What a week of Champions League football.
What didn’t it have? Comeback, controversy and class in abundance. It’s a competition that rarely fails to scale the heights set by its bombastic billing.
The Premier League this weekend feels like a bit of a downer after that, doesn’t it? The title race is sewn up, the last few stitches are being put in place in the scrap for the top four. And at the bottom, a lack of momentum from any side in the drop zone means little is changing.
That must change for the likes of Southampton and Stoke City this weekend, as both have very different but winnable fixtures. Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Huddersfield have home matches that could see them pull away from the bottom three, too.
Here’s a look at what to expect, with score predictions, odds, and bookmakers.
Southampton vs. Chelsea
Teams at the bottom often need a trigger to spark a survival attempt into life. This might just be Southampton’s.
Although they came up against a weakened Arsenal side and eventually lost on Sunday, there were some positives for Mark Hughes to ponder. Having Charlie Austin back fit feels crucial for Saints if they are going to pull away from the Premier League’s trap door.
Despite their torrid recent form and testing run-in — including a final-day meeting with Manchester City — this is still salvageable, as Saints sit three points behind Palace with a game in hand. Victory over one of the Premier League’s big boys, albeit a struggling one like Chelsea, would enrich this squad with confidence, too.
The Blues are vulnerable and with this game being an early kickoff, there’s a layer added to the sense that Chelsea might slip up. The team were nowhere near their best in last week’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United either.
There’s a chance that manager Antonio Conte may have one eye on next week’s FA Cup semifinal, when they will meet Southampton again. Sitting 10 points behind Spurs and Liverpool in fifth, any chance of a top-four finish seems to be gone.
Saints can’t let their minds wander to Wembley next weekend and will hope to capitalize on a Chelsea side with little to play for. They don’t have the quality to win here, but a galvanizing performance will give them hope. Score prediction: 1-1 (7.00, William Hill)
Crystal Palace vs. Brighton
Of all the Premier League fixtures this weekend, the meeting between bitter rivals Palace and Brighton stands out. It’s a tussle that has the potential to make or break the campaign of the former.
Palace are in deep trouble still, yet throughout recent weeks they’ve never had the look of a side playing poorly. Indeed, in losses to Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at home, they were excellent only for late goals robbed them of any points.
This fixture presents an ideal opportunity for Palace to get back to winning ways. Not only because they are playing a big rival in Brighton, but they’re also up against one of the Premier League’s worst sides away from home.
Indeed, in their 15 league games on the road this term the Seagulls have netted just seven goals, three of which came in one match against West Ham United. For all that, Chris Houghton has done well this term, finding a formula to get this team more points away from the Amex Stadium is vital.
Victory for Palace would be enormous, as they’d put some space between themselves and the bottom three with a favorable run-in to come. Crucially, they have the indispensable Wilfried Zaha back in the side and at full fitness; his stunning goal at Bournemouth last week should’ve been enough for three points.
Brighton will be aware they’re not out of trouble yet — they face Tottenham, Burnley, United, City and Liverpool in their last five games — on 35 points. After this weekend, they’ll be looking at that awful end to the campaign with a little more nervousness. Score prediction: 2-0 (8.50, William Hill)
Tottenham vs. Manchester City
There has been a little bit of revisionism about City in the last 10 days, hasn’t there?
Of course, their season is set to finish on something of a downer after their Champions League elimination to Liverpool and loss to Manchester United. Still, Pep Guardiola’s side have been immaculate in the main in the Premier League, something that shouldn’t be forgotten.
They face arguably the worst possible opponents in an attempt to get back on track, as Tottenham continue to showcase why they’re so good in the second half of the season under Mauricio Pochettino. They’ve gone 14 games, since they last came up against City, without defeat.
At Wembley they’re really strong now, as Spurs have started to use the stadium to their advantage. Teams struggle to cope with the pressure Tottenham bring on the large playing surface and late in games Pochettino’s men have been able to trample over opponents.
After two games against Liverpool, one of the most energetic sides in European football, another strenuous afternoon is on the cards here for City. Spurs, after all, still have a lot to play for and Pochettino will be desperate for them to secure second spot in the Premier League for the second consecutive season.
City have been a little unfortunate in their last two matches with refereeing decisions too, and Guardiola will want to see some sort of response from his players. An entertaining game is surely in store, although it’s difficult to split two of the divisions best sides at the moment. Score prediction: 2-2 (13.00, William Hill)
Burnley vs. Leicester City
Since ending their winless run against Everton, Burnley have rediscovered their best form again, rattling off four wins on the spin. Victory for the Clarets here would put nine points between themselves and Leicester, who were poor against Newcastle last time out. Turf Moor is a tough place to go to for a team marooned in midtable too. Score prediction: 1-0 (7.50, Betfair)
Huddersfield vs. Watford
Watford and Everton at home are the next two games for Huddersfield, and you feel as though two wins are crucial for them if they’re to stay up this season. David Wagner’s side finish the campaign with matches against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, so points on the board are so key. They should have too much for the toiling Hornets. Score prediction: 2-1 (10.00, Ladbrokes)
Swansea City vs. Everton
Swansea will see this home fixture as a massive opportunity, as Everton are going through the motions at this point the campaign. Late last season the Welsh side beat the Toffees to give themselves a tremendous chance of staying afloat in the top flight, and you feel they’re capable of getting another big win. Score prediction: 1-0 (7.50, Betfair)
Liverpool vs. Bournemouth
Fresh from their Champions League heroics, the onus will be on the Reds to do a professional job in this match with Bournemouth, as they need to keep ticking over to remain among the top four in the table. Bournemouth are safe and will surely come to Anfield to have a bit of a go; that’ll play into the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s team. Score prediction: 3-1 (8.50, William Hill)
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Having effectively secured their top flight status with three wins on the bounce, this one is a free hit for Rafael Benitez and his Newcastle players. They’ll fancy their chances against an Arsenal team that has won only three times away from home this season and one that’ll be jaded after a trip to Moscow on Thursday. Score prediction: 2-1 (11.00, Ladbrokes)
Manchester United vs. West Bromwich Albion
West Brom stopped the rot last week against Swansea, although they remain marooned at the bottom of the table. After their derby comeback a week ago, spirits should be up at Old Trafford and the Red Devils will surely enjoy a routine afternoon ahead of next week’s FA Cup semifinal. Score prediction: 3-0 (6.50, William Hill)
West Ham vs. Stoke City
West Ham dug in to take a point from Chelsea last weekend and despite some serious fears about relegation, David Moyes’ team are slowly beginning to edge away from trouble. Stoke are right in it and after four losses in a row, Paul Lambert’s side will be so low on confidence. Another loss here will leave the Potters in massive trouble. Score prediction: 2-1 (9.00, William Hill)