Some thought we would not get here but Project Restart has come to its conclusion and it is the final day of the Premier League season, some 351 days since it started last August. With Champions League and Europa League positions to be determined as well as relegation, it is set to be an emotional day for some.
This week, Leeds United secured their return to the top flight for the first time in 16 years as Champions while West Brom secured top-flight status as runners up. The play-offs to determine the third promoted side take place in the next week with Brentford Town, Fulham, Cardiff City and Swansea City (who required a five-goal swing to qualify) battling it out.
In the Premier League, we see an absolute classic encounter between Liverpool and Chelsea with the reds winning 5-3 on the night they eventually got to celebrate lifting the Premier League trophy. Aston Villa gave themselves a huge lift by eeking out a 1-0 win over FA Cup finalists Arsenal [Featured in the above image; Image from Aston Villa Football Club] which pulled them out of the relegation zone on goal difference just after Watford had conceded four to Man City.
Norwich were relegated a couple of weeks ago but the battle is between Warford, Aston Villa and Bournemouth. The Cherries face an uphill task; they need to beat Everton and hope Aston Villa and Watford both lose their games at West ham and Arsenal. Aston Villa’s win over Arsenal in midweek could be huge. They have the ascendancy and need to only match Watford’s exact result to stay up on goal difference.
In the battle for Europe, 3rd place Chelsea host Wolves; a side who are battling to qualify for the Europa League. They have a 1 point advantage over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur who could beat them to 6th and European football. Spurs do have a superior goal difference and a point would be enough for them to qualify if Wolves lose at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are in the driving seat though as the other two teams battling for those positions; Leicester City and Manchester United face off. That said, they need at least a draw in that game to secure Champions League football. If they lose and Leicester and Man United draw then they will miss out on goal difference.
Those are just the two biggest issues to be resolved. Every other game there is still points on the line and positions to be settled which will have big ramifications on the prize money clubs receive.
There are a lot of things that could happen and I am back with my predictions of what I think will transpire along with the predictions made by BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson, Sky Sports Charlie Nicholas and the infamous BT Script. As usual, I will be using the scoring system used by Sky for their Super 6 game (five points for the correct score, two for the correct result). All games kick-off at 4pm to ensure no foul play and each game is televised.
I will take a different format to these predictions and split them into the key battles that will define the table, starting with the relegation battle.
The Relegation battle…
Everton vs AFC Bournemouth
You can tell from his comments post-match that Eddie Howe still believes anything is possible but survival is out of Bournemouth’s hands. The Southampton game summarised their season; they’ve shipped goals while not being clinical enough with their own opportunities but the end of that game was cruel. Everton have rediscovered their fighting spirit which Ancelotti felt was missing when they were beaten by Wolves. They were decent on the counter-attack and given the Cherries need the result in this game, that could play into their hands. I would like to See Dominic Calvert Lewin get a goal. He was prolific initially under the Italian but hasn’t scored since the restart. Everton have won all four home meetings with Bournemouth scoring at least twice in each game while Ancelotti is still unbeaten at Goodison. I can only see the end of a five-season Premier League spell for Bournemouth.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 3-2, BT Script 1-2, Michael 1-1
Arsenal vs Watford
There didn’t seem to be much fight in Watford against Man City; their first game after Nigel Pearson’s sacking. I felt sorry for Ben Foster because he was their best player on the pitch and one of the few that showed any emotion but the defence did not help him much. It was like the opening half at West Ham and if they defend like that then their chances of a result will be slim. With Arsenal, it will depend on if they turn up. They do have a cup final to prepare for and a few players will have an eye on that. They will be wanting to avoid committing to challenges in fear of suspension or injury but Mikel Arteta will want to see a performance from his players to justify their selection next weekend. I can’t see Watford staying up and it will be a home win.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 3-1, BT Script 3-1, Michael 2-1
West Ham United vs Aston Villa
I felt Aston Villa needed a point against Arsenal to realistically be in the fight to survive but they went and won it. After a team that has conceded the lead so many times this season, they showed great character to see that game out and now as Dean Smith said, survival is in their hands. It won’t be straight forward though. West Ham have been good the past few weeks to steer themselves to safety and they did well to get a point at Man United on Wednesday. The Hamers tend to do well on the final day and have won their last game for the last three seasons while Villa have failed to win their last eight. They are also unbeaten in their four home league meetings with Villa. They have more fight about them now and I think they could get a point.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 1-1, BT Script 2-1, Michael 1-1
Who Stays up? Only the predictions of the BT Script would have Bournemouth staying up meaning Aston Villa and Watford would be relegated on goal difference. The other three predictions while different, all would result in Aston Villa staying up.
The European battle!
Chelsea vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
All the attention will be focused on Leicester but at Stamford Bridge, there will be an equally good game as both teams look to secure European football. Chelsea need only a point to secure Champions League football while Wolves need something to try and secure Europa League football for a second successive season. Chelsea are good going forward and will always be a threat if they take their chances but defensively, they aren’t the best and we saw that at Anfield. So, Wolves will get chances and I think they’ll score. They have played good football even with their season starting last July and the players deserve all credit. They played the better football against Palace and they’ll be a danger to Chelsea with them being two days fresher. Chelsea are unbeaten in their five home premier league meetings winning four but I think this could be a draw.
Predictions Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 2-2, BT Script 2-2, Michael 2-2
Leicester City vs Manchester United
This is a huge game. Both could make the Champions League depending on what happens at Stamford Bridge. Man United might just have hit a sticky patch at the wrong time. Up until the semi-final, they had been irresistible and against West Ham, it was a bit sluggish. That said, what on earth was Paul Pogba doing to concede that penalty? If you’re that much of a coward, duck out the way instead of putting your hands out like that. You’d only be anywhere near proud of that if you were a goalkeeper. Leicester despite taking a heavy defeat had most of the possession, loads of chances (24) at Spurs and staggeringly they failed to find the net. Could we expect more of the same? Man United are unbeaten in their last 10 against Leicester while another goal for Jamie Vardy would equal his Premier League best of 24. The Foxes have only won one of their 13 Premier League home matches against man united and I think this could be a draw which might not be enough for them.
Predictions Lawro 1-2, Nicholas 1-1, BT Script 1-0, Michael 1-1
Crystal Palace vs Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace have hit a bit of a rough patch at the moment, losing six in a row. They haven’t played terribly in that spell but it’s just little lapses in concentration at the back and not taking their chances as they were earlier in the season. They face Spurs who with a win could qualify for Europe. Who would have thought that at the restart? Spurs have started picking up results recently and have done so with not much possession and being clinical upfront. It was big for Harry Kane to get a couple of goals against Leicester and it should give him more confidence and he does like to score on the final day. This will be close. It might not be good on the eye as both teams seem content to play on the counter but form wise I would expect Spurs to just about edge it.
Predictions Lawro 0-2, Nicholas 1-2, BT Script 1-1, Michael 0-1
Who gets what? My predictions if they were accurate would mean the Champions League positions remain as they are with Chelsea and Man United qualifying in 3rd and 4th with Leicester having to settle for the Europa League in 5th. Wolves would miss out by one point finishing 7th behind Spurs. That is the scenario in all but the BT Script which predicts Spurs to miss out on the top 6 to Wolves in 6th while Leciester would beat Man United to the top four spots.
Burnley vs Brighton & Hove Albion
I have been impressed with Burnley since the restart. They have had several players leave already with the contract situation but they have stuck together as a collective unit, got results and were for a spell in the Europa League picture. They dominated the game against Norwich but with the Canaries down to 10 men they didn’t need to do that much to get the win. The Brighton game on Monday against Newcastle was probably one of the worst games I’ve seen since project restart. That said, Beighton mathematically secured safety with that draw and for Graham Potter in his first season at the club, where he’s changing the system and style of play, that is job done. Three of their five Premier League meetings have resulted in draws with Burnley winning the other two. With home advantage, I can see Burnley edging three points.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-1, BT Script 3-0, Michael 1-0
Manchester City vs Norwich City
I know Norwich have a bit of a record of surprising Man City; they won the reverse fixture and the last time they met at the Etihad on the final day of the season (2013). That couldn’t happen again surely. Man City have been rampant scorers since the restart, comfortably got past Watford without getting into third gear and the way they dispensed of teams at the Etihad the question is just how many? Pepe Guardiola does have the Champions League to prepare for but that’s not for a fortnight while the Norwich players have only pride left to play for but that went down the sink with the two sending offs against Burnley. With that additional strain on Daniel Farke’s squad, this could be a long game. The worst thing for them going into next season would be going down with a hammering but that could happen no matter what side Guardiola puts out.
Predictions Lawro 4-0, Nicholas 5-0, BT Script 6-1, Michael 6-0
Newcastle United vs Liverpool
After watching Newcastle for the past few weeks, I can’t help but think that some of the players have mentally left in that they feel they’re already on their holidays. That is something you don’t want when you’re preparing to face the newly crowned champions. The Liverpool players may have a similar mentality after celebrating getting the league trophy on Wednesday which means this game could peter out. I don’t see that happening to be honest purely because Newcastle have been on such poor form the past few games. Back to this game, the Magpies have won their final league match for the past five seasons last losing on the final day in 2014; when they faced Liverpool at Anfield. Mohamed Salaah likes scoring against Newcastle and I just cannot see Steve Bruce’s side having the quality or desire to get a result.
What I will say on Newcastle is, whatever happens with the takeover situation at the club, whether the Premier League approve it or not that they eventually give their decision because the whole process now is beyond a joke
Predictions Lawro 0-2, Nicholas 2-2, BT Script 0-1, Michael 0-3
Southampton vs Sheffield United
Southampton convincingly saw off Bournemouth last weekend but it could have been more if Danny Ings had converted the penalty. The hunger to improve is there and Ralph Hassehuttl has done a good job this year. Sheffield United, it’s been a great season for them. They’re the only promoted side guaranteed to stay up and have been challenging for Europe. Even though they can’t qualify for the Europa League, it’s been a fantastic season for them. That said, they were disappointing not to get anything against Everton, They had most of the chances but they didn’t get a single effort on target. The Blades have not been great travellers since the restart, winning none of their five away games and with Southampton in great form; unbeaten in their last seven and with Ings still in with a shout of the golden boot that the Saints will edge this game.
Predictions Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-1, BT Script 4-2, Michael 2-1
Before you go…
How does the prediction scoreboard look coming into the final round of games?
- Lawro extended his lead and will likely win the contest for this season after predicting two correct scores and four correct results (18pts) and leads on 464points.
- I remain in 2nd place after predicting one correct score and four correct results (13pts) and have 449 points.
- Nicholas remains third after predicting one correct score and four correct results (13pts); he has 438 points.
- The BT Script is still bottom of the scoreboard after predicting one correct score and four correct results (13pts); it has 399 points.
How will it look after the final round of fixtures? I suppose you will have to wait for the Premier League review post…