With an extra match or two this week for some, it’s crunch time for the big boys of the Barclays Premier League
We now have only 11 or 12 games to go in the Barclays Premier League — it seems that it all hinges upon which sluggish giant picks itself up and deals with its problems better.
Manchester United VS Arsenal, 28 Feb
Memphis Depay is likely to be one of the playmakers Manchester United depends on to inspire the team to victory against Arsenal. (Photo: mr3002 / Shutterstock.com)
League-leader Leicester City is likely to win at home against relegation-threatened Norwich City, so Arsenal has to win against Manchester United to keep up in the title-chase. However, Arsenal has had a poor run of form for some time, including having drawn 0-0 with Hull City in the FA Cup last weekend, narrowly won Leicester on Feb 14 and lost to AFC Bournemouth on Feb 7.
At this critical stage, the Gunners are looking less and less like title-challengers. Coupled with a mid-week UEFA Champions League match against Barcelona that’s sure to drain them, the Gunners might be out of ammo come Sunday.
Fortunately for Arsenal, United is in even worse form. Furthermore, United’s injury-depleted squad has tiring fixtures against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup and again against FC Midtjylland in the second-leg of the Europa League tie.
With a growing list of the walking wounded including key figure Wayne Rooney out of action, the Red Devils may be running on empty by Sunday. United will probably depend on Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay to create play and to score, if they don’t get injured themselves.
The Gunners’ top playmakers — Mesut Oezil, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez — might be able to sneak one in, to the old refrain of “One-nil to the Arsenal”.
Arsenal 1-0 Manchester Utd
West Ham VS Tottenham Hotspur, 3 Mar
Nigerian World Cup star Emmanuel Emenike is one of West Ham’s hotshots expected to fire against Tottenham Hotspur. (Photo: Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com)
Tottenham Hotspur has had a disa-ppointing February so far, apart from having grabbed a crucial away goal against Fiorentina in the Europa League fixture. While the club has fantastic players and has been in surprising form this season overall — and second-place isn’t too shabby — Spurs needs to dig deep against West Ham on Mar 3, with the second-leg against Fiorentina on Feb 26 and a league match against Swansea City on Feb 28 before that.
Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela are expected to lead the attack, by example. Here’s hoping Alli won’t just hit both posts as he did against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup but actually put the ball in the net this time.
While West Ham’s league form hasn’t been too consistent of late, it’s still only seven points behind Manchester City (in fourth place) and its FA Cup form has been good. The Hammers defeated Liverpool in the replay at home, and demolished Blackburn Rovers 5-1 in the last outing. Hotshots Dimitri Payet and Emmanuel Emenike are expected to come out with guns blazing.
The game before this on Feb 27 against a languishing Sunderland should not take too much out of them. Colourful manager and former Croatian inter-national Slaven Bilic is sure to talk up the team’s chances and perhaps further boost their confidence.
West Ham 2-1 Tottenham
Liverpool VS Manchester City, 3 Mar
Philippe Coutinho has been one of Liverpool’s best players this season. (Photo: photofriday / Shutterstock.com)
It’s not a prospect Liverpool is looking forward to, having to face Manchester City twice in four days in the Capital One Cup (or League Cup) on Feb 29 and in the Premier League on Mar 3.
While City has been in poor form very recently, having lost to Tottenham and Leicester in the league and having been thrashed 5-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup, it will be keen to revive its title and cup aspirations by performing twice against a struggling giant.
City’s midweek fixture against Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League should not take too much out of the team and, with the stars in their ranks, the Citizens should be able to do the double over the Reds. Then again, no one expected City to lose 3-1 to the Foxes.
As for Liverpool, although it destroyed Aston Villa 6-0 on Feb 14, its other recent performances have been less than convincing. The Jurgen Klopp revival is yet to have fully found its wings, and there is growing worry among all.
The Reds are, as usual, expected to be dependent on their three best players — Roberto Firmino, Countinho and James Milner. Daniel Sturridge may be able to get himself on the scoresheet once again but it all depends on how well City’s defence will hold.
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester City
By Lester J Wan