No lead in the 2013-14 Premier League is safe entering Week 34.
The title is still up for grabs, and the league's best will all take the pitch on Matchday 34 looking to put themselves in good position heading down the final stretch. As Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea sit neck-and-neck at the top of the table, Arsenal have some ground to make up in the title race.
Soon, City will make up the games in hand that they have and Liverpool and Chelsea will be forced to hang on. For now, they will have to make sure they're in the best position possible for when that comes by winning in every outing.
A few matches jump off the page as ones that will directly impact the title race, so let's break those down and figure out who has the upper edge in each of those.
|2013-14 Premier League Table (as of April 5)|
|11||West Ham United||32||10||7||15||-6||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||32||6||14||12||-11||32|
|Premier League Week 34 Fixtures|
|Home Team||Date||Away Team|
|Crystal Palace||Sat., April 12||Aston Villa|
|Fulham||Sat., April 12||Norwich City|
|Southampton||Sat., April 12||Cardiff City|
|Stoke City||Sat., April 12||Newcastle United|
|Sunderland||Sat., April 12||Everton|
|West Brom||Sat., April 12||Tottenham|
|Liverpool||Sun., April 13||Manchester City|
|Swansea City||Sun., April 13||Chelsea|
|Arsenal||Tue., April 15||West Ham United|
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Two of the top title contenders square off in a crucial Matchday 24 showdown between Liverpool and Manchester City in Anfield.
Still with a coveted games-in-hand advantage over the Reds and most of the table, Manchester City have shown to have impeccable title form in recent weeks. They have outscored their last five EPL opponents, 15-2, and are fresh off a 4-1 drubbing of Southampton.
But even though they've got two games in the bag, Liverpool own a lead on them in the overall table and could really turn up the pressure on the Citizens if Luis Suarez and company are able to pull out three points at home and leave City without a result.
And the Reds' offensive firepower hasn't been lacking, either, as they have outscored their last five opponents before Sunday's tilt with West Ham, 18-4. Suarez had six of Liverpool's goals in that span.
Whichever defense can slow down the opposing attack most and get in front of passes will have a huge upper hand in this match. Liverpool will get the edge in that because they're at home, but City have shown more than capable of continuing their firepower on the road.
Liverpool defenders Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have been shutting down the EPL more consistently than almost any other duo of backs, and they will know just what to do to frustrate City's chemistry in the attacking third. That will open up counter-attacks for a lurking Suarez and Daniel Sturridge to blow things open.
Swansea City vs. Chelsea
Coming off an impressive victory over Stoke City, Chelsea will hope to keep the lead in their own hands by traveling to face Swansea City on the road.
Chelsea took a 1-0 half-time lead against Stoke and looked to have some trouble pulling away for a moment before ending with a 3-0 victory. With that win, they claimed the top spot in the league after Week 33.
But nothing has come easy for the Blues this season, and it's safe to say that will continue now that Chelsea's spot in the title race is cemented. Clubs looking for a reason to be motivated late in the season will be fired up at the chance of impacting the title race by beating Chelsea. Swansea City will be one of those teams.
However, as Chelsea showed in their win over Stoke City and in countless close victories this season, they can win when the pressure is on and when everything isn't going their way. That's the sign of a title team, and that will push Chelsea over the hump against an inferior team such as Swansea.
Sunderland vs. Everton
This match doesn't have any title implications, but it does involve a possible Champions League swoop from Everton if they can notch a road win and finish strong.
The Toffees will travel to face Sunderland, which still have yet to face Tottenham in Week 33 and enter that match coming off three straight losses. They haven't won a Premier League game since Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, Everton are sitting in fifth place in the table, just four points shy of Arsenal as of April 5. If Everton top Arsenal in Matchday 33, they could jump the Gunners for that fourth and final Champions League spot against Sunderland in this match.
Balanced scoring is a great way that Everton could come away with an easy win here. Only two of their last nine goals have come from Romelu Lukaku, which bodes well in two areas—Lukaku is scoring consistently, but the rest of the team is stepping up more so.
Sunderland have allowed multiple goals from six of their last seven opponents, and that trend will continue with one of the EPL's most underrated offenses coming to town.
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