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Fewer Matches, Plenty Of Action For English Premier League This Weekend

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Jesse Lingard of West Ham United crosses the ball during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Leeds United at London Stadium on March 08, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A reduced weekend for the English Premier League as the FA Cup is also on the go, and next week we have the international break. So these are the last few EPL games left for March.

In the FA Cup, you’ll have four matches that are well worth keeping an eye on. With south coast rivals Bournemouth and Southampton going at it on Saturday. Everton and Manchester City are also ones to keep tabs on as City look to keep their quadruple desires alive. And Sunday you have Chelsea and Sheffield United, ending with Leicester City and Man United. All matches will be shown on ESPN+.

Onto the weekend and EPL. There are a couple of fixtures that jump out. Friday you’ll have Fulham versus Leeds United which’s a 2:00 p.m. kick-off, on NBCSN. We know Leeds are entertainers, but Fulham also plays some lovely stuff, even though they’re fighting for survival. Scott Parker, if he keeps the Cottagers up, deserves to be in the hat for the manager of the year.

West Ham United v. Arsenal

This is the big one for the weekend ladies and gentlemen. The 9:00 a.m. kick-off on Sunday will be worth tuning in to on Peacock TV.

West Ham is flying. They are looking to lock Champions League football in as quickly as possible. It will be tough, but what an achievement it would be. They have been great, tough competitors and made themselves difficult to beat, and the arrival of Jesse Lingard on loan from Man United seems to have given the squad a jolt in the arm, along with Lingard embracing the loan move to get his own career back on track.

They’ve looked slicker in recent weeks and the attacking options have looked like they’ve gone up another gear. Antonio will once again lead the line, he is an outstanding player. Quick and physical, the converted winger will drag defenders all over the place to create space. The likes of Lingard, Bowen, Fornals, Lanzini, and Benrahma can all take advantage of playing off such an unselfish forward. David Moyes deserves a lot of praise as well, he’s got the Hammers defensively organized like his old Everton teams. And I can see them hovering around the top six whilst he’s in charge.

As for Arsenal, the Gunners are riding on a real high after beating the Spurs in the North London derby last weekend. Captain Aubameyang was dropped for disciplinary reasons and it will be interesting to see if he is reinstated. In all honesty, though, he wasn’t missed.

Arsenal looked good, with good movement in the attacking third. And they’ll likely get more of the possession for this match, as West Ham sits back, looking to soak up pressure and hit the Gunners on the break and make full use of attacking set-pieces.

Once again I’m looking for the youngsters at Arsenal, if fit, to take the game by the scruff of the neck and grasp the opportunities they’re given to ply their trade at the highest level. If the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe along with Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli continue the upward trajectory they’ve shown, Arsenal at the very least will be entertaining to watch, and at best, title challengers. There is potential, and they’re all brave on the ball. I hope we get to see them reach the heights of their potential…but West Ham will have no interest in what Arsenal could have, they’ll be looking to take advantage of the inconsistencies that sometimes come with younger players.

A tough battle in the middle of the park will ensue and the likes of Declan Rice for West Ham and Thomas Partey (although not a typical defensive midfielder) for Arsenal will provide a physical presence and a platform for their respective teams to dominate the middle of the park.

Prediction: A tough match to call, I do make the Hammers slight favorites though, but Arsenal’s stingy defense makes this a tight and intriguing affair. A draw at London stadium is on the cards for me, but a thoroughly entertaining draw.

I’ll be back in April, after the World Cup qualifiers, as we look at who comes back unscathed from international duty.

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