PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW: Spurs looking to pile misery on Liverpool | Ranieri backed by board | Boro faced with tough test
It's all gone horribly wrong for Liverpool these past few weeks.
You could say there’s something of a mini-crisis developing at Anfield. Dumped out of the League Cup semi-final by Southampton, coupled with league defeats to Swansea and most recently Hull, not to mention an FA Cup exit at the expense of Championship outfit Wolves last month, it’s a sorry state of affairs for the red half of Merseyside.
Similar to Arsenal, Liverpool’s title hopes are all but over in wake of their recent mid-season slump, with a top-four berth their only realistic ambition between now and the rest of the campaign. Jurgen Klopp has been left bemused by his players’ dip in form and has been forthcoming in expressing his anger. Therefore, Saturday evening’s clash with Spurs is one that Liverpool supporters are approaching with a degree of caution.
Spurs, however, were far from at their peak, despite grinding out the three points against Middlesbrough last weekend. Nevertheless, winning without being at your best is all that matters at this stage of the season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side sit best of the rest behind leaders Chelsea, but even then the gap stands at nine points. Defeat here coupled with a Chelsea win at Burnley on Sunday would surely spell the end for Spurs in this season’s title race.
England full-back Danny Rose missed the visit of Boro, due to the injury he picked up to his knee in the recent 0-0 draw at Sunderland. However, Pochettino hopes Rose will declare himself fit for the match at Anfield with Ben Davies continuing in his absence should the player miss out. Jan Vertonghen is also expected to be fit following an ankle ligament problem. The sides met earlier in the season at White Hart Lane, where a second-half Rose strike cancelled out James Milner’s penalty.
Pressure growing on under-fire Wenger | Arsenal vs Hull City
Arsenal have imploded. Their title dreams are in tatters, and manager Arsene Wenger’s long tenure with the club could be nearing an end – that’s if a lot of the fans get their way. Back-to-back defeats to London rivals Watford and Chelsea means the Gunners’ Premier League aspirations have stalled for another year. A third straight defeat to strugglers Hull this afternoon would surely signal the end for Wenger, who is now been at the club for 21 years. The Tigers, on the other hand, will make the journey from Humberside in buoyant mood following last weekkend’s 2-0 triumph over Liverpool. Although the win wasn’t enough to lift Hull out of the relegation zone, they are just a point adrift of Swansea, with Middlesbrough and Premier League champions Leicester immediately above them.
United eye home improvements | Manchester United vs Watford
Jose Mourinho’s side have hardly been firing on all cylinders lately, but last Sunday’s 3-0 win at Leicester saw them produce a much more assured display. But it’s their home form that has been United’s Achilles heel so far this term where they have drawn their last three Premier League matches. Despite Watford overcoming Burnley 2-1 six days ago, boss Walter Mazzarri was unimpressed with his players’ mentality and was angry his side did not win the match by more than one goal. The same could hardly be said if the Hornets were to win at United tomorrow.
Boro braced for stiff test as Everton visit | Middlesbrough vs Everton
Another defeat for Middlesbrough at Spurs last Saturday, their 11th of the campaign, has Aitor Karanka’s players perilously close to the drop zone ahead of the visit of free-scoring Everton this weekend. Just one win from their last eight Premier League fixtures means Boro now find themselves in a real relegation scrap. The goals have also dried up, with only Alvaro Negredo providing any real sort of firepower. Visitors Everton, meanwhile, put six past Bournemouth in the club’s last outing with striker Romelu Lukaku scoring four against the Cherries. The Toffees appear to be hitting form just at the right time and are now just seven points off fourth-placed Arsenal. The hosts are sure to be in for a real battle tomorrow afternoon.
Berahino eager to kick-start career | Stoke City vs Crystal Palace
New Stoke striker Saido Berahino never seems to hit the headlines for his prowess in front of goal. Although his turbulent reign at West Brom was finally brought to an end last month, no sooner had he arrived at the Potters but the player was coming under scrutiny regarding a two-month ban he incurred from the FA for failing an out-of-competition drugs test whilst he was with the Baggies. He did, however, make his second Stoke appearance in last weekend’s loss to West Brom and is striving for a fresh start. Palace are the visitors to the Britannia tomorrow and they themselves aren’t without their own problems. A catastrophic 4-0 loss to Sunderland has sent alarm bells ringing amongst the Selhurst Park hierarchy with the Eagles now sitting 19th.
Buoyant Sunderland must overcome Saints | Sunderland vs Southampton
Sunderland turned in their most complete performance of the season last weekend, inflicting a 4-0 defeat at relegation rivals Crystal Palace – a real coupon buster at that.
David Moyes will now hope his players can make it back-to-back wins when Southampton arrive on Wearside tomorrow afternoon. If the Black Cats are to haul themselves clear of danger then it’s just the sort of game they need to go for the jugular from the start – just like they did in the win at Palace which saw them four up at the interval. Southampton, though, aren’t likely to be as woeful as last week’s opponents. Italian striker Manolo Gabbiadini scored on his debut with a blistering strike in the defeat to West Ham and looks a real threat.
West Ham look to keep run going | West Ham vs West Brom
The Hammers are slowly but surely beginning to find their feet again under boss Slaven Bilic. Having taken nine points from their last four fixtures, West Ham now find themselves back in the top half following some inconsistent results. Striker Andy Carroll is a man bang in form and he’ll be looking to continue his recent scoring spree against visitors West Brom. The Baggies are six points clear of their opponents in eighth and won’t want to see that deficit cut with defeat at the London Stadium. It should be entertaining.
Chelsea go in search of 20th league win | Burnley vs Chelsea
It seems with every passing week it’s become a case of when Chelsea will win the Premier League, rather than if. Tottenham’s win over the Blues last month appears to have been a temporary blip where manager Antonio Conte and his players are concerned. However, opponents Burnley are a force to be reckoned with at home, having won five on the bounce since defeat to Manchester City in November. The Clarets lost out to Chelsea 3-0 when they last met six months ago and are likely to encounter another tough test this afternoon. Eden Hazard is back to reproducing the magic that earned him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award the season before last. Conte has stressed it’s just one game at a time for his squad, but Burnley manager Sean Dyche isn’t one to drop his guard.
Ranieri has support of Leicester Board | Swansea City vs Leicester City
The Premier League champions issued a statement this week showing their support for manager Claudio Ranieri following the club’s dismal form of late. The Foxes are just a point above the relegation zone and are without an away win in the Premier League this season. Now would be an ideal time to start with a trip to Swansea Sunday afternoon. The Swans are locked on the same points as their opponents, and have found some form since Paul Clement took the reins last month from American Bob Bradley. And, despite the 2-1 loss at Manchester City last weekend, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski hailed his team-mates’ performance and spirit.
Howe targets better showing against City | Bournemouth vs Manchester City
Cherries supporters were left in disarray having watched their side crash to a 6-3 defeat at Everton last weekend. Atoning for such a heavy loss isn’t going to be easy, though, with the visit of Manchester City to the South Coast on Monday night. Manager Eddie Howe was far from complimentary regarding his team’s first-half performance at Goodison with Romelu Lukaku netting the first of his four inside the first 30 seconds. Bournemouth have now conceded 16 goals in their last five Premier League fixtures. Pep Guardiola’s City edged past Swansea last week 2-1, and would appear to have rediscovered their mojo following the 4-0 loss at Everton just four weeks ago.