Premier League matchday 23 is upon us and Michael Owen is back to give us his thoughts on the weekend’s games, which could influence the top four.
Watford to win 2-1
Watford v Norwich
First game of the weekend and in terms of importance, none bigger. That was a huge point for Watford last week against Newcastle, and they deserved that late equaliser. I’ve said it all season, they’ve got a lot of threat up top. Compared to their relegation rivals, Watford have the best attacking options with the likes of Dennis and King.
That felt like a season-saving result for Norwich last week. I think most people had given up on Norwich, but to get the win over Everton at home was huge, every credit to them. I still don’t think they quite have enough quality to stay up, but they are showing some spirit.
This will be an even game and both sides will be desperate to score. I just think Watford have better quality up top and that will be the difference. 2-1 to Watford.
The match to be a 1-1 draw
Everton v Aston Villa
It’s a new era at Goodison Park. Duncan Ferguson is in temporary charge again and will look to inject some life back into the club. It’s been a difficult season for them and the fans especially, have been unhappy. I’d expect Everton to play with a lot more energy here and Goodison will be rocking.
Villa showed both the belief and quality that Steven Gerrard has instilled in them already against Man United last week. Coutinho showed what a good signing he will be for them, but it was the youngster, Jacob Ramsey, who caught my eye again. He scored one and made the other, and he looks an excellent prospect for Villa.
This is a tough one to call. I’m going for a 1-1 draw here.
Wolves to win 1-0
Brentford v Wolves
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Brentford, with three defeats in a row. More worryingly for Thomas Frank, that’s now ten goals conceded in those three games. Two of those games have been against Liverpool and Man United, but they need to tighten things up.
Wolves certainly don’t need to improve at the back. They’ve scored six goals in their last two games in all competitions, which is a good sign. If the likes of Raul Jimenez can keep scoring, I wouldn’t rule Wolves out of a top four push.
I can’t see this game having a lot of goals, but I think Wolves will edge it 1-0.
The match to end in a 2-2 draw
Leeds United v Newcastle United
That was a huge win for Leeds last weekend against West Ham. Jack Harrison took his goals superbly. It’s given Bielsa’s side a bit of breathing room above the drop and they’ll be hoping to build on it in the next couple of weeks.
As for Newcastle, Eddie Howe must have been gutted to not hold on for all three points. It’s been a familiar story all season for Newcastle. I never worry about them scoring goals, but they don’t keep clean sheets. They’ve got the fewest clean sheets in the league, just one all season.
I think there will be goals here, I don’t trust either to keep a clean sheet. I’m going for an entertaining 2-2 draw.
The match to end in a 1-1 draw
Manchester United v West Ham United
After failing to hold on to a two-goal lead against Villa, Man United got the win over Brentford on Wednesday. They look in good form going forward, but they are conceding too many chances at the back. David De Gea has been in brilliant form in recent weeks, but you can’t always be relying on him to save everything.
David Moyes must have been furious to lose to Leeds last week. The Hammers top four push has stuttered in recent weeks, and they really can’t afford too many more slip-ups, particularly in games they are favoured in.
I’d expect a response from West Ham here. Strangely, they often perform better against the big sides, it suits their style. I can see a 1-1 draw.
Manchester City to win 2-0
Southampton v Manchester City
That was a disappointing away performance by Southampton against Wolves. They’re back on home turf though, and they’ve been tough to beat here in the last month. I’ve got to say a word for James Ward-Prowse, yet another free-kick goal, what an asset he is to Southampton.
Man City are looking like the best team in the world right now. It says it all that last week I wouldn’t say they were at their absolute best, but it was still a comfortable win over Chelsea. De Bruyne’s goal was superb, he looks to be finding his best form again.
I’d expect a comfortable win for City here, 2-0 City.
Liverpool to win 3-1
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
Palace have conceded a few late equalisers this season, and they conceded another one against Brighton last week. Palace are sitting in a mid-table position, but they could be so much higher, which must be frustrating for Vieira.
No Mane, no Salah, no problem for Liverpool last week against Brentford. I said other players would have to step up, and they did. Oxlade-Chamberlain was excellent, and Jota was a threat throughout. It’s not going to be easy without those two, but they showed they have enough to still beat the teams they are favoured against.
I can see Palace getting a goal, they are always dangerous at home. I think Liverpool will win though, 3-1.
Arsenal to win 2-0
Arsenal v Burnley
This is a big game for Arsenal, who are maybe the team to beat for that fourth-placed position. They’ve shown an improved defensive shape recently, if that can continue, they’ll pick up a lot of points.
Burnley haven’t played a game in a couple of weeks, so they should be refreshed at least. With all the disruption in terms of players leaving and games postponed, I worry how they will come into this game though.
I can see a comfortable win for Arsenal here, 2-0.
The match to end a 1-1 draw
Leicester City v Brighton
There’s no getting around it, that defeat to Spurs was a tough one to take for Leicester. To lead so late in the game and not even get a point, the morale can’t be good in the dressing room. Brendan Rodgers will have to lift his side here.
Brighton on the other hand will enter this full of confidence. That was a brilliant draw against Chelsea, and they could even have won the game. I want to single out Cucurella, he’s been a brilliant signing for Brighton. They have two fantastic wing-backs in him and Lamptey.
Two very even teams here. This looks like a draw to me, 1-1.
Chelsea to win 2-1
Chelsea v Tottenham
This game could define both teams seasons. That was a disappointing draw for Chelsea, and they are on a stuttering run of form. They need to find some form at the top end of the pitch and get Lukaku back to his best.
As for Spurs, that was an unbelievable finish to the game against Leicester. They probably deserved the win, but the manner of it will give everyone a lift. They’ve picked up a lot of wins under Conte, without many great performances. That might change moving forward.
I give Chelsea the edge here. They beat Spurs home and away in the League Cup Semi-Finals and didn’t concede in either game. I can see Spurs scoring, but Chelsea winning. 2-1 Chelsea.