Arsenal – Hull City
The #WengerOut debate has reared its ugly head yet again, following Arsenal’s limp defeat against cross-town rivals Chelsea last week. Despite claiming that he was considering his options, Wenger is clearly living in the past if he thinks the fans are going to rush out and beg him to stay. Clearly this affecting his team, who also seem to think that it’s still 2014. Why else would Cech willingly pass the ball to his erstwhile teammate Fabregas?
Manchester United – Watford
While everyone has been talking about the re-emergence of M’Baye Niang at Watford, Tom Cleverley’s loan spell seems to have started on a similarly positive note. The Everton midfielder’s range of passing has created a balanced midfield for the Hornets, and has gone some way to justify Alex Ferguson’s claim that he would become the next Paul Scholes (at least compared to the last five years). After Pogback last year, are we going to be seeing a Clever-Return this summer?
West Ham United – West Bromwich Albion
So, it turns out that Tony Pulis and West Brom were actually doing Saido Berahino a favour by letting him rot in the reserves for a year and a half – they knew that he would eventually turn to drugs (Well, “drugs”…). Despite testing positive last autumn, the WBA hierarchy kept it quiet to preserve the young man’s talent. They even graciously told Stoke about the problem before selling him, clearly to make sure the Potteries had a good enough atmosphere for the striker. Obviously, they also had to tell the press about his problem after his transfer, just to show the public how far he’s come in the last few months. Who knows why Berahino ever wanted to leave the loving atmosphere at WBA?
Stoke City – Crystal Palace
After their surprise demolition at the hands of known attacking aficionado David Moyes, Allardici’s Palace will be looking for their new boys to make a difference against Stoke. As long as he deigns to show up for training, Sakho should be a significant upgrade, but Luka Milivojevic is a complete unknown to journalists. Neither the traditionally xenophobic ex-pro club nor the new wave hipsters have any idea if he is going to be the next Modric or the next Bebe. Either way, he’s going to have a hard time strengthening a midfield that is more Cristal Palace than Crystal Palace.
Middlesbrough – Everton
Last week, I had the gall to assume that Everton have not really turned a corner. Like the common peasant that I am, my prediction was swatted aside almost as easily as Bournemouth’s defence. However, despite years of watching Lukaku’s brilliant attacking play, Everton fans still refuse that he is just papering over the cracks. I guess I’m just going to have to continuing being the oddly lone voice that thinks a defensive partnership of Funes Mori and Williams is going to let in more than the Belgian can score. Seriously, how am I the only person who thinks that?!
Sunderland – Southampton
Ever since qualifying for the League Cup final, Southampton have been on cruise control. The south coast side have lost their last three matches, but shouldn’t be too worried. After all, they’re still seven points from the nearest relegation spot. Besides, how can a team’s season tail off after reaching a cup final? It’s not like that happened to Liverpool last season, or Spurs the year before that, or Wigan two years before that, or Cardiff the year before that, or Birmingham the year before that, or…
Burnley – Chelsea
All jokes aside, this is an irrationally difficult tie to call. Ever since Conte switched to a three-man defence in September, Chelsea have dropped exactly five points – away to Spurs and Liverpool. Meanwhile, Burnley have dropped six points in their last three league matches. And yet…Burnley’s home record is so beautifully unnatural, like that ridiculously quick lizard on Planet Earth II. The Trump administration may be slowly driving us all insane, but at least we’ll always have the stability of Burnley’s home record to lean back on.
Swansea City – Leicester City
Despite the everyday reminders of the huge pressure that all 20 managers are under (apparently Lampard is coming for Conte’s job?), this has actually been a reasonably rational season for club owners. There have been just four sackings all season, among the lowest number seen by February for years. Luckily for us bloodthirsty neutrals, Swansea have been filling our appetite with two sackings on their own. However, even that confusion wont be enough to drop points against a Leicester side that is putting up the worst defence of anything since I told my girlfriend that I watch Shameless for the plotline.
Bournemouth – Manchester City
We could talk about this match. You know, the match between Guardiola’s title chasers and Eddie Howe’s maybe-in-a-relegation-fight club. The match that pits a team that hasn’t lost in 2017 against a team that haven’t won in 2017. Instead, I would rather talk about how Guardiola plans to sell the sale of Aguero to City fans, after his treatment of Joe Hart last summer. Personally, I envision haughty, mumbled complaints about pass completion rates, followed by a declaration that “if Real Madrid wanted him, he can’t be all that good.”