Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on Thursday evening handed the title to Liverpool and in many ways, I think City might be glad to get that out of the way before they meet this week.
Wolves to win and both teams to score
Aston Villa v Wolves
Aston Villa will take heart from their results since the Premier League restart. Two draws and a narrow defeat to Chelsea suggest that there is still reason to believe that they can avoid the drop. If they are to survive then it will likely need the partnership between fit-again John McGinn and Jack Grealish to chip in with a few goals from midfield.
Their opponents Wolves won’t be concerning themselves with what’s happening at the foot of the table as they are now tantalisingly close to a Champions League spot. A midweek win at home to Bournemouth sees them sitting sixth in the table and with Raul Jimenez in tremendous goal-scoring form, it would take a brave man to back against them continuing their form in this first game of the weekend. Since the restart, they have recorded two wins and two cleans sheets and I fancy them to pick up another three points in this West Midlands derby.
Watford to win
Watford v Southampton
Watford earned a creditable draw at home to Leicester City but followed up with a disappointing loss to Burnley. They have plenty of quality players in their squad with the rapid Ismaila Sarr out on the right wing and Abdoulaye Doucoure breaking from midfield, and I feel that if they can all stay fit, they have a real chance of staying up.
Southampton started back in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win away at Norwich but followed that up with 2-0 loss at home to Arsenal to make that 10 home defeats already this season for only the second time in their history. Danny Ings is their main goal threat and fortunately, his goals may already have secured enough points to ensure a place in the Premier League again next season.
Whilst I expect this to be a close game, I can’t help but feel Watford will want it that little bit more, and so I’m going for a 2-1 win for the Hornets.
Under 1.5 goals
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Crystal Palace were thrashed 4-0 away at Liverpool in their last game but I don’t think that will have dented their confidence. Liverpool are imperious when at their best and I think Roy Hodgson will have told his players to forget about their night at Anfield and concentrate on pushing on and trying to finish the season in a European qualification spot.
Burnley seem to have a number of problems both on and off the pitch at the moment, but Sean Dyche won’t be offering any excuses and will be very keen to finish as high up the table as possible. They will be boosted by a much needed 1-0 home win against Watford on Thursday and winning games always seem to blow away any clouds of negativity building around a club.
This is an intriguing game to predict but I think it’s likely to be a low-scoring affair and in fact, I’m going for a 0-0 draw between these two well-organised teams.
Manchester United to win to nil
Brighton v Manchester United
Brighton are slowly putting light between themselves and the relegation zone and despite fielding their youngest ever team in 107 Premier League games against Leicester City last time out, they did manage to pick up another valuable point.
Manchester United continued their good form in the Premier League with a resounding 3-0 win against Sheffield United at Old Trafford, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be building a team that can again compete for all the top honours. The partnership between Pogba and Fernandes is still in its early stages but I think that will be the difference between the two sides, and I fancy a comfortable 2-0 win to the Red Devils.
Arsenal -2 handicap
Arsenal v Norwich City
Arsenal started back in the Premier League with back to back defeats, which has almost put paid to any hopes of a Champions League qualification spot, although they did bounce back with a morale-boosting 2-0 win away at Southampton. I’ve always seen Arsenal of the last decade or so as a team who struggle against the big teams in the Premier League and who are also vunerable against any team away from home. On the plus side, they are almost flat-track bullies at the Emirates stadium where they tend to always beat teams lower down the table.
Their opponents in this match don’t come any lower down the table than Norwich and I can’t really make a case for anything other than a resounding home win for Arsenal. Norwich already look doomed with seven games to go and with their confidence at a particularly low ebb, the 1-0 loss to Everton was their 20th Premier League defeat of the season. They’ve only recorded two shots on target in the two games played since the restart, although leaving Pukki and Cantwell on the bench against Everton was surely a contributory factor given that they’ve scored 17 of their 25 league goals this season.
Match to end in a draw
Bournemouth v Newcastle United
With two games, two defeats and no goals scored, Bournemouth are unquestionably in big, big trouble. Their signings in recent windows haven’t worked out well and with Ryan Fraser refusing to sign a new contract, problems are mounting for Eddie Howe’s team.
Newcastle will be disappointed to have conceded a late equaliser against Villa in their last Premier League game but nonetheless, they are having a decent season and with 39 points on the board already, they will be looking to finish in the top half of the table.
Despite Bournemouth desperately needing three points from this South Coast encounter, I can’t see Newcastle being on the losing side and I’m going for a low scoring 1-1 draw.
Both teams to score - yes
Everton v Leicester City
Carlo Ancelotti is undoubtedly a world-class manager and when he took the manager’s job, Everton were languishing in 15th place in the Premier League and just 4 points above the relegation zone. That gap is now up to 14 points and they are even starting to believe that a European spot may be achievable this season. Two clean sheets since the Premier League restart will have helped confidence but they do need to start finding their shooting boots if they are to really push for a top-six finish.
Leicester City won’t be satisfied with just two points from their first two games since the restart but they continue to keep their noses in front of the chasing pack and look firm favourites for a top-four finish. Leicester have now failed to score in four of their last six Premier League games and everyone associated with the club will be anxious for Jamie Vardy to score his 100th Premier League goal and hopefully go on another of his renowned goal-scoring runs.
Despite their tight defences and lack of goals up the other end of the pitch, I do fancy both teams to score at Goodison and I’m going for a 1-1 draw in a game of few chances.
Over 2.5 goals
West Ham v Chelsea
After 5 goals conceded and none scored in their last three Premier League games, West Ham are now hovering above the relegation trap-door with all three teams below them having played a game less.
Chelsea’s transfer ban effectively forced Frank Lampard to turn to his academy players and the 12 youngsters who he has given debuts to this season have all taken their chances, and it now looks more and more like an inspired revolution. They ran out 2-1 winners in a hugely entertaining game against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday and will be brimming with confidence going into this London derby.
How West Ham will be hoping for a repeat of the scoreline when they met back in November at Stamford Bridge. On that day, West Ham finished 1-0 winners thanks to an Aaron Cresswell goal early in the second half. However, I think Chelsea will burst West Ham’s bubbles and come away from the London Stadium with a 2-1 win to heap more trouble onto David Moyes’ shoulders.
Sheffield United to win
Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur
As I’ve said before, Sheffield United have been a revelation this season. It’s been refreshing to see them play with two strikers in recent games and the way they deploy their two centre-halves overlapping the full-backs, with the full-backs cutting in, is something I’ve never seen before in all my years in football. It’s not only unique but very effective and clearly works for Chris Wilder’s men.
Spurs haven’t been too impressive in their last couple of games but they’ve ground out results that keep their slim hopes of Champions League qualification alive. Harry Kane’s return to fitness is obviously a huge boost for them, especially now he’s back amongst the goals.
This is a very close game to call but I just fancy Sheffield United to get back to winning ways with a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
Both teams to score - yes
Manchester City v Liverpool
The gap this season has been so big that it was inevitable that Liverpool would win the trophy at some point, and I imagine that Pep Guardiola and his men wouldn’t want it to have happened in this game at the Etihad.
Liverpool were at their prolific best on Wednesday when they tore Crystal Palace apart and I think every fan in the country would have to accept that they thoroughly deserve to be champions. I’m sure that the players would have preferred to win it on the field of play but they can now relax a little and enjoy their final seven games of the season.
With Liverpool already champions and City still playing with Cups on their mind, this is a difficult one to call. However, I think the fact that City’s season isn’t yet over may give them the edge, and I expect them to deliver a message to Liverpool that they will be right there alongside them again next season.