Back again for Gameweek 34 – I’ll be joining the dots with all the Premier League fixtures. Some are more deserving than others.
SOUTHAMPTON V CHELSEA
Antonio Conte drags his unwilling players down to the south coast for their next pointless exercise. They already know they won’t qualify for the Champions League, and all they have to play for is the FA Cup. At least they can practice against their semi-final rivals on Saturday lunchtime. The league is all but dead for Conte’s men though, they just need to make sure Arsenal don’t overtake them to avoid the title of London’s worst big team in the process. Southampton under the ‘guidance’ of Mark Hughes haven’t improved a speck, and relegation is looming unless they can pick up the pace. Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard will be hoping Fraser Forster stays on the sidelines for this one, as they really don’t want to make him feel any worse than he already must do.
BURNLEY V LEICESTER
The two teams who constantly threaten to disturb the peace amongst the giants of the Premier League, will fight it out at Turf Moor. Well, they’re actually about as disturbing to the likes of Spurs as an annoying wasp trapped behind the curtains. You know those? The pathetic buzzing noise they make as they struggle for freedom. This match might sound a bit like that. We all know that Jamie Vardy loves a penalty to keep up his goal tally, and Burnley defender James Tarkowski is one of the Premier League players to have conceded most penalties this season. I think a 1-1 is inevitable here.
CRYSTAL PALACE V BRIGHTON
If eagles and seagulls battled it out in real life, it’d be a pretty interesting spectacle. The eagles are majestic, powerful creatures who can take out their prey in a matter of moments (much unlike Palace in that regard), and the seagulls are just the annoying birds nobody likes, forgotten until they steal your sausage sandwich from your hand (more accurate). Palace might have the upper hand in their London fortress, much different from the serenity of the Brighton coastline. I think to accurately judge the better of these sides, the game would have to take place in some middle ground. Reading, or something.
HUDDERSFIELD V WATFORD
A six-pointer for Wagner’s men as they face Watford at home this week. They really need the points to survive, and the Hornets will be prancing around in their usual ineffective ways to try and stop them. The Terriers are the team who have made the most tackles in the whole season, but can you blame them? If you never have the ball, of course you make plenty of tackles. I’d have committed the most knife crime in my city if I was constantly burgled.
SWANSEA V EVERTON
This really does sound like a tragic game. Swansea now lie in a relatively safe 15th place, so there’s not even that to get excited about. Fabianski and Pickford come 2nd and 3rd respectively in the number of saves made this season, so perhaps we can expect some leaky defences and plenty of shots if we are lucky. On the other hand, the goalkeepers could be on top form and we really could be in for that expected 0-0. Oh, look. The Swans have the joint least goals in the league with Huddersfield and West Brom, and have scored once in their last four games. Deep joy.
LIVERPOOL V BOURNEMOUTH
You have to feel for Bournemouth here, coming off the back of an entertaining 2-2 draw with Watford, they’re going to have to sit back and let Mo Salah do what he does against every single defence he comes up against. That’s fail to dribble around them a few times, wait for a really good Firmino pass over Ake’s and Francis’ heads, hit his first shot into Begovic’s midriff and slot home the rebound. Francis has the second-most yellow cards in the league, with Firmino committing the fourth-most fouls. There could be something spicy to see between those two.
SPURS V MANCHESTER CITY
Where to start here? While we’re on the topic of statistics, Harry Kane is a minefield. Apart from most-ridiculously-claimed-goals, he’s currently at the top of the pile for most shots, most offsides and most times having hit the woodwork. If Guardiola allows his defence to remain as leaky as it has been, Eriksen will have a lovely time threading passes through Otamendi’s legs. In fact, this one can only end one way. Eriksen will receive a lovely flick from Dele Alli, and put Kane clean through on Ederson to win the game in the last minutes… Kane will get yet another shot away that cannons off the bar, before the whistle goes and play is pulled back for offside.
NEWCASTLE V ARSENAL
When you think of this game, your mind drifts back to that 4-4 several millennia ago. It’s all there is to recognise. We aren’t in with much chance of a repeat though – Arsenal will be missing playmaker-in-chief Mohamed Elneny after his straight red card against Southampton last week. He racked up another two irrelevant assists against CSKA Moscow on Thursday night! I guess they’ll have to try even harder to get Mesut Ozil through that really long-term injury he’s been suffering.
MANCHESTER UNITED V WEST BROM
United at home to a team fighting relegation I hear you say? Well then, I can let you know exactly what’ll go down. Jose Mourinho will give his pre-match interview pretty relaxed, waxing lyrical about the danger posed by Jay Rodriguez. He’ll then submit his team sheet with one thing which will anger United fans. Martial doesn’t start again?! From kick off to half time, three shots will be attempted. One volley from an off-balance Salomon Rondon which will almost clear the Stretford end, and two from Romelu Lukaku. One will be saved without much effort by Ben Foster, and the other will go agonisingly wide of the post. Anthony Martial will eventually come on in the second half, and tired of the incompetence around him, will cut inside from the left flank and curl a beauty into the top-right corner of Foster’s goal. United will add a second goal in injury time through a Lukaku tap in, provided by an Alexis Sanchez cross. Mourinho will praise the effort put in by Ander Herrera after the match, and make no comment about Martial.
WEST HAM V STOKE
Two teams only recognised for a shared love of Marko Arnautovic will meet at the Olympic stadium – the biggest and best stadium in the land, designed only for a team who will certainly be playing in Europe within the next couple of years. Moyes appears to be getting the Hammers back on track, with their only decent players in Chicharito and Arnautovic himself performing well recently. Xherdan Shaqiri sees himself too good for Stoke, which means the fans will probably not be on his side until he scores another goal from outside the box in the second half which puts Stoke’s relegation fears at ease.