LONDON: A two-horse race will almost certainly decide the destiny of the Premier League title this season with Arsenal leading Manchester City and the home straight in sight but almost half of the top-flight clubs are still battling to avoid relegation.
Last week’s results left bottom side Bournemouth and 12th-placed Crystal Palace separated by a mere six points and incredibly none of those teams in the mix meet this weekend.
For those not involved in the fight to stay away from the bottom three it makes for compelling viewing towards the end of a season and this campaign looks like being a blockbuster.
Unusually, no club has been cast adrift, meaning three from the bottom nine will fall.
Any win can have huge ramifications for a struggling club and those around them and this weekend could see the bottom three revolving door spinning again.
Bournemouth could count themselves dreadfully unlucky to lose 3-2 at Arsenal last weekend – having led 2-0 and conceded the match-winning goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
It does not get any easier for the south coast side as on Saturday they host a Liverpool team finally looking like themselves and crowing after a 7-0 hammering of Manchester United which fired them firmly into top-four contention.
Bournemouth lost 9-0 at Anfield earlier in the season and with only one win in their 11 previous league games against the Merseyside club the odds on a surprise result are long.
Southampton, like local rivals Bournemouth, also have 21 points but a better goal difference. They will be braced for a Manchester United backlash on Sunday at Old Trafford.
Everton, who are third from bottom on 22 points, have played a game more than all the clubs around them and this Saturday host a Brentford side unbeaten in 12 league games and making an audacious bid to qualify for Europe.
The three teams immediately above the relegation zone – Leeds United (22 points), West Ham United (23) and Leicester City (24) will all view the weekend as chance to put some daylight between themselves and those in the bottom three.
However, they all face tricky tests.
Leeds host eighth-placed Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham take on 11th-placed Aston Villa while Leicester host Chelsea.
A week ago Leicester would have relished the visit of goal-shy 10th-placed Chelsea but since then Graham Potter’s Blues have beaten Leeds and reached the Champions League last eight with a 2-0 home victory over Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Leicester are on a three-game losing streak in the league and failed to score in any of those games.
West Ham manager David Moyes has been backed by the club’s owners despite being jeered in last week’s 4-0 loss at Brighton.
He has a wealth of experience in relegation battles and, while that will count in his favour, a defeat by Villa at the weekend would put huge pressure on the Scot.
Nottingham Forest (26 points) have done well to rise to 14th place after a shaky return to the top flight and will fancy their chances against a Tottenham Hotspur side who exited the FA Cup and Champions League with a whimper in the past nine days as well as losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the league.
Wolves (27), who are 13th, travel to out-of-form sixth-placed Newcastle United, while 12th-placed Crystal Palace (27) host a Manchester City side who will be hunting a win that would allow them to close provisionally within two points of Arsenal.
The Gunners face a tricky test at Fulham on Sunday.