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Destination Etihad: the title race has come to this

Defensive midfielder Fabinho has enjoyed a magical touch in front of goal for Liverpool this season and rates among the threats to champions Manchester City in Sunday’s much anticipated showdown (Photograph by Jon Super/AP)

With seven rounds of matches left in the season, everything remains in limbo as pressure mounts on the title race and final Champions League spot — all while four clubs battle to avoid that dreaded final relegation position.

Fantasy managers are strategically planning for the hectic and intriguing run-in. Although the two title contenders go head-to-head this weekend, City winger Phil Foden could be a strong midfield option, as well as new signing Luis Diaz for Liverpool.

Friday

Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

4pm

Newcastle may have been thumped 5-1 away to Spurs last time out, but survival could be assured with just two wins from their final eight matches. Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson remain the only absentees for the Magpies.

Wolves comfortably claimed West Midlands bragging rights over Aston Villa, pushing them within five points of fourth. Ki-Jana Hoever and Ruben Neves are doubts for the trip to Tyneside, while Raúl Jiménez serves the second of his three-game ban after being sent off against Leeds.

These sides have drawn nine times in 13 previous meetings, but Wolves will have more incentive to travel home from St James’ Park with three points.

Prediction: 1-2

Saturday

Everton v Manchester United

8.30am

Everton are precariously close to the relegation zone, just one point above it, and fell to a 2-1 defeat at West Ham last weekend before surrendering a half-time lead in a relegation six-pointer with Burnley — losing by the odd goal in five to heap pressure on Frank Lampard. Defenders Yerry Mina and Nathan Patterson are out, as is Andros Townsend, while Donny van de Beek is ineligible to play owing to league loan rules. Andre Gomes is a doubt for the visit of the Red Devils.

Manchester United, despite dropping points yet again at home to Leicester, remain in with a slim chance of Champions League football next season. Edinson Cavani remains out, while Luke Shaw and Cristiano Ronaldo are doubts for the short trip to Merseyside.

United have lost just nine of 59 previous meetings, including a 3-1 reversal on their last visit to Goodison Park two seasons ago. This match-up, with several permutations for both ends of the table, could lead to an entertaining affair.

Prediction: 0-2

Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion

11am

Arsenal were demolished 3-0 away to Crystal Palace, slipping to fifth behind North London rivals Spurs on goal difference. Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu are both out, the former for the rest of the season. Thomas Partey and Nicolas Pepe are doubts.

Brighton have slipped away from the European chase over the past few months, earning just five points from their past eight league games. Adam Webster and Jakub Moder are out for the South Coast side.

Last season, the Seagulls were unable to break down a stout Gunners defence and fell 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium, yet have an equal record with Arsenal at three wins apiece.

Prediction: 1-1

Southampton v Chelsea

11am

Southampton have taken three wins from their last seven league matches, moving up to twelfth on 36 points. Lyanco remains out with a long-term hamstring tear, while striker Armando Broja is not allowed to face his parent club because of league loan rules. Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is also a doubt.

Chelsea are coming off their worst consecutive results of the season, the 4-1 home defeat by Brentford, followed quickly by a 3-1 loss at Stamford Bridge to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals, first leg. Andreas Christensen suffered a minor knock on Wednesday night, leaving the Dane doubtful along with Christian Pulisic (fatigue). Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi will miss the journey to St Mary’s Stadium.

Saints were able to hold out for a 1-1 draw the last time they welcomed the Blues to the South Coast, and a similar result could drag Chelsea back into the top-four scrap.

Prediction: 1-2

Watford v Leeds United

11am

Watford earned an important 2-1 comeback win at Southampton a few weeks ago, but were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool the very next game. The Hornets have yet to win consecutive league games this term, one of only two teams to fail to achieve this feat. Kwadwo Baah is the only doubt in an otherwise full-strength squad.

Leeds pulled off arguably their most significant comeback win away to Wolves a few weeks back, yet they threw away some momentum against Southampton in that 1-1 draw. Tyler Roberts, Jamie Shackleton and Patrick Bamford are out, while Junior Firpo, Leo Hjelde, Lewis Bate and Joe Gelhardt are doubts.

Neither side have escaped the doldrums of a relegation fight, although the team from Yorkshire hold the stronger position, which gives them the advantage at Vicarage Road.

Prediction: 1-3

Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur

1.30pm

Aston Villa have been up and down this season, most recently falling to a 2-1 loss against Wolves at Molineux. Marvelous Nakamba is out, with no other injury news for the West Midlands club.

Spurs thrashed Newcastle 5-1 to move into fourth place, but they have quite a few injuries to contend with. Japhet Tanganga is out with a knee injury. Oliver Skipp, Ryan Sessegnon and Sergio Reguilon are doubts for the trip to Birmingham.

Tottenham have won four of their past five meetings, including a thrilling 3-2 away victory in February 2020.

Prediction: 2-2

Sunday

Brentford v West Ham United

10am

Brentford are back in control of their survival hopes after an impressive 4-1 win away to Chelsea last week. The Bees will miss Joshua DaSilva to a hamstring injury. Otherwise, manager Thomas Frank will have a complete squad to work with.

West Ham kept themselves in the hunt for Europe with a 2-1 home win over Everton, although they will focus more on their Europa League tie against Lyons. They drew 1-1 in the first leg at the London Stadium yesterday. Angelo Ogbonna and Ben Johnson are doubts for David Moyes’s men.

The Bees edged the Hammers in their only previous Premier League meeting at the London Stadium.

Prediction: 2-2

Leicester City v Crystal Palace

10am

Leicester were dominant for large portions of their 1-1 stalemate at Manchester United, although Europe is also the priority for the Foxes. Back-up goalkeeper Danny Ward, key starters Ryan Bertrand, Wilfried Ndidi and Jamie Vardy are out, with the latter two until the end of the season.

Crystal Palace emphatically dispatched Arsenal 3-0 at home on Monday, and are one of only two teams unbeaten in their past five. Michael Olise and Nathan Ferguson are doubts for the journey to King Power Stadium.

An open encounter is expected between two sides with similar styles; the history of this matchup is tight. Neither side retain any league ambition, although both have produced strong showings in cup competition.

Prediction: 1-1

Norwich City v Burnley

10am

Norwich are all but relegated despite keeping their shape to secure a 0-0 away draw with Brighton, their first point in seven matches. The Canaries have still scored the fewest goals in the division, with 18, although they have found the net in five matches in the above period. Max Aarons, Andrew Omobamidele, Ozan Kabak, Adam Idah and Josh Sargent are out. Brandon Williams, Lukas Rupp and Przemyslaw Placheta are doubts.

Burnley come off an important 3-2 home win over Everton in a midweek make-up match. Erik Pieters, Ben Mee and Johan Gudmundsson remain out, while Matej Vydra, who provided the assist for the winning goal on Wednesday, is a doubt.

The Clarets have won two of three meetings, but this is certainly the most meaningful match-up of the sides in the Premier League.

Prediction: 1-1

Manchester City v Liverpool

12.30pm

Manchester City cruised past Burnley last weekend and Kevin de Bruyne gave them a 1-0 lead over Atlético Madrid after the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie. Rúben Dias and Cole Palmer are out, the former due to return mid-April.

Liverpool have sliced into a 13-point deficit to move within two points in the title hunt. The Reds withstood a short spell of pressure to beat Benfica 3-1 in Lisbon on Tuesday in the Champions League. Jürgen Klopp will have a fully fit group at his disposal for this critical battle.

Midway through last season, City swept aside Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield, making a statement along the way to winning their fourth title in six seasons.

Prediction: 1-2

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Published April 08, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated April 07, 2022 at 11:06 pm)

Destination Etihad: the title race has come to this

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