By Niall Clarke
- Five burning questions for match-week 27 of the Premier League season
- Predictions for all the weekend’s games
PREMIER LEAGUE – We are back to a full fixture list as match-week 27 of the Premier League is fast approaching. Here are five burning questions for the weekend’s action.
Can the gap be closed to Chelsea
Sunday sees two important matches at the top of the Premier League table as Spurs and Manchester City look to close the gap to top of the table Chelsea who play on Monday.
Tottenham host Everton in what should be a close and entertaining encounter at White Hart Lane. Last weekend, Spurs recovered from their Europa League exit by thrashing Stoke 4-0 signalling a return to form after a poor performance against Gent. With no distractions, Mauricio Pochettino and his side can concentrate entirely on a late title charge but Everton will be no pushovers. The Toffees are currently the best of the rest outside of the top six and come into the match having not tasted defeat in ten matches. The fixture also pits two of the Premier League’s best and most in form strikers against each other. Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku have been in fine goal-scoring form lately, will either of them make the difference in this fixture?
After a troubled period for Pep Guardiola and his side, Man City seem to have turned the tide and sit one point behind Spurs with a game in hand. The Citizens travel North to bottom club Sunderland who seem relegation fodder at this point and three points will be expected. However, these games can often be banana skins as the Black Cats are fighting for one of their nine lives.
Wins for both sides will close the gap to Chelsea to seven and eight points, even if just for a day as Chelsea play West Ham at the London Stadium on Monday. The Hammers have struggled at their new home, but there is nothing like a derby to light a fire underneath the side. It is possible that the Blues could drop points in a tricky fixture here, so this could be a good weekend for their two nearest challengers.
Can Leicester make it two wins in a row?
The sacking of Claudio Ranieri was the hottest topic in Football last week, and Leicester began life without their title winning manager with a 3-1 win at home to Liverpool. It was a return top form for the Foxes who looked more like their title winning selves in the victory. Jamie Vardy bagged two goals against the Reds as the Foxes moved two points clear of the relegation zone.
Leicester have the chance to make it a rare two wins in a row when they host Hull City on Saturday. This is very much a relegation scrap as the Tigers sit inside the bottom three and could go level with Leicester with a win. Hull have looked improved under Marco Silva but still can not find the form to surge clear of the battle.
Despite many names being linked to the job, Leicester have still not appointed a replacement for Ranieri, so it is likely Craig Shakespeare will take charge for the match again. Can the former assistant bag his second win as manager? If so, he will be right in line to possibly take over even if just for the remainder of the season. He set the side out to play more to their strengths against Liverpool, but the argument could be made that the Reds’ style plays right into their hands. Hull will set up more defensively and not let Leicester counter as easily, a different style to the more attacking minded Liverpool.
Was Monday a fluke? Or is it the start of something better for Leicester? This weekend will go a long way to answering those questions.
How many goals will be scored during Liverpool vs Arsenal?
Liverpool vs Arsenal is not only a pivotal match in the race for the top four, it could also end up being the most entertaining match of the weekend. Two sides with excellent attacks and less than stellar defences, goals are pretty much a guarantee.
Their previous meeting on the first day of the season was a 4-3 thriller at the Emirates that Liverpool managed to win, we can only hope for something similar as they meet again at Anfield. This fixture last season ended 3-3, a result that would not please either side should it be repeated this year. With Manchester United in form and catching the two sides every week, both Arsenal and Liverpool need the three points, but only one side could possibly get their wish.
A loss for either side could see the Red Devils move ahead which is especially bad in Liverpool’s case as they have played one game more than United. It is truly a match that could go either way, neither side is in great form and their leaky defences chances will be plenty, it will likely come down to who is the more clinical.
What twists and turns will take place in the relegation battle?
The relegation battle takes many different turns every week and match-week 27 will be no different. Which sides will take steps towards survival? Who will end up in bottom three? We will find out this weekend.
Leicester vs Hull is the match with the most direct implications towards relegation. Leicester sit just three points above Hull in 19th and could be drawn level should the Tigers spring s surprise at the King Power. Bottom club Sunderland host Manchester City as they hope for a big result that could lift them off the foot of the table. A defeat could see the Black Cats fall further behind their rivals.
Crystal Palace will look to capitalise on their big win over Middlesbrough when they travel to West Brom. It is a difficult fixture for Sam Allardyce, but will his side have a renewed confidence after their previous win?
Middlesbrough need goals to survive. Can they find them against Stoke at the Bet 365 stadium? A loss could mean Boro finish the weekend inside the bottom three which is a surprise considering how stellar they have been defensively.
Swansea’s good run was ended by Chelsea, putting them right back into the thick of the battle. However, they should not use that result as a barometer for their level. The Swans face Burnley on Saturday with a good chance of really moving themselves away from the relegation scrap.
Bournemouth are moving closer to peril, and with an away trip to Manchester United on the horizon, the Cherries may find themselves in the pack at the end of match-week 27.
What else is happening?
Manchester United’s challenge for the top four continues as they return to Premier League action against Bournemouth on Saturday. With Liverpool and Arsenal facing each other, the Reds could move into fifth at the end of the weekend providing they continue their good form.
Watford and Southampton will face each other as both sides aim to get into the top half of the table. There is not much riding on this game as both sides are clear of relegation but not close enough to mount a challenge for the European places.
Man United 2-0 Bournemouth
Leicester 2-1 Hull
Stoke 1-0 Middlesbrough
Swansea 2-1 Burnley
Watford 1-1 Southampton
West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 2-1 Everton
Sunderland 0-2 Man City
West Ham 0-1 Chelsea
The Premier League returns on Saturday 4 March
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