By Neil Leverett
- The final weeks of the season roll on as Southampton host Liverpool in Game of the Week on Friday night at St. Mary’s Stadium
- Arsenal travel to Goodison Park to face Everton, looking to solidify their top four status
- Chelsea also look to stay in touch with the Gunners, as West Ham United travel along the Kings’ Road in a London derby
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – With just a handful of games to play, Liverpool travel to Southampton and St. Mary’s Stadium in Game of the Week on Friday looking to regain top spot in the league.
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Game of the Week: Southampton vs Liverpool (Friday, 20:00)
Niall: With the end of the season fast approaching, Liverpool and Manchester City battle it out to see who will be crowned Premier League Champions. Overall, it seems like the Reds have the easier run in, but this match against Southampton is a tricky hurdle, and dropped points could see them fall four points behind Manchester City once the Citizens catch up.The Saints look a far better side under Ralph Hasenhuttl, and under his management only five teams have taken more points than Southampton in the last ten games. That form has seen them move five points clear of 18th placed Cardiff, and a win here could be enough to guide them to safety after a poor start to the season.
Liverpool are in good form themselves having won their last four in all competitions, and that includes victories against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich. Jurgen Klopp will have one eye on the Champions League quarter final against FC Porto, but playing on a Friday night will aid them in juggling both competitions.
The Reds came out victors in this fixture last season, but that was a much more free-flowing attacking side that left gaps at the back. This year Liverpool are a more solid side, which benefits them defensively and makes them less dangerous going forward. If Southampton can keep a solid back line, then they could frustrate Liverpool and possibly grab a point or two from the title challengers.
However in a lot of cases this season, Liverpool have managed to find a way to get three points whether it would be by a piece of individual brilliance or a slice of luck. It will not be an easy game for Klopp’s men and it will be a nail-biter but I think the Reds may narrowly prevail to continue their title bid.
Prediction: Southampton 0-1 Liverpool
Neil: Friday night football sees the Reds travel to the south coast for a tricky looking clash with a Southampton side who have been revitalised under boss Hasenhuttl, not least the likes of James Ward-Prowse.
After a quiet season under the guise of Mark Hughes, the England international has scored in three of his last four outings and remains one of the biggest dead-ball threats up and down the Premier League ranks.
Since Cedric’s move to Italy, Yan Valery has also taken up the mantle with aplomb as the raiding right-back and his weapons – in particular his eye for goal – could cause problems for a slightly shaky visitors, who will have half an aye on their UEFA Champions League quarter-final with Porto next week.
The wait for Mohamed Salah‘s 50th Premier League goal goes on, but his late, late headed effort which was scrambled into his own net by Toby Alderweireld may well prove to be just precious as his prolific goalscoring tendencies of last season.
I just get the feeling this could be Salah’s night to notch the big Five-O, but it will not come easy. Some have suggested this is a real banana skin for Liverpool after a nervy run of performances. While I agree with those sentiments, I believe they will get the job done and remain on the coat-tails of Manchester City.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Liverpool
Neil’s One to Watch: Everton vs Arsenal (Sunday, 14:05)
Niall’s One to Watch: Chelsea vs West Ham United (Monday, 20:00)
Finishing the gameweek is a London derby as Chelsea continue their top four when they host West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Despite a lot of negative feeling surrounding the club at present, the Blues did come away with six points against Cardiff and Brighton, putting them level on points with fourth placed Arsenal. With a possible transfer ban this summer, Champions League football is a must if they are to keep hold of their best talents, making this game against the Hammers a must win.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side still have a shot at qualifying for Europe as they sit only five points behind Wolves in seventh, but they will have to perform better than they did against Everton last time out. On their day the Irons are a dangerous side to face, but they can have those games where they look poor so the result may depend on which West Ham shows up.
Chelsea are still vulnerable despite their previous victories, and even though they have the more talented team, they can fall apart when the system is not working. It will be interesting to see if Maurizio Sarri puts his faith in Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who both impressed last time out, or if he will go back to the old familiar names once again.
This is a hard match to predict as both sides can be unpredictable. However home advantage is with Chelsea who are in the better form given their last performances, and I think they will have enough quality to see out the victory.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 West Ham United
Premier League Gameweek 33 Game of the Week sees Liverpool travel to Southampton and St. Mary’s Stadium on Friday night.
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