City look to bounce back against Everton

26 Feb, 2022 - 00:02 0 Views
City look to bounce back against Everton Pep Guardiola

The Herald

LONDON. – A month ago, Manchester City’s trip to Everton today looked like a game which would just be one more step on Pep Guardiola’s side’s inevitable march to the English Premier League football title.

But a series of results in recent weeks makes the game not only a vital one for City, whose lead over Liverpool has been cut to just three points, but also has left Everton in desperate need of points in their battle for top flight survival.

New manager Frank Lampard has no illusions about the difficulty of the task his team face at Goodison Park after defeat at Southampton last week dragged the Toffees further into the struggle at the foot of the table.

“There is no magic wand to change things instantly and you need to work and focus every day. You’re only as good as how you work and prepare. Until this point, I think we’ve got that right,” said the former Chelsea manager, who ended his career in England with a brief spell at City.

“But a game like we’ve had against Southampton is a reminder of why we’re in the position we’re in,” he said. City’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last week opened the door to Liverpool in the title race but then Spurs’ defeat to Burnley on Wednesday closed the gap significantly in the relegation battle. While Norwich, Watford and Burnley remain in the bottom three, there are now four teams hovering nervously above the relegation zone — including Everton who along with Newcastle United are just two points above 18th placed Burnley.

Liverpool’s 6-0 thrashing of Leeds United on Wednesday not only allowed them to close in on City but also left the Yorkshire club just three points above the drop zone but having played two games more than Burnley.

Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, who has won praise for his attacking approach, was frank in his assessment of his team’s position.

“We are fighting relegation. Of course, it worries me, how is it not going to?” he said after the mauling at Anfield.

Just four points separate Burnley, whose upturn in form saw them win at Brighton on Saturday, from 14th placed Brentford, with the London club’s recent slump in form seeing them picking up just one point from their last seven games. 

The Bees face Newcastle United today with the North East club having climbed out of the bottom three since the appointment of Eddie Howe as manager and the arrival of fresh recruits funded by their new Saudi owners.

Meanwhile, Tottenham end a rollercoaster week with a visit to Leeds today that could seal the fate of either manager with Spurs boss Antonio Conte hinting he could quit after just four months in the job.

Spurs had seemingly revitalised their bid for a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League with a stunning 95th minute goal from Harry Kane to beat leaders Manchester City 3-2 last weekend.

But they followed up that success by losing 1-0 at Burnley – their fourth defeat in five league games.

“The situation is unacceptable. To lose four games in five for Tottenham has to be a disaster,” said Conte, whose side sit eighth in the table. “It’s right to make an assessment with the club.

“The situation is going down and I think our fans don’t deserve this situation. I’m too honest to close my eyes and continue in this way.

“If the problem is the coach, I’m ready to go to help the club. I don’t want money, I’m too honest. We have to do something because if we continue in this way the situation is not going to improve.”

Spurs’ latest failure was just as much of a blow to Leeds in their battle to beat the drop.

Burnley’s second consecutive win, while Leeds were being hammered 6-0 by Liverpool on Wednesday, closed the gap between Bielsa’s men and the bottom three to just three points.

Leeds have conceded a league-high 56 goals in 25 games.

Bielsa has been feted with God-like status in Yorkshire for ending Leeds’ 16-year exile from the top flight.

But there is increasing evidence that his fourth season may be his last at Elland Road and that a change of manager may even be needed to stem the slump towards the relegation zone.

Brentford have also been dragged into the relegation battle by a seven-game winless run in which they have picked up just one point.

But the Bees could have the boost of calling on Christian Eriksen for today’s vital clash with Newcastle as the Dane nears his return.

Eriksen has not played a competitive match since suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 in June.

The 30-year-old, who joined the London club as a free agent in January following his release from Inter Milan, has stepped up his fitness by playing in behind closed doors friendlies in recent weeks

“He’s in a good place so we aim for Newcastle,” said Brentford boss Thomas Frank.

Eriksen’s emotional comeback adds extra intrigue to a game of big significance at the bottom.

A six-game unbeaten run has taken Newcastle out of the bottom three as they have been boosted by the first signings made by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in January.

However, they are just two points ahead of Burnley in 18th having played a game more.

Brentford have a four-point cushion over the bottom three, but have played three games more than Burnley.

Everton are also mired in the relegation dog fight and have the toughest task of all this weekend when they face City fresh from their first league defeat since October.

The champions’ lead at the top of the table has been cut to three points by Liverpool, who also edged ahead of Pep Guardiola’s men on goal difference with their thrashing of Leeds.

Liverpool are in League Cup final action this weekend as they face Chelsea at Wembley, handing City the chance to extend their advantage to six points once more at Goodison Park.

“City play, I don’t know quite who, but they will probably win this game then it is six points again before we play the next league game,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who does not hold out much hope for a favour from his Merseyside rivals.

English Premiership Fixtures

Today: Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur (2:30pm); Brighton v Aston Villa (5pm); Manchester United v Watford (5pm); Crystal Palace v Burnley (5pm); Brentford v Newcastle (5pm); Everton v Manchester City (7:30pm).

Tomorrow: Chelsea v Leicester City (postponed); West Ham v Wolverhampton Wanderers (4pm).- AFP.

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