Liverpool are the Premier League Champions. That is one sentence I never thought I would write but there you go. Their impressive 4-0 victory over Crystal palace coupled with Manchester City’s defeat at Chelsea [Pictured above, image from The Evening Standard] meant the title was there’s and it was thoroughly deserved.
They have been the best and most consistent team by far this season. I’m sure the fans will have wanted to be there but that is not possible. Although after my experience of Liverpool fans last season when they thought they were going to win the league after their 3-2 win at Newcastle, that is probably a good thing for everyone else.
Do I buy into the 30 years of hurt narrative that I’ve seen spewed around on social media? Absolutely not. Yes, it had been 30 years since they won the league title but come on, in that time they have won the Champions League twice, the FA Cup several times amongst other trophies so hardly a painful and unsuccessful 30 years. I think fans of big clubs in particular while wanting to see their club succeed also need some perspective.
Now, to the action and predictions. As usual, I have been making predictions of the games this season and comparing them to the predictions made by BBC Sport Mark Lawrenson and Sky Sports Charlie Nicholas.
This weekend’s edition, I will be including the FA Cup Quarter Finals along with the weekends three Premier League games. There will hopefully be a second post for the midweek games as every side play their 32nd game of the season. The scores from the predictions will be collated together as one week.
Aston Villa vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
This will be an interesting game with it being a derby. Dean Smith’s side came back well against Newcastle and will be buoyed by their late equaliser even though it was slightly fortunate but Wolves will be a difficult game. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have done well since the restart and the lack of Europa League action combined with the break may well have helped them. They were efficient against Bournemouth and had much control of the game. Raul Jiminez is in good form and Adama Traore will be a handful for the Villa defence which have conceded on average two goals per game. Villa will have hoped to have the fans behind them as in a derby game, the fans can make all the difference as shown by their win over Wolves in the League Cup. I cannot see Villa beating Wolves and with them in form; gunning for a top-four spot I can see only one winner.
Predictions: Lawro 0-2, Nicholas 1-3, BT Script 0-1, Michael 0-2
Watford vs Southampton
Neither of these teams put in a great performance in midweek. I don’t think we’ll see quite such an early goal as last season; Shane Long broke the record for quickest goal scored after 7.69 seconds. The best news for Southampton was that they created chances. The bad news is they did not score and defensively, simple mistakes, misplaced passes let them down massively against Arsenal. Such mistakes need stamping out. Watford captain Troy Deeney spoke of them needing a lightbulb moment and they need something. Yes, they had a chance cleared off the line at Burnley but they weren’t good enough defensively. This is a big game for Nigel Pearson’s side with many of the sides around them not playing this weekend. If they could get a win it would be big, it would pressure on the likes of Bournemouth and West Ham. I’m going to go for the draw.
Predictions: Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 2-1, BT Script 1-1, Michael 1-1
Crystal Palace vs Burnley
We didn’t get to see much of Burnley in their first game after project restart. They were poor against Man City but against Watford, they looked sharper and on balance, they were deserving of their win. Likewise, we did not see much of Crystal Palace at Liverpool in midweek. They were simply outplayed by a better team and Roy Hodgson will be hoping his side can get back to a level of performance they showed against Bournemouth. Burnley while deserving of the win against Watford did not look great defensively and they are still without Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes so their attacking threat is almost nullified. Add in that Wilfreid Zaha may not be available after coming off against Liverpool then this won’t be blessed with goals. If a team is going to nick it, I would back Palace who have won the last four league meetings with the Clarets.
Predictions: Lawro 1-1, Nicholas 1-0, BT Script 0-0, Michael 0-1
Norwich City vs Manchester United Saturday 5.30pm
Project Restart was a potential fresh slate for Norwich being 6 points adrift at the bottom of the table but so far they have not looked like threatening to score. They made more of a game of it against Everton and they could do so again against Man United. However, I can only see Man United winning this game. Ole Gunner Solsjkaer’s side had a great result in midweek against Sheffield United with Anthony Martial’s hat-trick the first by a Man United player in 7 years. The cup represents an escape for Norwich from their league struggles while for Man United, it is their chance of silverware. I cannot see Daniel Farke’s side having the quality to keep Man United out. The red Devils won here 3-1 in the league earlier in the season and I would back another Man United win.
Predictions: Lawro 0-2, Michael 1-3
Sheffield United vs Arsenal Sunday 2.30pm
This is potentially a season-defining game for both sides. Neither side have started particularly well after the restart but on one hand, Arsenal have their first win under their belt. Mikel Arteta’s side pounced on defensive errors at Southampton and Emiliano Martinez looks competent filling in for Bernd Leno. Injuries will still be a concern as the games come thick and fast. For Sheffield United, the lockdown has stunted their momentum and they have struggled; yet to score in three games. Could this game be a turning point? Arsenal travel for their fourth successive game and fatigue may become a factor the later the game goes on. However, if Sheffield United are as vulnerable at the back I think Arsenal will edge this one.
Predictions: Lawro 1-1 (Sheff U after penalties), Michael 0-1
Leicester City vs Chelsea Sunday 4pm
Leicester disappointed me in midweek. I thought they would have enough quality to get past Brighton at home but in attack, they just did not get into a rhythm. They did not look sharp enough and almost edgy in taking their chances. In fact, they could easily have lost it if not for the heroics of Kasper Schmeichel in goal. They will have the benefit of an extra two days to prepare for this than Chelsea who did magnificently well against Man City on Thursday. Their confidence will be sky-high. These two met at this stage of the cup two years ago with extra time needed to separate the two sides. Chelsea won 2-1 that day. I think this will be a tight game which could go beyond the 90 minutes and the later that goes on I think Leicester with the slighter fresher legs could progress.
Predictions: Lawro 1-2, Michael 2-1 (after extra time)
Newcastle United vs Manchester City
As a Newcastle fan, I would have taken four points from the first two games after the restart. That said how Villa equalised; Elmohamady’s header going under Dubravka is disappointing. One more win would do it for Newcastle but Steve Bruce will really want to have a go at bringing a cup to Tyneside. Against Man City, it will be difficult. Pep Guardiola’s side have just been beaten by Chelsea and lost the title but they still have the Cup to fight for. The travel arrangements will be a concern for them. Newcastle have had the benefit of not travelling yet since the return to action and played a day earlier. They will be slightly fresher. Man City are missing Sergio Aguero and now Fernandinho is suspended so there are issues for Man City. As a Newcastle fan, I would love nothing more than to see the club win something but I can’t see Newcastle having the necessary quality to win this. They drew when they met at St James’ in December but I think the fans played a part in that and I’m not sure we will see a repeat.
Predictions: Lawro 0-3, Michael 0-2
Before you go…
How does the scoreboard look like coming into this weekends action…
- Lawro scored an impressive 23 points during midweek predicting three correct scores on top of four additional correct results. He takes a commanding 11 point lead with 392 points.
- I fall to 2nd after scoring 10 points for five correct results with no scores; I have 381 points.
- Charlie Nicholas predicted four correct results and scored 8 points; he has 369 points.
- The BT Script predicted six correct results and no scores for 12 points and has 340 points overall.
How will it look like before the midweek games and after as we head into the 33rd round of fixtures? There’s only one place to find out.