It’s always nice to be treated to midweek Premier League games and the results so far could be very significant in the title race. Leaders Liverpool are yet to play but they’re somehow the team who have come off best following Tuesday night’s matches. If you didn’t already know you could probably have guessed that Man City’s game didn’t work out the way they would have been hoping and expecting, but this wasn’t the only surprising result from last night.
Before we discuss the other encounters, however, it would make sense to focus on the main drama. Second Placed Manchester City faced a trip to Newcastle in a game where they were huge favourites. Given their current form, most recently thrashing Burnley 5-0, anything other than a win for Guardiola’s men wasn’t looking likely. It looked as if it could well be another rout when Aguero opened the scoring in just the first minute, but this was not to be the case. Despite dominating possession City looked somewhat lacklustre only managing to accumulate 4 shots on target throughout the whole game. Regardless, you might have expected this to be enough cosnidering their opponents only managed two of their own. Yet, Newcastle were clinical in converting these two chances, one of which was a Matt Ritchie penalty in the 80th minute to give them a 2-1 victory. City’s previous dip in form was greatly blamed on the absence of Fernandinho through injury but last night’s match may have displayed how they have more issues than just a lack of cover for the Brazilian. Fernandinho was part of what was virtually City’s strongest possible lineup but this was not enough to prevent them suffering a damning defeat. Of course there’s a chance Liverpool could lose at home to Leicester tonight, particularly with the number of injuries they have at the back, and then the points gap would be the same as if both teams had won, like we would have expected. However, the fact that Liverpool have only lost once all season means they will most certainly be favourites even with all their injuries. City fans will be worried about how Liverpool’s consistency could well mean a 7 point gap, if they win tonight, could be too much too make up.
It wasn’t a great Tuesday night for Manchester as a whole. City rivals Manchester United have been resurgent under Solskjaer winning 8 games in a row so, like City, you would have expected this run to continue with them being at home to one of the league’s lower teams, Burnley. In spite of a recent 5-0 loss to Man City, Burnley have been in decent form themselves so would have gone into the gme thinking they could get a result, and did just that. It’s safe to say that United dominated statistically having almost 30 shots and nearly 75% possession. Again, just like City, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking they’d score a lot of goals given their recent form, particularly with stats like that. Although, United found themselves 2-0 down in the 81st minute and failed to score at all until the 87th when Pogba scored from the penalty spot. Thankfully for United fans, Lindelof scored a rare goal two minutes into added time stealing a point for the reds. As much as this will seem like a positive result after being 0-2 down with about 10 minutes left, it is most certainly two points dropped. All the United players have been in pretty impressive form so it’s hardly surprising that Solskjaer was comfortable to change his usual lineup slightly. Pereira, Mata and Lukaku all started the game and clearly it’s not as if they didn’t create their fair share of chances but it might have been sensible to play the likes of Rashford who’s arguably in his best ever form. Solskjaer bemoaned his side’s poor start to the game and he won’t be happy his side didn’t take all three points but if they can bounce back in coming weeks against top opposition, this will only be a minor tarnish on what has been a fine start for the Norweigan.
Tuesday also saw a number of key results at the bottom of the table. Aside from Burnley and Newcastle picking up some unexpected points, Fulham also boosted their slim chances of Premier League survival. It’s clear that they still haven’t resolved their defensive issues as they conceded two early Glenn Murray goals in their match against Brighton. However, they did brilliantly to get themselves back into the game, scoring 4 second half goals to earn a hard fought 4-2 victory. With the transfer window very close to closing it hardly looks likely that Fulham will add any new signings to greatly improve their defence for the remainder of the season. It appears that they will have to concentrate on outscoring teams. If they play as freely and score goals like they did in the second half against Brighton, there’s no reason why they can’t earn enough wins and points to save themselves from relegation. As for bottom of the table Huddersfield, things continue to go from bad to worse. The fans will be hoping for a miraculous revival that can sometimes be a result of the feel-good factor that comes with the arrival of a new manager. Whilst Huddersfield didn’t play particularly badly last night, Jan Siewert doesn’t appear to have had that sortof immediate affect. The Terriers’ main issue of being unable to get enough goals was clear for all to see as they failed to do so yet again in a 0-1 defeat to struggling Everton. Siewert’s men remain 8 points away from safety with 16th and 17th, Crystal Palace and Southampton, level on points and facing each other tonight in a must-win game for both teams. You don’t like to write off any team in Premier League football but Huddersfield’s inability to score goals is making them look all the more likely to be one of the three teams facing the dreaded drop.
Although there’s still a long way to go this season, Tuesday night’s fixtures seem to have gone some way in making us slightly more confident of who’s going to finish top of the table and who’s going to finish bottom. Manchester City’s loss to Newcastle leaves Liverpool 4 points clear with a game in hand. Yes, Liverpool only need to lose a couple of games to make things interesting but City look just as, if not more likely to drop points in the remaining games making Klopp’s side title favourites. Meanwhile, making up an 8 point margin following another loss for bottom side Huddersfield, is looking like an impossible task. They can’t seem to score a goal, let alone get some much needed wins and it doesnt help when relegation rivals like Fulham and Newcastle are getting points on the board.