Hello everyone and welcome again to the predictions table, it’s another punctuation point for some as FA Cup action takes center stage next weekend but first we X-ray the coming fixtures and do what no one likes to do- stick out our necks. Quite shocking that troubled Leicester dumped Liverpool to ruin a beautiful script last round and as always, few tricky ties everywhere this weekend. Here we go.
Saturday 4th March
Manchester United vs Bournemouth
EFL champions Manchester United entertain troubled Bournemouth at the lunchtime kickoff on Saturday, something Eddie Howe wouldn’t look forward to considering the host’s rampaging league form, Jose Mourinho’s side hasn’t lost in the league since that infamous rout at Stamford Bridge and look certain to follow up from Sunday’s cup success with another routine win.
Confidence is low at Bournemouth, they’re on the worst form in the league with a defense that ships goals effortlessly. There’s no stopping Zlatan Ibrahimovic now, terrific stats for the thirty five year old swede, Mourinho seems to have found his perfect midfield combo, it will be a very long odd lunch for the cherries.
Verdict: Manchester United to win
Leicester vs Hull
King Power Stadium
The first of the many simultaneous 4:00pm fixtures takes us to the home of the reigning champions, slayer of Klopp’s Liverpool and this time it’s another opportunity for the Foxes to steer further clear of the dreaded drop zone, Hull are in town, in what should be a revenge of the opening day sensational defeat to the Tigers at the KCOM Stadium. Mike Phelan was in charge then, he conjured a win that set Leicester on the path of a shambolic title defense.
Hull failed to capitalize on Burnley’s poor away record last weekend, conceding just shortly after taking the lead late in the game; give or take, regardless of Monday night’s result, this is a relegation six pointer, a win for either side would most definitely spark a survival song while a loss would spell doom. Craig Shakespeare up against Marco Silva… This would be a cracker.
Verdict: Leicester to win
Stoke vs Middlesbrough
Up next we’re at the Bet365 Stadium where the Potters take on Middlesbrough, it’s been a fairly rough 2017 for the visitors, struggling to keep up with fixtures and the latest loss to Crystal Palace spells things bluntly. If surrounding teams start picking points, Boro might find themselves deep in the red zone, to avoid that they must start winning.
Stoke had their worst match day of the year so far at the White Hart Lane last weekend losing heavily to some rampaging first half goal haul by Spurs, everything went wrong on that afternoon. Stoke are over reliant on their aging striker Peter Crouch and opponents already know the game plan, Alen to the flanks and then a cross, full backs now close them down too quickly and avoid a possible headed chance for the former three lions forward. Aitor Karanka is limited by injuries but his front line must start scoring if they want to keep their top flight status.
Verdict: Stoke to win
Swansea vs Burnley
Swansea are on the rise, the loss to the runaway champions was quite understandable, they gave a good fight and could have been different had the referee awarded a penalty when Ceaser Azpilicueta handled the ball in the area. They face Burnley next, a team that has picked just two points on the road this term, how strange that Burnley are only nine points away from safety and a potential top ten finish, talking about a team that just arrived from the championship.
On paper this should be a routine win for the home side considering how Burnley never gets interested in any action away from Turf Moor, but seeing how they fought hard to earn a point at Hull with Keane shuttling briskly from being a villain to a hero in a matter of minutes, you’ll have a rethink before you award maximum points either way but credits to both managers, Paul Clement has revived the Swansea team and Sean Dyches has turned Burnley into a bogey team.
Verdict: Swansea to win
Watford vs Southampton
The next of the 4:00pm fixtures is at the Vicarage road where Southampton visit Watford. Watford missed an opportunity to win at home to Westham last weekend, Troy Deeney did get a goal from the spot as usual but it was cancelled out by the hammers in the second half, losing points from a winning position has been the bane of the Hornets this season.
Southampton will have their shoulders high after that terrific display at Wembley against Manchester United in the EFL final, two goals down and they fought back with minutes of either half with Gabbiadini grabbing doubles at the close of the first half and at the restart, they were undone by Manchester United’s experience at the death with Zlatan Ibrahimovic heading home with two minutes to play, that sort of display gives confidence if well managed, heads could drop but trust Claude Puel to pick the team up and give a strong showing at Watford, Walter Mazzari must be worried sick.
Verdict: Saints to win or draw
Westbrom vs Crystal Palace
Next is the Hawthorns where Crystal Palace are the visitors. Westbrom have won eleven times this term, essentially doing the business against lower teams, they’ve beaten most of the underdogs as they’ve only lost to Bournemouth in the clash of the bottom half and that explains why European football is within their grasps.
The visitors are here on the back of a relegation six pointer win over Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough, one that eases pressure a bit even though Leicester’s win over Liverpool eventually dropped the Eagles back into the drop zone.
Sam Alardyce has only won once against Tony Pulis and that was the 1:0 win as Westham manager and interestingly, this fixture has produced the lowest number of goals when it’s between Pulis and Big Sam, expect another 1:0 score line that could swing anywhere, all eyes would be on Patrick Van Aanolt as well as thirty seven year old Gareth Macauley who just won himself another deal as a baggies player for another year.
Verdict: Westbrom to win
Liverpool vs Arsenal
No fixture in the premier league involving Liverpool has more goals than the one with Arsenal, this won’t be different, the Robin Hood of the league are out to face another big team, one with a few challenges of their own. Quite shocking that the Scoucers managed to bottle things at Leicester, failing woefully to deal with the Foxes energy, whatever Klopp told them at halftime failed as they didn’t fare any better after the restart.
Arsenal haven’t kicked a ball for almost two weeks, since dumping Sutton from the FA Cup, and with Bayern knocking in midweek, Arsenal have a lot to worry about, knowing Wenger for who he is, he might sacrifice this fixture for an already lost course in the champions league. Jordan Henderson is a big doubt for Liverpool while the gunners will test Koscielny late on but Elneny is certainly out.
This will be an entertaining one but expect Liverpool to do what they do best especially in this season, seeing out big guns like they did Arsenal in the opening day fixture even if they’ll fail when a small team comes to town.
Verdict: Liverpool to win or draw
Sunday 5th March
Tottenham vs Everton
White Hart Lane
Tottenham are on fire, so is Everton, two teams on the rise, with the two of the most prolific forwards in the league in Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku. The first half molestation of Stoke by Spurs had Kane and Eriksen written over it while Sunderland felt the Lukaku Magic as the game wore on, this makes this fixture one to watch out for. Defensively, Spurs are the best in the land with Mauricio Pochetinno celebrating his birthday in midweek, he’ll want a perfect gift from his wards.
Ronald Koeman on his own has a team of energetic kids doing wonders, nine games without defeat and you wonder what more they can achieve as things unfold, a certain Ademola Lookman scored on his debut and has started the last three fixtures, give or take, this is one for the neutrals. With Spurs being the closest to Chelsea, they can’t afford to slip up, they have a slight chance, they can prove their credentials here.
Verdict: Spurs to win
Sunderland vs Manchester City
Stadium of Light
Gone are the days of magics on this ground for the Black Cats against City, they sincerely don’t seem to stand a chance here, with the Citizens looking to close down on the leaders, while keeping an eye on the chasing pack, Sunderland will have to do extremely too much to get something from here.
They gave a good fight in the loss to Everton with Jermain Defoe hitting the crossbar when the score line was 1:0, that could have changed the complexion of the game. One of the major undoing of Sunderland is the over reliance on Defoe, he needs help and that seems to be unavailable.
City will depend on Sergio Aguero this weekend as the new golden boy is out injured, anything can happen in the world of the round leather game but realistically, expect Sunderland to still be rooted to the bottom of the log at the end of the weekend.
Verdict: Straight win City
Monday 6th March
Westham vs Chelsea
The runaway champions aren’t on duty until Monday, they took their league lead into double figures last weekend with Manchester City and Arsenal having games in hand, Westham labored to a point at Watford but they will celebrate such if it ever happens against the champions elect.
Chelsea have a fierce identity, they will beat anyone on this form, everyone in the team can score and that should worry the opposition. Slaven Bilic has a lot to do if he ever dreams of a result here, from defense to attack, the terrible statistic of poor conversion rate must be massively improved and they must stop conceding first as they’ve done most of the time.
For the blues, they don’t need anyone’s advise, they know how to do it, when to do it and they do it amazingly effortlessly. Play everything you know how to play, you don’t stand a chance against this Conte’s Chelsea.
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion