Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Manchester City lead Liverpool by a point at the top of the Premier League table after the Reds goalless draw at Goodison on Sunday. Advantage City, but there are likely to be many more twists and turns before the 2018/19 title will be decided. The standout fixture this weekend is Arsenal v Manchester United. I narrowly missed out on a another treble last week, but I’m confident Spurs won’t let me down this time around.
Brighton gained their first league win of the year against Huddersfield last weekend, but I expect Palace to get revenge for their 3-1 defeat at the Amex back in December.
The Seagulls played with 10-men for over an hour in the reverse fixture and it would be no surprise if this were another feisty “derby” between these two arch-rivals.
The Eagles have won just 13 of their 33 league points at Selhurst Park so far this term, but I expect the hosts to keep the points with Wilfried Zaha in such good form at present – five goals and an assist in his last 6 PL games.
Tip: Palace to win at 20/23
West Ham have won their last seven games against Cardiff in all competitions – scoring at least twice in each of those fixtures – and I expect Manuel Pellegrini’s side to take the points back to the capital at the weekend.
The Bluebirds conceded eight goals in two massive home games in four days against Watford and Everton last month although they must take heart from the fact that they remain just two points from safety as we go into the last knockings of the season.
The Hammers have lost four of their last five league games on the road, but I felt they played well against Newcastle last weekend and believe they will have too much quality for Neil Warnock’s side.
Tip: West Ham to win at 5/4
Bournemouth have lost their last nine away games in the PL and failed to muster a single shot at home to Manchester City at the Vitality Stadium last weekend.
That unwanted stat – as well as having less than 18% possession – is sure to have hurt Eddie Howe’s side who will not meet anything of City’s quality at the John Smith’s Stadium. The Terriers did, however, win their last home game against Wolves and I feel it will be a point apiece in West Yorkshire.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at 9/4
Brendan Rodgers’ lost his first game in charge of Leicester City at Watford last weekend, but he has won all six previous PL meetings with Fulham and I feel he will make a winning start at the King Power Stadium.
Jamie Vardy has scored 99 goals in all competitions for the Foxes after his typical strike at Vicarage Road last weekend and he is bidding to become the first Leicester player since Gary Lineker to reach three figures for the club.
Tip: Jamie Vardy to score at 5/6
Everton have won four of their last five away league games at Newcastle but United have won their last four home PL games by an aggregate score of 9-1. I feel it will be honours even, however, at St James’ Park.
Everton have kept a clean sheet in their last couple of league games and won two of their last three on the road, but this is an improving Magpies’ side – despite a below par performance at the City of London Stadium last weekend – although they may have to settle for a point from what promises to be an open entertaining encounter.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at 11/5
Spurs have lost their last couple of PL away games and only a late Hugo Lloris penalty save spared their blushes in the North London derby at Wembley last Saturday. That said Spurs survived a first-half onslaught in the Westfalenstadion to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League midweek when Harry Kane eased any thoughts of a Dortmund comeback with his early second half strike.
The Saints are just two points above the drop zone despite winning three of their 7 home league games under Ralph Hasenhuttl. Spurs are realistically out of the title race, but they are in a battle for a top four spot with two of Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal missing out on automatic Champions League qualification.
Mauricio Pochettino has never lost at his former club (W2 D2) and I expect it will be Spurs who take the points.
Tip: Spurs to win at 20/23
City have won their last seven PL games against Watford by an aggregate score of 22-3 but I don’t think Pep Guardiola’s side will have things all their own way against the Hornets.
Kevin de Bruyne limped off against Bournemouth last weekend and looks likely to join Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho and John Stones on the sidelines. At this stage of the season it is all about picking up the win and I expect City to extend their lead at the top-of-the-table to four with Liverpool not in action until the following day.
Tip: City to win and both teams to score at 6/4
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 35 home PL games although they have only won four of their nine league games in 2019.
The Reds defence – marshalled by the brilliant Virgil van Dijk – have only conceded 15 goals in their 29 PL games so far this season, but this is the first time that Mo Salah has failed to score in three successive PL games for the club.
It is only a matter of time, however, before the Egyptian rediscovers his scoring touch and I expect Jurgen Klopp’s side to gain another three vital home points in this High Noon shoot-out.
Tip: Liverpool to win to nil at 20/23
Wolves have already picked up a point at Old Trafford and the Emirates as well as gaining a famous win at Wembley this season although, surprisingly, they were beaten at Huddersfield in their last away league game.
Wolves won the reverse fixture at Molineux back in December and they are looking to become the first newly promoted side to do the double over Chelsea since Charlton in the 2000-01 campaign.
Chelsea have won their last couple of home league games, however, and I feel they will just do enough to maintain their challenge for a top four finish.
Tip: Chelsea to win and under 2.5 goals at 27/10
Arsenal have won their last eight home league games but, sandwiched in-between, they did lose at home to United in the FA Cup back in January and I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can win their seventh successive away league game.
Only City (42) have picked up more home league points than Arsenal (38) but I felt United were good value for their Cup success and they can win an open entertaining, but fiercely competitive clash at the Emirates.
Tip: United to win and both teams to score at 4/1