London: It looks set to be a fascinating weekend in the Premier League as league leaders Arsenal head to an Aston Villa side that has climbed to third in the table and is riding high on morale after their impressive 1-0 win at home against Manchester City on Wednesday night.
Villa were a dominant force against Manchester City with Douglas Luiz, Leon Bailey, and Ollie Watkins creating significant trouble for the visitors’ defense. A repeat performance on Saturday could ignite the Premier League, positioning Villa as a title contender.
That midweek defeat left Manchester City without a win in four games, and the word ‘crisis’ is being mentioned in the press. While ‘crisis talk’ might seem premature, a failure to win away against Luton will likely amplify concerns, reports Xinhua.
“We are struggling and it’s my job to find a way for us to win,” remarked Pep Guardiola on Wednesday. He will be relieved to welcome Rodri back in midfield but needs to identify someone to support the Spain international in the middle of the park.
Elsewhere, Manchester United need to build on their midweek win at home against Chelsea but face a tough opponent in a Bournemouth side that has adapted well to Andoni Iraola’s style of play, with three wins and a draw in its last four games lifting them nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Despite the challenges at Old Trafford, a win would elevate Manchester United to level on points with Manchester City, but Bournemouth’s high press could challenge their ability to play out from the back.
The weekend kicks off on Saturday lunchtime with Liverpool travelling to face a Crystal Palace side that suffered a loss at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday and has entered a challenging phase with just one point from the last 12.
Palace coach Roy Hodgson critiqued the home fans for booing on Wednesday night but anticipates more difficulties for his side on Saturday as Liverpool remains steady in second place.
Everton moved out of the bottom three with a 3-0 win over an injury-hit Newcastle on Thursday night and will be optimistic against a wildly erratic Chelsea.
Chelsea possesses the talent to win at Goodison, but Everton is demonstrating the determination and organisation that has helped other teams’ triumph over Mauricio Pochettino’s talented, yet inconsistent side.
Newcastle’s injury woes were evident on Thursday night, and with a vital Champions League tie next week, coach Eddie Howe may face tough selection decisions ahead of their visit to play Tottenham on Sunday.
Spurs, also dealing with injuries to players such as James Maddison, Eric Dier, and Micky van de Ven, should view the game as a chance to secure three important points to halt their descent in the table.
Elsewhere, speculation suggests that a defeat away to Wolverhampton could lead to Steve Cooper’s dismissal by Nottingham Forest, whose owners were shocked by a 5-0 midweek capitulation away to Fulham.
Brighton host Burnley in a game between two sides that favour attacking football, but Brighton’s superior defense is expected to secure them the points.
New Sheffield United coach Chris Wilder observed improvements as his side put up a strong fight before losing to Liverpool in midweek. He considers Brentford’s visit as a more realistic opportunity for points, while Fulham and West Ham both aim to build on impressive midweek wins in another London derby.