Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s preview of the EPL fixtures.
With the title race almost reaching its feverish climax, the last relegation space still to be decided and jockeying for those final European places still ongoing, there is as ever a lot to talk about….
Leicester City v Newcastle United
Friday night football kicks off the weekend as Rafa bring his Magpies to the King Power to take on the in-form Foxes. Rodgers has made a great start to life back in the Premier League, the 4-1 win over Huddersfield was their fourth successive league win since he took over the reins.
Newcastle’s fine home run came to an end at the weekend in a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. Having won just one of their last five league outings, Rafa’s side will be looking cautiously over their shoulder with just a seven-point buffer between themselves and the relegation zone.
Leicester were without Maguire for that win over Huddersfield due to personal reason, and he should walk back into the side for the only expected change to their lineup, with Söyüncü the one likely to make way. Amartey and Albrighton are both out, while Evans will be assessed.
For Newcastle, Lejeune suffered a nasty knee injury and will miss the rest of the season as a result. Expect Dummett to fill in for him. Longstaff continues to be unavailable and Diame will be given up to kickoff to show he can start. No indication of massive changes to either side for this one.
Prediction – LEI 2-0 NEW
Tottenham Hotspur v Huddersfield Town
Spurs welcome already relegated Town to their brand spanking new stadium, in what Poch and the Tottenham faithful will hope to be a routine match in between legs of their massive Champions League Quarter final tie against Man City.
Back-to-back wins look to have set Spurs back on track in the race to secure a top four finish, and the 1-0 win in the week continued their 100% record in the new ground. The apparent positivity was tempered somewhat by the news that Kane may miss the rest of season with an ankle injury picked up in that match.
Huddersfield have lost 10 of their last 11 league matches and have failed to score in six of their last seven away games. The already-relegated Terriers have lost their three Premier League meetings with Tottenham, conceding eight goals in the process, and they’re expected to struggle when they make the trip to north London.
Apart from the obvious loss of Kane to the Spurs side, they are also sweating on the fitness of Alli who picked up an elbow injury in that same game. Aurier and Eric Dier also miss out through injury, while Davies and Sanchez may come in for Rose and Alderweireld ahead of that 2nd leg.
For the visitors, Diakhaby and Sabiri are both sidelined, while Billing, Duhaney and Depoitre will all be assessed. Pritchard will hope to feature against his old side, but this could be a long afternoon for those travelling Terriers fans.
Prediction TOT 4-1 HUD
Brighton & Hove Albion v AFC Bournemouth
A South Coast clash here at the Amex, as 2 sides who are not in the best of recent form faceoff hoping to finally drag themselves away from the bottom of the table and secure their top flight status for another year.
Brighton have fallen to three successive defeats and sit just five points above the relegation zone following league losses at the hands of Southampton and Chelsea. Hughton will hope the FA Cup semi-final loss to City last weekend doesn’t impact the players too much ahead of the relegation run in.
After an unexpected 3-1 defeat at home last weekend, Bournemouth have now won only one of their last nine league outings. Also, the Cherries have lost 10 of their last 11 away league matches, their sole success in that run coming at Huddersfield.
The Seagulls will be sweating on the fitness of Gross and March, with Knockaert likely to deputise for the latter should he not recover in time. After a decent showing in the FA Cup semi-final, Hughton may resist the temptation to make wholesale changes for this one.
Howe could name the same XI that started the 3-1 home defeat to Burnley, though Stanislas and Solanke will be pushing for starts, while Boruc may come in for Begovic between the sticks after his poor performance last week. The likes of Cook, Daniels and Francis all remain sidelined.
Prediction BHA 1-1 BOU
Burnley v Cardiff City
Turf Moor is next on the list, as Warnock brings his Bluebirds to Lancashire with both sides hoping to grab a vital 3 points in their bids to avoid the drop, this match being another massive 6 pointer at the bottom.
Burnley have won successive matches following a losing streak of four games, and their win over Bournemouth showed the fight still in the Clarets ranks. Cardiff start the weekend five points off safety and have lost five of their last six in the league.
Dyche could name an unchanged team from the side that won 3-1 away to Bournemouth last time out. January signing Peter Crouch is still an injury doubt, alongside Lennon and Bardsley. Hendrick faces competition from Gudmundsson for a starting berth on the right flank.
Cardiff are still without long term injury victims like Bamba and Paterson, and with a smaller squad may be unlikely to change much from their last outing. Niasse will continue up top as he looks for his 1st league goal for the Welsh side.
Prediction BUR 2-1 CAR
Fulham v Everton
At Craven Cottage, already relegated Fulham continue to see out the remainder of the season with the visit of the blue half of Merseyside to South London. The home side really only have pride to play for and it will be interesting to see how they play here.
The visiting Toffees have been in decent form and will be hoping to continue that in this one. Indeed, having beaten Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal in their last three games, Everton will be hugely confident of defeating a fourth capital-side in a row.
The home side will most likely field a familiar lineup, with Bettinelli and Mawson are still ruled out for Parker’s side. They will be looking for a performance from the likes of Sessengnon and Mitrovic to reward their fans for sticking with them this season.
For Everton, Jagielka turned in a match-winning performance in the 1-0 victory over Arsenal last weekend, but it remains to be seen whether he will keep his place in the team if Keane recovers from illness in time. Mina and Schneiderlein should both still miss out here.
Prediction FUL 1-3 EVE
Southampton v Wolverhampton Wanderers
St Mary’s sees the last 3pm game on Saturday, as wounded Wolves look to lick their wounds from last weekend by winning here at Southampton. The home side held their own for large spells last time out vs Liverpool, but the title chasers class shone through in the end. Saints are one place above the relegation zone, but five points clear of safety.
Wolves are still in a four-way battle to finish in seventh but may have lost their edge after the manner of last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final heartache. Having had 1foot in the final at 2-0 up, Nuno will need to work his magic to pick his players up after such a cruel defeat.
Hassenhutl will welcome back Ings, who is free to return to the side after missing out against parent club Liverpool last weekend due to the terms in his loan agreement. Lemina and Obafemi will once again miss out for Southampton this weekend. It remains to be seen what formation Southampton use on Saturday after deploying a back three against Liverpool.
Wolves have a clean bill of health but may look to freshen up the side with the disappointment of last weekend still fresh in their minds. Rui Patrício will return in goal after conceding cup duties to Ruddy, and big performances from the likes of Jimenez and Neves will be needed if they are to take something home from this one.
Prediction SOU 1-1 WOL
Manchester United v West Ham United
The teatime kick off on Saturday sees the Hammers come to Old Trafford, looking to take advantage of any loss of focus from the home side ahead of the 2nd leg of the Champions League tie with Barcelona. After that 1-0 defeat on Wednesday, United have now lost four of their last five matches in all competitions. They are in danger of slipping out of the race for a top four finish and cannot afford to drop points here.
Meanwhile, West Ham have only won three of their last 12 matches in all competitions. Pellegrini’s side are even worse on the road where they have lost seven of their last eight away league matches, failing to score in six of those games. Although they made things uncomfortable at times for Chelsea, they ultimately succumbed to a Hazard inspired 2-0 loss.
Solskjaer will almost certainly make changes from the side that lost 1-0 at home to Barcelona on Wednesday night. Rojo is in line to make just his second league start of the season and it will be at left-back, with Shaw and Young suspended. McTominay and Fred will hope to keep their places in central midfield after eye-catching displays against Barcelona, though it may depend on whether Matic and Herrera are passed fit.
Pellegrini has a number of options in attacking positions and it remains to be seen how he will fit them all together at Old Trafford. Hernandez was pulled at half-time on Monday night, but he will be desperate to start against his former side here. Rice has been tipped for a move to United in the summer and he will be one to watch out for on Saturday.
Prediction MNU 2-1 WHU
Crystal Palace v Manchester City
Sundays matches begin at Selhurst Park as Guardiola brings his men to London for the 3rd time in 7 days to face the Eagles. City had 1 win and 1 defeat both by a 1-0 scoreline over those 2 games last week, and will be keen to win here to ramp up the pressure on Liverpool later in the day.
Palace will take heart coming into this one after their 3-2 win at the Etihad earlier in the season. The also can view this one as a bit of a free hit, coming into it 11 points clear of the bottom three and have all but secured their top-flight status for another season.
For the home side, Tomkins picked up a groin strain last weekend and is a serious doubt. With Sakho already sidelined, Tomkins’ absence would be a huge blow for Crystal Palace this weekend. Kelly will hope to step in and do his old club a favour in the title race on Sunday.
Guardiola is expected to shuffle his pack ahead of the 2nd leg of the Champions league Quarter final vs Spurs, so expect to see Jesus and Sane push to replace Aguero and Mahrez, respectively. Bernardo Silva was not risked against Tottenham due to a muscle complaint and he may be given the weekend off again, with De Bruyne also in contention to start.
Prediction CRY 1-2 MNC
Liverpool v Chelsea
Onto Anfield where both sides have much to play for as they chase the title and top 4 respectively. Liverpool have had more time to recover from their European exertions, that 2-0 win against Porto giving them a good advantage to take into the 2nd leg. The Reds could find themselves one point behind in the title race at kick-off. There will be huge pressure on Klopp’s side if City do beat Palace, though they haven’t lost a home league game all season and have only dropped points twice.
Chelsea come into the game having beaten Slavia Prague 1-0 to look likely to move towards the Europa League Semis. They start the weekend in third but that will likely change by the time this match starts. Like Liverpool, the pressure will be on if results go against them prior to kick-off.
Robertson sat out Liverpool’s 2-0 win over FC Porto through suspension on Tuesday night and will be fresh to return to the starting XI on Sunday. Lovren replaced Matip at the back in midweek and will hope to continue here, though Gomez is back in contention after a long spell out injured. Keita has scored in successive Liverpool matches and should get the nod over Milner and Wijnaldum in midfield.
Sarri made wholesale changes for Thursday’s win and will recall upon his usual XI here. Loftus-Cheek started Chelsea’s last Premier League game but don’t be surprised if Sarri opts for more control here with Kovacic or Barkley. As Willian and Pedro both started in the Europa League, Hudson-Odoi has a great chance of featuring from the off at Anfield.
Prediction LIV 2-1 CHE
Watford v Arsenal
We end with the Monday Night Football at Vicarage Road, where the Hornets return to their home fans a week after securing the clubs 1st FA cup final appearance since 1984, John Barnes, Elton John and all that. Their aim for the rest of the season is to finish seventh in the Premier League, claiming the title as the best of the rest. They are unbeaten in their last six at Vicarage Road and are on a four-game winning streak on home soil.
Arsenal will also be in good spirits on Monday night after pulling off an impressive 2-0 victory at home to Napoli on Thursday night. The Gunners, however, are generally poor away from home, winning just two of their last 12 matches in all competitions. They have also picked up a red card in three of their last four on the road.
Gracia has decisions to make, with his triumphant Wembley side looking likely to have at least 2 changes. After Deulofeu inspired Watford into the FA Cup final from the bench last weekend and he will surely start against Arsenal on Monday night if he is deemed fit enough. Foster will also return in goals, after Gomes took the shirt for the Cup game. The fitness of the likes of Holebas, Femenia, and Success will also be monitored up to kickoff.
For Arsenal, there will likely be some rotation with a view to the trip to Naples on Thursday. Torreira returns from a ban but they have now lost Sokratis to suspension. Xhaka returns an injury concern for the Gunners, who will also continue to be without Holding, Welbeck and Bellerin. Ozil has enjoyed a decent run in the team of late but Mkhitaryan and Iwobi are pushing for his place in the team.
Prediction WAT 1-1 ARS
A full 4 days worth of EPL action ahead, and many FPL points to be gained. There is a chance of some squad players from the big teams featuring with the European ties hanging overhead, so may be a good week to look at some other options. So until next week