Only four rounds to go in this season’s Premier League and I can feel the withdrawal symptoms already. Chelsea will likely pick up the trophy this weekend but there will be frantic action at the bottom of the table where finishing 17th is as good as winning the league. Personally I feel that the current bottom three of Sunderland, QPR and Burnley will be the three to go down. Newcastle would have replaced one of them had they not accumulated early season points. The fans of those three teams must be very excited now as each time I have written a team off this season (and last) they have bounced back. Read on for more encouraging news about your team’s chances… Sorry in advance if I have picked your team to win and thereby put the hex on them..
Leicester City v Newcastle United
11:45pm Saturday 2 May OD
The Foxes performed a miracle stringing four wins together to climb out of the bottom three. The miracle looked like growing when they went into half time against Chelsea a goal to the good. Unfortunately the second half saw normal service resumed and Chelsea came back to win 3-1 and put Leicester right back into the relegation scrap. They will have to ensure that defeat doesn’t alter their aggressive play of recent weeks that has been so successful for them. They will be sweating on the fitness of Andy King who has been pivotal to their recent successes. Newcastle have lost seven on the trot and are a shambles. The fans are so disgruntled that manager John Carver has asked the club for protection from abusive patrons. The Magpies have not suddenly become a poor side, they have just lost their way and no-one within the set-up seems to have the answer to get them out of it. A must win for the home side and that is what I think they will do.
Player to Watch: Marc Albrighton. Tricky right-winger who has stamped his mark in recent weeks. Will also be boosted by his goal against Chelsea.
Aston Villa v Everton
02:00am Sunday 3 May OD
Villa were exceedingly unlucky not to get anything from their trip to Citeh last week but will take heart from that performance. They will also be boosted by their recent form and the fact they have destiny in their own hands. Their home form however has been poor this season with only three wins from 16 games. They have also failed to beat Everton in their last eight attempts. Everton have turned their season around with five wins and a draw in their last six culminating in their 3-0 demolition of Manchester United. Their defence has been strong in that run conceding only twice. Midfielder Gareth Barry has challenged his team-mates to finish the season unbeaten so chances are Villa won’t have an easy ride. Fascinating game and hard to call. Villa’s desperation should ensure a point but they may need some luck to take all three.
Player to Watch: Fabian Delph. Not normally one of my favourite players but been a strong presence in Villa’s midfield this season and seems to be relishing the relegation battle.
Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers
02:00am Sunday 3 May OD24
Liverpool have fallen apart in recent weeks suffering bitter defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal, being knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Villa then losing at relegation-battling Hull. A similar end to the season as they had last year and something that must be of concern to Brendan Rodgers. Champions League qualification is unlikely but they now face a struggle to hold on to fifth with Spurs and Southampton right up their jacksey. Having failed to score in their last two games they will not be helped by the continued absence of striker Daniel Sturridge. QPR should have picked up all three points against West Ham but a missed penalty and disallowed goal didn’t aid their cause. This is a game they must win as they are in danger of running out of time. Having won only twice on the road this season it is hard to see QPR getting a result albeit against a Reds side low on confidence. A scrappy home win looks likely.
Player to Watch: Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian has been a standout in recent weeks and has the quick feet to unlock a leaden-footed Rangers defence.
Sunderland v Southampton
02:00am Sunday 3 May OD
A point at Stoke was not enough to stop the Black Cats dropping into the bottom three. I guess one win in their previous ten games was a pre-cursor to that happening. Despite their plight it seems that Adam Johnson will not be considered due to his ongoing legal troubles. Jermain Defoe has also struggled to make the desired impact, scoring only twice since his return to the Premier League. Sunderland’s home form is also not encouraging with only three wins all season. Southampton are still well in contention for fifth and a Europa League spot but seem to be stumbling their way to the finishing line. A loss at Stoke was followed by a home draw with Spurs in which they were unable to hold on to a lead. They will be boosted by the return to goal-scoring form of Graziano Pelle who notched a double against Tottenham but will need to tighten their defence against a desperate Sunderland if they are to prevail. The home side could win but need to get on top early or the crowd will understandably get on their case and that will spell disaster. Saints to win and Sunderland to go one step closer to the drop.
Player to Watch: Jermain Defoe. On his day a predatory finisher and needs to make the most of the chances he is given if he is to lift his side from the doldrums.
Swansea City v Stoke City
02:00am Sunday 3 May OD
These sides currently sit eighth and ninth with neither likely to go any higher or much lower. That would normally mean a game with nothing on it but both these sides are looking at making history. Swansea have already topped their record Premier League points haul and are looking to beat their record high finish of ninth which they achieved two seasons ago. The Swans however struggle for consistency and that could be their downfall. They are pretty strong at home having lost only four times. Stoke are also aiming for an all-time high Premier League finish which is also ninth (achieved last season). They have managed to win five times on the road and also picked up seven draws so avoid defeat when away more often than not. They have also managed to score in their last five games. Another tough game to pick but Swansea for me have the edge.
Player to Watch: Gylfi Siggurdson. Hard-working midfielder for the Swans and not the worst in front of goal when he gets the chance.
West Ham United v Burnley
02:00am Sunday 3 May OD
Like most West Ham fans I am waiting for the season to end. A miraculous first half was created by the manager losing his favourites through injury and having to change personnel and tactics. Since the New Year he has reverted to type and the Hammers have become the most unwatchable side in the Premier League. One win in their last 12 just about sums it up and their lacklustre efforts against Stoke and QPR do not bode well for this game. Despite having the likes of Morgan Amalfitano and Nene on the bench Fat Sam will likely replace the injured Diafra Sakho with Carlton Cole or Kevin Nolan. Burnley are desperate and have given 100% effort all season without always getting a result. Anything other than a win here would likely condemn the club to relegation but the omens are not good. They have won only once and lost ten away from home this season and have only scored one goal in their last eight games. If effort was the decider then Burnley would win this at a canter but I simply cannot believe West Ham will be that bad they can’t score at least one so will take them to sneak home.
Player to Watch: Nene. Looks great warming up and down the sideline and that will likely be all we see of him (also created the winner when came on late against Sunderland but the fact that he is a footballer rather than a clogger counts against him in the manager’s eyes).
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion
04:30am Sunday 3 May OD24
The Red Devils will be smarting from their towelling at the hands of Everton last week and the fact that it allowed Citeh to overtake them in the battle for Mancunian supremacy. It was their second consecutive defeat and they failed to score in both those games. In a massive blow they will be without Wayne Rooney who limped off after suffering a knee injury against his old club Everton. The Baggies bounced back from a worrying three consecutive defeats, two of them at home, with a win at Palace and a battling draw at home to Liverpool. Those points have probably secured their top-flight status and there may be a danger that they turn up feeling their season is over. On the positive side, West Brom won this fixture last season but United have more to play for in this one and I cannot see a repeat.
Player to Watch: Robin Van Persie. Could get a start with the absence of Rooney and has 18 months of awful form and injury to put behind him.
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
12:30am Monday 4 May OD
Chelsea look set to bore their way to the Premier League title this weekend after the win at Leicester left them needing just two points to do so. It is a pity that their season has ended in rather negative fashion after their magnificent first half year where they strutted their stuff in magnificent fashion. The Pensioners are unbeaten at home this season having won 13 and drawn three. They have also only conceded seven times in those games whilst averaging nearly two goals a game themselves. Palace’s recent heady run has come to a grinding halt with two consecutive home defeats to lowly opposition. They have however won an outstanding five of their last six away games. The Eagles have beaten Chelsea only once in the league in the last 25 years and although they will be up for a challenge I can’t see them ruining the Kings Road Mincers title party.
Player to Watch: Willian. Boundless energy and an ability to beat a man on the outside makes him a handful every week.
Tottenham Hotspurs v Manchester City
03:00am Monday 4 May OD
Spurs’ form has been a bit up and down this season but they have managed to garner enough points to be well in contention for Europa League qualification. They currently sit sixth but are only behind a fading Liverpool on goal difference. Their last home game was a disappointing loss to Aston Villa and they have often struggled to put sides away at White Hart Lane (apart from their thrashing of Chelsea) leaving it late to make their mark. Citeh surrendered their title in recent weeks without much of a struggle. Back to back wins do not make up for the three losses in four games that saw their challenge to Chelsea fizzle out. Hard to know what is going through their minds as they appear to be going through the motions. They should be motivated to keep above rivals United but one can’t guarantee it. Hard to pick how both of these sides will perform from week to week but I will take a punt on Spurs being the hungrier and just getting home.
Player to Watch: Nacer Chadli. Forging himself a decent reputation at White Hart Lane and pops up occasionally to complement Harry Kane’s goal-scoring efforts.
Hull City v Arsenal
07:00am Tuesday 5 May OD24
I wrote Hull off a couple of weeks back and they have been shoving those words back down my throat since then. Back to back wins has seen them move four points clear from the drop and their win against Liverpool showed they have no fear of the top clubs. One more win should just about see them safe so you can guarantee a positive approach. On the downside they do tend to slip up at home regularly, having lost seven times at the KC Stadium this season. Arsenal have ended the season in magnificent fashion going unbeaten in their last ten, winning nine of them. In that time they have also managed to make it to the FA Cup Final. Only Chelsea have won more than Arsenal’s nine games away from home. Although the Gunners will be favourites I can see a resurgent Tigers pinching a point in this one. Remember that the Tigers managed a point at the Emirates earlier this season and made them work for their FA Cup triumph last season.
Player to Watch: Sione Aluko. Getting more regular starts and becoming an attacking nuisance alongside Dame N’Doye.
Davis Bets of the Week
At the risk of being boring like Chelsea I will repeat that these picks are what I consider ‘value’ bets. If you want favourites just go for the result with the lowest return.
The $3.75 for Hull to draw with Arsenal appeals. Hull have won two on the trot and have showed they are not intimidated by the Gunners. Although Arsenal have put together an impressive run they have been run close several times and a desperate Hull won’t be easy.
I also like the look of $3.60 for Spurs to beat Citeh. The Mancunians have fallen off the pace a little in recent weeks and seem to lack motivation. Spurs on the other hand have Liverpool in their sights and will be looking for the win.