Premier League week 33 preview: Reds must re-focus for derby test

Premier League Preview Liverpool

The only problem with Wednesday’s rout of Manchester City is trying to come down from the euphoria of that epic performance to prepare adequately for the small matter of a Merseyside derby on Saturday lunchtime. The sight of Mohamed Salah limping off at Anfield in midweek would have come as a welcome one for Everton fans and indeed for Sam Allardyce, who might feel that this weekend represents a real chance for the Toffees to collect their first derby victory since 2010. Many will consider this wishful thinking, but you could always back yourself with a flutter on Mobilebet and make your weekend derby action even more interesting. Jurgen Klopp is likely to change up the Liverpool team with one eye on Tuesday’s second leg at the Etihad, although the Reds’ squad is not a massively deep one and injuries to the likes of Salah, Adam Lallana, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip leave Klopp’s options trimmed. It’s very unlikely to be an afternoon for lightning-quick, easy on the eye football.

Can Manchester City respond from their Anfield nightmare to wrap up the Premier League title on Saturday evening? The narrative is a perfect one for supporters and media, with Manchester United the visitors who could be on the receiving end of the victory that clinches the league with six matches still to play. Jose Mourinho has experienced a similar situation before, having been in charge of Chelsea when they stung title-chasing Liverpool at Anfield four years ago, and he will relish being able to set his team up to absorb City pressure before possibly catching them cold. Even if Pep Guardiola’s men don’t get three points this weekend, it will still be just a matter of time before they are confirmed as champions, but how sweet it would be for them to seal the deal against their crosstown rivals.

Tottenham could temporarily open a seismic 11-point gap on fifth-placed Chelsea on Saturday when they travel to relegation-threatened Stoke, who still have only one league win since Paul Lambert took charge in January. Spurs’ come-from-behind victory at Stamford Bridge leaves them on the verge of clinching a top four spot at Chelsea’s expense and it’s likely that Harry Kane will make his first start in a month, having come off the bench in the closing minutes of last week’s game. Stoke remain just three points from 17th, but their form hasn’t been encouraging and they come up against a Tottenham side who are absolutely flying at the moment. Will the Potters be one step closer to the drop by the weekend’s conclusion?

It will take a minor miracle for Chelsea to clinch a Champions League berth for next season after their galling defeat at home to Tottenham and, by the time they kick off against West Ham on Sunday, they could be only two points ahead of sixth-placed Arsenal. The Blues have been quite poor in the league so far in 2018 and the writing appears to be on the wall for Antonio Conte. Indeed, the Hammers might feel that this is an opportune time to be visiting the champions, especially after their morale-boosting romp over Southampton last week. It will take more than that one win to definitively say that a corner has been turned, but the outlook is so much brighter for them now than it had been just a few short days ago. One thing that can be guaranteed on Sunday is that Stamford Bridge will be bursting with raw emotion after the sad death of the legendary Ray Wilkins during the week.

We’ve been here before with Arsenal. After the February and early March crisis, the clocks going forward brings with it a change of fortunes for the Gunners, whose dominant display against CSKA Moscow on Thursday will have had Southampton fans watching through their fingers. Following their capitulation against West Ham last week, a trip to the Emirates is not what the Saints need right now, but they will need to show the spirit that epitomised the playing career of Mark Hughes if they are to get a result on Sunday. Arsenal’s record in this fixture is almost flawless and it’s difficult to envisage anything other than a comfortable home win to go alongside the victories over Stoke and CSKA in recent days.

The Easter Monday sacking of Alan Pardew hinted that West Brom are already planning for life in the Championship next season, with the likelihood being that they’re hunting for a manager to begin the rebuilding process early. They host Swansea on Saturday in a match that has far more riding on it for the visitors, who for all the good work that Carlos Carvalhal has done are still right in the relegation mix. They were effectively beaten by the time they got going at Old Trafford last week and momentum has stalled slightly, but this seems like the perfect fixture for the Swans to boost their survival chances.

Crystal Palace have been performing far better than their current position of 17th would suggest, having succumbed to unfortunate one-goal defeats against four of the current top five in recent weeks. Their final six games don’t seem overly daunting, but they know that they need a couple of results to realign their performance levels with their points tally. A trip to Bournemouth on Saturday could be an ideal chance to turn their luck around, with the Cherries comfortably ensconced in mid-table and liable to giving up goals. If the Eagles play like they did against Liverpool last week and learn not to trust in Christian Benteke any longer, this is a match they could certainly win.

Many observers might well have thought at the season’s outset that Brighton and Huddersfield would be effectively relegated by now, but while the pair are still in a survival battle ahead of their meeting on Saturday, they both lie on the right side of the dotted line. Brighton had looked relatively safe about a month ago, but two defeats and a fiendish run-in have raised the stakes. This is a match that Chris Hughton will feel they need to win considering they still must meet all of the current top four and also given Huddersfield’s wretched away form. The Terriers barely laid a glove on Newcastle or Crystal Palace in recent outings and, if they lose here, they could be skating on very thin ice should teams beneath them take advantage.

With seventh place likely to be good enough for entry into next season’s Europa League, Leicester have every chance of sneaking into that competition’s qualifying rounds ahead of their clash with Newcastle at the King Power Stadium this weekend. The Foxes performed something of a smash-and-grab job on Brighton last time out and their form has been good, with Jamie Vardy on his hottest scoring streak since the title-winning campaign two years ago. The Geordies are on the verge of safety after two consecutive wins and they have been defensively sound of late, so they won’t be short of confidence ahead of this clash either. They played out a five-goal cracker in the reverse fixture in December; this might be an entertaining affair also.

Watford and Burnley both enjoyed excellent starts to the season before slumping during the winter and recovering in February and March. The Hornets have a fine home record since Javi Gracia took charge in the opening weeks of 2018 and they could well maintain that on Saturday against another overachieving outfit, although Burnley are in excellent form and look good to finish the season in a Europa League spot. They also have one of the league’s most underrated strikers in Ashley Barnes, who is on a hot streak that was epitomised by his stunner at West Brom last week. There certainly won’t be any frayed end-of-season nerves for either team at Vicarage Road.

That certainly won’t be the case at a highly-charged Goodison Park on Saturday, even though Everton are comfortable in mid-table and Liverpool seem well on course to secure Champions League football again next season. Another scrappy, hard-fought win for the Reds would do very nicely, as would a repeat of the stoppage time winner netted by Sadio Mane when Klopp’s men last crossed Stanley Park 16 months ago. Will the feelgood factor from Wednesday be even stronger on Saturday evening?

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