BOLTON, ENGLAND - SUNDAY AUGUST 29th 2004: Liverpool's manager Rafael Benitez before the match against Bolton during the Premiership match at the Reebok Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Can Rafa overcome Man City? Will Arsenal continue their collapse? – Midweek Premier League Preview

There are five Premier League matches to look forward to before the weekend, with big games at the top and bottom of the table.

We’re right at the business end of the season and there are some crucial games on the horizon this week.

Liverpool’s Merseyside derby clash with Everton is the standout match in many ways, but there have certainly been more important clashes between the two over the years.

Both the Reds and the Toffees have little to play for in the league – Jurgen Klopp‘s men may feel a top-six finish would represent a respectable end to the campaign – but, of course, local bragging rights remain hugely important.

Wednesday’s showdown at Anfield will see Liverpool look to continue their impressive recent run of form – just one defeat in eight in the league – while Everton are looking for a first win in seven.

It is one of five Premier League matches that take place before the weekend action.

Rafa looks for priceless win over City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 24, 2013: Manchester City's Sergio Aguero in action against Tottenham Hotspur during the Premiership match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Newcastle looked doomed for relegation prior to last weekend’s fixtures, but results panned out perfectly for Rafa Benitez’s new side.

Their 3-0 home win over Swansea was vital, but the fact that Sunderland had defeated Norwich a couple of hours earlier was an added bonus.

Benitez’s men are now just three points adrift of safety with a game in hand, and they host Man City at St James’ Park on Tuesday evening.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team have found form of late, winning 3-0 at Chelsea in their last outing, but their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid may act as a distraction.

Benitez will certainly be hoping this is the case, and a surprise win for Newcastle would be potentially huge in the relegation fight.

Can Rafa inspire a tactical display to keep Sergio Aguero quiet? That will be key.

United clinging to top-four hopes

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 16, 2014: Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal and assistant Ryan Giggs before the Premier League match against Swansea City at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Man United may have picked up another three points at the weekend, but their lifeless 1-0 win against an appalling Aston Villa side seemed to sum up their season.

The level of football was, as ever, far from entertaining and there was a lethargy about the Red Devils that their supporters have become accustomed to under Louis van Gaal.

Despite clearly being one of the worst United sides for many years, they are still not out of the hunt for a top-four finish.

Van Gaal’s outfit are four points behind both City and Arsenal, in third and fourth, respectively, and they will fancy their chances of overcoming out-of-form Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The Eagles earned a spirited 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday, but they have been abysmal in 2016 and if the season went on for a few weeks longer they would be dragged into the relegation scrap. Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Watford is all that matters to them now.

Victory for United would continue to keep the heat on those above them and unfortunately Palace are likely to have more than one eye on that FA Cup semi-final.

Must-win game for lifeless Gunners

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 18, 2015: Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the Premier League match against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Only Arsenal could collapse so spectacularly this season.

The Gunners should have strolled to the title, given the way in which their rivals have fallen like dominoes, but they have been abysmal since the turn of the year.

The same old weaknesses have come back to haunt them – a complete lack of fight, most notably – and the divide between the fans is now poisonous. Arsene Wenger is splitting opinion like never before.

The Frenchman is as stubborn as they come, but a failure to finish in the Champions League places would surely make him consider his future as manager.

Arsenal host a West Brom side with absolutely nothing to play for on Thursday, but Tony Pulis loves an upset and would be more than happy with a 0-0 draw.

With United sneaking results, Arsenal‘s annual top-four finish isn’t secure just yet.

Hammers and Hornets do battle in east London

11.11.2011, Turk Telekom Arena, Istambul, TUR, UEFA EURO Qualifikation, Tuerkei (TUR) vs Kroatien (CRO), im Bild Slaven Bilic // during the UEFA EURO qualifying football match, between Turkey (TUR) and Craoatia (CRO) at Turk Telekom Arena Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey on 11/11/2011. EXPA Pictures © 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Pixsell/ Slavko Midzor..***** ATTENTION - OUT OF GER, CRO *****

Leicester‘s dramatic 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday may have seen the Foxes dominate the headlines, but Leonardo Ulloa’s controversial late penalty was very damaging to the Hammers’ European hopes.

The two dropped points mean they are now seven points adrift of City and Arsenal, and fifth place now appears to be their best possible finish.

With the move to the Olympic Stadium imminent, it would be a huge signal of intent if the Hammers were hosting European football there next season.

On Wednesday evening, Slaven Bilic’s impressive side welcome Watford to Upton Park, and it has a home win written all over it.

The Hornets have the FA Cup semi-final against Palace to look forward to on Sunday, so key players are sure to be rested, while West Ham only have the league to focus on.

Liverpool are now only two points behind the east Londoners, having played a game less, so Bilic will be keen to ensure victory.

A surprise win for Watford, and a victory for the Reds in the derby, would see us move above West Ham into sixth.

This week’s Premier League Fixtures

Newcastle vs. Man City

West Ham vs. Watford
Liverpool vs. Everton
Man Utd vs. Crystal Palace

Arsenal vs. West Brom

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