The Premier League is now on the home stretch of Project Restart with seven league games in the next three days before the final round of games next Sunday. This weekend saw Harry Kane back to his best as he scored a brace against Champions League-chasing Leicester City. Already relegated Norwich were beaten 2-0 by Burnley including an unfortunate own goal by Ben Godfrey while Bournemouth are staring into the abyss after losing the south coast derby with Southampton.
In this round of fixtures, we will know more in the relegation battle as well as the battle for European places. Wolves and Sheffield United who are chasing the Europa League spots face Crystal Palace and Everton this evening while in the next few days the teams involved in the FA Cup final play. The Semi-finals produced some surprising results. A Pierre Emerick Aubameyang inspired Arsenal defeated holders Manchester City as Mikel Arteta beat Pep Guardiola for the first time. Then, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea swept past Manchester United to set up a 7th all-London final and the third such of those occasions it has been Arsenal vs Chelsea.
Manchester United host relatively safe West Ham as they seek to bounce back and cement a top-four spot while third-place Chelsea, fresh from their FA Cup semi-final victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaers side, travel to Liverpool on Wednesday. This is the day Liverpool players and the fans have been waiting for, they will eventually lift the Premier League trophy. Arsenal carry on against Aston Villa while Manchester City travel to Watford; two games that could have big ramifications at the bottom of the table.
Bizarrely, Watford have announced the exit of manager Nigel Pearson [Pictured above; Image from TalkSPORT] with two games to go. It comes in the wake of their 3-1 defeat to West ham that has them teetering over the relegation zone but when you compare Watford now, to where they were when he came in December it is ridiculous. Watford is still in the driving seat to stay up which compared to where they were when Pearson replaced Quique Sanchez Flores (1 win in 15) is some achievement. At the time of his appointment, I felt they were already preparing for the Championship but he has got them to the cusp of safety. It means they have gone through three managers this season and even if they do stay up, there is just too much instability that I think they’ll be in the same situation next term.
I am back with my predictions for these games along with those made by BBC Sports Mark Lawrenson and Sky Sports Charlie Nicholas as well as the infamous BT Script. As usual, I will be using the scoreboard used by Sky for their Super 6 game (five points for the correct score and two for the correct result).
The action starts at the AMEX Stadium as Brighton host Newcastle…
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Newcastle United
These teams had slightly contrasting performances last time out. Brighton did not get many chances at Southampton but were fairly clinical with their shots on target (only 2), they defended hard and came away with a point. Meanwhile, Newcastle had loads of chances against Spurs (22) but weak defending cost them and they came away with nothing. The three goals were poor to concede so Steve Bruce needs to do something. The takeover situation at the club now is a farce. It’s been 15 weeks and no one at the club is any the wiser. It’s incredible! They are heading into a crucial transfer window with so much uncertainty and no direction. One way or another, a decision is needed! Jamaal Lascelles is out, Fabian Schar is out so it will be another makeshift defence. Newcastle haven’t had a great record at Brighton and I can see the Seagulls winning.
Predictions Lawro 1-1, Nicholas 1-1, BT Script 3-1, Michael 2-1
Sheffield United vs Everton
Chris Wilder was unusually critical of his players after their defeat to Leicester and stated only Dean Henderson came out of that game with any credit. That just goes to show how much they underperformed at the King Power; Leicester had them all over but the Blades offered very little. He will be disappointed and will hope for a bounce-back against Everton. Everton weren’t that great against Aston Villa either on Thursday but Carlo Ancelotti was happier with the spirit of his team than he was after their defeat to Wolves. The Italian is unbeaten in 14 Premier League meetings against promoted sides while Dean Henderson could reach 14 clean sheets for a promoted side, not done since Michel Vorm’s in 2011/12. The only two Premier League meetings at Bramall Lane have ended in draws and I could see that happening again.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 1-1, BT Script 0-1, Michael 1-1
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Crystal Palace
Wolves would have thought they had three points in the bag after Raul Jiminez spectacularly put them in front at Burnley. Instead, they were caught back by the plucky clarets. It was a fair result I think but now they face a Crystal Palace side that has been on a torrid run of results having lost their last five. They gave Man United a good game on Thursday and made them work for it. It was a fairly even game even if it wasn’t on the scoreboard. They will be a threat to Wolves having won at Molineux in three of their last four league visits. Wolves need three points to keep their European football hopes alive and if they can get Europa League football for a second successive season since promotion; that would be a big achievement. It will be a close game but Wolves should edge it.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-0, BT Script 3-3, Michael 1-0
Watford vs Manchester City
Just what is going on at Watford? If anything it will be the performance at West Ham that has sealed Nigel Pearson’s exit. They were atrocious in the first half! However, I just don’t see the point in getting rid of Pearson now, what difference will it make to whether they stay up or not because their last two games are horrible; they go to Arsenal on Sunday. That is probably the easier of their two games as Man City will be looking for vengeance after their semi-final defeat on the weekend. Pep Guardiola will demand a response and he usually gets it. Watford have never beaten Man City in the Premier League and they don’t need reminding how the reverse fixture ended up; 8-0. In their last two meetings, Watford have conceded 14 against this opposition and I could easily see Man City running riot in this game.
Predictions Lawro 0-2, Nicholas 1-3, BT Script 0-2, Michael 0-5
Aston Villa vs Arsenal
Just how big could that miss from Anwar El Ghazi be? At 1-0 up, if he could side foot that ball from Jack Grealish, they’re 2-0 up and Villa see that game out. Instead, Everton got a late equaliser. They had most of the chances at Everton and played well but it’s just seeing out games that have been the problem for Villa and now they have it all to do. It depends on which Arsenal side turn up? Will it be the one that saw off Man City impressively in the FA Cup or will it be a side still celebrating which could lead to a complacent performance? Dean Smith’s side know they need to get at least a point if they’re to give themselves a realistic chance of staying up when they go to West Ham on Sunday. I think they could get a point but nothing more.
Predictions Lawro 1-1, Nicholas 1-3, BT Script 3-1, Michael 1-1
Manchester United vs West Ham United
Man United were disappointing in the semi-final. Ole Gunnar Solsjaker made changes to his line up but they never got going. Clearly, Champions League qualification is the priority, but those football fans want to see a trophy. With man City out it was a great opportunity missed and the injuries and knocks they sustained could prove costly. West Ham were impressive in the first half against Watford and that result means they are effectively safe if Aston Villa fail to get a win against Arsenal. If that happens, then I can see West Ham downing tools slightly; the job is done. I can’t see David Moyes accepting that, this is personal for him. He’s never won against man united at Old Trafford and with Solsjaker likely to be starting his big guns in attack (Rashford, Martial and Greenwood) I think Man United will get the three points.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 3-1, BT Script 3-1, Michael 3-1
Liverpool vs Chelsea
Liverpool weren’t great at Arsenal. There were uncharacteristic mistakes from Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk which gave Arsenal the lead but once they conceded that they didn’t seem to have the ability to break Arsenal down. Defence has been a bit of an issue for Chelsea this season but that is what impressed me about their win over Man United in the semi-final. They seemed to have them under control which given their form after the restart is a pretty good effort. In the battle for Champions League football, Chelsea do have a tricky final game with Wolves on Sunday but they are in the driving seat really and I think they’ll get it regardless of what happens here. Liverpool will want to top off their celebrations in lifting the Premier League trophy with a win and being slightly fresher, I think they’ll get it.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-0, BT Script 2-1, Michael 2-1
The predictions scoreboard will be updated and shown at the bottom of the post predicting the result for the final day of the season which will be published before the Sunday 4pm kick-off.