It is another highly-anticipated weekend in England as the current 2021/2022 Premier League campaign enters Matchday 26, with the full complement of ten matches set to go down on Saturday and Sunday.
Following 25 rounds of action, the Premier League standings remains unchanged – at least the top two positions are occupied by defending champions and runaway leaders Manchester City and Merseyside outfit Liverpool. European kings Chelsea and 20-time PL winners Manchester United make up the Top Four positions. West Ham United and Arsenal are the fifth and sixth placed teams on the log, as they also bid to crack the top four positions which will guarantee them a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Ahead of Matchday 26 action in the Premier League which kicks off on Saturday, we shall focus our scope on some of the mouth-watering fixtures sure to provide plenty of drama and excitement.
MANCHESTER CITY VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS:
The runaway Premier League leaders and current defending champions are in beast mode as they welcome an out-of-sorts Tottenham Hotspurs who have lost their last three league games on the spin.
The Cityzens look set to land a fourth PL title in five years but will have to navigate an Antonio Conte led side at the Etihad Stadium, as the visitors will be desperate to avoid another defeat, as they continue their quest to reach the Champions League next season.
Pep Guardiola’s side are nine points clear at the top of the standings and are yet to be beaten in any competition since the first week of December. They come into this tie on the back of a dominant 5-0 away win over Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in midweek to all but surely seal their passage into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
Spurs have dropped to eighth position in the league and are now seven points adrift of Manchester United, who occupy the last UCL slot. The Lilywhites have not lost four matches in a row since 2004 but must put in the work, if they hope to avoid an unwanted piece of history. But they can take solace in the fact that they have overcome the Cityzens in three of their last four games and they earned a 1-0 win on Matchday One in North London.
ARSENAL VS BRENTFORD:
This match is of utmost importance and significance for the Gunners. Not only the fact that their Champions League hopes rest on them getting a positive result, they are on a revenge mission against their fellow London rivals.
On Matchday One, Arsenal visited the Brentford Community Stadium in a fixture most expected them to win but alas, the reverse was the case. The Gunners fell 2-0 to their neighbours who were only featuring in the top-flight for the first time in about 75 years, while making their first appearance in the Premier League era.
The Gunners were winless in five matches across all competitions in a tough month of January prior to their trip to the Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers, but they got back to winning ways courtesy of defender Gabriel’s first-half header and a spirited defensive performance. They are currently four points adrift of the final Champions League place with three games in hand. It has been five clean sheets in seven Premier League matches for manager Mikel Arteta and his side, and they will be hoping the trend continues against a stuttering Brentford on Saturday.
As for the Bees, they initially made an impressive start to life in the top-flight but have regressed in recent months and are winless in six games. They earned a goalless draw against Crystal Palace last time out and will be hoping the arrival of Danish international Christian Eriksen will help improve their fortunes.
CRYSTAL PALACE VS CHELSEA:
Fresh off from winning the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last weekend, Chelsea will turn their focus to domestic matters as they make the short trip to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in a London Derby.
The Blues’ 2-1 win over Brazilian side Palmeiras in the Club World Cup Final should put them in good stead and provide the required confidence needed as they try to rediscover their early season form. Chelsea are third on the log, 16 points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand and will surely have one eye on the chasing pack with Manchester United only four points behind them.
Manager Thomas Tuchel will be keen to use this fixture as preparation for the coming week, where they are involved in the UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 tie against French Ligue 1 side LOSC Lille Metropole and the Carabao Cup Final against Liverpool.
Chelsea won the reverse fixture against Palace 3-0 on the opening weekend of the season while 13th-place Palace are without a win in the league this year and have struggled for goals of recent. They were held to a goalless draw by struggling Brentford last time out and will be without the impressive Connor Gallagher who cannot play against his parent club but will rely on the qualities of Ivorian forward Wilfried Zaha.
Palace have won just one of their last 16 London derbies in the Premier League and haven’t beaten Chelsea since 2017.
LEEDS UNITED VS MANCHESTER UNITED:
After finally getting a much-deserved 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion during the week, Manchester United will be on the road to take on Leeds United at Elland Road as they continue the hunt for Champions League football next season.
Despite the win over the Seagulls last Tuesday, Ralf Rangnick’s side are far from being the finished article and have been largely unimpressive with inconsistent displays and results being the hallmark of their season under the German – who took over at the helm mid-season, following the sacking of former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Rangnick has now won seven of his 14 games in charge, and he has admitted that fourth is the best his side can hope for this season, with the team currently in fourth place.
As pointed out, United were lacklustre in their win over Brighton but it was a massive relief to see star man Cristiano Ronaldo end his longest goal drought in a decade in style.
As for Leeds United, the heavy thrashing away to Everton at Goodison Park means they are only six points clear of the relegation zone and two points above Newcastle United who lie in 17th place. They have let in 46 league goals this season, with only Norwich shipping in more. Also, they have won just one of their last 16 league games against the Red Devils and were thrashed 5-2 at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture.
LIVERPOOL VS NORWICH CITY:
Liverpool are back to Premier League duties following a massive 2-0 win away to Inter Milan at the San Siro Stadium in midweek to take control of their UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 tie.
The Reds have been impressive in recent weeks but are nine points adrift of leaders Manchester City albeit with a game in hand and require a near-perfect run-in to have any hope of overtaking Pep Guardiola’s side. Liverpool are unbeaten in the league in 17 and will be looking to extend their record against relegation-threatened Norwich on Saturday evening, who they have an excellent record against. Jurgen Klopp’s men have won 13 of their last 15 league games against the Canaries, scoring 47 goals in the process.
Norwich City have shipped in 50 goals in their 24 league games this season, including four against Manchester City last weekend, but will be aiming for back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time since January 2012 in what will be the first of two meetings with Liverpool in two weeks after they were drawn together in the FA Cup.