The traditional 3pm kick-off is dying in the Premier League, thanks to television blackouts and other external factors. Of course, that causes arguments aplenty, just as everything does in football.
This weekend, we have a depleted 3pm schedule with matches dotted around Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The 3pm matches could yet have some importance, however, so here a few thoughts on the four fixtures that will be getting screamed about on Soccer Saturday…
AFC Bournemouth vs SWANSEA CITY
Bournemouth are one of those sides in the middle of the table. Everything is done and dusted, has been for a while, and form has dropped off as a result. The Cherries have had a challenging fixture list of late, taking just two points from 15 available.
Swansea’s form has declined, too. Carlos Carvalhal’s side have really struggled over their six-match winless streak, creating a meagre 2.79 expected goals with over 10 expected goals against. The troubles of the Paul Clement era are resurfacing.
The Welsh club still have three matches to play but sit a solitary point above the bottom three. Bournemouth are the better team, but I think Swansea will get something. The hosts’ defensive issues will aid the blunt Swans’ attack, which might be enough to squeak a result.
TIP: Swansea to win OR draw @ 3/4
LEICESTER CITY vs WEST HAM UNITED
Claude Puel reportedly needs a win here to save his job. The Foxes have picked up one point from four league games but Puel has done a solid job; Leicester are on course for a top half finish. Misfortune, rather than coaching failure, has been the centre of their recent problems.
Literally no one on the planet was surprised that West Ham were thumped by Manchester City last weekend. The Hammers, though, are still short of safety, sitting on 35 points.
One more win should do it for David Moyes, who has done a decent job in tricky circumstances. I think there will be goals in this one, as much because of each team’s failings as their strengths.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6
WATFORD vs NEWCASTLE UNITED
This match is everything we normally see at the end of the season. Two teams with nothing to play for, which has become clear in their recent performances. Watford briefly flirted with the bottom three but have been pretty comfortable since their flying start. Newcastle have lost consecutive matches after a winning streak.
Either side could yet finish in the top half of the table. That might be worth something to the accountants and club hierarchies. It’s hard to tell if players have relaxed a bit in these closing matches of the season, and it can make for some bizarre games.
Recent numbers suggest this will be a low-scoring one. Neither team creates a great deal of chances, while Newcastle’s defence is usually relatively secure.
TIP: Both teams to score (NO) @ 10/11
West Bromwich Albion vs TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Darren Moore’s heroics as West Brom manager have allowed to Baggies to retain their Premier League status into May. That looked improbable under Alan Pardew, and the Hawthorns faithful must be wondering why Moore wasn’t given a chance at the job earlier in the season.
Tottenham’s victory over Watford last time out put them within touching distance of securing a top four berth. Their lead over Chelsea can be stretched to eight points if they win here, with the Blues facing third-placed Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts have avoided the inevitable for a few weeks. They will likely be relegated by other results anyway, but I expect Spurs to confirm it.
TIP: Tottenham to win @ 2/5
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*