Tottenham Hotspur – Watford
So, it turns out that the news about Tottenham’s demise following Kane’s injury might have been a little exaggerated. Not only have they been on a ridiculous run since then, they’ve even managed to cut the gap to Chelsea (not that they have any hope of actually catching Conte’s side though). A lot has been said about this run, from Eriksen’s shining brilliance to Son’s underappreciated talent and hard work, but there has been one gigantic failure. Much like Big Sam strayed from the West Ham way and David Moyes set off a string of events at Old Trafford that sees them unable to reach their lofty heights of the past, Pochettino has messed with Tottenham’s identity. With the highest number of points gained from a losing position in the league, he’s completely destroyed the idea of being ‘spursy’! An absolute travesty, how else are lazy comic writers supposed to make fun of them now?!
West Ham United – Swansea City
Ah, the battle for 17th place – it’s a lot like the battle for fourth place. Everyone knows that all it does is provide a(nother) stay of execution for the winner while maintaining the status quo for next season *cough*Wenger*cough*. However, after three years of Sunderland domination, the title is finally going to go to someone else. So, who is it going to be? Bilic’s sexy yet completely useless West Ham side, or Clement’s completely useless and sexless Welsh side (they really don’t have anything going for them right now…)? I have to be honest, I’m kind of hoping it’s the former, just to see the official reaction to the London Stadium being quarter-full in the Championship.
Stoke City – Liverpool
You have to hand it to Mark Hughes, he’s been fighting an incredible individual battle all season. In creating a side that doesn’t score a lot, doesn’t concede too many, doesn’t contain Krkic anymore, and has never been in danger, he seems to be aggressively pushing against all those ill-conceived “best league in the world” advertisements about the Premier League. “What do you mean we’re exciting? Do you remember a single game we’ve played all season? I didn’t think so!” The most interesting thing about a wet Tuesday night in the Potteries now is the anticipation of wondering whether colour umbrella Hughes is going to bring out. Its going to be black, lads.
West Bromwich Albion – Southampton
So, this is a truly pointless fixture, isn’t it? One of those matches that you really have to love the game to watch. Seriously, ever since Everton hit form in January and United stole the League Cup final from under the Saints’ noses, these two sides have been playing for nothing. At best, this might be described as a battle for 8th place, which is just depressing. Ah, to long for the days of Newcastle United’s beautifully unpredictable side. They never challenged for 8th place – it was always either Europe or the relegation spots. All this progress and planning by Pulis and the Soton hierarchy – are you seriously telling me the fans wouldn’t prefer to see a batshit yoyo side spend one year winning the second division, another battering the top four, all sandwiched by a season of demented losses? Nope, I’m sure stability and economic profits are what fans want.
Middlesbrough – Burnley
This match is either going to be frighteningly exciting, or duller than watching Michael Owen talk about horses. Considering Boro had forgotten what a goal was for all season, scoring two away from home in midweek was absolutely magnificent. Too bad they also conceded four – to Hull City. Now the question remains: is Agnew going to stick with his new, gung-ho approach that guarantees relegation, or is he going to revert to Karanka’s tepid defensive structure that guarantees relegation? Dyche will probably be hoping for the latter because I can’t see any other way for Burnley to pick points away from home apart from a scoreless draw.
Manchester City – Hull City
The midweek match between Manchester City and Chelsea had a very ominous feel about it. It was almost a changing of the guard, with the previously underrated Conte becoming the first manager to do the league double over any Guardiola side in history (bearing in mind he’s only managed six seasons with those minnows Barcelona and Bayern Munich). Well, at least until next week when Shakespeare overturns Simeone to become the odds-on favourite to replace Luis Enrique at the Nou Camp. Nevertheless, something is rotten at the Etihad, with City seriously struggling to adapt to Pep’s demanding tactics. Coming up against the resurgent Hull City, are we going to see a shock? No, we are not.
Bournemouth – Chelsea
Bournemouth extended their unbeaten run to five matches with an impressive point against Liverpool, and Eddie Howe’s side seem to have secured their place in the top flight next season. What this means for the rest of the season is unclear. Are the players going to kick back and turn on the cruise control, or are they passionately going to fight their way to a mid-midtable finish? However, there is one thing that is certain. It doesn’t really matter what they choose for the weekend because Chelsea will win. It’s a good thing Chelsea are weirdly not considered a rich side anymore, otherwise we might have been looking at the creation of another footballing monopoly like Juventus or Bayern Munich in England.
Sunderland – Manchester United
The Moyesiah takes on his most famous old job and the one that started his rise to the top of the ex-player/manager stakes. After a decade of good, innovative work at Goodison, he was finally broken at Old Trafford. Despite a false dawn in Spain, he seems to have given in to fate – he has realised that there is only one future for him in the game: to become the next, great (and by great, I mean not great) ex-pro commentator. Following in the footsteps of great men (again, not great) like Andy Gray, Ron Atkinson and others, Moyes dipped his toe into his future with some truly horrendous comments in midweek. After managing to not only get away with it but also to have secured his job somehow, Moyes is going to be welcomed into the fold. Expect to see him lining up next to Paul Merson next season, talking about how foreign managers are ruining the English game.
Everton – Leicester City
Did you hear the most recent news? Apparently, Romelu Lukaku has been denounced as a flat-track bully (again). Clearly, by not scoring hat-tricks in the last two matches against Manchester United and Liverpool (both away from home), the Belgian has proven to all the armchair experts that Mourinho was definitely right to let him go from Chelsea a couple of years ago. Never mind that he’s the top scorer in the league this season, or that he’s scored a scarcely believable 161 career goals by the age of 23 – he had an average (not bad) week, so clearly he’s a fraud. By the time Shakespeare pulls off yet another improbable victory at the weekend, the media are going to be guaranteeing that he will have to drop down to the Championship to get a game next season.
Crystal Palace – Arsenal
Arsenal have been quite infuriatingly confusing recently. Despite managing to lose (and quite heavily at times) to anyone and everyone in the last couple of months, they are still somehow within touching distance of their patented fourth place spot. In fact, after the mid-week results, they are four points behind a rapidly fading Manchester City – with a game in hand. But, of course, this being Arsenal, nothing is ever simple. They will no doubt lose to a Big Sam-managed, Christian Benteke-led Palace side – prompting yet another crisis – before romping to the Champions League spots by May. Somehow, Wenger’s managed to make unpredictability predictable.