Manchester City has regained the top spot in the Premier League table, and with a one-point differential, Liverpool must now do the catching up. The Reds aren’t the only team this weekend in action with a chance to grab an enormous three points, however.
Four teams sit within three points of each other in the race for the Champions League spots, with just two spots between them. And additionally, there are three teams tied at 33 points all just above the relegation zone hoping to pull away and avoid being sucked into the drop.
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So who will come away with three valuable points, and who will leave the pitch disappointed this weekend? Here are the big storylines from the fixtures to come.
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Liverpool battles to keep pace
Friday, 3:00 p.m. ET: Southampton v. Liverpool – NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Liverpool can’t gain an advantage on Manchester City, but they sure can put the pressure on. With City moving into the lead and in Cup action over the weekend, the Reds are poised to take back the top spot should they secure a positive result against 16th placed Southampton.
Yet, they cannot take their opponents lightly. With Manchester City in peak form, Liverpool has absolutely no room for error. Their opponents are on a roll, winning three of their last four in league play and pulling themselves five points above relegation. Should Liverpool drop points, it would give Manchester City the chance to pull three points ahead with four to play, which seems more unsurmountable than it actually is given City’s recent dominance.
Arsenal and Chelsea are sandwiched in the middle of a heated Champions League race. While Tottenham leads with 64 points, Spurs’ poor form has seen them slide into the muck, with both the Gunners and Blues just a point back. Arsenal has a five-goal differential advantage, but that could change if they drop points on the road and Chelsea takes control.
Everton has put a terrible stretch behind them with two wins in two, and the Toffees could end up having a significant impact on this race, having already beaten Chelsea just two weeks ago. West Ham can’t seem to put results together, but beat Arsenal back in January and three wins in their last six. Who will grab the advantage?
While it appears that Cardiff City is the clubhouse leader to be the third team relegated, there are a host of teams in the mix should Cardiff make a late-season push. Nobody wants to be in that pack. Both Newcastle and Burnley can all but secure their safety with a victory on Saturday as they take the field at the same time.
A strong finish to the season not only would help seal their Premier League security, but also give the club a good feeling heading into the offseason. Often late-season success or failure can be a good harbinger of how a team will begin the following season. For Newcastle especially, with speculation swirling about Rafa Benitez‘s future, a strong finish would be enormous towards convincing him to stay longer. Burnley, meanwhile, sits among the three teams tied on 33 points – just five above 18th placed Cardiff City – and is fresh off a four-game losing streak and staring down a brutal finish to the season that includes Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City among its final four matches. Now is the time for both these teams to secure results.