EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 35

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The English Premier League only has a few weeks left and there is clearly a reason why football fans regard the league as the most exciting and competitive. That is because the league title is the closest of all the European major leagues and will most likely go down to the wire between Liverpool and Manchester City.

There are 2 Champions League places to take care of as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham do battle to secure a top 4 place. And Cardiff have given themselves a chance by beating Brighton in midweek- all is to play for as we enter another weekend of Premier League football which should be enthralling and fascinating.

Manchester City v Tottenham

Just where do we start after the teams played out an incredible Champions League 2nd leg quarter final where City won 4-3 on the night but went out on the away goals rule. City need to win this game or that could be the title over too. They will be utterly determined to win this game at home now. Watch out for Raheem Sterling who was denied a hat trick because of VAR, a system not used in the Premier League yet. Manchester City to beat Tottenham

Bournemouth v Fulham

Fulham got a terrific victory over Everton last weekend even though they are down, but their away form is very poor. Eddie Howe’s side are safe and beat Brighton 5-0 in their last match. Callum Wilson could be the difference between the sides, but this should be a close game. Draw

Huddersfield v Watford

More than likely Watford’s mindset will be preparing for the FA Cup final even if it is still a month away. They will be without influential player Troy Deeney who was sent off in the defeat against Arsenal. Huddersfield are relegated and have little to play for, except for home pride and we could see a surprise result here. Huddersfield to beat Watford

West Ham v Leicester

West Ham have been in poor form but the players put in a great shift against Manchester United at Old Trafford and if they can take something from that game even though they lost they could do well here. Felipe Anderson played very well. Leicester have been strong under Brendan Rodgers but lost their last game at home to Newcastle where they didn’t turn up. West Ham to beat Leicester

Wolves v Brighton

Wolves have been excellent this season but they have just 1 win in their past four games. However at home against a poor form side like Brighton this should be 3 points and they could be back in the hunt for a 7th place finish. Brighton continue to be poor in 2019 and could now face a relegation dog fight. Wolves to beat Brighton

Newcastle v Southampton

The Magpies pulled off a great result last weekend going to Leicester and getting a 1-0 win and playing well. Southampton have just 1 win in their past four games and this is their furthest trip in league fixtures. We will opt for the home win here in a game where we could see plenty of goals. Newcastle to beat Southampton

Everton v Manchester United

Since the beginning of March Everton have found form and Marco Silva’s job has been saved. But they put in a toothless display against Fulham last weekend and lost. Back at home where they beat Arsenal and Chelsea recently they can give United a game. United have been in average form and were knocked out in the Champions League against Barcelona, but remain a danger as they hunt for a top 4 finish. Could Everton’s Richarlison be the difference? Draw

Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Arsenal should have few problems against Palace and get all three points. The Gunners have been one of the best teams in the league at home and have lost here just once back on the opening day of the season. Palace are safe and have little to play for. Pierre Emerick- Aubameyang is in great form and will relish this game. Arsenal to beat Crystal Palace

Cardiff v Liverpool

Cardiff got a massive victory over Brighton in midweek to give themselves a chance for survival. But they must keep winning. The problem is they are facing Liverpool and this will be a difficult match. Liverpool just keep on collecting the points, and whilst this will be  a difficult game for the Reds they should have enough quality up front to hurt the home team. Liverpool to beat Cardiff

Chelsea v Burnley

Chelsea still have a great chance to finish in the top four, the problem is that their direct rivals have 5 games to play while they have 4. That means that every game counts but winning at least at home is essential. Eden Hazard is looking the business as he possibly wraps up his career with the Blues. Burnley are in excellent form with 3 wins from their last 3 games but have lost 9 times on the road this season. Chelsea to beat Burnley

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How Tottenham are fighting for Champions League glory & top 4 position even without a transfer policy

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This weeks club ownership focuses on Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur who have had quite a successful season when one thinks that the London club have brought in no new players.

When some clubs are spending staggering amounts of money in the summer window, somehow the days, weeks and months rolled on with Tottenham not dipping into the transfer market. Chairman Daniel Levy knew that the clubs new stadium was going to cost much more than anticipated and purse strings had to be tightened.

The predictions were already in for the season that Tottenham would do poorly in the Champions League and that they had no chance of winning the Premier League and that they wouldn’t even be able to challenge for a top 4 position.

What compounded everything for the club was the news that they would have to play their home games at Wembley Stadium with the redevelopment and in the end brand new stadium on the site of their old stadium. Delays were fraught with frustration and when it seemed that the club would be moving into their new stadium by the end of the year that was delayed once more.

But still the players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli and the terrific Son Heung-Min stepped up, the whole team did and in doing so have done manager Mauricio Pochettino proud. Tottenham may not win any trophies this season but they have done themselves proud.

At the time of writing the club have one foot in the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating Manchester City 1-0 in the 1st leg quarter final tie. The match is far from over but the club have given themselves a chance.

In the league Tottenham have been 3rd for most of the season and competitive at that. They have slipped up in recent weeks but despite injuries to Kane and Alli they continued to win games, and they have continued to upset teams who have spent much more than them.

Levy and Pochettino had a plan, true it was risky but they both realised that they had the squad to cope with this season. Of course having a no transfer budget plan is football suicide in the long run, but instead of spending £100m upwards this season the club have held back in order to go into a fresh season in their new stadium and have one would hope a good budget and deals for next season.

It should be an interesting summer at Tottenham and if the club can hold onto their best players and buy 3-4 ones that they really need then next season could be the one where Pochettino breaks his duck for the club. Of course let’s not forget that they are still in the Champions League and if they get past City they could face either Juventus or Ajax in the semi’s for a mind dazzling final. Now that would be something.

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Can Chelsea star Eden Hazard rise up to the occasion and derail Liverpool’s title dream?

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We already knew how great a player Eden Hazard was coming into the new English Premier League season  and there has been rumours surrounding the Belgian with a big money move to Real Madrid in the summer, but at the tail end of the season Hazard has to prove just how good he really is.

Hazard has scored 16 times and assisted in 12 other goals which is a fantastic record and Chelsea are now up to 3rd place. However the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United could well relegate the Blues to 6th, a position they have occupied for the last month.

All in all it hasn’t been a great season for Chelsea with their league title chances evaporating before Christmas and everyone will remember when they were destroyed 6-0 by the champions Manchester City.

Chelsea did reach the Carabao Cup final where they were unlucky to lose to Manchester City losing the final on the dreaded penalty shoot out. The club are in the Europa League quarter finals and Hazard has the opportunity to end his career with the London club by winning the competition.

Hazard has been brilliant with Chelsea and brilliant this season, but the problem for the 28 year old is he hasn’t been consistent. Surely that is what separates the great from the geniuses of the game? Can Hazard make the step up to Real Madrid? Yes he can but if he doesn’t perform on a regular basis, one wonders if the move could be a bad career one for him. Still the lure of playing for the side will be too great. Another question that must be posed is, does Zidane need or want him? We will find out in the summer months.

But back to now and the Premier League. And Hazard was showered with praise after his superb display against West Ham and he got a brace in that win. But with all due respect to West Ham, they are not of the same quality as Liverpool, and that is Chelsea’s next opponent.

The question is, can Hazard’s brilliance defeat Liverpool at Anfield? If Zidane is wondering about Hazard or any other top club for that matter they will be looking closely at a game where Liverpool have looked almost unstoppable this season, especially at home where they have yet to lose a game.

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If Hazard is that good and wants to be considered a different level player one suspects he is being asked to show it. Or will we get a quiet game from the maestro only summarising his career with one week looking great the next looking average.

Let’s not forget how big the Liverpool game is. Manchester City will be keeping a close eye on the game of course but this is massive also for Chelsea in trying to finish in the top four.

If Hazard cannot help deliver a top 4 place for Maurizio Sarri’s team may be he will always be known as a very good player instead of a brilliant one which he has been touted about for some time. Bottom line is he needs to show his worth against a quality side away from home like Liverpool, and this weekend he is going to be presented with that very chance.

Arsenal’s away troubles hint at lingering Wenger-era weakness

Things were supposed to be different, and in many ways they are. Arsenal, with Unai Emery at the helm, are in a good position to finish in the Premier League’s top four, their objective at the start of the season. The Spaniard has revived some aspects of the North London club many believed to have died under Arsene Wenger.

One rather significant remnant of the Wenger era lingers, though. Just as was the case last season, the Gunners have struggled away from home of late, winning just one of their last 10 away games in the league. If there is one thing holding Arsenal back from achieving their targets, it is their dismal away record.

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So how can they address this? Well, for starters they must look to take the initiative more often. Far too frequently, Emery’s side invite pressure on top of themselves when they have the capacity and ability to take control themselves. Arsenal, on their travels are too flimsy in the centre of midfield and defence. This was obvious in the recent away defeats to Everton and West Ham.

What’s more, Arsenal’s pressing game seems to lose its edge when they are away from the Emirates Stadium. At home, the Gunners tend to press from the front, yet on the road they sit back. Alexandre Lacazette against Everton, for instance, found himself in midfield for the majority of the match whenever the opposition had the ball. He should have been leading a high press from the front.

Mesut Ozil is another who could help improve Arsenal’s recent away record. The German can often be unfairly typecast as the sort of player who slacks off when it comes to the dirty side of the game. Recent displays against Manchester United and Rennes have gone against the grain of that perception, but away from home Ozil reverts to that damaging typecast. He is too passive.

The other issue Arsenal face is that individual errors are costing them. Those are much harder to legislate for, but Emery must attempt to instil the sort of confidence and self-assurance in his players that lead to these mistakes being avoided.

Arsenal currently occupy a place in the top four and stand a good chance of finishing there. Emery has undoubtedly made progress in his first season at the club, but old weaknesses remain. Ironing them out will be key to achieving long term success and there is no bigger kink than the troublesome away record.

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Ryan Fraser would be a shrewd summer addition for Arsenal

Only two players have made more assists in the Premier League this season than Ryan Fraser. Indeed, the Scottish midfielder has been a creator extraordinaire for Bournemouth over the 2018/19 campaign, notching no fewer than 10 assists in 30 games for the Cherries. Fraser sits deservedly in the top three of this season’s assists chart alongside Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen.

It’s little wonder then that the Scotland international has, in recent weeks, been linked with a summer move away from the Vitality Stadium. Bournemouth have made themselves a permanent fixture in the Premier League of late, but many believe Fraser is ready for that next step in his career.

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Arsenal, who are reportedly keen on the 25-year-old, would represent that next step up. Fraser is, by trade, a wide player and the suggestion is that Unai Emery wants to add at least one such figure to his Gunners squad this summer. And with Arsenal unable to compete at the very top end of the transfer market Fraser would be an extremely shrewd addition.

Reports hint that Fraser could be available for as little as £25 million, making him one of the potential signings of the summer. The Scot would add some drive and energy through the midfield for the Gunners, something they will need following the departure of Aaron Ramsey to Juventus at the end of the season.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s very nice,” Fraser said when asked what it meant to him to be linked with a club of Arsenal’s stature. “It means you are are doing something right. They are a huge club, a massive club. When you see your name thrown around you always think to yourself that you are a Bournemouth player and you try to do well. I’m not going to lie, you do feel good, especially when it’s a massive club.”

Fraser might not be more than a squad option to Arsenal, but he would be a very good one. The Scot has already stepped up his game by moving to the south coast from Aberdeen as a youngster and his recent comments suggest he is ready to make another step up. Fraser wouldn’t be the most glamorous of signings, it’s unlikely that thousands of fans will turn up for his unveiling at the Emirates Stadium, but he would widen the range of options at Emery’s disposal.

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EPL: Premier League Predictions Week 33

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With just over a month to go until the Premier League wraps up the two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool continues, there is just 1 point in it and this battle looks sure to go down to the wire. Champions League places are also up for grabs. Fulham and Huddersfield have been relegated but there is still one more place to decide although it looks likely that could be Cardiff who need to start picking up the points.

Below we take a look at the games ahead of the weekend and predict who we think will come out on top.

Southampton v Liverpool

Liverpool need all three points but Southampton will be a difficult opponent at St Mary’s when the two teams go head to head on Friday night. Goals have dried up for Mohamed Salah but Sadio Mane has been on fire and Liverpool will be the odds on favourites to win this game. When they are not playing well they are getting just the right amount of luck and look unstoppable. Liverpool to beat Southampton

Bournemouth v Burnley

Bournemouth have been in poor form but at the same time they are safe and have won just 1 game in the last five. Burnley can really turn the screw on 18th placed Cardiff with a win here and go further clear which could virtually secure their status in the Premier League. The boost for them is that they have just beaten Wolves and ended a 4 game losing streak. Draw

Huddersfield v Leicester

Now that Huddersfield are down they might just be able to relax and enjoy their football. Leicester are trying to be the best of the rest and finish in 7th place and are in very good form now under new coach Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy will be hoping to get back on the score sheet. Leicester to beat Huddersfield

Newcastle v Crystal Palace

The teams come into this game with the same form and Palace are just 1 point above Newcastle. Newcastle’s form is spectacular at home where they have won their last 5 games in a row and they should have too much for Palace. Newcastle to beat Crystal Palace

Everton v Arsenal

Can Everton win 3 games in a row? They will face  a difficult team in Arsenal and the Gunners are in very good form. Arsenal are looking good for 3rd place and have more quality than  Everton. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is in good form and they have plenty of goals in their team. Arsenal to beat Everton

Chelsea v West Ham

West Ham have had some poor results lately and even the games they have been winning they haven’t been very convincing. Chelsea at home have been superb this season and Olivier Giroud has finally found his goal scoring boots. Chelsea to beat West Ham

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Everton are right to sell Theo Walcott if reports are true

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In all honesty when Everton signed Theo Walcott under Sam Allardyce, eyebrows were raised. It felt that the signing from Arsenal seemed too late in Walcott’s career and it also felt that Everton simply didn’t need the player.

Granted his pace has always be the No.1. factor in having such a player in the team and yet it felt that Everton were taking steps backwards to buy the then 29 year old player who ended up costing the club in excess of £20m.

Walcott never reached his potential with Arsenal instead starring in games that had already been won or scoring goals in meaningless cup matches that meant very little against weaker opposition. That’s not to say that Walcott isn’t a good Premier League player, after all he would never have made it at a club like Arsenal with Arsene Wenger in charge. It’s just that much more was expected from a player who looked so exciting when he was at Southampton.

Walcott was never a prolific scorer even for an attacking Arsenal side who were finishing in better positions than Everton so why would he be better for Everton and be older?

So the signing made no sense and he did sign for 3 and a half years, but it seems that he is not in Marco Silva’s long term plans and the club will be looking to offload the player at a loss in the summer. At least it would ease the wage bill at the club because believe it or not Walcott earns the most at Everton and is on a huge £110,000 a week wages.

This was another short sighted area from Everton where much of the blame has to be laid at Sam Allardyce’s feet for agreeing on these fees to get his man. Walcott has also scored just 7 goals in all competitions for the club. That’s from 44 games played and is a shocking return when you think of the money spent.

In selling Walcott Everton  are giving out a positive notice of selling ‘deadwood’ and bringing in younger players. Silva after receiving some pressure this season should be ok now and will have a summer transfer of spending to do. It’s a refreshing moment for Everton who will build their team around youth and aim for a European place next season. In selling some journeymen they are going the right way under Silva, and hopefully the club will not make the same type of mistakes again.

Is the honeymoon period over for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United?

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In his first three months in charge at Old Trafford Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went undefeated and wooed everyone with an attacking brand of football not seen at Manchester United since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.

All of a sudden there were goals at the club, attacking play, smashing teams and happy players. Solskjaer had built in 90 days what previous managers could not do in 6 years, a fantastic footballing unit. Much of this was down to Solskjaer being an ex United player under Ferguson and admitting that the clubs DNA and philosophy ran through his blood.

His biggest achievements have been United charging into the top 5 and given Tottenham and Arsenal food for thought for Champions League qualification. In December the club had no chance, but now they have every chance. Then there is the Champions League where against all odds and losing 2-0 to PSG in the first leg of the knock out round of 16, United came back in Paris and won 3-1. Now they will play Barcelona in a mouth watering quarter final.

But have the wheels come off of the project? United have lost 3 out of their last 4 games and questions will be asked. It’s unfortunate for the Norwegian who had just signed a 3 year full time contract with the club.

The first loss was being knocked out by Wolves in the FA Cup. Wolves have been brilliant this season and really punched above their weight but this result was still seen as a disappointment for the club who wanted to go further.

Then came the loss against Arsenal, this time 2-0 and a reality check that United still have a long way to go. Although to be fair to the Gunners they have become incredibly tough to beat at the Emirates and have lost only one game their. Still it was at that ground that United had visited a few weeks previously and knocked them out of the FA Cup.

A routine win against Watford followed when United returned home to more familiar territory. But the stench of defeat reared its ugly head again this week when United lost again to Wolves in the league, and by the same score line of 2-1.

The result has left some question marks over United and if they will have enough to finish in the top 4. The suggestion is that they will just miss out. And as harsh as the media can be there will be some growing pressure on Solskjaer- was he really the right man to lead the club full time?

For now we have to believe he is and it will be fascinating to see who he brings into the club in the summer. His philosophy and man management seem spot on and he needs time without pressure to get the right results over the long term, but will he be given it, that’s another question.

Can Manchester City win the quadruple?

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After victory over Cardiff City last night which took Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League, a question must be asked, can they win the quadruple?

City have of course already won the league cup in England, not only are they in 1st place in the league but they are also in the semi finals of the FA Cup. They have also qualified for the Champions League quarter final stage. Everything does look set up for Pep Guardiola’s men although there are some very important matches still to come and very tough weeks ahead.

Of course 20 years ago it was the other half of Manchester that was sweeping up trophies as Manchester United won the treble of the Champions League, The League title and the FA Cup. But their rivals City could go one better this season.

Guardiola has already won the quadruple with Barcelona in 2009, in fact he ended up winning six trophies that year as the team won the super cup and then went on to win the FIFA World Club Cup. But how realistic is it that City could win it?

In the league City are locked in a fierce battle with Liverpool to win it. Though City are a point ahead Liverpool could go back on top on Friday night. Although City hold the slight advantage as they have a game in hand, that extra game is away to Manchester United their biggest rivals, so 3 points are not certain. That fight looks like it will go down to the wire.

In the FA Cup City will face Brighton in the semi finals and they will be big favourites to get through to the final where they will either play Wolves or Watford. On paper you would say City will win, but let’s not forget how well Wolves and Watford have done in the league this season and they have become the best of the rest with some impressive results and remain a threat.

Finally in the Champions League City have got to the last eight where they will face Tottenham. This all English match should be a fantastic spectacle and even though City will be favourites to advance to the semi finals we must remember that Tottenham have been strong in this competition this season and have their brand new stadium to boot.

If City can get past Tottenham they would face either Ajax or Juventus in the semi finals, with the possibility of playing Liverpool or Barcelona in a final if form went the way it could. How ironic for Guardiola if he was to have the chance to win a quadruple to face his former side Barcelona in a final.

City may fall short but they have given themselves a fantastic chance to make some history this season.

Marco Silva earns respect at Everton after a yo yo season

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Marco Silva was supposed to be the second coming for Everton after he was appointed in the summer, but it hasn’t always been a season for Everton to remember. Fans have been vocal and club owner Farhad Moshiri has been critical but the recent upturn at the club is set to give Silva a lot more respect.

The argument for Silva’s sacking almost seemed justified a few months ago, when Everton seemingly couldn’t buy a win. It all seemed to start when they lost at home to West Ham last November, this was at a time when the Hammers were really struggling in the league. The Toffee men were soon knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Southampton again at home and everything fell apart. All of a sudden players like Richarlison were not performing and the clubs home form and away form could not be told apart. It was a harsh almost embarrassing winter for the club.

An inevitable FA Cup exit to Millwall followed and that was by and large Everton’s season over- and at that point it could have been Silva’s short reign with the club too. There were still the odd results to get excited about, like beating Burnley who had found form themselves 5-1, but all in all it felt as if Everton were destined for 16th position.

Everyone realised and surely Silva did too that the derby match against Liverpool at the beginning of March could save his job. Liverpool have been superb this season and could win their first league title since 1990, obviously it is something that Everton would want to stop. While they couldn’t beat their eternal rivals they did salvage a 0-0 draw and at least took 2 points from them. This ensured that Manchester City would go back to the top of the standings.

A 3-2 loss at Newcastle followed but Silva gained sympathy given that Newcastle’s winner was a clear off side, the jury was still out, but the execution was awaiting trial. Having to play the 2017 champions next was the big one for Everton and they passed with flying colours beating Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park. And then the club finally won back to back games when they avenged their defeat earlier in the season by travelling to West Ham and beating them 2-0.

And it is those results that have ultimately saved Silva’s job. He will be Everton’s manager next season, and whilst some of his playing decisions have been odd and results in general not good enough surely he deserves another summer transfer window and another season to push Everton into Europe.