Watford – West Bromwich Albion
So infuriatingly brilliant were Tony Pulis’ side at Old Trafford at the weekend that he even managed to flap the ever-unflappable Jose Mourinho. The ranting and raving post-match presser was so unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the Portuguese manager. Well, at least for a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, no doubt West Brom are going to throw away all their good momentum against a Watford side that barely scraped past Sunderland.
Leicester City – Sunderland
I have an odd feeling that this match is going to be the height of Shakespeare’s time with the Foxes. After leading them to multiple successive victories, it looks like Leicester are finally hitting a rough patch in terms of fixtures. After Sunderland, they have Everton, Crystal Palace and Arsenal away, sandwiching that double-header against Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. I can’t see them winning any of those matches, so they’d better win this one. Which probably means that they’re going to lose this, and then go on a five match winning streak.
Burnley – Stoke City
As I’ve been saying for months, these Burnley matches are the ones you should be betting it all on. Their dichotomous form is insane, and they will win this one. Yes, yes, I know they lost at home to Spurs at the weekend, but that was an anomaly against a title-challenging team. Plus, they needed to drop a few points at home after picking up two draws in their last three away matches. Huh. Maybe they’re not as predictable as the media would have you believe. They’re still going to win though; Stoke haven’t won since visiting the Stadium of Light in mid-January
Manchester United – Everton
The last time these two met, a late clanger from a newly substituted Marouane Fellaini granted the Toffees a last minute penalty to salvage an ill-deserved point. But a lot has changed since then. United have won a trophy and gone on quite a long unbeaten run. Everton, too, have undergone a serious improvement, starting with that shellacking of Manchester City in January. After all, now we know that United’s desire to throw away points has been upgraded from minor blip to full-blown characteristic, Everton have gone from mid-table bores to Europa League-level bores, and that Marouane Fellaini won’t be giving away any late penalties after coming on in the last ten minutes. Instead, he’ll give away a penalty sometime in the middle of the game since he’s somehow become a starter. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger is scoring on debut for World-Cup challengers Chicago Fire.
Swansea City – Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs were the big winners from the weekend, as they closed the gap to Chelsea to a much more manageable seven points. Now they can really go for it in the hopes of improving their position from last season. Best of all? With Arsenal showing some fight against Manchester City, Spurs needn’t worry about having to collapse too early. Wenger would probably be happy with another last day St. Totteringham’s Day celebration, after yet another Spursy title challenge.
Arsenal – West Ham United
Arsenal’s comeback at the weekend has sparked renewed celebrations in honour of the Gunners’ mental resilience, with the #WengerOut boys being drowned out for the first time in weeks – at least if you forget they were playing at the Emirates. This all took place after West Ham somehow managed to throw away the points against odds-on relegation favourites Hull City. The owners even had to come out and back Bilic publicly to angry masses. This all means that this match can only have one very predictable result.
Hull City – Middlesbrough
Boro do look marginally better under Steve Agnew than during the last weeks of Karanka’s reign, but that is definitely not the talking point of this match. No, I’m not going to bring up Marco Silva’s transformation of this Championship-quality Hull side, or the fact that Niasse has been a brilliantly underrated loan deal (apropos to nothing, Everton could really use a striker like him for back-up to Lukaku). Nope, the big talking point from the weekend is the massive reminder that Andrea Ranocchia is a Hull City player! I had completely forgotten about his transfer until he popped up with that late winner against Bilic’s side. I’m not sure how you choose Hull over Inter (although, weirdly enough, he’s not the only one *cough*Tom Ince*cough*), but he really is a boon to the English relegation race.
Southampton – Crystal Palace
With six goals since turning up in January, Manolo Gabbiadini has all but salvaged Southampton’s limp season. Despite this being his first successful stint in years, there are already rumours circulating about him moving on to bigger and better things in the summer, though they do stink of a desperate agent looking for a pay day on a temporarily overestimated client. So every agent then. Nevertheless, Gabbiadini comes up against possibly the only player better than him outside the European places (well, and the reigning league champions, I guess): Wilfried Zaha. There are serious reports claiming Crystal Palace are trying to tie him own to a long-term contract to ward off non-existent interest from the big clubs. Much like they did with Pardew last season. That went well.
Liverpool – Bournemouth
Liverpool have had a good week so far. Not only did they show up those pesky blue neighbours, but draws at Old Trafford and the Emirates, along with Chelsea’s surprise loss, means that the Reds are going to have to do their absolute best to throw away their Champions League spot. Even if they don’t win as many games against weaker opposition, they should have enough to finish at least fourth, which should mean Champions League football. Unless, of course, Leicester and Manchester United make a clean sweep of Europe this season – which would be par for the course for this Liverpool side.
Chelsea – Manchester City
City really do have a horrid fixture list at the moment, compounded by some absolutely horrid timing. First, they caught Arsenal on their one competent display of the season (that shellacking of Chelsea doesn’t count – it led to Conte showing up 11 years of Arsenal ‘progress’ in one week). Then, they have to travel to Stamford Bridge two days later. A hard trip any year, but made worse by Chelsea’s ridiculous form this season and the fact that they’re following up perhaps Sam Allardici’s greatest performance since his Bolton days. I mean, even if Guardiola pulls a win out of the hat, people are just going to say “yeah, but Palace won too, so…”