Top Premier League storylines: Week 31

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With some Premier League sides still participating deep into the FA Cup, it’s an abridged Premier League schedule this weekend. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fascinating storylines to watch.

Chelsea hits the road after a morale-boosting win in the UEFA Europa League this week, while Newcastle looks to build on its terrific second half performance in its 3-2 win last weekend over Everton. However, the spotlight will remain on Liverpool, which could return to first place in the Premier League with a win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Below are a look at the top storylines ahead of this weekend.


First place up for grabs for Liverpool
Sunday, 10:15 a.m. ET: Fulham v. Liverpool – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Coming off a massive 3-1 win at Bayern Munich, Liverpool returns to England with the chance to gain a slight psychological advantage. Since Manchester City is in FA Cup action this weekend, Liverpool can go top of the league with a win at Fulham. In doing so, Manchester City would in effect, be “chasing” Liverpool until the Sky Blues caught up to Liverpool in terms of games played. Fulham hasn’t won a match since January, is on its third coach of the season, and can’t seem to figure things out defensively. Sunday could be a chance for Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino to find the back of the net again and gain more confidence.

Chelsea could jump into a tie for fourth
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET: Everton v. Chelsea – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

About a month ago, Chelsea’s season looked to be spiraling out of control. But with five wins in the team’s last seven matches in all competitions, Chelsea’s suddenly experiencing a spring revival. Maurizio Sarri‘s side have climbed back into contention for fourth place in the Premier League, and the Blues are currently just three points behind Arsenal, which sit in fourth place. Chelsea would have to make up six goals in the goal-differential Sunday to overtake Arsenal, but even being tied on points after 30 matches with eight to go would really raise the drama down the home stretch. Everton, meanwhile, continues to struggle under Marco Silva. Despite all the signings and money spent, the Toffees are in the bottom half of the table. A big win over Chelsea at Goodison Park could bring some more positive feelings back to the blue half of Merseyside.

Rodgers looking for second-straight win
Saturday, 11:00 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Leicester – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Yes, it was struggling Fulham, but Leicester City’s 3-1 win last weekend at the King Power Stadium was, the club will hope, the start of a new era and new momentum. It was the first win since Brendan Rodgers returned to the Premier League and took charge of Leicester City, and it saw the side returning to its winning formula, pressing high and using quick counter attacks to score goals. Rodgers took a risk leaving Celtic in the middle of the season to join Leicester and try and bring them up in the table. A visit to Burnley, fighting for its life to avoid relegation, will be a great test to see if Rodgers can win while his team will likely have more possession of the ball.

Pellegrini ready for VAR after West Ham draw Leicester City

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West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini knows his side played well enough for three points in its 2-2 draw with Leicester City, but also is well aware that the Irons should’ve had three goals before the Foxes’ nabbed their second equalizer of Saturday’s match at the London Stadium.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-2 Leicester ]

Lucas Perez’s would-be brace wouldn’t stand when the linesman’s flag was raised for what should’ve been an insurance goal for the hosts, who were very good on the day.

But Leicester would score through Harvey Barnes in stoppage time to eke out a point in London.

“I think we deserved more than a draw,” Pellegrini said.

“We should have been leading 3-1 but it was a mistake of the linesman. Yes, I’ve seen the goal again and he was one meter onside. There is nothing you can do about that. Next season when we have VAR it can be more fair.”

Still two switched-off moments cost the Irons a win nearly as much as the linesman’s flag.

“We generally played well but you cannot concede two goals.”

Fulham win second-straight, beat Bournemouth (video)

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  • Mitrovic’s penalty kick the winner
  • Second-straight win for Fulham
  • 3 defeats in 4 for Bournemouth 

Already-relegated Fulham beat Bournemouth 1-0 at a sunny Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the only goal of the game to secure Fulham’s first away win of the season.

Mitrovic’s penalty kick came in the second half, as an even game saw the Cottagers edge it and caretaker boss Scott Parker has done his chances of getting the full-time job no harm at all with back-to-back PL wins against Everton and Bournemouth.

With the three points Fulham remain in 19th and are on 23 points, while Bournemouth sit in 12th on 41 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Wilson raced in on goal early on but lifted his effort over the bar, and Bournemouth did all the pressing as Fulham struggled to get out of their own half and Josh King then fired over when it looked easier to score.

At the other end Nathan Ake cleared a header from a corner off the line, then Mitrovic flashed a shot over the bar but was offside.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Ryan Fraser forced Sergio Rico into a smart stop across his goal after a trademark surging run forward, as Bournemouth turned the screw. Bournemouth were forced into an early change as Junior Stanislas (who only replaced Adam Smith in the team just before kick off) went off with a knee injury and youngster Jack Simpson replaced him.

Mitrovic was then denied by a great last-ditch tackle by Steve Cook as Fulham improved, and from the resulting corner Denis Odoi‘s flicked header was saved well by Artur Boruc.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

At the start of the second half Fulham went ahead, as Simpson clattered into Mitrovic to give away a clear penalty kick. Mitrovic stepped up and sent Boruc the wrong way to end his drought of nine games without a goal and put Fulham 1-0 up.

Ryan Sessegnon weaved his way into the box and forced Boruc into a save at his near post as the visitors dominated the play in the second half.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Fraser flashed a shot just wide and Bournemouth threw everything at Fulham late on, with Rico denying Wilson and then Maxime Le Marchand coming up with a huge block.

David Brooks‘ cross hit the top of the crossbar and then Lys Mousset sent a late header straight at Rico, and that was as close as Bournemouth came to an equalizer as boos rang out from the home fans at the final whistle.

Barnes saves Leicester point at West Ham (video)

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  • Antonio gives Irons halftime lead
  • Vardy answers
  • Perez, Barnes trade late goals

Harvey Barnes used stoppage time to score his first Premier League goal as Leicester City twice came back in a 2-2 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday.

Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez scored for West Ham, while Jamie Vardy had Leicester’s other goal.

Leicester moves to 48 points, one back of seventh place Watford, while Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons have 43 and sit 11th.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham were better money for an early goal, and Ricardo Pereira got to Michail Antonio just ahead of Marko Arnautovic‘s splendid 26th minute cross to deny the Irons an opener.

Robert Snodgrass stole a pass and fed Felipe Anderson for a shot which looked headed for the far post but smashed Antonio in the chest from close range.

Antonio got a deserved goal of full intent when he collected a Mark Noble crosss and turned a header beyond the reach of Kasper Schmeichel.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Vardy scored for Leicester out of nearly nothing, with Vardy cutting in front of Fabian Balbuena to knife a Ben Chilwell cross inside the near post.

Balbuena made some amends with a fine block of a James Maddison chance cued up by Harvey Barnes.

Substitute Pedro Obiang cranked a shot off the post that clattered onto the path of Perez for the goal.

Barnes then struck in the second of five minutes stoppage, rolling across and under Lukasz Fabianski following a Youri Tielemans through ball.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Brighton grab huge point at Wolves (video)

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  • Brighton move 3 points clear of relegation zone
  • No win in 3 for Wolves
  • Jota hits post, bar for Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers were held to a 0-0 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion at Molinuex on Saturday, as the Seagulls boosted their hopes of Premier League survival.

Wolves had the better chances throughout as Diogo Jota hit the bar in the first half and the post in the second half, as Brighton hardly threatened but returned to the South Coast with a vital point.

With the draw Brighton move on to 34 points for the season and are three points above Cardiff City in the final relegation spot. Wolves are on 48 points and will see this as two points dropped in their battle to finish seventh.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wolves did all the pressing early on, as Matt Doherty fired over and Raul Jimenez sent a header wide at the back post.

As the first half wore on, the home side became more dangerous and Brighton failed to create any clear city chances.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Diogo Jota was tackled by Pascal Gross in the box and the former appealed for a penalty kick, as Gross took a chance but didn’t give a spot kick away.

Jota then wriggled free and fired a low shot just wide of the goal as Wolves continued to dominate, and the Portuguese forward hit a shot into the ground which bounced up and hit the bar right on half time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Brighton were a different team in the second half, as substitute Beram Kayal whistled a shot just over.

Wolves piled on the pressure late on as Jota’s header from Jimenez’s cross hit the post and then Ryan somehow denied Leander Dendocker’s shot. Soon after Willy Boly sent a free header over as Brighton were clinging on.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

At the full time whistle Brighton’s players celebrated a big point, as they now have to play Tottenham, Newcastle, Arsenal and Man City in their final four games of the season.