By Niall Clarke
- Five burning questions for match-week 28 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all the weekend’s games
PREMIER LEAGUE – With the FA Cup taking centre stage there are only four Premier League games this weekend, but there are still questions that need answering. Here are five on our minds for match-week 28.
Can Liverpool win a match they are expected to?
If forced to name a problem with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, then most people will point to their lack of consistency. Against the top six teams in the Premier League, the Reds are better than anyone. Against the teams they are expected to beat however, they can often fall flat.
If we track back to August to the start of the season the contrast between the first and second games of the campaign illustrate this problem. Against Arsenal on the opening day, Liverpool were ruthless and dispatched the Gunners 4-2 at the Emirates. The following week they travelled to newly promoted Burnley and barely registered a meaningful chance as they lost 2-0 at Turf Moor.
It feels like if they can find that consistency Liverpool will be challenging for the title, but they have failed to find it yet and that continues to hold them back. Sunday’s only Premier League offering is the reverse fixture against Burnley at Anfield. Once again the Reds will be expected to win, but the question is can they?
The lower teams’ less expansive and more defensive approach robs Liverpool of their strength, the high press and quick attacks. It forces a more patience approach to breaking down defences, and they have struggled doing that against lower table opposition.
Burnley seem comfortable in mid-table whilst Liverpool are fighting for a top four finish, so the Reds have more to lose. Can they avenge their earlier loss, or will Burnley strike again?
Can Hull climb closer to safety? Or will Swansea move clear of the scrap?
Arguably the match with the most stakes this weekend is the relegation six pointer between Hull and Swansea at the KCOM Stadium.
Both sides looked towards a direction in January in order to save their season and results have since been more encouraging. Swansea’s turn around under Paul Clement has lifted them out of the bottom three and the Welsh side now look like they will stay in the Premier League for at least another season. Marco Silva’s Tigers are still in the drop zone, but improved performances have made Hull look like a side capable of staying in the division.
Silva has won seven of his eight points at home which will encourage fans ahead of this crucial fixture. A loss could cause reprehensible damage to their season, but a win could serve as a huge lift as we head down the back stretch of the season. A win for Swansea would see them extend their gap to the relegation zone to eight points which will surely be enough to keep them safe.
Will Bournemouth stop the rot?
It has been nine games since Bournemouth last tasted Premier League victory. The Cherries’ poor form has seen them drop into the relegation battle and they will be hoping to stop the rot when they host West Ham on Saturday.
The Hammers themselves are not going through the greatest spell and are in danger of being dragged back down towards the bottom of the table. It is a must win match for both sides, as they are both in need of a boost in confidence.
This is also the game that could steal the show. Bournemouth are one of the Premier League’s weakest sides in defence and West Ham are not much better. Both possess more attacking talents than defensive, so goals will be a-plenty at the Vitality Stadium.
Will Everton close the gap to the top six?
For much of the season the top six sides have been a cut above the rest as the table shows. But if there is any side that could possibly catch up to them and shake things up it is Everton.
The Toffees have been the best of the rest and have kept in fair distance of the leading pack during the season. They have the chance to close the gap to just two points behind Manchester United even though the Red Devils will have two games in hand. Everton come into this match off the back of a 3-2 loss at Spurs, not a bad defeat by any means and it should not dampen their spirits as they continue to fight for a place in Europe.
Everton host West Brom at Goodison Park on Saturday in a match that will no doubt be tough, but one they will be expecting to win. Much will depend on striker Romelu Lukaku whose goals have kept Everton in European place contention. The Belgian goes up against his former club having scored 17 goals this season, just one behind leading scorer Harry Kane. Can the Belgian add to his tally this weekend?
So what is happening in the FA Cup?
The most high profile match of the FA Cup weekend takes place at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho returns to face his former club Chelsea as Manchester United boss. The Portuguese is looking to avenge a 4-0 defeat from earlier in the season in the Premier League by knocking his former employers out of the FA Cup.
The biggest story of this years tournament is the incredible journey of Lincoln City. They are the first non-league club to ever make the last eight of the A Cup, and their reward is a trip to the Emirates to face Arsenal. Can they pile more misery on an already disgruntled fan-base?
The weekend kicks off with an all Premier League clash between Middlesbrough and Manchester City where Pep Guardiola’s search for a first trophy with City continues.
There is also an all-London clash between Tottenham and Millwall at White Hart Lane.
Bournemouth 3-2 West Ham
Everton 2-0 West Brom
Hull 1-0 Swansea
Liverpool 2-1 Burnley
The Premier League returns on Saturday 18th of March
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