Relegation battles and European football is all still to play for in the Premier League this week. Michael Owen previews all the action.
Arsenal to win and both teams to score
Arsenal v Watford
Arsenal were hugely disappointing in their 1-0 loss to Aston Villa on Tuesday night and, with qualification to the Europa League via the Premier League no longer an option, their minds will undoubtedly be on the FA Cup final to come.
Watford surprisingly sacked Nigel Pearson as their manager after their 3-1 defeat away at West Ham on Friday and were then walloped by Manchester City in their next game. That ruined their goal difference advantage over their relegation rivals and dropped them back into the relegation zone. Suddenly, things look very bleak indeed for the Hornets, and a win is the least they look likely to need if they are to stand any chance of surviving the drop.
I expect to see a much-improved performance from Arsenal in this one and I’m going for a 2-1 win to Mikel Arteta’s men which will bring an end to Watford’s five year stay in the Premier League.
Under 2.5 goals
Burnley v Brighton
Despite their great run of form, Burnley’s hopes of a place in next season’s Europa League were effectively ended by Wolves’ 2-0 win against Crystal Palace on Monday night. With Brighton already safe from relegation, this has become one of those dreaded mid-table clashes with both teams having little to play for.
Burnley have already won 15 Premier League games in a season for the first time ever and, with their goalkeeper Nick Pope currently leading the race for the Golden Glove award, Sean Dyche and his players can be very proud of their efforts this term. They will be keen to round off their season with three points and yet another clean sheet.
Brighton’s season has been one of transition in terms of playing style and they will be hopeful of a top half finish next season but on this occasion, I see the Clarets continuing their good run and I’m going for them to shade this with a 1-0 win.
Chelsea to win
Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool in a cracking game at Anfield on Wednesday means they now need at least one point from this clash with Europa League chasing Wolves at Stamford Bridge to secure a Champions League berth for next season.
Frank Lampard will be happy with the way his team are playing going forward, but they do have a worrying tendency to concede goals from set-pieces and particularly from corners. Chelsea have now conceded ten goals from corner kicks this season. Only Norwich, with 12, have conceded more.
Wolves eased past a woefully out of form Crystal Palace in what was the Wanderers’ 56th game of the season and that win means their participation in next season’s Europa League is still very much in their own hands. A win here would guarantee them 6th spot but, with Tottenham just one point behind them, they will know that any slip-ups could prove costly.
I think this could be a tight, nervy affair, but I’m going for a 2-1 win to the Blues.
Tottenham to win to nil
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Palace have now lost seven consecutive Premier League matches which is the worst run of any team managed by Roy Hodgson in his long and illustrious career. They can’t finish higher than 13th in the table and, after being in such a promising position pre-lockdown, I imagine that for everyone at the club, the end of the season can’t come quickly enough.
Tottenham continue to climb the table and with five wins and two draws in their eight games since the restart, they will be very confident of rounding off their season by adding another three points to their tally. They will be hoping that a win will lift them up to 6th in the table which would guarantee a place in next season’s Europa League but that will depend upon Wolves’ result against Chelsea. However, they are already certain to finish no lower than seventh and that may well earn them a place in the Europa League subject to results in the FA Cup.
I see this as a very straightforward win, albeit a low-scoring one, and I’m going for a 1-0 win to the Lilywhites.
Under 2.5 goals
Everton v Bournemouth
Everton have endured a topsy-turvy end to the season and their 1-0 against Sheffield United on Monday was their first win in their last five Premier League matches. They have little to play for in this one and, regardless of the result, they will finish the season in the bottom half of the table. However, they will no doubt want to sign-off with a home win and, for one or two players, this may be their last chance to impress Carlo Ancelotti.
Bournemouth suffered their 22nd league defeat of the season when losing 2-0 at home to Southampton and that defeat means that they simply have to win this game and then hope that other results go their way.
I’ve always been a great admirer of Eddie Howe and the job he’s done since he took over as Bournemouth manager but I just felt this season might be a difficult one for them. I tipped them for relegation before the season started and it would be a major surprise if they were somehow to find a way out of their predicament at this late stage.
I’m going for a 1-0 win to the Toffees
Manchester United to win and both teams to score
Leicester City v Manchester United
Leicester have now won just two of their last eight games and, after such a poor run of form, only a win against Manchester United will guarantee them Champions League football next season. A draw may be enough but that would require a Chelsea defeat at home to Wolves.
For Manchester United a draw or a win would be enough for them to secure a Champions League berth. A defeat would see them relying on Wolves beating Chelsea or they would miss out on being involved in the biggest club football competition in world football.
Despite United drawing two and losing one of their last four games in all competitions, I think they will have too much quality for a Leicester side who must be short of confidence, given their form since the restart.
I’m going for a 3-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men in this crucial top of the table clash.
Manchester City to win -3 goals on the handicap
Manchester City v Norwich
Manchester City are certain to finish 2nd and Norwich are certain to finish bottom so not too much for either team to aim for.
Manchester City will have half an eye on their upcoming quest to win the Champions League but for now, I expect them to look to break the 100 goals scored in a season once again and, with just three more needed I think this could be the perfect game for them.
Norwich appear somewhat deflated since their relegation was confirmed and I can’t see anything but a comfortable and convincing win for Pep Guardiola’s team.
I’m going for a 5-0 home win at the Etihad.
Mohamed Salah to score any time
Newcastle United v Liverpool
For some time now, Newcastle have been aware that a mid-table position was the best they could expect and credit to Steve Bruce and his team for getting United to a point of safety some months ago.
Liverpool played on Wednesday in a thrilling match against Chelsea at Anfield after which they finally lifted the Premier League trophy.
Judging from Jurgen Klopp’s demeanour on the side of the pitch, he won’t be expecting anything less than another flat-out performance at St James’ Park and I expect the Reds to round off their incredible season with yet another win. I take Liverpool to win this one 2-1.
Game to end a draw
Southampton v Sheffield United
Southampton have had a pretty decent season, especially when considering the problems they were facing prior to Christmas. They are unbeaten in six and sit comfortably in 12th position in the table. They should be full of optimism for their prospects for next season, especially if they can improve their home form which has been pretty woeful this term. Danny Ings has been a revelation up front for them this season and is only two goals behind the Golden Boot favourite, Jamie Vardy.
Sheffield United’s dream of European football is all but over after their 1-0 defeat to Everton last time out but Chris Wilder and his men can be very proud indeed for the way they have conducted themselves, on and off the pitch, this season. The Blades are guaranteed a top ten finish which is not something that too many people, myself included, would have been predicting before the season started.
This is a very difficult match to predict but I think it will end 1-1 with honours even.
West Ham Draw No Bet
West Ham United v Aston Villa
West Ham have taken eight points from their last five league games and that sees them sitting safely in 15th place going into their last game of the season. I had high hopes for the Hammers at the start of the season and with the quality of players in their squad, you have to say that they’ve under-achieved. However, they will be plying their trade once more in the Premier League next season and I’m sure they will be hopeful of at least a top-ten finish next time around.
Aston Villa are another team to have produced results when they matter and, with two wins and a draw in their last three outings, they really have given themselves a chance of survival. Going into Matchday 37 they were sitting three points behind Watford and with a four goal deficit on goal difference with the Hornets. However, a 4-0 hammering for Watford at home to Manchester City and then a remarkable 1-0 win for the Villains against Arsenal has seen Villa crucially move level on points and with a one goal better goal difference.
In order to guarantee survival, Villa now need to match the result of Watford, unless they both lose and Bournemouth win!
My prediction is that all three will lose and the relegation zone will stay just as it is. 2-1 to West Ham for me.