Man City target perfect 10, Villa’s rise meets Newcastle test
Manchester City are turning up the heat on Arsenal in the Premier League title race as Pep Guardiola’s men target a 10th consecutive win when lowly Leicester visit the Etihad on Saturday.
Arsenal’s six-point lead at the top of the table could be halved by the time they visit West Ham on Sunday, AFP reports.
Both matches will also have a bearing on the battle to beat the drop with only six points separating Leicester in 19th from Wolves in 13th.
In-form Aston Villa could force their way into the top-four race when third-placed Newcastle visit Villa Park.
Manchester United are also looking to take a step closer to next season’s Champions League at Nottingham Forest.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the action.
City hit top form
Leicester look like lambs to the slaughter ahead of their trip to the Etihad due to the contrasting form of both clubs.
Dean Smith will take charge of the Foxes for the first time after a nine-game winless run that has seen them slip to second bottom in the Premier League.
City, on the other hand, have scored 34 goals in winning their last nine, including a 3-0 demolition of Bayern Munich in midweek.
Despite the gap at the top, the title race is back in City’s hands as they have played a game fewer than Arsenal and also host the Gunners in their next league game after this weekend on April 26.
Erling Haaland took his tally for the season to 45 against Bayern on Tuesday and the Norwegian has more records within his reach on Saturday.
Haaland needs just two more goals to match Mohamed Salah’s Premier League record of 32 in a 38-game season.
Arsenal had matched City’s recent run stride-for-stride until they stumbled in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool last weekend to blow the title race wide open once more.
“We know that everything is in our hands and we just have to keep going game by game,” said Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka ahead of the trip to West Ham.
“If we win these last eight games and get some good results, the title can be ours, so we just have to stay focused.”
Villa enter European race
Newcastle are closing in on a return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years thanks to a five-game winning run.
But the Magpies face one of their last remaining hurdles against a Villa side that have taken 19 points from the last available 21.
Just staying in the top flight was Unai Emery’s first task when he took over October, but the Spaniard now has Villa up in sixth.
That will be good enough for a place in next season’s Europa League, which Emery has won four times with Sevilla and Villarreal.
But victory over Newcastle would close the gap on the top four to six points.
“I’m very happy for the fans,” said Emery. “At home we are taking clean sheets, three times in the last three matches, we’ve scored six goals, and we are winning.”
Forest in freefall
Without a win in two months, Nottingham Forest have slipped into the bottom three ahead of the visit of Manchester United.
Forest spent close to o200 million ($249 million) on a British record 29 new signings over the course of two transfer windows since being promoted back to the top flight for the first time since 1999.
But the sacking of sporting director Filippo Giraldi this week was evidence that there has been little return on investment.
Fan support has ensured manager Steve Cooper remains in a job but owner Evangelos Marinakis has warned results must “improve immediately.”
Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated)
Aston Villa v Newcastle (1130), Chelsea v Brighton, Everton v Fulham, Southampton v Crystal Palace, Tottenham v Bournemouth, Wolves v Brentford, Manchester City v Leicester (1630)
West Ham v Arsenal (1300), Nottingham Forest v Manchester United (1530)
Leeds v Liverpool (1900)