Match-day 25 of the English Premier League kicks off, today, at 1:30 pm, with 14 teams in action, and seven matches in total. Five of these will run concurrently, from 4:00 pm, including Watford’s trip to Old Trafford, and then Liverpool and Tottenham will kick off the day’s final match at 6:30 pm.
It’s a mouthwatering list of fixtures, with all of the teams involved having one thing or the other to fight for. Eight of them will be looking to build up on last week’s successes, while the other six will be looking to put their previous defeats behind them. When it’s all said and done, we should have witnessed quite a few changes at both ends of the table, especially at the bottom, where we’ll have the bottom three (along with Middlesbrough and Southampton), all in action.
On Sunday, title-favourites, Chelsea, will travel to impenetrable Turf Moor (2:30 p.m.), looking to stretch their lead at the top of the table, before two of the League’s relegation scrappers square of at the Liberty Stadium (5:00 p.m.), with Swansea City and Leicester City both looking to put as much distance between themselves, and the bottom three, as possible.
On Monday, our loan match of the evening (9:00 p.m.) will see Bournemouth’s porous defence try to hold its own against a Manchester City attack that looks like it’s been reinvigorated by the recent arrival of Gabriel Jesus (all times West African Standard).
Over the next few pages, we’ll be previewing the upcoming matches and highlighting the things we’re most looking forward to, starting with the first game of the match-day:
Arsenal vs. Hull City:
The hosts are a full 16 positions (and 28 points) ahead of their opponents, but the travelling Tigers will undoubtedly have the more optimistic set of supporters, and that’s due to one simple reason: Marco Silva.
The Hull City boss has seemingly turned things around at his new team (even though they’re not yet out of the relegation positions), and his players will be in high spirits, as they are only one week removed from that sensational “smash and grab” against Liverpool. As if that wasn’t enough, they’ll also have added confidence from the fact that their new manager actually experienced victory in his only trip to the Emirates, so far (winning with Olympiakos, in 2015). Hull City could also move as high as 15th, today (even if only temporarily), if other results go their way, and that sort of incentive is nothing to sneeze at.
For Arsenal, the reverse is the case, coming off back-to-back losses, against Watford and bitter rivals, Chelsea. In both games, they went through several stretches where they looked sluggish and bereft of ideas…
…this isn’t the sort of shape you’d want to be in, for a game against a hungry, relegation-threatened team. Also, unlike Hull City’s players who seem to have been renewed by their Manager, The Gunners have had to go through their last 3 games with Arsene Wenger up in the stands, and this might factor in once again, as he serves the last match of his four-game touchline ban, today. Have no illusions about this game, though, as Arsenal will still be the favourites, heading in, enhanced by the fact that Hull City could also be missing a couple of key players from their starting lineup.
- We start with Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal’s top goal-scorer and assists provider: Against Chelsea, he often looked isolated and frustrated, and it’ll be interesting to find out how he’ll be deployed today. Will he be moved out wide to make room for Olivier Giroud or Danny Welbeck, or will he be the one leading the line for The Gunners?
- Both teams have welcomed back their AFCON absentees (Mohammed Elneny and Ahmed Elmohamady) and we’ll have to wait and see if their teams are willing to throw them right back into the mix.
- Next, we move to Arsenal’s central midfield, where there’s a question of who will partner Francis Coquelin. With Arsene Wenger’s husband (Aaron Ramsey) and Santi Cazorla both missing out due to injuries and Granit Xhaka still suspended, it’ll most likely be a choice between The Ox (who’s occasionally appeared in this position) and Elneny (who picked up a knock before returning from Gabon).
- Hull City will feel slightly weakened with Abel Hernandez making a return to the doctor’s table to join Captain, Michael Dawson, and they’ll be hoping Oumar Niasse (the striker on loan from Everton) will be able to build up on his debut goal against Liverpool, while deputizing for him. They’ll also be boosted by the return of another loan signing, Lazar Markovic, who was ineligible to play against Liverpool, his parent club.