• Joe Boulcott

Midweek Premier League Preview

Updated: Jan 13

The Premier League returns after a weekend of FA Cup fixtures that had a few twists and turns. Both Manchester clubs are in action as United have the chance to go top of the league ahead of a trip to Anfield. But will Burnley dash their hopes?

Following an eventful weekend of FA Cup action, some top-flight clubs return to league action during this week to play games that had been re-arranged- whether that be due to COVID or a late start to league campaigns for a few sides.

Of the 12 teams in action from Tuesday to Thursday, only two were knocked out in the third round of the FA Cup – Newcastle and Crystal Palace, both eliminated by fellow Premier League sides.

The lack of Premier League exits (only Leeds and West Brom lost to lower-league opposition) highlights the increasing gulf in class between the riches of England’s top-tier and the rest. Shocks such as Crawley beating Leeds 3-0 are hard to come by but, when they do, it is still pretty special to witness.

Most clubs will be relieved to avoid embarrassment and progress through ahead of returning to Premier League action, either this midweek or next weekend. This midweek will prove decisive for clubs at the top and bottom of the table, with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley and Fulham playing.

Kicking the action off on Tuesday evening is winless Sheffield United as they host Steve Bruce’s Newcastle. The hosts have only picked up two points so far in a season falling well below expectations after a successful first season back in the league last time out, when they finished 9th on 54 points.

The Blades may well be on course to break the most unwanted record of them all – the Premier League’s lowest points tally. Derby County are the current ‘holders’ of the record, having amassed just 11 points and one victory in the 2007/08 season.

Newcastle visit Bramall Lane without a win in their last seven games in all competitions following a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal in the FA Cup, yet the Magpies are eight points clear of the relegation places going into Tuesday’s match.

Later that evening, at 8.15pm, Burnley host Manchester United whilst Everton visit Wolves. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side head to Turf Moor unbeaten in their seven away league games so far this season and with the chance to go top of the table. The Red Devils are currently on 33 points, with only goal difference separating them and fierce rivals Liverpool who they face next.

After all the criticism of his management, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the squad, or at least the attacking talent, to truly threaten Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League this season. A win at 16th place Burnley, who needed 120 minutes and penalties against League One MK Dons on Saturday, is needed if the Red Devils are to prove serious contenders.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton side visit Wolves with both sides squeezing through to the fourth round of the FA Cup at the weekend with victories by just the one goal. The Toffees have a chance to move into the top four ahead of Wednesday’s fixtures, whilst the hosts will look to move to within a point of 8th place despite a tricky start to the season. Nuno’s men have struggled to replace the goals of Diogo Jota and the injured Raul Jimenez this season – Wolves have only scored 18 times in 17 games this season, six fewer than at this stage in 2019/20.

Wednesday’s action sees two title contenders, in Manchester City and Tottenham, face off against two relegation candidates, in Brighton and Fulham.

If there is one thing you might be able to bank on this midweek, it is Manchester City being defensively solid. Since losing 2-0 at Spurs in November, Pep Guardiola’s City have only conceded twice in seven games, keeping five clean sheets in that time and winning five games.

The partnership of newcomer Ruben Dias and John Stones, who has had a complete resurgence in form, has led to City’s most stable defence in some time. Dias in particular has been enormous of late, with a club-high 41 clearances since arriving from Benfica, 20 more than next best (Rodri).

Guardiola will be in confident mood when facing Brighton, who are winless in the league since November and were taken all the way to penalties at League Two Newport on Sunday. City have won every game they have played against the Seagulls in the Premier League, scoring 20 and conceding just two in six games – including at least four goals scored in their last three matches against Brighton.

The other game on Wednesday sees Tottenham host Fulham, a fixture only arranged on Monday after Aston Villa’s clash with Spurs was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Villa squad. It means a fixture reshuffle, with Fulham’s game against Chelsea on Friday now moved back to Saturday, whilst Villa will take on Everton on Sunday – a day later than originally scheduled.

The Spurs v Fulham fixture was meant to be played on 30 December but was also postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in Fulham’s camp. Once the game finally kicks off, Jose Mourinho will be expecting his side to get all three points against Scott Parker’s side. Mourinho’s side can move up to third, only a point behind Liverpool, with a win and will be hoping to improve their title chances against Parker’s men.

The final fixture of midweek sees Arsenal host Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium, as they look to make it four wins on the bounce in the league. After a tricky start to the season, Mikel Arteta has seen his side improve in recent fixtures with the addition of youngsters such as Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka into the side, helping them score eight goals in the three consecutive victories.

The Gunners can move into the top half with a win as they hope to retain the upwards trajectory and aim for the European spots that they would’ve been expected to achieve before the season began.

Crystal Palace ended a run of five winless games in the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United last time out, before being dumped out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 loss to Wolves. Roy Hodgson will be looking to bounce back and can actually move above the hosts with a victory. The Eagles are unbeaten in their last four fixtures against Arsenal so will take confidence from their record in this fixture.

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