Relegation and European ambitions collide with just three more full weeks of Premier League action remaining. Let’s examine some of the key action to come this weekend.
Leeds United v Newcastle United – Saturday 12:30 GMT
Sam Allardyce’s first of four games to keep Leeds in the Premier League couldn’t have been harder with a trip to title-chasing Manchester City. Only three games now remain for Allardyce to lift Leeds out of relegation trouble, and they don’t get any easier this coming weekend as they host Newcastle, who are desperate for the points themselves in their bid to secure a Champions League spot for next season. The first move from Allardyce was to drop Illan Meslier and hand Joel Robles his league debut for Leeds in goal.
Meslier has had a tough season between the posts. His 57.3 PFF shot-stopping grade is among the worst of keepers to regularly play this season, with only Gavin Bazunu and Neto ranking below him. Leeds set a new Premier League record for most goals conceded in a month during April, with 23 surrendered in seven games. Robles had a steady game against City, having no chance at stopping either of the two goals. He will likely keep his place this weekend and will come up against a Newcastle attack looking to bounce back after blanking against Arsenal.
Eddie Howe’s decision for this game will be if he sticks with playing both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak in attack together from the start. The 2-0 defeat to Arsenal was the first time he had done this with Isak operating from the left wing. It failed, however. For only the second time this season, Wilson didn't register a shot in a game where he played more than 45 minutes, and Isak himself attempted only two shots. Leeds should expect an improvement on this, though, whether Howe goes with one from the start or sticks with both, as they have been two of the deadliest in front of goal all season.
Isak’s 91.9 PFF shooting grade is the second best of any player in the league, with Wilson ranking one place behind with an 89.8 PFF shooting grade.
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest – Saturday 15:00 GMT
Frank Lampard finally achieved a victory in his return to the top job at Chelsea, their first win since the March 11 triumph over Leicester. Visitors this weekend, Nottingham Forest will be looking to end that winning run at one game as they aim to pick up more points in their bid to avoid an instant return to the Championship. Forest’s 4-3 win over Southampton has put them three points above relegation with three games to play.
Once again key to their success was Morgan Gibbs-White, who registered a goal and an assist as well as played a big part in the build-up to their opening goal. Gibbs-White has provided seven assists this season for Forest and 69 key passes. Their next best player in both categories is Brennan Johnson, who has provided three assists and 25 key passes. This disparity means Gibbs-White has accounted for 29% of all of Forest’s chances created, the highest proportion of any one player for a team this season.
Looking at the assist leaders of the other four teams in the bottom five, we can see that Gibbs-White is just as key to his team as the likes of James Ward-Prowse and James Maddison, two England internationals.
|Player||Team||Assists||Team % chances created||Goals|
|Morgan Gibbs-White||Nottingham Forest||7||29%||5|
|James Maddison||Leicester City||9||22%||10|
|Jack Harrison||Leeds United||7||15%||4|
Everton v Manchester City – Sunday 14:00 GMT
A stunning 5-1 win away at Brighton propelled Everton out of the bottom three with three games to play. Next up is Manchester City, whose team selection will be much talked about in the build-up as they look to maintain their hold on the top of the league, while also maybe having an eye on next week’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid.
Nathan Ake missed the first leg encounter on Tuesday night after picking up an injury last weekend. Manuel Akanji moved over to the left side of the defense in Spain and would likely be the favorite to stay there should Ake not be fit for this weekend, with Aymeric Laporte, Rico Lewis or Sergio Gomez potential alternatives. Pep Guardiola could rotate in numerous positions after making no substitutions Tuesday night. Laporte, Julian Alvarez, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden all remained on the bench and could come into the side this weekend.
Whoever lines up for City, you would expect them to cause Everton numerous problems going forward. Jordan Pickford will need to continue his form from last weekend. Despite the dominant scoreline in their win at Brighton, the England international had to pull off several excellent saves to keep the game from being closer. Brighton managed 21 shots on goal and only scored through a lucky rebound off the post onto Alexis MacAllister. Pickford ended the week with the best PFF shot-stopping grade (90.1). It was only the eighth 90.0-plus grade by any keeper in a single week this season.
Arsenal v Brighton – Sunday 16:30 GMT
Should City slip up at Everton, Arsenal will look to pounce and get back to the top of the table with a win against Brighton. The visitors, despite that humbling defeat to Everton last week, are still well in with a chance of European qualification and will be looking to do Arsenal no favors. In the win over Chelsea two weeks ago, Mikel Arteta replaced Rob Holding in defense with January signing Jakub Kiwior and Jorginho came into midfield to replace Thomas Partey. Both would be expected to maintain their starting roles this coming weekend.
Jorginho has garnered a lot of praise for his performances in the past two games. His 83.6 PFF passing grade has him ranked in the top 20 of all players in the league, although this is slightly below both Partey (84.3) and Granit Xhaka (89.9). Just two starts is not enough to compare Kiwior against Holding or the other Arsenal defenders, but his 42% challenge win rate certainly shows that he has room for improvement despite Arsenal winning both games.
The key matchup will likely involve the two sides' main creative threats in Martin Odegaard and Alexis MacAllister. Odegaard has the third-best PFF passing grade of any player in the league (92.5), and MacAllister is just behind with the sixth-best PFF passing grade (90.6). MacAllister also boasts the 12th-best PFF shooting grade (85.6). While his future after this season remains unclear, Brighton will need him to maintain his level for the remaining games this season.
Leicester City v Liverpool – Monday 20:00 GMT
In the bottom three and with two of their final three games against Champions League-chasing Liverpool and Newcastle, Leicester can’t afford any more poor displays after conceding five goals to Fulham last week. They come up against a Liverpool side who have won five in a row in the league and are now only a point behind Manchester United for the final Champions League spot.
A constant feature of Premier League seasons of the past few years has been Trent Alexander-Arnold's deliveries from his right-back position. In the past few games, he has been appearing at times in a more advanced and central role in open play. A consequence of this has been getting him into position to shoot more often. We have seen his shooting ability on set pieces, so it would seem logical to try and get him opportunities to test the opposing keepers where possible. In the past four games, Trent has taken nine shots on goal. Prior to this in 2023, he had played in 14 league games and managed only eight shots.
Alexander-Arnold has continued to be a hugely influential creator for Liverpool this season, as well. His 90.3 PFF crossing grade is the second best of any player in the Premier League. Below, we can see just how important he remains in providing for his teammates.
|Total||Team Rank||League Rank|
|Line breaking passes||306||1st||4th|