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As the end of the season draws ever closer so the points become more important at both ends of the table. Those with something to play for have their wits sharpened, but do they have enough to get enough to achieve their aims at the business end of the season?
Before exploring this weekend’s fixtures, let us review my predictions from last week. Like the league, points are at stake. Three points for a spot on prediction, one point for the correct outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Southampton 1-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 0-0)
Stoke City 2-2 West Ham (1 point – actual score 0-0)
Sunderland 1-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 0-1)
West Brom 1-2 Leicester (1 point – actual score 0-1)
Crystal Palace 2-1 Burnley (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Man Utd 2-1 Swansea (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Everton 2-2 Chelsea (0 points – actual score 0-3)
Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City (0 points – actual score 2-2)
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Watford 1-1 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Wowsers. Just 4 points. Not even a 50% correct outcome percentage in which to find refuge. That’s bleak. I definitely need to wash that out of the system pretty quickly.
So to the upcoming fixtures and although I missed the West Ham v Spurs match, I have to count that as zero points anyway as I wouldn’t have said this West Ham side would beat Spurs the way they have played through the season. Here is what I reckon the outcome will be for the other weekend fixtures.
Man City 2-2 Crystal Palace
Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City
Burnley 2-0 West Brom
Hull City 2-1 Sunderland
Leicester 3-1 Watford
Swansea 1-2 Everton
Liverpool 1-1 Southampton
Arsenal 1-1 Man Utd
Chelsea 4-0 Middlesbrough
Chelsea should relish the opportunity to take on Boro to further strengthen their pole position. Meanwhile points dropped by United and Arsenal will only underline just how disappointing this season in the league has been for both of them. That of course is if things go as I predict. Will it? Well as ever all we can do is wait and …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Oh, so in recent days the actions of a particular player has brought the issue of predicting match outcomes under scrutiny. OK to be fair it’s more about the gambling than anything. Interesting arguments flying around about that issue. It’s worth mentioning that this right here, this predicting of games, goes no further than the points I update from week to week. No betting, no gambling, no money in and no money out. It’s all for the fun in the game.
Speaking of fun and games in predicting football games, the Premier League trundles into its final month. As we bid farewell to April, we have another intriguing round of league fixtures. Before that, let’s see how I did with those non-gambling related predictions in the midweek. Just points on offer as ever – three points for a spot on prediction, one point for a correct outcome and zero points for being wrong, wrong, wrong on the whole show.
Chelsea 2-1 Southampton (1 point – actual score 4-2)
Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Middlesbrough 0-0 Sunderland (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Crystal Palace 2-3 Tottenham (1 point – actual score 0-1)
Man City 2-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score 0-0)
Four out of five correct outcomes is a decent return, but only getting four points for it with no spot on prediction hurts things a little. But like the Murphy’s, I’m not bitter. I just move on to the next set of games looking to do a little better than before.
So let us see exactly what those fixtures consist of and see if I can do better.
Southampton 1-1 Hull City
Stoke City 2-2 West Ham
Sunderland 1-1 Bournemouth
West Brom 1-2 Leicester
Crystal Palace 2-1 Burnley
Man Utd 2-1 Swansea
Everton 2-2 Chelsea
Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City
Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal
Watford 1-1 Liverpool
The final North London game at White Hart Lane is the game to watch this weekend. Spurs win and it seals their superiority over their neighbours for the first time in nearly a generation. Lose and the same old doubts will arise about them despite the progress they definitely have made over the last season. Meanwhile Chelsea’s trip to Merseyside isn’t going to be easy. Lovely league fixtures to feast over this weekend. What’s going to happen?
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Weekend done and dusted already and another set of games already on the way. FA Cup finalists are now primed for another day at Wembley. Meanwhile the league chugs on in the quest to wrap up the league in less than a month.
Before we look at the midweek action, let’s take a look at how I did with the few games that transpired on Saturday and Sunday. There were points to be picked up or not. Like the league system, three points for a spot on prediction, just the one point for the correct outcome and zilch for getting everything wrong.
Bournemouth 2-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Hull City 2-1 Watford (3 points)
Swansea 2-1 Stoke City (3 points)
West Ham 1-3 Everton (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Burnley 1-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score)
Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 1-2)
Six games played and four correct outcomes is a decent return. Particularly pleasing, though, was getting two spot on predictions sending the score to a very creditable 8 points. Very creditable indeed considering there have been weeks where all ten games have been played and I accumulated less points. So I am pleased with that without going over the top and booking an open top bus parade of the city in which I live.
However there are now five league fixtures to be negotiated this midweek. There’s one intriguing encounter I am particularly looking forward to checking out. So without further ado I shall consider these games and my predicted scores.
Chelsea 2-1 Southampton
Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 0-0 Sunderland
Crystal Palace 2-3 Tottenham
Man City 2-2 Man Utd
So no it wasn’t Boro taking on Sunderland that whetted my appetite but the next chapter in the saga of Guardiola vs Mourinho that has me intrigued. Not so much in the personal rivalry which has rightly been played down, but in that glorious professional combat of two of the greatest managers in the game today. In comparison the caretaker at Middlesbrough playing Moyes at Sunderland is … Well, it’s fair to say I won’t go out of my way to buy the DVD of that game for posterity. The Manchester derby completes the set of games where five of the top six are on action, so there’s position and points to play for. Ahhhh the Premier League story goes on – what will happen?
Let’s see how it goes
C. L. J. Dryden
The end of the season draws near. The league games are coming in thick and fast. There are still things to play for and some are of the opinion it’s a case of game on in the title race. I am not sure about that, but at least the procession is not as inevitable as was the case.
Three of the league’s top sides and Arsenal play in the semi-final of the FA Cup over the weekend and that looks like mouthwatering encounters and also piles up their league programme for the final weeks. Can their competitors take advantage of this? Before we preview the few league matches taking place this weekend before midweek action, let’s look back on how I did with the action last weekend. Points at stake in predicting the outcome and they reflect the points system in the league. Three points for a spot on prediction, one point for just a correct outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Tottenham 3-1 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Crystal Palace 2-1 Leicester (0 points – actual score 2-2)
Everton 3-0 Burnley (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Stoke City 2-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Sunderland 1-2 West Ham (0 points – actual score 2-2)
Watford 1-1 Swansea City (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Southampton 2-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 0-3)
West Brom 1-1 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Middlesbrough 0-3 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Hmmmmmmm not a good week points wise picking up a paltry six points. Not shabby in terms of a 60% outcome statistic, but it goes to show that a spot on prediction can make all the difference to a points total. It’s amazing how agonisingly close I was to spot on scores, but therein is the challenge.
That challenge continues into the six games played in the league this weekend. Let us look at them.
Bournemouth 2-0 Middlesbrough: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. Both clubs are not in a good way and for the visitors in particular three points will be precious indeed. Middlesbrough are in a relegation scrap but don’t appear to know how to fight. They may have scored against Arsenal, but who hasn’t? Plus it was the chances they missed again that proved costly in yet another defeat. Their inability to score is proving to be their downfall and there is little to suggest that they have what it takes to get themselves out of this situation. That’s not to say Bournemouth will just have to turn up to win. They know another defeat in this game could see them be drawn into a scrap. Howe needs to re-establish his team’s ability to win games of football to give them security. This could be the ideal occasion to do that.
Hull City 2-1 Watford: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. Watford are in a safe zone. Their win against Swansea was enough to give them a good cushion from the drop zone. Their achievement in retaining their league status is worthy of applause. They don’t convince as a Premier League outfit, there aren’t any outstanding players that get the pulses racing and they are hardly beacons of managerial consistency and yet they survive. They survived well. That knowledge in the back of the head can have a slightly negative effect against teams that have more to play for. Hull have more to play for. It’s incredible to think that a team so poor at one point of the season are still in with a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League. If Watford are an unlikely Premier League outfit, Hull fit that billing even more. Yet Silva has imprinted a rugged and tenacious approach to the game that won’t see them beaten easily. Do they have enough quality to stay up? I am not convinced, but I do think their fighting spirit will see them just about nab the three points.
Swansea 2-1 Stoke City: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. Stoke may have won their last game, but they are not convincing anyone. For whatever reason the signs of stagnation are becoming all the more evident in the play. They are not phoning it in and they are not suffering from safety complacency, they are, however, struggling to push on from consolidating their place as a midtable side. Are they in need of refreshing? Whatever they are in need of, they need to be alert in this game. They face a Swansea who have no room for complacency at all because they have a battle on their hands to escape the dreaded drop. If they put their best foot forward and aggressively attack with intent, converting their chances they can get the much needed three points to assist them in the struggle. They have it in them to do it.
West Ham 1-3 Everton: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. The main reason West Ham will survive this season is because there are four teams below them who are worse than them. This is hardly a reassuring position for the club to be in following last season’s progress. The ownership hardly help that with their public pronouncements. Yet that wouldn’t be the case if West Ham were playing well. When was the last time West Ham played well? Have they played well this season at all? This home game can set a good stance going forward. Yet they face an Everton side who are doing well and are keen to maintain their overall good form. They can finish this season strong and set a base for the busy summer ahead. They are still in a position to breathe pressure on the likes of United and Arsenal. Lukaku on form could be a handful for any defence and the Hammers might be on the receiving of another strong display from the Toffees.
Burnley 1-2 Man Utd: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. Burnley will be licking their lips at catching United at this time. They have beaten Everton and Liverpool at Turf Moor and home is definitely where the heart is as far as their good play is concerned. They face a United side who are exhausted from their exertions in the Europe League quarter final. With more injuries picked up in that game, United not only have recovery to consider, but selection to think through too. They know they face a Burnley side who will be up for the scrap. There is something canny about United, though, and they will have a fresh Herrera available to put himself about in midfield. They still go into this game with enough quality to play their part in a competent performance. It is in the light of this that I reckon against the pressure and run of games they can still emerge with three points.
Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace: It’s unlikely that this will be the game of the season. Somehow Liverpool have gone to the Hawthorns and Stoke-on-Trent and emerged with six points. They didn’t play pretty, they didn’t have Mane or Lallana. They played two teams who pride themselves on being awkward to face. They did so with question marks over their ability to beat inferior sides. They have done a lot better than people expected. They are now back at Anfield and although they face the return of Benteke in a team managed by Sam Allardyce there will be greater pressure for the Reds to maintain the good form. Big Sam knows his side are not safe yet and would be hoping to follow up recent wins against Chelsea and Arsenal with another compact and competitive display that can take advantage of the defensive flaws. Liverpool will have to be wary of the wiles of Palace, but they have it in their own hands to determine their destiny.
As you may have got the impression with these predictions, it’s unlikely that 8we will witness the game of the season in this list of fixtures. Maybe more attention will be given to the semi final games, but these league fixtures play a pivotal part in how the final league table will turn out.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
You have got to hand it to Arsenal. Apparently there is a mysterious aspect of humanity that watches on in awe and wonder at a tragedy taking place. Like how you stare at a vehicle crash both as it happens and afterwards. Arsenal are presenting that right before the watching public. If only someone had pointed out that they were heading in that direction …
There were other Premier League matches that took place over the weekend. I took the time to predict those scores so let’s see how I did. There are points at stake here, you know. Three points for a spot on prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Tottenham 3-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 4-0)
Man City 3-0 Hull City (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Middlesbrough 2-1 Burnley (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool (3 points)
West Brom 1-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-1)
West Ham 1-2 Swansea (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea (3 points)
Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd (1 point – actual score 0-3)
Everton 2-1 Leicester (1 point – actual score 4-2)
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (0 points – actual score 3-0)
On the one hand getting a 60% correct outcomes stat is only just above the average. On the other hand I finally hit the double figure! Happy with that. Especially getting two scores spot on. That’s a lot more like it.
So on that positive note let’s see if I can turn this into a run with the set of fixtures ahead.
Tottenham 3-1 Bournemouth: Jack Wilshere. Interesting player who is on loan at Bournemouth because Arsenal didn’t think he was good enough for their first team on a regular basis. In as much as Arsenal are dreadful, they were still right not to retain Wilshere, because although in fits and starts he has shown why he was highly rated by some, he has struggled overall to establish himself even at a club like Bournemouth. Now, however, he’s up against a club he has expressed partisan animosity towards. If there is ever a game he wants to show up and show off his abilities, this is it. He could contribute to putting a dent in Spurs’ aspirations. He could … but he won’t. Spurs are relentless at the moment, absolutely relentless. Arguably more relentless than champions elect Chelsea. They don’t mess around, they don’t treat teams lightly, they evidently train well and their teamwork ethos is outstanding. Bournemouth for all their pluck and effort won’t have enough to stop this machine. While the question marks will remain over the point of Jack Wilshere.
Crystal Palace 2-1 Leicester: Big Sam will be laughing to himself. Palace completely overwhelmed Arsenal on Monday. They dispatched them with ease. That performance and result in a stretch of overall positive results will make the former England manager very happy indeed. It gets better, though, because they come across a Leicester side who will be keen to be ready for the second leg of the Champions League quarter final against Atletico Madrid. Leicester are in a safer position than Crystal Palace and the home side will be keen to exploit any weaknesses in the visitors to strengthen their claim to retain their status in the top flight. This is why it’s difficult to see the away side coming away with anything other than a bad memory of the trip to the capital city.
Everton 3-0 Burnley: Sean Dyche has not built a side of pushovers. The Lancashire side can be relied on to make matters very difficult for any opponents they come across. That spirit is a large reason for their remarkable season which sees them virtually assured another season in the Premier League. That is an achievement worthy of applause. However, that has also been purely down to the points they picked up at home. Their travels have largely been abysmal where the results are concerned. They are a pain against teams who are better than them, but not enough of a pain to get much from their visits. They come across Everton at a time when the Toffees have genuine hopes of a top six finish. Koeman has not done what his predecessor did in his first season. As in he hasn’t wowed observers with a compelling brand of football, but what he has done is built an approach to the game that is more concerned with stability and balance. In Lukaku and Barkley they have two players on form who have it in them to boss around lesser teams. Burnley is a lesser team. Those turning up to Goodison Park should do so expecting the three points.
Stoke City 2-1 Hull City: Hull are playing better football than Stoke at the moment. Primarily because they are fighting for survival in the Premier League. Their team are tighter, better organised and capable of punching a little above his weight. They will need that in spades on their trips away to pick up the points necessary to give them hope. They face a Stoke side who aren’t doing well at the moment. Not poorly enough for any relegation concerns, but certainly underwhelming in comparison to where they have a reasonable expectation to be. When you finish in a position consistently it slowly raises the expectations. At present Stoke are not living up to that. For his own sake, Hughes has got to motivate this side to put in enough to pick up some points. This could be the game for that to begin to turn around.
Sunderland 1-2 West Ham: I wonder what it’s like to be a Sunderland fan. To turn up at the Stadium of Light and to see no light at all from your home team. To be managed by a guy who already set their stall out for a relegation scrap from the first few games of the season and whose manner has been so pessimistic it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To see abject performance after pathetic performance with dismal result after awful result. Has their been any glimmer of hope this season? Has there been any indication that Sunderland have shoots of growth and positivity? If there has been, it has to be applauded for its invisibility. West Ham have not had a great season either, but in Sunderland even they can be relieved to know it could have been worse. If they can carry that relief into the right approach in this away fixture they could further establish Sunderland’s impending trip to the Championship.
Watford 1-1 Swansea City: The Swans have found this to be a very difficult season in the Premier League. Maybe their hardest. The managerial changes, the ownership change, the serious dips in form, the disappointing transfer activity, the underwhelming performances, the over reliance on Sigurdsson and the fans feeling a sense of betrayal at not being as involved as they hoped to be in the direction of their beloved club. Despite the best efforts of Clement there is a gnawing feeling that maybe Swansea just don’t have it in them to beat the drop. Watford have nothing to play for. They won’t get relegated, they won’t finish in the top half of the table, there’s no pride to play for outside the issue of winning a game of football. To be fair, though, they won’t roll over at home to any side. They don’t have a fortress, but they know Swansea are beneath them and should have enough in them to make sure the Welsh side stay there.
Southampton 2-3 Man City: A lot of attention has gone to the first season of Guardiola at City, but Puel’s first season at Southampton has escaped a great deal of scrutiny. He did well to guide the team to a cup final, but following good seasons under Koeman and Pochettino in the league Southampton are in a slightly worse position in the league. Maybe this is Southampton’s level, maybe the good run of league finishes really was overachieving. Maybe Puel is showing us the level Southampton really play at. This should be good news for the visitors. Not because a trip to St. Mary’s will be a breeze, but because if City turn up in the right frame of mind and impose their superior quality they should leave the coast with the three points. Southampton know, however, that City don’t always show up with the right frame of mind. Southampton should certainly know that they can disrupt their opponents and so frustrate the Citizens. That could make matters very intriguing. Yet this game should see Southampton knowing their place.
West Brom 1-1 Liverpool: Pulis will not be happy with the recent results. Beating Arsenal? Everyone beats Arsenal these days. Other than that, the Baggies have not really been putting in the performances and getting the results that would be satisfactory for him. That’s a good place for West Brom to be in, to be that disappointed. Now they face a Liverpool side who are notoriously suspect against inferior sides. Pulis would have seen the first half of Liverpool at Stoke and be encouraged. He will know how to knock them off their stride. He will know how to be disciplined and organised against the attacking threat of the Reds. He also knows that his side can put it about with set pieces against a Liverpool defence that appears to be contractually obliged not to keep a clean sheet. So Klopp’s side will show up at the Hawthorns and definitely have to up their game if they want to maintain their position in the top four.
Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea: Here is my wacky prediction of the fixtures this week. Chelsea will come to Old Trafford knowing the pressure is all on the home team. Pressure to compete for a top four finish. Pressure to deal with a difficult set of fixtures. Pressure to score goals. Pressure to finish off teams. Pressure from a moaning manager. Pressure all over the place. Compared to relative serenity from the team about to win the Premier League. Conte is not the type to take things for granted. His approach to each game has been immaculate even in the occasional defeat. He has maintained a first team that knows what is expected of them and can work together effectively both as a defensive unit and as an attacking threat. Chelsea don’t have European commitments and can fully focus on this game. They beat United at home and know they can beat them away. This should be a tight game and if anyone is likely to win it should definitely be the Champions elect. So United will win.
Middlesbrough 0-3 Arsenal: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Arsenal. Hmmmmmmm. This has been a poor season for them. They have not done well. In anything. All season long. Here, however, they should finally do something they have rarely done in the league lately – win. Arsenal are poor and pathetic in not dismissing their incumbent manager (by the way respect for Wenger does not exempt him from calling it as it is and it pathetic). Despite that they are playing Middlesbrough. Arsenal’s last win was against an awful West Ham side. Middlesbrough are worse than West Ham. However poor Arsenal are, they cannot leave this game with anything less than three points. This Boro side only have one side to look at who is worse than them and that side is Sunderland. Other than that, Boro cannot score enough goals at all and do not have the defence to prevent an average strike force piercing through. Don’t get me wrong, for entertainment purposes nothing would please me more than to see this pathetically run football club from North London fail to get the three points. I would be delighted. But this isn’t Crystal Palace, this is Middlesbrough. This is a win for Arsenal.
No doubt the match of the weekend is Mourinho hosting his old side before a crucial quarter final second leg. That match is one I am very interested to see. Otherwise, the car crash that is Arsenal’s season should experience some respite at one of the worst teams in the league. They should, but this is Arsenal … As ever …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden
Two league games in a week saw some interesting results that saw progress really more in the middle of the table than the top or the bottom. Still, at least it was Premier League football and not international football for which I am grateful.
Now another set of Premier League fixtures to consider is upon us. So more to dive into where the predictions are concerned. But first, there are the midweek fixtures to review considering how my predictions worked out. Points are at stake, three gained for getting the prediction spot on, one point for just the right outcome and nothing for nothing.
Burnley 2-0 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Leicester 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Watford 0-0 West Brom (0 points – actual score 2-0)
Man Utd 1-1 Everton (3 points)
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham (1 point – actual score 3-0)
Hull 2-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 4-2)
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 3-1)
Swansea 1-2 Tottenham (1 point – actual score 1-3)
Chelsea 3-2 Man City (1 point – actual score 2-1)
Liverpool 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 2-2)
I got 9 points from this set of fixtures, but I am not too disappointed. 70% correct outcomes is cool with me and then nabbing a spot on prediction is sweet. It’s not quite the double figures I planned for, but I am closer and some of the actual scores were just a goal away from being spot on. Nevertheless, such is the nature of the game. I persist.
With that in mind, here are my predictions for the coming weekend’s schedule of games.
Tottenham 3-1 Watford: This is not all that straightforward to predict. It would be foolhardy of Spurs to believe that turning up with their home record will be enough to pick up the three points. This, however, is why I am a fan of Pochettino. His side might be growing in learning from their European experiences, but domestically they are carving out a niche for themselves as effective, disciplined and clinical when they need to be. Their approach to home games is the great example of that. It’s not that they strike fear into their opponents, it is more about the mentality that is relentless and remorseless. That was evident in their last game where Swansea crumbled at the hands of a Spurs side that evidently didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to struggle without Kane. Watford aren’t pushovers, they too weren’t paying attention to the negative press that has been surrounding the club with speculation over the manager’s future, picking up six points from their last two games. When it comes to it, though, Spurs should have too much team quality for the Hertfordshire side.
Man City 3-0 Hull City: I get the impression that unlike at least one of their competitors in the same area of the league, Hull are not going to be relegated without a fight. Silva’s impact on the club has been largely impressive. His approach to a team ethos that makes life difficult for the opponents has given them faint hope that they can battle to the end of the season to escape. Don’t get it twisted, though, this squad is not good enough to stay in the Premier League. Plucky workers now working with pluck in a more organised and disciplined way than before. That should work against their competitors in the lower reaches of the table, but not at the Etihad. Guardiola’s first season in England will be one from which he has learnt a great deal. That should be helpful for him in preparing in the summer. In all the ups and downs, though, what has not been in doubt is his commitment to playing attacking football. That commitment with the multi-million pounds worth of attacking threat should overwhelm their opposition sufficiently to strengthen their claim to a top four finish.
Middlesbrough 2-1 Burnley: One of the reasons why I am unlikely to get 100% correct outcomes in a week is because every now and then I look at a fixture and take a left field swing at predicting it. This is such a fixture. The safe position to take considering Boro’s awful form and Burnley’s awful away record would be a dull goalless draw. If it turns out that way, you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway. Likewise if there was going to be a winner, you would expect Burnley to finally collect three points in the road because of just how poor Boro have been of late. So if Burnley eek out the win then you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway. However, as you will see, I have actually gone for a home win as my actual prediction. Why? Just because I have a hunch that Boro can upset the form book on this one occasion. Hey, if the lads from the home side accomplish it, you can say that’s what I thought would happen anyway.
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool: Stoke City’s bid to finish higher than they have in seasons past has been derailed lately. No, they won’t get dragged into a relegation scrap, but their form and results of late has let some fans once more murmur that perhaps Hughes has taken the club as far as he can and it’s worth looking elsewhere for someone to help the club progress. Before the Potters get too down, however, they can look forward to this fixture with some hope. Liverpool have not always had pleasant memories of games away at Stoke in the league. They enter this one with some significant absentees like Henderson, Lallana and most disturbing of all, Mane. Statisticians have rolled out the fact that this season Liverpool have not won a league game without Mane. There is ample reason for the home side to take comfort from things like this. Yet I still believe and expect Liverpool to win the game. This is not a left field, blind prediction, the Liverpool style of play is better than Stoke and although there is the blather about Liverpool struggling against lesser teams, Stoke at home cannot afford to play a game of soaking up pressure to hit and hope on the break.
West Brom 1-1 Southampton: Motivation is a critical ingredient in sport. Those who excel in it tend to be successful in the game of football. The hardest thing to motivate in football is a mid-table side facing another mid-table side. To assist them concepts like ‘playing for the fans’ and ‘playing for the pride of the shirt’ can be wheeled out for whatever good it does. Neither Pulis or Puel, however, convey the sense of excelling in the art of motivation. Organisation maybe, but not motivation. That’s why I reckon that this meeting of the mid-table sides will meander into an ultimately meaningless morass of mediocrity as reflected in the scoreline prediction. Sure, if the visitors take to long to get into the game the Baggies could collect all three points. I just think that won’t be the case.
West Ham 1-2 Swansea: The Hammers should never be in the position they’re in. Did they slightly over achieve last season? Maybe. But their move to the new stadium was because they are a proper Premier League outfit and it was not unreasonable to expect them to be doing well and by well that is a top half finish to the season. Yet now they are talking about a relegation struggle. Simply not good enough. There is no reason to believe they can turn this around either with a change of manager now. It is for them to get their act together enough to stay in the Premier League for next season and then review things in the summer. Swansea, meanwhile, have been in the relegation battle for most of the season and Clement’s approach has, overall, been far more effective in getting the Swans to take the games seriously. That approach can very well see them making the most of the club in disarray.
Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea: It is a successful season for Bournemouth to retain their status in the Premier League. The level of collapse required by them and the upsurge in form required by those below them is just not going to happen. Mission accomplished. Does that mean they are going to do a Southampton or West Brom and meander through the rest of the season finding it hard to get pumped to put in 100%? Yep. Of course they won’t say that. Of course they won’t be allowed to think that. Of course their professionalism will lead them to give all the noises of taking each game as it comes and doing their best to finish as high up as they can. I am not questioning that. I am simply stating that with the mission accomplished it will be hard to get motivated to hit the heights. Chelsea will challenge them to do that, but they won’t be able to rise to the challenge because the visitors have a lot more to play for in asserting their dominance at the top of the league.
Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd: Wouldn’t it be great to get one over on the club that sacked you? That would be terrific. They didn’t give you the time to build what you believe would have been the continuation of the winning dynasty. They passed it on to the ‘bigger’ names who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory. Even the latest guy has been unbeaten in the league for 20 games and still can’t get above 6th place having spent hundreds of millions already. It would be great to really show them up and prove them wrong. That might be great, until you remember your name is David Moyes and you are the manager of the worst team in the league facing a United side that for all its failings just doesn’t know how to lose whatever the league game. United could do with a win. United should get the win. Simply because Sunderland are just not good enough.
Everton 2-1 Leicester: Look at the prediction. Odd isn’t it. Leicester are the form team of the moment. Shakespeare has won every game he’s managed in the league. Leicester who were talked about as possible relegation candidates are now well on their way to possibly finishing in the top half of the league. The more they win, the more the owners come across as having done the right thing to sack Ranieiri and the more questions rise about if Ranieiri was the problem after all. Either way, the Foxes go into this game full of confidence. Everton don’t. Two league games over the last week only emerging with one point. Both performances full of disappointment. But at least they are now playing a team who are not better than them. At least now they can impose their game on their opponents. At least now they are at home and can make the most of that advantage. It’s on that premise that I reckon they can get the win this game.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Big Sam Allardyce has not yet secured Palace as a Premier League football club for the 2017-18 season. It is a matter of time and winning a few more games. Beating Chelsea should have been the platform to confirm things earlier, but typically Palace went and lost their next game which they should have obviously done better in. Now they are back home, they could use it to really prove the defeat to be a blip. They could approach this game as one in which they could not just make a bid to confirm their safety, but also hint towards how much better things could be in years ahead. Arsenal can be beaten. One win in five is not anything to get excited about. They are still mentally frail and the club doesn’t appear to be giving the impression they know where they are going from this season onwards. Yet the win against West Ham would have done them the world of good. They will need to fight, though. They will not be able to rely on playing a poor side as they were able to in the game against the tepid Hammers. The pressure is not so much on them, though. They can play to their level and actually win. It’s possible.
This is an interesting set of fixtures. No clear blockbusters to get excited about, but with every point dropped being criticised and every point gained being lauded with the end a matter of weeks away, these results will fascinate. Will this weekend work out as I predicted? Will there be more slip ups? You know what I say,
Let’s see how it goes.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden
No sooner has the weekend’s games concluded than we’re set for another two days of league matches. Lovely for the fans, maybe not so lovely for the players as there is little recovery time before they go again. But that’s professional football, right?
Before we consider the fixtures today and tomorrow, let’s remind ourselves of how I got on with the weekend’s predictions and actual outcomes. Points are at stake – three points for getting it spot on; one point for just the correct outcome and zero points for getting it wrong.
Liverpool 2-1 Everton (1 point – actual score 3-1)
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 0-2)
Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 1-2)
Hull City 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 2-1)
Leicester City 3-2 Stoke City (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Man Utd 2-1 West Brom (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Watford 3-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 1-0)
Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Swansea 2-0 Middlesbrough (0 points – actual score 0-0)
Arsenal 2-2 Man City (3 points)
Got a predictions spot on, which is encouraging. But six points is underwhelming to say the least and as for the 40% rate of correct outcomes, the less said about that, the better. The games go on though, so let’s consider these fixtures.
Burnley 2-0 Stoke City
Leicester 3-1 Sunderland
Watford 0-0 West Brom
Man Utd 1-1 Everton
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham
Hull 2-0 Middlesbrough
Southampton 1-1 Crystal Palace
Swansea 1-2 Tottenham
Chelsea 3-2 Man City
Liverpool 2-1 Bournemouth
These games are getting harder to predict even if the table is settling into teams in their places. The Chelsea v City game should be intriguing, though. As for my predictions, let’s hope I can break into double figures before the end of the week.
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden