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Southampton v Chelsea: 2-1 & 1-1.
A 1-1 draw at lowly Leeds isn’t necessarily the result to get overly excited about for a side with eyes set on a top 10 EPL finish, however last week’s Elland Road stalemate, courtesy of another sensational James Ward-Prowse free-kick, snapped a four-game losing sequence for the Saints. Ralph Hasenhuttl hailed his side’s performance as “a good step forward in such an intense atmosphere and intense game”. With draws at home to both Manchester clubs and Spurs – but defeats to Watford and Newcastle, two of only three league losses at St. Marys, it seems the higher ranked sides bring the best out of the South Coast outfit – which bodes well for the visit of a third placed Chelsea side who have had a shocking week.
The Blues produced an uncharacteristically shambolic defensive performance in capitulating to a 4-1 hammering at home to Brentford last weekend, despite taking the lead following a 40-yard Antonio Rudiger Worldie. A blip was forgivable especially with the possibility they had more than an eye on their upcoming Champions League Quarter Final first leg – but proceeded to be on the wrong end of a Karim Benzema inspired humbling as the French international’s hat-trick ensured Chelsea have a 3-1 deficit to overcome in the second leg in Madrid this coming week.
With a big turnaround required at the Santiago Bernabéu and the game so close on the horizon we may not only see a well rotated visiting line up here, but a performance with the trip to Spain in mind and it is interesting to note Thomas Tuchel, who has represented his club impeccably during their current off-field turmoil, has started throwing in excuses in his post-match comments, even including the British weather. Only West Ham games have seen both teams score more often than the 19 times that has occurred when Southampton have been involved, so although I think the home side can spring a surprise here, they will likely have to score at least twice to do so.
Watford v Leeds: Other draw & 1-2
Burnley’s midweek win over Everton, dropped the Hornets down to 19th in the table but they remain within striking distance of the Toffees who sit, nervously, one place above the drop zone. Last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool may have been expected but represented a league high 21st time Roy Hodgson’s side had conceded the first goal of the game – a quick start here could be crucial as a Leeds side with their tails up can be a dangerous animal.
The Elland Road outfit have put together a vital run of three undefeated games under new boss Jesse Marsch including two injury time victories, which as a result, have seen them move eight points clear of the relegation zone.
In a game where the league’s leakiest and third leakiest defences collide, shipping a combined 125 times between them, we should see plenty of action, no EPL side has seen more games feature over 2.5 goals than Leeds (20) and they will sense a win over a Watford side, who have lost their last eight at Vicarage Road, will all but mathematically secure them another season in the top flight.
Aston Villa v Tottenham: 1-3 & Other Away.
Defeat at Midlands rivals Wolves saw Steven Gerrard’s side slip in to the bottom half of the table with the manager once again casting doubt on the attitude of his players, claiming they are currently only “turning up” for half a game and that they are now playing for their futures at the club ahead of the summer transfer window. The Villains have now taken just four points from the 39 available against teams above them in the top flight this season, losing all five clashes with sides in the current top six since Gerrard joined from Rangers.
Spurs are back in the top four as a result of three successive wins and North London rivals Arsenal losing at Crystal Palace on Monday night. Their latest three points came as a result of a come from behind win against Newcastle, with an outstanding second half performance seeing four goals and showcased their all-round attacking prowess with both wing-backs and one of their three centre backs finding the net!
It’s always dangerous to think Spurs have cracked it – but…it looks like Antonio Conte has really discovered a winning formula – something he contributes to having more time on the training ground. Although Tottenham’s last two games have been at home, they could not pick a better venue to travel to in order to keep pace in the top four race – they have won their last seven visits to Villa Park scoring at least twice in all of them – I would be very surprised if they didn’t make it eight here.
Leicester v Crystal Palace: Other Draw & 1-2.
The return of key defenders Jonny Evans and Wesley Fofana have made a big difference to the Foxes who look more like the side we have come to expect over the last few years and have only lost once in their last five league games. Brendan Rodgers was pleased with his side’s latest showing – a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford – in a game where they dominated for long spells, looked the more threatening of the two sides and although were pegged back after Kelechi Iheanacho opened the scoring – thought they had claimed all three points late on only for James Maddison’s strike to be ruled out after a VAR check.
The Eagles were very impressive in sweeping Arsenal aside on Monday night making it five games unbeaten – a run which has seen them climb to ninth in the table. This transitional season under Patrick Vieira has been a massive success, with their intensity of play and attacking talent a joy to watch – with the fact three of their young players made full England debuts during the international break testament to that.
This game is sandwiched between both legs of Leicester’s Europa Conference League quarter-final with PSV Eindhoven – and with that competition offering a last hope of silverware this season it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them give priority to progression in Europe over three points at the King Power on Sunday. Palace aren’t as convincing on the road as they are in front of their own fans but would be surprised to see them return to London empty handed.
Brentford v West Ham: 2-1 & 1-1.
The buzzing Bees conjured up one of the results of the season last weekend as they stung Chelsea with a deserved 4-1 thrashing at Stamford Bridge, claiming a first west London derby victory at their rivals in 83 years! Thomas Frank’s side have proved me wrong with three wins in their last four games halting what looked an inevitable slide in to the relegation zone and go in to this fixture back up in 14th with a nine-point buffer to Burnley in 18th.
Like Leicester this game comes in the middle of two massive European fixtures – with Lyon standing between the Hammers and a place in the Europa League semi-finals. Winning that competition would not only add their first piece of silverware since the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999 but also the golden ticket of a place in the Champions League next season.
This looks the perfect chance for Brentford to claim the three points that all but guarantees them top flight football next season, with Christian Eriksen purring in midfield and West Ham looking a little disjointed and leggy as a long but successful season takes its toll on a relatively small squad.
Man City v Liverpool: 1-1 & Other Draw.
What. A. Clash!
Flick the pages of the calendar back to the beginning of the year and City were sitting pretty with what looked a fairly unassailable 12-point gap back to Liverpool, a draw with Southampton and defeats to both Spurs and Crystal Palace though have seen that healthy lead crumble to just a solitary point ahead of this mouthwatering head-to-head this weekend. A comfortable 2-0 win over Burnley returned Pep’s men to the top of the EPL while although the midweek 1-0 scoreline against Atletico Madrid in the UCL looks tight, the English champions not only dominated possession having 70% control of the ball, they did not so much as allow their Spanish counterparts a single shot at goal.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been relentless since the turn of the year picking up 31 points from a possible 33 in the league, lying in wait for City in the FA Cup semis, winning the League Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea & looking nailed on for a place in the UCL semi-finals after defeating Benfica 3-1 in their first leg in Lisbon.
This one is so tough to call, with both sides packed with talent all over the pitch, City arguably tighter defensively, Liverpool more explosive and possibly shading things in the final third, but with a whole host of match winners, and match savers on show the draw has to be a very live option especially when you take in to account these side could not be split in two of their last three meetings.
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