Premier League Preview: Courtesy of Premierleaguepass.com

Round Thirty Four.

The finishing post is rapidly approaching and Leicester continue to lead the pack in impressive manner. I have a bit of a dilemma this week as they take on my beloved West Ham. I am desperate for a Hammers win but concerned that a Leicester defeat may open the door for an unthinkable Spurs title push. Sod it. West Ham to win and Spurs will fall over of their own accord. At the other end of the table the Norwich v Sunderland game looks to be one to watch. One of the great things about football is that the fans of a side that finishes 17th in the Premier League are invariably much happier people than those who support the team who came second. It’s a funny old game.

I have given my thoughts below, let me have yours via @milesdavislive

Norwich City v Sunderland

 11:45pm Saturday 16 April

Arguably the biggest game for these sides this season and one that could be pivotal in deciding the relegation spots. Norwich had been making a bit of a charge to safety but came unstuck at Palace last week going down 1-0. Despite the loss they still hold a four point advantage over Sunderland but the Black Cats have a game in hand. Norwich boss Alex Neil is downplaying the clash and insists it isn’t a do or die relegation clash. I bet the club’s fans see it differently. The Canaries are likely to be without defender Timm Klose who is suffering from a knee injury.

Sunderland had their run of four straight draws broken as they went down 2-0 at home to Leicester. This game is huge for the Black Cats as a loss would see them drop seven points behind Norwich with just five games left. Sam Allardyce has upset a section of Sunderland fans by labelling this game as a ‘must not lose’ game rather than a ‘must win’. Expect the Black Cats to stop Norwich playing first before trying to hit on the break. Sunderland have a full squad to pick from.

Norwich have won three and drawn two of the last five meetings and may have just enough to grab another valuable three points.

Key Player:
Sebastian Bassong. Likely to start this week and will want to make an impression. Top talent when in the mood.

Davis: 1-0
TAB: Norwich $2.35 Sunderland $3 Draw $3.10

Everton v Southampton

 02:00am Sunday 17 April

Everton’s draw at Watford earned them their first point in four games and gave voice to the ‘Martinez Out’ brigade (they followed it up with another point at Palace). There have obviously been some issues with Everton this season, their inconsistency arguably a sign that they are not progressing under their current boss. With 40 points in the bag relegation is not really a consideration but the Toffees will be keen to make sure. Everton have been awful at home losing eight and winning just four. Phil Jakielka will miss out through injury but Tom Cleverley is half a chance to be considered.

Southampton bounced back from their loss at Leicester with a convincing 3-1 home win over struggling Newcastle. That made it three wins from four and lifts the Saints to within touching distance of the top five. They have travelled reasonably well this season picking up five wins and six draws. There are concerns over the fitness of Shane Long but he looks likely to play some part.

Everton look to have lost their way in the league and are vulnerable at home. This should give Southampton a reasonable chance of a positive result.

Key Player:
Romelu Lukaku. Been relatively quiet for the last three games and bound to erupt soon. Especially if he fancies a move to a bigger club in the summer.

Davis: 1-1
TAB: Everton $2.25 Soton $3 Draw $3.25

Manchester United v Aston Villa

 02:00am Sunday 17 April

The Red Devils played some decent football at Spurs, before falling apart late on, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. It was a blow in United’s charge for European football and allowed rivals Citeh to open up a four point gap. They would have been lifted by their Cup win at West Ham and be in the mood to pick up another three points here. The young lads have been instrumental in much of which has been good about United this season with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford leading the way magnificently. Old Trafford has been somewhat of a fortress with just two games lost and a league-low seven goals conceded.

Aston Villa are mathematically still alive but in reality long dead in terms of their Premier League status. Their home loss to Bournemouth was their eighth defeat on the trot and they are now 15 points from safety. Morale looks to be at an all-time low both on and off the pitch. The empty seats are testament to the football Villa have served up this season winning just 3 of 33. Interim boss Eric Black has no real chance of making an impact and somehow has to rally a dispirited rabble.

With United not having lost any of the last dozen meetings he needs plenty of luck and is not likely to come out of this one covered in glory.

Key Player:
Wayne Rooney. Looks likely to play a part and it will be great to see him back. The calls to have him dropped by England are farcical and frankly typical of the low-rent media in Britain who have spent his whole career trying to undermine him. He has set England and Manchester United scoring records so I don’t believe he has anything to prove.

Davis: 3-0
TAB: Man Utd $1.18 Villa $15 Draw $5.75

Newcastle United v Swansea City

 02:00am Sunday 17 April

Newcastle’s 3-1 loss at Southampton came on the back of their heart-breaking late loss at Norwich and made it just one point picked up from their last seven games. The gap to Norwich is now six points although the Magpies have a game in hand. Friction between the players apparently blew up in the dressing room last week with heated exchanges and a hole punched in the wall. Whether it proves beneficial remains to be seen. Fabricio Coloccini faces a late fitness test as does Daryl Janmaat on a groin strain and a broken hand from a close encounter with a dressing room wall.

Swansea come into this on the back of a memorable 1-0 win over Chelsea. As well as the joy of victory it was also a priceless three points which all but guarantees the Swans Premier League survival. There has been speculation about the future of Francesco Guidolin at the club with rumours of a Brendan Rodgers return and Guidolin going to take over Italy. The board however insist no final decision has been made and all options are still on the table. Swansea have lost eight times on the road winning just three so not the best of travellers.

Swansea have won six and drawn one of the last seven meetings and will probably have enough to stop the Magpies flying off with three points.

Key Player:
Rafa Benitez. The Spanish Waiter was brought in to inspire the Geordie troops but has found out how rotten the whole squad is. It will be interesting to see if he becomes the target of the fans frustrations or whether they will support him and turn on the players?

Davis: 1-1
TAB: Newcastle $2.30 Swansea $3 Draw $3.20

West Bromwich Albion v Watford

 02:00am Sunday 17 April

West Brom took a surprise lead at Manchester City and made their hosts work for a 2-1 win. The Baggies have become hard to predict this season with epic wins often being followed by a poor loss. With their Premier League status assured for another year it will be interesting to see what direction the club are going to go. Tony Pulis has been linked to the Newcastle job assuming they get relegated and Benitez moves on. The Hawthorns has not been the happiest of hunting grounds with six wins matched by the same number of losses. Striker Salomon Rondon faces a late fitness test as does James Morrison.

Watford continue to plod on in the league with their 1-1 draw with Everton providing their first point from five games. It has become apparent that the FA Cup has distracted the Hornets from the Premier League and you cannot rely on them to give 100% at the moment. Goals are at a premium with just two scored in the last six games.

If the Baggies fans are lucky they may see an attacking display from their side who are equipped to take advantage of a less than committed opponent.

Key Player:
Saido Berahino. Surely will be out to strut his stuff and secure the move he has been demanding for the last 18 months.

Davis: 2-0
TAB: West Brom $2.30 Watford $3.10 Draw $3.10

Chelsea v Manchester City

 04:30am Sunday 17 April

Despite their less than stellar form this season, Chelsea will be desperate to inflict some damage to Citeh’s rapidly fading title aspirations. Their 1-0 loss at Swansea was their first setback in the league since Guus Hiddink’s return and made the chance of European football a remote prospect. The rest of the season will therefore be devoted to climbing as high in the table as possible and buggering up as many team’s seasons as possible. John Terry is once again out through injury and an even bigger loss is that of Willian who has been the Pensioners’ star performer this season. Strangely Chelsea have won just five times at home this season.

Citeh made hard work of their 2-1 win over West Brom but put in a top effort midweek against PSG. Whilst their focus will still be mainly on Europe they will be conscious of their City rivals being close behind them in the race for Champions League qualification, and will be keen to maintain their current four point lead. Citeh have been a bit hit and miss away from home but tend to make more of an effort in the bigger games.

A game that could go either way but I am leaning more towards the home side who may be more motivated.

Key Player:
Oscar. Often unsung but has been a consistent performer for Chelsea over the last couple of seasons and along with Willian can hold his head up high amongst his peers.

Davis: 2-1
TAB: Chelsea $2.40 Citeh $2.75 Draw $3.30

Bournemouth v Liverpool

 12:30am Monday 18 April

Bournemouth ended a run of two straight losses with a 2-1 win at Villa. The win also ensured a second season of top-flight football. Their achievements this season have been remarkable and a major concern will be the retention of manager Eddie Howe who has rightly been attracting attention from bigger clubs. Despite the disruptions caused by injuries to key players, Bournemouth have continued to try and play passing football (although they did add some more direct muscle with the signing of Benik Afobe). Afobe will miss this game through injury and Junior Stanislas faces a fitness test after a long lay-off.

Liverpool hit their straps in the 4-1 win over Stoke at Anfield. They are a dangerous side when they get their tails up but those types of performances have not been frequent enough this season. A major plus for the Reds has been the emergence of Divock Origi. The young Belgian has impressed in recent weeks and could be a key part of next season as Klopp looks to make his mark. Liverpool have won more games on the road this season than at Anfield so must be a threat.

Bournemouth have never beaten Liverpool in their eight meetings and may struggle to do so this time. I fancy them however to battle their way to a point.

Key Player:
Eddie Howe. Have a look in the crowd for any board member of a top club. Or even a big club that is looking like getting relegated!!

Davis: 1-1
TAB: Bournemouth $3.50 Liverpool $2 Draw $3.35

Leicester City v West Ham United

 12:30am Monday 18 April

Leicester kept the impossible dream very much alive with a comfortable 2-0 win at relegation-threatened Sunderland. That makes it five wins on the trot for the Foxes and they have not conceded in any of those games. Their self-belief has grown week-by-week and it would be a major shock to see them stumble from here. Jamie Vardy continues to produce the goods and his all-round work-rate is phenomenal. Truly one of the stars of the season. The defence of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan has been equally impressive and a major part of their success. Leicester have lost just the once at home this season with five drawn. Claudio Ranieri has a full squad to choose from as he looks to put one hand firmly on the Premier League title.

West Ham were once again unlucky with some of the calls against Arsenal and their 3-3 result was a third straight draw for the Hammers, all against London opposition. How much has been taken out of them by their disappointing Cup exit to Manchester United is anyone’s guess but this game will be a big test of their resolve. Leicester started their trip to success with a 2-1 victory in this fixture last season. They also triumphed by that same score in the reverse fixture at the Boleyn Ground and in the League Cup at King Power Stadium. Diafra Sakho looks to be the only player missing and that is more likely due to his spitting the dummy after being dropped than any purported injury.

Recent form suggests a home win but I have a feeling that the Hammers are going to be a fly in Leicester’s ointment.

Key Player:
Kasper Schmeichel. Not really lauded and definitely lives in the shadow of his dad but no team succeeds as Leicester has done without a top keeper. Schmeichel has been a major part in their success.

Davis: 1-2
TAB: Leicester $1.90 WHU $3.70 Draw $3.50

Arsenal v Crystal Palace

 03:00am Monday 18 April

Arsenal looked well in control at West Ham until things were turned on their head and they let slip a two goal lead before having to come from behind for the draw. The gap to Leicester is now 13 points with just six games remaining so in reality the Gunners are out of the title race. They will believe they can still win it whilst the calculator says they can so will be out to finish the season strongly. They showed a defensive frailty against West Ham and will have to tighten up against a Palace side that has the wide players to get in behind. Arsenal have lost just three at home but can sometimes struggle to make the most of their superiority.

Palace have somewhat arrested their slide down the table with a win and two draws from their last three. The win over Norwich was crucial as a loss would have seen them level on points with the Canaries and heavily involved in a relegation battle. Hard to pick why Palace lost their way this season but Alan Pardew must have something to do with it as his side’s often go on a famine after a feast. There is no doubt they have some players that can worry Arsenal but the Gunners look too strong this time around.

Palace have lost the last six of these meetings and will soon be looking at seven.

Key Player:
Mesut Ozil. Has been the star for Arsenal this season both in terms of creating opportunities but often popping up to take them himself. A definite candidate for Premier League player of the year.

Davis: 3-0
TAB: Arsenal $1.35 Palace $7.50 Draw $4.75

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur

 07:00am Tuesday 19 April

Stoke carried on as they had finished against Swansea, generously giving the opposition free passage to their goal. They needed to bounce back after letting a two goal lead slip last week but did not really get out of the blocks in this one. Liverpool can overwhelm on the odd occasion they are in the mood and the Potters seemed to have no answer. Currently in ninth place but just a point off eighth which would represent a Premier League high finish should they achieve it. Already without keeper Jack Butland and Jonathan Walters, Stoke look likely to be without Marko Arnautovic as well.

Spurs had a magnificent second half against Manchester United after struggling for much of the first spell. They are the only side with a realistic chance of catching Leicester but have just five games to close a seven point gap. Since their 1-0 loss at West Ham, Spurs have gone five games unbeaten. They have lost just twice away from home and conceded just 13 goals. Harry Kane took a bit of a knock last week but should be fit to continue his impressive run of form.

Stoke have won two and drawn one of the last three meetings but a determined and talented Spurs side might just have the last say this time.

Key Player:
Peter Crouch. Vastly under-rated and likely to score against one of his old clubs.

Davis: 1-2
TAB: Stoke $4.20 Spurs $1.80 Draw $3.50

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