Arsenal, Spurs Seek To Prove Title Credentials In North London Derby

Arsenal's Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes (2R) celebrates scoring during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Fulham at the Emirates Stadium in London on August 27, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
Arsenal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes (2R) celebrates scoring during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Fulham at the Emirates Stadium in London on August 27, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

Arsenal and Tottenham will be fighting for much more than local bragging rights on Saturday as the north London rivals aim to prove they are serious contenders for the Premier League title.

As top-flight action returns following the international break, Arsenal sit top of the table after an unexpectedly strong start, while unbeaten Tottenham are just one point behind in third place.

With Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United still recovering their equilibrium after turbulent starts to the season, a path has opened up for the north London clubs to gate-crash the title race.

If a title challenger was expected to emerge from either end of the Seven Sisters Road, it was Tottenham who were the more likely candidates after snatching a top-four finish from their bitter rivals and neighbours in dramatic fashion last term.

Arsenal were in pole position to qualify for the Champions League when they moved four points clear of Tottenham with just three games left.

But Mikel Arteta’s side blew their chance as a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Tottenham was followed by a devastating loss against Newcastle, ruining their hopes of returning to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.

Buoyed by pipping Arsenal, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy bowed to Antonio Conte’s demands, sanctioning a close-season spending spree that further enhanced the feelgood factor around the club.

With Conte refusing to let his players rest on their laurels, Tottenham have continued to progress in their second season under the demanding Italian.

Conte showed his ruthless side in Tottenham’s last game when he dropped Son Heung-min after his eight-match goalless run and was rewarded with a hat-trick from the South Korean after sending him on as a substitute in the 6-2 rout of Leicester.

While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term.

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Title chance 

Arsenal's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) and Arsenal's Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (3rd R) celebrate with teammates after winning at the end of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on August 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
In this file photo, Arsenal’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C) and Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (3rd R) celebrate with teammates after winning at the end of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on August 20, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

 

Arsenal’s implosion in the final week of last season could have been a hammer blow to Arteta’s gradual rebuild of a club mired in mediocrity since well before the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

The eccentric side to Arteta’s personality was on display during the “All or Nothing” television documentary that captured the Spaniard’s fight to steer the club through troubled waters last season.

But Arteta’s quirks should not obscure the astute way he has infused Arsenal with energy and enthusiasm by promoting a group of talented youngsters, while also shipping out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following disciplinary problems.

Revitalised by the recent signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as the development of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively benign fixture list so far.

Wenger, who led Arsenal to their most recent title in 2004, believes his former team should already be regarded as title contenders.

“I would say they have a good chance because I don’t see any super-dominating team,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “I believe it is a good opportunity to do it this season.”

However, Arsenal’s only match against a top-four rival this season ended in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

Arteta needs a statement victory to show there is substance to the surge that gave Arsenal their best start to a season since 2004, courtesy of a five-game winning run.

History is in Arsenal’s favour, with Tottenham on a run of 11 top-flight visits to the Emirates Stadium without a win since their last success in 2010.

Yet Arsenal, beaten only once in their past 29 home league games against Tottenham, must find a way to subdue long-time nemesis Harry Kane.

Tottenham striker Kane has scored a record 13 goals in 17 north London derby appearances, including two in their most recent meeting in May.

EPL Fixtures This Week:

Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated)

Arsenal v Tottenham (1130), Bournemouth v Brentford, Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Fulham v Newcastle, Liverpool v Brighton, Southampton v Everton, West Ham v Wolves (1630)

Sunday

Manchester City v Manchester Utd (1300), Leeds v Aston Villa (1530)

Monday

Leicester v Nottingham Forest (1900)

AFP

Man City Chase Quadruple As Man Utd Aim To Spoil Tuchel’s Record

File photo: (l to R) Manchester City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias and Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker react after the UEFA Champions League, last 16, 1st-leg football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v Manchester City at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

Manchester City have set their sights on a clean sweep of the four major trophies as the runaway Premier League leaders prepare to host high-flying West Ham this weekend.

To have any chance of putting City under pressure, second-placed Manchester United must end Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top-flight.

Man City flex musclesManchester City’s march to the top of the Premier League was not a surprise given their title-winning pedigree, but their record-breaking surge has fuelled belief that they can achieve greatness.

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City chalked up their 19th successive win in all competitions — a record for an English top-flight side — as they eased to a 2-0 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, face Tottenham in the League Cup final and have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Bernardo Silva, who was on the scoresheet against Borussia, gave voice to City’s swaggering confidence after they moved a step closer to an unprecedented quadruple.

Unbeaten in 26 matches stretching back to November, Silva said City could set a new standard of excellence after their domestic treble two years ago.

“We know we have good momentum, but this is just the last 16 of the Champions League,” he said. “We have the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

“It is going to be a tough season but we are going to try to win them all.”

Man Utd face Tuchel testManchester United are the closest challengers to Manchester City, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will need a major collapse from their rivals if they are to win the title for the first time since 2013.

File photo: Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) and teammates react after conceding their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Sheffield United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 27, 2021. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP).

 

Victory at Chelsea on Sunday is essential to keep United’s faint hopes alive.

That will not be easy given the Blues’ revival under former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel.

Since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, Tuchel has won six of his eight games in all competitions to lift Chelsea up to fifth place.

But United are unbeaten in five league games and their forward Marcus Rashford believes they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we’ve said all season that we’re a team that’s still improving, learning lessons about ourselves every game,” he said.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves and keep giving the best version of us. Ultimately that’s going to make us win the games.”

Alli comes in from the cold after spending much of the season cast into exile by Jose Mourinho, Dele Alli’s return to form has given the Tottenham manager a welcome selection headache.

Alli appeared close to leaving on loan during the January transfer window before the club reportedly blocked the England midfielder’s attempt to rejoin his former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.

The 24-year-old has since held clear-the-air talks with Mourinho and has been reintegrated into the squad.

Alli used Wednesday’s 4-0 Europa League win over Wolfsberger to underline his qualities, scoring a brilliant overhead kick and providing two assists.

Ninth-placed Tottenham must beat Burnley on Sunday to get back in top-four contention.

File photo: Tottenham Hotspur’s Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld celebrates with teammates after he scores his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on January 2, 2021. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

“These are the headaches that I love,” Mourinho said, referring to his selection quandaries. “The headaches that you don’t like are lots of people not performing. Lots of doubts, by negative reasons.

“These are the wonderful problems. The players they need to understand this concept of team, and the intensity of matches. If you have everybody ready or play at this level, it’s the best thing to happen to the team.”

Fixtures:

Saturday (GMT)

Manchester City v West Ham (1230), West Brom v Brighton (1500), Leeds v Aston Villa (1730), Newcastle v Wolves (2000)

Sunday

Crystal Palace v Fulham (1200), Leicester v Arsenal (1200), Tottenham v Burnley (1400), Chelsea v Manchester United (1630), Sheffield United v Liverpool (1915)

Monday

Everton v Southampton (2000)

 

Man City’s Clash At Everton Postponed Due To Multiple COVID-19 Cases

A file photo of the Etihad Stadium. Source: [email protected] City.

 

Manchester City’s Premier League visit to Everton on Monday was postponed after multiple new positive tests for coronavirus were detected at City, the club confirmed.

“Based on strong medical advice the Premier League, in consultation with both clubs, have decided to postpone the fixture,” City said in a statement.

City announced on Christmas Day there had been four positive tests at the club for players Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus and two staff members.

“After the latest round of Covid-19 testing, the club returned a number of positive cases, in addition to the four already reported on Christmas Day,” City’s statement added.

“With the security of the bubble compromised, there posed a risk that the virus could spread further amongst the squad, the staff and potentially beyond.”

The club’s training ground will now close for an “indeterminate period” with further testing on players and staff to take place before it can reopen.

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City are due to face Chelsea away in the Premier League on Sunday.

It is just the second time that a Premier League match has been postponed due to Covid-19 since the 2019/20 season resumed in June.

Aston Villa’s clash with Newcastle earlier this month was called off due to an outbreak at Newcastle’s training ground.

City manager Pep Guardiola’s mother died of coronavirus earlier this year and speaking after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle, he said the health of his players must take priority.

“What we want is that Gabriel and Kyle don’t get worse and can be asymptomatic and pass this 8-10 days without tough symptoms,” said Guardiola.

“Covid is here. It is not just here in Man City, it is all around the world attacking hard so that’s why we have to be careful and what we want is the next days is for them not to have symptoms and recover.”

AFP

‘Injuries Are Normal’: Mourinho Takes Swipe At Wounded Liverpool Ahead Showdown

File photo: Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on September 20, 2020. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Jose Mourinho took a swipe at title rivals, Liverpool, on Tuesday as the Tottenham manager claimed the Premier League champions do not have an injury crisis.

Jurgen Klopp’s side will be without a host of injured stars including Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Diego Jota and Thiago Alcantara when leaders Tottenham face second-placed Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Kostas Tsimikas and James Milner are also sidelined for Liverpool, while Naby Keita and Joel Matip could miss out due to injury issues.

But Mourinho insisted Liverpool’s strongest team has not been affected because Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk is their only significant absentee.

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“I think Alisson is not injured. Alexander-Arnold is not injured. Matip, I believe that he’s going to play. Fabinho is not injured. Robertson is not injured. Henderson is not injured. Wijnaldum is not injured. Salah is not injured, Firmino is not injured, Mane is not injured,” Mourinho told reporters on Tuesday.

“Van Dijk is injured and Van Dijk is a very good player of course. But give me a Liverpool list of injuries and compare that list with what is the best Liverpool team.

“I can give you a list of 10 injuries at Tottenham. We have two kids of the Under-16s with injuries, we have two others in the Under-21s and two in the Under-23s, we have Lamela and Tanganga. And here is a list of 10 players.

“But is Lloris injured? No. Alderweireld injured? No. Dier injured? No. Reguilon injured no? Harry Kane injured? No. Son injured? No. Lucas injured? No. So where are the injuries?

“Injuries are normal. James Milner is injured, Lamela is injured. You know. Every club has injuries now and again. Liverpool has a big injury which is Van Dijk.”

– Results machine –

Tottenham are unbeaten in 11 Premier Leagues games since losing to Everton on the opening weekend of the season.

Chasing a first top-flight title since 1961, Tottenham sit above Liverpool on goal difference and must avoid defeat on Wednesday to retain pole position.

Klopp praised Mourinho on Tuesday for the work he has done at Tottenham since replacing Mauricio Pochettino last season.

The Liverpool boss said Mourinho had turned Tottenham into a “results machine”.

But Mourinho is adamant his side are still behind Liverpool in their development.

“Jurgen says that because if you look to our results this season, we lost one in the Premier League and we lost one in the Europa League so our results are very positive,” the Mourinho said.

“But I think it’s too early, and the period of good results is about a few months and a results machine of course is much more than that.

“A result machine is what Liverpool has been for the past couple of years, a result machine was what my Chelsea was in the period we won the two consecutive titles.

“We are a good team that works hard but I would say Liverpool is the result of if I’m not wrong 1,894 days of work with Jurgen — 1,894. If I’m wrong I’m wrong by a few days.

“We are the result of work of 390 days, but these 390 days are fake, because probably lots of these days were not even days of work but days of quarantine, days of being at home unable to work.

“So from almost 2,000 to 300. For us to be able to compete at the level we’re doing I can only give credit to the players and be very, very happy with what they’re doing.”

Tottenham are likely to be without Gareth Bale at Anfield as the Wales forward is suffering from an non-coronavirus related illness.

AFP

Preview: Liverpool Face Early Test In Title Defence Against Chelsea

File photo: Chelsea’s French defender Kurt Zouma (L) vies with Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on July 22, 2020. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP).

 

Liverpool face an early test of their Premier League title defence against Chelsea this weekend as Manchester City and Manchester United launch their quest to be champions.

Arsenal, Everton and Leicester hope to build on encouraging opening wins while Jose Mourinho needs a morale-boosting victory for Tottenham.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the action.

Will big-spending Chelsea make Liverpool pay?

Chelsea’s meeting with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday has added edge after a feisty exchange between the managers over transfer spending.

The London club finished 33 points behind the champions last season but have splashed out around £200 million ($259 million) on new players.

 

Brazilian defender, Thiago is on an initial one-year deal with Chelsea. Photo: [email protected] FC

 

By contrast, Liverpool have been relatively quiet, adding just Greece left-back Kostas Tsimikas so far, with Spain midfielder Thiago Alcantara likely to follow.

Jurgen Klopp pointedly said Liverpool could not spend in the same way as clubs owned by “countries” and “oligarchs” such as City and Chelsea during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Frank Lampard, who also became embroiled in a spat with Liverpool’s bench in July, pointed out the Anfield side had spent big in previous seasons as they built their title-winning side.

Liverpool will be keen to cut out the defensive errors they committed in a 4-3 win against newly-promoted Leeds, but Mohamed Salah looked in fine early season form as he scored a hat-trick on the opening weekend.

liverpool-epl-champions
This is Liverpool’s first EPL crown in 30 years. Photo: Twitter/Liverpool FC

 

Chelsea were also unconvincing winners against Brighton in their opening match, but Timo Werner, who chose to join the Blues despite interest from Liverpool, did impress in winning a penalty against the Seagulls.

Manchester City’s tough task

Manchester City are the bookmakers’ favourites to land a third Premier League trophy in four seasons but face a tough opener against Wolves.

City boss Pep Guardiola has shored up his defence by signing Netherlands international Nathan Ake and has added to his rich attacking options, landing Ferran Torres from Valencia.

City scored 102 goals last season as they finished second, but lost nine matches as they surrendered their crown to Liverpool.

Both Manchester clubs are starting a week later than other sides due to their European commitments last season.

Guardiola will be painfully aware that his team must be more consistent this campaign and he cannot afford to let Klopp’s men open up an early lead.

But he will feel nervous as he travels to face Wolves, who beat City twice last season, after a disrupted pre-season.

City duo Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, while Phil Foden was sent home by England after breaking coronavirus protocols while on international duty.

Can Man Utd progress?

The challenge facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a match against Crystal Palace is how to improve on last season’s third-place finish.

Midfielder Bruno Fernandes was the catalyst as United put together a long unbeaten run, with a front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood providing the firepower.

But United have been relatively quiet in the transfer window, so far adding just midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax, despite persistent speculation linking them with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

“When we signed Bruno Fernandes, we knew we needed that kind of player — now we’ve signed Donny and he’s a type of player I felt we needed in the squad,” said Solskjaer.

Arsenal’s feel-good factor

Arsenal are buoyant after launching their season with a 3-0 win at newly-promoted Fulham and tying down captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for three more years.

Mikel Arteta’s men, who host West Ham on Saturday, finished down in eighth place last season but ended their campaign on a high, winning the FA Cup for a record 14th time.

They followed that up by beating Liverpool on penalties in the season-opening Community Shield before the announcement on Aubameyang this week that fans had craved.

 

File photo: Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP).

 

 

“I want to become an Arsenal legend just like Thierry (Henry), Wrighty (Ian Wright), (Tony) Adams and (Dennis) Bergkamp,” he said.

Premier League Fixtures This Weekend

Saturday

Everton v West Brom (1130 GMT), Leeds v Fulham (1400), Manchester United v Crystal Palace (1630), Arsenal v West Ham (1900)

Sunday

Southampton v Tottenham (1100), Newcastle v Brighton (1300), Chelsea v Liverpool (1530), Leicester v Burnley (1800)

Monday

Aston Villa v Sheffield United (1700), Wolves v Manchester City (1915)

AFP

Premier League Release Fixtures List For 2020/2021 Season

The finished new mural of Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifting the Premier League trophy created by graffiti artists MurWalls in collaboration with The Redmen TV, independent Liverpool FC media, is seen on the side of a house outside Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on July 25, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP
The finished new mural of Liverpool’s English midfielder Jordan Henderson lifting the Premier League trophy created by graffiti artists MurWalls in collaboration with The Redmen TV, independent Liverpool FC media, is seen on the side of a house outside Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on July 25, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Leeds’ first Premier League game for 16 years will see Marcelo Bielsa’s men travel to defending champions Liverpool, while Manchester City and Manchester United will miss the opening weekend to give them extra time to recover from a late end to the 2019/20 season.

All sides were guaranteed by the football authorities to have at least 30 days off between the two seasons after the late finish to the campaign caused by a three-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City and United were eliminated from the Champions League and Europa League respectively last weekend, three weeks after the end of the Premier League season.

Chelsea and Wolves will start their seasons on Monday September 14th after they too were involved in European competition into August.

Leeds are back in the top-flight for the first time since 2003/04, but could not have asked for a tougher start, on September 12 against the champions who have not lost a league game at Anfield in more than three years.

Tottenham host Everton, Arsenal travel to newly-promoted Fulham and Chelsea are away to Brighton on the opening weekend.

City and Liverpool are scheduled to meet on the weekends of November 7 at the Etihad and February 6 at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s men do not face traditional rivals Manchester United until 2021 with the Red Devils visiting Anfield on January 16 and Liverpool heading to Old Trafford on May 1.

 

AFP

Giroud Strike Hands Chelsea Narrow Win Over Villa

chelsea-news-giroud.
Chelsea’s French striker Olivier Giroud ( R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on June 21, 2020. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

 

Chelsea staged an impressive second half fightback to beat Aston Villa 2-1 as Olivier Giroud’s winner consolidated their place in the Premier League’s top four on Sunday.

Frank Lampard’s side were rocked when Kortney Hause put Villa ahead against the run of play in the first half.

But Christian Pulisic came off the bench to equalise after the break before Giroud bagged his fourth club goal of the season two minutes later.

Chelsea’s quick-fire blitz moved the fourth placed west Londoners five points clear of Manchester United in fifth in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

A first away league win of 2020 was the ideal way for Chelsea to return to action in their first match since the Premier League was suspended in March due to the coronavirus.

Villa’s failure to hold onto their lead leaves Dean Smith’s second bottom team one point from safety with eight games left to avoid relegation.

As has been customary in every match since the restart on Wednesday, a minute’s silence was held for victims of COVID-19, while both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter cause.

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek was making his first Premier League start since May 2019 after recovering from a serious Achilles tendon injury sustained during a friendly in the United States.

Loftus-Cheek, who had been close to full fitness before the lockdown, nearly marked his return with a goal when he headed just wide after powering past Tyrone Mings.

Lampard says his recent signings of Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech and Leipzig striker Timo Werner will put pressure on Chelsea’s youngsters to be more consistent next season.

With that message in mind, he picked Giroud up front instead of Tammy Abraham, keeping faith with the French veteran after his impressive form before the hiatus.

Mason Mount, another of Chelsea’s breakthrough stars, did start and the midfielder tested Villa keeper Orjan Nyland with a stinging long-range drive.

– Inspired move –

Nyland got away with a terrible blunder during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw against Sheffield United when he stumbled over the goalline while holding onto the ball, only for Hawk-Eye to fail to award the clear goal.

And he was fortunate to escape after another miscue when Mateo Kovacic’s shot slipped towards his own net before the Norwegian got back to scoop it off the line.

Both teams were given an unwanted soaking when the grass sprinklers briefly spurted into life.

But the sight of Villa, who had lost their last nine Premier League games against top four sides, taking the lead in the 43rd minute was even more unexpected.

Douglas Luiz chipped a delicate cross over the Chelsea defence to Anwar El Ghazi, whose shot was pushed out by Kepa.

With Chelsea’s defence slow to react, Hause alertly flicked home from close-range for his first Premier League goal.

Having held 77 percent of possession, it was yet another case of Chelsea being punished for failing to turn territorial dominance into goals.

Cesar Azpilicueta headed wide from Willian’s cross early in the second half and moments later Lampard sent on Pulisic and Ross Barkley in a bid to ignite Chelsea’s spluttering attack.

It proved an inspired move as US winger Pulisic equalised in the 60th minute.

Azpilicueta whipped over a cross from the right and Pulisic arrived at the far post to guide a half-volley into the roof of the net for his first goal since November.

Two minutes later, Chelsea’s comeback was complete.

Mount and Giroud exchanged passes to open up the Villa defence before Azpilicueta picked out Giroud, whose shot on the turn deflected off Conor Hourihane on its way past Nyland.

A slip by Andreas Christensen gave Jota the chance for a late equaliser, but the Villa substitute dragged his shot wide.

Premier League Fixtures Preview As Arsenal Seek Redemption Against City

premier-league-fixtures-today
The Premier League was put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

The Premier League returns on Wednesday with Manchester City and Arsenal battling each other in one of the mouth-watering fixtures. 

Manchester City are second-place on the league log with 57 points, 25 behind leaders, Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola’s men will only need a miracle to overtake the Reds who will play Everton in their first game after the break occasioned by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Arsenal on the other hand, are ninth on the table having garnered 40 points from 28 matches (they have a game at hand).

City have won all last five matches against the Gunners and will want to extend their winning run tonight.

In the other Premier League fixture for the day, Aston Villa will be away to Sheffield United at the Bramall Lane.

Aston Villa, battling for survival, will fancy a win against  the Blades who are chasing a Champions League spot and on 7th position on the table.

– ‘Odd Experience’ –

With all games being played behind closed doors, players will have to get used to the eerie silence in the usually raucous stands.

Piping crowd chants into stadiums, cardboard cut-outs of supporters and live video fan walls will add colour but the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters admitted there would be something missing without fans.

“It is going to be an odd experience without fans at the stadia,” he said. “We are going to start to witness it from tomorrow evening and the Premier League won’t be back with a capital ‘B’ until fans are back.”

About 300 people will be allowed in stadiums for each match, with strict health protocols in place.

There will be widespread disinfection of changing facilities, dugouts, matchballs, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards.

People other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings.

Players have been told to maintain social-distancing during goal celebrations and banned from spitting.

PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES TODAY

Below are the Premier League fixtures for today as well as their kickoff times: 

epl-fixtures

 

Arsenal Transfers: Julian Draxler Set To Consider ‘New Challenge’

Julian Draxler has handed Arsenal Football Club a boost in their pursuit of the Schalke star after confessing that he was willing to consider his future if an interested suitor activated his release clause.

The Gunners were widely expected to sign the 20-year-old during the January transfer window but the North London club failed to seal a deal before the transfer day deadline.

The Germany international, who has a €45m (£40m) release clause has scored four goals and made five assists in 20 appearances in all competitions this season, a performance which had alerting the Gunners and other European clubs.

Draxler says he is happy with his current situation which allows him to weigh a new challenge if a club is willing to pay his release clause, whilst guaranteeing Schalke good monetary returns.

Draxler told German newspaper WAZ “I prolonged my contract because I feel fine here and the long-term deal shows the appreciation and popularity I enjoy at Schalke.

“It’s no secret that I have a release clause and therefore have the opportunity to consider what is best for my development every year.

“Of course, the clause leaves a lot of room for speculation, but it is also good for both sides.

“It’s good for Schalke because the club does not have to let go of me on the cheap and, in their worst-case scenario, they would still get a lot of money for me.

“And for me it’s good because I can make my own decision if a club decides to pay 45 million euros for me and I want a new challenge.”

Arsene Wenger Hits Back At Jose Mourinho

Arsene Wenger has taken a swipe at Jose Mourinho, claiming his Gunners side are historically mistreated by the fixture list.

Wenger is convinced Arsenal, who are still in three competitions, have been worst hit by the lack of recovery time between matches. He stressed that an independent study has found his club hard done by, compared to other top teams.

He said: “You look at the fixtures and you analyse it, I trust you will give an objective view and you will see that Arsenal is behind all the other teams and in the last five years all the objective studies that have been made have shown that Arsenal (have had) less rest than any other team at the top level in the top four.

“That’s fact, it’s nothing to do with my opinion, it’s an independent company that has made that and they’ve shown that Arsenal has less rest between games than any other team at the top level.”

Wenger’s outburst comes after Mourinho claimed Arsenal “always” receive “the best days to play.”

“It’s not mind games, it’s opinions, but I don’t live with opinions, I live with facts, and the facts are not depending on me, not depending on Mourinho, just depending on objective analysers. A day is 24 hours, and you count how many hours you have rest between two games and we see that I didn’t make this study; it’s just been made with an independent company. I cannot influence that.”

The pair have aimed swipes at each in the past week after Wenger criticized Mourinho’s decision to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United as having no respect for “fairness”, and Mourinho responded by saying Wenger’s moaning is “normal because he always does.”

United have faced Chelsea twice, it’s possible Mata can take on the Blues’ title rivals on more than two occasions, a situation Wenger believes is not right during the January transfer window.

Wenger and Mourinho have shared a strained relationship since the Portuguese manager’s first stint at Stamford Bridge, and it seems not much has changed.

Arsenal are two points ahead of Chelsea heading into the next round of matches.