Premier League matchday 22 is upon us and Michael Owen is back to give us his thoughts on the weekend’s games, which could influence the title race, as well as the North London Derby.
Brighton to win 2-1
Brighton v Crystal Palace
It’s a brilliant Premier League weekend and this is a good place to start. There’s a good rivalry between these two sides and I’d expect to see that shown on the pitch. Brighton have seven points from nine, which includes that draw at Stamford Bridge. After an impressive win at Goodison in their last PL game, they’ll be full of confidence.
Palace have shown some spirit in their last couple of games. They almost came back from three down against West Ham in the league and recovered well to beat Millwall at The Den, that’s never easy. With Zaha away playing for his country, others will need to step up and it looks like Michael Olise could be the man. He was superb against Millwall in the Cup last week.
This is a hard one to call. Brighton are a little bit more solid, and I think that will be the difference. 2-1 Brighton.
Manchester City to win 3-1
Manchester City v Chelsea
Man City have had a brilliant last month or so, and are now firmly in control of the title race and, I can’t see them slipping up now. Even when they don’t play at their best, such as the game against Arsenal, they still find a way to win.
The Cup win on Wednesday over Spurs should give the Chelsea squad a bit of a boost. Chelsea have shown under Tuchel how dangerous they are in Cup Competitions, and I would never rule them out of winning silverware.
City were fantastic when they went to the Bridge and won 1-0 earlier in the season. They looked like the team to beat in the league that day and that’s proven to be correct. I can see another win for them here. 3-1 City.
Everton to win 2-1
Norwich City v Everton
Norwich didn’t really threaten West Ham on Wednesday. They’ve got two massive games ahead of them, against Everton here and then against Watford. Things are obviously not looking good for them, but they aren’t cut adrift and a win in one of those games still gives them some hope.
The FA Cup gave Everton, and Rafa Benitez, an escape from the pressure of the league. The mood around Goodison was very low after the Brighton defeat and a defeat here would be rock bottom. Calvert-Lewin has returned though, and they’ve made a couple of new signings. That will help.
This is a massive game for both. Norwich will give this everything they have; I just don’t think they have enough quality. I’m going for a 2-1 Everton win.
Wolves to win 1-0
Wolves v Southampton
Wolves continue to impress me. That’s now three clean sheets in a row, which includes matches against Chelsea and Man United. The win at Old Trafford in particular was fantastic. They controlled that game and were always the more likely side to score. To be sitting in the top eight having only scored 14 goals is remarkable and shows how strong they are at the back.
That was a huge win for Southampton on Tuesday against Brentford, they’re in good form. They aren’t a prolific side, so to score four in a game is a good sign. I worried about Southampton; they were struggling earlier in the season. They are comfortably above the drop now though and can try and kick-on in the second part of the season.
I’m not expecting a lot of goals here. Southampton have improved, but I don’t think they are quite at Wolves’ level. I can see a 1-0 Wolves win.
Newcastle United to win 2-1
Newcastle United v Watford
The defeat to Cambridge last week in the Cup was a disaster, but all will be forgotten with a win here. Newcastle will leapfrog Watford with a win and the fans will be up for this. Chris Wood should be a good bit of business and will fill Wilson’s void whilst he’s injured. He’s a proven goal scorer at this level and will give them something different up top.
I feel sorry for Claudio Ranieri. It was a big ask coming into the club mid-way through the season and things aren’t going well. December was a disastrous month, with five defeats and zero points. The only positive will be that a few of those came against some of the top sides. They’ve got six fixtures now which they could pick up points in and these are the sort of games they’ll be judged on.
A win for Newcastle, and that could kickstart their season. I can’t see this being emphatic, but I do think Newcastle will win this. 2-1 Newcastle.
Aston Villa to win 2-1
Aston Villa v Manchester United
What a week it’s been for Steven Gerrard and Aston Villa in the transfer market. Lucas Digne should prove to be an excellent signing at left-back, he’s experienced and has superb delivery. Who would have thought that Philippe Coutinho would end up playing for Aston Villa? That’s a brilliant signing for Villa and a signal of intent by the club.
Performances haven’t been great at Old Trafford since Ralf Rangnick took over. United start an easier run of fixtures now but there has to be a lot of improvement shown.
I can see Villa edging this. Villa were probably a little unlucky in the Cup game last week and with the home crowd behind them, should win here. 2-1 Villa.
West Ham to win 3-1
West Ham United v Leeds United
West Ham are in good goalscoring form, that’s now nine goals in their last three Premier League games. Jarrod Bowen was again the star of the show against Norwich. He scored two, which could easily have been three or four. His movement from wide areas is excellent.
Leeds have been one of the league’s worst sides on their travels this season. The win over Burnley in their last has given them some breathing room from the bottom three though.
It may not have been their full-strength teams, but West Ham were comfortable in that 2-0 FA Cup win over Leeds last week. I can see similar here. 3-1 to West Ham.
Liverpool to win 2-0
Liverpool v Brentford
It will be interesting to see how this Liverpool side can cope with the absences of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. Obviously, people will need to step up and the likes of Jota and Firmino will be expected to get the goals. I wouldn’t be shocked if the man for the big occasion, Divock Origi, scores in the next couple of games though.
That was a disappointing defeat for Brentford away to Southampton. They pride themselves on their defensive organisation, so to concede four was alarming. It could be a tough couple of weeks for them, with games against Man United, Wolves and Man City to follow this.
I think Liverpool will take a while to get going here but should have enough quality, even without Salah and Mane. 2-0 to Liverpool
The match to end in a 1-1 draw
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
Antonio Conte must have been disappointed with the performances against Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final. They didn’t threaten Chelsea enough and Chelsea dominated for large spells of both games. They’ll need to improve if they want to have hopes of a top four finish.
It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Arsenal. They were outstanding for a half against Man City but then lost that game and lost in the FA Cup to Forest. This is a big game for them, they don’t want to lose any more momentum.
I don’t see much between Spurs and Arsenal. I can see a draw here, 1-1.