Premier League Preview

Liverpool know that victory over Brighton would finally seal a top-four finish, the Reds having blown three opportunities to as good as get over the line since mid-April. There’s nothing more they can do until Sunday, but the two teams immediately beneath them in the table have an ideal opportunity to take full advantage of the Reds’ inactivity.

Chelsea’s win over Jurgen Klopp’s men last Sunday took them to within three points of Liverpool, having been 10 points adrift less than four weeks ago. The Blues host Huddersfield on Wednesday night with the chance to go level on points with the Merseysiders and set up a horribly tense final day of the season. Antonio Conte’s team have not had the best of campaigns, another title defence failing almost as soon as it started, but four consecutive wins have seen them make a late surge for the Champions League positions. They will do well to take heed of the Terriers’ most recent performance, though, with the Yorkshire side keeping Manchester City scoreless on Sunday. Can they do the same to City’s predecessors as champions? It’s improbable but certainly not impossible, and a draw could be enough for them to secure another season of Premier League football. It would also further endear David Wagner to long-time friend Klopp over on Merseyside.

While Chelsea could go level on points with Liverpool, Tottenham have the chance to move above the Reds into third place if they can beat Newcastle at Wembley on Wednesday. Spurs will have a point to prove after their feeble display at West Brom last weekend, while Chelsea’s imperious form has left them sweating on their top four status. Unlike the Blues, though, Tottenham have the relative luxury of playing against a team with nothing to play for, with Newcastle’s safety sealed well before the end of April. Since then, the Geordies have eased off the gas and lost three in a row, a sequence that has tainted their splendid springtime form a bit and irked Rafael Benitez. Can the Spaniard do his former employers at Liverpool a huge favour and thwart the Londoners?

If Liverpool are nervous about securing a Champions League berth for next season, imagine how fans of Swansea and Southampton must be feeling ahead of their winner-takes-all showdown at the Liberty Stadium tonight. With both teams locked on 33 points, the equation is fairly straightforward – a win all but seals another season in the Premier League; a defeat effectively spells the death knell for their top-flight stay. The Swans have home advantage but their form has deserted them at the worst possible time, while the Saints have the edge on goal difference and have shown enough spirit in their last two games to suggest that they can battle their way to safety. The result here could also have a bearing on West Brom’s top flight future; anything other than a draw will relegate the Baggies.

With the Premier League trophy now taking pride of place in the Etihad Stadium trophy cabinet, Manchester City can treat their fans to one last extravaganza of football to round off a superb season for the champions. Their final home game of 2017/18 sees them welcome Brighton and both teams will be on a high on Wednesday, with City celebrating their title triumph and the Seagulls sealing their place in next year’s Premier League with a famous win over Manchester’s other club last weekend. Pep Guardiola’s men remain motivated by the pursuit of a 100-point season, something that can only be achieved if they win their final two games. Klopp will be intrigued to see how wholeheartedly Brighton perform here and whether that indicates the mindset they’ll adopt against Liverpool on Sunday.

The King Power Stadium hosts a fixture which could be the penultimate assignment for the two managers involved in their current roles. Arsene Wenger already knows that is going to be the case, but will it also ring true for Claude Puel given Leicester’s meek conclusion to a less than memorable season? When Arsenal last visited this venue in August 2016, the Foxes were still basking in the afterglow of their sensational Premier League triumph; that seems a lifetime ago with the tumult of managerial changes that Leicester have gone through since. The form book declares this an emphatic Arsenal win, but the Gunners have not avoided defeat in a Premier League away fixture since New Year’s Eve.

When West Ham take to the field for their meeting with Manchester United on Thursday, it will be two months to the day since the London Stadium’s open revolt during the 0-3 thrashing by Burnley. There weren’t too many who thought back then that the Hammers would go into the final two games of the season clear of the relegation dogfight, but David Moyes has coaxed the desired response out of his team and, a couple of heavy defeats in late April notwithstanding, West Ham have finished the campaign strongly. Meanwhile, what response will Manchester United give following their tame surrender at Brighton last Friday, one which elicited a rant that was hard-hitting even by Jose Mourinho’s standards? FA Cup final starting berths remain at stake for several players in the Red Devils’ ranks.

Barring an unlikely favour from Huddersfield or Newcastle, Liverpool will go into their final game of the season needing a win to make sure of a top-four finish. While the Reds’ league campaign is stuttering, they can take heart from being in the same scenario this time last year and delivering a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough that opened the door to this season’s fantastic Champions League journey. With a bit of luck, the Terriers or Geordies could play their part in making Liverpool’s life easier, seeing as the Reds insist upon making it needlessly hard for themselves.

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