Potential banana skins for Liverpool’s top-4 rivals – Premier League Preview

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There are some interesting Premier League fixtures to look forward to this weekend, as the season starts to reach the business end.

Liverpool scrapped their way to 2-1 victory at home to Burnley last Sunday, but they will have to be far better away to Man City if they are to get something from the game.

Elsewhere in the most recent set of league fixtures, Hull City picked up a vital win at home to Swansea City, Bournemouth overcame West Ham in stoppage time and Everton beat West Brom at Goodison Park.

They were the only Premier League matches last weekend, due to the FA Cup quarter-finals, but there is a full schedule to enjoy this time around.

Here is a look at some of the standout upcoming action, not including Liverpool’s clash with City.

 

Can Arsenal Dig Deep at the Hawthorns?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 13, 2016: Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action against Everton during the FA Premier League match at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last weekend’s 5-0 win over non-league Lincoln City did little to lift the mood at Arsenal, after what has been a dreadful run of form.

Saturday’s trip to West Brom looks a nasty one on paper, but historically, this is when the Gunners grind out the wins that ensure they qualify for the Champions League.

Arsene Wenger’s side do not get enough credit for this, and if they do dig deep and win at the Hawthorns, it will make their rivals worry that a resurgence is on the cards.

West Brom look to have settled for 40 points and downed tools, but Tony Pulis has always been keen on getting one over Wenger. A lot depends on which Baggies side shows up.

Another defeat for Arsenal would be appalling, and it would really start to make a top-four finish look as unlikely as it has in 20 years.

 

Battle of the Bores as Boro face Mourinho

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Monday, February 3, 2014: Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho before the Premiership match against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There have been few duller teams to have played in the Premier League than this Middlesbrough outfit, with their defensive-minded style making Mrs. Brown’s Boys an entertaining watch.

And 19th in the table, having not scored in the league in 2017 and failed to win in it since December 17, the relegation candidates parted ways with Aitor Karanka on Thursday.

Now managerless, their opponents at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday are Man United, and with Jose Mourinho also not exactly renowned for adopting an attacking style, this could be a woefully boring game.

United are, frustratingly, likely to battle their way to an ugly win, although the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a big loss—and Boro could bounce back without Karanka.

Liverpool’s biggest rivals cannot afford to lose ground on those above them, so more dropped points would be fairly disastrous. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

Spurs Out to Silence Doubters Without Kane

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 11, 2017: Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in action against Liverpool during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Tottenham may have breezed past Millwall and into the FA Cup semi-finals, but Harry Kane’s injury dampened the mood quite significantly.

Spurs’ man of the moment has been in fantastic goalscoring form in 2017, but he is now not expected to return until May, which is a huge blow.

The north Londoners have often relied on Kane to get them through sticky situations, and there are many who now feel they may slowly drop from second place.

On Sunday, Mauricio Pochettino’s side welcome Southampton to White Hart Lane, in what on paper may be a tricky afternoon for the hosts.

Saints are a defensively resolute team, and the longer Spurs go without scoring, the more Kane’s absence will be felt.

They may prove the masses wrong and seal yet another win in front of their own fans—they have only dropped four points at home all season—but not having their star man will make a noticeable difference.

 

Definition of a Must-Win Game for Sunderland

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 26, 2016: Sunderland's manager David Moyes during the FA Premier League match against Liverpool at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With every week that passes, the more Sunderland look as though they will finally be playing Championship football again.

The Black Cats seem to have had more than nine lives when it comes to avoiding relegation, but they genuinely look the worst team in the league these days.

They are now six points adrift of safety, and given the improvements so many of those at the bottom have made, they must start winning games.

David Moyes’ team are at home to Burnley on Saturday afternoon, with the Clarets still just earning two away points in the league all season.

Their performance at Anfield last weekend made you wonder how they have been that bad, though.

This feels like a make-or-break game for Sunderland, with few looking more inviting, and anything other than three points will be another nail in their coffin.

 

Tricky Away Tests For Struggling Trio

Hull City manager Marco Silva before the EFL Cup Semi Final, Second Leg match at the KCOM Stadium, Hull. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 26, 2017. See PA story SOCCER Hull. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

With Sunderland and Middlesbrough both scrapping for their lives, the northeast duo will be desperate for those above them to start dropping points regularly again.

Hull, Swansea and Leicester City are all away from home this weekend, so there is a decent chance that at least one will return home with nothing.

Marco Silva’s Tigers visit an in-form Everton side, hoping their win over Swansea was the start of something special—but it is hard to see them getting much from the encounter.

Champions Leicester will look to build on their Champions League victory over Sevilla with a win at unpredictable West Ham, while Swansea are at Bournemouth in the Saturday evening offering.

Crystal Palace will feel they can pounce, given the fact they host an increasingly average Watford outfit at Selhurst Park.

For the good of the relegation battle, it would be nice to see the chasing pack well in touch with those above them come Sunday evening.

 

Fixtures, UK TV Info & Predictions

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 23, 2012: Arsenal's manager Arsène Wenger before the Premiership match against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by Vegard Grott/Propaganda)

Saturday

West Brom vs. Arsenal – 12:30pm, Sky Sports 1
Prediction: 1-2

Crystal Palace vs. Watford – 3pm
Prediction: 2-1

Everton vs. Hull – 3pm
Prediction: 1-1

Stoke vs. Chelsea – 3pm
Prediction: 0-2

Sunderland vs. Burnley – 3pm
Prediction: 1-2

West Ham vs. Leicester – 3pm
Prediction: 2-2

Bournemouth vs. Swansea – 5:30pm, BT Sport 1
Prediction: 1-1

Sunday

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 28, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Cup 4th Round match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Middlesbrough vs. Man United – 12pm, BT Sport 1
Prediction: 0-1

Tottenham vs. Southampton – 2:15pm, Sky Sports 1
Prediction: 1-1

Man City vs. Liverpool – 4:30pm, Sky Sports 1
Prediction: 2-2

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