Preview: FC Utrecht vs. Sparta Rotterdam

FC Utrecht welcome Sparta Rotterdam to Stadion Galgenwaard for an Eredivisie Europa playoff semi-final on Thursday night.

The winners of this one-legged affair will face the victors of the second semi-final between NEC and Go Ahead Eagles for a chance to secure a place in the Europa Conference League qualifying rounds for next season.

Match preview

After three successive sixth-placed finishes between 2018-19 and 2020-21, Utrecht have since secured seventh spot in each of the last three Eredivisie campaigns, although they finished four points worse off this time around compared to the previous season.

De Domstedelingen only won one of their final four matches of the regular season and subsequently finished six points behind fifth-placed Ajax and 15 points adrift of fourth-placed AZ Alkmaar, whom they drew 3-3 with at AFAS Stadion last weekend.

Utrecht were staring down the barrel of defeat as they entered half time three goals behind, but Othmane Boussaid pulled one back 10 minutes after the interval before the dismissal of AZ’s Dani de Wit on the hour mark shifted the contest in the visitors’ favour, with Sam Lammers and Victor Jensen scoring in the final 20 minutes to rescue a point.

Ron Jans’s side are now bidding to securing European football for the first time since competing in the 2010-11 Europa League group stage, but success on Thursday is not a given considering that they suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Sparta Rotterdam less than a fortnight ago.

That victory for Sparta is one of six that they have celebrated across their last eight Eredivisie matches, and this strong run of form helped them make a late surge into the top eight, although they still finished two places and 10 points worse off than in 2022-23.

Camiel Neghli was the only name on the scoresheet when De Kasteelheren beat Utrecht earlier this month, and he also opened the scoring in a 2-1 home win over Heerenveen last weekend; Tobias Lauritsen doubled their advantage before Pawel Bochniewicz netted what proved to be only a consolation for the visitors in stoppage time.

Jeroen Rijsdijk’s men have fared slightly better away from home this term having picked up 26 of their 49 points on the road, and they head to the Stadion Galgenwaard having won three of their last four away matches.

Sparta have in fact won their last two visits to Utrecht, so they will fancy their chances of success on Thursday as they endeavour to move one step closer to securing European qualification for the first time since the 1985-86 UEFA Cup

Team News

Utrecht will be without the services of Tim Handwerker and Kevin Gadellaa as they continue to recover from knee injuries, while Anthony Descotte remains sidelined with an unspecified issue.

Former Manchester United youngster Zidane Iqbal has featured regularly in recent weeks and he is expected to continue in midfield alongside Can Bozdogan, while Rangers loanee Lammers – who has scored a team-high 10 goals this term – is set to lead the line.

As for Sparta Rotterdam, Arno Verschueren (knee) and Joshua Kitolano (unspecified) are both set to miss out due to injury, but Django Warmerdam has returned to training this week and could be in contention to return to the matchday squad.

Lauritsen, who scored away against Utrecht in a 2-1 win for Sparta last season, has scored 12 goals in all competitions this season and is expected to start up front, supported in attack by Neghli and Koki Saito.

Preview: Atalanta vs. Bayer Leverkusen

After lifting the Bundesliga trophy on Saturday, Xabi Alonso’s high-flying and invincible Bayer Leverkusen will turn their attention to Wednesday’s Europa League final against Atalanta at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The clash with Atalanta is just one of two finals this week for the Werkself, who also face Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final on Saturday. Winning both of those games to complete the treble would be the perfect way for Leverkusen to end what has been a flawless campaign.

Leverkusen reached the Europa League final with a 4-2 aggregate win over AS Roma in a match that was closer than it might appear on paper. After winning 2-0 in Rome, Leverkusen found themselves 2-0 down at home before scoring twice late on to ensure their progress.

“We showed great character. I looked my players in the eye afterwards and saw that they wanted more. We still have the chance to win three titles, and my boys deserve all three titles,” Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso said ahead of the final.

Atalanta, meanwhile, are heading for their second final of the season after losing 1-0 to Juventus in the Coppa Italia final a week ago. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side bounced back from that heartbreaking defeat with a 2-0 win over Lecce to move up to fifth in a Serie A campaign that hasn’t yet reached its conclusion.

A 3-0 home win over Olympique Marseille sent the Italian side through to the Europa League final with a 4-1 aggregate victory.

“The final will be a historic event. For teams like ours it’s truly incredible, but it’s a good omen for everyone. It’s a historic achievement for us – we also celebrated after Liverpool, after Sporting, rightly so. But we know very well that it’s not over,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso fielded Florian Wirtz as a false nine in the first leg and could do the same in the final, with the 21-year-old expected to be fit enough to start after struggling with injury recently.

In general, Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso should have a full squad to choose from, while Atalanta will be without Holm and De Roon. Toloi and Kolasinac are doubts for the Italian side.

Preview: IFK Goteborg vs. Mjallby AIF

Mjallby AIF’s pursuit of Allsvenskan leaders Malmo will continue on Tuesday evening, when they head to struggling IFK Goteborg.

The visitors currently sit third in the table, seven points behind the pace-setters Malmo, while Goteborg sit 14th, with a tough start to the campaign seeing them pick up only eight points from nine matches.

Match preview

Goteborg boast a record of two wins, two draws and five defeats from their nine league matches this season, which has left them down in 14th spot in the table on eight points.

Jens Berthel Askou’s side, who finished 13th in Sweden’s top flight last season, will enter this match off the back of a 2-2 draw with Sirius, which followed successive defeats to GAIS and Malmo.

The Blue-Whites already have the worst home record in the division this term, having picked up just one point from their four matches in front of their own supporters.

Goteborg recorded a 1-0 victory over Mjallby when these two teams last locked horns in September 2023, and they have only lost one of their last eight league matches with Tuesday’s opponents.

Askou’s team will play twice more before the end of the month, following this contest with a clash against AIK Fotboll, before opening June with a home fixture against Elfsborg.

Mjallby, meanwhile, will enter the match off the back of a 3-0 victory over Hammarby, and they will bring a four-game unbeaten run into Tuesday’s contest.

Indeed, Anders Torstensson’s side have picked up 10 points from the last 12 available, also beating Kalmar and Halmstad, in addition to sharing the points with Brommapojkarna.

Mjallby have picked up 17 points from their nine league games this season courtesy of a record of five wins, two draws and two defeats, which has left them third in the table.

Torstensson’s side are seven points behind the leaders Malmo, who have been excellent in the early stages of the campaign, while they are only two points from second-placed Djurgardens IF.

Mjallby have won two and drawn two of their four away matches this season, and they recorded a 1-0 victory in the corresponding fixture between the two sides last term.

Team News

Goteborg will be without the services of a number of first-team players for this match, with Laurs Skjellerup, Arbnor Mucolli, Anders Trondsen, Abundance Salaou, Hussein Carneil, Suleiman Abdullahi, Emil Salomonsson, Anders Kristiansen, Oscar Wendt and Pontus Dahlberg all on the sidelines.

Paulos Abraham is the team’s leading goalscorer this season with four, and the 21-year-old will again feature in an advanced area, while there will also be a spot in the XI for Thomas Santos.

Oscar Pettersson has contributed one goal this term, meanwhile, and the 24-year-old is also expected to retain his spot in the starting side for this match.

As for Mjallby, Tom Pettersson remains unavailable for selection, but the visitors are otherwise in strong shape for the clash on Tuesday night.

Head coach Torstensson is again expected to line his team up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Jacob Bergstrom set to keep his spot in the final third of the field.

Bergstrom has scored four times in all competitions this term, and he is expected to be joined in an attacking area by Imam Jagne, who has netted twice in 12 appearances during the current season.

Preview: Bologna vs. Juventus

Third place in Serie A will be on the line when Juventus travel to Bologna on Monday night.

High-flying Bologna will aim to end their 26-year-old hoodoo against Juventus at home when they face the Coppa Italia holders on Monday night.

The Bianconeri should be celebrating following their cup win but are currently in a state of turmoil after parting ways with legendary boss Massimiliano Allegri. The veteran tactician’s departure could pave the way for Bologna to stun their rivals, inflicting their first loss in this match-up since 2011.

Both sides are currently tied at 67 points, separated by only goal difference. The game should more or less help decide who finishes higher up. For Bologna, it will be a good test of where they stand give that tougher challenges will await them in next season’s UEFA Champions League.

Curiously, Thiago Motta, who has been a key architect of Bologna’s rise has been touted as a potential successor for Allegri at Juventus. This clash on Monday could be seen as an audition of sorts for the 41-year-old to seal the deal. He currently has a new three-year deal on the table at Bologna, and the coming weeks should prove to be interesting reading.

Juventus have struggled to score goals this season and now come up against a Rossoblu side that has conceded just twice in the last eight Serie A games. Defensive solidity has been a key aspect in their success, and it remains to be seen if Juventus can pick their battles wisely on the night.

With Allegri gone, youth team coach Paolo Montero will be in the dugout for Juventus on the night. With a UEFA Champions League spot already assured, he will be able to get the job done without being overwhelmed by the potential consequences.

The Bianconeri have won just two of their last 15 Serie A games, effectively throwing away an opportunity to challenge for the title. They now face a fresh start and will hope to rediscover that winning touch after a run of five draws in the league. How the game pans out could prove to be decisive for both teams’ futures going forward.  The Hard Tackle delves into the potential elevens and tactics for this highly-anticipated clash.

Team News & Tactics


Bologna will be without a trio of key players for Monday’s match at the Dall’Ara. Striker Joshua Zirkzee, who has attracted interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, is sidelined with a hamstring injury after playing 73 minutes against Napoli.

Additionally, Bologna will miss the services of Adama Soumaoro and promising Scotland midfielder Lewis Ferguson, both of whom are recovering from ACL injuries. Ferguson’s injury is particularly disappointing as it has dashed his hopes of a call-up for Euro 2024.

The home side will be likely to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lukasz Skorupski in goal. He should be protected by the backline of Stefan Posch, Jhon Lucumí, Riccardo Calafiori, and Victor Kristiansen.

Remo Freuler and Michel Aebischer should form the double pivot in central midfield, with Riccardo Orsolini, Kacper Urbanski and Dan Ndoye forming the attacking midfield trio. Jens Odgaard should take Zirkzee’s spot up front.


Juventus will be without Mattia De Sciglio, who is recovering from a muscle issue. Paul Pogba is still suspended but Nicolo Fagioli is set to return. Juventus have an otherwise fully fit roster to choose from for the game.

Paolo Montero is likely to set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Wojciech Szczesny in goal. The veteran should be protected by the defensive trio of Danilo, Federico Gatti, and Gleison Bremer.

The trio of Adrien Raiot, Fabio Miretti and Weston McKennie should form the central midfield, with Andrea Cambiaso and Filip Kostic leading the forward foray on the flanks. Dusan Vlahovic was the hero in the Coppa Italia final and will hope to mark his 100th game for Juventus in style, with Federico Chiesa partnering him in attack.

Key Stats

  • A draw on the night will see both sides draw two of their games in a league campaign for the first time since 2011/12.
  • Juventus have lost just once in their last 42 Serie A games to Bologna. I Rossoblu last defeated the Bianconeri in Serie A in 2011.
  • Bologna last defeated Juventus at home in the league in 1998, 26 years ago. They have since drawn six games and lost 14 to Juventus.
  • Should Bologna win their remaining two games, they will reach 73 points, the second-highest tally ever in club history for a single league campaign.
  • Only Inter Milan have secured more points at home than Bologna in Serie A this season.

Player to Watch

Dusan Vlahovic

The Serb is set for his 100th appearance for Juventus and will hope to mark it off with another match-winning performance. He found the back of the net in the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta and will aim to continue that purple patch of form.

Vlahovic will once again be the focal point of the Juventus attack and will aim to link up once again with Federico Chiesa. Keeping him quiet will give Bologna a real shot at ending their poor run of form against Juventus.

Preview: Fiorentina vs Napoli

Vincenzo Italiano will probably take charge of his last home game as Fiorentina manager as they host Napoli in Serie A on Friday.

There’s still more to gain than to lose for Fiorentina in their remaining games of the season, including the one against Napoli. For starters, they still have three games left to play and have a chance to finish in the Europa League spots. Lazio currently occupy seventh place, which will ensure the last Europa League spot for next season.

With six points separating La Viola from Lazio, and given they still have three more games, automatic Europa League qualification is still a possibility. Vincenzo Italiano would love the idea of chasing down Lazio. Still, he might also want to bow out of Fiorentina by winning the UEFA Europa Conference League final in Athens later this month.

That game could be his penultimate clash as Fiorentina boss, and now the one against Napoli will probably be his last one at home. Hence, Italiano wants to finish the season on a high and will aim for a win that will boost Viola’s hopes of finishing as high as possible on the table.

Meanwhile, things are not so good over at Napoli, who continued their winless streak, which now extends to five games. In that period, the dethroned champions have accumulated only three points out of a possible fifteen, which put them out of any sort of European contention.

Bologna met them on the most recent matchday and secured a 2-0 win to confirm their UEFA Champions League spot for next season. There is a tiny hope of making it to the Europa Conference League for next season if Napoli can beat Fiorentina away and then also make sure they win their last game of the season.

Given Italy’s five Champions League spots, the last European spot is now eighth place, where Napoli can still finish with the right results. However, a defeat at the hands of Fiorentina will all but end any remaining hopes, as Napoli will want the season ended as soon as possible.

Team News & Tactics


Fiorentina do not have any fresh problems after their victory over AC Monza. They will miss Riccardo Sottil, who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing an operation to treat a collarbone fracture suffered during the first leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final.

Despite the attacker’s absence, Vincenzo Italiano might not make any unnecessary alterations to the side that beat Monza, meaning the Fiorentina boss might start an unchanged lineup against Napoli at home.

That means that neither Jonathan Ikone nor Andrea Belotti might find a place in the starting team, despite Italiano suggesting both will be involved in some capacity. M’Bala Nzola will lead the line for Fiorentina with the support of Nicolas Gonzalez and Gaetano Castrovilli in support from the wide areas.


There are a few injury-related doubts for Napoli ahead of this visit to Florence. Chief among those is the possible absence of star striker Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian did play the full 90 minutes against Bologna but has been complaining about a knee issue that has plagued him for most parts this season.

There are chances Napoli may not take the risk of aggravating that problem by playing him against Fiorentina, and the chances of him missing out completely are high. Should the Nigerian not play, Giovanni Simeone could feel he should get the chance to take his place. But Giacomo Raspadori might get the nod ahead of the Argentine.

There are further absentees: Piotr Zielinski, who might have already played his last game for the club, and Jesper Lindstrom, who will also miss out despite resuming individual training this week. In any case, the latter only has about two starts to his name in the league this season, and had he turned up fit, the chances of a bench role were quite high.

Key Stats

  • Fiorentina have scored and conceded in each of their last seven home games in Serie A.
  • Fiorentina last kept a clean sheet at home in December 2023 in Serie A.
  • Napoli are winless in their last five league games.
  • Napoli have collected only three points from their last five league games.

Player to Watch

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

The Georgian will reflect on his sub-par season before the summer and will have some questions regarding his performances and that of the team. He will surely take the criticism of a dramatic fall from grace for Napoli, especially after the highs of last season.

However, there is still a minor chance at redemption, with Napoli still in with an opportunity to finish in the last European places. A good performance against Fiorentina might set him up for an excellent end to the campaign, with Kvaratskhelia wanting to perform at his very best.

Preview: Almeria vs. FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona and Robert Lewandowski have a good-looking matchup versus UD Almeria on Thursday.

Lewandowski is fourth in LaLiga with 17 goals, while UD Almeria ranks 20th in the league defensively, allowing 70 goals.

UD Almeria’s last game was a 3-2 loss away from home against Real Betis. UD Almeria got its only goals from Luka Romero and Leo Baptistao in that game versus Real Betis.

In its most recent match on May 13, Barcelona secured a 2-0 home win over Real Sociedad. Raphinha and Lamine Yamal Nasraqui Ebana topped Barcelona with a goal apiece.

In their most recent matchup, on December 20, Barcelona defeated UD Almeria 3-2, with Barcelona taking 28 shots and UD Almeria taking 10. UD Almeria’s Baptistao and Edgar Gonzalez scored one goal each. Sergi Roberto had four shots for Barcelona, and scored two goals.

Matchup Stats & Insights

  • UD Almeria has 35 goals in 35 games (to rank 15th in LaLiga), while Barcelona has conceded 43 in 35 (to rank ninth).
  • Barcelona scores 2.1 goals per game to rank third in LaLiga, while UD Almeria concedes 2.0 per game to rank 20th.
  • UD Almeria ranks 20th in the league with a -35 goal differential.
  • Barcelona’s goal differential of +29 ranks third in the league.
  • UD Almeria has recorded 425 shots across 35 matches (to rank seventh in LaLiga), while Barcelona has given up 361 opponent shots over 35 matches (which ranks third).
  • Barcelona is second in LaLiga in shots (535 in 35 games), and UD Almeria is 19th in shots allowed (512 in 35).
  • UD Almeria has a shot differential of -87 for the season (-2.5 per game), which ranks 17th in the league.
  • Barcelona is second in the league in shot differential, at +174 (+5.0 per match).

UD Almeria Leaders

  • Sergio Arribas has six goals and three assists, playing a starring role for UD Almeria.
  • Largie Ramazani is another key player for UD Almeria, with three goals and four assists.
  • Baptistao has scored six goals but has no assists.
  • Lucas Robertone has no goals, but he has five assists.

Barcelona Leaders

  • Lewandowski has 17 goals and seven assists, playing a starring role for Barcelona.
  • Raphinha has six goals and nine assists, another key player for Barcelona.
  • Ilkay Gundogan has provided five goals and nine assists.
  • Joao Felix has added seven goals and four assists.

Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Chelsea

Chelsea will aim to continue the charge towards securing a top-six finish when they face Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Just a dozen more games remain for the long-winding 2023/24 Premier League season to culminate. This midweek features six teams catching up on the rest of the division, playing their postponed games. And the action on Wednesday will kick off at the Amex Stadium, where Brighton & Hove Albion host Chelsea.

Brighton & Hove Albion have endured an underwhelming campaign by their recently rising standards. Roberto De Zerbi had guided the club to a top-six finish last season, enduring UEFA Europa League qualification. While the Seagulls did well in Europe, reaching the round of 16, they have been sub-par in the Premier League and might finish outside the top half of the table.

As for Chelsea, they have endured a mixed bag of a debut campaign under Mauricio Pochettino. The West London club spent most of the 2023/24 season outside the top half of the Premier League table. However, the Blues have lost only one of their last 13 games to rise to seventh, level on points with sixth-placed Newcastle United. In addition, Chelsea reached the EFL Cup final and the FA Cup semi-finals.

The reverse fixture saw Chelsea eke out a narrow 3-2 win over Brighton & Hove Albion. They also beat the Seagulls 1-0 in the EFL Cup third round. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.

Team News & Tactics

Brighton & Hove Albion

Roberto De Zerbi has new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Against Chelsea on Wednesday, the Brighton & Hove Albion manager might be bereft of the services of nine first-team players.

The Italian tactician is sweating over the fitness of Joel Veltman (knock) and Joao Pedro (ankle) after picking up minor issues this past weekend. Meanwhile, Jack Hinshelwood (foot), Pervis Estupinan (ankle), Jan Paul van Hecke (thigh), James Milner (thigh), Solly March (knee), Kaoru Mitoma (back), and Evan Ferguson (ankle) remain on the sidelines.

Brighton will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Chelsea, with Bart Verbruggen taking his place between the sticks. The backline should feature Tariq Lamptey, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, and Igor.

As for the midfield unit, Billy Gilmour and Pascal Gross will be automatic picks in the double pivot. Facundo Buonanotte will reprise the no. 10 role, with Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra taking charge of the flanks. Finally, Danny Welbeck will lead the line for Brighton against Chelsea.


Unlike his counterpart in the Brighton & Hove Albion dugout, Mauricio Pochettino has greeted positive updates on the team news front ahead of his side’s latest fixture. The Chelsea boss will be without only four first-team players on Wednesday.

Ben Chilwell and Carney Chukwuemeka are closing in on returning from their respective knee injuries after stepping up their recoveries and resuming full training. So, Robert Sanchez (match fitness), Wesley Fofana (knee), Romeo Lavia (hamstring), and Enzo Fernandez (groin) are the only players on the sidelines.

Djordje Petrovic is an automatic pick between the sticks, with Chelsea lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him against Brighton & Hove Albion. The backline should feature Malo Gusto, Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile, and Marc Cucurella. So, Reece James will likely make another cameo instead of taking the field from the get-go.

As for the midfield unit, there is no looking past Moises Caicedo and Conor Gallagher in the double pivot. Cole Palmer will reprise the no. 10 role, with Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk being the two wide attackers. Finally, Nicolas Jackson will spearhead the Chelsea attack on Wednesday.

Key Stats

  • After a five-game unbeaten run against Chelsea between 2021 and 2023 (W2 D3), Brighton & Hove Albion have lost both meetings with the Blues this season.
  • Chelsea lost the corresponding fixture 4-1 in the 2022/23 season. But the Blues have never appeared on the wrong end of a result on consecutive visits to Brighton in all competitions.
  • Chelsea have only won their final away league games in one of the last six seasons (D1 L4), beating Leeds United 3-0 in 2021/22.
  • Brighton & Hove Albion have failed to score more than once in 11 Premier League games, their longest run in the competition. They last had a longer such streak between March and August 2015 (12).
  • Chelsea have racked up 29 points in the Premier League in 2024 (P16 W8 D5 L3), with only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool amassing more since the turn of the year. The Blues can win four successive Premier League games for the first time since October 2022.

Player to Watch

Nicolas Jackson

While Cole Palmer will invariably be under the spotlight due to his exceptional performances this season, we have picked Nicolas Jackson for this section. The Senegalese international has attracted plenty of criticism and trolling since joining Chelsea from Villarreal last summer, with his wastefulness contributing to it.

However, he has turned things around spectacularly since March, scoring seven goals in 11 appearances while nearly doubling his shooting accuracy and conversion rate. For context, he had found the back of the net only seven times in 22 games until March. So, amid Chelsea’s links with several strikers, including Victor Osimhen, Jackson will be eager to continue making his mark.

Preview: Tottenham vs Manchester City

Tottenham and Manchester City collide in north London on Tuesday with a very strange situation swirling around Spurs’ penultimate game of the season.

If Spurs win they will hand their bitter rivals Arsenal the advantage in the Premier League title race heading into the final day of the season. Ange Postecoglou has said he and his players are focused on winning the game to boost their own European hopes (their 2-1 win at home against Burnley this weekend kept their top four hopes alive) and isn’t focused on the fact that most of Spurs’ fans want their side to lose this game so that Manchester City have a better chance of pipping Arsenal to the title.

Ange Postecoglou: Tottenham will go all-out to win

“There is a pretty simple notion to this: there is a game of football tomorrow night, what do you think is going to happen? What do you think we are going to do as a team, or any team on this planet? Aren’t we just going to try and win?” Postecoglou said. “It is as simple, basic, premise. How that makes people feel, I’m not really fussed. I don’t really care. I hate to think anybody thinks we will go out there tomorrow night with anything other than trying to measure ourselves against a top team and maybe win a game of football that is consequential. How are we ever going to become a team that wins things if we don’t win the big games? If we shy away from it?”

“I understand rivalry, I was part of one of the biggest ones in the world the last couple of years with Celtic and Rangers. I understand rivalry but I’ve will never understand if somebody wants their own team to lose,” Postecoglou added. “That is not what sport is about. That is not what I love about the game. What I love more than anything else is the competitiveness of it. Challenging yourselves to beat someone and be successful. Anything outside of that it has got nothing to do with sport, nothing to do with me. If other people want to treat it that way where they derive pleasure from others misery, that is not how I’ve lived my life. That is not how I perceive my role. My role is to bring success to this football club. I know 100 percent of Spurs fans want us to win and be successful and win trophies. Without a shadow of a doubt. Us winning tomorrow night will help us bring joy to 100 percent of Spurs supporters.”

Pep Guardiola: If we lose Arsenal will win the title

Manchester City brushed aside Fulham 4-0 at the weekend and if they win their final two games at Tottenham and at home against West Ham on the final day, they know they will be top-flight champions for a record fourth-straight season.

But one slip up and Guardiola knows Arsenal are ready to pounce. Fun fact: Man City have won once (in the FA Cup) in six trips to the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium and have never scored a Premier League goal at the stadium.

“We played really good there many times but weren’t able to score or win games,” Guardiola explained. “We are trying to do something special so we have to do that this time.

“This is the time to do it otherwise Arsenal will be champions. The mindset is just what we need to do to win the game. The other situations can’t be in your mind because everyone knows what we are playing for.”

Tottenham focus, team news

Spurs have injury issues at the back and it will be intriguing to see who plays left back with Udogie and Davies both out. Skipp played there at the weekend but Spurs could be forced to play Micky van de Ven there and have Dragusin at center back. Sarr and Bentancur should start in midfield with Son, Maddison, Kulusevski and Johnson in attack.

OUT: Richarlison (calf), Yves Bissouma (knee), Manor Solomon (knee), Fraser Forster (ankle), Destiny Udogie (thigh), Ryan Sessegnon (thigh), Timo Werner (thigh), Ben Davies (calf)

Manchester City focus, team news

Jack Grealish is back from injury which gives Guardiola even more options, while the only concern is Nathan Ake who hobbled off in the first half at the weekend. Gvardiol (the Croatian goal-machine) will likely start at left back with Dias, Akanji and Walker likely to make up the rest of the defense. Stones could come back into midfield alongside Rodri for a bit of extra defensively solidity. Up top, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden supporting Erling Haaland seems about right. But don’t be surprised if Doku starts to make the most of Spurs’ high-line.

QUESTIONABLE: Nathan Ake (ankle)

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

Third meets fourth in the penultimate round of Premier League fixtures on Monday evening, as Aston Villa and Liverpool square off at Villa Park.

While the Reds are already assured of Champions League football for next season ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s final away game, the Lions can join them at Europe’s top table with maximum points.

Match Preview

Unai Emery’s previous penchant for glory on the continent did not translate into a place in the Europa Conference League final for Aston Villa this time around, as the Lions were undone by Greek giants Olympiacos, who put one foot in the showpiece with a stunning 4-2 first-leg success in the West Midlands.

If Villa defenders were not already having nightmares about hat-trick hero Ayoub El Kaabi, the Olympiacos striker guaranteed that he would be haunting Lions’ dreams for a little while longer thanks to a second-leg brace, ensuring that the Greek giants would scrap it out with Fiorentina for European stardom on May 29.

Either side of their two losses to Olympiacos, Aston Villa also became a rare victim of a shot-shy Brighton & Hove Albion side in Premier League action, going down 1-0 to the Seagulls in the second of three consecutive defeats; they have never lost four on the spin under Emery’s wing, however.

Tottenham Hotspur’s success over Championship-bound Burnley on Saturday also denied Villa the chance to seal fourth without kicking a ball, but still four points clear of Spurs, a return to the European big time will be theirs if they come out on the correct end of Monday’s scoreline.

However, the hosts have lost their Villa Park sparkle after their historic 15-game winning sequence on home field, only prevailing in three of their last eight Premier League contests in front of their own fans, but Emery is yet to oversee back-to-back top-flight defeats in 2023-24.

The Spaniard’s opposite number Jurgen Klopp has suggested that his counterpart should have been given more time to work his magic at Arsenal, whose North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur were the victims of a four-goal flurry from the rampant Reds at Anfield last weekend.

Pulling themselves out of their Everton and West Ham United ruts, Liverpool struck through Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo before Richarlison and Son Heung-min sparked slim hopes of an improbable turnaround, one which unsurprisingly did not come to fruition.

Sending Spurs back to North London empty-handed mathematically kept Liverpool in the hunt for top-flight glory, but owing to Manchester City’s crushing win over Fulham on Saturday lunchtime, it is now just a two-horse race between the champions and Arsenal.

As the Merseyside outfit mourn their dreams of Premier League supremacy in Klopp’s closing campaign, they can at least prolong a magnificent May unbeaten streak in the German’s last-ever away game in charge; they have gone unbeaten in 18 Premier League games in the current month since going down 1-0 to Chelsea in 2018.

A repeat of October’s astounding 7-2 victory for Aston Villa would put another dampener on Klopp’s farewell, but the Lions have since lost six and drawn one of their last seven contests versus Monday’s visitors, who were convincing 3-0 winners in September’s Anfield encounter and have 16 Premier League away successes to their name against Villa, more than any other opponent.

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While first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was given the all-clear to face Olympiacos in midweek, the same could not be said for Youri Tielemans (groin), Alex Moreno (unspecified) and Nicolo Zaniolo (unspecified), all of whom will require late fitness tests.

The hamstring injury that winger Morgan Rogers picked up in the Brighton loss might bring his season to an early end, while Emiliano Buendia (knee), Tyrone Mings (knee), Boubacar Kamara (knee) and Jacob Ramsey (ankle) are known absentees.

As such, options for change are mainly limited to up-and-coming academy products – including 20-year-old midfielder Tim Ireogbunam, who has one Premier League start to his name this season – although Clement Lenglet could provide fresh legs at the back.

Regarding Liverpool’s availability, it is as you were on the fitness front, with Diogo Jota (hip), Ben Doak (knee), Bobby Clark (unspecified), Thiago Alcantara (muscle) and Joel Matip (knee) still on the sidelines.

Eagle-eyed Reds fans spotted that Robertson was nowhere to be seen in the latest set of training pictures, but he was at the AXA facility on Friday and will seemingly be fine to feature; Kostas Tsimikas and Joe Gomez are on standby if not.

After admitting that his one “regret” this season was not playing Elliott enough, Klopp can be expected to give the Englishman another run-out in the centre of the park, while Gakpo surely justifies selection over Darwin Nunez, whom Klopp has stressed that there is “no speculation” over after the misfiring Uruguayan curiously deleted nearly all traces of Liverpool from his Instagram.

Preview: Fulham vs Manchester City

Manchester City will continue pushing for a record fourth consecutive Premier League title when they visit a Fulham side that has been strong at home all season on Saturday.

City (25-3-7, 82 points) remain in control of their destiny with three matches to play, and one in hand on an Arsenal side that enters the weekend with a one-point lead atop the table.

And with the Gunners idle until Sunday’s clash at Manchester United, Manchester City can apply more pressure with another result like their 5-1 home win against the Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend.

Erling Haaland scored four times in that one to bring his season total to 25 goals and push his lead to four over Chelsea’s Cole Palmer in the league scoring race.

Like the Wolves, Fulham are finishing the season in a zone of mid-table security, but without any chance at earning a spot in Europe next season.

That theoretically could mean a mental edge for the visitors, though City manager Pep Guardiola thinks that possibility is overstated.

“I’ve never met one player, manager or team who when they start a game they aren’t focused to play. Never ever in my life. I will not see it,” Guardiola said. “They play in front of their fans and they came to perform well and they will do everything to beat us and we will do everything to beat them.”

Fulham (12-16-8, 44 points) are winless in their past three matches, including consecutive draws against Crystal Palace and Brentford sides that have experienced varying degrees of a late-season resurgence.

But nine of the Cottagers’ league wins have come at home, including victories over Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham.

It may take an even better effort to defeat City, but it’s a challenge veteran Brazilian striker Willian is relishing.

“To beat them, you need to be perfect. In every moment of the game, in every aspect of the game. If you sleep for five seconds, they can kill us,” he said. “We respect them a lot, as I said they’re the best team in the world, but we cannot be afraid to play against them. We need to go there Saturday and try our best to win the game.”

Willian’s countryman Rodrigo Muniz scored his ninth goal of the season in the 1-1 draw against Palace two weekends ago. He could post his first career double-digit season with another, despite only becoming a regular starter over the winter.