Preview: Europe at stake as shadow of Superleague hangs over Premier League weekend games

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LONDON, April 22 (Xinhua) — The shadow of the Superleague is bound to hang over the eight games due to be played in the Premier League between Friday and Monday, which have brought the battle for Europe very much to the fore.

The weekend kicks off on Friday night as Arsenal, one of the six Premier League sides to originally commit to the Superleague project only to then withdraw, entertain Everton.

Everton issued perhaps the strongest statement from any club in Europe to condemn the Superleague, saying: “Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table. Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond,” so even though Arsenal have apologized for their actions, we could be in for a tense affair between two sides who both have work to do if they want earn their place in Europe on the pitch.

Saturday’s game between fifth place West Ham and fourth place Chelsea promises to be vital in the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Chelsea were one of the first Premier League sides to withdraw from the Superleague, while the fact that West Ham (along with Leicester City) have the chance to make it into Europe’s most lucrative competition is a perfect example of what is wrong with a ‘closed shop’ Superleague.

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel needs to take all three points from their visit to the London Stadium, but Chelsea disappointed in a 0-0 draw at home to Brighton in midweek and visit Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, so the coach will have to decide whether or not he picks his strongest side or looks to rest key players, such as Mason Mount.

Liverpool entertain Newcastle United as they also look to keep up their challenge for a top-four finish against a rival that is just about safe from relegation.

Both Liverpool coach, Jurgen Klopp and the players expressed their opposition to the Superleague plans and Liverpool fans were among the most vocal opponents of the scheme and it would be no surprise to see celebrations at the failure of the plans outside of Anfield ahead of the game.

Brighton’s point against Chelsea leaves them close to confirming their place in the top-flight for next season and a win away to a demoralized Sheffield United, who were relegated last week, would probably be enough to assure their Premier League spot.

Burnley are a point behind Brighton and need to end a three-game losing streak when they travel to play Wolverhampton Wanderers looking to end their rival’s two game winning run.

Manchester United could close the gap on Manchester City to eight points if they can make it five wins from five games in what promises to be an entertaining visit across the Pennines to play Leeds United.

Eric Bailly could be back for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side after being infected with Covid-19 in the past international break.

Sunday ends with a Midlands derby as Aston Villa and West Brom renew a historic rivalry with West Brom aiming for a third consecutive win to keep their slim hopes of avoiding relegation alive.

Third place Leicester City play Crystal Palace on Monday night as they look to take another step towards a place in next season’s Champions League. Enditem

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