So this weekend see’s the FA Cup Semi Finals take place which means that the Premier League fixture list is stretched out over the week, with some sides playing twice to make up the games which have had to be rearranged… So what better way is there to spend Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, than watching Premier League football?
Anyways this preview will look at the fixtures on Saturday & Sunday, with Part 2 covering the mid-week games coming on Sunday.
Saturday 22nd April
Bournemouth Vs Middlesbrough
Bournemouth currently occupy 16th place in the league and are 7 points ahead of Swansea who are 18th, and with 15 points still left to play for, they’re not quite safe yet. However, a win over Middlesbrough on Saturday should be enough to virtually secure their survival in the Premier League. You could argue that Eddie Howe’s side have had a bit of a tough run of late, having played the top 5 sides in the league in their last 10 games, however notable draws against United & Liverpool have meant they’ve picked up 9 points during this run of fixtures. They do go into this game on the back of two consecutive defeats, but these have been against the top 2 sides in the league, so you could say that this was expected.
Middlesbrough must know that their next two games are vitally important if they are to survive in the Premier League. They are currently sat 6 points behind Hull, who are just sat outside the drop zone. If Middlesbrough fail to win their next two games then they would • need to get wins against City, Chelsea, Southampton & Liverpool, who they play against in their final 4 four games. Middlesbrough have been the proof that to survive in the Premier League you need to create and take your chances in front of goal, as they’ve been very solid at the back, only conceding 39 goals in their 32 games, but they have only scored 23 goals, which is the lowest in the league.
Prediction: Bournemouth have to be the favourites to win this one, they have been relatively solid at home so far this season and are against a Middlesbrough side who’ve won just once away from home all season. Middlesbrough however have drawn the most away games in the league so far, so if Middlesbrough were to pick up anything from this game it will probably be a draw. Based on the importance of this game to both sides and each teams form and records in the league this season I am going to go with a draw, possibly 1-1.
Hull City Vs Watford
Hull City, unless Middlesbrough manage to win their next two games, are in a straight fight for survival with Swansea City, and they’ll know they need to win their home games, if they’re going to stay up this season. They have lost their last two league games 3-1 against Manchester City and Stoke, but these were both away from home, so the Tigers will hoping a return back to the KCOM stadium will bring a positive result. Hull have been good at home and have picked up 25 of their 30 points at the KCOM, so can be glad that they have three home games in their last 5 fixtures. This means that if they can pick up wins in these games they will have a big chance of staying up.
Watford have reached the 40 point mark and will now be aiming to beat their points total from last season of 45 points. Going in to this game, Watford will be looking to improve their away form where they’ve only picked up 12 points on their travels. Hull know that they need to have Troy Deeney firing if they are going to win their away games. Watford have only scored 12 goals on their travels this season and know that they need to start scoring if they are going to get points in the run-in, as they have 4 away games in their last 6 matches. They go into this game having won 5 of their last 10 games and were glad to pick up 3 points last time out to Swansea, after being well beaten two weeks ago by Tottenham.
Prediction: Watford now know they are safe and will need to ensure they don’t start believing they are on a beach just yet. I’m sure their players will know that there will be changes over the summer at the club, so some will be playing for their futures. However, Hull need a win and I reckon given the importance, their home form and Watford’s away record, that Hull will pick up a vital 3 points in their battle for survival, so I’m going to say 3-1 to Hull.
Swansea City Vs Stoke City
Swansea City had a small lift when Paul Clement took charge; however, since their win over Burnley on the 4th March, they have lost 5 of their 6 games and have picked up just 1 point in this run. However, this run has seen them play at the Liberty Stadium just twice, with one of those games being against Tottenham. Swansea know that they need to stop their current form and pick up wins if they are to stay in the Premier League. This is especially important given their next two league games are against United and Everton, so failure to pick up a win this weekend will mean they will need to get something from games against two sides who are battling it out to be in Europe next season. Swansea will feel that if they are going to get anything out of their games then they need to tighten up at the back, given they have conceded 33 goals at home, the highest in the Premier League.
Stoke City will be hoping that they can follow up on their win over Hull by beating another side battling for survival in Swansea. Stoke had been on a run of 4 defeats before their 3-1 win over Hull. The Potters are currently sat in 11th in the table, but will be hoping to improve on that come the end of the season to see if they can finish in the 9th place, which they’ve made their own in the previous 3 seasons. However, Stoke have not been great away from the 365 this season, picking up just 12 points on their travels, so they’ll need to improve on this if they’re going to better their current league position.
Prediction: I think this one could be a draw, Stoke aren’t great away from home and Swansea are just not great at the moment, however this is a winnable game for the Swans and they should try to go for the win, which could mean we have an open game with some goals.
West Ham United Vs Everton
West Ham United have picked up just 9 points in their last 10 games and look a long way off of the pace for a top place finish. Last season West Ham finished 7th in the league and in the past two seasons had managed to qualify for a Europa League spot. Billic has faced some criticism from his fans and will know if he wants to secure his job at the end of the season then he will need to pick up some wins from their final 5 games. West Ham know that if they want to improve then winning their home games will be a good place to start, as they have lost more home games than they’ve won.
Everton have looked the closest to being able to challenge the top clubs in the country for the first time in a long time. Koeman’s side have done very well at Goodison; however, they know that if they really want to be pushing for the Champions League places then they need to win their away games. So far this season Everton have picked up just 17 of their 57 points on their travels and if this had been better, then they could have been seriously challenging for the Champions League places this season. Everton have only lost twice in their last 10 games, so will be hoping to continue this good form and pick up their 5th away win of the season.
Prediction: If you were to predict this game just off of the sides home and away form you would say that this is probably going to end as a draw. However, Everton are a much better side this season than West Ham and you could argue that they should win this game. So I am going to say that Everton will win this 1-3 to continue putting pressure on the sides above them for the European spots.
Sunday 23rd April
Burnley Vs Manchester United
Burnley look so close to being safe and unless Hull and Swansea go on an amazing winning streak they can start to prepare for a second season in the Premier League. A key reason behind their imminent safety has been their form at Turf Moor where they have picked up 32 of their 36 points. However, their recent form has not been great, with them only picking up 7 points from their last 10 games, with just one win in that time, they will be glad to have got the points on the board early this season. I am sure that Burnley will be hoping to pick up points against United for a second time this season, especially as United have not beaten Burnley at Turf Moor in their last 2 visits.
Manchester United will be hoping that Tom Heaton is not in the form he was when the two sides met at Old Trafford, where the England keeper made an impressive 11 saves in the 90 minutes. United will be hoping that they can pick up their 10th away win of the season against Burnley, but will know that it will not be easy. Jose may have one eye on the Manchester Derby when it comes to selecting his side for this game, but will know that anything but a win from his side could leave them struggling to make the top 4, and the important Champions League places. United go into this game with 5 wins and 5 draws from their last 10 league games and will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run in the league.
Prediction: Burnley have not been great recently yet will know that their home form has been impressive and will feel that they can get a result against United. United will want to make sure they get the 3 points though to keep the pressure on City and Liverpool for the final two Champions League places. So I am going to say that United will just about win this, as the game is probably more important for them than their hosts, 1-2.
Liverpool Vs Crystal Palace
Liverpool managed to pick up 3 points at West Brom and should have scored more, especially with Ben Foster playing as a forward for what seemed like the final 5 minutes of the game. Yet it was a vital 3 points as it keeps them ahead of the chasing pack for the Champions League places and means that United, especially, need to win all of their remaining games if they are going to stop Liverpool from finishing above them. Liverpool have been impressive in front of goal this season at Anfield, with only Tottenham scoring more goals at home than the Anfield club. Liverpool have won 3 of their last 5 games and have not lost since their defeat at Leicester at the end of February.
Crystal Palace will feel that they are so close to being safe, but Big Sam will be telling his side that the job isn’t quite done yet. They have a fairly tough run in having to play 4 of the top 5 in their final games, starting with Liverpool at Anfield. Palace will feel that their form has been good, with 6 wins in their last 10 league games, and will feel that they have a chance against Liverpool. Palace have picked up 1 more point away from home than they have at home and will be looking to build on their last fixture, where they drew to Leicester. Palace have been picking up points against the big sides recently with wins against Chelsea and Arsenal in the last month.
Prediction: So after my prediction of Liverpool to be beaten by West Brom I was accused of being biased…something which I will not deny, yet I cannot see Palace winning this game. Klopp seems to have got Liverpool winning games even when they are not playing brilliantly so I reckon they may just sneak this one 2-1.