A Full On Football Weekend
The Premier League looked like it might go cold when Manchester City won the Premier league title so early. However, with the relegation battle still going strong, and next year’s Champions League places still up for grabs, there are still plenty of interesting matches this weekend. There are also still battles going on for the second automatic promotion place in the Championship, and the League 1 Title. Even the Serie A Title is up for grabs again.
Liverpool vs Stoke (Saturday)
Stoke have a chance to put some pressure on their fellow relegation strugglers this weekend as they travel to Liverpool for the Saturday lunchtime kick-off. If this was a normal league game, Liverpool would be fancied to land odds-on with ease as they’ve won their last four matches against Stoke, including winning the last two corresponding fixtures 4-1.
However, motivations will be very different for the two sides. Stoke must surely win if there to have any chance of playing Premier League football next season, whilst Liverpool surely won’t get anywhere near top-gear as they prepare for next week’s Champions League semi-final second-leg against Roma. Liverpool will surely rest players too. Only time will tell whether Liverpool’s alternative motivations are enough to give Stoke a hope but laying Liverpool could be an option after they drew 0-0 against Everton when faced with a similar scenario before their Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.
Huddersfield vs Everton (Saturday)
Huddersfield need just 3-points to achieve the cliched 38-points milestone, which should be enough for them to achieve their goal of Premier League survival having been promoted from the Championship last season. Eighth-placed Everton may not have much to play for but professional pride, however, that may not stop them being too good for Huddersfield who they beat 2-0 earlier in the season.
Newcastle vs West Brom (Saturday)
West Brom need to win all three games and hope that Stoke, Southampton, and Swansea finish the season hopelessly if they are to survive. However, it’s more likely that their fate will be sealed at Newcastle where they have failed to win on any of their last four visits. They may not go down without a fight, but even a draw won’t be good enough to keep them up.
Southampton vs Bournemouth (Saturday)
Southampton will be looking to rescue their season by bouncing back from FA Cup Semi-final defeat by winning enough points from their last four games to avoid relegation. However, with just 5 wins to their name all season, those wins may not be that easy to come by. The last two games between the teams have ended as draws, though Southampton did win their previous three home matches against them. They’re not as good now though but could cash in if Bournemouth are already feeling safe having hit 38-points for the season.
Swansea vs Chelsea (Saturday)
It’s possible Chelsea could be about to rally to the cause of trying to obtain Champions League Football next season and they will surely have been motivated by reaching the FA Cup Final. However, the bookies look to have overreacted to those possible motivations by making Chelsea odds-on favourites against a Swansea team who have nearly rescued their season with some great home form recently. With just 33-points, Swansea may still need to find a few more points to complete that rescue but could be a good price to get something out of the game having won one and drawn one of the last two corresponding fixtures.
West Ham vs Man City (Sunday)
Four points from four games guarantees West Ham’s Premier League survival for another season, but Manchester City wouldn’t be the team you wanted to play in the first of those games. City probably aren’t going to be sitting back and polishing their Premier League Trophy just year either, as Per Guardiola will have set his sights on City being the first team to break the 100-points in a season barrier, or at least break Chelsea’s record haul of 96-points. That motivation isn’t good news for West Ham though who have conceded 9 goals without reply in their last two home games against City – and City weren’t as good then as they are now.
Manchester United vs Arsenal (Sunday)
Just as it looked like Arsenal may have no motivation to beat Manchester United, Arsene Wenger has decided to hang up his manager’s hat – so he’ll surely want one last win over the team who have cost him umpteen trophies over his managerial career at Arsenal. However, whether he’s bitter enough to let that cloud his judgement when he should be resting players for their Europa League semi-final is another matter. I hope he isn’t, but you get the feeling Arsenal will be trying against their old rivals.
Three defeats for Cardiff in their last five games has put them in a precarious position regarding automatic promotion, as they now sit just one point above Fulham with two games remaining. By the time Cardiff play Hull on Saturday, Fulham may also already have piled the pressure on them with a Friday night win over Sunderland. Despite Cardiff’s 1-0 home win over their opponents this season, trips to Hull haven’t been easy in recent seasons with no wins in their last four visits, and just two draws. Cardiff have also only won one of their last four away games, and quotes of 5/4 for a Cardiff victory look on the short side.
Just one-point separates Wigan and Blackburn as they continue to battle it out toe-to-toe for the League 1 Title, and hopefully one of the two teams will win it by finishing with two wins. Wigan look to have the easier game on Saturday as they host AFC Wimbledon who they have already trounced 4-0 away from home this season, and Wigan are likely to make their way into plenty of football accas this weekend. Blackburn also have a fantastic recent record against Charlton though, with last season’s draw in the corresponding fixture the only point they’ve dropped against the Addicks in their last six matches against them. Therefore, a win for both Wigan and Blackburn would tee it up nicely for a final match shootout.
Serie A also got interesting again last weekend as Juventus followed their recent Champions League exit with a home loss to Napoli, which threw Serie A wide-open once again. A trip to Inter on Saturday also wouldn’t be Juventus’ first choice of fixtures this weekend, as they’ve won just one of the last four games between the two teams, including losing the last two away games. However, Napoli are no certainties to take advantage even if Juventus slip up again, as they’ve drawn their last two games away games against Sunday’s opponents Fiorentina, and only drew at home with them this season.