Premier League: Arsenal ready for title push, Man City faces Liverpool test

Arsenal enters the final furlong of the Premier League title race with a clash against Leeds on Saturday as the club bids to be crowned champion for the first time in 19 years. Second-place Manchester City cannot afford to stumble in a marquee match-up against Liverpool, while the battle to avoid relegation is heating up.

Arsenal fueled by 'powerful' bond

With 10 games left in the season, Arsenal is in pole position to win its first title since 2004 after reeling off six straight victories to build an eight-point lead over Manchester City. Mikel Arteta's team has played one more game more than last year's champion and still has to travel to Manchester to face Pep Guardiola's team on April 26, but the Gunners have the destiny of the title firmly in their grasp. Few would have expected Arsenal to be so close to glory after the team blew its attempt to finish in the top four last season. Arteta has worked wonders with a humble squad short of superstars, but filled with team-first workaholics who buy into their manager's desire to have a group of players that enjoy being around each other.

"We have the right level of competition and cooperation because [the players] really want to help each other, but they have to challenge each other as well," Arteta said ahead of Leeds' visit to North London on Saturday. "The secret is probably the unity and togetherness that they have between them. They love to spend time with each other, they love to play with each other. That's very powerful."

Man City braced for Liverpool showdown

Manchester City is refusing to surrender its crown without a fight, winning its past six games in all competitions and scoring a combined 13 goals in its most recent matches against Leipzig and Burnley. But there is little margin for error in City's attempt to win a fifth Premier League title in six seasons. On paper, Pep Guardiola's team has a slightly easier final few league games than Arsenal, yet it also has the distractions of a Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich and an FA Cup semifinal against Sheffield United. For City to stay close to Arsenal, it must beat sixth-placed Liverpool in the league for the first time in two years. Jurgen Klopp's squad still harbors hopes of salvaging a dismal season by sneaking into the top four. City may have to face Liverpool without star striker Erling Haaland, who missed Norway's recent international games with a groin injury.

At the bottom: Intense survival scrap

The desperate scrap to avoid relegation looks tighter than ever, with nine clubs fighting for survival.  Just four points separate bottom-of-the-standings Southampton and 12th-place Crystal Palace. Palace responded to its failure to win a single match in 2023 by sacking Patrick Vieira and re-appointing Roy Hodgson, with the former England manager taking charge for the first time against fellow struggler Leicester on Saturday.

"I know my birth certificate tells me I am old enough to retire, but the way I feel doesn't tell me that," the 75-year-old Hodgson said.

Bournemouth and West Ham are in the bottom three with Southampton but sit only three points behind 13th-place Wolves, whose manager, Julen Lopetegui, has urged his team to embrace the tense battle.

"It's a pleasure to play these kinds of matches. To feel this pressure is a good thing," Lopetegui said as he looked forward to the clash against Nottingham Forest.

Leeds and Everton are also far from safe in a survival race that looks certain to go down to the wire.

Saturday: Manchester City vs Liverpool, Arsenal vs Leeds, Bournemouth vs Fulham, Brighton vs Brentford, Crystal Palace vs Leicester, Nottingham Forest vs Wolves, Chelsea vs Aston Villa
Sunday: West Ham vs Southampton, Newcastle vs Manchester United
Monday: Everton vs Tottenham


© Agence France-Presse

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