It’s the final week of the Premier League season, and is it just me or has this campaign just flown by?
Well we already know Chelsea are champions and they’ll get their trophy on Sunday. We know Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull are relegated, but not everything is settled; there’s still the race for the Champions League qualification that’s yet to be decided. So let’s take a look at the final round of fixtures of the 2016/17 Premier League season…
Given that all games kick-off at the same time on Sunday, we’ll just go through them in alphabetical order for ease…
Arsenal vs Everton
Arsene Wenger’s side still have an FA Cup final to luck forward to, but first they’ve got to fight for a chance to be playing in Europe’s top competition next season. Let’s cut to the chase, they need to win and hope that Liverpool drop points in their game. There’s so much speculation surrounding the future of Wenger, but that can wait at least another week. The Arsenal fans, players and board alike know, just as well as the manager, that nothing less than a win at home against the Toffees will suffice. The Gunners are without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain due to a hamstring problem and Laurent Koscienly is also a doubt. However, Aaron Ramsey is expected to be fit and play a part.
The Toffees are without Ademola Lookman, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jonjoe Kenny, who’ve all been called up squad for England’s Under 20s World Cup campaign in South Korea. Also missing are their long term absentees, another six players in fact; Coleman, Stekelenburg, Funes Mori, Bolasie, McCarthy, and Lennon. Everton might have beaten Arsenal at Goodison Park earlier in the season, but they’ve not won away to Arsenal in the Premier League in their last 20 attempts.
Prediction: 4-2 Arsenal. The last day of the season usually means Goals! Both these sides are good on the ball and it’s not in either team’s nature to sit back. It should be a good game.
Burnley vs West Ham
There’s only pride a stake in this one, but both sides will want to give their fans something to cheer about on the final day of the season. For Burnley, remaining in the Premier League is mission accomplished for Sean Dyche this season and next season will surely be one of consolidation. The impressive defensive duo of Ben Mee and Michael Keane are both doubts for this game, and that might tempt The Clarets manager to play around with his squad a little bit. However, not too much seen as Premier League prize money is ranked on league position. If Burnley win this match they’ll have won 36 points at Turf Moor, which would be the joint-third highest by a newly-promoted side at home in a 38-match season.
West Ham are without Winston Reid, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll. These absences may be of a concern to the Hammers, since they’ve won the previous two meetings between these sides 1-0 and those goals were courtesy of Mark Noble. That said, historically West Ham have a good record against Burnley, having lost only two of their last 14 meetings in the league, winning 9 and drawing 3. However, they best not take this fixture too lightly as more recently, Burnley have won each of their last two final day Premier League matches and the Hammers have lost their last three final day Premier League games.
Prediction: 2-2 or a score-draw at least. Both teams are capable of scoring in this one, but I don’t think there’s much in it.
Chelsea vs Sunderland
Champions Chelsea face relegated Sunderland in a game that’ll surely be a case of the Black Cats trying to avoid an embarrassment. You’d expect somewhat of a carnival atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, with the home fans hoping for a show of force against a deflated Sunderland outfit. Chelsea have no injured players as they go into this game and that’s really what has been the story of their season. They’ve been so fortunate that none of their key players have really missed that many games, much like Leicester the year before. A win for the Blues would equal a record of 30 wins in a single Premier League season.
David Moyes has said he’ll be without 11 senior players for this game. However, for many of the players he has left it could be a case of them playing their last game for the Northeast side, as you’d expect many to be jettisoned when the club restructures its finances for life in the Championship. In preparation for putting this preview together, I’ve tried to look for something positive to say for Sunderland fans, but I’ll be honest, it was futile. The Black Cats have only won once on the final day of a Premier League season, drawing three others and losing the other 11. Sunderland have lost 22 matches against Chelsea, the only team they’ve lost more league games against is Manchester United (23).
Prediction: >2-0 Chelsea. Yes, I did just use “>” (great than, for those of you who can’t remember from school). I just don’t see this game going anyway other than Chelsea winning by a margin, which could only really go one way and depending on the mentality of the Sunderland players, it could end up embarrassing. Sorry Sunderland fans.
Hull City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Relegated Hull are without Harry Maguire, Abel Hernandez and Evandro for this game. Hull beat Spurs in their first ever Premier League meeting, but the Tigers haven’t beat Tottenham in their last eight attempts, in fact they’ve lost six and drawn the other two.
Spurs will have Kieran Trippier and Hugo Lloris assessed to see if they can make this fixture, but it’s likely that the keeper may not be fit in time. Kyle Walker could also return following an ankle problem. There’s also a chance that this could be his final game for Spurs – watch this space for more on that subject in the coming weeks!
Spurs fans will be hopeful that ‘one of their own’ Harry Kane can finish the season as top scorer again. And if he does win the Golden Boot, he’ll be only the fifth player to win it in successive seasons after, Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.
Prediction: 2-0 Spurs. After their impressive 6-1 win away to Leicester on Thursday night Tottenham might be a little bit fatigued, so it’ll probably keep the score line low. Apologies Hull fans, but I think Spurs’ quality will shine through.
Leicester vs AFC Bournemouth
Dethroned champions Leicester were humiliated on Thursday night by Spurs and everyone involved with the Foxes will be expecting some kind of response, even if this is somewhat of a dead-rubber as games go. Captain Wes Morgan and his centre-back partner Robert Huth are both likely to miss this game through injury, but Andy King may be fit. Leicester won four successive matches against Bournemouth, but they’ve failed to beat the Cherries in the Premier League in their three meetings (drawn two, lost one). Jamie Vardy did score the winning goal for Leicester against Bournemouth in their last victory, which was at home in October 2013 when they were in the Championship.
The next goal Bournemouth score in the Premier League, will be their 100th in the competition. They’re without Benik Afobe and Lewis Cook for this game, but Andrew Surman and Dan Gosling could return. Having retained their Premier League status for another season, Eddie Howe can be proud of his acheivements so far. Bournemouth have been entertaining and have played with confidence at times. This season like the last has been a positive for them.
Prediction: 1-1. Whilst we should expect a response from Leicester following the midweek mauling, Bournemouth are no mugs and will be hard to breakdown. I don’t see much separating the two sides, even with the unpredictability of the final day of the season.
Liverpool vs Middlesbrough
Liverpool need to win this. Simple as that. They want Champions League football next season, and if we’re being realistic, they need Champions League football in order to make the step up to the next level (I’m not talking about how big the club might be historically before anyone starts!). If Jürgen Klopp is going to fulfill his potential with Liverpool, the club needs to be in the Champions League in order to be able to attract their primary transfer targets. The big players want to play at the highest level and regardless of how much history or money you dangle infront of them, the Champions League is the major draw. Liverpool have only finished in the top four once in the previous seven seasons. With Arsenal at home to Everton (who aren’t really interested in doing the Reds any favours) and Manchester City travelling to Watford, Liverpool need to take the initiative and maximum points at home to a relegated Boro side. Liverpool are without Jordan Henderson, but Klopp is hopeful that Roberto Firmino will be fit. Liverpool have beaten Middlesbrough in each of their last four meetings at Anfield.
Middlesbrough will have only pride to play for and they can perhaps be consoled by the fact that they’ve won five of their last six away trips that have fallen on the final day of the season (they drew the other). However, they’ve visited Anfield more than 10 times in the Premier League and haven’t ever won.
Prediction: 2-0 Liverpool. Boro will be hard to breakdown, but Klopp and the Anfield crowd will be spurring on the home team and I think the difference in quality will shine through.
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
Jose Mourinho’s side go into this game knowing that they’ll have finished behind their “noisy neighbours” for the fourth straight season (also the fifth time in six seasons). They also know that sixth spot in the league is well and truly theirs; having spent so much of the season there. It’s incredible to think that the Red Devils have gone on a 25 game unbeaten streak this season and yet they’ve still managed to finish 6th. However, there’s still the Europa League final to look forward to, and with that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what team Mourinho puts out. Will he rest players to ensure that he has a fully fit squad to face Ajax? or will he try and get the game won and give the fans something to enjoy at home as the curtain comes down on an ambivalent season?
The game will be Mourinho’s 250th as a Premier League manager and it’s one that you’d normally expect United to win. However, nothing is straightforward and Jose and Big Sam do seem to have a bit of friction whenever their sides meet. United have played Palace 15 times in the Premier League and have never lost, winning 12 and drawing 3.
Big Sam has a few injury concerns with Andros Townsend ruled out and Yohan Cabaye a doubt, but James Tomkins may be available. Palace striker Christian Benteke has scored on both his last two appearances at Old Trafford and Wilfred Zaha will be looking to get one over on his one-time employers. The Eagles will be looking to win this game and Big Sam will take pleasure from frustrating Mourinho, that’s for sure.
Prediction: 1-1. I expect Mourinho to make a number of changes as he focuses on the Europa League final, and given United’s frustrating form this season, I think this’ll be a draw.
Southampton vs Stoke
The Saints host the Potters hoping to win and consolidate a top eight finish. At the start of the season many were expecting the departure of Ronald Koeman to have caused problems for the St Mary’s outfit, but Claude Puel has proven his worth with a strong league campaign and an EFL Cup final appearance – in which Southampton were arguably the unlucky losers (See Peter’s thoughts here). The Saints are without Shane Long for the final game of the season, and there are fitness doubts for defenders Cedric Soares and Ryan Bertrand. Southampton have only lost once in 10 final-day home Premier League games (won five, drawn four).
Stoke have doubts over the fitness of Marko Arnautovic, but Mark Hughes has said he expects to have the rest of the squad available. Mark Hughes is looking for his 150th Premier League victory as a manager, a landmark previously reached by only Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce and Jose Mourinho. However, the Potters aren’t in great form, having only won once in their last five games, and that was the fifth game ago. These two sides have met nine times in the Premier League and have each won two games, with the other five finishing as draws. Stoke fans will be expecting a relaxed day out as their side haven’t lost on the final day of the Premier League season for the last five campaigns.
Prediction: 2-2 Southampton. There’s not much at stake for either side in this one, but on the final day of the season that usually means the teams will play with a bit of freedom, so we could expect a few goals.
Swansea vs West Brom
Swansea fans will feel like they’ve made the great escape this season, they were in the relegation places for so long this season and it’s been a remarkable turn around that’s kept them up. Paul Clement will get a lot of plaudits in the coming weeks for the job he’s done, but you’d be daft to think that Swansea are completely transformed. There’s a lot of work that needs to be put into that football club over the summer, otherwise they’ll find themselves in the same situation next season. The Jacks (or Swans, whichever you prefer), have beaten West Brom fin our out of their five previous meetings and, aside from the fact that half of the Swansea squad has just been allowed a midweek trip to relax in Ibiza, there’d be no reason they can’t this time round either.
Tony Pulis’ side have picked up a couple of knocks as of late and this means that Salomon Rondon, Gareth McAuley and Matt Phillips are doubts for this game. However, Albion fans will be hoping Rondon is fit for this game as he’s scored four goals in his last two appearances against Swansea, including a hat-trick of headers in the previous meeting.
Prediction: 1-2 West Brom. Swansea have literally hit the beach already this week, they’ve managed to stay up and the players already consider their jobs done. Tony Pulis doesn’t allow that kind of casual attitude with his teams, I think the Baggies will have the better of the Swans here.
Watford vs Manchester City
Watford have a few squad concerns for the visit of Manchester City, Troy Deeney has returned to training and is likely to feature, probably as a substitute, Adrian Mariappa and Miguel Britos will have late fitness tests. Sebastian Prödl is suspended following his sending off at Chelsea, while defenders Christian Kabasele and Younes Kaboul remain sidelined. Watford have failed to beat City in their last seven league encounters, losing the last three consecutive league meetings. Jose Holebas equaled the Premier League record for the most number of yellow cards in a single season (14), and if he gets booked against City, he’ll have set a new record. I’m not sure it’s the most desirable of records to hold…
Pep Guardiola has said that this game is like a final for Manchester City, the chance to finish third is within City’s hands. That gives us an indication that he’ll not be giving anyone the opportunity of an early summer holiday. Fan favourite, Pablo Zabaleta, was given a farewell on Tuesday night and is likely to be on the bench for this game with Fernandinho likely to continue to play as a flexible ‘right-back-come-holding-midfielder’. The Citizens have lost only one of their last eight matches on the final-day of the Premier League season. It’s expected that Sergio Agüero will once again partner Gabriel Jesus upfront. Agüero has scored four goals in his last three appearances against Watford in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the FA Cup when the sides met in January 2013 and a header in this fixture last season.
Prediction: 3-1 City. City can’t defend and Troy Deeney has found the net against the Blues a few times in the past. However, Pep will be going all out to ensure that his side end the season well. The quality in City’s attack seems like it’ll be too much for the Hornets to handle.
That’s your lot for this season’s previews. Keep an eye out for our season reviews and specials over the summer including transfer news analysis and the latest from various leagues across the globe. Remember to like, share, comment and subscribe to Over The Bar. We’re on Facebook & Twitter so give us a follow.