Date: 18th April 2022 at 10:45am
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It’s derby day galore in the midweek Premier League fixtures, as Premier League title-chasing Liverpool welcomes bitter rivals Manchester United to Anfield, whereas Champions League hopefuls Arsenal make the journey to fellow London outfit Chelsea.

Two matches that could shape the final table come the end of the campaign, neither side can ill-afford anymore slip-ups, as they look to finish the season on a high. To keep across all the latest news, live scores and match reports from the Premier League, make sure you download the Flashscore app.

With high-end drama in these fixtures all but guaranteed, here is everything you need to know ahead of Liverpool vs United and Chelsea vs Arsenal.

Liverpool eyeing up United’s Premier League record crown

Having played out two pulsating fixtures against Manchester City in both league and cup, Liverpool will switch their attention to the red half of Manchester, with United up next for the title chasers.

One point behind City in the table heading into the weekend action, Liverpool could leapfrog the reigning champions with a victory at Anfield on Tuesday night. Chasing their second Premier League crown in three seasons, Jurgen Klopp’s side bounced back from adversity to challenge for the title.

As many as 14 points off leaders City in January, Liverpool took advantage of their two games in hand over the Blues to slice the deficit in half. A run of stumbling results for Pep Guardiola’s side meant the gap was cut to one point ahead of the title showdown two weeks ago.

Despite falling behind twice in that game, the Merseyside outfit escaped the Etihad Stadium with a precious point. A touch of good fortune and some questionable refereeing decisions may have aided Klopp’s side, yet the result does ensure the title race stays alive heading into the final weeks of the season.

Goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mané cancelled out strikes from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus, as the two title favourites played out an enthralling heavyweight battle. Despite being billed as a championship decider, the destination of the Premier League title remains unknown, with the race to finish first likely to go down to the wire.

However, the form table has Liverpool out in front as the division’s most potent side, with Klopp’s men having lost none of their last 12 Premier League fixtures. Remarkably, they’ve suffered just two draws in that time, having won the other 10 matches.

Last dropping points in the league to Chelsea in early January, the missed opportunity to extend their winning run against City would’ve no doubt frustrated Klopp. His side did have chances to breach the Blues’ defence on a number of occasions, but a combination of valiant defending and a touch of wastefulness cost Liverpool their chance of three points.

Yet, if history is anything to go by, it’s unlikely Liverpool will face the same issue against Tuesday’s opponents, with the Klopp’s side boasting an almost impeccable record against United.

Far too often brushed aside in this fixture, United’s only victory against Liverpool since March 2018 came in last season’s FA Cup victory at Old Trafford. A run of six Premier League fixtures between the two have come and gone between now and United’s last league win against Liverpool.

Despite the poor recent record, perhaps the most humiliating defeat of all came in the reverse fixture this season. Demolished by an irresistible Liverpool outfit, United were torn apart at Old Trafford, as the Merseyside club romped to a devastating 5-0 victory.

Trailing by four goals at the break, a despondent Old Trafford faithful began to drain out in their numbers, as they refused to see what the second half held. Having scored twice in the first period, Mohamed Salah capped off a Man of the Match performance by sealing his hattrick early in the second.

The Egyptian’s treble was complemented by strikes from Naby Keita and Diogo Jota, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær suffered his heaviest defeat against Liverpool while in charge of United.

As if things were not already bad enough for Solskjær, his desperate attempt to change the game by bringing on Paul Pogba at half-time ended with the French international being sent off just 15 minutes later. A truly horrific afternoon for United, whose season has not managed to improve much since.

Of course, Solskjær’s fate was already sealed way before that match, and the Norwegian coach was eventually sacked as manager one month later, following the defeat to Watford.

Since then, it hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the Red Devils, with interim manager Ralf Rangnick failing to implement the required changes. Lacklustre performances have punctuated the German’s time in charge of United, with a disappointing defeat to relegation-candidates Everton in their last away match a particular low point.

A deflected Anthony Gordon strike separated the two sides at Goodison Park, as United slumped to their second consecutive defeat on the road. Short-change for a side who earlier in the campaign had broken a new record for unbeaten matches away from home.

The bad news for United supporters is their poor run of form on the road is unlikely to improve anytime soon. On top of their woeful record against Liverpool, their recent results at Anfield have made for even worse reading.

Last victorious away to Liverpool back in January 2016, both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney featured that day, with the former sent off just minutes into his substitute appearance.

Juan Mata netted both of United’s goals in the 2-1 win that afternoon, and unlike Gerrard and Rooney who have progressed onto careers in management, the Spaniard remains at Old Trafford for now.

Unlikely to stay at the club beyond the upcoming transfer window, Mata made his first Premier League appearance of this current season during the Everton defeat. Aiming for a better time in Merseyside on Tuesday, there will no doubt be a sense of vengeance within the United squad, as they look to deal a body-blow to Liverpool’s title challenge.

Arsenal’s top-four hopes flagging as Chelsea look to seal third

There was a time not too long ago when this fixture was being mooted as a potential match for Arsenal to leapfrog Chelsea into third. A difficult run of results has seen the Blues tighten their grip on a top-four berth, while the Gunners’ Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread.

In cruise control just a matter of weeks ago, back-to-back defeats against Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion saw the top-four slip from Arsenal’s grasp. Now, their visit to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge offers the opportune moment for Mikel Arteta’s side to reignite their Champions League charge.

Absent from Europe’s premier club competition since 2016/17, Arsenal’s last foray into the Champions League had started off strongly. Paired with money-men Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage, a side then managed by Arsène Wenger were matched with Bayern Munich in the knockouts.

What followed was utter humiliation, as Arsenal suffered a 10-2 aggregate defeat to the German giants, with the Gunners failing to qualify for the competition ever since. A flurry of Europa League campaigns came and went, but a return to the Champions League remains the aim for boss Arteta.

Having been criticised while in charge of Arsenal for claiming to finish inside the top four was the equivalent of winning a trophy, Wenger must look at the current situation his former club finds itself in with a wry smile. The financial benefit on offer for clubs competing in the Champions League makes it the most lucrative competition in sport, with Arsenal’s off-the-pitch antics having regressed during their time in the shadows.

Success with player recruitment can often depend on the incentives a club can offer, with Champions League football undoubtedly one of the biggest factors in modern-day transfers. As Arteta looks to take his Arsenal project to the next level, failure to secure a top-four spot, especially considering the situation they found themselves in earlier in the season, would represent a huge failure for the club.

As if the prospect of missing out on Champions League football wasn’t bad enough, the Gunners’ closest challengers for the final top-four spot are bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. With the North London derby to come towards the end of the season, Arsenal faces the equally daunting task of another city rival in Chelsea this weekend.

Having at one point looked like a serious challenger to City and Liverpool for the title, a drastic dip in form at the turn of the year saw Chelsea fall out of top-spot contention. Instead, their campaign since has hinged on challenging for cup competitions, while trying to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.

However, a surprise defeat in their last home game against Brentford had some questioning whether or not Chelsea would even be able to hang on to third spot themselves. Casting the doubts to one side, a domineering Blues display away to Southampton saw Thomas Tuchel’s side net four before the break, and then go on to win the game 6-0.

One of the standout players in the 6-0 demolition was Mason Mount, with the England international netting twice during the win. There had been criticisms of Mount’s performances this season, as he’d struggled to live up the standards set last year.

Part of those claims had pointed to the fact Mount had struggled to perform in Chelsea’s big games this season, after registering just two goal and assist contributions against the ‘Big Six’ sides so far. However, one of those two did come against Wednesday’s opponents Arsenal, when Mount assisted Reece James during Chelsea’s 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium back in August.

A standout man that afternoon, the match also featured a rare goal from summer signing Romelu Lukaku, who opened his account for the Blues against Arsenal. Things haven’t panned out for Lukaku since, yet there is every chance Chelsea could back up the victory at the Emirates with another three points this week.

Before last season, over 10 years had passed since Arsenal last won a match at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea having lost one of their last 10 home matches against the Gunners. Robin van Persie scored a hattrick for Arsenal in their only other win at the Bridge in the last decade, with a then 22-year-old Theo Walcott also on the scoresheet.

Plenty has changed for either side since then, with Chelsea having lifted two Premier League titles in the time that’s elapsed. Meanwhile, for Arsenal, their highest league finish since came in 2015/16, when they finished behind runaway leaders Leicester City, after pipping Spurs to second on the final day.

While their away record to Chelsea may leave Arsenal fans feeling jittery, overall their recent results against the Blues haven’t been too drastic. August’s defeat to Tuchel’s side was the first they’d suffered against Chelsea in the league since December 2019.

Two defeats in their last six domestic fixtures against Chelsea are made sweeter by three victories during that time, including an unlikely league double over the Blues last season. Having beaten the West London side in the previous campaign’s FA Cup final, Arteta’s side backed up the Wembley win with two victories over Chelsea in the 2020/21 season.

One of the standout moments in Arteta’s Arsenal career so far, the Spaniard will be keen to see his side replicate the result on Wednesday. It will no doubt be difficult for the Gunners, not least because they have shown signs of weakness in recent weeks, but it’s beginning to feel like a case of now or never if Arsenal are to secure Champions League football.

For Chelsea, preseason ambitions of fighting for the title quickly disappeared, but Tuchel will likely be confident of regrouping and attacking the league again next year. With new owners and a new era around the corner for the Blues, expect the players to operate with renewed freedom in this crucial London derby.

Photo by Unsplash

 

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