5 talking points: Chelsea aim to snap goal-scoring drought in Lampard's return to Stamford Bridge

2PKK431 Chelsea's caretaker manager Frank Lampard reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea, at the Molineux Stadium, in Wolverhampton, England, Saturday, April 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

With just over a month to go in the Premier League season, let's take a look at some of the games and talking points for the coming weekend’s games.

Aston Villa v Newcastle United – Saturday 12:30 GMT

The early kick-off sees two teams in fantastic form. Unbeaten in their least seven, with six wins and one draw, Villa find themselves challenging for a European spot under Unai Emery.

Sitting in sixth, a big reason behind their rise up the table has been the form of striker Ollie Watkins. The England international has scored in nine of the past 11 league games. Of all players to have attempted at least 50 shots this season, Watkins has the joint-best percentage of shots on target (67%) alongside Heung-min Son and Solly March. Watkins also currently has the fourth highest PFF shooting grade of all players in the league at 89.9.

Watkins doesn’t have the highest PFF shooting grade of any player in this game, however. That belongs to Alexander Isak who is second only to Erling Haaland with a grade of 92.5.

The Newcastle forward has been in similarly scintillating form in front of goal, with five in his last five Premier League outings.

Both Watkins and Isak will be going up against defences in form. Villa have conceded just twice in their last seven games, including five clean sheets, whilst Newcastle have conceded the fewest goals in the league this season.

World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez ranks second in the league in PFF shot stopping grades with 88.5 and Newcastle’s Nick Pope also finds himself in the top 10 with a PFF shot stopping grade of 72.4. Both defensive lines have players impressing this season as outlined below.

Player name

Team PFF challenge grade Overall rank

Position rank

Tyrone Mings

Aston Villa 84.6 7 7/96
Fabian Schar Newcastle 83.6 10

10/96

Ezri Konsa

Aston Villa 80.4 20 17/96
Dan Burn Newcastle 80.0 23

20/96

Sven Botman

Newcastle 78.4 32

27/96

Chelsea v Brighton – Saturday 15:00 GMT

Two games into his return to Chelsea, Frank Lampard has seen his side fail to score in both as they suffered defeat to Wolves and away in Madrid in Europe. Brighton will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing defeat away at Tottenham last weekend, which saw them receive an official apology from the refereeing body PGMOL who admitted they were denied a penalty with VAR not intervening.

Brighton are still well in the race for Europe and their fantastic season has seen them be one of the more aggressive teams in the league with their passing. They have led the league with line-breaking passes. When looking at the week-by-week data for players executing the most line-breaking passes in a single game, Brighton have four players in the top 20, the most of any team, including the only player to have made 30 line-breaking passes in a single game this season when Lewis Dunk managed that against West Ham last month. Dunk has had a great season in the Brighton defence. His PFF passing grade of 82.5 ranks as the third best for any CB in the league.

The second most common team to appear in the top 20 for line-breaking pass performances this season is Chelsea with four players. Both teams will be looking to cause problems with their probing passes this weekend.

Manchester City v Leicester City– Saturday 17:30 GMT

With the hugely important game against Arsenal on the horizon, Manchester City will be looking to keep up the pursuit of the North London club with a win against Leicester City and their new manager Dean Smith. Pep Guardiola’s side haven’t lost since February 5th, with only one draw in the league in that period.

Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne quite rightly often take the limelight. A player who is arguably having his best spell since arriving at the club is Jack Grealish. The winger has scored and assisted in each of the last two league games. Grealish currently ranks inside the top 10 in PFF passing grades, with an 88.4 grade.

To emphasize the strength of City’s passing game however, this is only the fourth highest PFF passing grade from the defending champions. De Bruyne leads the league with a 97.3 grade ahead of Rodri’s 95.5 and Ilkay Gundogan also in the top 10 with an 89.1 grade.

Any points would be welcome for Leicester as they battle to avoid relegation. Keeper Daniel Iversen has started the last four games but has yet to keep a clean sheet. New boss Smith may turn back to Danny Ward as the No.1. Both have struggled when called upon this season. Ward’s PFF shot stopping grade of 62.7 is ranked 20th in the league, whilst Iversen ranks 24th of all the keepers this season with a PFF shot stopping grade of 60.9.

West Ham United v Arsenal – Sunday 14:00 GMT

Whilst giving up their 2-0 lead at Anfield has handed new impetus for rivals Manchester City, Arsenal are still in a great position as they look to win their first title since the 2003-2004 season.

The return of Gabriel Jesus from injury could be a huge factor in the title challenge. The last two games has seen Jesus make his first two league starts since before the World Cup, scoring three goals in those two outings. Jesus has a PFF shot grade of 82.0 and back alongside the dynamic duo of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka who have managed 26 league goals between them, it will be a tough ask for West Ham to keep Arsenal quiet on Sunday.

Just three points above the relegation zone, West Ham will be working hard to do just that, however. Defending will likely be the key to any success in this game for the home side. Tomas Soucek has been involved in the fourth most challenges of any player in the league this season, ranking eighth in aerial duels won for all players.

Nottingham Forest v Manchester United – Sunday 16:30 GMT

The dominating news for Manchester United going into this game is the injury to Marcus Rashford, who was ruled out for the next few games. It will be up to the rest of the United attackers to fill the void left by Rashford. The table below shows how their PFF grades compare with Rashford’s for this season.

Player name

PFF passing grade PFF shooting grade

PFF crossing grade

Marcus Rashford

75.2 81.3 67.5
Bruno Fernandes 87.7 77.0

71.4

Jadon Sancho

80.1 71.7 61.4
Wout Weghorst 64.2 65.2

N/A

Antony

63.5 73.5 56.6
Anthony Martial 69.3 73.4

58.3

Alejandro Garnacho

62.8 72.8

61.8

Brennan Johnson will be the key threat for Forest. His 8 Premier League goals this season sees him as the club’s top scorer and his PFF shooting grade of 86.8 earns him a spot in the top 10 in the league.

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