So after all the cup-action in recent weeks it is back to a full schedule of league games this weekend, what else could be better? Okay United winning a trophy again would be nice, but I’m biased. In what we hope will be a weekly feature, we will focus on a couple of feature games chosen by the author whilst previewing each of the other games as well as giving our predictions…and if you don’t agree with our predictions then feel free to let us know.
Saturday 04 March
12:30 Man Utd Vs Bournemouth
United on the back of their recent cup win take on Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth at Old Trafford. United, led upfront by the quiet and unassuming (don’t worry that was sarcastic) Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will be looking to extend their recent unbeaten league form against a Bournemouth side who sit 4 points above the relegation zone. United will be hoping to continue their run of not losing a league game since they were battered 4-0 by Chelsea in October. The form of Mourinio’s men has been good enough to close the gap to the top 4 and if it wasn’t for draws with Hull, Stoke & Liverpool since the turn of the year, the Red Devils would be occupying a spot in the Champions League places. Jose said he would give the team a few days off after the cup final, which from their performance, is probably needed as they did not look sharp enough against a Southampton side who were clearly refreshed from their break in fixtures. United will still be without Mkhitaryan yet could have Phil Jones back in training ahead of the game.
The Cherries have not enjoyed a fruitful start to the calendar year, having conceded 23 goals and not winning a single game since beating Swansea on New Years Eve. The side which impressed many last season have blown hot and cold this season, currently occupy a 14th spot and will be hoping to get a result before to boost their confidence, before two winnable home against West Ham and Swansea. Bournemouth will be without Callum Wilson, who is out for the rest of the season with ACL injury and Jordan Ibe is also out with a knee injury, whilst Simon Francis will probably miss out due to a Hamstring problem. Bournemouth have so far relied on Josh King and Callum Wilson to score goals for the club and with Wilson out, there will be a hope that Benik Afobe will add to his 3 league goals so far this season. Bournemouth will be hoping a result at Old Trafford will help find them some form and hopefully move away from the bottom 3.
David – United 3 Bournemouth 0
Paul – United 4 Bournemouth 0
Mark – United 3-0 Cherries
15:00 Leicester Vs Hull
A lot has been wrote about Leicester City over the past week and losing Claudio Ranieri after the ‘miracle’ of last season was always going to upset people, however the owners had to make a call. The side were not performing as they had done last season and were at serious risk of being relegated, so the owners did what so many others do in that situation and try to force a change by replacing the manager. This does normally cause a reaction and that was true on Monday when Leicester suddenly remembered what they did well last season and took a Liverpool side which is challenging for European football apart. Craig Shakespeare, who was assistant to both Ranieri and Nigel Pearson, will take charge again in what could be a vital game when it comes to Premier League survival. Leicester currently have all their players available and after the performance on Monday, I would be surprised if there are any major changes to the starting 11.
Whilst Leicester will hope this game will be a stepping stone in their revival, Hull will be thinking that they need to win this game if they are going to have any chance of remaining in the Premier League. The game is more important to win for Hull as it will keep Leicester within touching distance, and whilst winning any game of football is important, beating those who occupy the positions around you is vital to survival. Hull have a lot of players out injured at the moment, more than any other team in the league, and you can’t help feel that this has definitely contributed to their poor league form. The experienced centre backs of Curtis Davis and Michael Dawson will both be out till April, yet Harry Maguire could return this weekend. In midfield, Hull will be without Henrikson and Ryan Mason, but will be hoping that Lazar Markovic recovers from a slight knock to return to the side. Up front Mbokani and Will Keane both be missing for the foreseeable future, leaving Hernandez and Diomande the recognised strikers.
David – Leicester 2 Hull 0
Paul – Leicester 2 Hull 1
Mark – Leicester 1-1 Hull
15:00 Stoke Vs Middlesbrough
Stoke have done what they do best this season, slowly accumulate enough points for safety, yet they do not look like challenging any higher than their usual mid-table position. Mark Hughes will be hoping to bounce back from the 4-0 defeat on Sunday against Tottenham and I am sure he will be glad to be facing a Middlesbrough side who have scored the fewest goals in the league this season. Stoke’s form has been as you would expect of a side who seem quite happy to maintain their mid-table position; winning 3, losing 4 and drawing 3 of their last 10 league games. Stoke may have Shaqiri back for this game, but are still without long term injury-ees (not a word) Butland, Walters and Ireland.
Middlesbrough will know that they need to start scoring goals and I am sure they would have been hoping that Negrado would have got more than the 6 he’s got so far this season. The one saving grace for Middlesbrough has been their defence, only 4 sides have conceded less goals than them, and unsurprisingly they are all in the top half of the league. If Middlesbrough can find the back of the net whilst continuing what they are doing in defence then there is a chance they could stay up, but they need to make sure they start winning games as soon as possible as they play Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Liverpool in their final 6 games. Middlesbrough will be hoping to have Chambers, Barragan and Friend back from injury this weekend, which if they do will mean that Karanka will have a full squad to chose from.
David – Stoke 1 Middlesbrough 0
Paul – Stoke 1 Middlesbrough 1
Mark – Stoke 0 Middlesbrough 0
15:00 Swansea Vs Burnley
Swansea may have been an influence as to why Leicester felt the need to make a change to their management. Since the removal of Bob Bradley, Swansea have picked up 12 points in the last 7 league games, doubling their points tally for the season. This change in form must have alerted the clubs around them to the possibility that Swansea may be about to spring up the table and move away from the relegation dogfight. Swansea may have Ki and Montero back in the squad for the weekend which would leave Nathan Dyer there only player out.
Burnley go into this match having not won a league game away from Turf Moor so far this season. The game against Swansea will be their first of three consecutive away games so will be hoping that they could find win on the road. Burnley, if they keep up their strong home form, will probably be playing Premier League football next season, which is a testament to the work done by Dyche. Burnley go into the game hoping that Defour is back in the squad for Saturday, yet Gudmundsson could still be out with a knee injury.
David – Swansea 2 Burnley 1
Paul – Swansea 2 Burnley 1
Mark – Swansea 3 Burnley 0
15:00 Watford Vs Southampton
Watford go into this game sat directly above their opponents in the league, after having another decent season in the top division. The side will be led by Troy Deeney, who is averaging a goal in every 3 league games and will be relied on to lead the line against Southampton. The side will be hoping to improve on their recent form of 2 wins out of the last 10 games. Watford will still be without Janmaat, Zarate, Amrabat Kabasele and Pereyra who are all out for the foreseeable.
Southampton will be hoping to replicate their performance from the League Cup final, where they dominated the game and were unlucky not to have been lifting the trophy. The side will be hoping that Manolo Gabbiadini continues his impressive form since arriving to the south coast. Southampton could give a debut to Centre Back Martin Caceres who was brought in to provide cover for the injured van Dijk.
David – Watford 1 Southampton 2
Paul – Watford 2 Southampton 2
Mark – Watford 1 Southampton 1
15:00 West Brom Vs Crystal Palace
West Brom have reached the magic 40 points and are currently sitting comfortably in 8th position,and if they hold this position it will replicate their highest Premier League finish from 2012/2013. So far West Brom have been a well balanced side and will be hoping to continue to push on in the league and try to overtake Everton for 7th place. The Baggies will be withouth Matty Phillips, yet could have Craig Dawson back in the squad after his recovery from concussion.
Has ‘Big’ Sam lost his touch? Could his Palace side be relegated? Well he seemed to be stuggling, but two wins in the last 5 games has kept them in touching distance of survival and he will be hoping Palace they can continue their form. Palace could have Flamini, Remy and Sako back for Saturday’s game and they will be hoping to avoid any further injuries with Wickham, Souare and Mandana still out injured.
David – West Brom 1 Crystal Palace 1
Paul – West Brom 0 Crystal Palace 0
Mark – West Brom 1 Crystal Palace 2
17:30 Liverpool Vs Arsenal
Liverpool go into this game having been well beaten by a Leicester side who had a point to prove. They will now be trying to bounce back against an Arsenal side who have gone through their usual dip in form. If Liverpool can win, they will leap over Arsenal and into the top 4, yet will know that Arsenal have a game in hand, so a loss could see their opponents move further away. Liverpool will be hoping that Jordan Henderson has recovered from his foot injury and could also include Daniel Sturridge, if he has got over his illness.
Arsenal are more regular than the four seasons, they start off great, look like this year could be the year they return to being a genuine title contender, and then as the nights get longer and the weather gets colder Arsenal lose all form and fall away. They will be hoping to get a result against Liverpool, which is a must win game for both sides if they want to be in Europe’s biggest club competition next year. Wenger is probably going to be without Elneny, Ramsay & Carzola and has questions about his and some of his biggest players futures hanging over him.
David – Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2
Paul – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 2
Mark – Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1
Sunday 05 March
13:30 Spurs Vs Everton
Tottenham showed their ability and form last weekend when they beat a Stoke side who don’t appear to enjoy visits to White Hart Lane. This weekend they host Everton and will be hoping that their English duo of Kane & Alli continue their fine home form, where they’ve not been beaten in the league. Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that defenders Alderweireld and Vertonghen will return for the weekend to try and add to their 7 wins in the last 10 league fixtures.
Everton are still hoping of catching the clubs who are competing for European football and will need to continue their good form of having not lost a game since the Merseyside Derby in December. Ronald Koeman’s men will be hoping to find their 5th away victory of the season. They go into the game without Besic, who could be back next weekend and Bolasie who is a long term absentee with an ACL knee injury.
David – Spurs 3 Everton 1
Paul – Spurs 3 Everton 1
Mark – Spurs 2 Everton 0
16:00 Sunderland Vs Man City
Sunderland look like they have no answers to the question of how they will get out of the relegation zone. They have picked up 8 points from the last 10 league games and with only 12 games left to go, this form will result in them being nowhere close to the 40 points which is the target of sides trying to stay up. David Moyes has the second largest number of players missing but could have Rodwell, Pienaar, Kirchoff, and Mannone back for the visit of Manchester City. Denayer is ineligible against his parent club.
Pep’s City arrive in the North East having successful navigated what looked, after the first 20 minutes of Wednesday’s game, a very tricky FA Cup replay against Huddersfield. City will be hoping to carry on their goal scoring form against the Black Cats. The Stadium of Light has not always been a happy hunting ground for the men from the Eastlands, yet with Sunderlands current form I am sure the forwards at City will be relishing this visit as a chance to get more goals. Pep could have club captain Kompany and Kolarov back for his squad this weekend, but will still be missing those with longer term injuries, Jesus and Gundogan.
David – Sunderland 0 Man City 3
Paul – Sunderland 1 Man City 3
Mark – Sunderland 0 Man City 2
Monday 06 March
20:00 West Ham Vs Chelsea
West Ham will be hoping to delay the coronation of Chelsea as title winners, and the rest of the top 6 will be hoping that a defeat on Monday would derail their season and give them a chance at the title. West Ham go into this game on the back of two league draws and will be looking to add a tenth league victory for the season. Bilic will be hoping that Andy Carroll has recovered from his groin injury to lead the line and that Antonio is on form and can add to the 6 and 8 goals they have each scored.
There are still 36 points up for grabs till the end of the season and Conte will be telling his players that the title is not theirs yet, even if other managers are willing to say so. It would take a big slip up for Chelsea’s to lose their lead at the top, but we have seen it before from other sides. Conte has got his side getting results in a steady way, and has rediscovered Eden Hazard’s form which seemed to go AWOL last season. Conte has no injury worries, which is a stark contrast to the teams at the bottom of the league.
David – West Ham 1 Chelsea 3
Paul – West Ham 0 Chelsea 2
Mark – West Ham 1 Chelsea 1