BPL This Weekend: Arsenal, Everton Fight for “Fourth Place Trophy,” Liverpool face West Ham, More

IMAGE, ARSENAL.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

The famous “Fourth Place Trophy” is still up for grabs, and this weekend will go along way in deciding who gets their hands on it.

Everton has been in-form, winning their last five matches as they host Arsenal this weekend. The clubs are separated by four points in the table and a win for Everton will not only bring them to within a point of the Gunners, but confidence could boost them to eventually overtaking them.

Romelu Lukaku will play a key role for Everton. The young Belgian will need to use his strength and pace to threaten Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen or Laurent KoscielnyRoss Barkley continues to be a midfield dynamo and will look to put himself about in the middle of the park and set Everton on the break. Barkley is also not afraid to take a player on. The Toffees continue to play exceptionally well at home winning their last six matches at Goodison Park.

After a mixed bag of results, Arsenal found some semblance of good form in a draw with Manchester City last week. For the Gunners, there is one area they must clean up. Too often in recent times, they have been caught in possession in midfield, get opened up on the counter and scored upon. The City goal was a perfect example of this as Lukas Podolski held on to the ball too long, was crowded out by City players and then dispossessed as David Silva eventually found the back of the net on a rebound.

Olivier Giroud had a fantastic match against Everton the last time these two met, which was in the FA Cup quarter-final. The Frenchman came off the bench and notched two goals. Everton will be tough to break down, but Giroud will need to be a battering ram. He also needs a goal and pushing Arsenal into further safety in fourth is a great time to do so.

What To Look For

1. Liverpool On Fire– Goals, goals, and more goals has been the Liverpool way this season. It has seen them storm to the top of the table as they continue to win in the Barclays Premier League.

The Reds will travel to the Boleyn Ground and take on West Ham this weekend. The Hammers have been up and down of late and will have a handful in trying to defend Liverpool’s attack. Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez appear to be in a scoring battle of their own as they won’t be shown up by the other. It’s a case of “anything you can do, I can do better,” but it hasn’t led them to selfishness. Each player has continued to create chances for the other and both players have benefited, as evidenced most recently by a four goal performance against Tottenham.

The area the Reds continually need to focus on is at the back. Former Red Andy Carroll will re-introduce himself to his old teammates and is capable of popping up with a goal. Will West Ham be able to score enough with Liverpool? Certainly not, as it won’t be a surprise to see Carroll isolated up top with the rest of his Hammers teammates packing it in defensively.

2. Effects Of Chasing Shadows– Both Manchester United and Chelsea faced stern tests in the Champions League during midweek. Although United was able to get a massive draw, the Blues left Paris with a 3-1 loss. The one thing in common? Both opposing teams saw more of the ball than the English clubs. The Red Devils conceded a whopping 74% possession to Bayern Munich. Seeing so little of the ball means both clubs were constantly chasing in pursuit of winning it. The effects of that could very well be tired legs this weekend.

United travel to St, James’ Park to face Newcastle while the Blues are home to host Stoke City. Both matches present their difficulties. Newcastle has struggled recently and at home, but they are still capable of digging out a big result. Stoke will most likely sit back and look to soak up as much pressure as they can at Stamford Bridge.

For United, eyes will remain on Wayne Rooney. He has been in-form for the Red Devils and they will need him again after Danny Welbeck‘s struggles in front of goal against Bayern and Robin van Persie‘s injury.

Up top for the Blues, Jose Mourinho has lamented his options all season, choosing to start Andre Schurrle rather than Fernando Torres in Samuel Eto’o‘s absence. If Eto’o isn’t capable of starting this week, Torres would most likely get the nod after being used from the bench during midweek against PSG.

3. Saints Converge To City– Manchester City had a golden opportunity to move into the top spot in the league, but were unable to hold their lead in North London last weekend. They are now staring up at Chelsea and Liverpool, but still have two games in hand.

They welcome Southampton to the Etihad, which should be a fantastic match. The Saints boast some of the brightest talent in England, several that should represent their country at the World Cup. Adam Lallana continues to lead by example and will look to find space in the City midfield to exploit. Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert should test the City defense and keeper Joe Hart on several occasions.

City will attack with pace and power. The Saints will need to be careful pushing men forward to not get caught on the counter. With Yaya Toure winning tackles in the midfield, City can turn defense to attack rapidly. David Silva and Jesus Navas will cause problems with their speed and will give the Southampton fullbacks fits. Luke Shaw will need to continue to grow his burgeoning reputation and have another strong match in the Saints back line.

4. Relegation Battle Rages On– Last weekend there was a real thriller at the bottom with Cardiff and West Brom playing to an enthralling 3-3 draw. This weekend features more matches with direct relegation implications.

Cardiff welcome Crystal Palace to Wales this weekend and a win could possibly move them out of the relegation zone depending on other results around the league. If Palace can secure a victory, they will move closer to survival and would look good bets for it with all three points. The player to watch for in this match is Jordon Mutch. He scored a great goal last weekend and continues to pop up with goals for Cardiff.

Norwich are only mildly better off than Crystal Palace in the table and welcome West Brom to Carrow Road. The Baggies can’t seem to get victories under Pepe Mel and come up against a Canaries’ side that has been decent at home this season. Morgan Amalfitano had a fabulous match last weekend and will hope to exploit Norwich as he did against Cardiff.

Here is your current Premier League table: