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City Express welcomes sputtering Spurs

Manchester City had their way in Portugal in midweek in the Champions League round of 16 with a 5-0 first-leg win over Sporting, and return to domestic action tomorrow at home to a struggling Tottenham Hotspur (Photograph by Armando Franca/AP)

The English Premier League season is nearing the business end with the relegation picture getting more clearer and the top-four race remaining up in the air.

The fantasy landscape continues to ebb and flow as the season draws to a close. Some teams have double game weeks during the run-in. Diogo Jota and Phil Foden remain strong medium options, while Aaron Ramsdale and José Sá are both strong options between the sticks. Congratulations to Kyle Beezy and “£ucky No7” with 88 points for Matchweek 25, while James Gater and “Unathletico Madrid” remain on top overall with 1,652 points.

Saturday

West Ham United v Newcastle United

8.30am

West Ham are keeping themselves in the hunt for European football next term, despite dropping points in three of their last four games. Key defender Angelo Ogbonna remains a long-term absentee, while Kurt Zouma was ill but should return this week. Arthur Masuaku is also out with a knee injury.

Newcastle have won their last three league games to pull away from the relegation zone, now four points clear of Norwich City with a game in hand. New signing Kieran Trippier suffered a foot injury last week, so will certainly be out for this one. Callum Wilson is also set to be out until near the end of the season with his calf injury.

Through 47 meetings, the Magpies have won more (22) than the Hammers (14). Their last visit to East London yielded a 2-0 victory, and have ten away wins over the Hammers overall.

Prediction: 1-1

Arsenal v Brentford

11am

Arsenal have been labelled as favourites to clinch that final Champions League spot. Right back Takehiro Tomiyasu has been nursing a calf injury, so will be out for this matchup.

Brentford, despite starting really well on their debut season, have faltered by four defeats in their past five. Ivan Toney is still recovering from a calf strain, but could return on the bench. Christian Eriksen could make his debut off the bench as well.

The Bees recorded their famous first top-flight win over the Gunners on opening night 2-0, but both sides have some sort of incentive, so this may be slightly more competitive.

Prediction: 1-1

Aston Villa v Watford

11am

Despite losing to Newcastle, and earning just one win in their past five, Aston Villa are in a comfortable position under Steven Gerrard. Marvelous Nakamba and Bertrand Traoré remain long-term injury absentees for the Villans.

Watford are in serious trouble and now nearly certain to get relegated. They have scored only one goal in their past five games as well. Nicolas Nkoulou is the only serious injury worry for the Hornets.

A very even history sees each side grabbing four wins in nine meetings, with the Clarets winning 2-1 in this exact fixture last season.

Prediction: 2-0

Brighton & Hove Albion v Burnley

11am

Brighton endured mixed fortunes in their latest double matchweek, where they cruised past Watford 2-0 at Vicarage Road and paid for poor finishing in a 2-0 away defeat by Manchester United. Lewis Dunk is suspended, while Enock Mwepu has been out for about three weeks with a hamstring tear.

Burnley have salvaged three draws in their past five games, including an unexpected 1-1 home stalemate with United. New signing Wout Weghorst could be out with a leg injury.

This rivalry is very close, with five draws ensuing in nine previous meetings, and both sides winning twice.

Prediction: 1-1

Crystal Palace v Chelsea

11am

Crystal Palace are not on the best run at the moment, but continue to develop under Patrick Vieira. Conor Gallagher isn’t eligible to face his parent club because of league loan rules. Defender Nathan Ferguson is out with a hamstring tear.

Chelsea are fresh from a successful Club World Cup campaign, where they won their first title in Qatar by edging Palmeiras 2-1 after extra time in the final last Sunday. Mason Mount and Reece James could return in some capacity for this battle.

Another capital derby, the second in the “goal rush”, sees the Blues dominating this matchup, winning 19 of 25 top-flight meetings. Selhurst Park is a fruitful trip as well for Chelsea, as they smashed the Eagles 4-1 last April.

Prediction: 1-3

Liverpool v Norwich City

11am

Liverpool are fresh off a clinical 2-0 first-leg away victory over Inter Milan to take control of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. Jota suffered an ankle knock in that game on Wednesday.

Norwich have drastically improved performances since the appointment of manager Dean Smith, despite being found out by champions Manchester City in a 4-0 home defeat. Ozan Kabak, Lukas Rupp, and Adam Idah are all doubts for the trip to Merseyside.

This is a huge opportunity for the Reds to keep pressure on leaders City, as they have won 14 of 19 previous meetings.

Prediction: 2-0

Southampton v Everton

11am

Southampton are mixing it beautifully with the bigger clubs in recent weeks, coming from behind to defeat Tottenham on the road 3-2 before drawing 1-1 away to Manchester United. Saints could miss defender Jan Bednarek and Mohamed Elyounoussi in this one.

Everton are on the road to recovery under new manager Frank Lampard, after dominating Leeds United in a 3-0 home victory. Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey are both lengthy absentees, while Fabian Delph and Abdoulaye Doucoure will also be out until at least March.

Following the form of James Ward-Prowse and Chelsea loan striker Armando Broja, the Saints could push for their highest-ever Premier League finish, although this matchup favours the Merseyside outfit, who have won 20 of their previous 45 meetings.

Prediction: 2-0

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur

1.30pm

Manchester City continue to control their own destiny in the Premier League title race, on a quest to retain last season’s crown. They come off a thumping 5-0 away win over Sporting in the Champions League on Tuesday. Cole Palmer and Gabriel Jesus will be out to muscle tears for an unknown period, while Jack Grealish has suffered from shin splints and could be missing.

After a strong start, the wheels have fallen off quickly for Spurs under Antonio Conte. Japhet Tanganga will be the only missing player to a knee injury. The only positive is they are into the last 16 of the FA Cup after a dominant 3-1 home win over Brighton.

The Whites won 2-0 on their home ground in this matchup back in August, under Nuno Espirito Santo. This will surely be different, as the North London outfit have not won at the Etihad since 2016.

Prediction: 3-1

Sunday

Leeds United v Manchester United

10am

Leeds continue their recent inconsistencies, as after a strong comeback 3-3 away draw with Aston Villa, they lost 3-0 away to Everton. Key injury concerns include captain Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, all of whom will not return until at least March.

Manchester United finally earned a critical, but slightly lucky, 2-0 home victory over Brighton, after consecutive 1-1 draws — away to Burnley and with Southampton at Old Trafford. Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic are both heavy doubts with ankle and shin injuries respectively, although Paul Pogba is slowly returning to fitness after a lengthy layoff with a thigh injury.

The three-times European champions have taken apart their hosts in recent times, scoring 11 in their past two meetings at Old Trafford. Leeds held United to a goalless stalemate at Elland Road last April.

Prediction: 0-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City

12.30pm

Wolves are one of the in-form teams of the division, winning four of their past five. Two of those victories were clean sheets over Manchester United and Tottenham on the road. They have been the beneficiary of inconsistencies above them, and could certainly push for a European spot this term.

Leicester continue to let impressive results slip away from their grasp, notably the 3-2 home defeat by Tottenham, where the visitors scored twice in stoppage time, and their latest 2-2 draw with West Ham. The Foxes are ravaged by injuries in defensive positions, losing four starters, as well as striker Jamie Vardy.

East meets West in another coastal Midlands battle, in which Leicester hold the faint edge, with three wins to two for Wolves in nine overall meetings.

Prediction: 2-2

Wednesday

Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur

3.30pm

Burnley, who visit Brighton on Saturday, will need to turn some of their recent draws into wins if they are to get out of the relegation mire. Their top scorer is Maxwel Cornet with five goals, although they brought in Wout Weghorst from Wolfsburg in January to improve on that front.

Spurs’ inconsistent form under Antonio Conte must be looked at as they knock off their first of three games in hand on the chase for top four.

Son Heung Min and Harry Kane combined for the only goal in these sides’ last meeting at Turf Moor in October 2020.

Prediction: 1-1

Watford v Crystal Palace

3.30pm

Watford remain one of the favourites to get relegated this season, especially if they cannot pick up victories in their next few games, against Palace and Aston Villa. The Hornets are winless in their past 11, since an impressive 4-1 home win over Manchester United.

Palace are going through a dip in form themselves, with two wins in their previous nine games. The 0-0 away draw with Brentford was their eleventh of the season, but only the second in which they didn’t score. The Eagles should be comfortably safe for another season.

This will be a matchup of contrasting styles, one which historically favours the Eagles, with four wins to Watford’s three.

Prediction: 1-2

Liverpool v Leeds United

3.45pm

Liverpool can close the gap on champions Man City to just three points by the conclusion of this round, and come into it buoyant after an important 2-0 away win over Inter Milan in Europe midweek.

Leeds have a tricky week of games — first neighbours Manchester United and then this trip to Anfield. They must find a way to gain points to ensure they don’t get dragged into the relegation scrap.

These sides served up a seven-goal thriller last term at Anfield, with the Reds winning 4-3.

Prediction: 2-0

Thursday

Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers

3.45pm

Arsenal look to take advantage of a double matchweek in their quest for Champions League football. They have failed to beat all of the sides above them, barring a convincing 3-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur in January.

Wolves are in pole position for a Europa League spot, despite losing 1-0 to the Gunners just a few weeks back. That defeat was quickly followed by a dominant 2-0 away win over Spurs.

Last season, Wolves came to the Emirates and won 2-1 in November 2020.

Prediction: 1-2

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Published February 18, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated February 18, 2022 at 9:46 am)

City Express welcomes sputtering Spurs

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