BPL This Weekend: Liverpool Continue Title Chase, Slumping Arsenal Face City, More

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

Liverpool are still looking up at Chelsea for the race to the Premier League title, but the Reds are nipping at their heels. Only a point separates the clubs.

Not only are Liverpool firmly in the hunt for a league trophy, they are on the best run of form of any team in England. The Reds have won eight of their last nine matches in league play. The only blemish? A 1-1 draw with West Brom at the start of February.

Not only are Liverpool racking up the wins, they are racking up the goals. The Reds have outscored their opponents 31-12 in their recent stretch. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge continue to bag in the goals while creating attacking opportunities for each other.

The main concern for the Reds right now is at the back. The defense at times is still very shaky and prone to silly mistakes. John Flanagan lost his concentration against Sunderland allowing the Black Cats to cut the deficit to one goal just last week. It set up a very nervy finish for the Reds, which would have been completely avoidable if there was focus for the full 90 minutes.

Liverpool will face Tottenham this weekend. Spurs’ form has taken a negative turn of late, losing three of their last five matches. Tottenham has also lost two in a row on the road and will be traveling up to Anfield.

With Tottenham’s continuing struggles, they could very well miss out on any European competition next year. Tim Sherwood certainly needs to turn things around and fast.

What Else To Look For

1. Which Arsenal Will Turn Up?– Arsenal has had a habit this year of not turning up in big Premier League matches. It has led to a lot of goals conceded and their championship credentials fading with each poor effort.

For the Gunners, those huge losses came away from home; one being when they faced Manchester City earlier in the year to the tune of a 6-3 defeat. Arsenal’s home form has been pretty good of late with four wins and two draws in the last six matches.

However, the Gunners recent overall form has been very inconsistent, looking very poor to average over the last two games while taking a hiding from Chelsea and drawing Swansea.

While title hopes fade on every unconvincing performance,  the race isn’t completely over. With only six points between Arsenal and Chelsea, the advantage isn’t insurmountable, but if the Gunners continue on current trends, holding on to a Top Four position will be an accomplishment in itself.

A turnaround needs to happen now and doing it against City is the perfect time. Not only would a win boost the Gunners’ confidence, but it would be taking three points off of a direct title rival.

The traveling club from Manchester has won four straight matches and brushed their rivals Manchester United aside easily in the midweek derby. City has scored eight goals over the last two games, while Arsenal has allowed the same number. It could very well be a case of which streak continues in determining who will walk away with all three points.

2. United Protest– When David Moyes was appointed manager at Manchester United, there was sure to be a drop off from the Alex Ferguson years. However, after almost every week, it seems the club hits a new low.

Most recently, the Red Devils were thrashed by City 3-0 at Old Trafford. It marked the second heavy defeat to a rival at Old Trafford in a matter of weeks.

Now, the United faithful are getting to the end of their rope. Although it may not be all sections of the support, there is a planned protest on Moyes’ job with a plane expected to fly over Old Trafford, carrying an anti-Moyes message.

The best way to dispel any negativity is to go on a winning run. The Red Devils will have a chance to do just that when they host Aston Villa this weekend. Although any chance of United reaching a European competition continues to slip away, there is still much left to play for — particularly pride.

3. Bottom Table Rumble– As the season continues to edge towards its finale, there is just as much excitement at the bottom of the table as the top half. OK, maybe the quality of the games aren’t always as exciting, but several teams still remain in the woods of dropping down into the Championship.

West Brom and Cardiff are both in desperate need for wins. With only three points separating the clubs in the table, a victory represents a push towards survival. West Brom only have a solo win since Pepe Mel took charge, but the odds are in favor for the Baggies this weekend. With the game being played at The Hawthorns, it is a huge advantage when considering Cardiff’s away form.

The Welsh club has lost six in a row away from home and coupled with mixed results at home, it is no wonder why Cardiff find themselves a likely candidates for the drop.

4. Jozy Watch– There is no question that Sunderland is a team struggling mightily this season in the Premier League. It has led to some tough watching for supporters of the Black Cats and U.S. Men’s National Team alike.

Jozy Altidore has been starved for service throughout and it doesn’t look like things will improve much the rest of the way. With only seven games remaining in the Premier League, it is a worrying trend.

It could very well affect his play at the upcoming World Cup and the friendlies beforehand will be absolutely crucial. The question also remains if Sunderland’s poor form continues and they find themselves relegated at the end of the season, where does Altidore go from there?

However, for those following USMNT players, it hasn’t been all bad for Americans in the Premier League. Geoff Cameron continues to look a bonafide lock for a right back spot at the World Cup. It hasn’t just been Cameron’s defensive effort either. He recently chipped in with a goal in Stoke’s 4-1 victory over Aston Villa in their last match.