5 talking points from this weekend’s Premier League matches
Everton welcome Champions League hopefuls Arsenal to Goodison Park on Sunday.
With the FA Cup semi-finals taking centre stage this weekend there are only a handful of Premier League games on the fixture list for Saturday and Sunday.
The pick of them comes on Sunday when Champions League-chasing Arsenal head north to face a rejuvenated Everton, who are hoping to build on back-to-back victories over Chelsea and West Ham.
Here Press Association Sport looks at five talking points for the weekend’s games.
Can Arsenal prosper on the road?
With the four-way battle for the final two Champions League berths hotting up, it is Arsenal who have moved into pole position with seven wins from their last nine. They begin the weekend in fourth place, but Sunday’s match against Everton is their game in hand on third-placed Tottenham, who are only one point above. However, in order to capitalise Arsenal must show they are over their inconsistency away from the Emirates, having won just five of 14 of their matches on the road.
Can Toffees find their sweet spot?
Consistency has been Everton’s Achilles heel all season. A 2-0 win at West Ham last week gave them back-to-back victories for only the second time this season in the Premier League. The last time they did it, all the way back in September, they actually won three on the bounce. Beating Arsenal to do so again might be the minimum requirement if Marco Silva’s side are to continue their push to finish ‘best of the rest’ by snatching seventh place. Still four points adrift of Wolves, and also trailing Watford and Leicester in the congested top half of the table, anything else will surely leave them with too much to do.
Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche will go head to head on Saturday when Bournemouth host Burnley. Howe, of course, was Dyche’s predecessor at Turf Moor and Burnley defender Ben Mee, who played for both men, believes they are the best two managers in England. A case can certainly be made, with both sides on course to avoid the drop despite their limited resources. Burnley still have some work to do, but they hold most of the cards as they sit five points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff, who must travel to Turf Moor next weekend. Any points they can pick up at the Vitality Stadium would only strengthen their position.
All eyes on Rafa
With Newcastle’s safety in the Premier League all but assured, the club is starting to look to next season with discussions expected this weekend on transfer targets for the summer. But they key question remains – who will be in charge? Rafael Benitez is still being linked with a move away from St James’ Park, with Ligue 1 the latest mooted destination. Given the continuing uncertainty over whether the club will be sold, few could blame the Spaniard if he chooses to move on. The issue is sure to hang over Saturday’s meeting with Crystal Palace, in which Newcastle will seek a sixth straight Premier League home win.
Huddersfield look at life beyond the Premier League
Relegation was confirmed with six games to spare, and looked inevitable for much longer, so Huddersfield at least have plenty of time to prepare for their return to the Championship. Ahead of Saturday’s clash with Leicester, captain Christopher Schindler has told his colleagues they are all playing for their futures at the John Smith’s Stadium, with manager Jan Siewart no doubt needing to make budget cuts once they drop down a division.