There are just two weekends left in the Premier League season. Okay, some teams actually have three matches left, but the season is almost over either way.
The focus is on the bottom three. We will still hear a bit of chatter about the top four, of course, but in all likelihood that is done and dusted. Five matches are televised across this weekend, and that’s what takes our focus here…
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Brighton’s draw away at Burnley last time out should have just squeaked them over the line to safety. Chris Hughton has done a stellar job this season, and it looks like his side will have a second Premier League campaign even though they may well fall short of the famous 40-point mark.
Manchester United as good as secured second place thanks to a Marouane Fellaini winner against Arsenal. Yes, that might be the most Jose Mourinho thing that has ever happened, but it underlines a decent league season for the Red Devils. Their points total could be higher than many previous champions...
I expect a cagey affair under the lights at the Amex on Friday evening. Brighton would take another 0-0, while Manchester United may be beginning to turn their attention to the upcoming FA Cup final.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 10/11
Stoke City vs CRYSTAL PALACE
Stoke City’s draw at Liverpool last weekend was a good result without context. In context, it was a disaster, as the Potters look set to depart the Premier League after a lengthy stay. Paul Lambert’s tenure has seen just one victory, they now need two wins from two to have any chance of safety.
At the other end of the spectrum, Crystal Palace smashed Leicester 5-0 at home last Saturday to as good as book themselves a place in the league for next season. Roy Hodgson has done a brilliant job with the Eagles and could yet finish in the top half.
I don’t see Stoke getting a win here. Their defence continues to give up good opportunities, while their attacking creativity is virtually nil.
TIP: Crystal Palace to win OR draw @ 13/25
Everton vs SOUTHAMPTON
Mark Hughes’ Southampton notched an all-important victory last weekend. The south coast club are just a point short of safety coming into this match but could be further adrift by the time they kick-off on Saturday evening.
Even after a victory away at Huddersfield last time out – that was a huge bonus for Southampton – Everton manager Sam Allardyce has faced strong criticism. All is not well up at Goodison Park. The Toffees have a decent record at home, but this really is a dead rubber for the Merseyside club.
I don’t buy into the ‘wanting it more’ logic that we hear so frequently in football. At this time of year, though, motivation can be an issue for teams with nothing to play for. That, along with the attacking intent shown under Hughes, makes me fancy Southampton to get a result.
TIP: Southampton to win OR draw @ 2/5
MANCHESTER CITY vs Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield’s torturous end to the season begins here. Home defeat to Everton last weekend put the Terriers in severe trouble, with fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal to follow their trip to face the champions. David Wagner’s team have been in a somewhat false position of late, they need something special to avoid the drop.
Anyone who thought Manchester City might relax once it was sewn up have been proven emphatically wrong. Pep Guardiola’s side already have 102 league goals, having scored nine over their last two Premier League matches.
The party spirit could continue at the Etihad this weekend. Huddersfield are in serious trouble.
TIP: Over 2.5 home goals @ 12/25
Chelsea vs LIVERPOOL
Chelsea simply have to win this one if they are to make the top four. Antonio Conte’s side have won three straight thanks to their 1-0 victory away at Swansea last weekend, and seem to have moved on from their dire start to the calendar year.
Assuming Liverpool qualify for the Champions League Final, this match is little more than preparation. Their top four status is still under threat, though, and could be under severe pressure in the closing weekend of the season if they lose at Stamford Bridge this Sunday.
The Blues’ performances haven’t improved much, even though their results have. I fancy Liverpool to get something here, which will end any top four discussion.
TIP: Liverpool to win or draw @ 7/10
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*