place, 11 points off the summit after a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea yesterday.
The result proved a third successive defeat for José Mourinho, who can’t seem to find a plan B with talisman Harry Kane out injured, while Gareth Bale has been unable to find any form whatsoever.
One positive for Tottenham, however, is that their next fixture sees them host relegation-threatened West Brom, who themselves are winless from their past four matches.
Sam Allardyce’s side need wins sooner rather than later if they are to stand any chance of survival as they sit second from bottom ten points adrift of safety.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City
Ahead of hosting Leicester, Wolves fans will be hoping their side have finally turned a corner.
Nuno Espírito Santo’s side halted a eight-game winless run with a timely 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Tuesday to crucially gain a little more breathing room between themselves and the relegation zone, extending the gap to 12 points.
Leicester meanwhile bounced back from a disappointing 3-1 loss at home to Leeds on Sunday by overcoming strugglers Fulham 2-0 in London on Wednesday.
The victory kept Brendan Rodgers’s men in the title hunt, with the Foxes in third place, five points adrift of Man City but have played a game more.
Liverpool v Manchester City
A heavyweight clash at Anfield pits the defending champions against the seemingly unstoppable Man City.
Having lost back-to-back home games in recent weeks Jürgen Klopps side are seven points behind Sunday’s, having played a game more.
Pep Guardiola’s side find themselves on a nine-game winning streak and ominously for the rest of the league’s title challengers, they appear to be getting into their full stride, scoring an incredible 21 goals and conceding only once in this run.
Sheffield United v Chelsea
Is the greatest of Premier League’s escapes back on?
A vital 2-1 win over relegation rivals West Brom — a second victory in three — moved Sheffield United on to 11 points and 11 from safety with 16 games remaining.
While Chris Wilder’s men have finally found some resemblance of form, it still remains a mammoth task to retain their Premier League status ahead of hosting Chelsea on Sunday.
Worryingly for the hosts, the Blues arrive in Sheffield on the back of successive victories, including the 1-0 win away at Tottenham yesterday to extend new manager Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten run to three matches since replacing Frank Lampard.