The Britwatch Football Team give their preview and predictions for the weekend’s action
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PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – Matchweek 36 rolls around with just three weeks of the Premier League season to play, as Arsene Wenger makes his Old Trafford bow as Manchester United host Arsenal. As usual our writers have their say on what they think will happen.
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Liverpool vs. Stoke City (Saturday, 12:30)
Neil: Matchweek 36 gets under way at Anfield. Liverpool were sensational versus AS Roma, but it was once again their soft defensive underbelly that was exposed on Merseyside late on. I am running out of superlatives for Mo Salah who is now three shy of Alan Shearer‘s Premier League goalscoring record and four of Reds great Ian Rush for goals across the board for a season with 47. Stoke’s point against Burnley last time out is unlikely to be enough and the Potters could go down this weekend if results go against them. Even if Jurgen Klopp were to shuffle his pack, the hosts will surely have too much. It could be the end for Paul Lambert‘s men.
Niall: Liverpool put five past Roma in midweek, but the tie is far from done as the Italians got two back to set up a more intriguing second leg in the Italian capital. It will be interesting to see if Klopp decides to rest players with the second leg in mind which in theory should give Stoke a chance of picking up a point or three, much like West Brom the previous week. However, I still think a weakened Liverpool should have enough going forward to overwhelm Stoke.
Burnley vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: The Clarets are still harbouring ambitions of a top-six finish above Arsenal, but even without that will now be in Europe next year for certain after Southampton‘s cup exit. This will come down to a battle of the old fashioned target man in both Chris Wood and Glenn Murray – both who whom have reached double figures this season for their respective clubs. The Seagulls have fared well on the road in recent weeks but I can only see one winner here – the hosts.
Niall: The Clarets have all but sealed their place in the Europa League next season which is a great achievement for a club with such little resources compared to the competition. Turf Moor has always been a fortress for Burnley and Brighton have struggled away from the AMEX, so I am going for a Burnley win to continue their good form.
Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Brighton
Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: Whilst Crystal Palace are scrapping for points at the foot of the table, the Eagles could take a huge step towards survival this weekend against the visiting Leicester City. After salvaging a big point away to Watford last weekend, Roy Hodgson‘s men return to Selhurst Park knowing just a win will effectively guarantee their top-flight status for another season. Leicester meanwhile seem to have ran out of steam in the final weeks of the campaign and laboured to a goalless draw against the Saints a fortnight ago. I expect this to be an open contest, but I just get the feeling this could be the day Palace fans have waited all season for – confirmation of their top-flight status next year, against the odds in Matchweek 36.
Niall: Palace are still fighting relegation and could seal their Premier League status for next season with a win at home to Leicester. The Foxes are safely mid-table and not fighting for anything at the moment, so the extra motivation and stakes for the Eagles could see them edge out a Leicester side who have not won in their last three.
Prediction: Palace 2-1 Leicester
Huddersfield Town vs. Everton (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: Despite Huddersfield being six points from the drop zone, the Terriers continue to look nervously over their shoulder. Here however, David Wagner‘s men could – like Palace – confirm their safety from the pitfalls of relegation. Everton snatched the three points against Newcastle on Monday evening but have little to play for in truth and it is beginning to show. The hosts grabbed a massive win at the John Smiths’ two weeks ago, but I cannot see a repeat here mainly due to the their lack of creativity in the final third. But it may not matter however. Score draw.
Niall: This is a big game for Huddersfield. After hosting Everton this weekend, the Terriers have to face Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal for the remainder of the season, making this match a must win for Huddersfield. Everton are coming in off a solid 1-0 win at home to Newcastle and they will no doubt make it difficult for the relegation battling Huddersfield. It will be tight and I think goals will be sparse, in fact there may be none at all.
Newcastle United vs. West Bromwich Albion (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: Having lost their winning streak in their narrow loss to Everton on Monday night, Newcastle United will look for a response in their penultimate home game of the season. They face a West Brom side who, though have taken five points from their last three games are heading for inevitable relegation still. I think this might be close affair, but like Stoke the Baggies could be confirmed as a Championship side by 5pm on Saturday. With the Magpies’ impressive home record this calendar year also, I am backing them for the win.
Niall: The Baggies could be relegated this weekend if results do not go their way so they have got to grab the three points when they travel to St James’ Park. Newcastle’s winning run ended on Monday but they should improve in front of their home fans. West Brom have been better in recent weeks, as evident by their win against Manchester United and a draw against Liverpool, but I think we will be saying bye to the Baggies this weekend.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 West Brom
Southampton vs. AFC Bournemouth (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: For Southampton to have any chance of staying up, a win in the south coast derby is surely a must here against Bournemouth. The hosts have put in far better showings in the last month but their achilles heel continues to be their sheer inability to defend. The Cherries remain upwardly mobile despite losses to both Liverpool and Spurs in the past few games, but Eddie Howe‘s men will be looking for a response from his side who could effectively relegate their opponents. Do I see that happening? Not conclusively, but a point will not be enough.
Niall: Another big game at the bottom of the table as Southampton host Bournemouth. The Saints are four points from safety as things stand and have not won a game in their last five. Bournemouth are fairly inconsistent and have not won in their last four. This could be a big opportunity for Southampton to pick up three points and I think they may do it.
Neil: Saturday evening’s Matchweek 36 takes place at the Liberty Stadium, as a Swansea side who have hit the buffers in recent weeks entertain Chelsea. The Swans crawl to safety has been an arduous one but after a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City last time out the Welsh side return home where they have a decent home record against the top-six this season – with wins versus both Liverpool and Arsenal since the turn of the year. This might be a different story however. The Blues have carried an increasing threat with Olivier Giroud up front over Alvaro Morata and I would back that threat to continue here, but I do think the hosts will take a point and edge closer to safety.
Niall: If Southampton or Stoke get a result on Saturday then Swansea’s evening fixture against Chelsea becomes even bigger. The Swans could find themselves only a point above either or both of them teams heading in, but conversely they could all but seal their survival if Southampton and Stoke lose and they win. Chelsea are not in the best league form at the moment despite winning their last two and Swansea can be a difficult place to visit. I can see Swansea getting a result here, but I can not back them to win.
West Ham United vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 14:15)
Neil: The first offering of Sunday afternoon entertainment in Matchweek 36 sees West Ham United play host to the champions. West Ham are all but safe now but not mathematically so yet, as they face the champions Manchester City at the London Stadium. Having suffered to defeat at the Emirates last Sunday, David Moyes‘ men host the Citizens now setting their sights on record goal and points tallies, having wrapped up the league title. The Hammers have proven game enough for a fight in recent weeks and pushed the visitors all the way at the Etihad earlier this season. Though I see the hosts finding the net here, Pep Guardiola‘s men will have to much too handle once more.
Niall: Despite being six points clear of Southampton, West Ham are not yet entirely safe from relegation. A loss to Manchester City and wins for their rivals will drag the Hammers right into the thick of that battle and that would spell a nervy end to the season. Manchester City are chasing records now, and with no other distractions they can afford to play their best XI. The Hammers did give them a good game at the Etihad and will make it difficult, but I can not see past a City win.
Neil: It is perhaps fitting that Arsene Wenger‘s final ‘big’ clash of his era at Arsenal is against not only Manchester United but Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. Whilst for the most part in recent years the Theatre of Dreams has been more a place of nightmares for the Frenchman, it still holds special memories still for Wenger. His more immediate concern here however could be with regard to prioritising European commitments over domestic ones with a trip to Madrid to face Atletico to come this Thursday.
Lurking in the shadows to spoil Wenger’s farewell however also is Alexis Sanchez, in what will be the Chilean’s first outing against his former employers. Sanchez himself has stated he is keen to ‘stick one’ to his old club, adding further fuel to the fire. The romantics would have Wenger win his 58th and final meeting against United, especially against nemesis Mourinho. However, the Portuguese is not the type for poetic conclusions and I cannot see Arsenal or Wenger getting one here.
Niall: It is fitting that on his farewell tour from Arsenal, Arsene Wenger will face one of his biggest rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. It is just a shame it is not Sir Alex Ferguson in the opposite dug out, not to say that Mourinho is not a fierce rival of Wenger’s too. There have been so many classic games between these two sides during the Frenchman’s reign and this may join that list. It is a clash of styles with United’s stability against Arsenal’s fluidity and I expect the Red Devils’ defence to win the day.
Neil: Matchweek 36 rounds off at Wembley, as Tottenham Hotspur host Watford. The Lilywhites are again going through a difficult spell after a draw against Brighton and having been dumped out of the Emirates FA Cup to Manchester United last weekend. With question marks over Mauricio Pochettino in North London for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity for his side to bounce back, against a Hornets who are seemingly playing out time this season. It could also be a decent chance for Harry Kane to get back in the goals with the World Cup less than eight weeks away. Spurs will have too much here.
Niall: Manchester proved to be a nightmare for Spurs as they lost to Manchester City and Manchester United in the space of a week. They have lost their momentum and they need it back with Chelsea looking to pip them to fourth place. Watford do not travel well though and can leak goals, so I think Tottenham will return to winning ways at home.
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