Premier League Penultimate Weekend Preview
Premier League Penultimate Weekend Preview
We are approaching the penultimate weekend in the 2018/19 Premier League season and football fans can look forward to several massive clashes. Man City and Liverpool remain locked in an extremely tense title battle, Cardiff are fighting for survival and the race to finish in the top four rages on. There is also the matter of individual glory still to be decided, with several leading strikers in with a chance of seizing the Golden Boot. Every team is in action this weekend and it really is heroes and villains time as the season hurtles towards its thrilling conclusion.
What Are This Weekend's Key Premier League Fixtures?
Title-chasing Liverpool head to St James’s Park to take on Newcastle in a massive game on Saturday afternoon. Victory would send the Reds temporarily top of the table and pile an enormous amount of pressure on Man City. Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is now in charge at Newcastle and he has made the Magpies extremely tough to break down, so it promises to be a nervy game. This fixture has yielded several high-scoring classic encounters over the years, but Liverpool fans would take a scrappy win on Saturday.
Man City have to wait until Monday night for the visit of Leicester, and The Etihad will be a stadium full of nerves if Liverpool manage to beat Newcastle. Pep Guardiola’s men are on a phenomenal 12-match winning streak in the Premier League, but nails will be bitten if Jamie Vardy maintains his strong recent form for Leicester.
Elsewhere, relegation-threatened Cardiff host Crystal Palace and they need a win to give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop. Brighton are 17th and not out of the woods yet, so their trip to Arsenal on Sunday afternoon also takes on huge significance. Chelsea host Watford and Man Utd travel to Huddersfield, with both teams desperate for a win as they battle for a top four finish.
Can the Premier League Title Race Be Won This Weekend?
It most certainly can. Man City know their destiny is in their own hands, as they lead by a point and there are just two games remaining. If Liverpool lose to Newcastle and then Man City beat Newcastle, Guardiola’s men will win the title. That would make them the first team since Man Utd a decade ago to successfully defend the Premier League crown. If Liverpool win and Man City lose to Leicester, it would still go down to the final weekend. As you can see from the football spread betting markets here, Man City are now the clear title favourites, but anything can happen in this thrilling league.
What is Still to be Decided in the Race for Top 4?
Man City and Liverpool are streets ahead of the competition and that leaves just two Champions League places up for grabs. It is currently advantage Tottenham, who are third on 70 points, despite losing 1-0 at home to West Ham last weekend. Next up are Chelsea on 68 points, while Arsenal are now down in fifth on 66 points after losing four of their last five games. Man Utd are sixth, with 65 points. Any of them could conceivably finish in the top four, but they are all in poor form right now.
Arsenal’s downturn in performance levels has been the most alarming. A few weeks ago, they looked to have a top four place sewn up, but they have suffered a meltdown since then. They have conceded three goals in three consecutive games for the first time ever, and that weak underbelly has been exposed once more.
Chelsea and Man Utd drew 1-1 last weekend, and that was the Blues’ second consecutive draw. Man Utd have taken just four points from a possible 15 in their last five games, and the honeymoon period is well and truly over for the embattled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It seems as though no team wants to win this top four battle, and it will be intriguing to see how it develops this coming weekend.
Can Cardiff be Relegated This Weekend?
Neil Warnock’s men are marooned in 18th and they trail Brighton by five points, while they also have a vastly inferior goal difference. Their only hope of survival is to win their next two games and hope the Seagulls suffer two straight defeats. Brighton face a tough trip to Arsenal at the weekend, and then they host the mighty Man City on the final day, so they will find it difficult to secure any more points this season. Yet Cardiff have lost five of their last six games, and they face a momentous task in aiming to beat Crystal Palace this weekend and then going on to secure victory at Old Trafford on the final day. That would be the greatest of great escapes.
Away from home, Liverpool's defence still has some degree of fallibility, and prior to their 2-0 win over Cardiff on Easter Sunday, Liverpool's preceding four competitive away matches had seen both teams score. As a result of this, only two of Liverpool's last nine away matches have seen the Reds lead at the break, and this could potentially work to Barcelona's advantage.
Whether they keep a clean sheet or not, this Liverpool team boasts bags of stamina, which gives them the ability to stay strong until the very end of matches. This priceless trait is evidenced by the Reds scoring in the final fifteen minutes, in each of their last five competitive away games.
Amongst the Reds' chain of five consecutive away wins are Liverpool's blistering performances on foreign soil in the earlier knockout rounds. Memories of galling defeats at Red Star Belgrade and Napoli are now distant memories for Liverpool, who chose the start of the knockout phase to turn on the style.
First fell Bayern, who were firmly second-best as Liverpool won 3-1 in Bavaria, showing huge character following a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Then there was the Reds' trip to Porto, which always carried an air of formality after a 2-0 win for Liverpool on home soil in the first leg, and ultimately, the eventual 6-1 aggregate scoreline could have been much bigger.
How Many Teams Can Qualify for the Europa League?
Whoever finishes fifth and sixth in the table will qualify for the Europa League. If Man City beat Watford in the FA Cup final, the team finishing seventh will also qualify for the Europa League next season, as Guardiola’s side have already qualified for the Champions League. If Watford win the cup, they will go into the Europa League along with the teams finishing fifth and sixth.
Who is in the Running for the Premier League Golden Boot?
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both scored twice as Liverpool thrashed Huddersfield last weekend, while Sergio Aguero was on target in Man City’s win over Burnley. That means Salah now leads the race for the Golden Boot, with 21 goals to his name, while Mane and Aguero trail him with 20 goals apiece. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who did not feature in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat against Leicester, remains on 19. Jamie Vardy banged in two late strikes in that match and he is now up to 18, so he has an outside chance of winning the prize.
An Injury to Harry Kane blew the race wide open, and the likes of Romelu Lukaku have struggled.
Salah won it last year with a record-breaking haul. He has not been as prolific this time around, but he could seize further individual glory if he thrives against Newcastle and Wolves in the next couple of weeks. Yet Aguero should enjoy plenty of chances against Leicester and Brighton, and this race should go right down to the wire.
Spread betting is the perfect way to enhance the thrill of watching the penultimate weekend of Premier League action, so be sure to check out the latest spread betting markets as the seasons draws to a close.