LONDON: Arsenal have no time to dwell on their Cham­pions League exit as they return to Premier League action this weekend with the chance to reclaim top spot.

Manchester City were the big winners last week, hammering Luton Town 5-1 before Arsenal and Liverpool both lost, and are now firm favourites to claim an unprecedented fourth straight English top-flight title.

But City are in FA Cup semi-final action against Chelsea on Saturday and could find themselves shunted down to third spot.

At the bottom of the table, relegation-threatened Everton and Nottingham Forest, both hit with points deductions, go head to head.Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta says they still have a “beautiful” opportunity in the title race, but their campaign is in danger of ending in a whimper for the second straight year.

The second-placed Gunners, who face mid-table Wolver­hampton Wanderers on Saturday, led the way in the Premier League for the bulk of last season but faded badly in the run-in, allowing City to cruise past them.

They appeared to have toughened up this campaign, taking four points off both Liverpool and City and going on a run of 10 wins in 11 games.

But last week’s 2-0 home defeat by Aston Villa was a huge blow, compounded by their midweek Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.

Arteta knows his men need an arm around their shoulders after their “painful” defeat in Germany.

“What we still have to play (for) is beautiful and I said before, it’s time to be next to our players and in this moment, not when you win 10... and a draw,” he said.

Arsenal must beat Wolves — both to stay in the title hunt and to prove they have what it takes.

Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League title push in his final season at Anfield is running out of momentum after a damaging draw against Manchester United and a shock defeat by Crystal Palace.

Liverpool had 49 shots over the two games but managed just two goals, in the chaotic 2-2 draw with United, telling a tale of wastefulness.

Liverpool had been the masters at winning points from losing positions but they have lost that useful knack, winning just two of their past five league games.

At the other end of the pitch, Klopp’s men, who have struggled with defensive injuries, are struggling to keep clean sheets.

Liverpool, City’s closest challengers during Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Etihad, are not out of the race — like Arsenal they are just two points off the top ahead of Sunday’s match against Fulham.

But unless they rediscover their sharpness at both ends of the pitch, their challenge could quickly be over.

Their mood would not have been improved by crashing out of the Europa League on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Everton or Forest could find themselves in the relegation zone at the end of the weekend if Luton beat Brentford.

Both clubs have been hit with penalties for breaches of the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules.

Everton have been docked eight points in total for two breaches — a two-point punishment earlier this month followed a six-point penalty, reduced from 10 on appeal.

The club have also appealed against the second penalty.

Forest were docked four points and have also appealed.

Everton, who have been ever-present in the English top-flight since 1954/55, have won just one of their past 15 league matches.

Both clubs will hope their appeals are successful but they cannot afford to rely on a successful outcome as the games run out.

Fixtures: Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated): Luton Town v Brentford, Sheffield United v Burnley, Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal (1830); Sunday: Everton v Nottingham Forest (1230), Aston Villa v Bournemouth (1400), Crystal Palace v West Ham United (1400), Fulham v Liverpool (1530).

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2024

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