Following Liverpool’s loss to Manchester United on Saturday, the door to third place has been left wide open for Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, can Arsenal hold off Burnley for sixth?
Arsenal vs. Watford — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
It’s been 23 years since Arsenal finished a season outside the Premier League’s top five places (they finished 12th in 1995), a formidable streak which set to end this season as Arsene Wenger‘s men sit sixth, 11 points back of fifth-place Chelsea, ahead of Sunday’s visit from Watford. If the Gunners aren’t careful over the season’s final nine games, they could easily find themselves in seventh, looking up at Burnley, who are only two points back.
Wenger can expect a particularly toxic atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with Arsenal having lost three straight league games — by a combined score of 6-1 — though he remains unfazed and unmoved by calls for his resignation.
“It’s not the person they hate, they hate the manager who doesn’t deliver the performance,” he retorted this week. “I can make that difference. But I’m just unhappy that we lose the games. I want to win, win with style even, so it’s very ambitious. When we don’t do it of course I’m suffering like everyone else. Arsenal is 30 million people, it’s not the suffering of one person, you want to make 30 million people happy and that’s what you care about.”
Watford, on the other side, have won three of their last four (including two straight) and have risen to the top half of the table. The Hornets have won on two of their last three trips to the Emirates, including in the 2016 FA Cup quarterfinals, and would reclaim ninth place from Everton with another positive result on Sunday.
INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (knee), Hector Bellerin (knee), Nacho Monreal (back), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Calum Chambers (thigh) | Watford — OUT: Gerard Deulofeu (foot), Tom Cleverley (hamstring), Tommy Hoban (knee), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (foot), Jose Holebas (ankle), Christian Kabasele (hamstring)
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSports.com
Tottenham must immediately rebound from Wednesday’s Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Juventus and finish the league season in fine form in order to secure a third straight top-four finish, and a second straight season ahead of Arsenal. Despite the defeat to Juve, Spurs enter the weekend as one of the league’s most in-form sides with not only three straight wins, but having dropped just six points during their current 11-game unbeaten run (they were unbeaten in 17 across all competitions before Wednesday).
“Last season, we complained a lot about not being able to compete in the Champions League, but this year we showed in the group stage against Dortmund, Real Madrid and then Juventus that the club is ready to compete,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “The basis is there. Now it’s to keep going and try to be clever and work hard.
“It was tough on Wednesday and the effort was massive, but we need to move on. The Champions League is in the past. Now we need to believe more and compete in the Premier League and FA Cup, two competitions in which we’re alive.”
Bournemouth, meanwhile, are winless in their last three games (two draws) and have slipped to 12th in the table, now just six points (though, still six places) clear of the relegation zone. Spurs’ congested fixture list, which includes an FA Cup quarterfinal clash away to Swansea City next weekend, could lead Pochettino to rotate his starting lineup for Sunday’s game.
“We need in our starting 11, to pick players who are capable to fight and feel fresh,” Pochettino said. “That is now a tough job for us to choose the starting XI to play at Bournemouth.”