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Football

Premier League: Man United, City, Chelsea all eye crucial three points

Watford vs Fulham
Vicarage Road, London
Tuesday, 02-04-2019 @9:45pm
Referee: Roger East

Watford’s Tom Cleverley has a calf tear that could also sideline him from next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final. Isaac Success has picked up a knee injury while fellow forward Adalberto Penaranda has a hamstring problem and so also misses out.

Fulham are monitoring Aleksandar Mitrovic, who missed the defeat to Manchester City with a stomach problem. Defender Tim Ream and midfielder Jean Michael Seri could return after international duty.

All three previous Premier League meetings have ended in a draw. Fulham have not beaten Watford in any of their last five meetings (D3, L2).

Wolves vs Man United
Molineux Stadium, West Midlands
Tuesday, 02-04-2019 @9:45pm
Referee: Mike Dean

Man United know they have seven finals to negotiate if they are to retain a champions league spot next season especially after Arsenal winning on Monday. The Gunners’ victory over Newcastle means they take the initiative in the battle for the remaining two CL slots as they lead United and Spurs by two points with only seven games to play.

Despite still being in the CL quarter finals, United know that it will be easier using the league route to ensure they have another run in Europe’s lucrative premier club competition.

On Tuesday, they come up against a tricky Wolves side that dumped them out of the FA Cup last month, and one that has taken points off top six sides consistently this season.

However, Wolves have not beaten United twice in the same season since 1979-80. Wolves have alternated between victory and defeat in the four previous Premier League meetings at Molineux, most recently losing 5-0 in March 2012. September’s reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw with Wolves’ Joao Moutinho cancelling out Fred’s opener.

Wolves central defender Ryan Bennett is available after a two-match suspension. Raul Jimenez and Matt Doherty are both expected to start, having featured as substitutes at the weekend, but several other regulars may be rested ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial has shaken off the knock he picked up on Saturday, while Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof are both available. Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Matteo Darmian remain out.

Manchester United have earned more Premier League points than any other side since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho. Their tally of 35 is one more than Liverpool over the same period. Solskjaer’s side have lost their last two away matches in all competitions, having previously won nine successive games on their travels in league and cup. They have won only one of their nine league fixtures against sides currently in the top seven this term (D4, L4). The last time United failed to beat a promoted side either home or away in a Premier League campaign was in 2002-03, when they drew at home and lost away to Manchester City. Paul Pogba has been directly involved in five of United’s last eight league goals, scoring two and setting up three. Since his United debut in February 2016, Marcus Rashford has scored 45 goals for the club in all competitions, more than any other player.

Chelsea vs Brighton
Stamford Bridge, London
Wednesday, 02-02-2019 @9:45pm
Referee: Graham Scott

After an underwhelming first eight months in West London for Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea’s travelling supporters let the Italian know exactly what they thought of his tactics and team selection during Sunday’s match against Cardiff. As drastic as that sounds, Chelsea supporters called for their manager’s head during the second half and the ex-Napoli boss is surely living on borrowed time.

Just a second away Premier League win of 2019 does at least give Chelsea something to build on, but anything less than victory against Brighton back on home soil – and a convincing one at that – and the same old questions will be asked. Chelsea have fared better in front of their own fans, losing just one Premier League home game so far this season and they have kept six clean sheets in their last nine at Stamford Bridge. However, Wolverhampton Wanderers came within seconds of claiming a victory there a little over three weeks ago, and Southampton also left Stamford Bridge with a point in early January.

Sarri still has the Europa League as a safety net, with Slavia Prague to come over two legs in the quarter-finals, though a failure to reach next term’s Champions League will surely cost the Italian his job. This match, then, has taken on even more importance in a season that could still end in one of two ways for the Londoners.

Back-to-back league wins for Brighton ahead of the international break should be enough to keep them above the dotted line, with one more victory – possibly two – from their remaining eight matches likely to be enough to hold off the three sides directly below them.

Saturday’s 1-0 loss to south coast rivals and fellow strugglers Southampton leaves Chris Hugton’s men looking a little nervously over their shoulders, but 18th-placed Cardiff – whom they still have to face at home – have a six-point deficit to make up over the remaining six weeks of the season.

Ideally for Hughton and his players, they will pick up that win they are after at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday – as unlikely as that may seem – as it will allow them to focus solely on the FA Cup.

Sarri has a near-fully fit squad to choose from, with fringe players Ethan Ampadu and Davide Zappacosta his only two fitness doubts. Hazard and Kante were only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench against Cardiff, but they are both expected to return to the side on Wednesday. Belgian forward Hazard has been directly involved in four goals in his last two league appearances against Brighton, scoring three and assisting another. Ruben Loftus-Cheek may be rewarded for his late goal in South Wales with a start in this one, giving Ross Barkley a breather following a hectic schedule over the past few weeks. Elsewhere, Callum Hudson Odoi may finally get his first Premier League start as Sarri hinted that the youngster will feature more heavily in the remaining weeks of the season, while Emerson Palmeiri and Olivier Giroud could come in if the hosts opt to rotate.

Brighton are expected to still be without Florin Andone and Pascal Gross, meanwhile, as they are struggling with a groin and hamstring injury respectively. Solly March was a second-half sub against Southampton and is likely to return in place of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, giving him some minutes ahead of the clash with Man City next weekend. With an eye on that City match, Jurgen Locadia and Beram Kayal – fitness depending – are also in contention to start.

Tottenham Hotspurs vs Crystal Palace
Wembley Stadium, London
Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @9:45pm
Referee: Andre Marriner

Tottenham may have deserved to take something out of Sunday’s huge clash with Liverpool, but were undone by a Toby Alderweireld own goal right at the end to make it five matches without a win in the Premier League and looking likely to drop out of the top four. That would be a pretty disastrous outcome for the club ahead of this new era, having been tipped as outside title challengers as recently as seven weeks ago.

Their poor run of form has allowed Manchester United to draw level on points with them, while Arsenal are two points ahead. Momentum is definitely not on Tottenham’s side, then, and their results in London derbies have also taken a turn for the worse. After a run of seven consecutive league wins against their capital rivals, Spurs have won just one of their last four such matches, losing half of those. It could well turn out, however, that a change of stadium brings a change of fortunes. In the same way that Tottenham thrived at White Hart Lane, winning their last 14 games there and going 19 matches without a defeat, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium may become a fortress. For that to be the case they need to hit the ground running on Wednesday, with Manchester City the next visitors there in the quarter-finals of the Champions League next week. With Tottenham still battling on two fronts, Pochettino needs to snap his players out of their slump or else a campaign that offered so much promise could easily end in disaster.

Rather than having a trip to Wembley to look forward to at the end of the week, the Eagles are now jostling for position in the bottom half of the division. Saturday’s 2-0 win over basement boys Huddersfield Town, which they made hard work of at times, does at least all but ensure that they will be playing Premier League football again next season. If Palace do avoid the drop, it will largely be thanks to their away form. The South London side have collected 20 points on their travels compared to 16 at home – the seventh and 17th best returns in the Premier League respectively.

Tottenham are without Eric Dier and Harry Winks in the engine room, which forced Pochettino to go with an attack-minded XI against Liverpool. Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko started together and, in the absence of any other real options – Victor Wanyama aside – Pochettino may have to go with the same trio again here. There could be recalls for Ben Davies and Son Heung-min, however, having both come off the bench at Anfield, while Serge Aurier should recover from injury to rival Kieran Trippier for a start at right-back. Up top, Harry Kane has scored 59 home goals for Tottenham in the Premier League – only Jermain Defoe (60) has scored more in home games for the club.

Palace’s only injury concern is Mamadou Sakho, meanwhile, so Hodgson could well go with the same XI that beat Huddersfield at the weekend. James McArthur was brought on for Max Meyer at half time in that most recent outing, though, and he will be hoping for a 30th league start of the season here. Wilfred Zaha has scored in each of his last three away Premier League games, managing four goals in total – no player has ever scored in four consecutive Premier League away appearances for the Eagles.

Man City vs Cardiff City
Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Wednesday, 03-04-2019 @9:45pm
Referee: Jonathan Moss

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has been ruled out through injury having been substituted at his own request in the win at Fulham. Vincent Kompany is available following nearly a month out with a muscular problem but Fabian Delph is sidelined.

Cardiff City full-back Jazz Richards, who is yet to start a league game this season, has returned to training following a thigh injury. Defender Sol Bamba and forward Callum Paterson are both long-term absentees.

Cardiff’s only victory in their past 20 away league fixtures against Manchester City was 2-1 in the top flight at Maine Road in 1961 (D8, L11). Manchester City have scored at least four goals in each of their last four top-flight wins against Cardiff. Both teams have scored in all 14 top-flight meetings in Manchester.

Manchester City have won 18 of their 20 matches in all competitions in 2019 (D1, L1), scoring 66 goals. They have triumphed in 15 of their 16 Premier League home fixtures, with their only defeat coming against Crystal Palace on 22 December. City have faced just one shot on target in their last three league matches: Gerard Deulofeu’s goal for Watford on 9 March.

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