By Nilesh Patel
- Five burning questions ahead of Premier League Match-Week 36
- Predictions and full list of fixtures
Its a jam-packed week as we move towards the climax of the Premier League season, with the fights for relegation and for Europe intensifying.
Can Spurs keep turn up the pressure?
Tottenham kick-start the week’s fixtures with a short trip across London to the Olympic Stadium. A Friday night win for Spurs against West Ham will almost definitely put the pressure on their title rivals Chelsea.
Three points will put Spurs just one point away from their London rivals ahead of their Monday night fixture with Middlesbrough.
However, a win is not a certainty for Mauricio Pochettino’s men as West Ham haven’t conceded in their last two games. Although, Spurs have scored in every game since February’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool and currently have won every league game since the defeat.
With nine league wins on the bounce, Spurs’ vibrant team have an average of 2.09 goals per match and also have the tightest defence, only conceding 22 goals. English front-man – Harry Kane – is testament to their record, being in fine form since his return from injury and scoring three in his last four games, tallying up his goals total to 21 for the season so far.
Equally, if not more, impressive has been 21-year-old Dele Alli who has a remarkable 17 goals to his name this season. For West Ham’s defence however, Christian Eriksen may be the man they’ll look to suppress on Friday; the Danish maestro has 12 assists and eight goals this season and is one for the Hammers to be vigilant of on set pieces.
Regardless of West Ham’s solidarity at the back, they have missed a creative outlet in their last two games. A lack of inspiration from the usual likes of Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini, who have accounted for 16 goals this season, have resulted in two goalless draws in their last fixtures. With the prospect of certain safety with another three points, this could be the motivation Slaven Bilic’s main men need.
Tottenham Hotspur – Last Five Results
West Ham – Last Five Results
Will Chelsea buckle under the pressure?
The immediate answer to this question is no, the Blues comfortably saw off their toughest fixture in the title-race run-in last week with a 3-0 win over Everton. They also have the experience of title-races with the likes of John Terry and Gary Cahill in the dressing room along with the added presence of Antonio Conte whom, for all his emotive traits, brings an air of coolness to his team.
However, this is the Premier League and anything can happen, especially when met with a tenacious team fighting for relegation. Middlesbrough were considered a relegation candidate from when they newly got promoted from the Championship last season, but they have shown spells of Premier League quality.
Alvaro Negredo has and will be integral to Boro’s survival hopes. Especially against a Chelsea side in which defending crosses are a weak-point. If Stewart Downing can provide quality deliveries from the wing and Negredo can prove a handful in the air and in the box, they may cause an upset on Monday night.
A win for Boro will give them a glimpse of daylight and put them three points away from Hull in 17th, but they will still need to rely on other relegation candidates faltering to maintain their top-tier status.
Chelsea – Last Five Results
Middlesbrough – Last Five Results
Who will step closer to Premier League safety?
Swansea and Hull both play home fixtures on Saturday, with the Swans hosting Everton in the late kick-off. This means if Hull can grab all three points from already relegated Sunderland, Swansea will have a five point deficit to overturn.
For Hull, the odds are in their favour, the appointment of Marco Silva has rejuvenated the squad and the fans to transform the KCOM Stadium into a fortress. The Tigers remain unbeaten at home in their last eight games and since Silva’s arrival 19 points out of 21 have been won. Thus, if Hull are to stay up it will be down to Silva turning every home game into a cup final.
What is also in Hull’s favour is Sunderland’s predicament, under David Moyes the North-East club has shown anything but Premier League quality. Aside from Jermain Defoe, who’s 14 goals were not enough to steer them away from relegation. The club should be looking to rebuild for the Championship and picking out the wheat from the chaff, which may be the apt opportunity for The Tigers to strike.
Swansea will face a strong Everton side, which depending on the result at Hull will change the mood completely in South Wales. Last time the teams met it ended a goal a piece, which if repeated, at best, will only be enough to move one point closer to exiting the bottom three.
Paul Clement’s team will look to their Icelandic talisman, Gylfi Sigurdsson, for a similar piece of brilliance which we saw at Old Trafford last week. The 27-year-old has by far been their player of the year, contributing 12 assists and nine league goals. One which included a pin-point free kick to secure a point against Man United last Sunday.
The best case scenario for Swansea will mean they move out of the drop-zone and one point ahead of Hull, which will then see the fortunes of both teams change. Swansea’s remaining fixtures will be Sunderland away and West Brom at home, whereas Hull will face Crystal Palace away, who may still be searching for definitive safety, and Tottenham Hotspur who may still be within a shout of the Premier League title.
Hull – Last Five Results
Swansea – Last Five Results
Can Wenger get his side to step up?
This may be the decisive week of Arsenal’s season and Arsene Wenger’s career. With a trip to the FA Cup Final imminent, you may forgive a team for getting starry-eyed, but not when a spot in the top-four is at stake.
Petr Cech and co. face off against a Manchester United side unbeaten in 25 successive games, on Sunday, and play Southampton away on Wednesday. With a potential six points up for grabs and the chance of Man United, Man City and Liverpool dropping points, Arsenal could find themselves well-in with a chance of qualifying for the Champions League for the 17th successive season.
Six points could put Arsenal level with Man City and three points behind Liverpool, but still would only be enough for fifth spot. However, Gunners may feel finishing fifth would be a detriment to next season, with the prospect of Europa League meetings disturbing the Premier League focus.
What is certain, though, is that Arsenal fans will be expecting their side to bounce-back from last Sunday’s North-London derby defeat and take advantage of a Man United side preoccupied by Europa League and riddled with injuries.
Another loss against a top-six side however will weaken Wenger’s status with the fans, leaving the FA Cup final as a potential final nail in the coffin.
Arsenal – Last Five Results
Manchester United – Last Five Results
Who will take the last two Champion League places?
Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City are all still in contention for the top-four places in the league. Sunday’s earlier fixture features Liverpool hosting ninth placed Southampton. With United taking on Arsenal at the Emirates at 4:00pm.
Man City on the other hand play in the early kick-off on Saturday, against a well-drilled Crystal Palace; still searching for enough points to see them over the 40-point safety line.
It will be a clash of footballing styles at the Etihad, Sam Allardyce taking the direct route and Pep Guardiola encouraging ball possession. Both managers will stick to what they know, but there is no doubt Allardyce would love to dampen the Spaniard’s mood with resolute defending and rampaging forward play.
A key match-up will be Christian Benteke against his Belgian team-mate and City captain Vincent Kompany. Benteke thrives of nervy defensive lines and City’s defence, even with Kompany in it, is still shaky.
A win for City will put them level on points with Liverpool, with goal difference being the deciding factor. Before their game against Arsenal, Man United will know that a win against the London club will create an eight point gap between them and move even closer to a European place.
Jose Mourinho does however have a wildcard, if their Europa League progression continues, they may not need to finish in the top-four after all.
For Jurgen Klopp, he has made it clear that it’s top-four or nothing for Liverpool and with games against Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough left, he will be confident. With injuries to Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and potentially Philippe Coutinho, the reds will be short of fire-power but with Adam Lallana returning to the team and Emre Can contributing with spectacular performances, Liverpool fans will be confident in their team creating some distance from the Manchester clubs.
Liverpool – Last Five Results
Manchester City – Last Five Results
Friday 5 May
- West Ham United 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday 6 May
- Manchester City 2 – 1 Crystal Palace
- Bournemouth 1 – 1 Stoke City
- Burnley 0 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
- Hull City 3 – 0 Sunderland
- Leicester City 2 – 3 Watford
- Swansea City 2 – 2 Everton
Sunday 7 May
- Liverpool 2 – 0 Southampton
- Arsenal 1 – 0 Manchester United
Monday 8 May
- Chelsea 3 – 0 Middlesbrough
- Southampton 1 – 2 Arsenal
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