EPL fixtures at a glance alongside FA Cup semis

ENGLISH clubs apart from Aston Villa suffered debilitating exits in continental competition in midweek. The top three all crashed out of Europe and their respective managers will need to galvanise their troops for domestic competition.

Arsenal and Liverpool both have the chance to regain the top spot, as current leaders Manchester City will be in FA Cup action. FocusM looks at the talking points from the weekend’s fixtures.

FA Cup

Chelsea v Manchester City (Sun, 12.15am)

Manchester City are coming off a demoralising defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, with many players looking physically and mentally drained after the penalty shootout. Chelsea have had no such distractions and are fresh off a 6-0 drubbing of Everton in their last league match.

Pep Guardiola will need to carefully manage his squad as City face Brighton in midweek in a crucial league match. Mauricio Pochettino will have noted City’s weaknesses in coming up against the Spanish giants and will seek to use the pace of his young attackers to unsettle the cupholder’s rear guard.

Coventry City v Manchester United (Sun, 10.30pm)

Erik Ten Hag knows that if he is to remain in the Old Trafford hot seat next season, he will need to deliver this trophy. Not only will there be silverware but there will also be a spot in Europe that a club the size of Manchester United demands as a bare minimum.

A loss to lower-division opponents will undoubtedly seal his fate. Coventry will be dreaming of a repeat of their 1986 success when they beat a highly-rated Spurs team in a thrilling Wembley showdown. The fact that they are now managed by former Red Devil Mark Robins adds to the subplot.


Premier League

Luton Town v Brentford (Sat, 10pm)

Luton will be hoping that their opponents will have already switched off with the Bees having ensured Premiership survival last weekend. The home side are in the thick of it and remain hopeful of securing survival themselves despite a 5-1 lashing at the hands of Manchester City in the last league game.

A lengthy injury list has also made Luton’s quest for survival that much harder, but a home win against the Bees is a must with games fast running out.

Sheffield United v Burnley (Sat, 10pm)

With both teams seemingly doomed, there is little to play for except pride. The visitors have a slender hope of staying alive and will probably be the more motivated of the two sides. Vincent Kompany’s men will probably need at least three wins from the remaining six games if they are to retain their Premiership status.

This game has to be one of them, otherwise, it will just be a warm-up for their clash in the championship next season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal (Sun, 2.30am)

Arsenal will be licking their wounds after a painful exit in Europe at the hands of Bayern Munich. Pundits pointed out a certain naivety and a lack of composure on the part of the Arsenal team in the rarefied heights of continental competition compared to their seasoned Bavarian opponents.

Similar questions remain on the domestic front, as the Gunners capitulated at almost the same point last season. The defeat to Aston Villa last weekend raised those doubts again and Mikael Arteta has a huge job of rallying his squad, who look bereft of ideas in Munich.

Everton v Nottingham Forest (Sun, 8.30pm)

This is quite possibly the match of the weekend as both sides desperately try to stay up. Both have been docked points for off-field misdemeanours and are appealing those decisions, meaning the relegation “battle” could actually rumble on after the season has concluded. That farcical scenario does not detract from the fact that neither can afford to lose this relegation six-pointer.

Sean Dyche will be missing key player Jarrad Braithwaite who has been instrumental in defence for the Toffees.

Aston Villa v Bournemouth (Sat. 10pm)

Aston Villa are the Premiership’s sole survivor in Europe after defeating Lille in the quarterfinals of the Conference League. Unai Emery is a shrewd operator in continental competition with his record of winning the Europa League with both Sevilla and Villareal a testament to his managerial pedigree. He will be keen to take his promising Villa side to the next level by securing Champions League football for next season.

Their bid for the fourth spot was boosted by the Spurs losing 4-0 at St James Park last weekend.

Crystal Palace v West Ham United (Sun, 10pm)

The home side is on cloud nine after a hugely impressive win at Anfield last weekend, a result that severely dented Liverpool’s title ambitions. It is not the first time the Eagles have done that and they will be looking to carry that momentum against a weary West Ham.

The Hammers were also dumped out of Europe in midweek, and many of their players will be feeling the impact of their exertions. This London derby may come soon for those players as they seek to secure European football for next season.

Fulham v Liverpool (Sun, 11.30pm)

Liverpool have been woeful of late. Their wastefulness in front of goal at Old Trafford and against Palace has seen them surrender top spot. Their sluggish first-leg performance against Atalanta meant an exit from the Europa League at the quarter-final stage.

The romantic send-off for departing manager Jurgen Klopp looks like ending in an anti-climatic damper instead, as the weary players look to rouse themselves in what has been a long and difficult season.

The return of some players from injury such as Diogo Jota and Trent Alexander-Arnold, may yet give fresh impetus to a fading title challenge but a win is needed at Craven Cottage if that is to carry on for another week at least. – April 20, 2024


Main photo credit: The Emirates FA Cup

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE