Premier League Preview: Big weekend in store at both ends of the table
With this weekend playing host to both FA Cup semi-finals, the Premier League is looking a little thinner on the ground than we’ve become accustomed to in recent months.
That doesn’t mean that there still isn’t plenty of action to look forward to, however, and it could prove to be a decisive few days at both ends of the table.
Sheffield United face the very real prospect of being relegated if they lose to Wolves and Newcastle United beat West Ham, while Liverpool could do their bid for a top four spot the world of good with a victory over Leeds United.
We’ve taken a closer look at those matches, and the rest of this weekend’s Premier League action, below...
Everton vs Tottenham: Last chance saloon for Champions League dark horses
When both of these sides look back on this season, they will likely reflect on a plethora of opportunities squandered.
Either Everton or Spurs could feasibly have run away with a top four spot this term, but instead both have fumbled and stumbled their way to the brink of missing out.
In truth, that would be a much bigger blow for Jose Mourinho’s men than it would be for the Toffees, but whoever loses this one can surely kiss their faint hopes of Champions League football next season goodbye.
Newcastle United vs West Ham: Toon take plunge into hellish run
It was vital that Newcastle United beat Burnley last weekend, not just because it gave them a six point cushion over the relegation zone, but also because their upcoming run of fixtures could very well see them lose five on the bounce.
In consecutive outings, the Magpies will clash with West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester City, and Manchester City, and nobody would be shocked if they took no points in that run.
Still, last weekend’s display showed plenty of promise – not least from Allan Saint-Maximin – and the Hammers are ravaged by injuries, so maybe this isn’t as much of a foregone conclusion as it first appears.
Wolves vs Sheffield United: Is this the end for the Blades?
If Newcastle do beat West Ham – and granted it is a sizeable if – then Sheffield United will need to pick up all three points against Wolves to avoid being relegated on Saturday.
Even if they can stave off the drop for another week, however, they are merely prolonging the inevitable.
This has been a torrid season for United, and it could well be that the sooner they are put out of their misery, the sooner they can begin the healing process.
Arsenal vs Fulham: Cottagers running out of chances
A few weeks ago, it looked for all the world as if Fulham were going to close the gap on the sides above them and leapfrog their way to Premier League safety.
Fast forward to this weekend, however, and they have begun to look stale, uninspired, and pretty much doomed.
A lack of goals has kneecapped their prior resurgence, and they need find a solution soon or they are done for.
Thankfully, there’s a solid 50% chance that Arsenal just won’t bother turning up on Sunday, so this could still prove to be a good opportunity to pick up much-needed points.
Manchester United vs Burnley: Can Clarets bring dismal spell to an end?
For two weeks running, Burnley have taken the lead against sides in the bottom half of the table, and for two weeks running, they have proceeded to chuck said leads away.
The Clarets are seven points above the relegation zone, and you can’t help feeling that they might only need one or two more wins to tip them over the edge and into the promised land of survival, like a finely balanced pound coin in an arcade pusher machine.
Manchester United probably aren’t the best team to be coming up against if you’re looking to dig out a victory, but the Reds have been stung by Burnley before…
Leeds United vs Liverpool: Will we see a repeat of opening day spectacular?
Anyone who'd been keeping half an eye on the Championship knew that Leeds United under Marcelo Biesla were a force to be reckoned with even prior to them arriving in the Premier League this season.
Just in case anybody had any doubts over the Whites’ credentials though, they proceeded to travel to Anfield on the opening day of the season and give Liverpool a very bloody nose.
Now, admittedly, Bielsa’s boys lost that game, and as the season has progressed it has become increasingly apparent that going to Merseyside and troubling the Reds isn’t the rarefied feat that it once was.
But still, that display set out Leeds’ stall early on in the season, and they have stuck to their mantra of relentless attacking carnage ever since.
Here’s hoping for another thriller on Monday evening.
Chelsea vs Brighton: Albion looking for the most elusive of results
Brighton have looked much, much better in recent weeks.
Their usual pleasing style of football is still there for all to see, but it is now reinforced with an added grit that has allowed them to grind out results like Monday night’s 0-0 draw against Everton.
Traditionally the Seagulls have struggled against Chelsea, however, and have only beaten them once in their entire history – an FA Cup tie victory in January 1933.
Can Graham Potter’s men change that statistic on Tuesday?