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Premier League Sunday preview: European hopefuls hunt points

Three teams with European aspirations are in action on another jam-packed Sunday of Premier League fixtures.

Things are getting tense in Merseyside with both Everton and Liverpool in desperate need of three points against relegated opponents, while Tottenham require a result against improving Wolves.

Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa (12pm, Sky Sports)

Two sides with their eyes on next season meet in South London as Crystal Palace entertain Aston Villa.

It has been a tough period for the Eagles, who have lost four of their last five top-flight outings with the only respite coming via a 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

That victory secured safety but there is a consensus that change is afoot at Selhurst Park. Along with 73-year-old boss Roy Hodgson rumoured to be stepping aside at the end of the campaign, several first-team players are set to move on.

For Villa, Thursday’s goalless draw with Everton made it one win in eight home league fixtures, meaning the best Dean Smith’s men can now hope for is a top-half finish.

Aston Villa star Jack Grealish will hope to feature again after returning from injury
Aston Villa star Jack Grealish will hope to feature again after returning from injury

Emiliano Martinez kept an impressive 15th clean sheet of the campaign in that game to equal Brad Friedel’s club record.

But a run of only three wins in 14 games since mid-February has put paid to any hopes of European qualification for the Villans.

Former Villa striker Christian Benteke has three goals in his last five outings and is in line to start for the hosts, who have no fresh injury concerns, while Jack Grealish could be in the starting line-up for the visitors for the first time since returning to fitness.

Tottenham vs Wolves (2.05pm, Sky Sports)

If Tottenham are to sneak into the Europa League qualification spots, they will need a near-perfect finish to the campaign — starting with three points against Wolves.

Ryan Mason won his first two league games in charge as caretaker boss but a costly 3-1 defeat at Leeds last weekend has left Spurs as outsiders for a top-six finish.

The North Londoners have an excellent record hosting sides from the bottom half in their favour — they boast an undefeated run of 19 such matches, with 15 ending in victory.

After claiming seventh in successive seasons, Wolves look destined to finish below 10th following a campaign in which they never really managed to get get going.

Nuno Espirito Santo has had plenty of problems to solve this term — including a long-term injury to talismanic forward Raul Jimenez — but the Portuguese will have been encouraged by his side taking 10 points from their last five games.

Last week’s comeback win at Brighton made it 51 points recovered from losing positions since the start of 2018-19, which is a total only bettered by Manchester United in that period.

Spurs have no fresh injury concerns and Willy Boly (coronavirus) has a chance of returning for the visitors.

West Brom vs Liverpool (4.30pm, Sky Sports)

Liverpool cannot afford to drop points against relegated West Brom if they are to maintain hopes of sneaking a Champions League spot on the last day.

The Baggies saw their fate sealed by a 3-1 loss at Arsenal and it remains to be seen whether Sam Allardyce will remain in charge for next season’s Championship campaign.

After losing their first four home games under him by an aggregate of 17-0, Big Sam has now overseen a run of only one defeat in seven at The Hawthorns — improvement that has simply arrived too late.

West Brom have improved over Sam Allardyce but not enough to beat the drop
West Brom have improved over Sam Allardyce but not enough to beat the drop

On the face of it, a trip to the relegated Baggies should be a breeze for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, although the German has remarkably only won one of his six meetings as a manager with Allardyce.

But Thursday’s 4-2 victory at Manchester United means the visitors should arrive both sharp and focused now that a top-four finish is firmly on the cards.

The Baggies do not have any fresh injury concerns and Liverpool duo Naby Keita and Ozan Kabak (both muscle) are closing in on a return.

Everton vs Sheffield United (7pm, BT Sport)

Nothing but maximum points will do for Carlo Ancelotti and Everton when relegated Sheffield United visit Goodison Park.

The Toffees’ trademark inconsistencies reared their ugly head again in midweek when they were held to a goalless draw at Aston Villa — a result that leaves them needing teams above to drop points again if they are to make the top six.

Everton could welcome back James Rodriguez for the visit of Sheffield United
Everton could welcome back James Rodriguez for the visit of Sheffield United

Home form has been the key issue for Everton this season, with only 19 of their 56 points coming on their own patch, but they face a Sheffield United side who are woeful on their travels.

The relegated Blades have picked up only six points from a possible 69 on the road since the Premier League resumed in June 2020, while caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom has not overseen an away league win in any form since New Year’s Day in 2018 when his Barnsley side beat Sunderland.

Back-to-back defeats without scoring against Tottenham and Crystal Palace suggest the visitors are unlikely to cause too many problems — but they have won four of their last six trips to Goodison.

Yerry Mina (muscle) and James Rodriguez (calf) are both in contention to start for the hosts, while the visitors may welcome back Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu (groin).

 

Source: Livescore

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