By Niall Clarke
- Five things ahead of the upcoming Premier League and FA Cup semi final matches
- Predictions for all the weekend’s games
The Premier League has a reduced schedule this weekend with the FA Cup semi finals taking centre stage. Here are five things ahead of a busy weekend of football.
Will Tottenham or Chelsea have the momentum after their FA Cup semi final?
One of the two FA Cup semi finals this weekend pits Premier League title run in contenders Chelsea against second place Tottenham in a match that will not only decide one of the FA Cup finalists, but could have a huge say on the Premier League title race.
The two sides are not scheduled to meet again in the Premier League, so this semi final could serve as a big momentum boost for the winner. With only four points separating them in the league, every game is vital in the race for the title, even ones that do not directly affect the race.
Tottenham in recent form have been the best team in the country. With the pressure being off their shoulders, Spurs have been able to express themselves on the field with free flow attacking football and as a result have won seven straight games in the league. Chelsea, on the other hand, have faltered in recent weeks, losing two of their last four as we enter the final leg of the season.
In the previous round, Chelsea narrowly defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge whilst Spurs thrashed Millwall 6-0 to set up this semi final clash.
A Tottenham win could not only further boost their already high confidence, it could also serve as a warning to Chelsea, Spurs are coming and they are red hot. A Chelsea win could be the dampener to Spurs’ form that they need and serve as a pressure lifter in the title race.
Did I mention there is a trophy at stake in this tournament too? For Chelsea it is a chance to take one step closer to winning the domestic double in Antonio Conte’s first season. For Spurs it is an opportunity to take one step closer to winning a first major trophy in nine years, and their first under Mauricio Pochettino.
Will Man City end Arsenal’s trophy dreams?
The FA Cup may serve as the only saving grace in what has been the Gunners’ worst season under Arsene Wenger. Arsenal look set to miss out on the top four for the first time under the Frenchman, and the fans have reacted with ‘Wenger Out’ banners being held up at every Arsenal game. Their dissatisfaction may lessen with a win over Manchester City, but the calls for a new direction will still be heard across the country.
The FA Cup is Pep Guardiola’s last chance to capture a trophy in his debut season in English football. The Premier League is out of sight, and the Citizens have been eliminated from the other cup competitions, so it is FA Cup or nothing for the Spaniard.
Only one of them can take a step closer to lifting the trophy however. Arsenal ended Lincoln City’s run with a 5-0 thrashing at the Emirates in the quarter finals. City edged Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Riverside.
City go in as slight favourites for this semi final given Arsenal’s struggles as of late. But the Gunners have only lost one of their last five matches against Guardiola’s side. That one loss coming in their last meeting in December which City won 2-1. The winner of this match will go into the final as underdogs against one of the two best teams in the country.
Will Swansea and Hull take advantage of home advantage?
Sunderland and Middlesbrough seem doomed to the Championship, leaving the relegation battle to mainly take place between Hull City and Swansea City. Both sides lost away last week, but will they have better fortunes in front of their home crowd?
Hull have an excellent home record under Marco Silva, and the Portuguese will look to live up to that reputation when his side welcome Watford to the KCOM Stadium. Watford pretty much confirmed their safety by defeating Swansea last week, so do not have much to play for during the rest of the season. That could work well for the Tigers who are fighting for their Premier League survival and have the advantage of being at home.
Swansea welcome a Stoke side in a similar situation to Watford. The Potters are safely in mid-table and do not have much to fight for themselves, but Swansea’s home form is not as good as Hull’s, so the Welsh side seem the more likely to drop points.
Hull could move five points clear of the relegation zone if results go their way. If results go Swansea’s way then they will leapfrog Hull into 17th place. It will be a big weekend for the two relegation threatened sides.
Can Liverpool and Manchester United take a step closer to Champions League qualification?
Sunday will be a big day for the top four battle as Liverpool and Manchester United are both in action. With Man City and Arsenal busy with FA Cup duty, the two Champions League hopefuls could pile some extra pressure on their rivals with victories at the weekend.
Manchester United make one of the most difficult trips in the Premier League to Turf Moor to play Burnley. The Clarets have one of the best home records in the league and have taken points off some of the Premier League’s biggest names, including Liverpool early in the season. It is very much a banana skin match-up for United who are coming in off playing a Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht.
Liverpool have perhaps the easier task of the two as they welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield. It will be a tough game though as Palace have been in good form recently after defeating Chelsea and Arsenal this month. This is the type of match Liverpool tend to slip up on, and with the season coming to a close every point is important.
Two tricky games for the top four chases should make for an exciting Sunday in the Premier League. Will Liverpool and Man United take a step closer to qualification? Or will Burnley and Crystal Palace spoil their plans?
What else is happening?
Bournemouth and Middlesbrough will play each other in a key bottom of the table clash on Saturday. The Cherries can not afford to drop any more points or they could find themselves fighting for survival too, whilst Middlesbrough need points and fast if they are to pull a great escape.
Everton continue their European qualification hunt away at West Ham at the same time. The Toffees could move as far as fifth in the table if results go their way, whilst the Hammers are aiming to reach the 40 point mark which is usually the sign you are staying up another season.
Bournemouth 2-0 Middlesbrough
Hull 2-1 Watford
Swansea 1-1 Stoke
West Ham 1-2 Everton
Burnley 1-1 Man United
Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace
Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
Arsenal 2-2 Man City (Man City advance via penalties)
The Premier League returns on Saturday 22nd of April
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