The Premier League is the gift which keeps on giving…rather than giving us just weekend fixtures we get (almost) a full weeks worth which means this week you lucky lucky people get two previews to read! So sit back and enjoy as we look ahead to the mid-week games and of course the biggest game/derby of the season, no not the Tees-Wear Derby, but the game between Manchester City & Manchester United.
Tuesday 25th April
Chelsea Vs Southampton
Chelsea will go into this game having sealed their place in the FA Cup final on Saturday and will want to try and extend the gap they have on the team they beat in the semi final, Tottenham. Chelsea will be hoping that their 4-2 win over Spurs will give them the psychological edge over their title rivals but will know that they need to be picking up points to ensure they move closer to the title. Chelsea go into this game having lost their last league game, at Old Trafford, which was their second league defeat in their last 5 league games and has meant their lead over Spurs will be only 4 points at kick off. Chelsea will be hoping to add a 13th league win at Stamford Bridge for the season, where there have been relatively solid all season with the second best home form in the league, having only dropped 6 points all season, thanks to two defeats and no draws.
Southampton have reached the magic 40 points but will want to avoid a second defeat in a row when they arrive at Stamford Bridge having been beaten 3-0 by Manchester City last time out. Southampton, currently sat in 10th spot, will be hoping to pick up the 3 points to try and seal a top half finish at the end of the season, something which the club has become acustomed too, having only missed out on a top half finish in their first season back in the Premier League. Southampton have been relatively inconsistant form wise, with 5 wins, 4 defeats and a draw in their last 10 games and they have struggled against the top 5 sides in the league so far having only picked up 2 points in their fixtures against the clubs at the top.
Prediction: Chelsea have been good at home and will be buoyed by their win over Spurs in the FA Cup over the weekend. Southampton haven’t set the league alight and their away form has been relatively inconsistent. With Chelsea having not drawn at home all season I think we can rule out a draw so I am going to say that this will be a home win with Chelsea wanting to try and put pressure on Spurs, so I reckon they will win 3-0.
Wednesday 26th April
Arsenal Vs Leicester City
Arsenal have had something of a topsy turvy season, as illustrated by watching the many clips from ArsenalFanTV which seems to have grown ever more popular as the season has drawn on. They are however into the Final of the FA Cup and will now be hoping to use their victory over Manchester City in the Semi Final as a springboard to improve their league form which has been poor and has meant they have fell out of the top 4 and currently sit 7th in the league. Arsenal’s league form has seen them lose 5 times in their last 10 games with the Gunners picking up just 13 points from a possible 30. This poor form has seen their manager become a target of frustration for the fans and their star players appear to show signs of wanting to move on from the club. However, if they were to go a winning run and end up winning the FA Cup, then I am sure all will be forgiven by the majority of fans.
Leicester City’s change in form since replacing Ranieri with Shakespeare has now come to an end, they were knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Athletico Madrid, they have also dropped points in the league, losing to Everton and drawing with Palace. The Foxes however will be hoping to get back to winning ways against Arsenal as they try to get themselves a top half finish, which for a period around Christmas looked very unlikely. Even during Leicester’s rejuvenation there away form has hardly been that of a top half side, with them only picking up 7 of their 37 points on the road, something which I am sure they will be looking to improve on Wednesday.
Prediction: Leicester have been really poor away from home and Arsenal may have been shaky yet they have still only lost twice at home so far this season so I am going to have to say that I think Arsenal will win this game, 2-1, and those calling for Wenger to leave will be quiet, for a week at least.
Middlesbrough Vs Sunderland
Middlesbrough will need to bounce back after their 4-0 defeat against Bournemouth on Saturday. It was Middlesbrough’s 7th defeat in their last 10 games and the Teeside club have only picked up 3 points in that run of the 10 games, from 3 draws. This has made them the side with the worst form in the league and has been the reason they have found themselves sliding from 15th in the table at the of February to 19th now, and they could find themselves bottom of the table if they don’t start picking up points soon. I’ve talked a lot about how their downfall has been not scoring goals so I won’t repeat that, but another downfall has been their home form, with Boro only picking up 14 points at home, the joint lowest with their opponents Sunderland.
Sunderland need to make up 12 points on Hull if they are to survive in the Premier League, and if they were to do it, it would have to go down as one of the best comebacks ever in the top division. Sunderland have 6 games to go and must surely know just be playing for pride as their form as not shown any real signs of improving recently and they just don’t look like they can win a game. They showed a slight improvement last time out with a 2-2 draw against West Ham, the first goals for the home side at the Stadium of Light since the 14th January when Defoe scored against Stoke. Sunderland have picked up 6 points in their last 10 games though with a rare win against Palace in February and 3 draws in their other fixtures.
Prediction: I really want to say that this will be a draw, both of these sides have been poor and are likely going into this game thinking this will decide who finishes bottom of the table. Therefore I am going to go with this ended 1-1 with neither side happy being really happy with a point but neither of them showing recently that they deserve 3.
Crystal Palace Vs Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace keep on picking up points under ‘Big’ Sam and once again I am going to take full credit! Their win over Liverpool, which I could do not predict due to being accused of bias if I ever decide another team will beat the red half of Merseyside, is a perfect example of how much Palace have improved in the last 2 months and have gone from bottom 3 to near safety. The Eagles have lost just 3 of their last 10 games and have picked up 6 victories in that run to lift them to 12th in the table and just 2 points away from the magic 40 points which everyone is targeting for pretty much guaranteed safety. Palace haven’t been great at home this season, picking up more points on the road than at home, however in recent weeks they have picked up wins against Watford and Arsenal so will be confident against Spurs who haven’t been as good as their league position suggests away from White Hart Lane.
Tottenham will know that they need to pick themselves up after losing their FA Cup Semi Final against title rivals Chelsea on Saturday if they are going to maintain their pressure on Conte’s side. Tottenham, before Saturday’s game, had been in really good form and the gap between the two sides is down to just 4 points, meaning Spurs need to keep on picking points to maintain pressure and be in a position to take advantage of any slip ups by Chelsea. Spurs have won their last 5 league games and have been pretty mean at the back only conceding twice in those fixtures, whilst scoring 15 goals in that run. Spurs will know that they need to improve their away form next season if they are going to try and win their first Premier League title as they have only won 6 times away from home, 5 less than Chelsea and Manchester City.
Prediction: As good as Palace have been under ‘Big’ Sam I don’t think they have the capabilities to follow up on a tough win against Liverpool with a win over Tottenham, so I am going to with a 1-3 win for the away side. I think Spurs will want to get any frustration from their FA Cup Semi Final defeat out of their system and unfortunately Palace will be the side who have to pay the price.
Thursday 27th April
Manchester City Vs Manchester United
Manchester City will be glad that the Manchester Derby is taking place on Thursday rather Wednesday, as it means their players have a bit longer to recover after their 120 minute FA Cup Semi Final defeat to Arsenal. City go into this game knowing that defeat to their rivals will mean that they will find themselves out of the top 4 and playing catch up to United and Liverpool if they want Champions League football next season. City go into this game on the back of 2 league victories, and have only lost once in their last 10 games. Many would have thought City would have been challenging at the top of the league however, as Paul (our resident City writer) has told me throughout much of the recent months, this season is about rebuilding for the blue half of Manchester and changes to the squad will be made in the summer. Even though much rebuilding is required, I am sure all of their players will be up for trying to pick up 3 points against their rivals to cement their place in the top 4.
Manchester United are undefeated in the league since October and have picked up more points on the road than they have at Old Trafford so far this season, something which I, and many other fans, will hope continues when the red half of Manchester visit the Etihad on Thursday. This will be United’s third game in 7 days, a run which will have seen them play 210 minutes of football already before the 90 minute game against City and this run of fixtures has hit United hard, with injuries to key men meaning Mourinho goes into this game with only one fully fit orthodox centre half and without his leading goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. United have been inconsistent this season and much like City, this is a rebuilding job from a manager who has been in post for 12 months and will be hoping to be much stronger next season once he has made the changes which he thinks are required. United know that a win against City will lift them into the top 4, in place of City, and from there they would hope to secure a Champions League spot, just in case they miss out on the Europa League trophy come the end of the season.
Prediction: Okay, I am going to approach this as fairly as I can…United will win! Done, I said it, City won’t have a chance, United will be too good and we will win by 6 goals…too far? Fair enough! I get the feeling this will be game where Mourinho sets up to stifle City and it will be a tight game with only a goal in it, if a side does win. As both of these sides seem to like drawing games at home then I am going to go with a fair 1-1 draw…I know boring!