The Britwatch Football Team give their preview and predictions for the weekend action
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PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – The Premier League returns after the international break for Matchweek 32, as Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a London derby on Sunday afternoon. As usual our writers have had their say on what will happen.
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Neil: Matchweek 32 kicks off at Selhurst Park, as Crystal Palace entertain the free-scoring Liverpool. The Eagles were convincing winners against Huddersfield last time out and having held Manchester City over the festive period here, the hosts might fancy their chances of upsetting the odds. The Reds may well have their Champions League Citizens opponents in mind for their blockbuster midweek game in a few days time, but Jurgen Klopp is unlikely to allow his charges to take this for granted. Mo Salah was again amongst the goals for Egypt this past fortnight – just days after his four-goal display against Watford – and the Egyptian for me will be too much to handle for an undoubtedly plucky Palace side.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool
Niall: The Premier League returns from the international break with a big match that affects both ends of the table. Relegation battling Crystal Palace face second-place pushers Liverpool at Selhurst Park on Saturday. The Reds have bad memories of this fixture as they famously let a three goal lead slip here once when fighting for the title. This Liverpool overall seems slightly stronger defensively however, and despite Palace getting back to winning ways, I believe the Reds will have too much fire power.
Neil: Both these two sides were knocked out in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals a fortnight ago, and with just domestic matters to focus on, the Seagulls will be looking to continue their impressive home form and pull clear of the bottom three against a still uncertain Leicester side. Brighton have won their last three games at the AMEX, however the Foxes are fresh off the an away win – albeit against a doomed West Brom side. Glenn Murray having missed out on an England call-up will be looking to make a further statement to Gareth Southgate that he is not giving up on a place on the plane to Russia this summer. The veteran might be on the score-sheet here again but I fancy a share of the spoils.
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Leicester
Niall: The Seagulls have been one of the surprise packages of the season so far. Brighton are 12th at present, six points clear of the relegation zone largely down to their home form. Six points will likely be a safe point tally for them, but you can not be 100% sure in the Premier League. Leicester are safe in mid-table, so I think the extra motivation will help Brighton across the line.
Prediction: Brighton 1-0 Leicester
Manchester United vs. Swansea City (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: There is much to be determined here for Manchester United. With a Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur to come next month, the form of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez has dipped alarmingly in recent weeks. Romelu Lukaku however has seen his performance curve go in the opposite direction, with the Belgian now back to his best in front of goal. The Swans have lost just twice since the turn of the year in the league and continue as a reformed outfit under Carlos Carvalhal. That resurgence will see the Welsh side test their opponents at Old Trafford but I expect United to get the job done, but they may not have it all their own way.
Prediction: Man United 2-1 Swansea
Niall: Like the Liverpool game earlier on in the day, this one has implications for both the race for second and the relegation battle. The Swans are currently three points above 18th, so a loss at Old Trafford will not be too damaging. Anything less than a win for Manchester United will not be deemed good enough, and given their home record I think they take this comfortably.
Neil: With both sides having reached 30 points in the standings, the task in clawing their way towards the magic 40 mark is now the aim for both of these sides. With the Magpies a point ahead of the Terriers coming into this however, the bookies would suggest that it is the Toon that could be well away from danger come 5pm this Saturday. Against Southampton a few weeks ago, on-loan Chelsea man Kenedy‘s brace set up a huge win at St. James’ and with Huddersfield having conceded ten times on the road in their last four games, Rafa Benitez will be eyeing this one as the chance to go a long way to staving off the drop to the Championship. The visitors are capable to creating a threat up front, but I can’t see it being enough here, with a comfortable home win.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Huddersfield
Niall: This is one of those games that is often deemed as a relegation six-pointer as both are in that battle despite being four and three points above 18th. The Magpies have been in good form lately, losing only one of their last five and given the home advantage I think they edge Huddersfield in a tight encounter.
Neil: Conversely, here are two sides that look safe for this season at least after tricky campaigns in the English top-flight. Whilst the Hornets were dismantled at Anfield last time out, Bournemouth came from behind against the Baggies to record what should now guarantee their Premier League status once more. On paper neither side have much to really play for here, and I think a clean sheet will be the aim of both managers at Vicarage Road.
Prediction: Watford 0-0 Bournemouth
Niall: Watford and Bournemouth are safe from any battles at the moment, so the last seven games of their seasons are pressure free. Therefore this could be quite an entertaining match with both teams having better attacks than defences. Choosing a winner is difficult though because they are roughly at the same level, so I think the honours will be split.
Prediction: Watford 2-2 Bournemouth
West Bromwich Albion vs. Burnley (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: Surely West Brom’s loss two weeks ago brought their stint in the top-flight to an end? Ten points a gap to bridge is mammoth task over the last seven games for Alan Pardew‘s men. Indeed Burnley could be set to put the final nail in the coffin of the Baggies at the Hawthorns. Chris Wood‘s brace off the bench against West Ham three weeks ago added to Ashley Barnes‘ opener see the Clarets now boasting one of the league’s most in-form striking duos. The West Midlanders put in a good shift on the south coast but rather in line with their season ended in glorious failure. Burnley are the sort of side that will put up the shields in front of defence, but can also nick a goal or two, which I fancy will see them take three points back to Lancashire.
Prediction: West Brom 1-2 Burnley
Niall: Can West Brom finally get a win? They are at home against Burnley, so it is definitely possible that they could pick up a much needed three points. The Clarets have been in good form recently though, and given they are now better away from home I think it will be seven defeats on the bounce for the Baggies.
Neil: This is nothing less than a monumental game at the London Stadium. Two points separate West Ham United and Southampton in the standings. A win for the Hammers could spell big problems for temporary boss Mark Hughes, whilst a home loss may see further protests in East London from a disenfranchised fan base and plunge themselves back into the drop zone. What makes this encounter all the more uncertain is its’ arrival immediately off the back of the international pause, in what will be Hughes first league game in charge of the Saints. There is so much riding on this, but with the visitors looking to cast their defensive shackles both teams know a draw will do neither side any good. As it is however, I do believe this will end in stalemate in what could be the game of Matchweek 32.
Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Southampton
Niall: And here is another relegation six pointer. This match could prove crucial at the end of the season as 17th placed West Ham host 18th placed Southampton at the London Stadium. The Hammers have had their troubles on and off the field recently, and they find themselves dangerously close to relegation. A loss against Southampton will see the Saints move ahead of the Hammers and bring them their first win in five. It is a difficult match to call a winner of, so I think a draw is on the cards.
Neil: Saturday evening of Matchweek 32 sees Everton host the soon-to-be-champions Manchester City. The Toffees were another of those particular sides on the favourable end of relegation six-pointer before the international hiatus and it may be just as well as this will likely be a uncomfortable afternoon for the Glawdys Street faithful. In recent years Goodison Park has been a tricky place for City to visit but this is not just any Citizen side. The visitors will have half an eye on their European date with the Reds in midweek, but Pep Guardiola‘s men should have more than enough to take the three points and set up a potential title coronation at the Etihad next weekend in the Manchester derby.
Niall: Manchester City are on course to win the title by beating their neighbours next week, but in order to do that they may have to beat Everton at Goodison Park. The Toffees are one of the few sides to take points from the Citizens this season, but Guardiola will be keen on either taking the title this week or next week, so City should win this one with a degree of comfort.
Neil: For Arsenal, the question is now to how greater a degree do the Gunners prioritise the Europa League ahead of their quarter-final against CSKA Moscow next Thursday night? Having kept a rare clean sheet against Watford last time out, Arsene Wenger‘s men return largely refreshed with only a handful of participants away on international duty. Stoke meanwhile are in deep trouble and could be six points from safety at the culmination of Matchweek 32. Despite their remaining off-field issues, the hosts have still plenty to worry the best of defences and the Potters will surely not be able to cope.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Stoke
Niall: Arsenal do not have much to fight for in terms of the Premier League for the rest of the season, so their focus will likely be on the Europa League. That may give 19th place Stoke a little bit more hope of claiming much needed points as they fight to stay in the Premier League as they sit three points from safety. However, Arsenal will probably have too much quality at home for the Potters, so it will likely be another defeat.
Neil: Matchweek 32 rounds off with the main event of the weekend at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon. Having negotiated their respective places in the last four of the FA Cup, the two London rivals lock horns in West London. In the battle for the top four however, this is almost must-win for Chelsea with Tottenham Hotspur five points ahead of the them. For Spurs it remains to be seen how they might deal short-term with the absence of Harry Kane through though I expect Son Heung-min to lead the line admirably in his absence. The key to this game will be the performances of both he and Willian – both side’s most in-form player at the present time – and who can assert themselves best. Without Kane though, I just get the feeling the hosts will have too much for the Lilywhites but regardless it should be an entertaining 90 minutes.
Niall: Now we reach the main event of the weekend as Chelsea continue their top four push against London rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are four points behind Spurs in fourth, so a loss for Chelsea will surely mean they will miss out on Champions League football. The good news is that Kane will not feature for the visitors due to injury, so the attacking threat has lessened somewhat. However, Chelsea just do not strike much confidence in me and given Spurs’ superior form, I believe they could end Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.
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