This weekend could be the last chapter in the footballing fairytale of Leicester City’s title challenge. All the formidable foxes need this weekend is a win; that win however will have to come away to the most successful team of the modern era; Manchester United.
There are so many sub-plots to this story: Vardy’s meteoric rise from non-league to Premier League winner; a team that on paper are not strong but are in fact the best team in the country and Claudio Ranieri’s redemption in English Football after being told by Chelsea 12 years ago ‘he would never win a title’.
But the story I am most fascinated by going into this weekend’s game is that United legend Peter Schmeichel’s son Kasper could win a Premier League title on the ground where his dad did so many times. I imagine a moment where if Leicester achieve their win, Peter will come rushing onto the pitch to congratulate his son and his team-mates on the most improbable league win of Premier League history.
There are nine other games taking place and I am going to preview them all and hopefully give a few tips and pointers your way.
West Brom vs West Ham
West Brom are either everyone’s hero or a select few the villains are their deserving draw away to title chasing, or should I say former title chasing, Spurs. They showed that despite not having a huge amount to play for that will not roll over for any side and I believe that could occur again this weekend at home to West Ham. West Ham have had a fantastic season and no matter whether they achieve Champions League football or not this season will have been a success.
I believe West Ham will win this as, unlike Spurs, the pressure is not as heavy on the Hammers and they also have games in hand over Manchester City and Arsenal. West Brom will give a good account for themselves but West Ham have had ten days to prepare for this game and manager Slaven Bilic is a master tactician.
Stoke City vs Sunderland
Stoke City have been going through a rough patch of late. They have conceded twelve goals in three games despite being seen by many as a generally solid defensive unit. This can be attributed to the loss of Jack Butland to injury in March but Mark Hughes will know that conceding four goals in each game in unacceptable. Can they get back on track against their next opponent Sunderland? Any other time of the season I probably would have said yes but not now and not this weekend.
Sunderland have been transformed under Sam Allardyce and have shown some fantastic performances of late; the most recent being a 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal preceded by a 3-0 drubbing of relegation rivals Norwich City. Sunderland look in great form going into this game and need the points far more than Stoke. I am convinced that Stoke will not concede four goals but I am equally convinced they will come up short against the dogged Black Cats.
Everton vs AFC Bournemouth
Everton are definitely the most inconsistent side and therefore the hardest to bet on in the Premier League. Last weeks FA Cup Semi Final showed both sides of Everton’s game. First half they were abysmal and could not carve out any opportunities and then in the second half they dominated Manchester United and were unlucky not to take the game to extra time.
Bournemouth have also shown a level of inconsistency too, but that is more down to ability than anything else. Bournemouth have proved themselves to be an excellent addition to the Premier League and many wrote off their chances of staying up when striker Callum Wilson damaged his cruciate in his knee back in September. Well, Wilson is back now and the Cherries will fancy their chances away at Goodison Park.
There is a toxic atmosphere around Everton at the moment regarding manager Roberto Martinez and an early goal to Bournemouth this weekend could get the crowd on his back. This game is very difficult to predict however I feel this game could be a thriller like reverse fixture in November that finished 3-3.
I reckon it’ll be another score draw so look at both teams to score and a draw at 10/3 and a long shot of 2-2 at 11/1.
Watford vs Aston Villa
Next up is losing FA Cup Semi Finalist against already relegated Aston Villa. Watford will be wanting to right the wrongs of last week and the last couple of months where their form has faltered severely, undoing a lot of their early season hard work.
Villa on the other hand will be hoping to restore some pride after an awful season and did put up a decent fight against Southampton but once again come up short. The Hornets’ will fancy their chances against a weak Villa defence and this could be the game that gets Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney their scoring boots back.
Watford will win this weekend and I reckon it could be by a score of 2-0 (13/2) or 3-0 (11/1).
Newcastle United vs Crystal Palace
The final three o’clock kick off this weekend pits Alan Pardew’s new club against his old as Crystal Palace visit Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. Newcastle have improved vastly under Rafael Benitez after draws against Man City and Liverpool, but they will need to turn those draws into wins if they are to survive this season.
Palace have emerged from a stick spell to secure Premier League football and a date with destiny as they take on Manchester United in the FA Cup final next month. Could they be accused of not being motivated against Newcastle? Not on Pardew’s watch; Alan Pardew would love nothing more than to get one over on his old employers and I’m sure he will drill that into his players. The Newcastle will also not need much motivation in front of their home fans so I can see this game being a draw.
Arsenal vs Norwich
Saturday night’s fixture is a must win for both sides as Arsenal continue to secure Champions League football for the 19th season in a row and Norwich scrap towards Premier League survival. On paper this game looks one sided, however Arsenal have dropped precious points in their last two games against Crystal Palace and Sunderland, a run that could continue against Norwich.
Norwich, out of the three relgation rivals look the most likely to go down after drab performance against Sunderland two weeks back. Norwich do however have a game in hand, so they mustn’t panic yet. I was wrong about Arsenal last week and I hope this week I am right in backing Arsenal to win, and win by a margin.
Swansea vs Liverpool
Moving onto Super Sunday where there will be three matches, all of which have huge ramifications on the league table. The first of which will pit an inconsistent Swansea against European hopefuls Liverpool. This is a very interesting tie mostly because it is unclear what kind of team Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will use against Swansea this weekend.
This Swansea match is the filling to Liverpool’s two legged Europa League Semi Final against Villareal; the first leg of which is tonight in Spain. It is incredibly likely that Klopp will opt to use a ‘weaker’ team against Swansea, but that doesn’t necessarily means they will not be taking the game seriously.
Last Saturday’s draw against Newcastle was a blip in what has to be said is very good use of rotation by the German manager. Enough on Liverpool; Swansea much like Everton are very inconsistent but can beat anyone of their day.
I, however feel Liverpool have too much in reserve and young players such as Connor Randall and Kevin Stewart proving to be great prospects I can see Liverpool edging this at 13/10. If I had to pick a scoreline, I would say 2-1 Liverpool (8-1).
Manchester United vs Leicester City
The main event is upon us once more. The day where Leicester City can write their name in Premier League history and modern-day folklore. All they have to do is beat United at Old Trafford. In previous season that would have been mission impossible, but now the home of United is not the fortress it used to be and I can see Leicester triumphing here.
Manchester United’s form has improved and they look set to at least win the FA Cup next month but keeping out the best team in the country is a tough ask despite having David De Gea in-goal. Leicester proved last weekend that they can function without top goalscorer Jamie Vardy and win with style. I doubt it’ll be another 4-0 thrashing but I do feel the Champions elect will cross the line this weekend in Manchester.
Southampton vs Manchester City
If you are not already exhausted by the events in the previous game there is one more match during this weekend’s Super Sunday, Southampton vs Man City. Despite winning last week against Villa, the Saints’ showed some defensive frailties that a team like Man City could exploit.
City worked incredibly hard to earn a 0-0 draw at home to Real Madrid to keep themselves within a very good chance of progressing to the final, so I would not be surprised if they decide to rest a few key players for the trip to the south coast. I believe there will definitely be goals in this game and I reckon City will edge it.
I would back City to win and both teams to score at 7/2.
Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
The final game of the weekend looks to be the tastiest on paper; however it could only be important if Leicester do not win away to United as that result will open the door marginally to Spurs in second place. Even if an opportunity does present itself to the North London side don’t expect the current champions to roll over for their bitter rivals.
Chelsea and Eden Hazard in particular looked back to their best last week against Bournemouth and they will bring that confidence into this derby on Monday night to try to take Spurs down a peg or two. Spurs will be hurting over last Monday’s draw at home to West Brom; a result that in actual fact should have been out of sight by the time West Brom did score. Tottenham’s midfield is also in disarray after that match but for two differing reasons.
Eric Dier suffered a concussion when Spurs conceded the goal on Monday and the club are currently monitoring his progress over the week few days, therefore he could miss this game as a precaution. Dele Alli will be missing as well but for a whole different reason however. He was caught by television cameras giving West Brom’s Claudio Yacob a ‘dig in the ribs’. He was found guilty by the FA of misconduct and accepted the charge yesterday so looks be banned for the final three games of the season. Looking to a result I think this match will low on goals like the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane in November which finished 0-0.
My bet of the weekend is: West Ham, Watford, Arsenal, Leicester and Man City to all win. A £10 bet on this accumulator pays £395.00. Also a £10 treble on the three draws I selected (Everton vs Bournemouth, Newcastle vs Palace and Chelsea vs Spurs) pays £416.
Good luck with all your bets and have a great weekend!
(images: 101 great goals/squaka.com/express.co.uk/Daily Mirror/Sky Sports)