Premier League Matchweek 35: Preview, Betting tips and Predictions - City’s despair, Spurs’ delirium and other stories

Tottenham forward Llorente celebrates as his goal sends Spurs through against Manchester city at the Etihad

Let’s flip back a little shall we? Has City ever dumped an English opposition in European competitions? Never! Then why were bookies expecting any different from the quarter-final fixtures against Tottenham in the UFA champions league?

The talks of a seemingly inevitable quadruple were crushed at the Etihad on Wednesday night when Mauricio Pochetino led Spurs to an unbelievable night to tear down every beautiful story that might have been written ahead of time in favour of the blue half of Manchester.

A day earlier, Manchester United crashed out at Nou Camp with yet another Lionel Messi master class, a win that was all but secured at the first leg with only a few expecting a miracle of note at the Catalan club; interestingly, City are up against Spurs next in the league and just five days could end their high hopes, should they fail to beat the North Londoners on Saturday and Liverpool capitalizes a day after to go clear, it will take more than a Liverpool slip to hand Guardiola the title again.

Manchester City must beat Spurs, they have before and they have to do again, VAR may have swept their dreams away, contentious Llorente goal may have broken their hearts but the true character of a champion is determined by his attitude when his back is against the wall; critics will look at how much City has spent with nothing to show for it in Europe but domestically, they have to do what no one has done since 2009 when United last defended a title successfully.

Spurs have top-four hopes in their sights, they do have a good chance of lifting the trophy this year but they have Arsenal and Chelsea to fend off in the top four race. Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero will definitely be Pep Guardiola’s weapon against Spurs this weekend but in the absence of Kane, the white half of London marches on.

After the big lunchtime kickoff on Saturday, Brighton will be away to Wolves, the Seagulls are the most troubled in the league, they had just one job on Tuesday, beat Cardiff and survive, there wouldn’t be any way back from the dead for the Welsh side with eight points to ground to cover.

Morrison sealed the 2-0 win away from the Cardiff City stadium and effectively closed the gap on Brighton to just two, with the Seagulls having a very difficult run-in, having to play Spurs, Arsenal and City and could well be on their way down to the championship; Cardiff can confidently pick three points at Fulham, beat Palace at home, those six points mean Brighton must get five points from games against those heavyweights as well against Wolves and Newcastle… It’s odd for Chris Houghton and his tired lads.

Westham are up against Leicester, both are challenging Wolves, Everton and Watford for the title of the best of the rest; the Hammers gave everything at Old Trafford but were undone by a goal that won’t stand next season in the face of VAR.

The Hammers have been inconsistent, they shine brightly against top sides and suddenly collapse when they face teams they should beat cleanly, same for Leicester who failed to beat Newcastle in a game that would have taken them closer to sixth than eighth.

This fixture will definitely say a lot in the race for the last available Europa league spot, with Watford already in Europe due to their Wembley date with City, win or lose they will take the winners’ Europa spot they might as well not care but Jarvi Gracia definitely has other ideas, Brendan Rodgers will want a win here, away from home but he has to do it against the only other manager in the league that has managed to lift the premier league trophy.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the battle to avoid the last spot on the log continues with Huddersfield at home to Watford and Fulham away at Bournemouth.

Watford were a yard unlucky against Arsenal on Monday night, they gave everything even with a man down but Ben Foster’s howler handed the Gunners the maximum points.

Bournemouth went to Brighton and heap five past Matt Ryan in goal, horrible defending, negative body language and everything you can think off proved too much of habits for the jaded Seagulls; Huddersfield are very well on their way to the championship but they want to finish strong. They do have six points to clear to finish above a team at least but Fulham aren’t going to let it happen, they stood their grounds and beat Everton last weekend for their first win this calendar year as well as their first points under their new manager Scott Parker, that was the same Everton side that beat Chelsea and Arsenal convincingly at home.

Talking Everton, their next fixture is against Manchester United, a wounded team with a lot of rebuilding to do, out of Europe and quite down in the pecking order of UCL qualifications, the Red Devils is two points off Arsenal who has a game in hand but Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side still has home games against Manchester City and Chelsea, games that will have a say in the title run in as well as the top four finish.

If United wins here and either of Spurs and Arsenal slip up, the Reds can sneak in with victories over the two big back to back games, anything short of victory leaves United in deep trouble.

Arsenal are at home to Crystal Palace, the Gunners home form is sensational and have only lost once at the Emirates in the league this season, Palace, however, are monsters on the road, they travel better than most in the league and will definitely have a go at Arsenal who must be tired from the trips to Vicarage Road and Naples where they won all.

Arsenal are very much better placed to even finish third, they can capitalize on their fairer run in but the question lies on their away form, if they manage to put in strong shifts away from home like they amazingly do at home, they will be in the champions league next season.

Chelsea like Arsenal are also in the semifinals of the Europa League and will play Frankfurt, the Blues however had to dig deep to see off their Russian opponents who came out stronger in the second half.

They have loads of banana peels in Burnley, Watford and Leicester in the run in but can focus on their stronger Europa campaign to make it to the champions league next season because their fate lies in the hands of others in the league.

Burnley beat Chelsea on the opening day last season to start their title defence on a very odd note, one they didn’t recover from till they eventually lost the title, they have to give it their all here and be ready for everything.

The Clarets are very much safe in the relegation dogfights, two more points from their remaining four will be enough and as it stands, they might record zero and still be safe considering the fixtures of the surrounding teams, but you know it’s even more dangerous to file out against teams that have absolutely nothing to lose… Careful Chelsea!

Premier league predictions follow, and with banana peels everywhere, you must remember to gamble responsibly.



Fixtures
Verdict
Player to watch
Man City vs Spurs
City to win
Raheem Sterling
Bournemouth vs Fulham
Bournemouth to win or draw
Callum Wilson/Ryan Babbel
Huddersfield vs Watford
Watford to win
Will Hughes
Westham vs Leicester
Both teams to score
Felipe Anderson
Wolves vs Brighton
Wolves to win or draw
Raul Jimenez
Newcastle vs Southampton
Newcastle to win or draw
Solomon Rondon
Everton vs Man United
Both teams to score
Jordan Pickford/David De Gea
Arsenal vs Palace
Arsenal to win
Alexander Lacazzette
Cardiff vs Liverpool
Liverpool to win
Mo Salah
Chelsea vs Burnley
Chelsea to win
Eden Hazard

Strictly the writer’s opinion

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