The Premier League is reaching sizzling point with 5 clubs fighting for 2 of the 4 Champions League places, 5 clubs hoping to not be in 2 of the relegation places and a few who will be playing to ensure they finish as high as possible. If you’re trying to figure out the clubs I’m talking about then let me give you a clue; Chelsea and Spurs, I believe, will finish in first & second, leaving Liverpool, City, United, Arsenal & Everton all believing they could be in the top 4. At the bottom, I believe that after avoiding it for several seasons, Sunderland are down, meaning Swansea & Middlesbrough will be hoping to catch and overtake Hull, Palace & Bournemouth to try and secure their survival.
Anyways, enough random talk, lets get to the games…
Saturday 15th April
Tottenham Vs Bournemouth
Tottenham must be thinking ‘…what if’, as the way they have played recently would probably have meant that they could have been much closer to Chelsea at the top of the title. Spurs have won their last 6 league games and will feel that if they keep on winning then, if Chelsea do slip up, they could be in a position to steal the title which would be amazing for the side who came so close to being champions last year. They go into the game having scored 14 goals in their last 5 games and will be hoping to get a few more against Bournemouth.
Bournemouth go in to this one feeling that their survival is just two wins away and will be hoping to cause an upset on Saturday in order to bring their Premier League status closer to being guaranteed. Sitting 7 points above the relegation zone and 5 away from the magic 40 points Eddie Howe must be hoping to find a change in form having only won 2 in their last 10 games.
Prediction: Tottenham have been too good recently and will probably win this game. Bournemouth will try to keep things tight at the back and will welcome Mings back into the side after his suspension, but I cannot see them causing too many problems for Lloris.
Predicted Score: 3-1
Crystal Palace Vs Leicester City
Okay, I know I start most of my writings about Palace by citing my first Premier League preview where I said ‘Big’ Sam may have lost his touch…and this time is no different, they have well and truly turned their season around and are now, along with their opponents, the most in-form side in the bottom half of the league. Since my first post, which I am still claiming turned the Eagles season around, Palace have won 5 of their 6 games which include wins over Chelsea and most recently Arsenal. The form of Zaha has been key to Palace moving from being certain for the drop to one of the sides who are edging closer to survival.
Leicester have also had a revival since my first Premier League preview, and like Palace, can thank me anytime they want for the part I have played in their almost Jekyll & Hyde like transformation. Leicester go into this game frustrated after their 1-0 loss to Athletico Madrid during the week, and will want to get back to winning ways after their defeat last weekend to Everton, the first since Craig Shakespeare began managing the side. Leicester know that a win will move them to 39 points and they will probably feel that even if they don’t win this game, they’ll probably pick up the 4 points to reach 40 points and safety before the end of the season.
Prediction: Palace will probably feel they can pick up the win on Saturday, especially given Leicester’s poor away form this season. Palace have won their last 3 games at home and are against a Leicester side who’ve only won once away from home all season.
Predicted Score: 3-2
Everton Vs Burnley
Only Spurs and Chelsea have won more games at home than Everton so far this season and they’ll believe that they can continue this form against Burnley. Everton started their last game really quickly against Leicester and will be hoping to continue that form against Burnley. The fact that Everton are within touching distance of the sides who occupy the qualification places above them, if they were to make it into Europe next season it would be a big step forward for Everton, which they will hope will mean the likes of Lukaku and Barkley will stay.
Burnley have the worst away record in the league and will be hoping to find at least one win on their travels this season yet with only 2 other away games after this one they are running out of fixtures to pick up 3 points away from Turf Moor. Burnley know they need to pick up points to ensure they avoid being sucked into the battle at the bottom of the table, yet with probably the smallest budget in the league, they’ve done well to be so close to survival.
Prediction: Everton have been good at home and have had decent form and are playing against a Burnley side who know that there away form isn’t important when it comes to survival, so unless there is a complete shock, I can only see one side winning this, and that is Everton.
Predicted Score: 3-0
Stoke City Vs Hull City
Stoke had been sitting safely in mid-table since the turn of the year, but they’ve rediscovered the poor form which blighted the beginning of their season and they have started sliding down the table to join the sides who are hovering above the relegation battle. If they don’t turn their form around then they could quickly find themselves being in the battle to avoid the last relegation place, especially when you look at the improvements which have been made by Hull & Palace recently.
Hull have had a transformation and their performances have vastly improved, and 3 in wins in their last 5 games has moved them out of the relegation places for the first time this calendar year. They know though that their home form could be what keeps them up, as away from home they’ve only picked up 5 points all season and have conceded the most away goals in the league, so many will not be expecting much from this game.
Prediction: Stoke have been poor recently yet they have had tough games and come up against a side who are not very good away from home. I get the feeling that Stoke may sneak this win, but it will be tight at the Bet365 Stadium.
Predicted Score: 2-1
Sunderland Vs West Ham United
I’m sorry Sunderland fans, but to survive I believe you have to win all your remaining games, which I just can’t see happening. The Black Cats find themselves 10 points off of safety with a possible 21 to play for. If they do win every game it would give them 41 points, which hasn’t always meant safety for sides which reach it. Sunderland have clung on for several seasons to their Premier League status and it looks like this season, the only season where they haven’t changed manager mid-way through for a long time, will be the one which takes them back to the Championship. Sunderland go into this game on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United and have only won once in their last 10 games.
West Ham, are one of those sides I keep mentioning who are sat just above the relegation fight, hoping to pick up the points they need to feel safe and then they can start planning for next season, where the fans will be expecting a much better season to this one. There are still questions over Bilic’s future and with Antonio, who has probably been their best player, out until the new season, Hammers fans will be wanting to pick up points and try to end the season feeling better after a fairly sorry campaign. A win last time out against Swansea will have taken some of the fear of the drop away from the East London side, yet they know they need to build on that to get to the mid table finish many probably expected.
Prediction: Sunderland look like a lost cause but need to pick up points to try and give their fans some reason for optimism. They play a West Ham side who have been fairly decent for a side in the bottom half away from home and will probably feel they can pick up points at the Stadium of Light.
Predicted Score: 0-2
Watford Vs Swansea City
Watford, in my opinion, are safe, I cannot see them getting dragged in to any real danger and believe that they’ll be hoping to improve on their current 10th place to better last years final position, of 10th place. Their season has been one which has been inconsistent, yet that inconsistency is probably why they are a fairly safe mid-table side. Watford have picked up 25 of their 37 points at home and will be wanting to give their fans something to be happy about after their 4-0 defeat last week to Tottenham. The problem for Watford has been scoring goals, only one player is in double figures goal wise in the league this season, Deeney, and as a side they have only averaged 1.1 goal per game this season.
Previously I have wrote about Swansea’s improvements under Clement and how they could escape relegation. However, they find themselves occupying 18th place, the last of the 3 relegation spots, and know that they need to win if they are going to keep in touch with Hull and Palace who sit above them. The Swans have only picked up 1 point in their last 5 games and if their form does not improve then they will find themselves playing in the Championship again next season after 6 seasons in the Premier League. Swansea have not won away from home since their victory over Liverpool at Anfield in January.
Prediction: Watford have been very good at home and Swansea haven’t been great away from home recently, so I’ve to back the home side to win this game, especially given recent form of the two sides, with Watford winning 2 of their last 3 games.
Predicted Score: 2-0
Southampton Vs Manchester City
Southampton fans may have expected more from there side this season, after finishing last season in 6th many of their fans had probably hoped they could have been challenging for the Europa League spot. Instead, the Saints find themselves in 9th, 14 points behind Everton & Arsenal who occupy 6th & 7th. Their recent form though has been good, picking up 10 points from the last 15 on offer, and having won their last 2 games, they will be hoping to add to that against City.
Manchester City have been very impressive on the road, a lot like their local rivals United, they’ve won more points away from home this season than they have at home. City will have been glad to have picked up 3 points last time out against Hull, as they had gone through a bit of a flat patch with 3 draws and a defeat in the games before. City know if they are going to keep their place in the top 4 they need to keep on picking up points and, apart from the United game (but of course I’d say that being a United fan), you would expect them to win all of their remaining league games.
Prediction: Southampton will not be able to stop Sane, Silva, Sterling & Agüero with the 3 S’s looking like they have the craft, pace and understanding, to take apart the majority of sides and their good form will probably keep Kevin De Bruyne out of the side again.
Predicted Score: 0-3
Sunday 16th April
West Bromwich Albion Vs Liverpool
West Brom are definitely a Tony Pulis side. They are solid, strong and competitive, and are not going to play an expansive passing game. For some fans this is anti-football, but for me, being someone who always fancied themselves as a defender, it is a practical style of no nonsense football which will pick up more points than it drops. The fact that West Brom are on course for potentially their highest ever points tally is testament to the fact that their play may not be pretty, but it works. However, West Brom go in to this game on the back of two disappointing defeats in games where they were probably the favourites to pick up points so will be hoping to regain form, and put a dent in Liverpool’s Champions League chances.
Liverpool know they cannot afford to drop points if they want to be in the Champions League next season, especially with United being 6 points behind with two games in hand. They go into this game in good form, having had a dip in February, picking up 11 points in their last 5 games. It has though been in games where they are expected to win where they have dropped points over the course of the season, so they’ll be hoping to avoid another slip up at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
Prediction: A tough one this, I believe Pulis will be frustrated with their recent games and will expect better. Klopp will expect his side to win and try and secure their place in the top 4. I think West Brom will set up how they did against Arsenal and will probably look to take advantage of set plays and if they do, they will probably sneak this one.
Predicted Score: 2-1
Manchester United Vs Chelsea
United, draw specialists, low scorers and 5th placed, take on the league leaders, hoping to take revenge on Chelsea after they were well beaten in the reverse fixture in October. In fact that fixture was the last league defeat for United, since then they have not lost a game, which sounds great, but in their last 10 league games they have drawn 6 of them. United have problems seeing games out at home and will know that Chelsea will fancy themselves to get the win at Old Trafford, so the United strikers must know they cannot afford to be wasteful in front of goal.
Chelsea are clear at the top of the table and you cannot see them losing this position anytime soon. They have had a blip with their defeat to Palace, but it would be a massive collapse for them to lose the number of games needed to let Spurs catch them at the top. Chelsea have had the best away form in the league this season, having won 11 of their 16 away games. The form of Hazard has been one of the major factors this season and they will be hoping that the PFA player of the year nominee continues this form till the end of the season.
Prediction: I’m biased, so I want to say United will win, which is what I really hope happens; however, being a pragmatist, I am going to say this one will end as a draw. United seem unable to win or lose at Old Trafford, so will probably hold the league leaders on Sunday.
Predicted Score: 1-1
Monday 17th April
Middlesbrough Vs Arsenal
Middlesbrough are probably destined to return to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League. Their season started okay, however their inability to score goals has been the root of their problems, especially as only 5 sides have conceded less than them so far this season. Their form in the last 10 games is the worst in the league, with Boro only picking up 4 points, all from draws during this run. I think the defeat to Hull a couple of weeks ago was the point where it became apparent that, unless they go on an amazing run, they will be relegated before the end of the season.
Arsenal & Arsene Wenger are going through something of a rocky patch and I’m unsure as to if any form of couples counselling or mediation will be able to rebuild what was a relationship that many aspired to match. So the biggest questions around Arsenal are, will Arsenal finish in the top 4? Will the divorce between Arsene and the club be done at the end of the season? Will Ozil & Sanchez stay? So many questions and I’m sure if Arsenal do not win against Middlesbrough on Monday night that some of them will start to be answered. Arsenal go into this game having been beaten last Monday by another side battling at the bottom of the league, Palace, and The Gunners know they cannot afford to lose again if they still want to be finish in the top 4.
Prediction: Arsenal you would expect to be favourites in this one, however given their lack of form you cannot feel it will be straight forward. That said, Middlesbrough have been poor and unless they approach this game like it’s a cup final, I cannot see them beating this Arsenal side who should be too good for their opponents.
Predicted Score: 0-3