All Access Soccer

Matchday 25

By: Matt Carroll, All Access Soccer’s Premier League Expert


Matchday 25
After taking a week off from league play as several teams tended to their FA Cup responsibilities, Matchday 25 of the English Premier League kicks off later today with the January transfer window set to close in just under thirty-six hours and a lingering cloud of uncertainty still hanging over several clubs and the futures of several players. With Phillipe Coutinho ditching Liverpool for Barcelona and the player plus cash swap between Manchester United and Arsenal, that saw Alexis Sanchez leave the capitol and Henrikh Mkhitaryan head the other way, finally going through, could any additional moves be in the works before the transfer window slams shut until the summer?
It sounds like the Gunners are set to smash their transfer record with the deadline day addition of Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to provide some much needed attacking prowess, while across town Chelsea continues to turn over every available stone in search of a striker. And don’t forget about the MLS, as it sounds like a pretty well known Swede could now be calling the west coast home in just a few short hours. There’s a lot going on so stay tuned, and be sure to catch all of the mid-week action live across the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.
Tuesday (all times eastern)
2:45pm – Arsenal @ Swansea City – Liberty Stadium, NBC Live Extra
Rock bottom Swansea City pulled off the shock of the season when they took advantage of the classic after big game let down and, going a goal ahead shortly before the break, survived a second half onslaught from Liverpool to give their hopes of top flight survival a major boost with a 1-0 victory. Still stuck in the cellar but now with a glimmer of hope and only one defeat in the six games since manager Carlos Carvahal was handed the reins, they will continue a make or break five week stretch against clubs in the top half of the table when they welcome Arsenal to the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The Gunners were four goals to the good within the opening quarter hour to cruise past Crystal Palace 4-1 before they went one better a few days later when they came from a goal down to beat Chelsea and book a date with Manchester City in the finals of the Carabao Cup next month. They have so far not felt the effects of the Alexis Sanchez departure and, although they are only a mid-table team without the Chilean, should continue a late season charge for the top four as they have won three in a row and four of the last five (L1) against the Swans, including four of their last five visits to the Liberty Stadium (L1).
Wednesday (all times eastern)
2:45pm – Brighton & Hove Albion @ Southampton – St. Mary’s Stadium, NBC Live Extra
After falling two goals behind only six minutes in, Brighton & Hove Albion had several chances throughout to get back in the game but were unable to take advantage as they lost for the third time in their last five (D2) 4-0 defeat to Chelsea. Still in search of their first win of the New Year and now sitting only a point above the drop zone, they will travel to the St. Mary’s Stadium for a relegation showdown with Southampton, who themselves are yet to win since the calendar turned but who did manage to pick up an unlikely and potentially invaluable point in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham.
While the result failed to move Southampton out of the final relegation place and extended their winless run to a league leading eleven games (L5 D6), they are now just one point from safety and below their weekday visitors. Because the bottom half of the table is so tightly packed, three points could see either side move to the cusp of the top half with some much-needed breathing room from the bottom, and it should be the Saints who have the slight edge as Brighton have lost five of their last six away from home (D1) and have only one win from their last four trips to the St. Mary’s Stadium (L2 D1).
3pm – Manchester United @ Tottenham – Wembley Stadium, NBC Sports Network
The draw with the struggling Southampton had threatened to derail Tottenham’s fight to break in to the top four, but the late Christmas present from Swansea City helped Spurs close the gap with fourth place Liverpool to only two points, instead of the five they would have fallen behind if they had taken care of business in their trip to Wales. They will hope to keep the pressure on the Reds and close the eight-point gap with Manchester United, who gutted out a hard fought 1-0 victory on the road at Burnley to consolidate their hold on second place, and who they host at Wembley Stadium Wednesday afternoon.
Like Swansea at the other end of the table, the visit from United will kick off a season defining stretch for Tottenham, whose hopes of a top four finish is likely to depend on how they navigate the visit from United and then matchups with Liverpool and Arsenal over the next two weeks. With the two splitting the last eleven meetings evenly (D3) but United enjoying a staggering twenty-six game unbeaten run against Spurs across all competitions (W21 D5) prior, which included their last eleven trips to London (W8 D3), it will be tough for Spurs to get the crucial stretch started on the right foot.

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