Arsenal vs. Manchester City and Liverpool vs. Everton headline the Premier League action this weekend, with huge ramifications in the race for the top four.
Arsene Wenger faces the most difficult period of his Arsenal career with his side in sixth ahead of the action — and defeat to Manchester City would leave them 10 points behind Pep Guardiola’s men.
And if Everton can finally break their Anfield hoodoo — just one win there since 1999 — they’ll be just three points behind Liverpool and in the running for a top four place.
Predict those big ones and all the action in our match polls …
ARSENAL: Six defeats in nine games in all competitions is no form in which to be approaching a match against a Guardiola team — and with fourth place now six points away. Sadly, there is little to suggest this situation will improve. Arsenal’s record against the bigger teams is dreadful and only the most optimistic fan would predict a win on Sunday.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City — Tom Adams
MAN CITY: A visit to London to play Arsenal has been one of the least rewarding trips on City’s travel agenda for the last 45 years. Just one league win at the Emirates or Highbury since October 1975 takes some believing. Current form tells us this is as good a time as any to puncture a truly awful record.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester City — Simon Curtis
LIVERPOOL: Both teams have injury problems following this most untimely of international breaks, and both Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koeman will have some tricky decisions to make ahead of what is a massive game for both clubs. Everton are chasing Liverpool, while Liverpool are chasing a top four spot. Defeat would make it extremely difficult for either team to achieve their objective, and a draw looks the most likely outcome.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Everton — Dave Usher
EVERTON: Injuries are stacking up at precisely the wrong time with Saturday’s Merseyside derby vital to Everton’s hopes of Champions League football next season. As the form team in the league in 2017, it is vital the Blues play without fear while chasing a first win at Anfield since 1999.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Everton — Luke O’Farrell
CHELSEA: Crystal Palace with Big Sam at the helm have finally stopped leaking goals and will provide stubborn opposition for a Chelsea side who are just seven wins away from securing the Premier League title. Expect that figure to be six after this encounter. It won’t be pretty, but the Blues have what it takes to unpick the meanest defences.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace — Phil Lythell
CRYSTAL PALACE: Palace’s upturn in form is unlikely to be enough to secure a point or three from their trip to Stamford Bridge, although with a dedication to Sam Allardyce’s tactics they’ll push Chelsea all the way.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace — Rob Sutherland
BURNLEY: The Clarets finally return home after four successive away league games, but Saturday’s visit of in-form Tottenham will be a tough test for a team without a win in any competition since January. Home defeats have been rare for Sean Dyche’s side this season but Spurs are likely to be too strong.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Tottenham — Jamie Smith
TOTTENHAM: Though currently lying in 13th place in the Premier League, Burnley have an excellent home record with nine wins, two draws and three losses. Their last defeat there came against Manchester City at the end of last November. In recent weeks, even Chelsea only came away from Turf Moor with a draw. Though Spurs will hope to take all three points, they may struggle with Harry Kane still out injured. A draw beckons.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Tottenham — John Crace
MAN UNITED: Though Manchester United have gone unbeaten in their last 18 league games, they have not been convincing, making hard work of beating lowly Middlesbrough in their last game, while West Brom most recently overwhelmed Arsenal. This looks likely to be another frustrating afternoon for the hosts.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 West Brom — Musa Okwonga
WEST BROM: West Brom face a tough task on their return from the international break as they face Manchester United at Old Trafford. With Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent, United old boys Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans will be looking to dominate the game on their old stomping ground.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 West Brom— Matthew Evans
SWANSEA: Sunday’s must-win against Middlesbrough would be a good time for Swansea to rediscover the form they showed during Paul Clement’s first few games in charge. Despite recent defensive lapses, focusing on attack will be key. Swansea managed only a single shot on target against Bournemouth. They must do better here.
Prediction: Swansea 2-0 Middlesbrough — Max Hicks
MIDDLESBROUGH: In the recent 3-1 defeat to Manchester United under caretaker manager Steve Agnew, Boro showed some positive moves. Now is the time to step up and start getting results from the teams around them in order to stake a claim for Premier League survival.
Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Middlesbrough — Catherine Wilson
LEICESTER: Leicester are odds on to make it five wins in a row at home to Stoke and in doing so take a giant step towards safety. The Foxes look like Premier League champions again and with momentum on their side, they don’t look like faltering against the Potters. Leicester have scored three goals in each of their Premier League games under Craig Shakespeare and if they remain clinical, they will win the game comfortably.
Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Stoke — Ben Jacobs
STOKE: Stopping a resurgent Leicester side is no easy feat for Mark Hughes, who looks to be heading into Saturday’s showdown without Phil Bardsley (suspension) and Geoff Cameron (injury). Those losses are offset in part by the potential return of the lesser-used Xherdan Shaqiri, but the inconsistent Swiss in unlikely to be enough to halt a Jamie Vardy-inspired Foxes team from making it five wins in a row. Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Stoke — James Whittaker
WATFORD: The Hornets are now involved in the relegation scrap, and while a win against Sunderland will alleviate fears, confidence among fans is at rock bottom. Faith in Walter Mazzarri is quickly waning, although he will choose from a squad missing only the long term injured (Roberto Pereyra and Mauro Zarate). With so much at stake for both sides, this is likely to be a tense and scrappy affair.
Prediction: Watford 2-1 Sunderland — Mike Parkin
SUNDERLAND: With just 10 games left in a grim season, Sunderland’s hopes of avoiding relegation become more remote week by week. A rare win would lift David Moyes’ team, and the fans’ morale, but looks a tall order unless Jermain Defoe does at least as well as he did in England’s win against Lithuania — and the rest of the team match his standards.
Prediction: Watford 1-1 Sunderland — Colin Randall
SOUTHAMPTON: The loss of injured in-form Italian Manolo Gabbiadini is a big blow but Southampton swept Bournemouth aside in the reverse fixture in December and will be confident of getting the better of their south coast neighbours once again, even without their main goal threat.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Bournemouth — Alex Crook
BOURNEMOUTH: The vast majority of the squad will have enjoyed a welcome rest over the international break and should be raring to go for the Southampton clash. The Cherries will be hoping to continue their good form and while Claude Puel’s side will definitely pose a tricky test, it should be one they should comfortably overcome.
Prediction: Southampton 0-1 Bournemouth — Will Kent
HULL CITY: Hull City certainly owe West Ham United one after their previous meeting just before Christmas when a post was named Man of the Match in the Hammers’ fortuitous 1-0 win. That day suggested City have nothing to fear from an erratic opponent and provided they can keep old boy Robert Snodgrass quiet, there is no reason why a productive run on home soil cannot continue in a fixture Marco Silva’s side simply cannot afford to lose.
Prediction: Hull City 2-0 West Ham — Phil Buckingham
WEST HAM: Hull City haven’t lost at home since Boxing Day and will fancy their chances at the KCOM Stadium against a West Ham side in freefall. Injury ravaged and lacking confidence, Slaven Bilic’s team may struggle unless the manager can get something extra from his porous defence.
Prediction: Hull City 2-2 West Ham — Peter Thorne
Elsewhere, champions-elect Chelsea host Crystal Palace while West Brom travel to Manchester United on a high after that 3-1 win against Arsenal last time out. At the bottom, there’s a huge clash between Swansea and Middlesbrough as well as the South Coast derby between Southampton and Bournemouth.
It’s really hotting up — and there are no more international breaks — as we approach the run-in. Who will prevail? Have your say in the comments below and vote in the match polls.
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