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There may not have been that much in the way of Premier League football over the weekend, but there was still enough intriguing football over the week to keep the appetite satiated. Leicester City are England’s last hope in the Champions League as Manchester City manage to lose their tie on away goals because of their shocking approach to defending. Meanwhile their neighbours crash out of the FA Cup because of their specific targeting of Hazard and a referee intent to show everyone who the boss was. Hey ho, such is life in this funny old game.
With an international break almost upon us, there is enough time to consider the upcoming fixtures in the Premier League which is back up to full strength even if not all the teams in it are. Before that, let’s look back on what I thought would happen in the few league matches of last weekend and what actually happened. Points are at stake with these predictions – three points for a correct scoreline; one point for the correct outcome and zero points for getting everything wrong.
Bournemouth 2-2 West Ham (0 points – actual score 3-2)
Everton 2-1 West Brom (1 point – actual score 3-0)
Hull City 1-1 Swansea (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Liverpool 4-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Two points is measly, especially when there was a potential 12 available. The fifty percent split in getting the right outcomes for two of the four is no consolation really. It’s another of those weeks where I just need to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment and take a lie down. Then get up again and see if I can put something better for the upcoming weekend’s action.
West Brom 1-2 Arsenal: You know I really want to predict a defeat for Arsenal. I really do. No club in the Premier League infuriates me like Arsenal. They are patently capable of being a successful trophy winning football team, but refuse to be that. Yet they are what they are and now that there’s no pressure on them to achieve that much, this is when they will start playing the necessarily clinical football. Sure they have a semi-final in the FA Cup, but that’s a chump’s game these days. Yeah they have a top four fight on their hands, but that’s a fight they don’t know how to lose. Wenger has them geared for that. Meanwhile their opponents are beginning to betray all the signs of a club who knows their job is done. West Brom know they won’t get relegated. They even know that at worst they’ll finish in the upper end of the second half of the table. They will enter this match wanting to be competitive in front of their home crowd. Pulis would love to get one over on Wenger with their contrasting football styles and Wenger’s open distaste for the ‘efficient’ methods of his counterpart. The home crowd won’t be that awed by the visitors whose form in recent weeks in games that matter has been appalling. Yet Arsenal should still have enough to pull a win out of the hat of this lunchtime kick-off.
Crystal Palace 2-2 Watford: Allardyce knows full well that Palace are nowhere near out of the woods yet. Some of their recent results have eased them above the drop zone, but with Hull beating Swansea the gap between Palace and the bottom three is miniscule. The onus will be on them to show up and be brave enough to go for goals and strong enough to resist conceding. It’s pretty silly looking at the playing personnel and reaching that conclusion, but there we are. Meanwhile Watford still need to be very careful of slipping into that mess of a fight for survival. There’s no evidence that their football has really improved since last season, but then again the football last season was good enough to keep them up which is still what the Hornets should be grateful for. There is little to suggest the visitors will have much to be able to get a win at Selhurst Park., but being who they are, they may still have a sting in the tail where this fixture is concerned. They might just well prove to be a frustrating thorn in the side of the London team.
Everton 3-1 Hull City: Koeman’s first season in charge of Everton is going fairly well. Nothing breathtaking as it was when Martinez had a dazzling season in charge a few seasons ago. It’s steady progress. There is clear evidence of that. They are at the right end of the table, looking to see if they can pounce on any sign of weakness from the top six clubs. They are staying in the hunt. Not the best time to hear their top striker suggest that there’s not enough at the club to get him to commit to a contract extension. Hull City could take advantage of that. They certainly know there’s much to play for in going for the three points. It could be another priceless step in the right direction as far as this team is concerned. There is something about their commitment and organisation that suggests they are no way going to come to Goodison Park just to make up the numbers. Yet there is also something about the way Koeman wants this Everton side to play that indicates this tie will come to the quality on display and should it come to that the home side should have enough to wrap up all the points on offer.
Stoke City 0-2 Chelsea: Stoke are a strange team. Once they were just happy to be in the Premier League, but that was a fair few seasons ago. They are an established Premier League side and the question becomes one of what next. They don’t have the resources of the top six, so their next thing is midtable security, but they have been hitting that average comfortably for the last few seasons too. So they’re in an odd place. So fans may well criticise some of the decisions that Hughes has made regarding team selection and recruitment, but there is a legitimate question of who could come to the club and really do better? Not that those questions will in any way bother Chelsea who are far more concerned with continuing their relentless drive for the Premier League title. This game won’t be a walkover for them because playing Stoke in the Potteries is never easy. Yet the abundant quality throughout this team from back to front should assure the victory.
Sunderland 1-1 Burnley: It’s almost like a prerequisite for Burnley away from home. Play well, be tight, give everything, unsettle the opposition and still come away with nothing. Their last game away from home played to type. This fixture, however, gives them a real chance for something more. Sunderland are looking increasingly likely to get relegated. Even the recent return of Defoe to the England squad does nothing to get rid of that sense of the inevitable. They might take courage from Burnley’s away form, but that will be cold comfort if they don’t convert their chances and win this game. Three points would be more welcome for the home side than the visitors, but I think Dyche has enough about him to eek out a more positive result.
West Ham 3-1 Leicester City:
Bournemouth 2-2 Swansea City:
Middlesbrough 0-2 Man Utd:
Tottenham 2-1 Southampton:
Man City 2-2 Liverpool:
The weekend’s football isn’t looking that bad especially with the big game at the Etihad. The scores are not actually that straightforward to predict especially with a number of clubs having a lot to fight for in escaping from the clutches of the relegation zone. Yet I remain confident for a decent turnout of points. As ever …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Recently I was reminded of this song. Over twenty years ago I had the privilege of playing a cover version of this for a school swing band. My music teacher at the time encouraged me to listen to some jazz and I really enjoyed listening to Ella Fitzgerald. What a talented vocalist.
This is such a sweet piece that I am glad I was reminded of it. Hence me being delighted to share it with you.
C. L. J. Dryden
Oh you can almost see the finishing line in sight now. The FA Cup is reaching its quarter final stage this weekend. We are inching ever closer to game 30 for the teams. Things are beginning to get ready for the final push for points and places. Meanwhile poor Arsenal have a week to forget quickly that is thankfully off the top talking point after the amazing comeback of Barcelona to win their tie against PSG after being four goals down in the away leg having not scored even one away goal AND conceding an away goal in their fixture this week. What an amazing tie and what a way for others to casually overlook Arsenal’s collapse to Bayern for the third game in a row.
The game goes on, though, and with the games in the league come the predictions, so let us first see how I got on with the last set of fixtures. Points as ever being three for a correct prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero for nothing being right at all.
Man United 3-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Leicester 2-2 Hull City (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Swansea 2-1 Burnley (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Watford 2-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 3-4)
West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Tottenham 3-1 Everton (1 point – actual score 3-2)
Sunderland 1-4 Man City (1 point – actual score 0-2)
West Ham 0-2 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Yeesh. That was not a good set of result in line with my predictions – I may have scraped the 50% correct outcome figure, which is disappointing in itself, but to only get single points from those leaving an overall score of 5 points is pitiful to be fair. It’s not an Arsenal thrashing, but it is disappointing.
So let’s see if I can pick things up with the set of league fixtures that we are about to receive. This will cover the limited number of league fixtures so there won’t be that much to get wrong, surely.
Bournemouth 2-2 West Ham: Both teams have not had the greatest of runs at the moment and it’s hard to see which team will lift themselves most for the fixture. There is an argument to say the home side are in a better position to take advantage of their home comforts, yet West ham have been alright more often than not, so there’s little reason to count them out of this game.
Everton 2-1 West Brom: Of the two teams, Everton have the most to fight for. By that, I mean they have a higher league position to aspire to, whereas for West Brom, there is something about them that doesn’t strike me as being particularly aspirational for anything other than a comfortable league position. One they already have and might have gone to some way of explaining their defeat against Palace. This is a Pulis side, though so their should be a considerable degree of discomfort for the home side to impose their game. However Koeman has ambitions that should see the Toffeemen pull out the victor in a very tight game.
Hull City 1-1 Swansea: The Swans have made good steps forward under Clement, but they also know full well that they are not out of the woods just yet They need to pick up points and they need to be winning rather than losing these close encounters of the relegation kind. That will not be easy at all, because although the promising start of the new guy at Hull has subsided, they are still a relatively competent team in terms of making things difficult for the opponents. A win here will be a shot in the arm for their hopes of an incredulous escape. Not sure they will have enough to see it come about.
Liverpool 4-1 Burnley: Klopp does not strike me as the kind of guy who deals in revenge. He seems far too preoccupied with the preparation of his team and ensuring that everyone is ready to fire on all cylinders. It would not have escaped him, however, that Burnley were the first team to beat Liverpool in the league this season. It would not have escaped him either that the defeat came after they had bombarded the team and did everything but score. Question marks remain over Liverpool’s ability over teams in the lower half of the table, but with the poor away form of Burnley there is the promise of being able to win a game for change against the lesser teams for the home side.
Just the four games to consider this weekend, but a number of the teams nearer the bottom are in action so results could mean everything here. It’s all about if things will go in the favour of the teams that need it the most.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
This was broadcast over 30 years ago, giving a comedic representation of a system that was in place for decades previously. I wonder if that much has changed at all …
C. L. J. Dryden
Not much to get the pulses races in the world of football this week. Maybe the most important thing was the interesting decision of Luis Enrique to announce his departure from Barcelona at the end of the season. I don’t have a problem with the decision, it’s a good one to make especially if you are tired. Three years at the club, that’s not a bad run at all. I’m always intrigued at the timing of the announcement. How does that change the dynamic in the club and how do they rise to the occasion to be competitive?
That’s all going to come out in the wash. Meanwhile, here in England, there’s a full quota of Premier League football, which is good. Before we get that far, let’s review how I did in the eight games that took place last weekend. As ever the points system is exactly like the game itself – three points for a spot on prediction; one point for just the correct outcome and zero points for getting everything wrong.
Chelsea 4-1 Swansea (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Crystal Palace 0-0 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Everton 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Hull 2-0 Burnley (0 points – actual score 1-1)
West Brom 2-0 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Watford 1-1 West Ham (3 points)
Tottenham 2-1 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Leicester 1-3 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Five correct outcomes, one glorious correct scoreline gives a total of 7 points, which is not shabby considering the number of games. Five out of eight is not a shabby return either for the correct versus incorrect. It’s not shabby. It could be better, but it’s not shabby.
Now to consider the next three days worth of Premier League football and see if Chelsea can further extend their lead at the top of the table.
Man Utd 3-1 Bournemouth
Leicester 2-2 Hull City
Stoke City 1-0 Middlesbrough
Swansea 2-1 Burnley
Watford 2-1 Southampton
West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 3-1 Everton
Sunderland 1-4 Man City
West Ham 0-2 Chelsea
No doubt the game at Anfield will be the one to watch this weekend. The result of that could do wonders for United who could be at least one place closer to the top four by the end of the weekend. Meanwhile
Let’s see how it goes
C. L. J. Dryden
Football, eh. You take a little break from league action and then Leicester use that gap to sack their manager to great umbrage and outrage from the pundits. Well should they have sacked the man who won them the title in an incredible achievement less than one year ago? Loads of sentiment and arguments to and fro looking at loyalty versus expectations being disappointed significantly.
It feel like a long time ago since league action took place, but way back then I did have a go at looking at what I thought those scores would be, so it’s worth reminding ourselves what I thought versus the reality. Points are accumulated on the following score basis – three points for getting a spot on prediction; one point for just getting the right outcome and didley squat for getting everything wrong. Let’s have a look.
Arsenal 3-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Man Utd 2-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Middlesbrough 1-3 Everton (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Sunderland 2-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-4)
West Ham 2-1 West Brom (0 points – actual score 2-2)
Liverpool 1-3 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Burnley 0-3 Chelsea (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Swansea 3-2 Leicester (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Bournemouth 1-4 Mn City (1 point – actual score 0-2)
Sheesh, it’s not the most pleasant set of results. In terms of outcomes I eked out a mere 50% and with no correct scorelines at all there’s just a measly five points to look at for the effort put in. Not the best of weeks, to be fair and so it’s good to wash things out and have another go at this thing.
Moving swiftly on, then. With the exception of two league games being postponed because of the League Cup final, the other 16 teams will resume league action. So here is how I see those games panning out.
Chelsea 4-1 Swansea
Crystal Palace 0-0 Middlesbrough
Everton 3-1 Sunderland
Hull 2-0 Burnley
West Brom 2-0 Bournemouth
Watford 1-1 West Ham
Tottenham 2-1 Stoke City
Leicester 1-3 Liverpool
There are not that many games left in the season and points are becoming all the more precious. Expect tighter games, but there should be no lack in quality for all that. In any case …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
The world of football hasn’t been that busy of late, the stories doing the rounds reflect the lack of anything of worth to be talking about. Thus it’s on with looking to consider the games this weekend.
Before that however, we have the small matter of seeing how I did in the last set of predictions. The points system operates in a simple way – three points gained for a spot on prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero points for getting nothing.
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland (0 points – actual score 0-4)
Everton 2-1 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 6-3)
Hull City 1-3 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Southampton 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 1-3)
Watford 2-1 Burnley (3 points)
West Brom 1-1 Stoke City (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Tottenham 3-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Man City 4-0 Swansea City (1 point – actual score 2-1)
7 points is not the greatest return and a 50% return on the outcomes is only just about acceptable. You may have noticed that there was no prediction for the Leicester v Man Utd match which was an oversight on my part and so I duly accept the zero points that go with that. Which is a pity because the score could have done with me getting at least a point from that prediction. It’s not the best week of predictions.
However, there is the chance to do better by taking a look at this weekend’s fixtures. Let us have a look at what is going on.
Arsenal 3-1 Hull City: Here’s the thing. Arsenal tend to crumble when it really matters then resume their expected superiority when the chase is over. The chase is over. There was argument that the chase was over before the Watford game. There was more talk about the chase being over before the Chelsea game. Now, being twelve points behind the leaders, no matter what Wenger says, the chase is over. Apparently there’s a little issue about confirming their top four place, but seriously since when has Wenger failed on that minimum standard? Since never that’s since when. So as part of all that jazz they should return to winning ways in this home game. They should do, not because Hull City are pushovers. They played Liverpool and Man Utd in their last two games and if anyone had said they would emerge from those games unbeaten with four points they would have been committed to an institution for ongoing monitoring. Yet here they are arriving at the Emirates on a genuinely impressive run of form that could … yeah legitimately … see them emerge triumphant in their quest to play Premier League football in the 2017-18 season. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. They are still in the thick of the battle. It’s one thing going unbeaten against two heavyweights in a row, it’s a stretch of incredulity to expect them to leave this third encounter unscathed. It’s not impossible and let’s face it, it would be hilarious if that was to happen to Arsenal, but it’s just not going to happen. So there. (He says with a smirk of hope.)
Man Utd 2-1 Watford: United will know better than to take Watford for granted. Mazzari’s side are actually enjoying a decent run of form that has seen them unbeaten in their last four league fixtures winning the last two. One of those wins was away to Arsenal. That means Mourinho would be making a big mistake to take them lightly. The team from Hertfordshire can play a solid game that is high energy and frustrating to bigger opponents. United, however, are on a little mission of their own. Their unbeaten league run stretches back for months and yet they are still looking up at five clubs above them. Their fans are understandably wondering how and why. Especially as some of those sides have faltered dramatically of late, that United are still in sixth place is a sore point. It’s also part of the fuel that will motor the team onto taking this game seriously and applying due professionalism. They certainly have by far the superior squad, their selection of players is the envy of most teams in the Premier League and there is enough quality in them to make any team suffer if they are clinical. Therein lies the challenge for United especially at home where they have not been as clinical as they should and that allied with world class goalkeeping displays have meant a number of games have finished with frustrating draws. This one could go the same way if the opponents are similarly disciplined and focused more on stopping the red machine. The home team know, though, that they cannot afford to keep dropping points if they want to achieve their goal for the season.
Middlesbrough 1-3 Everton: This is the tale of two very different football teams. Middlesbrough were not guaranteed staying in the Premier League when they got promoted. Their squad did not scream the sort to be well established in the Premier League. Yet when you considered the others in their area of the division there should have been a glimmer of hope that if they play the right way and make things difficult for their opponents they could look forward to playing more Premier League football. As it’s transpiring, though, their run of form has been dire and they are not far from the drop themselves. What’s been the ongoing concern with them has been the lack of goals scored. Who knows if this was something Karanka wanted support in during the disappointing transfer window. All that is known is that they don’t look any the better to address that issue. That should be of grave concern to Boro fans. What should make that concern all the worse is that they are about to entertain a team who are on a run of games where they have won four of their last five games. Koeman is not the sort to get complacent, he’s never had the team in a position to do that. There has always been something to play for. He still sees there being something to play for with this Everton side on this run. They are five points behind a relentless United and four points ahead of a West Brom that doesn’t look in the mood to win that many games on the trot. That is to say Koeman is doing a tremendous job keeping his team motivated under such a safe position. Their entertaining game against Bournemouth would have told Koeman much of what his team is capable of both positive and negative and that will keep him on his toes in ensuring his team can get the maximum points available from the trip to Teeside.
Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace: The bottom of the table is fairly congested with five teams scrambling over each other in a bid to avoid the dreaded drop. One of the teams that has a squad that should not be in this scrap is Crystal Palace. Palace sacked Pardew before the transfer window and replaced him with Allardyce in a move that many applauded as the one that would see them ease out of danger. Four losses in five games was not the kind of form they had in mind. Second from bottom was not the plan going into this arrangement. Some blame the last guy for wrecking the club, to his credit Allardyce hasn’t gone down that road in terms of apportioning responsibility. Rightly so, because here is the guy much lauded for being able to turn it around fairly quickly. Small issue is, he really isn’t turning it around. The team aren’t looking that defensively solid. The team aren’t really that much of a threat up front. The team aren’t really that resilient mentally. The team aren’t really doing much worthy of thinking they can make the turnaround. Not the best time to make a trip to the Potteries. Stoke, however, are blowing a little hot and cold at the moment. They could do with a win to get back on track in their bid to finish in the top half of the table. This could be the game where they get to see some of the promise in their new guy Berahino, the defence they face would certainly appear to be generous for that to happen. That is not to say a Sam Allardyce team is just going to sit down and take it where this game is concerned. He will demand that they keep fighting until the end. It’s just that the end could still see them return to South London with nothing for their efforts.
Sunderland 2-1 Southampton: I can’t remember the last time I predicted Sunderland would win a match. I don’t even know if that has ever happened. That’s not any antagonism towards the Wearsiders. I don’t particularly find them distasteful, they have just been reliably awful throughout the season which is a good reason why they are looking up at 19 teams ahead of them. And yet here I am writing legitimately about Sunderland winning this game. That’s not a commendation about Sunderland, though. They still depend too much on Defoe for inspiration and goals. They are still far to porous at the back. Signing up a number of Everton rejects might make Moyes feel more comfortable but it’s not the recipe for success in the relegation dogfight. So it’s about their opponents. There is little that surprises me these days and Southampton’s collapse in league form of late is one of those things that has not been that surprising. It’s as though the entire club has gone on snooze mode in preparation for the League Cup final. Their performances and results have been so substandard that they have to do something to be careful to rise themselves from this or else the effort will be for nothing and there is still enough time for them to get sucked into the mess at the bottom of the table. If it was down to comparing between the two sides in their quality the Saints should go marching in to collecting three points. Yet Moyes should have enough in him and in this squad and hopefully in their goal-den saviour Defoe to snap up another three points that might prove valuable in their quest to stay up.
West Ham 2-1 West Brom: Although the Hammers are one place behind the Baggies there is a not insignificant five point gap separating the two teams. That is testament to the sterling work Pulis has done at the Hawthorns in going to great lengths to ensure not just safety but progression. Finishing in the top half of the table would definitely be classed as progression to the Midlands side. Not so much for the team playing in London. Although they recovered well from the City beating to defeat Southampton, Slaven Bilic will know that there is still much work to do to finish what has been a tumultuous season on a high. He speaks well of the squad cohesion in the light of certain transfer debacles and if they are indeed settled and the team pattern can work well, they have every chance of emerging from this tussle with the much needed victory to bridge the gap between both sides. Pulis sides are notoriously stubborn, though, and even if their away record isn’t that much to write home about, they can still prove to be tricky for those forever blowing bubbles. The progress of late since 2017 and the quality of players who are not playing towards their peak means that West Ham can look forward to this game with some optimism. Though a safer prediction would be to plum for the draw, there is something about the capacity of the home side to be a danger that particularly makes me think they can edge this close encounter.
Liverpool 1-3 Tottenham: The record of the home side in 2017 has been well documented. They are not scoring anywhere near enough goals and they are certainly not winning games. There has been reference to their capacity to get up for the big games and this would certainly fall under that category. Maybe with the week to lick their wounds and address things on the training pitch they will be better prepared for this big fixture. Perhaps with Mane nearer full fitness and the side getting back into gear the Anfield faithful will be able to cheer their heroes to a desperate and rare three points. The record of Spurs at Anfield might also be reason for further optimism. There is something about this Spurs side this season, however, that suggests that it will not be that straightforward at all. Something Pochettino has instilled in this Spurs side is a rugged ability to grind out results. They are in second place and the best placed to challenge Chelsea not because they play beautiful football, it’s because when they are playing poorly their system stands strong because of the effort of remaining tight to beat and ready to hit on the counter-attack when necessary. They seem to have matured even from last season and their unity and sense of purpose is allowing them to keep plugging away despite the feeling that hey won’t be able to last the course. Their progress has been made without fuss or fanfare very much in suiting with their manager’s approach to the game. There is strength, solidity and determination throughout their side and in Harry Kane they have one of the league’s hardest working and clinical strikers. If they come with the right frame of mind they could quite possibly exploit some of the frailties in the Liverpool side and in that way reinforce their own credentials whilst dismissing those of the Reds.
Burnley 0-3 Chelsea: Looking at the league table for Burnley fans must be such a fun exercise. They are a full nine points clear of the relegation zone. They are three points away from a top half position. They have more to look ahead for than to look behind them. That position has been established primarily because of their home record. Indeed of the 29 points they have picked up so far, 28 of them have been collected from Turf Moor. They have done tremendously well in turning it into their fortress to a large degree. They have faced top sides before at their own patch and sent them packing pointless. Now, however, they face undoubtedly their greatest challenge. It’s not that this Chelsea side play memorable fantasy football that gets the pulses racing. It’s not that this is the best first eleven to ever play in the Premier League. It is that Conte has struck solid gold with the best way to utilise this collection of players who have experience of playing winning football. The defence are stingy to say the least. The midfield is beastly to underrate them. The attack is clinical to not put a fine point on it. No one can in anyway deny that they deserve to be where they are on merit. That will pose massive problems for the Lancashire side where the onus is on them to make the moves. The Blues meanwhile can play any way they need to. They can hit on the break when under the cosh or they can impose themselves if invited. They don’t even have to slip out of second gear to manipulate teams and manage games as Arsenal discovered last week. As long as it’s football there’s a degree of hope for Burnley, but that window of opportunity won’t be open for long at all with the relentless way that this Chelsea side operate. Expect the away win.
Swansea City 3-2 Leicester: It would have been very heartening for Ranieiri to see his reserves eventually put Derby to the sword in the FA Cup on Wednesday. Extra time would not have been something he would have wanted to get the job done, but at least it was done. Perhaps one or two performances could have made him think again about who he will start with or pick in the squad for this match. What will be abundantly clear, however, is that the big guns will return for this massive encounter. The way they were easily dispatched in their last league game will be the pressing matter that the Foxes will want to fix. What is not that encouraging, however, is their away record. Even Hull City have won away from home, but for Leicester they have yet to get three points in one game away from home comforts. They will no doubt know that Paul Clement’s side will not be accommodating them at all. Swansea have the edge in this match. Three wins in their last five matches is the sort of turnaround in fortunes that now sees them level on points with the visitors. Clement will certainly be looking to make the most of this opportunity to get some more points on the board to assist in their quest for safety. This game will also be a good indication to see their ability to come back from a disappointing defeat. Sure City were expected to beat them, but to lose out in the last minute having fought valiantly can do one of two things to the mentality of the players. The first is to discourage them, but the second is what Swans will be hoping for and that’s namely taking the positives to give them hope for the next fixture to present a force that’s hard to beat and able to capitalise on the frustrations of others. This is a significant fixture in the race to safety and a draw will not be a good point for either team. In that light, although the pressure is mostly on the Foxes, it just might be the home side that rises to the occasion most to get the three points.
Bournemouth 1-4 Man City: Bournemouth can’t remember how to win a football game in the league. Their form over the last five games have been a cause for concern. Their saving grace is the fact that there are teams whose run of games have been even worse than theirs. There are enough games, however, for the side on the coast to be drawn into an unseemly scramble to stay in the Premier League. They have to pick up the winning habit quickly. They have beaten Liverpool and took Arsenal to a thrilling draw at the Vitality Stadium, their manager’s commitment to the style of football they play is admirable and has overall been effective enough. Now, however, they face a side who have begun to remember what it is to be who they are. The arrival of Gabriel Jesus into the first team of Man City has been a massive boost. The three they play in attacking positions now have a fluidity, a dynamism and a run of form that makes them massive threats going forward. They know if Spurs slip up at Anfield the win here could see them take second place and for that to happen after the level of criticism they have faced this season would be a great way to invite their critics to place their jibes in a pipe and proceed to inhale and exhale thereof. They may not be thoroughly convincing defensively just yet, but that won’t matter if their attacking and possession game gets into the rhythm. They won’t find it easy against Howe’s side, but unlike others, they should learn to take the game by the scruff of the neck and put their possession to clinical use. If they turn up in that mood, Bournemouth won’t be able to live with them.
So at least I have the ten games going on this weekend! It’s an interesting set of fixtures where I am fairly confident on improving on the points collection and getting the better than average percentage of outcomes. Of course there’s always the possibility that one or two results might turn out my way, but I am certainly hoping to get some spot on predictions to help the scoring.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden