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Middlesborough welcome fanless Chelsea, Man City visit St Mary’s – Sports Africa

The English top-flight will see a mixed bag of action  this weekend with FA Cup quarterfinal and Premier League games on the menu.

The FA Cup winners Chelsea visit Middlesbrough, with Thomas Tuchel’s side so far doing well to maintain their performances despite the ongoing sanctions against the club owned by Roman Abramovich and rumors of its impending sale.

After a long coaching journey, Chelsea can expect a hostile reception in the Riverside Stadium from fans of Championship (second division) side Middlesbrough, angry at the West London club’s efforts to have the match played behind closed doors due to Chelsea being unable to sell tickets to their own fans under the conditions of the sanctions.

Middlesbrough are performing well under former Sheffield United coach Chris Wilder, knocking Tottenham out of the last round and beating Manchester United prior to that to send a very clear warning to their rivals.

The remaining three games are all played on Sunday with Crystal Palace hosting Everton, who claimed three vital and dramatic points in their battle to avoid relegation on Thursday.

Premier League leaders Manchester City visit Southampton with their lead in the Premier League reduced to just a point and Pep Guardiola can expect a difficult afternoon at St Mary’s.

Southampton have drawn both home and away with Man City in the Premier League this season and although a run of three consecutive defeats has stopped their rise up the table, they have to be taken seriously.

Liverpool will also have to be at their best in their visit to play Nottingham Forrest after the Championship club’s impressive performances to leave Arsenal and Leicester City by the wayside in previous rounds.

Forrest have improved dramatically since the arrival of Steve Cooper as coach and are also closing in on the playoffs for a possible return to the top flight.

Liverpool will be favorites after Wednesday’s 2-0 win away to Arsenal, which left them just a point behind Man City in the Premier League, with players such as Robert Firmino and Mohamed Salah both rested at the start of that game to keep them fresh for Sunday.

In the Premier League, Leeds United continue their battle to avoid relegation and after their dramatic late win against Norwich City last week. Leeds face a difficult visit to Wolves, who would climb into the top-six with a win.

Arsenal need to recover from Wednesday’s defeat to Liverpool when they visit Aston Villa for what looks like an evenly balanced game. The encounter will be a good chance to compare Villa’s Philippe Coutinho and Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard – players who struggled at Barca and Real Madrid, but who are leading from the front in the Premier League.

Consecutive wins have lifted Brentford eight points clear of the bottom three and Thomas Frank’s side will aim to take advantage of tired legs at Leicester, who were in Conference League action on Thursday night. Leicester could see Wesley Fofana make his return in the league after missing all of the season through injury.

Finally, Tottenham will try to maintain hopes of a top-six finish alive when they entertain West Ham United, with the visitors likely to be tired after their memorable extra-time win against Sevilla in the Europa League on Thursday.

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