Another fascinating round of Premier League fixtures are upon us, and here we make our weekly predictions ahead of the upcoming action.
This season’s Premier League may have been lacking in quality, but it is impossible to claim that it hasn’t been enormously entertaining.
The title race and top-four places are still up for grabs, while at the bottom, it looks like two from Newcastle United, Sunderland and Norwich City will join Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
Liverpool face a nasty-looking away trip to Southampton – a repeat of the 6-1 League Cup win at St Mary’s in December would do just fine – as they look to remain in the hunt for Champions League football next season.
Newcastle and Sunderland do battle in a huge Tyne-Wear derby, while Man City host Man United, in what could be a thrilling Sunday afternoon of football.
Leicester City will look to remain title favourites when they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace, while Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal must beat Bournemouth and Everton, respectively, in order to stay in the hunt.
This is just a taste of the action, in what promises to be another unpredictable weekend of matches.
Here are five predictions for the next few days.
Rafa Defeats Big Sam
Having lost his opening match in charge of Newcastle on Monday away to Leicester, Rafa Benitez faces a huge first home game on Sunday.
The ex-Liverpool manager’s Magpies side face Sunderland in one of the biggest derbies in recent years, with relegation all but certain for at least one of them come May.
Benitez’s poor relationship with Sam Allardyce has been much-publicised down the years, and they once again face-off on Sunday.
It will be a tight, cagey game between the two north-east rivals, but it will be Newcastle who finally get a victory, almost five years since their last over Sunderland.
The pre- and post-match handshakes between Benitez and Allardyce could be as interesting as the actual game.
Spurs Gain Ground in the Title Race
Much of this season has been spent writing off Leicester and them proving us wrong, but this weekend they really will drop points.
Trips to Palace are never easy, regardless of their league position, and a draw looks the most likely outcome on Saturday afternoon.
Leicester have not been playing particularly well in recent weeks but have got away with it – the 1-0 wins against Watford and Newcastle were both very ugly – and they will come unstuck in south London.
That will allow Spurs to close the gap when they host Bournemouth on Sunday, and Mauricio Pochettino’s side will duly oblige. No European commitments will now aid their title charge.
They are made of far sterner stuff these days, and by Monday morning, the gap between first and second will only be two or three points.
One to Forget at Vicarage Road
Although March and April always produces endless important matches at the top and bottom of the Premier League table, you can also get some real shockers.
These invariably involve two mid-table teams who have no chance of qualifying for Europe, but are also well clear of the relegation fight.
This weekend, that game is Watford vs. Stoke City.
Both sides will be content with their 2015/16 campaign, but there is likely to be a lack of intensity from both in the league between now and the end of the season.
Watford still have the FA Cup to focus on, which takes precedence over the league, while Stoke’s players may already be thinking about their summer holidays.
Don’t expect this clash between the Hornets and the Potters to be a classic, but do expect to see some players not at full tilt—there will be no more than one goal in the game.
No Middle Ground for Arsenal at Goodison Park
Arsenal’s season has quickly unravelled into one of complete depression, with the Gunners winning just four of their last 15 games in all competitions.
They have been dumped out of both the FA Cup and Champions League in the space of a week, and their title aspirations are now looking extremely bleak too.
On Saturday lunchtime, the north Londoners travel to face a buoyant Everton outfit fresh off the back of reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.
This match is going to go one of two ways, and it certainly won’t be a draw.
Either Arsenal will finally get their act together and seal a much-needed victory, or Everton will heap yet more misery on them.
Arsene Wenger’s side invariably produce something when they most need it – nicking a point at Tottenham with 10 men is an example of this – but they can also capitulate more than any other side. Expect drama one way or the other.
Frustration for Liverpool at St Mary’s
Liverpool have won three Premier League games on the spin for the first time in a year, and they will be desperate to make it four at St Mary’s this weekend.
Ronald Koeman’s Southampton team are in an impressive run of themselves, though, and the Reds will have a tough afternoon on Sunday.
Klopp will likely make changes to his side, following their efforts against Man United on Thursday, which could further play into the Saints’ hands.
Liverpool won’t necessarily lose the game, but they will fail to pick up all three points against a well-rested Southampton team.
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