We are getting nearer to crunch time as the Premier League reaches its conclusion In the push for the Champions League places, Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United recorded wins over Norwich Coty, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Jose Mourinho [Pictured above; image from BBC.com] got his first league win at St James’ Park as his Spurs side beat Newcastle; even more remarkable that Serge Aurier played on only days after the death of his brother. Bournemouth were beaten by Manchester City, Liverpool tripped up in their search for the record Premier League points haul at Arsenal while Aston Villa will be ruing letting their second-half lead slip at Everton especially after West Ham beat Watford.
This weekend, the penultimate round of fixtures begins with only one game on Saturday and two on Sunday including a big south coast derby between Bournemouth and Southampton. The Cherries could have their relegation confirmed on Sunday if they fail to win at the same time Leeds United have had their return to the top flight after 16 years confirmed as Champions. There are three games on Monday night with the pick of the matches being Sheffield United vs Everton at Bramall Lane. The lack of league games this weekend is due to the FA Cup Semi-Final weekend with the last four FA Cup winners all in action at Wembley.
I am back with a round of predictions of these games including the FA Cup Semi-Final and comparing them with the predictions made by BBC Sports Mark Lawrenson and Sky Sports Charlie Nicholas as well as the BT Script although the latter two will not be predicting the FA Cup games though. As usual, I am using the scoring system used by Sky for their Super 6 game (five points for the correct score and two for the correct result).
While West Ham played Watford last night to start the weekend action off, that was part of the last round of fixtures. There is no Saturday three o’clock kick-off and action for the penultimate round begins with with a late Saturday kick-off…
Norwich City vs Burnley
Norwich put in a more gritty performance against Chelsea. They lost by only one goal but that is what can happen once a team is relegated; the pressure is off and the performances improve. They just lack that cutting edge in front of goal only scoring one goal since the restart and could become the third team in Premier League history to lose five straight home games without scoring. I just can’t see them getting a win against Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side has been excellent since the restart especially considering the squad issues they have had with injuries and players contracts expiring. They did really well to come back in the final 15 minutes against Wolves, they kept plucking away and were rewarded with the penalty. It is a sign of a great team spirit and for that reason I see Burnley keeping the momentum going and getting the three points.
Predictions Lawro 0-2, Nicholas 0-3, BT Script 1-1, Michael 0-2
AFC Bournemouth vs Southampton
This will be a tense game. Bournemouth performed well at Man City and deserve a lot of credit for that. They had their fair share of chances; if only they could have put more than one of them away, it would’ve been a huge game-changer down at the bottom of the table. Southampton go from one south coast derby to another in quick succession. Aside from their win over Man City at home, the Saints have been far stronger on their travels this season so this could benefit them. The number of chances they made against Brighton, they really should have won that and with Danny Ings in the form that he is in, they will always have a chance. The last two derbies at the Vitality have ended in draws but that would not be enough for Bournemouth to keep their survival hopes alive to the final day.
Predictions Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 2-2, BT Script 2-1, Michael 3-2
Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City
Stats wise, Spurs should not have won at Newcastle but then the only number that matter is the goals and they came out on top. It wasn’t pretty for Spurs but they withstood the pressure and made their chances count and were quick on the counter in the closing stages to see the game out. Their Champions League hopes are over though while Leicester’s are still alive. They were back to their best against Sheffield United and it was a good performance from Brendan Rodger’s side. They completely bossed the game. They’re stronger at home so their game against Man United next weekend will be huge. The Foxes have not won at Spurs since a 1-0 win in their league winning campaign and have lost on their last two visits. Spurs have been strong at home since the restart and will be slightly better rested than Leicester having played Wednesday.
Predictions Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 2-3, BT Script 4-1, Michael 2-1.
Arsenal vs Manchester City
Arsenal bounced back from their derby heartache with a brilliant win against champions Liverpool. Yes, they benefited from uncharacteristic mistakes from Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson but that should not take away from their huge defensive effort in the second half to keep Liverpool at bay. This will be another difficult game for Mikel Arteta’s side as he faces his managerial master Pep Guardiola for the second time. Man City duly delivered against Bournemouth. It wasn’t a straight forward game. The Cherries really made them work for it. Yes, Guardiola made changes perhaps with this game in mind but the quality on that pitch just did not deliver to their usual standards. Man City comfortably won 3-0 last time they met. I suspect if Arsenal can keep all 11 on the pitch this time it might be a closer contest but Man City should have enough to edge this encounter.
Predictions Lawro 0-2, Michael 1-2
Manchester United vs Chelsea
This second semi-final should be a cracker! After disappointing results last weekend, both these sides bounced back with wins in midweek. Chelsea bounced back from their horror show at Sheffield United and saw off Norwich. It could easily have been more but they kept a clean sheet which is a positive. Man United similarly bounced back with a win over Crystal Palace that on the scoreline looked comfortable but was a hard-fought game. David De Gea was busy too and before the lockdown, that is the sort of game they would have dropped points from but the composed finishing was excellent. Man United look the stronger side and have been much improved since the restart. This will be their fourth meeting in all competitions this season. Man United won the previous three. I suspect they will make it four even with Chelsea having two extra days to prepare.
Lawro 2-0, Michael 2-1
Before you go…
How does the scoreboard look like coming into the penultimate round of fixtures?
- Lawro still leads the way on the scoreboard after predicting one correct scores and four correct results (13pts); he has 446 points.
- I remain in second place after predicting two correct scores and two correct results (14pts); I have 436 points.
- Nicholas remains in third after predicting one correct score and three correct results (11pts); he has 418 points,
- The BT Script remains bottom of the scoreboard after predicting one correct score and three correct results (11pts); it has 396 points.
How will this scoreboard look coming into the final day of the Premier League season? There’s only one place to find out!