Crystal Palace – Middlesbrough
Steve Parish must have felt that his troubles were over when he hired Sam ‘never been relegated’ Allardici to steady the ship, but somehow he’s only picked the same number of points in his first 8 games as Alan Pardew did in his last 8. All while scoring a quarter of the goals – some improvement that. His reputation is getting slaughtered out there, after all the hard work he did at Sunderland and, umm, West Ham? Bolton, 15 years ago? He hasn’t actually saved many clubs, has he?
Everton – Sunderland
Ah, David Moyes is returning to one of his old stomping grounds – which, by the way, is just a weird metaphor. I can’t stop imagining him goose-stepping around Goodison. Anyway, back to the topic at hand – Moyes going back to the one club that he was an unqualified success at. What Everton fans would give to have him back – all they have now is an almost good enough manager who sells their best prospects. I mean, the Scot never did that with his consistent 5th place finishes and the retainment of players like Wayne Rooney.
West Bromwich Albion – Bournemouth
Well, this is a staggeringly boring match-up. I mean, who even cares about this match? At best, we get Tony Pulis continuing his mini-renaissance as the Welsh Marcelo Bielsa, and at worst, we get Eddie Howe possibly salvaging some of his shredded reputation as the next great English manager. Literally the only excitement may come from taking bets on whether Burnley show up in their first or third kit. I’m going to go for that hideous pink – maybe the glare will cause a few accidents, and we might get an accidental thriller like the one between Manchester City and Monaco in midweek. Doubt it, though.
Hull City – Burnley
I think we all know the drill by now, right? Sure, we could talk about Marco Silva single handedly forcing Paul Merson’s xenophobia to go into hiding within a month, or even Burnley’s unbelievable collapse in the FA Cup (Dyche’s excuse for losing that was hilarious, claiming that Lincoln just sat behind the ball and didn’t play with any imagination or flair. What do you think your lot does every week?!). Instead, I’m going to point you to a handy Burnley stat – they win at home, and they lose away. Well, unless they’re playing non-league opposition.
Chelsea – Swansea City
This isn’t as straightforward a task for Conte’s men as it might seem on paper. Sure, Swansea are only off the bottom because of the wretchedness of others while Chelsea are cruising at the top, but the Swans have a secret weapon. Paul Clement’s arrival has galvanised the Welsh side, proving that all Americans are horrible at this soccer lark (or, maybe just Bob Bradley in that particular context, with the media pressure and…NO. Americans don’t understand our game! Philistines.). Moreover, as a former employee at Stamford Bridge, Clement will have an insider’s understanding into the weaknesses of their squad. At least that’s what I’m going to be telling myself, since delusions seem to be the only way to halt Conte’s unstoppable run to the title.
Watford – West Ham United
Watford are quite the intriguing team – who loses to Millwall at home, and beats Arsenal away? OK, Leicester did that as well, but Watford did in the space of a few days, not a few months! Regardless though, they must be cursing their luck having to play West Ham at home. Yes, you read that correctly. The Hammers have been absolutely atrocious at their new shiny home, but quite good away from home. They have a 100% away win record in 2017 (all 2 games!), while Watford seem to be a little too complacent about their relegation prospects at the moment. Who else is seeing the Hornets as the unexpected losers in Sunderland’s annual great escape?
Tottenham – Stoke City
Thursday night was a tough one for Spurs. Sure, they were knocked out by Gent, but they showed real desire and fight. Plus, it could be a real bonus considering they only have the league to worry about from here on out. Even the Europe-less Chelsea and Liverpool have cup-ties. Spurs could really put on a chase and guarantee themselves a second consecutive season in the Champions League. Then again, they could also completely fall apart and contrive to finish in seventh behind Everton. If only we had precedent to tell us what a normal Spursy response to this situation would be.
Leicester City – Liverpool
Leicester have been putting up the worst defence of anything since I told my girlfriend that I watch Californication for the plot…NO! WAIT! That’s old news! They’re back on track after a tremendous performance against Sevilla in midweek, where even Vardy scored a goal – his first since September. The link-up play and desire (and tremendous amounts of luck) were all reminiscent of the heady days of 2016, when they stormed to the league title. Even Ranieri seems to think the result is going to be a turning point.
Wait. They fired him? Here comes the irrational hatred…