One of the Premier League’s most open and competitive seasons took another twist last weekend.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the two big games.
Earlier in the season, City and Arsenal looked like only two sides ready to challenge for this year’s title, but since the international break, the Citizens have dropped points against a poor Everton side and been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Southampton.
The derby loss was a sign of the times for the current champions. Their away form and, in particular, their goal-scoring record away from home has been way below the standards they set.
Just six goals in the last five away games in the league has only been helped by a resolute defence. But with injuries and fatigue a worry for Pep Guardiola, he’s not been able to keep a consistent back four.
Despite going ahead against United through the head of Jack Grealish, City couldn’t build on that lead, letting it slip after Bruno Fernandes’ controversial goal and Marcus Rashford’s tap-in when unmarked in the area.
The league’s leading goal scorer Erling Haaland (21) hasn’t bagged in his last three appearances, so he’ll be itching to find the back of the net again on Thursday evening.
Falling Behind the Pack
In the other huge derby last weekend, Spurs came undone against a free-flowing Arsenal side, at home.
It was a tale of the two goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris clumsily spilt a cross-shot from Bukayo Saka back into his own net to break the deadlock, while Aaron Ramsdale made plenty of smart saves in the second half to ensure the Gunners kept a clean sheet.
Under manager Antonio Conte, their attack has been that of a top four side with 37 goals from 19 games. But to stay in touch with the crucial Champions League spots, a strong defence is key, and shipping 27 goals so far this campaign will be a worrying sign for Conte, who’s game plan relies heavily on a watertight backline.
Sitting five points adrift of United in fourth who have a game in hand, they’ll need to keep Haaland quiet.
From their lacklustre start back in August, Liverpool’s season has never got going. Flirting between the top four and midtable, the Reds looked like they were back on track with four wins on the spin either side of the break.
Those promising signs were soon halted when they travelled down to Brentford. An unsettled backline couldn’t stop the Bees scoring three, before Brighton eased past them at the weekend.
Adding Dutch youngster Cody Gakpo to their front three was a shrewd piece of business, and with Ruben Neves and Jude Bellingham on the horizon to sure up their midfield next season, Jürgen Klopp will need his side to make instant strides against Chelsea and close the gap at the top if they’re to attract such names.
New Owners, New Signings
Another side that’s been in the market are Liverpool’s opponents, Chelsea. Since the club was taken over by Todd Boehly-led consortium, the Blues have gone big, spending a whopping £88.5M on winger Mykhailo Mudryk.
Their January targets don’t look to have stopped there either, potentially brining in another winger in Noni Madueke from PSV.
Boehly and new manager, Graham Potter, have seen Chelsea’s attack falter all year, mustering just 22 goals from 19 games in the league and only seven in their last 10.
With Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang already added to the ranks last Summer, Potter will need an instant impact from his big-money signing, if he’s to stay in the job.
As always with this fixture, we’re expecting plenty of goals on Thursday night, and with Haaland due, we think Man City will get past Spurs with a 3-1 win.
Liverpool against Chelsea is a much harder game to call. As both teams will be pushing for the win, we’re predicting honours even with a 2-2 draw.
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JD Football | November 21, 2023