We have a big day of football in store, with three games to get our teeth into. Kicking off simultaneously at 14:05 is Manchester United vs Liverpool and Arsenal vs Southampton in the Premier League. Then, at 16:30, Chelsea and Manchester City face off in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley. It’s an exciting day and we could be in for three very good games. Let’s take a look at each.
Manchester United vs Liverpool
Old Trafford plays host to one of the biggest games of the season for anybody involved with Manchester United or Liverpool. This is the kind of game both sets of fans scan for immediately upon the announcement of the Premier League fixtures before each season. It’s always a massive occasion, but there’s so much on the line today. This game could have huge implications on the Premier League title and the Champions League qualification spots.
Man United are in an awful position this season, as they have to watch one of their two biggest rivals win the Premier League. But there’s absolutely no doubting who they would rather win the title. Manchester City are their clear preference as they absolutely despise Liverpool. And they’ll be going out there today absolutely desperate to derail Liverpool’s title challenge. Winning the game wouldn’t quite ensure they don’t win the title, but it would really hurt them and could give Man City the edge.
And, apart from that, there’s their own season to worry about. Man United are in a real battle to finish in the top four. They currently occupy fourth place but are just one point ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea. A win today could push them on their way to finishing in the top four.
Liverpool are desperate to win the game and return back to the top of the Premier League. A draw would also see them overtake Man City, as they’re currently level on points, with just goal difference separating the two. This is Liverpool’s game in hand, and a win, which would put them three points clear at the top of the table, could be huge in this race. But even a draw may not be seen as the worst result in the world.
Liverpool won’t be too worried about hurting Man United’s top four challenge as they have enough to worry about themselves. They’ll mostly only care about themselves, but putting a dent in United’s confidence would certainly be a bonus. That’s definitely not their main concern, though.
We’re set to see a good game today. Both sides will be going out there aiming to win the game, and we should see a real attacking contest. That hasn’t always been the case when these two have played in recent years, with Jose Mourinho’s cautious approach mostly to blame. Things are different now, though, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out to impress. A big win over United’s biggest rivals that sets them on their way to finishing in the top four could be a big boost to his prospects of getting the United job full-time. And, of course, Jurgen Klopp will always send his team out to go for the win. This one could be a real end-to-end cracker.
Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard have a chance of being fit for this clash. Solskjaer sounded more hopeful than expectant, and it sounds like there’s more of a chance of Martial being fit than Lingard. Having both available would be a huge boost, though, as they’re both so important to how United play. Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku simply don’t offer as much as either of those.
Liverpool will welcome Virgil van Dijk back to their starting line-up after he missed Tuesday’s game against Bayern Munich due to suspension. He’ll likely partner Joel Matip in central defence, with Fabinho moving back into midfield. Trent Alexander-Arnold is fit again, so he’ll slot in at right-back, with Andy Robertson playing on the left. Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain out.
Arsenal vs Southampton
Arsenal will be hoping for a Liverpool win today so they can move back into the top four with a win against Southampton. But they may not find it straight-forward against a Southampton side who are also desperate for points. The Saints are in a poor position and see themselves in a real relegation battle.
Arsenal’s form hasn’t been particularly impressive of late. Their performances haven’t been impressive either. But they still have a lot to play for this season, with two routes into next season’s Champions League still available to them. They’re well in the race to finish in the top four, even if Manchester United do look more likely to secure that fourth spot. But there’s still a lot of football to play, and if Arsenal find some form, they could do it. Another route into the Champions League is through the Europa League, which Arsenal are certainly one of the favourites to win.
Arsenal really need to win today if they’re to finish in the top four. This is the kind of game they cannot afford to drop points in. It’s a big week for the Gunners, with a home game against Bournemouth to come on Wednesday, before they go to Wembley to face Tottenham next Saturday. The north London derby is always a huge occasion, and going into that game with a couple of wins under their belt would give them a big boost.
Southampton can take some confidence from the last time they played Arsenal. Back in December, Charlie Austin scored late on to give the Saints a 3-2 win against Unai Emery’s side. It will be more difficult today going to the Emirates, but they can’t be ruled out. Arsenal aren’t a team that you have to be absolutely terrified of. They haven’t been playing well and Southampton should be going there aiming to really get at them and cause some big problems.
The Saints are 18th in the table, but a point today will move them ahead of Cardiff on goal difference. It’s quite tight down the bottom of the table and Southampton definitely have a chance of staying up. They’ve only lost one of their last six in the league and can take some confidence from recent results. They’ll be confident of getting at Arsenal today and really troubling their shaky defence.
Alexandre Lacazette is available for Arsenal today after missing Arsenal’s 3-0 win over BATE Borisov on Thursday night through suspension. A question mark hangs over Laurent Koscielny, though, as he went off injured during that game. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is ill, which may mean Stephan Lichtsteiner will play at right-back. Hector Bellerin, Danny Welbeck and Rob Holding remain out. It’ll be interesting to see if Mesut Ozil is picked after making his return to the team on Thursday.
Michael Obafemi, Southampton’s young Irish attacker who recently signed a new three-year contract, may be involved for the first time since December after recovering from a hamstring injury. Stuart Armstrong should also be fit.
Chelsea vs Manchester City
The Carabao Cup final takes place after the two Premier League games, as Chelsea play Manchester City at Wembley. Understandably, Man City are big favourites for this one. If it wasn’t for the two playing last weekend, this may feel like a very big game. And it is a very big game, but Man City’s 6-0 hammering of Chelsea last week has taken some of the excitement from it. Chelsea may turn up and do a lot better and win the first available trophy of the season, but it would be surprising. They haven’t been in the best of form at all lately and Man City will be more than confident of winning this one.
If rumours are to be believed, Maurizio Sarri will be sacked by Chelsea if they don’t win this game, and he will be replaced by Steve Holland. That’s a whole new article, though, and we can’t get into that now. But there’s obviously huge pressure on him either way, and he badly needs a result. A trophy may reduce the pressure on him.
In truth, it’s difficult to see anything but a Man City win. They’ll surely have far too much for Chelsea today. Maybe I’ll eat my words and Chelsea will win the game, but that seems unlikely.
Pedro and Davide Zappacosta are struggling with illness and may miss this one. If Pedro misses out, Callum Hudson-Odoi may play, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for Chelsea. Kepa Arrizabalaga may also miss out, as he has a hamstring injury. If he does, Willy Caballero will play in goal against his former side.
John Stones, Gabriel Jesus and Benjamin Mendy are all doubts for Man City. Arijanet Muric has played in goal for City in the earlier rounds, but Pep Guardiola wouldn’t say whether he or Ederson will start in goal.
These are set to be three very enjoyable games. I’m going to be watching all three and I can’t wait for a great day of football. I hope you enjoy the games too, whether you’re watching or going!