More needs to be done to combat online racist abuse
Football was thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons again this week as the action of those off the field, rather than the players on it, dominated discussion.
The game’s governing bodies have found themselves at war with social-media giants such as Twitter and Facebook amid continued and disgraceful online abuse of footballers.
Players including Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Axel Tuanzebe, and women’s league player Lauren James, West Brom's Romaine Sawyers and Chelsea full back Reece James have been sent abusive online messages in recent weeks.
As a result, some of football's governing bodies have written a joint letter to Twitter boss Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg demanding more to be done to enforce such social media platforms.
The letter is signed by the Premier League, English Football League, women's professional game, Professional Footballers' Association, League Managers Association, Professional Game Match Officials and anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out.
The reality is your platforms remain havens for abuse," the letter says. “Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach. The relentless flow of racist and discriminatory messages feeds on itself: the more it is tolerated by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, platforms with billions of users, the more it becomes normal, accepted behaviour.
"The targets of abuse should be offered basic protections, and we ask that you accept responsibility for preventing abuse from appearing on your platforms and go further than you have promised to do to date."
Leicester City v Liverpool
Back-to-back defeats have seemingly all but ended Liverpool’s hopes of defending their title this season.
A humbling 4-1 defeat by champions-elect Manchester City left the Merseryside-outfit ten points adrift of Pep Guardiola’s men and extended their winless run at Anfield to three games.
Jürgen Klopp’s side have fared better on the road in recent weeks; however, a trip to Leicester, one place and three points above them, will not fill Liverpool fans with confidence.
The home side were held to a goalless draw by Wolves last time out, but Brendan Rodgers’s men can be satisfied with their campaign so far.
Talisman Jamie Vardy will also be relishing the prospect of terrorising Liverpool’s makeshift defence, which has been far from convincing.
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Crystal Palace will aiming to bounce back to winning ways when they host Burnley at Selhurst Park.
An encouraging run of successive wins was halted in a 2-0 defeat away to Leeds on Monday, when Eagles fans were once again left to bemoan a distinct lack of attacking intent.
The defeat also highlighted Palace’s glaring dependence on Wilfried Zaha, with this their seventeenth defeat in the past 19 games the forward has missed. All connected to the club will be desperate for his return to fitness ahead of the arrival of Sean Dyche’s side.
After a mini-revival, Burnley have endured a dip in form, remaining winless in their past three matches. However, the defeats did come against Chelsea and Man City.
They remain just one place above the drop zone, but with an eight-point cushion, no one at the club will be panicking just yet.
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
Can anyone stop Manchester City at the moment?
The league leaders thumped defending champions Liverpool before going on to rewrite English football history with a fifteenth consecutive victory by overcoming Swansea City in the FA Cup in midweek.
Guardiola’s side hold a five-point advantage over city rivals United and have a game in hand ahead of welcoming out-of-sorts Tottenham.
Having led the way earlier this season, Spurs’ form has taken a downturn to see them now languishing well off the pace in eighth place and a massive 14 points adrift of the summit.
A welcome 2-0 victory over West Brom last time out did halt a three-game winless run in the league and José Mourinho will no doubt love nothing more than to dent Guardiola’s title charge … even just slightly!
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa
Brighton have become one of the league’s form teams in recent weeks and will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to six games against Aston Villa.
The Seagulls have dragged themselves clear of the drop zone, sitting comfortably in fifteenth place and ten points better off than Fulham in the final relegation spot.
Villa travel to the South Coast aiming to build on the momentum of the 1-0 victory over Arsenal last time out and cement their position in the top half of the table.
Southampton v Wolverhampton Wanderers
No club’s league form in recent weeks has been as bad as Southampton’s.
The Saints welcome Wolves on the back of suffering five successive defeats, including the record-equalling 9-0 loss to Man United last week, the second season in a row they have lost by that scoreline.
The fallout from that defeat was a 3-2 loss away to struggling Newcastle, despite the hosts being reduced to ten men from the 49th minute.
After suffering their own rocky patch, Wolves have seemingly turned a corner in the past week, following up a 2-1 victory over Arsenal with a goalless draw with high-flying Leicester.
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
As of yet, Sam Allardyce has failed to recreate his previous managerial magic at West Brom.
Famed for his ability to rescue clubs in dire straits, Allardyce has been unable to turn his new club’s form around since replacing Slaven Bilic in mid-December.
A 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham at the weekend extended their winless sequence to five matches, leaving the Baggies second from bottom and 11 points from safety.
Having suffered a shock defeat by basement boys Sheffield United at the end of last month, Man United have bounced back strongly and remain unbeaten in three matches ahead of travelling to The Hawthorns.
They will be keen, however, to make amends for two dropped points in a 3-3 draw with Everton last time out in which the Toffees struck in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to snatch a share of the spoils.
Arsenal v Leeds United
Another club who will desperate to get back on track are Arsenal after a run of back-to-back defeats.
A 2-1 loss at Wolves was followed up with another defeat in the Midlands, going down 1-0 to Aston Villa to leave Mikel Arteta’s side winless in three league matches.
While their home form has been a lot more promising, the Gunners will be wary of the unpredictable nature of Leeds, who are capable of causing any team a threat.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men have won three of their past four matches, including the comfortable 2-0 success over Crystal Palace on Monday.
The teams settled for a share of the spoils in a stalemate in the reverse fixture back in November and the visitors will have confidence of travelling to London and picking up at least the same again.
Everton v Fulham
Fulham remain arguably the only one of the relegation-threatened teams to stand a chance of escaping the looming danger; however, on present form that remains a unrealistic proposition.
Despite picking up a point in a goalless draw with West Ham last time out, Scott Parker’s extended their winless run to 12 matches.
The Cottagers are eight points adrift of Burnley but victories are needed sooner rather than later to stand them in with a chance of climbing away from the drop zone.
A trip to Merseyside will be no easy prospect, despite the Toffees’ recent inconsistency. However, Carlo Ancelotti’s side will have gained confidence from their last-gasp draw at Old Trafford last time out.
West Ham United v Sheffield United
High-flying West Ham will be confident of continuing their unlikely pursuit of a top-four finish when they welcome struggling Sheffield United to the London Stadium.
David Moyes has worked wonders with the Hammers this season, with the club in sixth, just a point adrift of champions Liverpool in fourth.
In stark contrast, the visitors remain in peril, sitting bottom of the table and 12 points adrift of Burnley in seventeenth.
However, two wins in their past four matches have given some Blades fans renewed hope of what would be arguably the greatest of all Premier League escapes.
Chelsea v Newcastle United
Thomas Tuchel has settled into life in charge of Chelsea and the Premier League encouragingly quickly.
Since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in January, he has remained unbeaten at the helm, drawing his first match before going on to mastermind three successive victories to leave the Blues in fifth place.
The German manager will be more than confident of extending that sequence against the visiting Magpies despite them picking up a welcome 3-2 success over Southampton on Saturday.
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