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English Premier League : Match Week 11 talking points from this weekend’s action

Game week 11 in the EPL and our main focus will be on Super Sunday where five (5) of the top six (6) will be playing. But before then let’s preview the remaining one among the top six who will be playing in the last round of matches for Saturday.

WEST HAM UNITED VS LIVERPOOL

A little over a week ago, speculations were rife that Bilic has been given two games to save his job and two games later he still has his job with a Victory over Tottenham away at Wembley in the Carabao Cup and narrowly missing out on a win over Crystal Palace due to a moment of madness by Michail Antonio in the 96th minute of the game whiles leading the game. The Hammers remain 16th in the table with one point above the relegation teams. Liverpool’s win over Maribor saw those record back-to-back victories for the first time since August. Things have improved defensively too, with Liverpool keeping four clean sheets in their last five games after seven matches without one, although three of those clean sheets came at Anfield and it is the Reds’ defensive record on the road which will be the main concern for Klopp right now. Liverpool have conceded a league-high 15 goals on their travels in the Premier League so far this season – and 19 in nine away games across all competitions – compared to only one league goal conceded in front of their own fans. West Ham has been something of a bogey team for Liverpool in recent years, with the Reds winning just one of their last six meetings with the Hammers across all competitions. The sole win in that time did come in the most recent fixture, though, as any Hammers hoodoo held over Liverpool was well and truly ended by a 4-0 victory on their first ever visit to the London Stadium in May – the Reds’ joint-biggest ever away win against West Ham. The reverse fixture at Anfield ended 2-2, although none of the goalscorers on that occasion will feature this weekend as they are either injured or have since left the respective clubs.

MANCHESTER CITY VS. ARSENAL

This is a game by two sides who likes to have the ball at their feet. Though at the moment it looks like City will run away with possession but one will reckon it will be very close. As much as Guardiola tries to play down the title credentials of this team, the way and manner they are brushing teams away suggest otherwise. Coming off the back of a great win against a very good Napoli side in the Champions league, this City team looks solid in attack but with Four goals conceded in their last two matches may suggest that the defensive frailties are beginning to show, which so often proved their downfall last time out, but when you can score goals at a rate of over three-a-game it tends to matter little. Arsenal on the other hand have got some impressive runs of results lately, one defeat in 13 since their heavy reverse to Liverpool in August points to an Arsenal revival, but even that will do little to appease many of the supporters who are desperate to see Wenger leave, with another loss this weekend giving them further ammunition ahead of the two-week break. This really is a huge month for the Gunners, as they follow up Sunday’s trip to Manchester with a home match against Tottenham Hotspur immediately after the international break, while Manchester United and Liverpool also visit the Emirates Stadium before Christmas. A fifth league win in six matches this weekend is vital if Arsenal are to have any realistic aspirations of catching their opponents, or else another battle for the top four – which they missed out on last term – may be the best they can hope for.

 

CHELSEA VS MAN UNITED

Since the 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Roma, which could have ended a lot worse had the rampant Italians taken a couple more of their chances, there have been claims that it is now simply a case of whether Conte will be pushed or instead jump before the inevitable. Yet a look at the situation Chelsea find themselves in, with a quarter of the season now played, suggests that all is not that bad; three points this weekend being enough to put them in a favourable position both at home and abroad. The current nine-point gap on Manchester City is of course a worry, but Chelsea will move to within a point of second place this weekend, while also being almost certain of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League in spite of that midweek setback in Rome. Throw a favourable EFL Cup quarter-final tie into the mix and Conte, who also endured a shaky start in his maiden campaign on these shores, has every right to wonder just what all the fuss is about.

A 13-match winning run kick-started Chelsea’s campaign last term and eventually took them all the way to the title, though the best they have managed so far in 2017-18 is a three-match run that was ended prematurely by Arsenal six weeks ago. While Mourinho’s position as Man United boss is unquestionably safe for the foreseeable future, the Portuguese is seemingly trying his best to drive a divide between himself and the club’s passionate supporters. Another sly dig at the Old Trafford faithful ahead of the 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica on Tuesday night did little to heal the increasingly fractious relationship, forcing the Manchester United Supporters Trust to step in and arrange a meeting. All is not well behind the scenes at United, then, but results on the field have been positive on the whole, even if questions were again raised regarding Mourinho’s perceived bland style of play in the wake of recent performances.

The midweek victory over his former club Benfica hardly set the pulses racing, coming on the back of a carved-out win against Tottenham Hotspur, defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town and a turgid affair with Liverpool, plus a no-nonsense EFL Cup triumph away at Swansea City. Mourinho will rightly point out that his side took four points from their two big matches in October against Liverpool and Spurs, keeping them well on course for a first post-Sir Alex Fergurson’s title, but a number of the club’s former players – most recently by Scholes – have urged the experienced boss to take a less conservative approach. For all his critics, the 54-year-old has indeed instilled a winning mentality at Old Trafford once again – they have lost just three of their last 38 Premier League matches stretching back to last season – while eight clean sheets in 10 matches is also a defensive record that cannot be disputed.

Only an extremely impressive Man City side have scored more than their 23 goals to date, meanwhile, and as witnessed against Spurs last weekend the Red Devils have brought back another trait from the Ferguson days by fighting until the very end. Chelsea have won five of their last six home matches against Man United in all competitions, most recently beating their rivals 1-0 here in an FA Cup quarter-final tie in March. The Red Devils actually went 12 games overall without a victory against the Blues prior to their well-earned win the last time they faced off in April, shackling their opponents’ attacking players and scoring a couple of goals through Rashford and Ander Herrera. United’s last win at Stamford Bridge came in October 2012, with Javier Hernandez netting the winner 15 minutes from time in a five-goal thriller after Chelsea recovered from two down.

 

TOTTENHAM VS CRYSTAL PALACE

Tottenham must put their Champions League heroics against Real Madrid to one side on Sunday and focus their attentions on Premier League London rivals Crystal Palace. Spurs bounced back from domestic disappointments in the EFL Cup against West Ham and League rivals Manchester United to stun Zinedine Zidane’s Real, with Dele Alli (two) and Christian Eriksen sealing a memorable 3-1 win at Wembley.

While Spurs may have swept aside the Champions League holders with it, it is games against the likes of Palace that could well define their season in terms of a credible title challenge. Palace, meanwhile, head to Wembley with growing confidence after snatching a late 2-2 draw against West Ham, and Roy Hodgson’s Eagles have already shown they can surprise the big boys by beating Chelsea this season.

Spurs have won each of their last four Premier League games against Palace, conceding just once, since losing 2-1 in January 2015 at Selhurst Park. The Eagles have failed to score in any of their last four away league matches at Spurs since a 1-1 draw in December 2004 (D1 L3); their only Premier League win at Spurs came in November 1997, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Neil Shipperley goal. In four home Premier League games against Crystal Palace, Mauricio Pochettino is yet to see his sides concede a goal (one match with Southampton, three with Spurs). Palace have failed to score in any of their first five away Premier League games – only one team has ever failed to score in their first six in a season, with Derby County doing so in their first eight 2007/08.

Crystal Palace have failed to score in each of their last seven away Premier League games and have gone 646 minutes without a goal since Christian Benteke scored at Liverpool in April – the longest a team has gone without an away goal is nine matches – West Ham in January 2007. Only one team in Premier League history has lost more home games against sides starting that day bottom than Spurs (4) – Middlesbrough, who’ve lost five. In 2017, only Liverpool and Spurs (13) have won more Premier League points against the ‘big six’ than Crystal Palace (12). Tottenham have lost both of their London derbies in all competitions at Wembley this season, as many as they’d lost in their 16 at White Hart Lane under Mauricio Pochettino (W10 D4).

Indeed, since Pochettino joined Spurs in 2014, the Lilywhites have won more home points in Premier League London derbies than any other side (31 – W9 D4 L1). Crystal Palace has conceded a goal with the first shot of the match they’ve faced a league-high four times this season (vs Burnley, Man Utd, Chelsea and West Ham). Harry Kane has missed nine Premier League games for Spurs since the start of 2016-17 – in those games; Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min have both scored four goals.

 

Emmanuel Danso Nyante

Email: bigbrain2g@yahoo.co.uk

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