Martin King has a look at this week’s Premier League fixtures with Spurs and Liverpool being the game to watch.
Only fourteen games remain of this Premier League season and although that may sound like a small amount of games to play in the space of three months, a crazy amount can and probably will still happen between now and May.
The first of those games begin in only a matter of hours for each English top-flight side, as the Premier League continues with a 25th round of games, that we’re set to look forward to in our very own prediction game.
But first, let’s recap the previous week’s results.
League leaders Chelsea opened the weekend up by taking another step closer to winning their fifth Premier League title, beating challengers Arsenal 3-1. Liverpool then lost 2-0 away to Hull City, Sunderland won 4-0 at Crystal Palace, while Everton enjoyed a 6-3 victory over Bournemouth.
Despite initially grabbing the lead, Southampton lost 3-1 at home to West Ham United, Watford won 2-1 over Burnley, West Bromwich Albion beat Stoke City 1-0 before Tottenham Hotspur recorded the same result over Middlesbrough.
Finally, there were victories for both Manchester clubs, as Manchester City beat Swansea City 2-1, before United defeated Leicester 3-0.
With that said, let’s get our build-up underway. Read on to see who I fancy to thrill and who I think will spill.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Although history and stature separates them as clubs, comparisons to each other in the present day are never rare and why should they be?
Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur represent the league’s young and hungry competitors.
Lead by two of the world’s brightest young managers, the two sides share a similar philosophy, as innovative creativity, relentless pace and unwavering amounts of energy are never in short supply whenever each takes to the pitch.
However, in a sudden turn of events, the past month has seen a contrasting build-up that leads both sides into this match on opposite ends of the momentum scale.
While Tottenham are enjoying a run of form that sees them unbeaten in nine games – one that stretches all the way back to December – as well as a renewal of their title ambitions that sees them sit just behind league leaders Chelsea in second, Liverpool are suffering their worst run of the campaign: five games without a league win, two of which were defeats to relegation-threatened sides that saw them concede an average of two goals per game.
Add to that a drastic drop in the form of key players that has seen the Reds lose the place their opponents now occupy on the table and despite not usually being the case, manager Jürgen Klopp is under pressure.
Ever an encouraging factor ahead of a big game for Liverpool is their record against the rest of the top-six this season. The Merseysiders haven’t lost a single one of their games against their rivals this season, taking 13 points away from their seven big clashes.
Key to keeping that record healthy will be Georginio Wijnaldum. The Reds’ Player of the Month has been a trusted choice for manager Klopp in the big games this season, as he’s started in games against Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, scoring two goals in each of the latter two games.
For Tottenham, the recent injury of left-back Danny Rose was always going to be a big blow but the fitness of key men in Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld, to mention a few, equips Mauricio Pochettino’s men well for a battle that will surely last the duration of the match.
Liverpool’s Premier League record against Spurs at Anfield (15 wins, 7 draws, 2 defeats) is obviously very good and it wouldn’t be far-fetched for the home crowd to anticipate another positive result, which is what the team will be desperate for.
However, match that against Spurs’ determination to knock them out of the race for top places, while keeping their own place at the top and I think we’re set to witness a Saturday evening draw.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal vs. Hull City
Hull’s recent resurgence under Marco Silva continued with a rousing 2-0 victory over Liverpool last Saturday. That win took the Tigers just one point clear of safety, making it only their second win in a six-match period that has seen them lose just twice.
Up next is a trip to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Déja vú is once again the feeling that heavies the atmosphere around North London, as the past two weeks have seen the Gunners surrender their title hopes, with a five-game unbeaten run brought to end by back-to-back defeats against Watford and Chelsea.
That put them back in fourth, just one point clear of chasing pack Liverpool and two of Manchester United. It has also sparked the ‘Wenger-out’ debate, with fans both local and international split over whether boss Arsené Wenger should leave the club or remain in charge.
All in all, their current situation makes them a wounded animal and the Tigers will be keen to sink their teeth into that, with the confidence of four points obtained from recent games against Manchester United and Liverpool spurring them on.
Amongst other things, Arsenal will be relying on their record against Hull. Only once in the Premier League era have they lost to the Tigers, that being a 2-1 defeat at home in 2008.
I struggle to see a repeat of that this weekend, though. The Gunners are certain to be under so much pressure from the home crowd but I’m just going to back them to react to it with a win.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Hull City
Burnley vs. Chelsea
Chelsea’s comprehensive win over Arsenal took them nine points clear at the top of the Premier League table, with the league title looking more likely to come to Stamford Bridge with each passing week.
This weekend they face another stern test of their capabilities, as they visit lowly Burnley.
I call it a stern test because, as has been the case when the Clarets play at home this season, Turf Moor will be a tough place to play at, thanks to their strong home record, which was kept strong by a victory over Leicester City in their last home fixture.
Manager Sean Dyche will once again be looking to keep his side organized and his defence difficult to breach but what perhaps makes his plans trickier is the fact Chelsea could set up in the same way, as they usually do, making the Englishman’s hopes of salvaging something from a counter-attacking move slim.
Add to that the difference in quality going forward, with the Blues obviously having an upper hand in the shapes of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa and it’s clear the home side aren’t necessarily favourites to win this time around.
I think their best hopes will be placed on a draw. As for my prediction, I see Chelsea just narrowly winning this game.
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Chelsea
Swansea City vs. Leicester City
Swansea’s own resurgence under manager Paul Clement may have been halted by a defeat against Manchester City in the last round but the Welsh side can look forward to seizing a good opportunity to bounce back, as they next face troubled champions Leicester at home.
The Swans still sit 17th on the league table, just one position behind their opponents on Sunday. The pair are separated by goal difference, having accumulated 21 points thus far, which means that winning this match will surely bear good fortune for either one or the other.
Leicester were involved in midweek football, as they faced Championship side Derby County in an FA Cup fourth-round replay, winning the clash 3-1 after extra-time.
Manager Claudio Ranieri called for his troops to use the victory to spark some life into their season and will be expecting a performance that echoes those words, as the Foxes search for their first win in five Premier League games.
I don’t see them getting it though. Swansea are playing well at the moment and will look to put in another assured performance at the Liberty Stadium.
I think it will produce a win for them.
Prediction: Swansea City 3-1 Leicester City
Middlesbrough vs. Everton
Everton fans would’ve been glad to hear the news that striker Romelu Lukaku could potentially be extending his stay at the club with a new contract, according to his agent.
The Belgian netted four times in Everton’s 6-3 victory over Bournemouth last week, taking his season goal tally to 16 league goals, making him the top goal-scorer and he will be looking to add to his tally in his side’s Saturday afternoon match at Middlesbrough.
That win against Eddie Howe’s men extended the Toffees’ unbeaten run to seven games.
The Merseyside outfit are growing in confidence and will want to sustain their form as a place in Europe next season is still a possibility.
Middlesbrough, on the other hand, are one of the sides who could find themselves in the relegation zone come the end of the round.
Indeed, Aitor Karanka’s men are a difficult side to beat, as their recent match against Tottenham Hotspur would’ve proved, but there aren’t enough wins in them to be overly confident that they will survive this season, so I’d put them down as relegation candidates for sure.
That said, I think a win will go the way of the away side here. I think a draw is highly probable but Everton’s form just twists my hand.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-2 Everton
Sunderland vs. Southampton
While some sides could end the weekend in the bottom three depending on results, others, like Sunderland, could end it in a safe position.
The Black Cats host Southampton on Saturday, after a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park that has once again given them fresh hope in their campaign for survival under David Moyes.
Form is not on the side of the Saints, as they head into this match on the back of three defeats in all competitions, two of which were in the Premier League. In that three-game period, Claude Puel’s men have conceded an alarming ten goals, a statistic that more than tells the story of how much they’ve missed key centre-backs José Fonte and Virgil van Dijk.
Former Juventus defender Martín Cáceres has been brought in to help fill the void, as a result, and the South Coast faithful will be hoping the former free agent is a gamble that pays off.
Whether he features at the Stadium of Light or not, Sunderland striker Jermaine Defoe will be keen to add to his 14 goals this season by exploiting a leaky Southampton defence. And although they haven’t been too reliable, Moyes will be looking for another clean-sheet display from his defence.
That said, I fancy Sunderland to make the most of their opportunities in this match, as I’m predicting a 3-1 win for the Black Cats.
Prediction: Sunderland 3-1 Southampton
Manchester United vs. Watford
With their victory at Leicester City extending their unbeaten run to 15 Premier League games, Manchester United have taken another step closer to the top-four, with the poor form of fellow rivals also taking them just two points closer to the Champions League places.
Watford visit Old Trafford next, with a spring in their step after consecutive wins over Arsenal and Burnley brought to an end a run of seven games without victory. Improved performances from Walter Mazzarri’s squad would’ve been positives to take, however, that even a new signing in M’baye Niang is already contributing well with a debut goal and assist against Burnley, will be something that pleases the Hornets faithful.
They will surely also fancy their chances of taking something good from this match, despite Man United being the favourites to win.
One thing the home side will definitely want to avoid is failing to take their chances again. Whenever they’ve done so, it’s ended in a disappointing result for them, such as their previous home game, a 0-0 draw with Hull City, so winning will surely rely on them showing good finishing in front of goal.
I’m predicting a win for United. I think they will just have enough for Watford here.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Watford
West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion
It’s safe to say that there will be a desire for revenge on the cards when West Ham take on West Brom this afternoon at the London Stadium.
That is because the last time these two sides met saw the Hammers get on the end of a 4-2 thrashing at the Hawthorns, so we can expect Slaven Bilič’s men will want to put that result fully behind them with a win.
They take on a Baggies side that won’t be push-overs, though. Tony Pulis’ men are in good form, losing just once in a six-game run that has seen them win four and draw once so despite being in a good moment themselves, West Ham still face a stern challenge in the Baggies.
Key to their hopes of winning will surely be striker Andy Carrol. The Englishman has once again emerged as a top player for the Hammers, netting four goals in his last four games and will be looking to maintain that run as well as his fitness.
I think this match could go either way, as both sides are playing well and capable of beating each other.
I fancy a draw, though.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
Stoke City vs. Crystal Palace
Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace side may not be the league’s most fancied but very few observers, if any, will claim to have seen their defeat against Sunderland coming.
It’s surely a set back for the Eagles because having recorded their manager’s first league win in charge at Bournemouth, you would’ve thought they’d have enough to get past the Black Cats but they didn’t and now it’s all back to square one.
The South Londoners travel to Stoke City this afternoon, with the Potters looking to bounce back from a 1-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion, their first in five games.
Mark Hughes’ men will once again be looking to keep their home record healthy. Stoke are unbeaten in their last six games at the Bet365 Stadium and are still looking strong in mid-table.
I don’t see them giving away that record. They would’ve been favourites to win this match and I couldn’t agree more.
Prediction: Stoke City 2-0 Crystal Palace
AFC Bournemouth vs. Manchester City
Following back-to-back games without a win, that saw them slip out of the top-four, Manchester City have reacted positively, winning their last two games.
That has ultimately seen them move back into the top-four and key to their run has been new signing Gabriel Jesus. The 19-year-old Brazilian added to his first goal in City colours against Swansea City, against which he scored a brace to make it three goals in as many appearances for his new side.
Up next for the Citizens is a trip to beleagured Bournemouth.
Based on the Cherries’ last few results, this could be a real thrashing they’re about to receive. Eddie Howe’s side have conceded atleast two goals in each of their last five matches, totalling up to sixteen goals conceded over that period.
The match that contributed the most goals to that statistic is their 6-3 loss at Everton, a startling reminder that Howe needs to patch up his leaky defence to avoid any late trouble at the bottom of the table.
Either way, I still foresee trouble for them in this match. I think that with City’s quality in attack and Bournemouth’s lack of it in defence, this will surely not be a very good afternoon for the Vitality Stadium crowd.
I struggle to decide on the severity of the scoreline but I’m sure it will go the way of Man City.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-3 Manchester City