Dublin: 14°C Saturday 20 August 2022

Big games in the race for the title and survival and more Premier League talking points

Plus, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool can take a big step towards Champions League qualification.

1. Can Tottenham make one final push?

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League - White Hart Lane Source: Adam Davy

TOTTENHAM HAVE EXCEEDED all expectations this season and back-to-back victories over London rivals in the last two weeks have just about kept Mauricio Pochettino’s side in the title race.

With Chelsea winning at Everton last week and taking a huge step towards the Premier League crown, Spurs know anything less than victory at West Ham on Friday night will all but spell the end of their challenge.

Tottenham have the chance to move within a point of Chelsea at the summit and apply a little pressure on Antonio Conte’s charges ahead of their meeting with Middlesbrough on Monday night.

With three matches to go after this weekend, time is running out for Spurs in their tilt for a first top-flight title but another London derby win tonight will just keep things interesting for another week at least.

2. Last chance saloon for Swansea

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett

Things are getting desperate for Swansea, and their position is likely to be even more precarious by the time they kick off against Everton on Saturday evening.

Despite last weekend’s draw at Old Trafford, the Welsh club are two points from safety and with Hull hosting already relegated Sunderland earlier in the day, the Swans could find themselves five points adrift before kicking a ball this weekend.

With games against Sunderland and West Brom to round off their season, it’s not inconceivable that Swansea could win their final two games but they have entered must-win territory or else they’ll be staring down the barrel of relegation.

3. The battle for Champions League qualification

Watford v Liverpool - Premier League - Vicarage Road Source: Adam Davy

Man United’s visit to the Emirates on Sunday is the standout fixture of the weekend but there are equally important games before that in the race to finish in the top four.

It’s still all pretty tight between third and sixth and with some having games in hand over others, the Champions League picture isn’t crystal clear just yet.

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Man City are first in action in Saturday’s early game and could jump above Liverpool into third and create temporary daylight between themselves and Man United and Arsenal with victory over Crystal Palace.

You’d expect Pep Guardiola’s charges to record three points at home so Liverpool dare not drop points at home again, this time when they welcome Southampton to Anfield on Sunday.

The Reds are currently in third and are in control of their own destiny after taking advantage of Man United’s slip-up at home to Swansea with a win at Watford on Monday.

But seeing as none of these teams have stamped their authority on this top-four race so far, it’s likely we’ll have one more twist and turn yet.

4. Has Mourinho really given up on the top four?

Celta Vigo v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League - Semi Final - First Leg - Estadio Municipal de Balaidos Source: Steven_Paston

Whether Jose Mourinho is playing mind games or not, it’ll be very interesting to see what changes, if any, he makes for Sunday’s clash with Arsenal.

The Man United manager says last week’s draw with Swansea has ended his side’s hopes of finishing inside the top four and he’ll rest several of his key players at the Emirates on Sunday.

With their Europa League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford next Thursday, it appears Mourinho feels they’ve a better chance of qualifying for the Champions League through that competition rather than the league. He’s probably right, but fielding a weakened team would risk a first-ever league defeat for the Portuguese manager against Arsene Wenger.

If Mourinho does decide to make changes, it opens the door for Arsenal and Wenger to reignite their top four chances after last weekend’s damaging North London derby defeat to Tottenham.

The Gunners are six points off fourth but have a game in hand over Man City and three points on Sunday could just spark a late push.

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Ryan Bailey

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