Well here we are again, another round of Premier League games…
I’m filling in for David for this lot of fixtures, so apologies if this piece isn’t up to the usual high standard. However, have no fear, I’m sure the main man will be back for the next round. Anyway, on to the football…
Saturday 8th April 2017
Tottenham Hotspur v Watford 12:30
The weekend kicks off with Tottenham v Watford. Spurs head into this fixture full of confidence on the back of five straight league wins. Their late, late, late goals away to Swansea during the week will only help to give them a boost ahead of a home game against a Watford team that’ve been in indifferent form.
Watford have won their last two league games, but they were both at home against West Brom and Sunderland. Tottenham away, is a totally different kettle of fish. The last meeting between these two sides ended up in a 4-1 win to Spurs, at Vicarage Road. Watford will have their work cut out if they’re to takeaway anything from White Hart Lane.
Prediction: 3-0 Spurs; I can’t see this going any other way, unless Watford get a number of set pieces, I’d expect a clean sheet for Tottenham.
Manchester City v Hull City 15:00
Manchester City will relish a home game after their last two away trips to Arsenal and Chelsea respectively. Guardiola’s men only managed to retrieve a solitary point on their trips to the capital, but they can be encouraged by the performances as a team. Sergio Agüero is starting to find the back of the net on a more consistent basis and the style of play that City are producing is beginning to look like the high standard that Pep expects. However, whilst City’s defence has been their achilles heel this season, they’ve also struggled in front of goal with only a 46% shot accuracy – only the 11th best in the league!
Hull will be on a high themselves following their thrilling 4-2 home win against relative neighbours Middlesbrough. The Tigers are well in the mix for relegation, but manager Marco Silva has made a difference since taking over. Though their squad lacks depth and genuine Premier League quality, City should be wary of the Eye of the Tiger going into this game, as Hull have created 218 chances this season despite injury problems and they’re well and truly up for a scrap this season.
Prediction: City’s defence is still not good enough to expect a clean sheet against a gutsy Hull side, so 3-1 City seems the safest bet.
Don’t forget to read the verdict on City’s last game against Chelsea! Click HERE
Middlesbrough v Burnley 15:00
Burnley travel to the Riverside knowing that they’ve a tough game on their hands. The Clarets won at home to Stoke during the week and that’s taken them to 35 points for the season, 7 above relegation placed Swansea. However, that doesn’t really mean they’re safe yet and they’ll need to work hard if they’re to get anything from a relatively desperate Boro side. This is the time of year where teams at that end of the station are only ever one loss and a draw away from being dragged into the fight for survival.
There’s only one way Middlesbrough can view this game – it’s must win. Things are getting pretty desperate for Boro; they’re on 23 points, 7 from safety and having lost 4-2 away to Hull during the week, there’s much to worry about. Despite managing to score twice against Hull, Boro have been so short of goals this season. They started out as a combative unit and hard to break down too. It looked like draws may turn to victories as the season progressed, such was the encouraging performances from Alvaro Negredo in the opening fixtures. However, what started promising has faded and dropped alarmingly to a dour form of scrappy football. Sacking Karanka hasn’t helped, simple as.
Predicion: I don’t expect this game to feature much finnese but, so long as the Boro players haven’t thrown the towel in, it could turn out to be some what of an entertaining scrap. It’s a tough one to call because mentality is everything in this game, it depends which Boro side turn up on the day. I’m gonna go with 1-1 though.
Stoke City v Liverpool 15:00
Liverpool have had a mixed return of results over the years, at the now named Bet365 Stadium, and as we all know, Stoke away can be an awful place for teams to visit, especially when the home crowd are up for it. My experiences as a visiting fan aren’t much better either, but the less said about that the better.
Stoke will be looking to bounce back from their midweek loss to Burnley and, credit where it’s due, their fans are always in fine form for the visits of big teams. This could be crucial too, because Liverpool need to improve and are arguably under pressure to pick up points. Jurgen Klopp has said Bournemouth’s late equaliser at Anfield during the week made him want to “vomit”, and he’ll be expecting nothing less than 200% effort and maximum points. Liverpool have a lot of work to do if they’re to get top 4 this season. However, they’ll have to manage without top scorer Sadio Mane, as Jurgen Klopp has confirmed that the forward has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. It’s important to note that Liverpool haven’t won a league game this season when Mane hasn’t featured!
Stoke will have their work cut out though as only Hull, Burnley, Sunderland and Middlesbrough (coincidently all teams that will be concerned about relegation), have created less chances than the potters. Liverpool have won six of the last seven meetings between the two sides in the Premier League, but the exception being Stoke’s 6-1 victory in what was Steven Gerrard’s last game. The Potters are in a poor run of form too, having lost three games on the bounce, their fourth game before that was the 0-0 draw away to Manchester City.
Prediction: 1-2 Liverpool – Despite the loss of Sadio Mane, Liverpool will
be hungry to regain the ground they’ve lost by dropping two points at home
to Bournemouth, and I’d expect Liverpool’s superior man-for-man quality to shine through.
West Bromwich Albion v Southampton 15:00
Southampton travel to The Hawthorns without Oriol Romeu, as he’s serving the first match of a 2-game ban following his 10th booking of the season. They’ll also be hoping stars Manolo Gabbiadini, Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis and Sofiane Boufal, pass late fitness tests. The Saints are certainly the form side of the two, having won three of their last five league games, the other two fixtures being a narrow 2-1 loss away to Spurs and a drab 0-0 at home to Bournemouth respectively. They’ll have high hopes of getting something from this fixture, as they look to catch West Brom up and consolidate a top ten finish for the season.
Tony Pulis’ side go into the game with the virtually polar opposite form to Southampton, as the Baggies have lost three, drawn one and won one, in their last five league games. Surprisingly, the four points that they did pick up in those games were a 3-1 victory at home to Arsenal and a 0-0 draw away to Manchester United. It’s the teams lower down the table that they’ve struggled against, having lost to Everton, Crystal Palace and most recently Watford. Expect a Tony Pulis special in this game; few goals, plenty of throw-ins and a fair number of set pieces.
Prediction: 1-2 Southampton. West Brom are a solid unit on their day, but their fans need to get behind their team if the Baggies are gonna get anything from this game. I was at The Hawthorns earlier this season when Guardiola’s City purred to victory, and from my experience as soon as the players lose the interest or support from the crowd, it becomes a very bad day at the office for the Midlands outfit. Couple that atmosphere with their recent form and I see Southampton having the slight edge – providing the Saint’s first teamers mentioned above pass late fitness tests.
West Ham United v Swansea City 15:00
West Ham welcome Swansea to the London Stadium and the Hammers will be hoping that Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio are back in contention. Defensively, West Ham have some significant concerns as they’re without Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna. Pedro Obiang is also injured. Having been lucky enough to visit Upton Park last season and the London Stadium this season for City’s away games against West Ham, I can confirm the glaringly obvious, West Ham don’t play the style of football that fits in with their new ground. They’ve got to adapt to the bigger pitch, they’ve got to make use of the fact that other teams, particularly Swansea will not be used to playing in such a large venue either. Until the Hammers make the most of extra width that the new pitch offers, they’re going to continue to struggle. When I watched City notch up a 4-0 win in the league it was as clear as daylight that both the West Ham team and, to an extent Slaven Bilic too, have no idea how to make use of the extra space. City, and other visiting teams before and since, were able to pass the ball with relative free-reign. Until this changes I’m sorry but the Hammers are going to have major problems. I don’t agree that the issues regarding the crowd and atmosphere in the stadium are the main cause of problems; yes at the Boleyn Ground the atmosphere was intense, but that alone doesn’t excuse this season’s home performances for West Ham.
Swansea are a much different side under Paul Clement that’s for sure. However, 3 months is a heck of a long time in football and Swansea have lost three of their last four games, picking up a point in the other. There’s no doubt about it, there is a long way to go before The Swans and Chairman, Huw Jenkins, can call the appointment of Paul Clement a success story. The Jacks find themselves still in the thick of a relegation battle. Key man Fernando Llorente and defender Kyle Naughton, both face late fitness tests going into this game. Swansea will need to be firing on all cylinders if they’re to come away from the English captial with any points, despite West Ham’s poor home performances.
Prediction: 2-1 West Ham – Providing Andy Carroll is fit. I can’t see West Ham keeping a clean sheet at home with the likes of Winston Reid and other first choice defenders out injured, but I’d still expect The Hammers to have enough quality to get a much needed home victory.
Bournemouth v Chelsea 17:30
Chelsea managed to put last weekend’s home defeat to Crystal Palace behind them, with a hard fought 2-1 win over Manchester City during the week. Regardless of that, they’ll be expecting nothing less than 3 points this weekend against Bournemouth, as they chase down a 5th Premier League title. The champions-elect should have Victor Moses back in the squad for the trip to the Vitality Stadium, after he missed their last two games due to a toe injury.
Bouremouth are waiting to hear whether midfielder Dan Gosling has recovered from a knee injury in time for this late kick off. However, Junior Stanislas is a doubt. Bouremouth have been in strong form recently though, so don’t expect this to be a push over for Chelsea. Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last five games, having won two and drawn the others.
Prediction: 0-2 Chelsea – I don’t think this’ll be an easy trip for Conte’s men, but I can’t see the game going any other way.
Don’t forget to read my verdict on Chelsea’s last game against Manchester City! Click HERE
Sunday 9th April 2017
Sunderland v Manchester United 13:30
David Moyes & his Sunderland team ‘welcome’ his one time employers Manchester United for Sunday’s early kick-off.
The Black Cats are without former United defender John O’Shea, as his home in Ireland following the passing of his father. United loanee, Adnan Januzaj, is ineligible to face his parent club. Things are despereate on Wearside to say the least. You have to wonder where Sunderland would be this season had it not been for the likes of Jermaine Defoe. Equally, only six Sunderland players (including Defoe) have scored league goals this season; it’s not good enough at this level. The Black Cats are rock bottom of the league and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon – they’ve picked up 1 point from their last five games.
United are without Ashley Young and most likely Wayne Rooney, due to injuries. However, Mourinho’s team shouldn’t worry, they’ve not lost a game in such a long time… The problem is that they’re not winning too many either. Most United fans I know are becoming frustrated with the exceptional number of draws United have succumbed to this season. United’s problem is that they’re not scoring enough. The reds have scored 43 goals this season from 498 shots, which is the league’s third highest total. However, they have a 48% shot accuracy – which is only 7th best in the league; Bournemouth are ahead of them on 49% from 358 shots. I won’t ellaborate on this matter further though, as David has written two exceptional articles on United’s playing style and goal tribulations. Please take a look HERE & HERE.
Prediction: 0-1 United – Don’t expect this to be a classy affair. United have the superior quality, but are struggling to find the back of the net, and David Moyes will surely just be setting his team up to avoid defeat. Taking United’s poor shot accuracy, watching paint dry might be better than seeing United try to blast a shot through 11 Sunderland bodies.
Everton v Leicester City 16:00
Ronald Koeman’s Everton welcome reigning Champions Leicester City for Sunday’s headline game. However, the Toffees will be without Ashley Williams, as he serves a ban following his sending off against Manchester United on Tuesday night. They’re also without Seasmus Coleman and Romario Funes Mori, who both have significant long term injuries. Everton have been almost prolific at Goodison Park on occasions this season, having recorded emphatic victories over Manchester City (4-0), Hull (4-0) and West Brom (3-0). However, they’ve been in quite inconsistent of late, having won two and lost two of their last five matches. They were close to winning their last game away to Manchester United, but fell at the final hurdle – Horse Racing Pun, it is Grand National Weekend after all!
Leicester look a different team under Craig Shakespeare and they’ve picked up five wins in their last five games. Quite sad that it took the sacking of Ranieri to bring out this winning mentality from the Foxes really. However, let’s not get carried away, Leicester have only won one game away from home in the league this season – a 3-2 win at West Ham on 18th March. Jamie Vardy is in good form too, having scored five goals in his last five games.
Prediction: 2-2 Draw – I can see both teams scoring more than once in this game. If the early kick-off on Sunday is a turgid affair, the late kick off is certainly not; both teams will play with their balls in the wind – for want of a better phrase (and no I don’t mean longball kick and rush football) – expect attacking football with a bit pace. Expect a close game.
Monday 10th April 2017
Crystal Palace v Arsenal 20:00
Big Sam will be looking forward to a home game against Arsenal – not often you can say that – as the way things are going for the Gunners at the moment, a team that play as compact as Crystal Palace have every chance of getting something from an Arsenal team blowing hot & cold. Palace have won four out of the last 5 games, but the one loss was their last game, a 3-1 defeat away to Southampton. Despite their recent form, Palace aren’t safe yet; they’re three points above Swansea in the relegation zone and they’ll need the crowd at Selhurst Park on their side if they’re to silence the Gunners.
Arsenal might have swept West Ham aside during the week, but the pressure on Arsene Wenger remains. As someone who isn’t an Arsenal fan, I find each Arsenal result that’s not a win to be entertaining, purely because of the ludicrous reactions that some of their ‘fans’ have expressed recently. It’s shocking that the disrespect for one of the greatest managers EVER, has reached the levels we’re seeing nowadays. I was lucky enough to meet Arsene Wenger as part of a previous job and I can tell you the guy is a gentleman, but more importantly, he’s also very very ‘tuned in’ to what’s going on. He’ll be hurting to see and hear the noise and campaigns that some Arsenal supporters making at the moment. By that I mean he’ll be hurting to see that these fans aren’t getting behind the team; he won’t care that there are fans that want him to leave in the summer, his first and foremost thought, has and will be until the day he finally does leave, the interests of Arsenal football club. We’ll have to see what the summer brings, but if these Arsenal fans had any sense, then they’d get behind the team now – at this crucial part of the season.
Prediction: 0-2 Arsenal – Selhurst Park is a tough place to go, but with Arsenal’s quality I can only see one winner. I don’t think this will be easy for Arsenal by any stretch of the imagination, but Palace could fall victim to their own tactics, if they play for a draw they’ll likely lose. However, I don’t see Big Sam employing any other tactic in this particular fixture. The very best of defences struggle to keep Alexis Sanchez in check and I don’t expect a back four which is likely to consist of Sakho, Ward, Kelly, and Schlupp, to be of much use either.
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