Leicester City’s amazingly smooth run towards an incongruous Premier League title perhaps fittingly takes them to the side most emblematic of Premier League success: Manchester United. United have their own agenda and will be aiming to make Leicester City wait that one extra tantalizing week for immortality: whatever that means; remember that Chelsea were the ones ‘immortalized’ last year.
There I am being cynical again. What has happened is unlikely to ever happen again and perhaps deserves to be immortalized.
Spurs travel to Chelsea in what could be a potentially bitter London derby if Leicester manage to secure the title at Old Trafford. Elsewhere, relegation hangs like the proverbial cinematic noose for Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle United. Sunderland seem to have some momentum and will go into their battle with Stoke full of confidence that they can emerge from what has been a troubling season.
Saturday 30 April
Everton 9/10 | Draw 27/10 | Bournemouth 28/10
Everton’s fans will probably be breathing a collective sigh of relief that their side failed to qualify for the F.A Cup final. It finally solidifies the fact that this has been a massively disappointing season and may result in some necessary changes at the club. Roberto Martinez’s easy charisma has for far too long concealed a genuinely imbalanced tactical focus. His disinterest in defensive cohesion is evident in the agonizing demise of Jon Stones; remember that Stones was considered the messianic figure for those wishing to boldly bring English defensive play into the 21st century. Bournemouth will be smarting following their 4-1 defeat to Chelsea and will probably be relishing this clash with Martinez’s side.
Verdict: Double Chance - Bournemouth to win or draw at 8/10 - Barry and McCarthy are going to struggle against the pace of Stanislas, King, etc. Their defensive midfield area is too slow and needs a major overhaul.
Newcastle United 19/20 | Draw 24/10 | Crystal Palace 29/10
Newcastle United’s comeback at Liverpool - heroic as anything - really could be a case of too little, too late. Rafa Benitez has clearly instilled some organization at a club that for far too long stuck with the clearly incapable Steve McClaren. Townsend has been exceptional while Sissokho has shown his fighting abilities. Palace may be expected to take the foot off the gas somewhat following their triumphant victory in the Cup final. But this fixture will clearly change all that. Pardew enjoyed a tumultuous time at Newcastle that braved terrific heights and brought shocking lows. He will be keen on his side delivering a performance and will know that their counterattacking capabilities will be formidable against a Newcastle side desperate to win.
Verdict: Palace to win at 29/10 - I just think that Benitez was hired too late and this Newcastle side is not built to chase a game. Zaha and Puncheon will revel on the break and this could mark the end for the Magpies.
Stoke City 16/10 | Draw 22/10 | Sunderland 17/10
Stoke City have not conceded four goals in four consecutive games in the history of the club. Just what hardliner Mark Hughes must think of their stunning capitulation is just about anybody’s guess. Players such as Affelay and Arnanutociv don’t appear to be season ticket holders when it comes to consistent professionalism: a state of affairs that was always likely with Hughes’ insistence on evolving the side from Pulis-era thuggery. Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland are on the opposite end of the spectrum and will not have even the slightest trace of apathy going into this game.
Verdict: Double Chance - Sunderland to win or draw at 4/10 - I just can’t see Sunderland losing this game. Big Sam will set out in typically phlegmatic mode and just react to Stoke. Stoke have emotionally checked out of proceedings and may go into cruise control again.
Watford 13/20 | Draw 28/10 | Aston Villa 42/10
Watford’s completely predictable cup exit sort of typified the late-season malaise that has characterized Sanchez-Flores’ side. The situation has hardly been helped by rampant speculation of his departure and an increasingly public appraisal of his ‘value’ to the club. They will welcome the visit of hapless Villa for what could be a rather somber affair all round. Villa’s relegation should complement Watford’s Cup exit and make for a wonderfully downbeat ensemble.
Verdict: Villa to win at 42/10 - I know I may sound crazy here. Perhaps I am. But I’m going out on a limb and saying that Villa break their duck this weekend. Their demise has been long forthcoming and perhaps there will be some freedom out there- just look at their ‘improved’ performance against Southampton. Watford just seem horribly flat and uninspired. Expect the likes of Westwood and Sanchez to perform against a side overly reliant on Deeney and Ighalo.
West Brom 26/10 | Draw 23/10 | West Ham United 1/1
West Bromwich’s terrier-like qualities may have just gifted the Foxes their Rocky Balboa moment on Monday night. Craig Dawson’s equalizer came in a game that was completely dominated by Spurs - a theme that has been consistent with a West Brom side at the bottom of the list for possession in this year’s Premier League. West Ham have been excellent on the road and will know that victory will be necessary to keep their European dreams alive. Andy Carroll has rediscovered some form while Payet continues to impress.
Verdict: West Ham to win at 1/1 - West Ham go into this game well rested and have been excellent on the road. Carroll’s presence may be able to blunt West Brom's physic laity while Payet and company do the rest.
Arsenal 1/4 | Draw 47/10 | Norwich City 92/10
Arsenal fans will have been disturbed by the fact that they only managed to manufacture two shots on goal in the second half in their match against Sunderland. They looked laborious and even the introduction of the neophyte Gazza 'Jack Wilshire' couldn’t inject their side with much vigor. Alex Neil will have noticed this lethargy and will be hoping that his side’s two-week absence from action will bode well for a side desperate for survival. I struggle to see how Mbokani and co are going to get around Arsenal. Redmond and Hoolahan have to be included in my opinion should Norwich stand any chance of victory.
Verdict: Arsenal to win at 1/4 - I predict a comfortable if unremarkable victory for the Gunners.
Sunday 1 May
Swansea City 2/1 | Draw 23/10 | Liverpool 13/10
Swansea City are a side that are going to have to invest heavily in order to maintain their status next season. Guidolini has come in and waved the magic wand to some effect, but there is still a distinct undercurrent of stagnation at this club. Glyfi Sigurdsson is miles ahead of their other players. Gomis is too erratic in front of goal while the likes of Routledge and Cork seem uninspired. Jefferson Montero has also been underutilized and poorly managed. Liverpool will have to battle on without the services of Mamadou Sakho following a positive drug test. Regardless, this Liverpool side is playing with a vitality that should prove overwhelming for the Swans.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double – Liverpool to win both halves at 11/4 - I can’t see the likes of Williams and Rangel containing Sturridge and Coutinho. This could be similar to Chelsea’s 5-0 demolition of the Swansea last season.
Manchester United 21/20 | Draw 23/10 | Leicester City 11/4
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Southampton 17/10 | Draw 24/10 | Manchester City 31/20
It would not be cynical in the slightest to say that this game will mean far more to Southampton than Manchester City. City’s second leg visit to the Bernabeu will no doubt have a huge impact on the composition of their side. The likes of Delph and Bony will feature while Nasri continues his long road to rediscovering the form that made him one of the hottest young talents in Europe. Southampton have managed to harness some late season momentum and have almost imperceptibly gone on to enjoy another successful campaign. Mane and Long will offer City plenty of problems while they still remain open at the back.
Verdict: Total Goals over 2.5 at 8/10 - I can’t see City’s ostensible B-team romping away to victory and give the edge to the home side. However, Southampton have been defensively vulnerable and perhaps a better option will be to back on a 2-1 or 2-2 result.
Monday 2 May
Chelsea 18/10 | Draw 24/10 | Tottenham Hotspur 29/20
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