Barca is five points back of second-place Real Madrid after 17 games for both, while leaders Atletico Madrid is another two clear of its city rivals after 15 matches played for Diego Simeone’s men.
Atleti did bow out of the Copa del Rey in stunning fashion on Wednesday, however, losing 1-0 at third-tier side UE Cornella after going down a goal in the seventh minute and a man just after the hour mark.
Barca trailed 1-0 on an Inaki Williams goal in the third minute but Frankie de Jong assisted Pedri in the 17th minute before the 18-year-old set up Messi for a 2-1 lead before halftime.
Messi added a second after the break, and Iker Muniain’s stoppage-time marker for Athletic came too late to change the Basque side’s fate.
Athletic stays ninth with 21 points.
How about the pace on this dart? One day, when we no longer have the Argentine on the pitch, be sure to remember that a down half-season for the world’s best player on a down Barcelona side at age 33 meant 12 goals and six assists in 20 matches.
“So good. They have always been with me,” Gabriel Jesus smiled when ProSoccerTalk asked about the support from the fans. “They help me, push me. The way they did it last Sunday against Fulham it was amazing. I will never forget that. All I want is to give them something back on the pitch. Maybe the next game. I hope a lot.”
Arsenal are running out of ‘next games’ this season and have on hand hovering over the Premier League trophy.
With 10 games to go they sit eight points clear atop the table and the return of their talismanic Brazilian striker from a near four-month injury layoff has given the Gunners a perfect boost ahead of the run-in.
For so long the doubts around Arsenal’s unlikely title bid were all about how they would cope without Gabriel Jesus.
He has yet to score in his three appearances in all competitions since returning but (even before the injury) he represents much more than goals.
“It is very good to be back. It is not easy to be out long and have a very, very bad injury. Now I’m back I am fully fit. At the same time I am so happy because the team are doing good to keep the distance to the second,” Jesus said.
“I want to be involved. I was injured but in my mind I was involved. I need to talk, to try to help them with something like talking, or seeing the games. That is why. Always together. Everyone.”
Jesus a total team player
As well as helping the team off the pitch, his play on it helps Arsenal’s other attackers come to life and he has already slotted back in seamlessly.
Jesus admitted he suffered “a lot” while he was out but he’s been helping as much as he can behind-the-scenes and is delighted both Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard have stepped up to boost Arsenal’s attacking options in his absence.
“The team are doing so good. Everybody here is together. When I was getting fit we were sure Eddie can go there and help us and he did it. Trossard came and did it as well. Everyone is together. To be champions of this big, big competition we don’t need only 11 players,” Jesus explained.
He also explained that he has always been watching videos of his games, focusing on the goals he has scored, the chances he has missed and always striving to get better. That dedicated seems to have seeped into his teammates and fans love the extreme dedication of Gabriel Jesus.
Entire squad ready for the run-in
The atmosphere around the Emirates was buzzing throughout their routine win against Crystal Palace as back-up players like Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Jakub Kiwior, Emile Smith Rowe and Jorginho all featured as injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu stretch the squad to its limits but the likes of Reiss Nelson and Fabio Vieira are still in reserve.
The fans, players and staff are together as one and Jesus is happy to be entering the business end of the season with this group as he was asked about Mikel Arteta referring to Arsenal as a ‘family’ unit.
“I believe when you have a good relationship with your teammates everything on the pitch works well. We are top of the league, we are playing good football, we are understanding each other. It is very good to be a family,” Jesus said.
“Now is the best part of the season. End of the season when you have deciding games, big games away and at home. Now is the time we have to play the same, don’t change, still together.”
Jesus is a focused, serious, dedicated individual and the perfect role model for this young Arsenal side. He and Oleksandr Zinchenko have been serial winners at Manchester City in bit-part roles but in their first season at Arsenal they are now thriving as key men in this unlikely title push.
“I think the most important thing is my mind. I keep focused and then come back fully fit,” Jesus said.
Arsenal are glad he’s back fit to further boost their title hopes and the role Jesus has played off the pitch over the last four months could be just as important as his play on it as this young Gunners outfit are still the team to catch.
Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?
As we head into the final months of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest and although Manchester United briefly surged into the picture, they look more likely to cement their spot as the third best team in the Premier League.
Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle and for the moment have hunted down Newcastle, while Liverpool is back in the Champions League picture after their return to form and Chelsea looks like a top six finish is their ceiling. For now.
Surprising Fulham, Brentford, and Brighton are all hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns. Can one of them surprise and qualify for Europe?
Who are the candidates for relegation?
Southampton, West Ham, and Bournemouth currently occupy the relegation places but that keeps changing all the time and it is so tight at the bottom of the table.
Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Wolves, Leeds, Everton and Crystal Palace all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three as the race to stay in the Premier League intensifies. This could be the craziest relegation scrap in Premier League history.
Below you will find the latest Premier League table.
When it comes to the Premier League title race, knowing that Arsenal losing to Manchester City in a few weeks isn’t enough to derail the Gunners, there’s a question we need to ask yet again given their beatdown of Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Can Arsenal be stopped?
The Gunners oozed class again against the Eagles, at times looking like they were playing a stylish rondo more than manipulating a Premier League rival all over the pitch.
So while Man City was showcasing its power elsewhere (read on for more), Arsenal was asking the two-time champs how they felt about an eight-point table gap with two months to play.
And how about Everton and Southampton?! The Toffees and Saints rallied to get helpful points for the relegation plights, and they did it against Chelsea and Tottenham, respectfully. In Southampton’s case, their point drew one of the most instantly memorable manager rants in history out of Antonio Conte.
The FA Cup weekend meant there were extra curricular chances for Premier League teams to spread their league nuttiness around the country (and the world).
So head to thing we learned No. 5 and learn a bit about how Manchester United, Man City, Fulham, and Brighton and Hove Albion got on in the quarterfinals.
10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 28
1. Arsenal’s first-half blitz continues to be too much for Premier League (Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace): Most teams are beaten by Arsenal before they know what happened. That was the case for Crystal Palace on Sunday. A near-miss by Wilfried Zaha woke Arsenal up — perhaps their Europa League exit delayed their usual early blitz a little? — and normal service resumed about 20 minutes into the first half. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Leandro Trossard were too quick for Palace and Gabriel Jesus came on to help them close it out in the second half. Arsenal’s intensity is too much for teams they play against and that hunger combined with pace, skill and understanding is so tough to stop. Eight points clear with 10 games to go, which includes that trip to Manchester City in April. Arsenal’s fans are so close to ending their two-decade wait for Premier League title. (NM)
2. Antonio Conte unleashes fury at Tottenham players; Exit close? (Southampton 3-3 Spurs): We can tell you what we learned from Antonio Conte’s blistering press conference following Spurs’ big blown lead to Saints at St. Mary’s, but you don’t need an interpreter. Is Conte leaving London quite soon?
“The problem is that for another time we showed that we are not a team. We are 11 players that go into the pitch. I see selfish players, I see players that don’t want to help each other and don’t put their heart. Before today I prefer to hide this situation and to try to speak, to try to improve the spirit, the situation, with the words, with a lot of situations. Because about tactical or technical aspect, this is one situation. The most important thing if you want to become a strong team, if you want to become competitive, if you want to fight to win, is the desire, the fire that you need to have in your eyes , in your heart, and you have to show this in every moment. In every moment. If I have to compare last season and this season, we have to improve, but now we are worse in this aspect. When you are not a team, anything can happen, in any moment. Today is the last situation.” (JPW)
3. Dyche’s disagreeable Toffees expose Chelsea naivete (Chelsea 2-2 Everton): It’s not that Chelsea’s men didn’t work, or that Graham Potter didn’t tell them to fight for their points at Stamford Bridge. Rather, this is all about Sean Dyche’s men showing up ready to work harder than their foes even when trailing, and to never say die on the occasion. And that would’ve been apparent to anyone even if Everton didn’t manage their second equalizer, which was as feel-good as it gets considering it was (mostly) homegrown Ellis Simms just taking a world-class defender in Kalidou Koulibaly to the mat. If there’s anything more Sean Dyche than coming back from down twice thanks to two big, ornery scorers bulling their way to goals, we’re not sure what it is. As for Chelsea, Graham Potter now has a couple of weeks to make sure there’s nothing less Graham Potter than throwing up two leads at home. (NM)
4. Chaos continues as Leeds embrace it vs fiery Wolves (Wolves 2-4 Leeds): This season Leeds have tried to be something they’re not. Jesse Marsch tried to tone down his full throttle, high-pressing tactics which seemed to end in six-goal thrillers on a weekly basis for the first half of his reign. That switch cost him his job. By nature, Javi Gracia is a more composed and defensive coach, but even he has said ‘Screw it, do what comes naturally lads.’ That is why Leeds won at Wolves. They gave up big chances galore and needed Illan Meslier and his defenders to make big blocks but they created so many chances in attack and it just makes sense for them to play this way. This relegation scrap is chaotic and Leeds are ready for the fight. Wolves tried to embrace the chaos but it was all a bit too much for them. That may not bode well for them for the rest of the relegation scrap, while Leeds seem to be perfectly fine with bonkers games between now and May 28. (JPW)
5. FA Cup weekend: Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez, Cole Palmer flex youth for City, while Man United scoops up Fulham’s lost plot
With so many Premier League teams off this weekend so the FA Cup could determine its final four contenders for the 2022-23 trophy, it’s fair play to take a break from our 10 things to discuss what’s become of the competition for this season.
Manchester United and Manchester City are now on opposite sides of a draw that could put a Manchester derby into the FA Cup final.
United is set to meet Brighton and Hove Albion in the semifinal thanks to a heaping helping of meltdown from Fulham. The Cottagers led the Red Devils at Old Trafford with 20 minutes to play in the quarterfinal round but then disintegrated in two moments of madness as both Aleksandar Mitrovic and boss Marco Silva reacted in shameful fashion and joined handball-disguising Willian in collecting red cards. It was crazy. Read about it here.
Man City will tangle with high-flying Championship side Sheffield United a round after having zero trouble with an even higher-flying one in Burnley.
But it’s the manner in which Man City absolutely cooked Burnley that had people shaking their heads. Vincent Kompany, the City legend who manages the Clarets, could barely offer more than a shrug in response to his very good side allowing a half-dozen goals to Haaland (3), Alvarez (2), and Palmer.
6. Alexander Isak, Newcastle fight long and hard for deserved payout (Nottingham Forest 1-2 Newcastle): It was all Newcastle early, with Renan Lodi nearly putting the ball into his own net as the Magpies nearly flawlessly executed a clever set-piece routine in the 12th minute, but they failed to break through and were made to pay for it just before the half-hour mark. And then they wen’t down on a rare error from Sven Botman. It would take nearly 47 minutes, but Newcastle persevered and finally got their just reward for all of their attacking intent. Isak somehow got a foot to Joe Willock’s cross, which was a bit behind the Swede yet still angled off the inside of the far post as the final seconds of first-half stoppage time ticked away. VAR took a goal away from Elliot Anderson off a brilliant Isak assist, but Sean Longstaff was ruled in an offside position as the ball pinballed around the penalty are prior to the cross. Stoppage-time Isak struck once again in the second half after his header came off the arm of Moussa Niakhate inside the penalty area. Newcastle’s club-record signing stepped to the penalty spot, sent Keylor Navas one way and hammered the ball the other. (AE)
7. Unai Emery’s Villa makes jam from sour Cherries (Aston Villa 3-0 AFC Bournemouth): Bournemouth is not dead in the water but Villa sure made them look like a team not fit for the level. Villa’s expected goals of 3.20 really piled up late but that’s a big figure, and Tyrone Mings led a defense that only allowed Bournemouth nine shot attempts and an 0.59 xG total over 90 minutes. Villa literally looked like a European candidate on Saturday, and only some of that has to do with Bournemouth. The Villans were in the ascendancy from Moment No. 1 and probably could’ve scored five on another day (Mings had a late in-tight shot saved by Neto, in fact). This all happened with Boubacar Kamara, Leander Dendoncker, and Philippe Coutinho injured and Diego Carlos and Lucas Digne as unused subs. Watch out for Villa, who has a lot of reasonable points ahead of them on the fixture list. (NM)
8. David Brooks’ return a feel-good moment (Aston Villa 3-0 AFC Bournemouth): The vibes didn’t last too long, and that’s why we want to make sure we acknowledge David Brooks’ return to Bournemouth following a lengthy and scary absence. Brooks, 25, announced his diagnosis with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021 and missed the rest of last season, then missing most of this season with a dreadful hamstring injury. His entrance to this game was greeted with very warm applause around Villa Park. Welcome back, David. (NM)
9. Will Arsenal end Kevin De Bruyne’s run atop the assist leaders? (Premier League assist list): Kevin De Bruyne is a two-time Premier League Playmaker of the Season and no one is creating as many chances as the Belgian (though Kieran Trippier and Bruno Fernandes are close). But KDB’s 12 assists are suddenly just two more than Bukayo Saka and four clear of Leandro Trossard. De Bruyne’s expected assists dominate the field but Erling Haaland’s 20 misses have kept both from destroying the PL record book. Arsenal is fit and firing, and either Saka, Trossard, or both could theoretically pass DE Bruyne before the end of the season. To have the Nos. 2, 3, and 7 (Martin Odegaard) assist leaders in the Premier League says a lot about the Gunners, doesn’t it? (NM)
10. Set Piece FC strikes again (Brentford 1-1 Leicester): With their opening goal, Brentford moved level with Arsenal and Tottenham for most set piece goals in this Premier League season. Just watch it, it’s brilliant for its simplicity of design, yet the difficult and complexity of its execution (even when it doesn’t go exactly to plan). So many moving parts, so many movements to be timed perfectly, and a sea of blue shirts standing around just watching.
Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka each scored in the first half and then Granit Xhaka added a third and Saka added his second and Arsenal’s fourth after Palace briefly threatened a comeback through Jeffrey Schlupp’s goal.
The home fans at the Emirates sang ‘we are top of the league!’ with gusto throughout and the positive vibes are swirling around this part of north London heading into the international break.
Arsenal now have 69 points, eight clear of second-place Manchester City but City do have a game in-hand over the Gunners and host them in April in a title showdown. Palace remain on 27 points and although they sit in 12th place they are just three points off the bottom three and four points off the bottom of the table.
First half blitz theme continues to lead title charge
Most teams are beaten by Arsenal before they know what happened. That was the case for Crystal Palace on Sunday. They did have the best chance of the early stages but Zaha’s shot hit the post, hit Ramsdale and somehow squirmed wide. That woke Arsenal up (perhaps their Europa League exploits delayed their usual early blitz a little?) and normal service resumed about 20 minutes into the first half. Saka, Martinelli and Trossard were too quick for Palace and Gabriel Jesus came on to help them close it out in the second half. Arsenal’s intensity is too much for teams they play against and that hunger combined with pace, skill and understanding is so tough to stop. Eight points clear with 10 games to go, which includes that trip to Manchester City in April. Arsenal’s fans are so close to believing that almost two decades of waiting for a league title is over.
🔝 Arsenal go 8 points clear atop the Premier League table. Real party atmosphere here at the Emirates.
Stars of the show; Arsenal vs Crystal Palace player ratings
Bukayo Saka: Two goals and an assist in the first half and was so sharp cutting in from the right. Back to his very best.
Granit Xhaka: Lovely move and finish for his goal and plugs the defensive gaps so well.
Ben White: Supported Saka whenever he was needed and gave Arsenal an extra attacking outlet down the right.
Arsenal host Leeds United on Saturday, April 1, while Crystal Palace host Leicester City in a big relegation six-pointer on the same day.
How to watch Arsenal vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time + analysis by Joe Prince-Wright at Emirates Stadium!
Kick off: 10am ET, Sunday TV Channel: USA Network Online:Stream via NBCSports.com
FULL TIME: Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace – That is a very, very comfortable win for Arsenal who have now won six in a row in the Premier League. They are full of confidence, all of their main men are standing tall and with 10 games to go they are eight points clear.
Smith Rowe and Jorginho come on for Arsenal. Plenty of cheers for Ben White and Gabriel Martinelli. A really party atmosphere here now.
GOALLLL! Game. Set. Match. After a few poor clearances from Palace, substitute Kieran Tierney crosses for Saka and he finishes beautifully. Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace. Again, this is too easy for the Gunners.
Ramsdale saves at the near post from Zaha. Maybe Palace have a little bit left in them here?
The second half is underway. No changes but a few more chances for Arsenal early on. This could get ugly quite quickly for Palace.
HALF TIME: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace – After a shaky start, total control from Arsenal. Martinelli and Saka (once again) with the goals and Mikel Arteta’s side are cruising and eight points clear at the top. They are way too good for Palace.
GOALLL! Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace. Bukayo Saka strokes home. He has been unstoppable in this first half. Arsenal cruising and going 8 points clear atop the Premier League table.
Arsenal probing for a second as we approach half time. The youngsters dressed in the same black shirts are banging their drum loudly at the Clock End. Arsenal then go so close to scoring a second. Odegaard drags a shot just wide.
Reminder: as it stands Arsenal are eight points clear atop the Premier League table. Not that Arsenal fans anywhere needed a reminder of that. But still. For the rest of us.
GOALLL! Gabriel Martinelli smashes home across goal after Bukayo Saka found him with a lovely cross. All came from Ben White winning the ball in front of Wilfried Zaha. The Emirates erupts! Arsenal 1-0 Crystal Palace.
Caretaker Palace boss Patrick McCarthy will be delighted with this first 25 minutes for his side. They look well organized and have a threat on the counter. Arsenal are getting a little frustrated.
Rob Holding doing his best Virgil van Dijk impression so far. Some majestic passes out of the back.
SAVE! Teenage goalkeeper and lifelong Palace fan Joe Whitworth with a really good stop to deny Odegaard who fired a shot on goal from the edge of the box. Saka tried to get on the rebound but he was offside.
That chance for Palace has quietened down the home crowd a bit. Then there is a good save by Ramsdale to deny Edouard but he was offside as the flag goes up. Arsenal are getting caught out on the counter quite a bit here.
POST! So close to an opener for Crystal Palace. They find Wilfried Zaha on the counter, he beats Ben White easily and his shot hits the post, hits Ramsdale on the back and goes out for a corner. So close for Palace.
Arsenal having plenty of the ball early on but Palace look okay on the break. The managerless Eagles are holding firm. For now. The rhythmic beating of a drum in the home end is keeping the atmosphere nice and lively as the sun peeks through the grey London clouds.
The first song of the day from the Arsenal fans is for their legendary midfielder Patrick Vieira who was sacked. Harshly treated, Vieira.
KICK OFF! We are underway. Palace’s fans in the away have lit flares. There is a drum beating in the home end. A brilliant atmosphere.
🚨 Welcome to the Emirates! It is bouncing here. What an atmosphere.
Hello and welcome to a lovely spring day here in north London! That smell in the air is expectation. Arsenal fans are hoping for an easy home win against out of form and managerless Crystal Palace. We all know it isn’t quite as easy as that.
Key storylines & star players
Gabriel Jesus started Thursday in the Europa League, so it’s easy to predict a depth flex from the Gunners on Sunday rather than another start for their just-fit star. Leandro Trossard, Martin Odegaard, Ben White, Thomas Partey, and Bukayo Saka were kept on the bench at the start versus Sporting Lisbon, but the Gunners going 120 minutes and then losing on penalty kicks will certainly challenge them.
Palace is going to hope to get something out of Wilfried Zaha here. He’s looked more like a red card candidate lately but we all know an in-form Zaha is electric. Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze will look like even better playmakers once Zaha starts punching home some goals.
Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup
OUT: Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Takehiro Tomiyasu (knee), Mohamed Elneny (knock), William Saliba (back)
🔴 𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠𝙉𝙀𝙒𝙎 ⚪️
💪 Holding at the back 🧱 Xhaka in midfield 🪄 Trossard up top