We’ve officially hit April, which is the penultimate month of the 2014-15 Premier League season. While Chelsea are looking more and more like champions, there are still some critical matches left to be played in the season, as five teams jostle for position atop the table. Here are the 3 most critical EPL matches, in no particular order.
When: Saturday, April 4th
Where: The Emirates Stadium, London
What’s at stake: Both Liverpool and Arsenal have been in form recently. Liverpool had a five game EPL win streak snapped at Anfield two weeks ago, where Manchester United defeated them 2-1. The Reds win streak included home victories against Manchester City and Tottenham. T he 3-5-2 formation has worked brilliantly for Brendan Rodgers club– particularly at the back. The back three of Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, and Emre Can has been rock solid, and Simon Mignolet is tied for second in the Premier League with eleven clean sheets. Despite the decline of Steven Gerrard, constant injuries to Daniel Sturridge, and a disappointing season from Mario Balotelli, the Reds are 5 points off a Champions League spot. A late win streak could see Liverpool sneak into the Top Four for the second consecutive year. Arsenal, meanwhile, have been dominant in the Premier League. Despite being knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco, the Gunners have won six straight games in the league. Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud are in fine form, and Alexis Sanchez is a top candidate for Player of the Year.
Prediction: Arsenal have been nearly unbeatable at the Emirates, and should come away with a victory. The game will be scrappy, physical, and a sight for sore eyes, but ultimately, Arsene Wenger’s men will prevail, and land what should be a knockout blow to Liverpool’s Champions League aspirations.
Arsenal 2, Liverpool 1
Manchester United-Manchester City
When: Sunday, April 12th
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
What’s at stake: For the last four seasons, the Barclays Premier League winners have hailed in Manchester. While that’s likely to change this year, the only team with a real shot of catching Chelsea are the Sky Blues. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have been slumping of late, including losses to Burnley and a humbling defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side is flying high after a 2-1 victory at Anfield. City are six points behind Chelsea, and only two points in front of United. If City lose, they will definitely lose a shot at Chelsea, and may be in danger of losing an automatic Champions League spot. Manchester United, meanwhile, will look to secure a spot in the Champions League with a victory against their archrivals at home. City have won the last three spouts between the two teams, but expect United to be hungry for revenge.
Prediction: A draw. A hard fought match, with a lot of chances and excitement, but neither team will seperate much from the other.
United 1, City 1
Manchester United United- Arsenal
When: Saturday, April 16th
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester
What’s at stake: 3rd place in the Premier League. At this stage, it’s likely that the dust will have settled on the teams in the top 4: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Arsenal. But what will truly be at stake in this match is who automatically qualifies for the Champions League, and who will have to go through an extra round of qualification. While it is very likely that whoever finishes 4th will still reach at least the Group Stage, it’s an extra hurdle nonetheless.
Prediction: Manchester United have been up and down under Louis van Gaal, but still manage a berth in the UCL. With a home win over Arsenal in the penultimate game, the Red Devils secure their spot in the Champions League, leading up to what should be a lucrative summer for England’s most valuable club.
United 2, Arsenal 0