The weekend’s Premier League action begins with a clash between the evenly-poised Aston Villa and Arsenal.
The pair are toe-to-toe in the middle of the table, and there could well be a lot riding on this game at the end of the season. That said, undoubtedly the most exciting match on the cards is a potential title decider between Liverpool and Man City.
Manchester United and Everton, meanwhile, go head-to-head; with Wolves versus Leicester and Newcastle versus Southampton among the other fixtures scheduled during the weekend.
Aston Villa v Arsenal
The key to Arsenal getting a result here is nullifying the threat of Jack Grealish. West Ham achieved that last time out, and they came away with a win to show for it.
Arsenal’s form has been largely impressive, up until their recent defeat to Wolves. They go into this one without two important players through suspension, David Luiz and Bernd Leno, of whom the latter will be sorely missed.
Backup Runar Alex Runnarsson endured a shocking debut for the club, and will need to be much better here, as he will likely make the cut over new signing Mathew Ryan, who is a fitness doubt.
Aston Villa’s forward play has improved considerably over the last twelve months, and they will no doubt seek to exploit any weaknesses in the Arsenal defence and test Runarsson.
The overall improvements in Villa’s game this season means they are more than a match for their opponents, and Arsenal must be careful not to assume they will go and win the game playing their way.
They will need to adapt, particular in the absence of Luiz, and that will mean a more cautious approach regarding the likes of Grealish, Ross Barkley and Ollie Watkins.
Villa have though, now lost four of their last six Premier League games; failing to capitalise on a superb start to the campaign.
Arsenal had a bad day against Wolves and they won’t make those same mistakes again. Don’t expect many goals here, but both teams will likely find the back of the net in a fairly even contest.
Burnley v Brighton
Undoubtedly the most uninspiring fixture to come this weekend, I would be shocked if this one had any more than two goals in it.
Burnley secured wins over Villa and Liverpool last month, but have since been beaten by Chelsea and Man City. You’d have expected them to lose those games, however they gave it a real go against City.
Brighton, meanwhile, come into the game following back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Liverpool. Both sides find themselves at the bottom end of the table, however it seems Brighton have started to find their mojo.
I’d fancy Graham Potter’s side to maintain their winning run here and overcome Sean Dyche’s stubborn opponents. Burnley have the fewest goals scored in the league this season (13), while Brighton don’t concede many.
It’ll be a close game for the most part, but Brighton will take the spoils here.
Newcastle v Southampton
If there was a time to play Southampton, it’s after a sensational 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Man Utd. They’ll be adamant to bounce back, yet they are missing a number of vital players.
Southampton weren’t nearly as bad as the scoreline shows. The onslaught happened fairly late in the contest, so for a large proportion of the game, they were still at the races. Still, it was a draining performance and they may still be feeling the effects.
Newcastle meanwhile haven’t really got going this season, at least not without their key players. The return of Callum Wilson and winger Allan Saint-Maximin in particular will bode them well.
I’ve liked Southampton for the most part this season, and Ralph Hasenhuttl has done a tremendous job since arriving at the club. However, with his ranks depleted, I’d expect an attack-minded Newcastle to capitalise.