The league is winding down, every point at this point for most is crucial, for some, a point would do, for some, any point dropped is a drifting them far away from their dreams. West Brom haven’t lost since the sack of Alan Pardew, they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, beat Newcastle at St. James’s Park, got a point off the flying Liverpool attack, what would have happened had they fired Pardew earlier than they did? Huddersfield are living dangerously, they manner of their loss to Everton last weekend leaves too much to be desired, 35 points with three to play, just three above the relegation spot, they must win their next; talking must win, Stoke must beat Palace or they are down, mathematically, the Baggies are not out of the equation yet, but anything short of a win condemns them to the championship. At the other end, Liverpool are in the champions league final, but they need to keep an eye on the league now with Chelsea breathing down their necks, they square up this weekend for what should be the qualification finals, a win for United over Brighton guarantees the second spot and whatever Spurs do this weekend, they must win to completely fend off Chelsea and rise above Liverpool. Predictions? Yes, please.
Friday, 4th May
Brighton vs Manchester United
Brighton probably just needs a point to survive, they have three games to source for that point, but where will they get it among the three? Manchester United next, City after that and then Liverpool on the final day at Anfield, difficult to say the least. Chris Houghton, however, believes impossibility is nothing, they had a horrendous run when they played some weaker oppositions, they should have guaranteed safety at this point, now they have to do it the hard way. Manchester United are about finishing second, nothing more, and that could mean they would be quite harsh on their opposition tonight, Romelu Lukaku is out injured, that should afford Marcus Rashford and Antony Martial some fair playing time; United were underwhelming in their victory over Arsenal last weekend, the makeshift Arsenal side gave good accounts until Marouane Fellaini rose highest to decide the affair, Brighton can come out blazing and hurt the visitors, it’s their only chance.
Verdict: Brighton to win or draw
Saturday 5th May
Stoke vs Crystal Palace
For the second weekend running, Paul Lambert leads his wards out at the lunchtime fixture, last time out it was against Liverpool and the Potters stood their ground to stop Mohamed Salah for the first time in recent times, the goalless affair didn’t help the Potters much but didn’t fail to offer some hopes with Swansea and Huddersfield losing their respective games. This isn’t exactly a relegation six-pointer as it would have been with Palace up there now as opposed to where they were before, Leaving Stoke with zero choice than to win, any point dropped here would effectively kill the dreams of Stoke who have just two fixtures left, they can survive if they win the two, which means two of Swansea, Saints, West Ham and Huddersfield go down. Palace will rely on their talismanic forward, Wilfried Zaha who has been in inspirational form since returning from injury to nick a point here, but that would be at the expense of Stoke’s topflight hopes.
Verdict: Stoke to win
Leicester vs West Ham
King Power Stadium
The first of our simultaneous fixtures is happening at the King Power Stadium, home of the unlikeliest of premier league winners, Leicester. The Foxes have been in shambles of late, terrible to say the least, losing almost every time they turn out, one must ask what the problem is, with the abundance of talent in Claude Puel’s side, they were ripped apart last weekend by Crystal Palace, five unreplied goals, unbelievable. West Ham are in town, the London side fell to back to back 4:1 defeats to Arsenal and Manchester City, leaving them in a precarious situation on the league table, relegation is very much possible for David Moyes side, so they must win here at the home of Leicester who seemingly have absolutely nothing to play for. Marco Aurnatovic was left frustrated against the champions last weekend, he’ll have a chance to take the fight to the Foxes, with Manuel Lanzini back in the squad, it would be seen how Leicester would defend, in goal, Joe Hart should return, if he doesn’t, Jamie Vardy would fancy some finishes against Adrian and the aged defence.
Verdict: West Ham to win or draw
Bournemouth vs Swansea
What a game this would be, supposedly a game that should confirm Bournemouth’s top-flight status for yet another season or lift Swansea out of the doom, whichever way it would be enjoyed by the neutrals. Bournemouth failed to pick a point against Southampton, despite showing flashes of brilliance over ninety minutes, they fell to Dusan Tadic’s double and now have to do it the hard way at home against a team looking to avoid the drop too, a point would do for the home side actually, but the visitors can’t tell the same story. Carlos Carvahal’s side have been on a downward spiral for a while, despite the strength they showed earlier, beating Liverpool and Arsenal to leapfrog Westbrom, Stoke and Southampton, they are without a win in six fixtures and are going to be really hopeless if they lose here. Going for power hasn’t help Carvahal, the Ayew brothers aren’t exactly what they need; they may have to recall Renato Sanches and Wayne Routledge. For Bournemouth, they must put their pace to use early, hit the Welsh side hard early and don’t give up cheap goals as usual... It is theirs to lose.
Verdict: Bournemouth to win
Watford vs Newcastle
This fixture is of little significance to be honest, Watford can only be fighting for Jarvi Gracia’s job while Newcastle would be playing for pride, the Toons seem to have closed shop having attained safety after beating Arsenal, losing to a resurgent Westbrom at home doesn’t add up, not in any way possible, given that, credits must go to Rafael Benitez for his organized approach to the survival battle which was successful. Watford laboured in vain against Tottenham, the 2:0 loss doesn’t exactly represent what went down at Wembley, they had a goal chalked off for offside, they could have gone ahead had Gray and Richarlison taken their many chances, that has been their story of late, whatever happens here, it would leave a negligible impact on the table, not many eyes would be on this of course except you have a relative in the line up.
Verdict: Watford to win or draw
Westbrom vs Tottenham
The last of the 3:00pm simultaneous fixtures is at the Hawthorns, home of the Form team of the premier league, too little too late for the Baggies, they are left to rue what would have been had they sacked Alan Pardew earlier than they did, step forward Darren Moore, what a start to his managerial career, scalps of big teams from an underdog position, if West Brom by any means escape here, he should be voted in as prime minister unopposed. Tottenham weren’t exactly bright against Watford, they took their chances and dumped the Hornets, they need to be sharper if they want to effectively relegate Westbrom who seem to have loads of fights left in them. Golden boot certainly is beyond Harry Kane now, he needs to play without pressure, he needs to be a team player, shooting on sight when better-placed teammates are around kills the team, he also has to step out of the shadows of criticisms that he has thrown himself to, and with Chelsea lurking, anything short of a win here is Spurs inviting trouble in form of fifth place finish.
Verdict: Spurs to win
Everton vs Southampton
Everton keeps proving bookmakers wrong, they beat Huddersfield away last weekend, a result that did some good to their horrendous away records, the off-field issues involving the board, the manager and the fans seem behind and they can start planning for next season and on a high too, they can’t finish above eighth but they can fend off Leicester, as they are four points better though having played a game more. Southampton are in a position, not two, win or go down, that should be the manager’s message to the lads, despite being behind Swansea and Huddersfield, they are better placed to survive than the rest of the bunch. Mark Hughes knows what to do here, win like they managed to do in the south coast derby last weekend, Southampton must win, wherever the goals would come from, Southampton must win... is the message clear enough?
Verdict: Southampton to win or draw
Sunday 6th May
Manchester City vs Huddersfield
Manchester City would be handed the trophy at their final home game of the season, but they should again enjoy their guard of honour until then. Westham offered some resistance at some points but City did the needful and shipped four past them, with a few records left to be broken, the Citizens aren’t taking the foot off the pedal, a very bad news to Huddersfield. The Terriers are in trouble, deep trouble after losing at home to Everton who got nothing serious to fight for, you can’t win games if you don’t score goals, no you can’t. Someone tell it to David Wagner and his sleeping sloppy Terriers, what chance do they have against the champions? Near zero! The signs are ominous for them, they play Chelsea after this and then Arsenal on the final day at home, they may wait to exploit Arsenal’s poor away form this season but that would be Arsene Wenger’s last game in charge at Arsenal... no chance Terriers.
Verdict: Manchester City to win again
Arsenal vs Burnley
The love story isn’t ending in fairytale, shame, pains and heartbreak at the Emirates, the Gunners have been dumped out of the Europa League after losing 1:0 at the Calderon, the boys let the manager down, the fight wasn’t there, nothing to fight for any more as their Europa spot finish is guaranteed already, underwhelming end to Arsene Wenger’s 22 year reign as manager at Arsenal’s dugout. Burnley are the opponents on Sunday, a fixture known for late drama and controversies, a late Alexis Sanchez penalty won the game for Arsenal in the reverse fixture. Burnley, a team on the high, they have taken their chances at every possible point and they are now going to be rewarded with a European appearance. How will Arsenal line up? As wounded lions, in pains, against a well-rested Burnley, if these boys have any form of conscience, they should turn up, not for anyone, not for the manager, not for the fans... but for themselves.
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Chelsea vs Liverpool
What a way to end the round of fixtures this time, Chelsea at home to fleet-footed high-flying Liverpool. What is at stake? A fourth-place finish, the final champions league spot, regardless of what Tottenham does at the Hawthorns, Chelsea can still make top four, very slim chance but all they have to do first is to beat Liverpool here, anything short of victory would ultimately end their hopes and land them in the Europa league. Liverpool left their fans hanging their hearts in their mouths on Wednesday when they nearly blew a seemingly healthy lead to lose 4:2, the lads are tired and would definitely need to rest, that leaves Chelsea at the advantage here; Chelsea showed grit at Swansea, they would need more of it, composure and ruthlessness when they face the Reds, it would be a cracker.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Strictly the writer’s opinion
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