These are the situations that Premier League contenders must rise and conquer.
Two of the title challengers, Liverpool and Arsenal, meet teams knee-deep in relegation trouble. At The Hawthorns, Brendan Rodgers men need all three points as they travel into West Brom, otherwise they stand the chance of losing sight of the league leaders.
The task is a smidge easier for Arsene Wenger’s men, who will be at home in North London, hosting the team from London’s less fashionable south side, Crystal Palace. Then again, Palace has renewed vim, vigor and hope under a new manager.
These are two of the last three games of Round 24, with only Manchester City-Chelsea still to come on Monday.
Liverpool vs. West Brom, live on NBCSN 8:00 am ET
- Liverpool won the teams’ first meeting, 4-1
- The Baggies have just one win in 13 matches
- Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have combined for 36 Premier League goals this year
Liverpool was all that and more in an emotional mid-week derby triumph over Everton, but the sheen will come off that one quickly if Rodgers’ men cannot regroup and put all their mental energy into this one.
Midfielder Joe Allen is expected to be available after missing the showy win over Everton because of a hamstring strain. Don’t be surprised if midfield mate Steven Gerrard gets into the scoring action; the longtime England international has scored in his last three league matches. It’s Gerrard’s best run of goals since striking in four consecutive matches back in December of 2012.
And, of course, there is always Luis Suarez to talk about, especially as his hat trick earlier this year keyed his team’s 4-1 win at Anfield in the teams’ initial meeting of 2013-14.
On the other side, controversial West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka will miss the match against his former club after taking a cut that required stitches in a midweek loss to Aston Villa.
By the way, Liverpool didn’t make much hay in the January transfer window; what you see is what you’ll get for the final three-plus months.
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace, live on NBCSN 10:30am ET
- Palace has just one win in 14 trips to Arsenal, a one-goal win in 1994
- Enlivened under manager Tony Pulis, Palace has won three of its last five
- The south Londoners have just five road goals this year
No time for the Gunners to feel badly about their injury woes in midfield; Wenger’s men need this one – and could then sit and watch in good humor as City and Chelsea beat up on one another Monday. Media and other observers are using words like “resilience” and “determination” to describe Arsenal this year, which hasn’t always been the case. So, we’ll see.
Among the reasons Arsenal has established itself as a surprising title contender is its stubbornness at the Emirates; Wenger’s men are unbeaten in their last 10 games at the Emirates (in all competitions). And considering Palace’s historic lack of success when traveling to the other side of London, this is one the Gunners absolutely cannot let slip away.
As mentioned, Arsenal’s midfield is a bit of a MASH unit mess at the moment: Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mathieu Flamini (suspension) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) are all out. So is Theo Walcott, on a longer-term injury, no less. On the other hand, Tomas Rosicky appears healthy again after surgery to fix up his broken nose, so that’s provides some lineup relief.
The south Londoners have just five road goals this year, but times are pretty good, all things considered, at the moment under Tony Pulis. In fact, Palace has become something of a master of the 1-0 result under Pulis, something that surely unnerves Gunners faithful ahead of this one.