Premier League Preview & Syndicate: 22nd May
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Man City v Aston Villa:
Here we go, it comes down to the last day of the season for City to retain their EPL crown, safe in the knowledge another three points will get the job done regardless of the result at Anfield. It’s been another fantastic campaign, 90 points in the bag, 96 goals scored and a goal difference of +72 – not bad for a side without a recognised number 9! Pep’s side have shown their character in recent weeks, responding to the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool with four successive wins, scoring 16 goals in the process and then arguably more impressively putting their crazy UCL elimination behind them to record back-to-back league wins finding the net five times in both. Salvaging a draw last time out at West Ham from being two goals down leaves their destiny entirely in their own hands at the Etihad.
Steven Gerrard would of course dearly love to help out the club where he holds legendary status by upsetting the odds here, so we can safely assume he will be doing his utmost to fire his current side up for this clash. It will be interesting to see how he tackles a midweek visit of Burnley – one of only two teams the Villains have defeated in the last nine games – ahead of this final fixture of the season.
I can’t see past a home win here despite the intriguing sub-plot of who will be occupying the visiting dugout, although Villa made City fight for a narrow 2-1 win in the reverse that was the eighth successive defeat to them – Pep’s men look too strong and too focused to let the title slip in front of their own fans.
Selections: Man City
Liverpool v Wolves:
As already mentioned, the Reds know that even a win may not be good enough here – they need to better Manchester City’s result so will require some help from Anfield old boy Steven Gerrard if they are to claim a dramatic last day EPL title victory. A heavily rotated eleven did the business at St. Mary’s on Tuesday night to at least keep hopes of a historic quadruple alive going in to the final day of the domestic season and following an unbeaten run of 18 league games this calendar year, winning 15, Juergen Klopp will at least be confident of holding up his side of the bargain and bagging another three points here.
The Old Gold look perfect opponents for a side needing a last day triumph, now winless in six following a tepid 1-1 draw with rock bottom Norwich at the weekend where they offered enough chances to the visitors, they may consider themselves fortunate it wasn’t worse. A repeat of such gerosity here could lead to a very one-sided scoreline.
I can see this one being put to bed very early with attention in the Kop more likely to be on events in Manchester rather than on the pitch in front of them.
Chelsea v Watford:
Following more cup final penalty shootout heartache at the hands of Liverpool, the Blues end the season with two home games knowing winning either will guarantee a top three finish although following results elsewhere, their UCL qualification has at least been assured.
The Hornets have collapsed over the finishing line, losing seven of their final eight fixtures and shipped five at home to Leicester in their final home game of the season. A visit to a care free Chelsea side is probably not the ideal fixture to mark the end of Roy Hodgson’s disastrous spell in charge, and possibly his final ever game before retirement.
Although unlikely, Watford could still finish bottom, the side who could leapfrog them were on the receiving end of a 7-0 drubbing here – given recent performances a similar scoreline is not out of the question.
Norwich v Tottenham:
I’m sure Dean Smith will be relieved to finally see the curtain fall on another dreadful EPL season for the Canaries – but first the visit of a side looking to secure their place in next season’s Champions League. Norwich put in one of their better performances in recent weeks with a 1-1 draw at Wolves last weekend – but with that bar being very low set and their opponents on the day wearing flip flops, this will provide a sterner test of their credentials ahead of another attempt at bouncing back to the top flight at the first time of asking.
It’s been a good end to the season for Antonio Conte’s men – seven wins from their final ten fixtures, with three wins and a draw (away at Liverpool) from the last four including a massive defeat of North London rivals Arsenal sees them go in to this final hurdle needing just a point to claim a top four finish and the qualification for Champions League football that goes with it.
The worst defence in the league do battle with a very much in-form Harry Kane and Golden Boot chasing Son Heung-Min can only lead to one outcome, can’t it? I certainly think so.
Arsenal v Everton:
The Gunners end of season capitulation continued apace at St. James’ Park as they were blown away by the home side who looked more like the team chasing a top four finish. An extremely disappointed Mikel Arteta admitted his side were nowhere near the level required and offered nothing in the game, while Granit Xhaka not only agreed the performance was bad but went as far as questioning whether certain players were ready to handle the pressure games and should maybe stay at home.
This is a massive game for Everton – IF they fail to beat Crystal Palace in midweek. Three points at Goodison will deem this a dead rubber for them, however anything less means defeat at the Emirates could end their membership of the Premier League and instead it will be Championship football next term.
Tough to call without knowing what is on the line for Everton, but given their awful away record this season and that we should expect some kind of reaction from an Arsenal side who need all three points to have any hope of a top four finish, I am siding with a home win here.
Selections: Arsenal, Draw
Crystal Palace v Man United:
As just mentioned, the Eagles visit Everton on Thursday to have a massive say in the relegation dog fight, before returning to Selhurst Park to end what has been a very encouraging first season under Patrick Vieira. Four games unbeaten (ahead of the trip to Goodison) and without conceding a goal at home in the last four, including visits from Manchester City and Arsenal it would be a surprise to see Palace go at this at anything less than full throttle.
It’s been a rare good couple of weeks for United fans, but that’s down to their side not having played! Last time out saw another shambolic performance as the Red Devils were lucky to leave Brighton with just a 4-0 defeat, in what Ralf Rangnick agreed was the worst of his tenure. A lowest EPL points haul is now confirmed with the 56 goals conceded being the most in a single league campaign since 1978-79 – and the Amex loss was a fifth away EPL defeat in succession, a run where they have scored just twice whilst shipping an alarming 16 times!
Another team who cannot wait for the conclusion of the season, but not before what I expect to be another defeat to a Crystal Palace side who will likely just want it more.
Selections: Crystal Palace, Draw
Brighton v West Ham:
After taking just three points from a possible 21 across February and March, the Seagulls have ended the season in style, suffering just one defeat (Man City away) from their last eight games, a top half finish is in their grasp having already guaranteed a record high for EPL games won, a low for losses and as a result a best points haul.
The Hammers have been overachievers this season too and can swap a Europa Conference League qualification position for a Europa League one with a win here coupled with Man United dropping points at Selhurst Park.
A side who has struggled at home this season managing only 4 wins, host one who snapped a four-game losing road trip sequence in their last away game at relegated Norwich, and given that Brighton and West Ham have drawn their last SIX meetings – I fancy another share of the spoils here on the South Coast.
Selectons: Brighton, Draw
Leicester v Southampton:
The Foxes found their shooting boots against relegated duo Watford and Norwich in their last two fixtures, scoring eight, conceding just one in registering convincing victories in both following a three-game losing run in all competitions. It will be interesting to see how they line up in their Thursday night fixture at Chelsea and if they keep their key operators fresh for this final home game.
The title race was nearly ended at St. Mary’s on Tuesday as a Nathan Redmond strike gave Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side an early lead against Liverpool but in keeping with their recent form the Saints slipped to another defeat, a ninth from their last 12 games.
With Southampton’s boss already talking about the work that needs to be done in the summer and their players performing like they are longing for the beach; this looks like a great opportunity for Leicester to sign off in style in front of their home support – one I think they will take.
Brentford v Leeds:
It’s been a stunning end to the season for the Bees, just as it looked they were being sucked in to a relegation scrap they travelled to Norwich to claim a vital three points and have since gone on to claim 22 points from their last 10 games, losing only twice – both of which came away from home. The Christian Eriksen inspired win over Everton at the weekend demonstrated they are not prepared to lay down for sides with more at stake than themselves and a win here could see them finish inside the top 10.
Jesse Marsch must have been preparing to go in to this final game of the season in the bottom three until Pascal Struijk headed home in injury time against Brighton to salvage what could be a precious point. That may still be the case depending on results elsewhere in the midweek fixtures but at least proved his side will battle until the bitter end.
Brentford look to have maintained complete focus despite securing their own safety some time ago and with more than a little rivalry between these two clubs you feel they would quite like to make life uncomfortable for the visitors. The Brentford Community Stadium is sure to be rocking – and full of nerves in the away end – and my take is the home fans will be the ones going home happy, results elsewhere will determine the mood of the travelling Yorkshire contingent.
Selections: Brentford, Draw
Burnley v Newcastle:
The Mike Jackson bounce has suffered back-to-back setbacks with the latest coming as a result of a contentious penalty at Tottenham – the first of which was at home to Aston Villa who they play a couple of days prior to this clash and the result there will have a large impact on the mentality of the home side here. The Clarets showed great resilience in North London and have also displayed a greater attacking threat post Sean Dyche.
Eddie Howe watched his side batter a top four chasing Arsenal on Monday night and it seems his players have risen to the challenge of proving they are good enough to remain at the club in what is expected to be a busy summer transfer window for them. Only the top two have a better points per game average than the Magpies’ 1.94 in 2022 although they have lost four of their last five on the road.
A tough game to predict the outcome of here with Burnley’s requirement from it possibly changing throughout the 90 minutes! With their recent upturn under Mike Jackson and Newcastle still needing to improve in fixtures outside of the North East I am going to side with a nervy draw – one which I think will see the home side safe.
Selections: Burnley, Draw, Newcastle
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