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Man City inching closer to title success as relegation battle intensifies

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring his third goal during the English Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, England, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Photograph by Nick Potts/AP)

Another Premier League weekend in the books, and the picture is looking brighter in two of the three key battles in the table, as three teams scrap to avoid the final dreaded relegation spot. Thursday’s North London derby, between Spurs and Arsenal, could prove pivotal in finding the fourth Champions League team next term.

Fantasy managers have the additional conundrum of another double gameweek, due to the FA Cup Final on Saturday, to contend with in their quest to become world champion. James Ward-Prowse and Michail Antonio could both be useful assets in the medium price range for the final few weeks.


Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley


Spurs earned a valuable 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday evening, and will face Arsenal before time of print. Matt Doherty, Sergio Reguilon, Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp are all out for the visit of Burnley.

Burnley, despite losing 3-1 to Aston Villa, remain just outside the drop zone on goal difference. Injury concerns mount up for interim manager Mike Jackson, with Ben Mee, Ashley Westwood and Johann Gudmundsson still out. Matej Vydra (knee), Jay Rodriguez, and James Tarkowski are all doubts, the latter two with hamstring injuries.

Should they draw to the Gunners at home on Thursday, a victory is essential to keep fourth place alive. The fixture is favourable, as they have smashed the Clarets by an aggregate score of 9-0 on their last two visits.

Prediction: 2-0

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace


Aston Villa, despite losing 2-1 at home to Liverpool, have no real worries of relegation after a strong run of seven points from the previous four games moved them up to 43 and nine points clear. Kortney Hause is out for head coach Steven Gerrard. Leon Bailey, Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins are all doubts.

Palace are on a similar run of form as their hosts, including an impressive 3-0 home win over Arsenal. Nathan Ferguson remains out, with key starters Vicente Guaita and Marc Guehi doubtful.

This match-up is equal through 19 meetings, each side winning seven with five draws. Last term, Villa cruised past the Eagles 3-0.

Prediction: 2-2

Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion


Leeds have scored just once in their last three games, losing all three. Prior to this, they earned 11 points from the first five games under new manager Jesse Marsch. Luke Ayling and Daniel James are both suspended, each sent off in the Whites’ last two games. Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts, Crysensio Summerville and Adam Forshaw are also out. Liam Cooper (knee) remains a doubt, despite playing the full 90 at home in the defeat to Chelsea.

Brighton will be buoyed by the 4-0 home win over Manchester United, with recent new recruit Marc Cucurella scoring his first league goal for the Seagulls. Jakub Moder and Enock Mwepu are both out, while Jeremy Sarmiento is a doubt.

American head coach Marsch must be targeting these final few games (Brighton, then Brentford away) for the Yorkshire side to gain six vital points for survival, though they are yet to beat the South Coast side in three previous top-flight meetings.

Prediction: 2-1

Watford v Leicester City


Watford were officially relegated after their 1-0 away loss to Crystal Palace, it is now mathematically impossible to catch Burnley with two games remaining. Imran Louza, Kwadwo Baah, Juraj Kucka and Cucho Hernandez are all out. Ismaila Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis, Nicolas Nkoulou and Tom Cleverley are all doubts.

Leicester have stuttered to a mid-table position, and were eliminated by AS Roma in the Europa Conference League semi-finals, 2-1 on aggregate. Manager Brendan Rodgers will be pushing for a respectable league finish, but will miss Ryan Bertrand and Wilfried Ndidi to knee injuries. Backup goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic is a doubt.

The Foxes have enjoyed this fixture historically, winning eight of 13 meetings. The Hornets did, however, earn a 1-1 draw in this exact fixture last season.

Prediction: 1-2

West Ham United v Manchester City


West Ham bounced back nicely from their Europa League exit to Eintracht Frankfurt with a 4-0 away win over Norwich. Star attacker Said Benrahma scored twice, and Europa qualification is still on the cards. Angelo Ogbonna is the only long-term absentee for manager David Moyes. Craig Dawson, Benrahma and Michail Antonio are all doubts.

Manchester City have one hand on the Premier League title, after Kevin De Bruyne scored four goals in a 5-1 away rout of Wolves to leave Pep Guardiola’s men three points clear with two games remaining, and ahead on goal difference by seven. Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte are all out, the latter suffering a hamstring pull at Molineux on Wednesday.

One more win would surely complete a third championship season for City’s Spanish manager, though Nathan Ake will be the only fit centre-back at his disposal.

Prediction: 1-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Norwich City


Wolves can still qualify for the Europa Conference League, but must win their remaining matchups against Norwich and Liverpool to make it. Nelson Semedo and Max Kilman are both out, with hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.

Norwich were the first team to be officially relegated three rounds ago, and are currently stuck in a rut of one win in 13 league games. Andrew Omobamidele, Ozan Kabak, Kenny McLean, Adam Idah and Josh Sargent are all out for the Canaries. Christoph Zimmermann and Mathias Normann are doubts for Dean Smith’s men.

The West Midlands side shut out the side from East Anglia 3-0 last term, and expect a similar scoreline as the Canaries have conceded at least three in four of their five straight defeats.

Prediction: 3-1

Everton v Brentford


Everton are slowly edging closer to preserving their status as the only side to feature in every Premier League season, after their 0-0 away draw with Watford. Nathan Patterson and Andros Townsend are both out. Yerry Mina, Ben Godfrey and Donny van de Beek are all doubts.

Brentford quickly picked themselves up from the 3-0 away defeat to Manchester United with a home victory over Southampton by the same scoreline, to make the most of their first top-flight season in more than 70 years. Mathias Jorgensen and Frank Onyeka remain out for Thomas Frank’s team. Ethan Pinnock, Sergi Canos and Saman Ghoddos (ankle) are all doubts, the first two with ankle strains.

The Toffees may need up to four more points from the final two rounds to guarantee their perennial top-flight status, and will find some solace with a 4-1 home victory over the Bees in Round 4 of the FA Cup.

Prediction: 1-1

Monday, May 16

Newcastle United v Arsenal


Newcastle have taken 38 points from their 25 games under Eddie Howe, including the away draw with West Ham and the 1-1 draw with Manchester United. Ryan Fraser is the only extended absentee, while Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey are both doubts.

Arsenal should know their top-four fate heading into the visit to St James’ Park, where Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey will definitely be out. Ben White is a doubt, while Bukayo Saka will face a late fitness test.

The Gunners have dominated this rivalry, winning 33 of the 53 matches between the sides, including the last five.

Prediction: 2-2

Tuesday, May 17

Southampton v Liverpool


Southampton must be careful of the possibility to get dragged into the survival dogfight, after their 3-0 away defeat to Brentford. Tino Livramento is the only long-term injury for Saints.

Liverpool have the FA Cup final coming up against Chelsea three days prior, so could rotate with a league title push still in sight. Key midfielder Fabinho could be a doubt for the trip to the south coast.

Last January, Saints dented the Reds’ title hopes with a 1-0 victory at St Mary’s, Danny Ings scoring the lone goal inside two minutes. However, the Merseyside team have dominated the overall history, winning 24 of 45 overall matchups.

Prediction: 1-3

Thursday, May 19

Everton v Crystal Palace


Everton have lost just once in five coming into this round of matches, that coming to Mersey rivals Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield. Ben Godfrey and Donny van de Beek could be tested and return for this match-up.

Palace are struggling for goals recently, netting more than twice in just two of their previous seven matches before the weekend. First-choice goalkeeper Guaita should be in the squad for Patrick Vieira’s team, though star defender Marc Guehi will be assessed prior to travelling with the squad.

The Toffees shade this match-up, with 11 wins from 25 meetings to Palace’s 6, with at least two combined goals scored in four of the last five.

Prediction: 1-2

Aston Villa v Burnley


Aston Villa have scored at least once in five of their last eight games, though they have suffered four defeats in that run. Ollie Watkins and Jacob Ramsey could return, while Leon Bailey may be cautiously left out.

Burnley, who have taken 10 points from their first five under Under-23 coach Jackson, should enjoy the return of Tarkowski and Rodriguez, who suffered minor hamstring injuries.

Jackson will target as the best opportunity of their two remaining away games to push closer to safety, and one which they have earned draws on their last two visits.

Prediction: 1-2

Chelsea v Leicester City


Chelsea could make changes following the FA Cup final at Wembley four days prior, knowing a point from this should secure Champions League football for Thomas Tüchel. Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi will not play in either competitive game, against Liverpool and the Foxes. Key midfielders Jorginho and N’Golo Kante could be doubtful.

Leicester enjoyed their 3-0 home win over Norwich, after a horrible 2-1 home loss to Everton. Backup shot-stopper Jakupovic could return off the bench at Stamford Bridge.

There is little reason to be concerned for the German leader of the Blues, as they have won 16 of 31 previous encounters, losing just once in the last five.

Prediction: 2-0

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Published May 13, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated May 13, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Man City inching closer to title success as relegation battle intensifies

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