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Physical, mental recovery vital in Premier League title race (Preview)

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London, May 6 (IANS) This weekend in the Premier League will be about mental toughness and the ability to handle pressure at the top and bottom of the table. The destiny of this season’s title could well depend on how Manchester City are able to handle the mental shock to the system that their Champions League exit to Real Madrid caused on Wednesday night.

City looked to have a foot and a half in the final as they led 1-0 in the 73rd minute and even missed two gilt-edged chances to make it 2-0 before they were left shell-shocked by another late Real Madrid comeback that saw them crash out in extra time.

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Pep Guardiola said afterwards his players would need a couple of days to recover from the disappointment, but despite the mental blow of snatching defeat from victory, there is also the tiredness factor after 120 minutes of intense football, Xinhua reports.

Newcastle United may not have anything other than pride to play for, but Eddie Howe’s side have improved hugely since January and will be uncomfortable rivals in the Ethiad Stadium, despite their record of 11 consecutive defeats against Guardiola’s side.

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Liverpool will have the chance to further pile the pressure on Man City given that they play Tottenham on Saturday and a win for Jurgen Klopp’s men would once again see them leap-frog to the top of the table.

Liverpool had to deal with pressure in Europe on Tuesday night but kept their nerve to get past Villarreal after arguably their worst 45 minutes of the campaign, although tired legs could be a factor as well on Saturday.

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Tottenham will provide a huge challenge with Antonio Conte’s side looking to finish in fourth place and with Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son providing a massive threat in attack.

At the other end of the table, anything other than a win for Watford away to Crystal Palace will see them confirmed after Norwich as the second side condemned to relegation this season, although their fate will also be sealed if Leeds and Burnley get one more point this season.

The fact that Watford coach Roy Hodgson’s last job was at Selhurst Park, where he coached for four moderately successful seasons, should escape nobody.

Burnley have given themselves a massive fighting chance of survival with three consecutive wins and they now entertain Aston Villa, knowing another win would once again take them five points clear of third from bottom Everton and three clear of Leeds United for at least 24 hours.

Everton claimed a vital win at home to Chelsea last weekend, but now need to improve their away form when they visit Leicester City on Sunday. The fixture calendar has been kind to Everton as Leicester had a Conference League semifinal in Rome on Thursday and the efforts of that narrow defeat must have drained them.

Leeds meanwhile face a difficult visit to play fourth-placed Arsenal, who currently have a two-point cushion over Tottenham, who they have to visit in what looks like a decisive match next Thursday.

Saturday also sees an out of sorts Chelsea at home to Wolves, who look to be running out of gas at the end of the season, while Manchester United face a difficult visit to Brighton as they aim to at least qualify for next season’s Europa League.

Meanwhile Brentford play Southampton in a game between two sides, who would sit a bit more comfortably with three more points in the table, while already relegated Norwich are at home to West Ham, who need to overcome their Europa League disappointment to keep their top-six hopes alive.

–IANS

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