Premier League: A special derby in Manchester and other stories | Betting tips and preview
Good people of the world wherever you are, having seen the blistering performances of the men from the blue half of Manchester over the season, home and away, free-scoring and defensively solid, the time is ripe for the reward of intelligent spending and hours of hard work in training, Etihad is ready, Manchester United should too, having rested with no European fixture headache.
Will Manchester City lift the title on the ground of their arch-rivals? Will Mourinho’s bogey approach come to the fore again on this special EPL evening? Elsewhere, after showing everyone else, including Manchester United how to beat City emphatically, Liverpool will take that Wednesday euphoria to their Merseyside derby as Everton lie in wait, all pumped up, pride at stake as well as momentum for the Champions League return leg.
Brighton at home against Huddersfield is another fixture with interesting significance, a win would help either side in the quest to stay up. It’s difficult but not totally impossible for Stoke but first, they have to beat Tottenham who have Harry Kane back and ready; Southampton must beat Arsenal or they face the drop squarely, Swansea can confirm Westbrom’s championship status next season as early as 5:00pm on Saturday with a win at Hawthorns. Premier League predictions...
Saturday 7th April
Everton vs Liverpool
What a time to come to life, Liverpool were breathtaking in the first half of their champions league the first leg at Anfield against Manchester City, they took their chances and brilliantly too, confidently taking a three-goal lead to the Etihad, although they might be giving the Citizens a guard of honour as premier league champions then, but the first leg result on Wednesday means massively to the Kops. Everton were the last to feel the wrath of the champions in waiting with some sleek three first-half goals keeping them in check before a consolatory Bolasie strike; this fixture has a rich history of fierce rivalry, end to end stuff but Liverpool have come out tops more than their neighbours who certainly have points to prove in this fixture. Mohamed Salah limped off on Wednesday night but he returned to the bench with smiles, not sure how bad it is but Liverpool certainly can’t do without him at least not at this stage so it’s left to be seen if he’d be risked; it dates back to 2010 for the last time Everton won in the derby and should they lose this weekend, Liverpool would have won more games at Goodison than the hosts… not a good one.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace
Bournemouth are the kings of inconsistency, one moment they’re tearing defences down, the next moment they’re shipping goals too, Eddie Howe has a lot to do with his defence that leaks effortlessly, they did score late at Watford to earn another point from a losing position but their defensive fragility needs to be addressed. Crystal Palace were unlucky late on for the umpteenth time again in the premier league, they have snatched victories at the death in the past, now they’re losing it at the end, Nemanja Matic broke their hearts recently with a long-range scorcher, Salah did too with just six minutes left on the clock having gone into the lead earlier, they are down there at the drop zone with loads of uncertainties, they can’t afford to mess up with leads again if they do get one against a defensively poor Bournemouth. Wasteful forward, Cristen Benteke is likely to be out due to injury, he won’t be missed.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Brighton vs Huddersfield
Brighton were the architects of their own luck last weekend, had chances after chances to hurt Leicester but they didn’t take any with supposedly in-form striker, Glenn Murray the major culprit, even missing from the spot as Iborra and Vardy eventually sealed their fate with late strikes, even with Wilfried Ndidi sent off, Brighton couldn’t capitalize. Huddersfield lost at Newcastle, they didn’t offer much going forward but defended well until Ayoze Perez found space to net the winner late on, three points separate the two new boys but David Wagner’s men are more troubled having lost too much recently, the Terriers must win here if they want to stay up, a loss would heap more misery on Wagner especially with surrounding teams picking points, the drop is calling except there is a response of note. Brighton should survive if they do win here, it’s their fixture to lose.
Verdict: Brighton to win or draw
Leicester vs Newcastle
King Power Stadium
Leicester welcomes Newcastle to the King Power Stadium with victory in mind, the Foxes in eight desperately wants the seventh position currently occupied by the surprise package of the season Burnley. Leicester enjoyed their trip to Brighton with two late goals on a day Kasper Schmichael brought out his best to deny the hosts even from six yards out and point blank ranges. Newcastle beat Huddersfield on Saturday, a late Ayoze Perez strike settled it and gave them a much needed three points that took them to 12th on the table having started the day on 16th. Both sides have different ambitions, Europa spot quest on one side, survival and strong finish on the other, expect fast and furious football from two sides managed by experienced managers. Man for man, the Foxes should fly, they are without Ndidi who got sent off at Brighton and James is reportedly out of the season, Iborra will have lots to do with Jonjo Shelvey in midfield.
Verdict: Leicester to win or draw
Stoke vs Tottenham
Stoke gave everything they had at Arsenal last weekend but it wasn’t enough as they were well beaten 3:0 in the end, crazy end to a game they played so well in, two penalties seem too harsh on them but they live to fight again, albeit more significantly against Tottenham whom they must beat as they lie three points off safety in 19th, dreadful to say the least. Tottenham can’t forget last Sunday in a hurry, a day they dusted the voodoo and hoodoo around Stamford Bridge, a day Dele Alli shrugged off boos to net twice as Spurs ended decades of wait for a win at Chelsea, it ended 3:1 with Eriksen firing home from long range after Alvaro Morata scored with a header, his first premier league goal since Boxing day. Paul Lambert believes his side will survive the drop, he has never been relegated as a manager, he has points to prove again but he must do so against a team that wants to finish strongly and avoid top four fight… it will be tough.
Verdict: Stoke to win or draw
Watford vs Burnley
Watford must feel some hurts after allowing Jermain Defoe behind them to fire home the late equalizer, Jarvi Gracia definitely felt the heat with the boos that followed the final whistle, but he’s assured of safety with their strong position presently, although they won’t mind usurping a few teams including the Bournemouth they couldn’t beat to finish in the top ten. Burnley is obviously the surprise package of the season, tough-talking Sean Dyche must be in line for the manager of the season too with his lads doing decent jobs to haunt Arsenal down for sixth, only five points separate them and it’s not impossible but Watford will not make life very easy for them this time. Burnley beat West Brom last weekend, everyone beats Westbrom and that necessitated a change in the dugouts, Watford up against Burnley means so much to the cherries, home comfort could help the Hornets but defensive stability would help the visitors… a cracker in the waiting.
Verdict: Watford to win or draw
West Brom vs Swansea
The last of our simultaneous fixtures sees almost relegated Westbrom take on Swansea, a team looking very likely to survive this time to fight again another season. Manager Carlos Carvahal has done brilliantly well for Swansea, the Welsh club left it too late last weekend at Old Trafford but will look to take their chances here against a team that has lost eight straight games and definetely with next to nothing to fight for, Alan pardew was shown the exit after another defeat last weekend to Burnley and a caretaker manager has been handed the reigns in Moore, it’s a good time to play the Baggies, their home fans won’t witness premier league football next seasons and its hard to tell how long they would be away from top flight, their exciting talents would have to pitch tents elsewhere which would further damage promotion hopes, Swansea will heap more misery on them here.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Manchester City vs Manchester United
What a beautiful script for Pep Guardiola and his mesmerizing Citizens, although they were torn apart in midweek by a much hungrier Liverpool, which also means Guardiola might want to rest players for the visit of the Kops to Etihad on Tuesday, but first, all attention would be drawn to the most important derby in the whole of Europe due to its significance this time, Manchester City could be crowned premier league champions on the ground of their bitter neighbours, will Mourinho swallow the pill of defeat and walk off the champions with a guard of honour? Sergio Aguero could be back in line to lead the attack for the Citizens after missing the whitewash at Anfield in midweek, can City dust the heartbreak and win the league in style? Alexis Sanchez will face Guardiola again having almost signed for City in the summer, a bit rusty and struggling with form but Romelu Lukaku is not short on confidence having joined the 100 club at home to Swansea last weekend. Expect Mourinho to revert to his defensive tactics to stop angry and ambitious City, this is a game of destiny.
Verdict: Manchester City to win and get crowned
Sunday 8th April
Arsenal vs Southampton
Aaron Ramsey is on the form of his life according to Arsene Wenger after his two-goal heroics on Thursday against CSKA Moscow in Europa, the Frenchman would hope the Welshman brings the form into the weekend game against struggling Southampton. Arsenal are on a roll now, five straight wins in all competitions after that better-forgotten run of four without a point which includes the cup final loss to the premier league champions in the waiting, they weren’t pretty against Stoke but they took their chances when it finally came and the three nill success is good to build on. Southampton are down and under, losing the relegation six-pointer against a Westham that had suffered heavy defeats before Mark Hughes’ first league game in charge was heartbreaking and they sure need a response or sink further into despair. No fresh injury concerns for the gunners and are in good shape to charge on here, although a trip to Moscow in midweek is waiting, but 4:1 home success is hard to overturn for the Russians. Mark Hughes must risk it all, dare the Gunners and strike early, if they do, they shouldn’t let it slip like they did in the reverse fixture when a late Olivier Giroud header pegged them back.
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Chelsea vs Westham
Step forward Chelsea, a team under loads of questions, under the radar of criticisms and in search of consistency, hosting a very buoyed team following their amazing thirst-quenching result against Southampton. Chelsea lost their home invincibility to Tottenham with a 3:1 defeat on Sunday and must respond, Antonio Conte knows exactly what it means to lose again, top four slipping beyond redemption and even Arsenal threatening to catch up, they must fire on all cylinders against the Hammers. Marco Aurnatovic is high on confidence after that marvelous showing against the Saints at the Olympic Stadium, revival is back on but survival not yet guaranteed, the Hammers are still a bit far from safety but a point here won’t be bad, they did beat Chelsea in the reverse fixture, who says they can’t do it again… Certainly not Aurnatovic and Moyes.
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion