We’re hurtling towards the closing stages of what has been an adventurous English Premiership season, which has been punctuated by some crazy scorelines, empty stadiums, VAR controversies, surprise manager sackings and even a crowd riot which saw the postponement of Manchester United and Liverpool.
But, as we head towards the final straight, there are some constants. One is that Manchester City, the pre-season favourites, are on the brink of winning the League title. Another is the confirmation of Manchester United as top four stalwarts and a third is the evidence, via a City and Chelsea Champions League final, that the English Premiership is again top of the pile when it comes to strength and depth of quality.
The big match is at the Etihad where City and Chelsea clash. Obviously, they will probably go make a fool of me again, but I’m not seeing a barn-storming thriller here. In fact it might be a case of both sides cancelling one another out, with both managers looking for chinks in the other’s armour ahead of the big one in Istanbul.
Leicester 2 Newcastle 1: With Man City and Chelsea reaching the Champions League final, it’s now virtually certain that Leicester will also be in the Champions League next season. They might play with a bit of freedom here, but Newcastle are 17th, some 7 points above the relegation zone and they’ll be scrapping for everything.
Leeds 0 Tottenham 2: Ryan Mason has given Spurs the “bounce” effect as so often happens when a new manager comes in and they’re now challenging for a Champions League spot. Gareth Bale’s got a smile on his face again and Tottenham just look to have too much here.
Sheffield United 0 Crystal Palace 2: Already relegated Sheffield United seem to have thrown in the towel and without fans in the stadium they’re going through the motions. The visitors haven’t been great recently, losing their last 3 themselves, but did beat their opponents 2-0 in the reverse fixture so could get it right again here.
Man City 1 Chelsea 1: Many will regard this as a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final but both sides will have their minds on the big one in Istanbul rather than go hell for leather here. It could be cagey and I wouldn’t rule out a 0-0, but perhaps the best bet is the under 2.5 match goals.
Liverpool 3 Southampton 1: As things stand on the table this is 7th versus 15th, showing how far Liverpool in particular have fallen this season. But only West Brom and Sheffield United have conceded more goals than Southampton this season. But … they beat Liverpool in the reverse fixture and kept a clean sheet. Surely lightning won’t strike twice?
Wolves 1 Brighton 1: Both teams have been disappointing this season and should be in the top half, not the bottom half. Yet, they served up a rip-roaring 3-3 draw in January, so this is probably the toughest match of the round to pick. Brighton have actually scored more and conceded less than Wolves this season.
Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 1: There’s very little at stake for both teams here, with United looking certain runners-up and Europa League finalists, while Villa are 10th and four points off eighth place, which could offer Europa League football for next season given the Champions League final developments. United are unbeaten in their last 13 League games and won the reverse fixture on January 2. It’s hard to go against them here.
West Ham 2 Everton 1: Many expected the Hammers to fall off the pace but if they get through this game unscathed they have a huge shout at fourth spot, given Chelsea’s run-in. Everton, along with Liverpool and then Wolves and Brighton, have been the disappointments for me this season. They’ve had injury troubles, but after they start where they led the table early, they’ve dropped off.
Arsenal 2 West Brom 0: The Gunners are now out of Europe and will need to make up ground on Everton to have a chance at Europa Cup football next season. They played on Thursday night but this will be a test of Arteta’s motivational powers. If they can’t beat a likely relegated West Brom at home, then it’s quite possible that Arsenal could be looking for a new manager at the end of the season.
Fulham 1 Burnley 1: 18th plays 16th here but the likelihood is that Fulham are joining Sheffield United and West Brom in the Championship again next season. The hosts’ balloon has popped again and they’ve lost 5 of their last 6. Burnley are in a similar situation, losing 4 of their last 5, but they’ve found the net in their last 7 gams so bear that in mind when looking at this game.
We will get to the remaining fixtures in this round in a newsletter on Monday.
Last week our suggested betting treble came through, so for this round we’ve going:
Tottenham and Arsenal to win, Man City and Chelsea under 2.5 match goals