All Access Soccer


By: Matt Carroll , ALL ACCESS SOCCER’S International expert

Matchday 31
With the FA Cup taking precedent this weekend as seven clubs tend to their responsibilities in the quarterfinals, an abbreviated Saturday only card will kick off Matchday 31 of the English Premier League tomorrow morning. There are still a couple good matchups and several teams will now have a game in hand that could potentially be an advantage as we draw closer to the end of the season, so be sure to tune in with every game available live across the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.
Saturday (all times eastern)
11am – Crystal Palace @ Huddersfield Town – John Smith’s Stadium, NBC Sports Network
Despite enjoying a man advantage for over seventy nine minutes, Huddersfield Town were unable to find the crucial breakthrough and let a golden opportunity to put some much needed distance between themselves and the rest of the bunch fighting the drop slip by when they played to a scoreless draw with relegation rivals Swansea City. Another potential relegation decider awaits them on Saturday when they entertain Crystal Palace at the John Smith’s Stadium, with Palace still occupying the final relegation place, four points below the Terriers, after they fell for the fourth week in a row to Chelsea 2-1.
While Palace struggle to survive, the next three weeks could determine the top flight future of Huddersfield as the Terriers face three direct relegation rivals with trips to Newcastle and Brighton to follow the visit from Palace, before ending the campaign against league giants Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal. With the brutal run in they must take points from direct relegation rivals if they have any hopes of staying up and they should have the slight edge at home on Saturday, as Palace are winless in their last four on the road (D1) and have only two wins from their fifteen so far this season (L9 D4).
11am – Everton @ Stoke City – bet365 Stadium, NBC Live Extra
Everton snapped a two game losing streak and halted Brighton and Hove Albion’s rise from near the bottom of the table as they dealt the Premier League new boys a first defeat in their last five with two second half goals enough for a 2-0 victory. Hoping to finish what has for the most part been a disappointing campaign after sky high expectations at the start of the year, they will travel to the bet365 Stadium for a meeting with the increasingly desperate Stoke City, who put in a decent showing but were ultimately no match for a less than perfect Manchester City to stay two points from safety in a 2-0 loss.
With matchups still to come over the next two weeks with Arsenal and Tottenham before a trip to Liverpool a few weeks after that, Stoke find themselves in the same boat as Huddersfield Town where they have to take points from direct relegation rivals in pending matchups with West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Swansea if they have any hopes of surviving another year in the top flight. If they can steal a point from Everton, who have won three of the last four with the Potters but who have only two wins from their nine all time Premier League visits to the bet365 Stadium (L2 D5), that would be a bonus.
1:30pm – Watford @ Liverpool – Anfield, NBC Sports Network
A tactical masterclass from Jose Mourinho stymied Liverpool and the league’s second most prolific attack, with an own goal courtesy of the United defense all they could get muster as they fell to a 2-1 defeat and back down to fourth place in the table. Only a week after looking as if they were a shoe in for one of the final three spots in the top four, the Reds find themselves only four points above Chelsea, who closed the gap and probably saved their managers job following the win over Crystal Palace, when they welcome Watford to Anfield to wrap up the abbreviated matchday card.
Watford’s struggles on the road continued as their 3-0 defeat to the reeling Arsenal made it seven losses from their last eight away from home (D1), with the Hornets failing to get on the scoresheet in the last four. A visit to Anfield, where Liverpool have yet to lose this season (W9 D6) and where Watford have only one win from their twelve all time trips (L10 D1), is probably the last thing they need right now but Liverpool, who have dropped only one of the last ten with the Hornets across all competitions (W8 D1), will like their chances to bounce back and maintain their four point cushion in fourth place.

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