After a high-scoring Matchday 33, all ten teams of the Premier League are back in action mid-week. This is how I see the action unfolding.
Chelsea to win
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Crystal Palace were well beaten by Leicester City over the weekend and have now lost their last three in the Premier League. Fortunately, they already have 42 points on the board this season as otherwise they would be nervously looking over their shoulders.
Chelsea reacted positively to their shock 3-2 defeat at West Ham with a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Watford on Saturday and continue to look good for a Champions League qualification spot in what could turn out to be a great season for Frank Lampard and his men. Ross Barkley was hugely influential for Chelsea and rounded off his performance with a very late goal to add to Watford’s misery. Another player who really impressed me was Christian Pulisic. He really looks to be settling into this young Chelsea side and has already scored once against Crystal Palace this season when Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners back in November.
Chelsea have won 15 of the 21 matches between these two sides in the Premier League and you have to go back to 2017 for the last time the Eagles managed a win. I see this being another win for Chelsea, adding further pressure to those teams in and around the Champions League qualification places.
Watford to win to nil
Watford v Norwich
Watford were well beaten by Chelsea on Saturday but Nigel Pearson seemed happier with their second-half performance and will be looking to build on that at home to bottom of the table Norwich. It’s a phrase used too often in football, but this really is a must-win game for the Hornets. With games against Newcastle United and West Ham to come next, Watford will be looking to get enough points in these three to secure their Premier League status and avoid a nerve-shredding end to the season.
Norwich seem to have accepted their fate as they suffered a fifth straight defeat in the Premier League, all without managing to score a single goal. The Canaries manager Daniel Farke said after the game that it’s “unrealistic” to talk about avoiding relegation. I don’t think anybody can accuse Norwich of not giving 100% but they just don’t seem to have a squad big enough and with enough quality to be competitive in the Premier League this season.
This is a game where all the pressure will be on Watford but I fancy them to come through with a pretty comfortable home win.
Over 2.5 goals
Arsenal v Leicester City
Arsenal did their claims for a Europa League spot a power of good with an impressive 2-0 victory over Wolves at Molyneux on Saturday and that will have really given Mikel Arteta a huge boost going into the closing stages of the season.
Leicester got their quest for a top-four finish right back on track with their first win since the restart when they beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at the King Power Stadium. One worrying stat for all Foxes fans is that they haven’t been able to record a win away at Arsenal in 26 attempts in all competitions, and that was before I was born (2-0 on September 8th 1973)! I see that unenviable run continuing with a 2-1 home win to the Gunners.
Manchester City -2 handicap
Manchester City v Newcastle United
Manchester City came crashing down to earth with a bang following their narrow 1-0 defeat to Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium. They gave Liverpool a hiding on Thursday and then followed up with a chastening defeat to Southampton.
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last six Premier League matches and are looking like beating their points total of last season while securing a top-half finish along the way. United are another team with very little, other than pride, to play for, whereas City are still involved in both the FA Cup and Champions League and I think this could well mean we’ll see a reaction from Pep Guardiola’s men at the Etihad.
Correct score 0-1
Sheffield United v Wolves
Sheffield United followed up their convincing win at home to Spurs last Thursday with a gritty draw away at Burnley on Sunday which leaves both teams still in the hunt for a Europa place next season.
Wolves will have been bitterly disappointed not to have opened up a sizeable gap between themselves and Arsenal when they surprisingly lost 2-0 at the Molyneux to the Gunners on Saturday. That defeat leaves them playing catch up in their hunt for a Champions League qualification spot, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City all winning on Matchday 33 and all sitting above them in the table.
However, I feel that with Sheffield United having to play their fourth match in ten days and with a relatively small squad, this may prove a step too far and on this occasion, I fancy a 1-0 win to the Wanderers.
Match to end in a draw
West Ham United v Burnley
West Ham were in front twice away at Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon but in the end, had to settle for another valuable point. They have now lost 24 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season but that solitary point on the back of their recent victory over Chelsea means that things are looking a lot more hopeful for David Moyes and his men.
Burnley also earned another point in their quest for a Europa League place with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sheffield United. Sean Dyche will have been disappointed to concede with just ten minutes to go but given the problems Burnley have faced in recent times, they’ll be delighted with how their season is unfolding.
Despite the fact that there’s only been one draw in eleven Premier League games between these two sides, it’s difficult to split them and I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool to win and both teams to score
Brighton v Liverpool
Brighton look as though they are going to be safe from relegation this season. Their form is a little indifferent, but they continue to pick up the odd point here and there and I fancy that will be enough to keep them up. They had a huge win at the weekend when they beat a hapless Norwich 1-0 at Carrow Road and have now suffered only one defeat in their last 5 Premier League matches.
Liverpool eventually recorded their 17th consecutive home win of the season and their 24th in total with a 2-0 win over Aston Villa. Two more wins, against Burnley and Chelsea, would match the record of Sunderland who managed to win every one of their home games just 128 years ago!
Liverpool continue to look fully motivated in their efforts to break one or two other records in addition to winning the Premier League and the really concerning stat for Brighton fans is that their team have played Liverpool five times in the Premier League and have lost all five, scoring just two goals and conceding thirteen. I fancy another difficult day for Brighton and ultimately a 2-1 loss for the Seagulls.
Harry Kane - first goalscorer
Bournemouth v Tottenham Hotspur
Bournemouth can’t seem to buy a point for love nor money at the minute and the side that Eddie Howe put out to face Manchester United at Old Trafford had scored a miserly total of just eight goals between them all season. It was something of a surprise, therefore, to see them score twice against an in-form United. However, Bournemouth’s Achilles’ heel is more than just not scoring enough goals; it’s also conceding too many and so it proved again. Manchester United ran out 5-2 winners to leave Bournemouth second from the bottom of the table with matches against Tottenham, Leicester City, and Manchester City to come.
Tottenham continue their inconsistent form and I can’t help but feel everyone at the club will be delighted to see the back of this season. Jose Mourinho will be looking to re-group and hopefully for his team to start next season in a more positive manner than they are finishing this one. One bright spot for Tottenham fans is that Harry Kane is back fit and scoring goals again.
As much as I am hesitant to back Spurs given their inconsistencies, I would prefer to take another chance on them rather than back the Cherries who are extremely consistent albeit by getting beat every week at the moment.
Both teams to score - yes
Everton v Southampton
Southampton played particularly well at home to Manchester City on Sunday evening and threw the form book out of the window with a 1-0 victory. Southampton thoroughly deserved their win for the way they defended so stoutly in the second half. They battled for every ball and you would be hard-pressed to realise they are comfortably placed in mid-table and on paper have little to play for.
Everton continue to push for a Europa League place and wherever they finish this season will be an improvement on recent years and I’m sure all Toffees fans will be looking forward to next season to see just how far Carlo Ancelotti can take them.
This is another difficult game to predict but I think the renewed confidence Southampton will have garnered from their victory over Manchester City means that this match looks to be another that will end with honours even.
Half Time/Full-Time - Manchester United/Manchester United
Aston Villa v Manchester United
Aston Villa actually played well at Anfield on Sunday early evening but came away with nothing for their efforts. They are now without a win in ten games and things don’t get any easier as far as their fixtures are concerned. Next up is the visit of Manchester United who are in scintillating form at present as they extended their unbeaten run to 16 games with a 5-2 stroll against Bournemouth at the weekend.
United have won eleven of the last 13 Premier League meetings between these two sides and I can’t see beyond another stroll in the park for the Red Devils.