The Britwatch Football Team give their preview and predictions for the week’s action
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PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – Matchweek 34 sees a bumper edition of Premier League fixtures, as a wounded Manchester City attempt to inch toward toward the title. As usual our writers have had their say on what will happen.
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Neil: Matchweek 34 kicks off at St. Marys’ as Southampton host Chelsea. The Saints took advantage of Arsenal‘s defensive uncertainty last Sunday, as they pushed the Gunners all the way at the Emirates, but that is unlikely to the story here. Having shifted system to a 3-4-1-2 has given the hosts a greater source of creativity up front, but will it be enough to stay up? The Blues continued to falter against West Ham United also last weekend, and will be looking for a improved showing on the road here. Whilst the Saints are looking better in the final third they are still a sham at the back, and I think we will see more evidence of the latter here, as the visitors sneak a win.
Niall: The Saints come into this match off a decent performance against Arsenal last week, but it was still a losing effort that left them in the bottom three. A win against Chelsea will be a huge boost to their survival hopes, and given the Blues’ poor form, it is not completely out of the question. Chelsea could only manage a draw at home to West Ham last week and remain a shadow of the side that won the title last season. This could be a tight affair and I fancy Southampton to possibly get a result here.
Neil: The Clarets have won four on the bounce coming into this, and have picked up their impressive form of earlier this season. Aside from that, their only home losses at Turf Moor have been to Liverpool and Manchester United and as the Foxes make the trip from the East Midlands, Sean Dyche‘s men will be buoyant. Leicester meanwhile, are fresh off a home loss to Newcastle and have little left to fight for this term. With Vicente Iborra ruled out for the rest of the campaign also, the Foxes may lose their bite in midfield. I am expecting a tight game, but just shade Burnley to record their fifth win in a row.
Niall: Burnley can all but seal Europa League qualification if they beat Leicester at home on Saturday. The Clarets are currently six points above the Foxes, and that could become nine if they manage a fifth win on the bounce. Burnley are in great form at the moment and Leicester’s recent struggles make this look like another win for the hosts, and I have to agree with that notion.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Leicester
Crystal Palace vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: In this faux-derby of sorts, the stakes are raised even higher with both sides battling for Premier League safety. The Eagles’ late point away to Bournemouth last time out could yet prove vital come May 13th. Brighton have again hit the buffers at a crucial time, but their away record in recent weeks has been good. The atmosphere at Selhurst Park will be electric this Saturday, and again I am expecting a tight contest. But with the home support and the importance of this game, I can just about see Palace nicking a huge three points.
Niall: Crystal Palace head into match-week 34 with a three point gap between themselves and the relegation zone. The Eagles have only won one in their last five and need another victory to put some daylight between themselves and Southampton. Brighton should be safe at this point and given the Seagulls’ struggles away from home, I think a big result could come Palace’s way.
Prediction: Palace 2-0 Brighton
Huddersfield Town vs. Watford (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: This is a massive outing for the Terriers. With their final two games against Manchester City and Arsenal, this could be the last chance saloon for David Wagner‘s men already. Watford have taken just a point from their last three games but are still largely safe from the drop zone. Huddersfield have been notoriously shot-shy in recent weeks, but they need to find their shooting boots here. A loss for the hosts will almost certainly spell relegation, but up in the face of such threat I do believe they will get a precious win, which may yet be pivotal for their survival hopes.
Niall: Huddersfield came away from Brighton with a point last weekend which is a good result, but the Terriers need a win as they battle against relegation. Watford have been good at home under Javi Gracia, but their away form leaves a lot to be desired. Huddersfield are a tough side to beat at home and their desperation for points may give them a competitive edge in this match-up
Neil: This is Swansea’s big chance to pull away from the bottom three and pick up a huge win against Everton. After a run of games on the road, the Swans return to the Liberty Stadium and place now having become somewhat of a fortress under Carlos Carvalhal. The hosts have won all of their last four games at home – form which has been largely responsible for Swansea’s late-season resurgence. The Toffees meanwhiles continue to be somewhat hapless on the road although their last away day brought three points at Stoke. Will it be the same here? In short no. Swansea are a force to be reckoned with in attack and that should prove decisive here.
Prediction: Swansea 3-1 Everton
Niall: The relegation threatened clubs have taken centre stage this Saturday and this match is no different. Everton are safe from that battle, but Swansea are still right in there. A win though can move the Welsh side seven points clear potentially and that may be enough to see them stay in the league for another season. In front of their home fans, I expect the Swans to edge this one and move one step closer to survival.
Neil: Matchweek 34 sees a double helping of Saturday evening action. First at Anfield, a European-buoyed Reds entertain the Cherries. Having seen off Man City, Liverpool switch their focus to domestic affairs. Jurgen Klopp has promised a strong lineup ahead of this one, but now just two wins away from UEFA Champions League glory once more, that remains to be seen how strongly his words hold up. Bournemouth have forgotten how to lose for the most part and have lost just twice in the league this calendar year. The visitors will make this an entertaining affair, but the Reds are riding the crest of a wave right now, and their attacking line – with or without Mo Salah – should be enough for the win.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Bournemouth
Niall: After their impressive Champions League win at Manchester City in midweek, Liverpool return to securing their place in next season’s group stages when they face Bournemouth on Saturday. The Reds are now level on points with Spurs after a 0-0 draw at Everton last week, a position that could see them needing to go through qualification to get into next year’s competition if Tottenham win their game in hand. There is still plenty to fight for in the top four whilst Bournemouth are pretty much safe in mid-table. With that in mind I think the Reds will get the three points they need here.
Neil: A few weeks ago, Saturday night’s main event would a few weeks ago have seen been expected to be City’s first game as confirmed Premier League champions, making the trip to Wembley to face Tottenham Hotspur. Three successive losses however, have seen the wheels fall off the Citizens’ juggernaut as Pep Guardiola‘s men were stung by a Paul Pogba-led rearguard action in the Manchester derby last weekend. Spurs meanwhile, have won the last six games in a row and not content with securing top-four football are trying the upset the plans of many a team until the end of the campaign. City look visibly shaken since their nightmarish run, but normally I would back them to take a win here. However, Spurs are still a real monster at home and as City look for opportunities to close the title out, I can’t see it being here and back what might be considered a shock home win.
Niall: Manchester City come into this match having lost their last three matches in all competitions. The chinks in their armour are beginning to show, but the fact is they have always been there, it is just that teams have not been brave or good enough to exploit them. Tottenham are a team that are capable of doing what Liverpool and Manchester United did against City, will they? There are questions about how much Manchester City’s confidence has been shook after their previous three matches, but they can also come out thirsty for revenge. Tottenham are the team with the best form in the league right now though, and I think with the right game plan they can defeat Man City.
Neil: Three wins on the bounce have seen Newcastle really dig themselves out of trouble at the foot of the table. As the Magpies welcome likely travel-weary Gunners to St. James’ Park also, they might be eyeing another valuable maximum haul to guarantee safety and avoid an immediate return to the Championship. Arsenal still look woeful in defence even if their attacking edge remains. This should be an open affair but on the back of their Russian travels I can see both taking a share of the spoils here.
Niall: With Chelsea struggling for form, Arsenal could sneak up on the Blues and overtake them into fifth place if they keep up their good form. However, Newcastle are in good form themselves under Rafa Benitez and the Magpies are aiming for a top half finish as a result. The Spaniard makes his teams difficult to beat so I would not be shocked if they get a result against the Gunners on Sunday.
Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion (Sunday, 16:00)
Neil: United shock derby win – especially from 2-0 down – last Saturday evening came as a massive shock to most of the viewing world but confirms that the hosts are not to be taken lightly under any circumstance. Have we seen signs also of Alexis Sanchez hitting a late-season burst of form? If that is the case, a relegation-doomed West Brom seem the perfect candidate for more goals for the Old Trafford faithful. The Baggies have a more than decent record against the big team on the road, but I just can’t see anything other than a home win here, but some margin.
Niall: Man United claimed at least some bragging rights over Man City last weekend with their comeback win that derailed City’s title winning plan last week. That will surge United’s confidence undoubtedly which is bad reading for a West Brom side destined for the Championship. I can only see one result here and that is a Man United victory.
Neil: Monday night’s offering for Matchweek 34 sees a meeting of the two of the bottom seven. A few weeks ago this looked like another simply massive relegation six-pointer in the battle to stay in the top-flight. After taking four points from their last two games however, West Ham now look safe from trouble. Stoke though, could yet throw a spanner in the works with a win here and with Manuel Lanzini a doubt, Potters boss Paul Lambert will be looking for any crumb of comfort with his side four points from safety. As it is alas for the visitors, the win against Southampton a fortnight ago was huge and I can only see a home win here for the Irons.
Niall: Monday night’s offering is a big game at the bottom of the table as Stoke travel to West ham in need of a win. The Potters can not get out of the relegation zone even with a win, but three points will give Stoke a huge confidence boost. The Hammers earned a credible draw at Chelsea last week and have appeared to have steadied the ship somewhat. They are not safe from relegation though so they can not afford a slip up.
Prediction: West Ham 1-1 Stoke
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Tuesday, 19:45)
Neil: This first of quartet of midweek catch-up matches in Matchweek 34 sees Brighton host Spurs. This may not be as crucial for the hosts’ chances of survival but even so Chris Hughton‘s men will not be wanting to roll over. This is the sort of game that Harry Kane thrives on with the Spurs counter-attack, and unsurprisingly I am backing the visitors to make a it maximum points in the Matchweek.
Prediction: Brighton 1-3 Tottenham
Niall: The Premier League starts playing catch-up with a few mid-week games on offer, starting with Brighton hosting Spurs. Baring in mind the results I have predicted for the weekend, Tottenham will come into this match off a win over Man City whilst Brighton will come in winless in their last four. The Seagulls are a good side at the AMEX, but good enough to overturn an in-form Tottenham? I doubt it.
Prediction: Brighton 1-3 Tottenham
AFC Bournemouth vs. Manchester United (Wednesday, 19:45)
Neil: This quite a tricky one to call, especially with United’s FA Cup semi-final in a few day’s time, meaning there could be a number of rotations utilised from Sunday afternoon. As documented, the Cherries are strangers to defeat in particular at the Vitality Stadium, and with their attacking ethos I can see that being enough to take a point here.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-2 Man United
Niall: At this point, Manchester United may have some distant dream of an amazing comeback to overturn Manchester City. It is far fetched but why not have something to aim for no matter how small? Bournemouth have an aim of their own, to finish in the top half. The Vitality is not an easy place to visit as Man United have found out in the past, and I could see Bournemouth getting a result. However, United’s form and quality will probably be enough to secure a narrow victory.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Man United
Burnley vs. Chelsea (Thursday, 19:45)
Neil: Matchweek 34 rounds off first at Turf Moor, as Burnley play their second home game in a matter of days. Like United, Chelsea may opt to refresh things ahead of the cup semi-final against Spurs which makes this one an intriguing prospect. With Antonio Conte‘s days surely numbered in West London, the Blues have more than enough to be a threat to the Clarets’ goal but I just have a inkling that it could be a uncomfortable evening for the visitors and am plumping for an home win.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Chelsea
Niall: Everyone remembers the opening day of the season when Burnley upset the Champions at Stamford Bridge which kicked off this great run the Clarets have had this campaign. Can they repeat it at home? Of course they can, but that is not to say they will. The Blues are not looking great and this is a difficult away trip, but they are still the better side and they still should get a result here. A Burnley win will be no shock, but I think a draw is a more likely result.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Chelsea
Leicester City vs. Southampton (Thursday, 19:45)
Even with a Wembley date on Saturday, the visitors may give this more importance depending on their result at the weekend. If as predicted they lose to Chelsea, the Saints could be close to an irretrievable situation in terms of avoiding the drop to the second-tier. Could the visitors catch out their opponents at the King Power? Well they could, but I am opting to stick with a Foxes win.
Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Southampton
Niall: The final game of this match-week comes at the King Power as Leicester continue their Europa League push against relegation threatened Southampton. Claude Puel faces his former club here in poor form, but the Saints are not looking great themselves. Southampton are in need of the points, but away at Leicester I just feel the Foxes will have the edge.
Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Southampton
Premier League Matchweek 34 begins on Saturday April 14th and runs until Thursday April 19th.
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