PL preview: Liverpool, Arsenal hit the road in race for 4th

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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After taking the weekend off for the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Premier League returns with a full slate of midweek fixtures, beginning on Tuesday…

[ MORE: PL TV schedule — Tuesday & Wednesday ]

Swansea City vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

With Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur each dropping points in their last league game, Arsenal took advantage with a resounding 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace and closed the gap between themselves and the Reds to five points (three back of Tottenham) in the top-four race. For one 90-minute period, at least, “addition by subtraction” appealed to Gunners fans who had accepted Alexis Sanchez would leave the club this month, as he did last week in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Tuesday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium, where Arsene Wenger‘s side will take on last-place (and three points away from safety) Swansea, should see the Armenian playmaker make his debut for the club. Wenger has insisted that Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, a world-class playmaker himself, will play together.

“Yes, our intention is (to play them together),” Wenger said this week. “As I have said before, we signed Mkhitaryan on a long-term contract and our intention is to keep Ozil at the club and hopefully we will manage to do that very soon.”

It was Swansea, meanwhile, who did Arsenal the massive favor of knocking off Liverpool last Monday, and in the process breathed life into their own fight against relegation. Carlos Carvalhal’s side has collected seven points from their last four PL games and has begun to believe that a 17th-place finish is possible.

“When you’re in this position, you want the team to show character and that we’re fighting to get ourselves out of danger,” goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said. “You also have to make it hard for the opposition and, when you do that, you always have a chance to get something out of it and we were rewarded for the performance [against Liverpool].”

West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

It’s been something of a roller-coaster season for West Ham, who find themselves right where they were expected to be — 11th in the PL table, two points out of 9th — after 24 of 38 rounds. After winning just two of their first 15 league games, David Moyes has guided a once-wayward ship to positive results in eight of his side’s last nine league games. Last time out, though, the Hammers suffered a somewhat embarrassing defeat to League One leaders Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

“We didn’t play well at Wigan but I would hope there was a bit of an understanding that, with the team we took up there, it was always going to be a struggle,” Moyes said in the aftermath. I said after the game that I don’t think, unless we had our best team out, we had a realistic chance of winning because I don’t think you can go to these clubs with less than your best team; maybe one or two players out, but not what we had out for the game.”

Palace, meanwhile, have quickly overcome their horrendous start to the season (zero points won and zero goals scored in their first seven games), and find themselves comfortably in 13th place just shy of the two-thirds mark of the season — even if they’re still only five points clear of the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson‘s men have lost just two of 13 league games.

Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool also went out of the FA Cup on the weekend, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side fell to relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. Couple that with last week’s defeat away to Swansea, which snapped a 14-game unbeaten run in the PL, and the Reds enter Tuesday’s visit to Huddersfield having lost back-to-back games for the first time all season. While Spurs and Arsenal loom not far behind, Liverpool also sit just three points back of Chelsea for third. In order to chase and catch the Blues, though, captain Jordan Henderson knows his side will need to maintain a strong mental approach following setbacks.

“Teams that go on to be successful always respond in a positive way. If you look at us last season there were moments where we stumbled, but we got straight back on our feet, likewise this season. I think it can become a characteristic of this team and this dressing room that we don’t sink after a loss – we make sure they are infrequent and the impact isolated.”

Huddersfield, on the other hand, have endured nothing but setbacks of late — the Terriers are winless in their last six league games and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone after a strong start to the season. After Liverpool leave Kirklees Stadium on Tuesday, up next is a visit to Old Trafford, where they’ll face second-place Manchester Untied. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday’s PL schedule

Chelsea vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Everton vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Newcastle United vs. Burnley — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Man City vs. West Bromwich Albion, 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold