Soccer English Premier League 19 February 2023
Manchester Utd vs Leicester - Match Preview
After a midweek UEFA Europa League jaunt against Barcelona ended in a respectable 2-2 draw, attention quickly switches back to the Premier League (PL) for Manchester United. The more optimistic United fans may tell you they find themselves on the fringes of a title race as they are just five points off top-spot ahead of the round, though boss Erik ten Hag has been reluctant to label his side as contenders.
You’d back United to at least keep up the pressure on Manchester City and Arsenal with another three-point haul against Leicester City given they’ve won 13 of their last 14 home games in all competitions (D1). United also won the reverse fixture 1-0, though that is their only win across their last six H2Hs (D2, L3), raising some doubts over whether they can complete a first league double over Leicester since 2019/20.
Coming from a goal down to thump Tottenham 4-1 last time out helped alleviate growing fears that Leicester could get sucked into a relegation battle. That victory marked the second game in succession that Leicester came from behind to win in the PL having also done so against Villa the match prior, which should boost the confidence in extending their two-game unbeaten league run at Old Trafford (W1, D1) even if they fall behind.
You’d have to go back to the mid-70s for the last time Leicester enjoyed a longer unbeaten run at Old Trafford. While another victory would extend that, it would also mark their first trio of consecutive PL successes since January 2021. Four goals in those two prior wins have eased the pressure on boss Brendan Rodgers, and it’s just as well the Foxes are free scoring because they haven’t kept a league clean sheet since the World Cup restart!
📋 Players to watch: You can’t keep Marcus Rashford out the goals at the moment, and after netting at Camp Nou, United’s premier goalscorer returns to Old Trafford where he has netted in six successive PL home games. Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho has proved equally as influential of late, having a hand in five goals across the Foxes’ last two league games (G2, A3).
⚡ Hot stat: Five of Leicester’s last six PL games officiated by Stuart Attwell have seen both sides score.
Tottenham vs West Ham - Match Preview
After refusing to blame Tottenham’s key absences for their 1-0 UEFA Champions League (UCL) loss away to AC Milan during the week, manager Antonio Conte rejoined the list himself. The boss will remain home in Italy indefinitely to recover from gallbladder surgery whilst the team prepares for successive Premier League (PL) home London derbies. The squad should be in good hands under assistant Cristian Stellini, who took charge of their recent PL win against Manchester City during Conte’s initial absence.
Starting this round two points behind fourth-placed Newcastle whilst having played one extra PL match, Spurs certainly cannot afford a repeat of the draws they incurred against their next two opponents - West Ham United and Chelsea - during the seven-game unbeaten period (W5, D2) that opened their PL season. Yet, having won all five home PL games against clubs 12th or lower going into the round by an aggregate score of 17-6, Spurs’ case for victory here is strong.
Backed by what he described as a “really supportive” board, Hammers manager David Moyes appears to be beginning to emulate his heroics of 2017/18 when steering the team out of the relegation zone in his first season at the club. There’s a lot of work to stretch out the two-point buffer to the relegation zone they held during the week, but encouraging 1-1 draws against Newcastle and Chelsea suggest they have what it takes to beat the drop.
West Ham will need all the points they can get against Tottenham and Nottingham Forest in February, particularly with Moyes reportedly welcome at the club as long as he can continue delivering European football. Though admittedly a long shot, that could still be achieved by winning the FA Cup or UEFA Europa Conference League, both competitions that Moyes wishes to focus on without sacrificing PL survival.
📋 Players to watch: He may have struggled for goals this season, but Son Heung-min has historically excelled in this fixture racking up three goals across his last two personal home PL H2Hs. Curiously, Michail Antonio has scored in each of West Ham’s last two competitive outings in which injured teammate Lucas Paquetá did not take to the pitch!
⚡ Hot stat: All but one of West Ham’s seven PL away losses this season have been by a one-goal margin.
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