Can Norwich manage the
great miracle escape at West Bromwich Albion’s expense? Can Liverpool rip the title from Manchester City’s affluent clutches with a helping hand from West Ham? Dom Kureen takes a look at the today’s decisive Premier League fixtures.
Cardiff City vs Chelsea
Bluebirds fans have endured a miserable sequence of results since unpopular chairman Vincent Tan dispensed with the services of Malky Mackay and appointed the relatively unproven Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – resulting in an inevitable relegation that was confirmed last weekend.
Chelsea on the other hand would have probably won the title with a top notch goalscorer among their front line – Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres managing a combined total of 18 league goals and only exhibiting fleeting prowess.
It begs the question: Why did they loan out the exceptional Romelu Lukaku to Everton?
Prediction: 1-2 – Chelsea should have too much for a Cardiff side already planning for next term.
Fulham vs Crystal Palace
You would have got long odds on The Eagles staying up at the start of the season, with Ian Holloway deciding to quit after a handful of belief sapping drubbings.
That proved to be the catalyst for a remarkable change of fortunes, with new chief Tony Pulis transforming Palace into a rugged mid-table outfit and resurrecting floundering individual careers at will.
Fulham have employed three different full-time managers this season, in a futile attempt to retain Premier League status, although current boss Felix Magath has done a reasonable job of utilising a squad bursting with decrepit and erratic flops.
Prediction: 2-1 – Neither team has anything on the line, but Fulham will be desperate to give their long suffering fans a happy Summer send-off.
Hull City vs Everton
Two teams that have exceeded pre-season predictions. The Tigers could bounce from 16th to 12th with a victory, leapfrogging a cluster of sides directly above them.
Everton have used the loan system more efficiently than anyone else, securing the services of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deuolfeu and Lacina Traore over the past two transfer windows.
Finally running out in the steam in late April, the rise of English prospects such as John Stones and Ross Barkley has been another bonus and a major reason why European football will feature at Goodison Park in 2014-15.
Prediction: 1-3: Two sides whose form has petered out as of late, Everton should nonetheless be able to gain a convincing victory.
Liverpool vs Newcastle United
Steven Gerrard’s untimely slip against Chelsea, followed shortly after by Liverpool’s capitulation at Crystal Palace, will mean that the Reds are probably more concerned about events at the City of Manchester Stadium than what’s unfolding before their eyes.
Brendan Rodgers’ boys must win and hope that West Ham do them a solid against Manchester City, who only need to draw their home match to secure a resting place at the summit.
Newcastle’s 3-0 win against Cardiff last weekend eased the pressure on Alan Pardew somewhat, but their horrific form since selling Yohan Cabaye in January has undermined what was developing into a hugely promising campaign.
Prediction: 4-1 – Rodgers knows that it’s win or bust. With more than 40,000 fervent home fans roaring the home side on they’ll dispatch a troubled Toon side without too much resistance.
Manchester City vs West Ham United
Dispensing with Roberto Mancini in favour of Manuel Pellegrini in the summer, City have added flair and guile to an already high calibre group, in the process hammering home a remarkable 100 league goals (one more than Liverpool.)
Yaya Toure has struck 20 of those from midfield, establishing himself as the English football’s most intimidating presence in the process. The Ivory Coast international’s availability will be key against a Hammers team with an at times painstakingly direct philosophy.
Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll are key to ‘big’ Sam Allardyce’s ethos and could cause major discomfort to City’s back line, most notably error-prone Argentinian Martin Demichelis.
Prediction: 2-2 – Big Sam will be keen to disrupt this party and increase his job security as a bi-product, this will be far from a cake walk.
Norwich City vs Arsenal
The Canaries have faltered in the final third of the season, not helped by an horrendous fixture run-in. Chris Hughton’s dismissal has failed to vastly improve matters and a brave 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week was too little, too late.
Norwich could still mathematically stay up… If they win 10-0 and West Bromwich Albion lose at home to Stoke by eight or more goals (or results to that effect.)
Arsenal’s recent resurgence ensured that they fended off Everton for the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying slot. With an FA Cup final to come, expect the Gunners to rest a clutch of first team regulars.
Prediction: 2-3 – Norwich will hope to exploit some weaker links in Arsene Wenger’s selection, but their own flaws should once again be more deeply exposed come the final whistle.
Southampton vs Manchester United
Saints have been terrific this season, utilising their young English talent, whilst augmenting the squad with a few high calibre additions. In boss Mauricio Pochettino they also possess one of the most exciting young managers around.
Manchester United may be eight points above today’s opponents, but an alarming fall from grace necessitated David Moyes’ dismissal less than ten months into the role – leading to club legend Ryan Giggs taking over at the helm for the conclusive quartet of contests.
Expect United to promptly clear out around a dozen players who have long been living off past glories.
Prediction: 3-3 – Giggs and Pochettino will both be keen to attack from the off, meaning that this should be an end-to-end festival of reckless, exciting football.
Sunderland vs Swansea City
No team has defied logic like Sunderland over the past month. Sitting seven points from safety with a formidable set of fixtures to come, they proceeded to gain 13 points from a possible 15 to secure their seat among the elite.
Swansea have been grateful of £12m summer acquisition Wilfried Bony’s 24 goals, which have proven integral to their survival. Fellow close season arrival, Jonjo Shelvey, has pulled the strings in midfield.
With only one point separating these sides in the table, both will be relieved to have belatedly hit their stride after earlier turbulence.
Prediction: 3-1 – Sunderland are on a roll, expect that to continue against the Swans.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa
Andres Villa Boas’ Tottenham tenure was ill-fated from the start and his replacement, Tim Sherwood, was always going to be a temporary patch on a wound that eventually required major surgery.
Having sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record fee of £85.3m in the summer, Spurs appear to have squandered the majority of that bunse on over priced flops, although Christian Eriksen has shown glimpses of his pedigree.
Villa have stagnated following a promising conclusion to 2012-13’s excursions. Much of that has been related to a trilogy of circumstances: the regular absence of star striker Christian Benteke, a clutch of dire additions in the past couple of transfer windows and fluctuating form from mediocre youngsters.
Prediction: 3-1 – Villa are uninspiring and despite their best form having come away from Villa Park, they are unlikely to trouble Spurs.
West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City
Pepe Mel didn’t have the instant impact associated with a new manager when he replaced Steve Clarke in January, finally gaining his inaugural victory at the seventh attempt.
April successes at the expense of Norwich and West Ham put the boing back in the Baggies’ step though and, barring snookers, survival is assured, although they will hope to improve drastically next time out.
Stoke have progressed significantly under the guidance of Mark Hughes, adding facets of technical play to their long-time sturdy backbone. Potters followers will head into this summer with renewed optimism regarding the future of their club.
Prediction: 1-1 – WBA are a pretty ordinary outfit, with a couple of gifted midfielders, while Stoke have made good progress – score draw.
How do you expect it to unfold later today? Let us know in the comments section below.