On a weekend when Aston Villa’s relegation could be confirmed, Leicester could also move 10 points clear at the top of the table. They’re at lowly Sunderland while title-rivals Tottenham host Manchester United.
Here’s what you need to know heading into the weekend.
1. Gunners can strike early to break West Ham’s home run
West Ham are enjoying a strong finish to the season and are only three points off a Champions League place, so Arsenal need to take them seriously. The Gunners have netted more than once in each of their past four away trips, however their hosts are unbeaten in 13 home matches – the best run in the division. If the visitors are to end the Hammers’ impressive unbeaten home streak, then they will probably strike before the half-time interval. Arsene Wenger’s side have netted the top flight’s highest percentage of goals in the first half with 53.8%, while the 59.5% of goals conceded by their hosts before the break is also the largest share in the division.
2. Bournemouth likely to open scoring as Villa face drop
Bournemouth have flown out of the traps this season, with 39.5% of their goals arriving within half an hour of kick-off: the highest percentage in the Premier League. Aston Villa – on a seven-match losing streak – have been the opposite, netting just one goal to the Cherries’ 15 in this period, so the visitors look far more likely to open the scoring here. Villa’s relegation could be confirmed this weekend – and it’s no wonder, with them failing to score at all in four consecutive matches and having conceded more than once in each of their past four home games.
3. Palace poachers key in relegation clash
Palace sat fifth in the table at the turn of the year but a 14-match winless run now leaves weekend visitors Norwich as the only club between them and the relegation zone. Their home form has been a particular problem – they’ve not scored more than once in any of their past eight Premier League games at Selhurst Park and have lost the past six of those, but their abilities at close range could end that run here. Only Arsenal have scored more goals from within the six-yard box than their 12, while Bournemouth are the only top-flight side to have conceded more from this range than the Canaries (also 12).
4. Benitez needs to cure Magpies’ travel sickness
These two clubs have both finished their chances much more assuredly in front of their own fans than when on the road, which should give Southampton the edge here. Newcastle are the only club to have taken more shots for each away goal scored than the Saints (16.7) and their hosts have been over twice as clinical at St Mary’s, needing an average of just 8.3 attempts to find the net. The Magpies’ travel sickness has seen them lose eight away matches in a row and fail to keep a clean sheet in their past 10: a slump that Rafael Benitez will have his work cut out to reverse.
5. Swansea must shoot more to stop Chelsea’s away streak
Chelsea have a habit of ignoring their opponents’ home advantage, having won their past three away games and not conceding more than once in any of their past seven. Swansea – their hosts this weekend – also seem uncomfortable with the concept, having taken fewer shots on target per home match than any other club this season – just 2.9 compared to a much healthier 4.2 on their travels. Guus Hiddink will therefore be optimistic of further extending the 15-match unbeaten run in the league that he has presided over since re-taking the helm.
6. Everton’s efficiency in front of goal gives them edge going to Watford
Both of these clubs come into this match in dire need of a pick-me-up, with Watford having lost four consecutive Premier League games and Everton three. The Hornets’ finishing has been their chief source of frustration while the visiting Toffees seem to have retained their composure, particularly away from Goodison Park. The hosts have the second-worst shot conversion rate of any home Premier League side this season, taking an average of 14.1 shots for each goal scored, while Roberto Martinez’s side have required just 7.4 – virtually half – to net each of their away goals. Unless the home side can successfully reboot Odion Ighalo into the player who terrorised defences during the early part of the season, they could find themselves outgunned here.
7. Expect West Brom to try to soak up a Manchester City barrage
Only Tottenham have taken more shots than Manchester City at home, with Manuel Pellegrini’s side rattling in an average of 19.3 efforts per match. West Brom look almost lazy by comparison, particularly on the road where they’ve created an average of just 7.8 chances per match – the lowest in the division by far. We can therefore expect mostly one-way traffic at the Etihad this weekend. The Baggies’ main weapon this season has been the noble header, which has accounted for a third of their Premier League goals – a greater share than any other side. However their hosts are wise to that sort of approach, with only one in eight of the league goals they’ve conceded coming from the air. This is the third lowest percentage in the top flight and suggests that Tony Pulis may need a Plan B to come away with anything here.
8. Is Leicester’s weakness conceding to substitutes?
Leicester’s surge to the top of the table has owed a lot to their clinical finishing – no side has taken fewer shots for each away goal scored than their average of 6.8. Hosts Sunderland, who urgently need to stop drawing and start winning, look set to give the visiting Foxes plenty of opportunities to continue their winning run, having allowed more shots on target than any other home side – an average of 4.9 per match. If Sunderland can last the distance here, then they may be able to stun Leicester late on. No top-flight club has a better shot conversion rate in the last 15 minutes of matches than the Black Cats’ 16.0% and Liverpool are the only club who have had more of their league goals scored by substitutes. It’s been marginally easier to score against the Foxes late on and personnel changes have often flummoxed them – a division-high 11 of the 31 goals they’ve conceded this season have been scored by an opponent’s substitute.
9.Second-half goals on the agenda at the Britannia
With these two clubs sitting next to each other in the table, both will surely view this match as an opportunity to stage a late bid for European qualification. With only two top-flight clubs having taken more shots per match than Liverpool’s average of 16 this season, there will surely be some testing moments for Stoke’s young back-up goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard here. The second half is the more likely stage for whatever goals result here, with both teams having allowed one of the division’s three highest percentages of shots after half-time.
10. Spurs have firepower to crash through United’s defence
Manchester United’s form may be improving lately, but their defence is likely to take a battering at White Hart Lane. Spurs have attacked with impressive ferocity at home this season, with the average of 8.2 shots on target they’ve registered per match far in excess of the next highest (Manchester City’s 6.4) and more than double United’s meagre 3.3. Much has been made of the Red Devils’ safety-first approach this season, but it’s been far less effective away from Old Trafford. While their defence has soaked up an impressive average of 17.9 shots for each home goal conceded, this drops to a far more mediocre 10.4 on their travels.