While Chelsea (of course) has a relatively straightforward this weekend with Crystal Palace, the five teams chasing a spot alongside Chelsea in the top four have slightly trickier fixtures. Here’s my ranking of them:
- Arsenal v Manchester City
- Liverpool v Everton
- Burnley v Tottenham
- Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion
Of the lot, Arsenal v City obviously ranks first because it guarantees at least one of the teams chasing top four will drop points. (My money is on Arsenal because LOL.)
After that, there are three games where you wouldn’t be surprised by the favorite winning but also wouldn’t feel super confident about a win going in. Liverpool has a Merseyside derby against Everton and in-form striker Romelu Lukaku. Spurs travel to Burnley, which is trickier than you’d think because Burnley is damn good at home:
(That’s right, Burnley has a better home record than both the Manchester clubs and has taken the same number of points from home fixtures as Arsenal.)
Finally, Man United faces Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies may well be the best team in England this year outside the top six. They are certainly in the top three amongst such clubs alongside Everton and hard-luck Southampton. The away fixture can also work in their favor as it will make it that much easier for them to be comfortable sitting deep, bunkering down, and playing for a 1-0 smash-and-grab Pulis Ball victory.
The funny thing with weekends like these is that we don’t often think of them when looking back on major weekends in the season. We think of games against top six rivals or spectacularly bad home defeats against teams we should beat. Tricky away fixtures don’t often define a season. But these sorts of weekends are huge opportunities for a side chasing the top four. We know Arsenal or City is dropping points. There is a decent chance of Liverpool or United dropping points as well. Picking up the full three points on such a weekend can be a massive lift in a tight race for the top four. We need a win.
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