PL Sunday preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea; Liverpool, Man City in action
The calendar year of 2019 has just three Premier League fixtures remaining, featuring four of the league’s “big six” sides in action on Sunday…
Arsenal v. Chelsea — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Sunday’s big game kicks off proceedings, as Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Mikel Arteta’s debut as manager didn’t go according to plan, but the Gunners managed to fight back from 1-0 down and draw away to Bournemouth on Thursday. That’s the positive spin. Here’s the harsh reality: they have won just one of their last 11 games in the PL. With fellow top-four challengers Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United each spinning their wheels in recent weeks, Arsenal have had every opportunity to make up ground in the race for Champions League qualification, but have done nothing but widen the gap. A win over Chelsea would see them cut the deficit to five points; a loss would see it balloon to 11.
As for Chelsea, Frank Lampard is presently navigating his first turbulent period as the Blues boss. With five defeats in their last seven games, what once looked a surefire top-four finish is suddenly very much in question. Tammy Abraham continues to lead Chelsea in goals scored this season with 11, but the 22-year-old hasn’t scored in a season-high four straight games, since a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Dec. 4.
Liverpool v. Wolves — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Wolverhampton Wanderers did Liverpool a solid, if unnecessary, favor when they came back from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City and drop them 14 points back of the league-leading Reds, who also have a game in hand. On Sunday, Liverpool will be looking to thank them with yet another ruthless dismantling as they set the world alight en route to their first PL title since 1990. With 52 points from their first 54 games, Jurgen Klopp’s men have been effectively perfect this season and look set to break a handful of all-time PL records set by Man City just two years ago.
Even before knocking off the two-time defending champions, Wolves were riding a hot streak with just one defeat in their last 14 games (7W-6D-1L). Nuno Espirito Santo’s side finished seventh last season and looks more than capable of going a place (or two) higher this time around. A win would see them go as high as fourth (Chelsea’s result pending) to finish 2019. Raul Jimenez is once again leading the way with eight goals and six assists through his side’s first 19 games, with two goals and three assists coming in his last four appearances.
Man City v. Sheffield United — 1 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
While Man City have been perhaps the most disappointing side, based on their own otherworldly standards and expectation, Sheffield United have unquestionably been the biggest and most pleasantly surprising side in the PL this season. The newly promoted Blades entered the weekend in seventh place, just three points out of the top-four. They haven’t scored a ton of goals (their 23 goals scored ranks in the bottom-third of the PL), but they’ve been nearly faultless defensively with just 17 conceded (second-fewest in the league, behind only Liverpool) though 19 games.
In a strange twist, Chris Wilder’s side has been marginally better away from home (15 points) than they have back at Bramall Lane (14 points). Of the 17 goals they have conceded, just seven were allowed in away games. A win at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday would make it three straight away victories for Sheffield United and give the outside world plenty of reason to take notice and take them very seriously.