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Premier League: MD26 Preview

The Premier League returns for matchday 26 of the 2020/21 season this weekend. With time running out for those chasing survival, Europe and the title, we preview each match ahead of a dramatic round of games.

Manchester City v West Ham United

The Premier League title is now Manchester City’s to lose. Pep Guardiola’s side are still very much on for a quadruple, and have shown they’re up to the task with 19 consecutive wins in all competitions. West Ham will be trying to end City’s impressive run of form, in a bid to consolidate their unlikely position in the Premier League’s top four. However, the Hammers may struggle with the step up in class at the Etihad on Saturday. David Moyes has never beat Guardiola in eight meetings between the managers, losing all four matches away from home and with the visitors priced at 3.75 in SportPesa’s double chance market, it looks unlikely that City’s march to glory will be derailed this weekend.

West Bromwich Albion v Brighton and Hove Albion

11 points from safety, with a maximum of 39 left to play for, it really is do or die time for West Brom when it comes to Premier League survival. This weekend, the Baggies welcome Brighton to The Hawthorns, and they’ll be quietly confident of winning some points. Brighton will still be shell-shocked following their home defeat to rivals Crystal Palace on Monday night. The Seagulls dominated the game, but Palace snatched all three points with Christian Benteke’s last kick of the game. It’s a familiar story for Brighton, who have performed far better than their placing in the table suggests. However, a habit of conceding and impotency in front of goal could well mean that Graham Potter’s Albion are dragged further into the relegation mire by Sam Allardyce’s side.

Leeds United v Aston Villa

Two of the Premier League’s more entertaining sides meet at Elland Road on Saturday, where goals are all but guaranteed. Both Leeds and Villa have surpassed all expectations placed upon them this season, but this game has an edge to it considering both clubs’ slim chances of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League. It would be a phenomenal achievement for Leeds to qualify for Europe upon their long-awaited return to the top flight. Marcelo Bielsa’s side looked outstanding when emerging 3-0 winners at home to Southampton in their last game. That made it five goals without reply in their last two at Elland Road, and with Jack Grealish missing for the visitors this weekend, Leeds could well make it three home wins on the bounce.

Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Three defeats in four games throughout February has seen Newcastle United plummet towards the relegation zone. Steve Bruce will want his side to close the month on a more positive note when Wolves arrive at St. James’ Park on Saturday night. Wolves are in good form, however, with consecutive Premier League wins over Southampton and Leeds United keeping Nuno Espirito Santos’ side away from danger. The home side may have the edge here, given their more critical need for points, but Wolves are defending well and will move to within touching point of confirming Premier League football for next season with a win.

Crystal Palace v Fulham

Sunday’s Premier League action begins with a big London derby at Selhurst Park, where Fulham will hope to continue their spirited battle against relegation. Crystal Palace will still be in disbelief at how they emerged from the Amex with three points on Monday night, a result which took them to within eight points of the 40-point safety net. If Newcastle lose on Saturday night, then Scott Parker’s Fulham will have the chance to move out of the bottom three in South London, and on current form you shouldn’t go against them.

Leicester City v Arsenal

Both Leicester and Arsenal return to domestic action on Sunday, having had contrasting fortunes in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. The Foxes were eliminated by Sparta Prague, whilst Arsenal won a five-goal thriller against Benfica. Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers revealed that the Premier League was always a priority for his side, as they look to confirm a place in the top four this season. Against an Arsenal side that has won just one of its last five Premier League games, Leicester will be looking to underline their manager’s top-flight priority at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur will look to revive their hopes of a top six finish when a stubborn Burnley side head to North London on Sunday. A run of four games without defeat has helped Sean Dyche’s Clarets climb away from the bottom three, and they’ll hope to cause a shock at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend. Spurs won the reverse fixture at Turf Moor 1-0 back in September, but Mourinho’s side have kept just one clean sheet in eight league games.

Chelsea v Manchester United

The headline fixture of the weekend sees Premier League heavyweights Chelsea and Manchester United come to blows at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United will be confident of securing a top four place, given their six-point buffer over the Blues, but Chelsea have looked fantastic under their new coach Thomas Tuchel, who is yet to lose in his new role. Chelsea impressed on the continent this week, defeating runaway La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid in Bucharest, and they’ll be confident of making ground on their top four rivals on Sunday.

Sheffield United v Liverpool

Wind time back a month or so and you wouldn’t have given Sheffield United a chance against the current Champions Liverpool. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side’s recent demise will have been incredibly encouraging for the Blades, who are now hoping to perform a miracle to remain in the top flight. Liverpool have now lost four Premier League games in a row, and their injury woes were further compounded when captain Jordan Henderson limped out of last weekend’s Merseyside derby defeat to Everton. Chris Wilder’s side head into the weekend 15 points adrift of safety, and even with their visitors in turmoil, it’s hard to imagine them reducing that total at Bramall Lane.

Everton v Southampton

It has been a wonderful week for Everton fans. A first derby win at Anfield since 1999 was followed by approval of their proposed new stadium on Bramley Moore Dock. Carlo Ancelotti’s side will look to start the month of March in a similar vein of fortune. Southampton, who were top of the Premier League not so long ago, have inexplicably fell to 14th in the table, having won just one point from the last 24 available to them. Another defeat for Saints will have them looking over their shoulders, and on current form it would be a huge shock to see anything over than a home win at Goodison Park.

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