EPL Week 22 Preview: Solskjaer Faces First Real Test; Liverpool Return to Title Chase

Victor Kekereekun
20% Complete
 11-Jan-2019

It is week 22 already – the English Premier League have come thicker over the New Year period. To put it bluntly, the New Year’s actions so far have not helped pinpoint a favourite – rather made it more interesting as the fans have always wanted from the English top tier division. Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Liverpool was a distinct highlight, and closed the title gap to four points. It also kept the Sky Blues within touching distance. Had Liverpool won at the Etihad, it would be a different story entirely.

Fast forward from last EPL outings main highlight, matchday 22 has come to offer EPL top guns to recoup from their losses as well as build up present momentum.

All eyes will be on Manchester United this weekend as they travel down to Tottenham in what will be United new interim boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer first real test in charge of the Red Devils. The erstwhile United attacker has done a wonderful job so far at the helm of United coaching affairs (though you may argue United have not faced a ‘top’ opposition since his arrival) – and the world will be at the edge to see if he can as well perform wonders in big games.

At the other end, Arsenal will take on West Ham United this weekend after battled to success in their respective FA Cup 3rd Round ties last weekend.

Chelsea, meanwhile face league strugglers Newcastle at home ground Stamford Bridge. While Guardiola’s City will host Wolves at Etihad after coming out stronger in the decisive encounter against Liverpool. Here is the build-up to matchday 22 EPL games:

West Ham United vs Arsenal

Venue: London Stadium (Saturday, 12th January)
Kick-off: 13:30 pm
History: Played 139: West Ham 34 vs Arsenal 66 (36 Draws)
Last meeting: August 25, 2018 (EPL): Arsenal 3 vs 1 West Ham United

West Ham face a tough ask staying in the top half with a home assignment against Arsenal. Hammers sit 10th after registering just one win – against lowly Southampton – in their last four games. They were beaten by struggling Burnley in Week 20 and held to a 2-2 home draw by Brighton.

The fifth-placed Gunners responded positively to their 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool in Week 20, punishing Fulham 4-1 three days later. They also enjoyed a 3-0 FA Cup cruise against Blackpool last weekend.

West Ham have won just one of their last 23 games against Arsenal and have been outscored 16-3 in the last six encounters. The Gunners carved out a 3-1 home win earlier this season.

Arsenal are winless in their last four league games on the road but are hard to ignore value-wise in this London derby.

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Liverpool

Venue: Amex Stadium (Saturday, 12th January)
Kick-off: 16:00 pm
History: Played 28: Brighton 4 vs Liverpool 16 (8 Draws)
Last meeting: August 25, 2018 (EPL): Liverpool 1 vs 0 Brighton

Brighton have enjoyed ups and downs since Christmas, inching to 13th with draws against Arsenal and West Ham either side of a 1-0 victory over Everton in a fruitful week. They are equal-eighth in the league for goals conceded, having kept their opponents to two or less in their last 10 games.

Liverpool still hold a healthy lead at the top of the table but are smarting from their first loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat to Man City. It was the first time Liverpool have conceded more than one goal this season. It also ended a 10-game winning streak that culminated in a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal.

Jurgen Klopp trotted out an inexperienced line-up for their midweek FA Cup assignment, which they lost 2-1 to Wolves.

Liverpool have won their three clashes with Brighton since the latter’s promotion by a combined 10-1. But the Seagulls showed some fight in a 1-0 loss at Anfield in Week 3. Brighton’s last win over the Reds was during the 1984 FA Cup.

Brighton have proven themselves as a gritty bunch recently, but goalscoring strike still poses a problem. Liverpool will be too good.

Chelsea vs Newcastle United

Venue: Stamford Bridge (Saturday, 12th January)
Kick-off: 18:30 pm
History: Played 164: Chelsea 72 vs Newcastle 53 (39 Draws)
Last meeting: August 26, 2018 (EPL): Newcastle 1 vs 2 Chelsea 

Fourth-placed Chelsea are still searching for some consistency after three losses and a shock nil-all draw against Southampton in their past nine games. That period includes a 2-0 win over Man City – the potential is certainly there to launch a top-two assault.

Newcastle have won just one of their last eight and went down 2-0 at home to Man United in Week 21. Their record against the ‘Big Six’ this season is not pretty: Seven games for seven losses by a combined 17-6.

Newcastle have managed five wins and a draw in their last 13 against heavyweights Chelsea, including a 3-0 thrashing at St James’ Park last season. But Chelsea prevailed 2-1 at Newcastle in Week 3 this season and have won six straight against the Magpies at Stamford Bridge.

Newcastle have scored just four goals in their last eight games and will find the going tough against the EPL’s second-most miserly defence.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United

Venue: Wembley Stadium (Sunday, 13th January)
Kick-off: 17:30 pm
History: Played 190: Tottenham 52 vs Man United 90 (48 Draws)
Last meeting: August 27, 2018 (EPL): Man United 0 vs 3 Tottenham

A change is as good as a holiday, they say. And well, Manchester United have found their way to within six points of the top four since Ole Gunnar Solksjaer took the reins from Jose Mourinho. The Red Devils have won four straight games by a combined 14-1 – including a 2-0 victory at Newcastle in Week 21, their first clean-sheet win in four months.

Third-placed Tottenham have won six of their last seven, responding to their ugly 3-1 home loss to Wolves in Week 20 with a 3-0 shutout of Cardiff City. Harry Kane is on a four-game goalscoring streak.

Spurs trounced United 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season, ending a run of seven straight EPL matches in the rivalry in which the home team won. United are searching for their first away win against Tottenham in seven league games, losing 2-0 at Wembley last season – but they did grab a 2-1 FA Cup final win at the venue in April.

Tottenham are the only team in the league without a draw this season, but a hard-fought stalemate looms as the most likely outcome between these in-form heavyweights.

Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Venue: Etihad (Monday, 14th January)
Kick-off: 21:00 pm
History: Played 118: Man City 47 vs Wolverhampton 46 (25 Draws)
Last meeting: August 25, 2018 (EPL): Wolverhampton 1 vs 1 Man City

After a rough trot that saw the previously unbeaten defending champs lose three games in four rounds, Man City reasserted their claim to back-to-back titles by inflicting Liverpool’s first defeat of the season. Leroy Sane’s 72nd-minute goal secured a 2-1 victory in the blockbuster, narrowing the gap between Liverpool and the second-placed Citizens to four points.

Wolverhampton sit ninth and finished 2018 with a stunning 3-1 win over Tottenham at Wembley – their fourth win in six games. But they will be bitterly disappointed with the 2-0 home loss to Crystal Palace that followed in Week 21.

City have won seven of the last nine between the sides, but Wolves managed a shock 1-1 draw at home in Week 3. Wolves’ last away win against the Citizens was back in 1999. Still yet, Man City will aim to put more pressure on Liverpool on the league log – hence, the Citizens should win comfortably on home ground.

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