Premier League: Everton v Aston Villa

Everton are on the hunt for back-to-back top flight wins, but it has been an inability to string results together which has scuppered their Champions League hopes.

Currently in 8th, the Toffees can still finish in the top 4 but it is certainly an outside bet with Tottenham, Liverpool and West Ham United all above them in the standings.

The gap to Chelsea in 4th is 6 points – so the Londoners are catchable – but Everton will need to cast aside their patchy form and see off Villa to stand much of a chance of doing so.

Aston Villa meanwhile travel to Merseyside 11th in the Premier League after 32 games, 7 points behind Everton but just a couple behind Arsenal and Leeds who are ahead of them in the table.

Consistency has also been the operative word this season for Dean Smith’s side, with 13 wins, 6 draws and 13 defeats during the campaign to date a clear indicator of their hit-and-miss form.

A top half finish is surely the aim for Villa from here on in – something which will be considered a marked improvement on last season where the club flirted dangerously close with relegation.

However, the second city outfit will need a better return than the single point they have scooped from their last 3 away fixtures against Sheffield United, Newcastle and Liverpool respectively.

In terms of fitness, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti remains without Jean Philippe-Gbamin and Abdoulaye Doucoure, but Michael Keane looks set to be available after recovering from a thigh complaint.

Aston Villa are still missing Morgan Sanson, Trezeguet and the influential Jack Grealish, but Matty Cash will return from the suspension he picked up against Manchester City.

Everton v Aston Villa begins at 8pm on Saturday 1st May.

Premier League: Chelsea v Fulham

The Blues are off the back of a 1-1 first leg draw in the Spanish capital on Tuesday, although do have the advantage of an away goal in their Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.

Chelsea’s performance was one that should have warranted more goals, but Thomas Tuchel will be satisfied with a score draw on the road in Europe.

However, attentions now turn to Premier League action as West London neighbours Fulham make the short trip to Stamford Bridge.

With victory over West Ham in their last top flight game, Chelsea have established a small points cushion in the top 4, but will need to avoid a slip up against relegation-threatened Fulham as not to allow the chasing pack a way back in.

The Cottagers have it all to do to preserve their Premier League status and head to the Bridge 18th in the table and 7 points from safety.

Brighton are the side Scott Parker’s side are hoping to chase down but they appear very much on the horizon for Fulham rather than in the immediate crosshairs.

It’s improbable but not impossible that Fulham do survive, but they are in must-win territory at Stamford Bridge and can’t leave Chelsea with anything other than 3 points if they are going to pull off a great escape.

A draw with Arsenal last time out ended a run of 4 Premier League defeats in a row, although Fulham will feel they should’ve won the game – Eddie Nketiah’s 97th minute leveller for the Gunners was a gut punch to Scott Parker and his players.

To make matters worse for Fulham, their recent away record against Chelsea makes for grim reading, too. You have to go all the way back to October 1979 – 18 matches ago – for the last time the Cottagers won a league game at Stamford Bridge.

Fulham will need to crack a Chelsea defence with one of the tightest records in the division – a difficult task considering the Cottagers’ 25 goals this season is the second fewest in the Premier League.

In terms of team news, Chelsea were without midfielder Mateo Kovacic against former club Real Madrid midweek and he may miss out again at the weekend should he not recover from a thigh injury in time.

Aside from the Croatian, Thomas Tuchel has a fully-fit squad to select from against Fulham.

For the visitors, Scott Parker continues to be without long-term absentee Tom Cairney, whilst Terence Kongolo is also unavailable.

There are doubts over whether Kenny Tete will feature as he continues to recover from a bout of coronavirus. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ineligible to play as he comes up against his parent club.

Chelsea v Fulham kicks off at 5.30pm on Saturday 1st May.

Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur v Sheffield United

Tottenham Hotspur play their first home game under caretaker manager Ryan Mason on Sunday night, as basement boys Sheffield United visit North London.

Mason’s managerial career so far has been an entertaining one, relying on a last minute goal to beat Southampton in his first game in the dugout, before losing the Carabao Cup final to Manchester City last weekend. And that’s not even mentioning the Super League debacle.

For Sheffield United, it’s been a disappointing slog of a campaign. The term “second season syndrome” is a common cliché in football, but certainly seems to apply to the Blades, who have capitulated after one of the best debut seasons ever last year.

Like Spurs, the Blades have a caretaker in charge of proceedings going into this one, with Paul Heckingbottom reportedly in the frame to take the job on a full-time basis in the summer, when United’s bid for a swift return to the top flight begins.

Tottenham will have Harry Kane available for the visit of the Blades, after fears of another ankle injury weren’t as bad as first feared. The England striker didn’t manage a shot against Man City in the Carabao Cup final, but will fancy his chances against a defence that has shipped 56 goals this season.

Ben Davies has missed the last four games with injury and is sidelined again, but Matt Doherty has a chance of returning after missing the last five.

Sheffield United are hoping to have Sander Berge back available soon. The Norwegian midfielder has missed three months with a knee tendon problem, but is back in training and should make a return before the season end. Oli McBurnie, Jack Robinson, Jack O’Connell, Chris Basham and Billy Sharp are all out with various injuries.

Spurs need to be practically flawless between now and the end of the season if they are to qualify for Europe next season, and will go above at least one of West Ham and Liverpool if they beat the Blades, with the Hammers not playing until Monday night.

Sheffield United can make it to 20 points if they get a win, a small milestone in an otherwise miserable season.

Tottenham Hotspur take on Sheffield United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, May 3rd. Kick-off is at 7.15pm.

Premier League: Man United v Liverpool

A potentially crucial clash in the title race is on offer at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United host Liverpool, hoping to keep the league title away from Manchester for another week at least.

If Man City beat Crystal Palace on Saturday and Liverpool beat United on Sunday, City will be crowned champions for the third time in four years, wrestling the crown away from the Reds after just under a year in Merseyside.

United can go into this one as strong as possible too, having enjoyed a big win over Roma in the Europa League on Thursday night, which takes much of the pressure off the second leg next week.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no new injury worries when Liverpool make the trip down the M62, with only Phil Jones and Anthony Martial definitely missing. Edinson Cavani may start again, and has this week been reported to sign an extension to his deal at Old Trafford, which was set to expire at the end of this season.

Liverpool were given a boost this week by the return to the training pitch of Virgil Van Dijk, who was filmed running after his ACL injury suffered against Everton. The Dutch centre-back isn’t in condition to make the squad though, but hopes to return before the season end.

Fellow defenders Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are also out, and Nat Phillips is 50/50 with a hamstring problem, meaning Fabinho could continue alongside Ozan Kabak in defence. Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi are also set to miss out through injury.

If Liverpool can pull off the win and send the title one step closer to City, they’ll go above West Ham into fifth ahead of the Hammers’ clash with Burnley on Monday night, keeping their slim hopes of Champions League qualification alive going into the final four games.

A win for United would keep the title away from their city for another week at least, although whatever happens this weekend, they’ll stay second in the table.

Manchester United take on Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, May 2nd. Kick-off is at 4.30pm.

Premier League: Newcastle v Arsenal

Riding high after making it four games without defeat, Newcastle United host Arsenal on Sunday hoping to extend their best run of the season so far.

The Gunners come into the game in typically topsy-turvy form. It looked like their season was improving when they beat Slavia Prague 4-0 in the Europa League quarter final two weeks ago, but a draw with Fulham, defeat to Everton and a loss to Villarreal on Thursday has once again put Mikel Arteta back at square one.

With the crucial second leg against the Spaniards looming on Thursday, Arsenal may have an eye on that game rather than the one at St James’ Park, as they sit tenth in the Premier League table, with European qualification looking dead in the water.

That will be good news for Newcastle, who can practically guarantee another year in the top flight if they win and move onto 39 points.

The two sides have differing luck with regards to injuries going into this one as well. Steve Bruce has Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson ready to start together for the first time in 11 games, having slowly introduced Wilson back into the team after a hamstring injury. Saint-Maximin has been in fine form since returning from a groin problem, and has one goal and two assists in his last three outings.

Fabian Schar made his return from a knee injury for Newcastle’s under-23’s on Monday afternoon, playing 45 minutes of a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. He could make the squad, but after 11 weeks injured is unlikely to get any time on the pitch.

There’s a slight doubt over Matt Ritchie, but Bruce expects the former Bournemouth man to be available after a calf problem. Recent super sub Joe Willock, who has three goals in his last three games, is unable to face his parent club, while Jamaal Lascelles, Ryan Fraser, Karl Darlow and Isaac Hayden are all out with injuries.

Arteta named an unusual side to face Villarreal on Thursday night, opting for a formation which used three recognised defenders, seven midfielders and no strikers. Granit Xhaka filled in at left-back in the absence of Kieran Tierney, and Nicolas Pepe played up front.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played five minutes in the Europa League after recovering from malaria and Arteta confirmed he’s not fit enough to start, while Alex Lacazette is also missing. Pepe could continue up front, or Eddie Nketiah could come in for a rare start.

If Newcastle can get the win, they could move as high as 13th by the end of the weekend, while Arsenal will go back above Leeds into 9th if they can better their result against Brighton.

Newcastle United take on Arsenal at St James’ Park on Sunday, May 2nd. Kick-off is at 2pm.

Premier League: Brighton v Leeds United

Brighton and Hove Albion could go within one win of guaranteeing their Premier League safety this weekend, as Leeds United travel to the South Coast to face the Seagulls on Saturday.

Despite being winless in their last four games, including a shocking defeat to Sheffield United last week, Brighton are seven points clear of 18th-placed Fulham, and could make it ten with just 12 points to play for if they can do the double over Leeds.

Neal Maupay’s first half strike was enough to separate the sides when they met back in January, but the Frenchman has only found the net once since then. Scoring goals has been one of Brighton’s biggest issues this season, and they’ve failed to find the net at all since Danny Welbeck scored in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at the start of April.

Going into the game, Graham Potter will be without long-term absentees Solly March and Tariq Lamptey, who both won’t play again this season. There’s also a doubt over Romanian striker Florin Andone, while a decision on Adam Lallana will be made as late as possible.

There’s better news in the form of Ben White being available again after suspension. The defender enjoyed a loan spell at Elland Road last season and was linked with a move to Yorkshire permanently, but has been a mainstay in the Brighton defence since returning. South African striker Percy Tau is also back in contention after a thigh injury.

Leeds captain Liam Cooper will serve the final match of his suspension after his lunge on Man City’s Gabriel Jesus. Winger Raphinha is still out with a thigh injury, and Adam Forshaw remains sidelined with a muscle problem. There’s better news in the shape of Rodrigo, who should be back after missing the last three games, while Helder Costa should be fine after a back injury.

Going into this game, the Whites have won 14, lost 14, scored 50 and conceded 50 goals this season, giving their first campaign back in the Premier League some unique balance. If they can turn those stats into positives by beating Brighton, they’ll stay above Arsenal in ninth going into the final four games.

Should Brighton end their recent poor form and take the points, Newcastle, Southampton and Burnley are all in their sights, and they could end the weekend in 14th, and planning for life in the top flight next season.

Brighton take on Leeds United at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, May 1st. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Premier League: Southampton v Leicester

As the Premier League heads towards the run-in, Friday night sees a repeat of one of the most famous fixtures in recent memory, as Southampton host Leicester City.

When the two sides met at St Mary’s last season, long before coronavirus had even been heard of, Leicester ran out 9-0 winners, with Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy both helping themselves to hat-tricks.

Southampton have barely played a game since that night without the result being mentioned, although losing by the same scoreline to Manchester United this season didn’t exactly help.

In fairness, the game in 2019 actually made Saints improve massively, and they enjoyed an upturn in form on the back of the hammering, one that continued all the way until November 2020, when they briefly topped the Premier League table.

But since then, the rollercoaster that is Southampton has taken a serious dip. After beating Liverpool back in January, Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men have won just two league games, against Burnley and Sheffield United, and all hopes of a top half finish have went up in smoke. If results go against them this weekend, they could be 17th going into the final five games.

Injury news isn’t helping them either. Danny Ings, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand are all out with injury, with Hassenhuttl not convinced that the England striker is going to play again this season. Given that Ings has expressed a desire to move to a bigger club in the summer, it’s plausible that we’ve seen the last of him in a Southampton shirt.

Leicester took a big step towards securing third place as they came from behind to beat Crystal Palace on Monday night, with Kelechi Iheanacho turning in another man of the match performance.

Nine of the Nigerian’s 10 goals this season have came in his last seven games, making him the most in-form striker in the Premier League right now. His partnership with Jamie Vardy has given Leicester a double threat up front, which looks set to secure them Champions League football next season.

Things are going so well at the King Power that this week Brendan Rodgers refused to entertain links with the manager’s job at Spurs, instead insisting he can continue on a journey with Leicester.

Regarding on-pitch matters, Rodgers has no fresh injury worries to contend with ahead of the trip to the south coast. James Justin, Harvey Barnes and Wes Morgan are the only definite absentees.

That means the back three system should remain, with Wesley Fofana continuing alongside Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu. During the game against Palace, the game was paused so that the defender could take on some fluids as he is currently fasting during Ramadan. With kick-off coming during the sundown hours again on Friday, a similar agreement is set to be agreed by both clubs and the referee before the game.

If Southampton can start the weekend by taking the points, they’ll move above Burnley and Crystal Palace into 13th in the table, and ease any creeping fears of a late-season relegation battle. If Leicester win, they’ll extend the gap between themselves and Chelsea to seven points with just 12 left to play for this season.

Southampton take on Leicester City on Friday, April 30th. Kick-off is at 8pm.

Premier League: Crystal Palace v Manchester City

Fresh from their Champions League semi-final first leg win over PSG on Wednesday night, Manchester City could clinch their third Premier League title in four years this weekend, providing they beat Crystal Palace on Saturday.

If City can see off the Eagles and Manchester United lose to Liverpool on Sunday, City will be champions again, capturing a second trophy in a season where they’ve still got another to play for.

It may sound like a gimme of a fixture on the face of things, with Palace currently in mid-table obscurity and very much “on the beach” in terms of how much they need to win at Selhurst Park, and Pep Guardiola’s side with the bit between their teeth at the business end of the season. But as City fans will know, Palace have caused them issues in recent years.

Andros Townsend’s goal of the season contender at the Etihad in 2018 came during a 3-2 win for Roy Hodgson’s side, and a 2-2 draw in 2020 also provided a stumbling block as Liverpool took the title from Manchester for the first time.

However, Palace haven’t beaten City on their own patch since 2015, when Glenn Murray and Jason Puncheon scored, with Yaya Toure’s late strike only coming as consolation.

Going into this one, Hodgson has as many as six players missing for the visit of City, with James McArthur, Conor Wickham and Nathan Ferguson certain to miss out. Gary Cahill, James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho are also major doubts, as the Palace manager patches together a defence once again.

For Manchester City, only John Stones is definitely out, having been sent off against Aston Villa. The England defender missed the League Cup final win over Spurs, and will miss this game and the one against Chelsea next week before he’s available again.

That means Nathan Ake could come in for a rare start, as Guardiola rotates his side once again with the second leg against PSG looming on Tuesday. Sergio Aguero may also start, while Ferran Torres, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus are all expected to be involved also.

If Palace can deny City by taking the points in South London, they can go level with Wolves in 12th, having played a game less. If City get the win, they’ll watch Manchester United take on Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, knowing they’ll be confirmed champions if the home side lose.

Crystal Palace take on Manchester City on Saturday, May 1st. Kick-off is at 12.30pm.

Premier League: Southampton v Crystal Palace

As the Premier League heads towards the run-in, Friday night sees a repeat of one of the most famous fixtures in recent memory, as Southampton host Leicester City.

When the two sides met at St Mary’s last season, long before coronavirus had even been heard of, Leicester ran out 9-0 winners, with Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy both helping themselves to hat-tricks.

Southampton have barely played a game since that night without the result being mentioned, although losing by the same scoreline to Manchester United this season didn’t exactly help.

In fairness, the game in 2019 actually made Saints improve massively, and they enjoyed an upturn in form on the back of the hammering, one that continued all the way until November 2020, when they briefly topped the Premier League table.

But since then, the rollercoaster that is Southampton has taken a serious dip. After beating Liverpool back in January, Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men have won just two league games, against Burnley and Sheffield United, and all hopes of a top half finish have went up in smoke. If results go against them this weekend, they could be 17th going into the final five games.

Injury news isn’t helping them either. Danny Ings, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand are all out with injury, with Hassenhuttl not convinced that the England striker is going to play again this season. Given that Ings has expressed a desire to move to a bigger club in the summer, it’s plausible that we’ve seen the last of him in a Southampton shirt.

Leicester took a big step towards securing third place as they came from behind to beat Crystal Palace on Monday night, with Kelechi Iheanacho turning in another man of the match performance.

Nine of the Nigerian’s 10 goals this season have came in his last seven games, making him the most in-form striker in the Premier League right now. His partnership with Jamie Vardy has given Leicester a double threat up front, which looks set to secure them Champions League football next season.

Things are going so well at the King Power that this week Brendan Rodgers refused to entertain links with the manager’s job at Spurs, instead insisting he can continue on a journey with Leicester.

Regarding on-pitch matters, Rodgers has no fresh injury worries to contend with ahead of the trip to the south coast. James Justin, Harvey Barnes and Wes Morgan are the only definite absentees.

That means the back three system should remain, with Wesley Fofana continuing alongside Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu. During the game against Palace, the game was paused so that the defender could take on some fluids as he is currently fasting during Ramadan. With kick-off coming during the sundown hours again on Friday, a similar agreement is set to be agreed by both clubs and the referee before the game.

If Southampton can start the weekend by taking the points, they’ll move above Burnley and Crystal Palace into 13th in the table, and ease any creeping fears of a late-season relegation battle. If Leicester win, they’ll extend the gap between themselves and Chelsea to seven points with just 12 left to play for this season.

Southampton take on Leicester City on Friday, April 30th. Kick-off is at 8pm.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel unconvinced of new Champions League format

The German feels the announcement and subsequent swift demise of the European Super League last week allowed the revamped group stage for Europe’s premier club competition to go under the radar.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola last week expressed their discontent over the increase in games and the lack of consultation with coaches and players, and Tuchel is not a fan either.

“I’m not sure if I like it because I can only see more games out of it,” he said. “And more games in a schedule that we have… it’s very hard for me to be excited at all.

“All these discussions about Super League made (everyone) forget that we have now a new format of Champions League very soon.”

The competition is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams, from the 2024-25 season, with a new-look group stage that will see all teams play at least 10 fixtures.

“Did they ask any coach about this?” Tuchel continued. “I don’t think so. They did not ask me. Did they ask any player about it? I don’t think so.

“We have so many new formats – Nations League, a new World Championship for clubs coming soon… so much new stuff, so many more games, more teams in the European Championship in the summer.

“It’s just more and more and more games – not more quality, just more games.

“Who should play these games? And at the same time we have three substitutes here in the Premier League, in the toughest competitions. No, I’m not happy about this format, not at all.”

Blues supporters’ vehement public protests forced the club into a U-turn on their Super League participation, and Tuchel has called on fans to back his team in their first Champions League semi-final since 2014.

“We need all the support to be able to overcome this huge step in these two games,” he said.

“So, put your anger to the decision, put your anger to the way the decision was presented, which is well understood by me and absolutely fine by me.

“But don’t put it on the team and never doubt the love that all the people here in Cobham and I’m sure all the other clubs, don’t doubt the love everyone has for this game.

“And you will see all the passion on the pitch (on Tuesday) again.”

Liverpool release latest accounts showing pre-tax loss of £46m

The loss of significant media revenue and match day income due to Covid-enforced empty grounds contributed to the huge difference, and the PA news agency report that the total impact of the pandemic will hit the club to the tune of £120m by the time supporters are allowed to return.

In March 2020 the club announced a profit of £42m, the fifth time in the previous six years Liverpool had been in the black, but that surplus was wiped out as a result of last season initially being suspended in March and then restarted behind closed doors.

The impact of the pandemic is largely why club owners Fenway Sports Group last month sold a 10 per cent share for £543m to private investment firm RedBird Capital in order to provide continuity and stability in a volatile economy.

There was a financial boost from the club winning their first Premier League title as, although that did not happen until June 2020, Jurgen Klopp’s side were on the verge of being crowned champions when lockdown was imposed.

Also included in their income for the year was about £3.4m for winning the 2019 Champions League final as it fell just outside the previous financial reporting period, which benefited from the huge amount of revenue for reaching the final, and £3.8m for winning the UEFA Super Cup in August 2019.

Eight new partnerships were announced during this period while Carlsberg renewed their existing long-term association.

As a result commercial revenue rose by £29m to £217m but that could not compensate for media revenue dropping by £59m to £202m and matchday revenue was down £13m to £71m. Wages across the club also rose to £325m from £310m.

LFC Retail experienced a significant increase in growth with the Premier League champions’ new Nike home kit breaking record sales while international expansion plans also added growth via new retail stores in Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

“This financial reporting period was up to May 2020 so approaching a year ago now,” said managing director Andy Hughes.

“It does, however, begin to demonstrate the initial financial impact of the pandemic and the significant reductions in key revenue streams.

“We were in a solid financial position prior to the pandemic and since this reporting period we have continued to manage our costs effectively and navigate our way through such an unprecedented period.

“We can now look ahead to the conclusion of this season and hopefully a more normal start to next season.

“It’s no secret that supporters have been greatly missed at Anfield over the past year and we look forward to having them back.”

Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust outline plans for protest against current Spurs ownership

The move comes after the fan group called for the club’s executive board to resign in the wake of their involvement in the failed European Super League plan, insisting “change is coming”.

Some fans gathered at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to protest ahead of last week’s Premier League win over Southampton, but with up to 10,000 supporters expected to be allowed in for the Villa game early next month, THST is planning an organised protest.

It said in a statement: “Events of the last week have demonstrated beyond doubt that there must be change at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

“The actions of the current executive board have inflicted substantial reputational damage on our club as a result of their involvement in the discredited European Super League, risking damaging consequences.

“And despite the many achievements off the pitch, the failings on it are all too clear. We know there is growing supporter anger with the current club board and owners. We understand that. We need to focus that anger.

“Last Friday, our biggest-ever members’ meeting called for the executive board of THFC to resign and for the club’s owners to work with us to create a new board structure that better connects to our principles and priorities, better reflects the diversity of our fanbase, and that would prevent a repeat of the ESL debacle from ever shaming our club again.

“We understand the calls for “ENIC Out”. But simply calling for the board and owners to resign or sell without influencing what comes next achieves very little in the long term.

“The anticipated return of up to 10,000 fans to our stadium in May for the last Premier League home game of the campaign against Aston Villa gives us an opportunity to make our feelings clear.

“We need to do so in a positive and unified way that gets us the greatest possible support, and stays within Covid regulations under step three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. We will announce further plans via this website and on our social media channels.

“Change is coming and collectively we can positively influence that change. The last week has shown how much power fans coming together with one voice can have. We intend to use that voice to affect lasting change at THFC.”