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Football News: Weekend Premier League Preview

Saturday 29th April 2017


Southampton v Hull City Premier League 3pm

Boufal (slight doubt - knock)
McQueen (slight doubt - groin strain)
van Dijk (out - foot injury)
Austin (doubt - dislocated shoulder)
McCarthy (out - hamstring injury)
Targett (doubt - hamstring injury)

Just as Saints were looking certain of a top eight finish, they suffer two bad defeats in a row, admittedly against top four sides, which have put a bit of a dent in their ambitions and shown how big the gap is between those fighting for European places and the rest. However, Soton still have that eighth place in their own hands. Though they also have three more of the sides fighting for top four places to face this season! First they have to face a Hull side scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table, the fixture list could scarcely have been less kind to Claude Puel if it tried. He might well need those two games in hand!
Most important player: Manolo Gabbiadini. The Italian striker has not made the same explosive impression as he made before his injury. Saints need him to get back to scoring ways as quickly as possible.

Meyler (out - MCL injury)
Elabdellaoui (slight doubt - back injury)
Mason (out - fractured skull)
Keane (out - ACL injury)
Odubajo (out - patella fracture)

The fact that they are even in with a shout of avoiding relegation at this stage of the season is something of a minor miracle and a testament to the incredible work Marco Silva has done since he took over. However, even the miracle worker has his limits and Silva has been unable to do anything about improving away form. With things so tight, just two points separating the Tigers from the Swans, this game really needs to see an improvement of some kind. Any kind of positive result would lift them ahead of next week's chance to finish Sunderland's hopes of survival (if they even have any). They are so close to survival, but they have to keep going, as one slip could signal a return to the Championship.
Most important player: Lazar Markovic. The winger, on-loan from Liverpool, has scored some important goals for the Tigers, along with their other Merseyside loanee, Everton's Oumar Niasse. Markovic's pace on the break is particularly important in away games.

Defining Battle: central midfield will be key. Saints will expect to dominate this area, but the sheer workrate of the Hull midfield might well cause them problems. Both coaches favour very similar systems, normally, so Puel will be looking to his side's extra quality to make the difference.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 3-1


Stoke City v West Ham United Premier League 3pm

Walters (late fitness test - knee injury)
Afellay (out - knee injury)
Ireland (doubt - broken leg)

The Potters' season looks to have come to a sudden, crashing end, as the promise that was shown has vanished with five defeats in the last six matches leaving them just shy of forty points. Mark Hughes has seen his side go from chasing Everton down for a top 7 place to sliding down the table into the bottom half and seeing the teams that were recently battling relegation chasing their tails. While there is little genuine danger of relegation, Hughes knows that a bottom half finish is not good enough for Stoke. There is no getting away from it, this has not been a good season for the Potters, who now have four games left to at least end it on a high.
Most important player: Marko Arnautovic. Stoke have become more and more reliant on the Austrian winger as the season has gone on. On a good day he is a stunning talent, with pace, skill and vision, on a bad day he is a bad tempered wildman fond of shooting into row z. They need him to have a good day!

Reid (late fitness test - knock)
Masuaku (late fitness test - knock)
Kouyate (late fitness test - knock)
Feghouli (late fitness test - knock)
Snodgrass (slight doubt - knee injury)
Carroll (slight doubt - groin strain)
Antonio (out - hamstring injury)
Obiang (out - high ankle sprain)
Ogbonna (out - knee surgery)
Tore (out - knee injury)
Henry (out - ACL injury)

If Stoke's season is poor, then the Hammers' season can only be described as disastrous, especially following last season's heroics. To cap it all off and add to their woes, HMRC have now swooped on the club in an investigation over unpaid taxes involving the French authorities. On the pitch there has been just one win in ten games, five of those games resulting in defeats, leaving West Ham safe by virtue of the lack of quality of the two north eastern sides, rather than through their own merits. While Slaven Bilic has not particularly handled the season well, in particular his bizarre insistence on putting anyone but a right back in the right back position until he had absolutely no option through injuries but to put an actual right back there, his bosses have done everything they could to hinder him. It is beginning to look like a poison chalice of a job, with the ownership far too involved and hands on to allow any manager to succeed.
Most important player: Manuel Lanzini. It is almost a case of whoever is fit to play is most important right now! The disarray off the pitch has been fully matched on it, not just by the results but team selection due to injuries. Lanzini is one of the few first team players left to Bilic and he is one that offers flashes of genuine quality. They need that quality to be more than just a flash here and there.

Defining Battle: the West Ham defence have a genuine battle on their hands dealing with the Stoke pairing up front. While Berahino has yet to show anything, he has been paired with a big man who has put himself about to create space. Whether it is Jonathon Walters or Peter Crouch, the frontman will create problems that the defenders have to figure out how to deal with.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-0
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 2-0


Sunderland v Bournemouth Premier League 3pm

Cattermole (late fitness test - achilles injury)
Gibson (late fitness test - groin injury)
Denayer (late fitness test - dead leg)
Rodwell (late fitness test - groin injury)
Oviedo (out - hamstring injury)
Kirchhoff (out - knee injury)
Watmore (out - ACL injury)
McNair (out - ACL injury)
Larsson (out - suspended)

Dead and buried with barely a whimper, David Moyes' time at the Black Cats has even exceeded his time in Spain and at Manchester United for disappointment. At Everton, the Scot created a real team spirit and they battled together to stay clear of relegation in his early days. Since then, he seems to have forgotten what worked and has believed the 'hype' that saw him get the Man Utd gig. His poor tactics, allied to a complete lack of quality throughout the squad, have compounded his lack of leadership. Now, all that is left to the Mackems is pride, something that has been sorely lacking from their performances this season. Maybe the Black Cats can do something without the pressure of a relegation dogfight on their shoulders?
Most important player: John O'Shea. The whole team has shown no desire, fight, will or drive at all this season. While the club itself and the manager must take a huge portion of the blame for that, as club captain it is on O'Shea to ensure that his players carry on regardless. Unfortunately O'Shea and his team mates are more like the cast of Carry On Regardless than they are a football team. It is up to the captain to kick some backsides and get the players focused and fighting for his team.

Gosling (doubt - calf injury)
Wilshere (out - broken leg)
Surman (out - knee injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Federici (out - cartilage knee injury)

Having thrashed the other struggling north east side last weekend 4-0, the Cherries will be confident of a good result this time out against the worst team in the Premier League. Even though their away record is not very good, Sunderland have been so poor that Bournemouth will be very confident of getting revenge on them for the 2-1 defeat they suffered at their hands at home. A win, to all intents and purposes, guarantees they survive for another season in the Prem, Eddie Howe will certainly be looking to his players to get that win. Then his attention can turn to the summer's recruitment, where he will look to learn from the mistakes of last summer. This time around he will want players to come in and improve the first team immediately.
Most important player: Harry Arter. The midfielder's drive and determination has been a vital part of the club's success. His energy and workrate allows Bournemouth to play two in central midfield against most teams.

Defining Battle: the wide areas are key to the way Bournemouth play, if Sunderland can shut down their wingers and push their fullbacks back, then they have every chance of getting a result.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 1-3
Ed004 - 1-0
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-0


West Bromwich Albion v Leicester City Premier League 3pm

Phillips (out - hamstring injury)
Robson-Kanu (out - hamstring injury)

This season has fizzled out badly for the Baggies, who have now lost five of their last seven and have just one win in those games. The fact they are still sat happily in eighth owes a lot more to those around them failing to perform as well, than it does to anything they have done. West Brom seem to be just one of many who reach safety and then get the deckchairs out mentally. The way things are going, they could not win a single one of their final five matches and still hold onto their eighth position!
Most important player: Chris Brunt. West Brom have been struggling for goals lately and need some quality balls put into the box. Brunt has a lovely left foot and could make the difference if he gets it right on the day.

Morgan (late fitness test - hamstring injury)
Slimani (slight doubt - groin strain)
Mendy (out - ankle injury)
Wague (out - dislocated shoulder)

It seems the Foxes' players have returned to the comfy armchairs they spent the early part of the season in, it has now been three league games since they won, five matches in total including the Champions League. Without the ridicule of fans and media to rouse them, they seem to have settled back into mediocrity. The drive to prove everyone wrong, following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, has gone and results have gone too. The worry is that they are still not 100% certain of staying in the Premier League this season, so they need to pick themselves up once more, get over the demoralising loss in Europe and raise their game once more.
Most important player: Danny Simpson. It is a miracle that he has a Premier League winner's medal, as he has never looked a top class full back, even in the title-winning season he was the weak link of the team. Worse is his tendency to pick up stupid cards due to temperament issues. Playing against a Tony Pulis side, who will look to pick at any weakness they can see, that suspect temperament is sure to be sorely tested.

Defining Battle: West Brom's defenders lack pace, while Leicester have a lot of pace up top. How well the Baggies defence copes with Leicester's counter attacks will go a long way to deciding this game.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 1-0
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 2-2
Ed033 - 1-1


Crystal Palace v Burnley Premier League 5:30pm

Sakho (out - knee injury)
Tomkins (out - ankle injury)
Dann (out - knee injury)
Wickham (out - ACL injury)
Souare (out - broken leg)
J Benteke (doubt - knee injury)
Remy (doubt - knee injury, calf injury)

Despite the midweek defeat by Spurs, Palace are flying right now, moving themselves out of the drop zone and up to 12th in the Premier League with six wins in the last nine matches. From almost certain relegation to almost certain safety in just a few weeks, Sam Allardyce has once again shown an ability to rescue a struggling club. He has taken a squad of players who were severely out of shape, with players overweight, spent a month building up their fitness and got them to buy into his methods. Once again it has done the trick. The question is, where do they go from here?
Most important player: Damien Delaney. The loss of Mamadou Sakho after losing club captain Scott Dann and James Tomkins, will be a big hurdle to overcome for the Eagles. They will need Delaney to step up and play well to make up for the losses at the back.

Mee (late fitness test - shin)
Ward (doubt - knee injury)
Vokes (doubt - tight hamstring)
Arfield (doubt - knee injury)
Marney (out - ACL injury)
Barton (out - suspended)

The Clarets have an incredible home record but their away record is so poor that they are still in danger of relegation. They have just two more chances to get a win away from home. Their form is that of a relegation side, with just one win in ten, not what you want heading into the final four games and relegation still being a possibility. The big worry for Sean Dyche is that his players do not look like they have anything left in the tank. He will be hoping that the ban handed out to Joey Barton will inspire the players, certainly losing him from the team is unlikely to be an issue, as he has struggled since his return from his time up in Scotland with Rangers.
Most important player: Jeff Hendrick. The Irish midfielder has been having to do Barton's running in recent weeks, it might well free him up to get forward more having a different partner alongside him.

Defining Battle: will Palace's rejigged backline be able to cope with the power of Burnley's forwards? That could well be the deciding factor, as Palace do look to them to defend on their own while leaving the front players with freedom to get forward.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 1-2
Ed004 - 1-0
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 2-2
Ed033 - 2-1


Sunday 30th April


Manchester United v Swansea City Premier League 12pm

Fosu-Mensah (doubt - dislocated shoulder)
Ibrahimovic (out - ACL injury)
Rojo (out - ACL injury)
Mata (out - groin/pelvis injury)
Smalling (out - knee injury)
Jones (out - toe injury)
Wilson (out - ACL injury)
Williams (doubt - knee injury)
Pogba (doubt - hamstring strain)
Fellaini (out - suspended)

Yet another draw for Man Utd in their quest to create the most uninspiring unbeaten run of all time. There are times when you could be forgiven for thinking Tony Pulis had taken charge, rather than Jose Mourinho. Louis van Gaal must be wondering where all the fans have gone that were on his back over style of play! This season, most of the attacking done has been by Mourinho, on his players, over their attitude. He has constantly questioned players and hit out at them for various issues, the latest one being the lack of willingness to play through the pain barrier. Mourinho has all the hallmarks of a dictator who believes himself infallible and is no longer willing to listen to advice from those around him. The physios and fitness coaches say players are not ready to play, so he comes out publicly to criticise those players for listening to professional medical advice, rather than to him. It is all very reminiscent of his second Chelsea spell, the difference is that he is working with a much weaker bunch of player, while he is in a much stronger position. At least this season Jose is in a stronger position, as he has a history of success, while his players have a history of underachievement. However, when you are spending more money than every other club, then your position is only going to be weakened if that spend continues to produce negligible effect. Fifth place in the league, with a possibility of third and the Europa League, along with a EFL Cup trophy in the cabinet, is that really what you spend hundreds of millions on transfers to achieve, when you were already in fifth the previous season, but with the FA Cup sat in the trophy cabinet?
Most important player: Eric Bailly. The young defender has looked back to his best in recent games, despite having a string of partners at the back, due to injuries.

Fer (doubt - dead leg)
Routledge (out - hernia)
Olsson (doubt - hamstring injury)
Cork (doubt - ankle injury)
Rangel (out - metatarsal fracture)
Dyer (out - achilles injury)

A good win against Stoke, following a run of six games without a win, five of which were losses, has revived the Swan's hopes of avoiding relegation, just as they were looking to be sinking without trace. With the gap to Hull above them down to just two points, it is all to play for right now, with every point precious in their battle to avoid the drop. Away from home their form is still atrocious, their last six trips producing the sum total of zero points. With the season in its final stretch, every game is do or die and the Swans are getting to the point where they will have to go for wins, as draws might not help them.
Most important player: Gylfi Sigurdsson. You have to wonder what hope there is for next season, with the Icelandic midfielder making noises about wanting to move on in the summer. His set pieces, in particular, have been just about Swansea's only real sign of creativity this season.

Defining Battle: it is difficult to pick anything out about this match that is likely to be entertaining. The Swans have been negative and boring under Clement, looking to pass for passing's sake and lacking any creativity or cutting edge. In recent weeks, the Red Devils have been parking the bus, as only a Jose Mourinho-managed team can do. The main battle will probably be between the after match interviewer and his face, as s/he will be busy trying to restrain the incredulity as Jose goes on a rant about how the Swans parked the bus, played 18th century football or some other hypocritical remarks about the style of play his obscenely expensive team of defenders has cost. Unless, of course, United go on and win, in which case Jose will no doubt treat us to a discourse on how he won the game single handedly using his brain to control all the players. I am beginning to think Jose would be far happier sat at home playing Football Manager 17 on his PC, rather than being in the dugout!

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 0-0
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 1-4
Ed025 - 3-1
Ed033 - 1-0


Everton v Chelsea Premier League 2:05pm

Besic (doubt - fitness)
Mori (out - knee meniscus injury)
Coleman (out - broken leg)
Lennon (doubt - knock)
McCarthy (out - hamstring injury)
Bolasie (out - ACL injury)

Everton are the last real stumbling block for Chelsea to face this season, with their excellent home record and form in 2017. So far this calendar year, only Spurs have picked up more points than the Toffess. They are on a four match unbeaten run in the Premier League, but it has been seven matches in a row that they have picked up wins at Goodison Park, eight in a row in the league. With sixth place tantalisingly close, they have a real reason to fight for the result here. They could still qualify for Europe by finishing there, that would make a huge difference to their recruitment potential in the summer. This is not going to be an easy day out for Chelsea as they cruise to the title, that much is certain.
Most important player: Romelu Lukaku. Another chance for the former Chelsea player to prove they were wrong to let him go. Also a chance for him to push his claims for a return to the Blues. At least Ronald Koeman will not have to worry that his top scorer will not be in the mood for this game, as happens far too often with the big Belgian forward.

No injury or suspension problems

This should be it for Chelsea, a win over Everton and it should be a stroll to the title, I emphasis the word should though. Everton, on paper at least, provide the last big test to the Blues, with the game being away from Stamford Bridge and their last opponent from the top seven. A win here would effectively kill Spurs' last lingering hopes of the title heading to White Hart Lane this season. While Chelsea's form has dipped lately, with two defeats in the last six games, they are still on track to take the title, with the players knowing that even a defeat would leave them on top of the Prem. Is there a final twist in the tail for the season after all?
Most important player: Marcos Alonso. He provides excellent balance down the left and, while he is not the greatest player in the world, nor even the best player in the team, he is the one player at the Pensioners that they have no real like-for-like replacement for. The Man Utd game showed how vital he is to the team.

Defining Battle: stop the width and Chelsea are in trouble, so it is likely this game will hinge on the wide areas. This is a game that Everton will feel the loss of Seamus Coleman in more than most, as his energy and ability down the right would have helped them control that flank.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 1-3
Ed004 - 2-3
Ed007 - 2-2
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 2-2
Ed033 - 0-2


Middlesbrough v Manchester City Premier League 2:05pm

Ayala (late fitness test - ankle injury)
Barragan (late fitness test - knock)
Leadbitter (late fitness test - hamstring injury)
Valdes (doubt - rib injury)

Boro kept their faint hopes alive with their first win in sixteen games. It is unlikely to make any genuine difference in their battle to stay in the Premier League, but it has pretty much ensured they will not finish bottom. The six point gap to safety just looks a yawning chasm at this point in the season, especially with the way they have been playing. There is little sign of them scoring the goals they need to genuinely pull themselves out of the mire.
Most important player: Adam Clayton. The midfielder has been one of the few Boro to enhance his reputation over the course of the season. He has shown a real workrate and desire, while also possessing enough ability to ensure he does not look out of place in the Premier League, unlike a few of his colleagues.

Bravo (out - calf strain)
Silva (late fitness test - knee injury)
Stones (late fitness test - muscle injury)
Gundogan (out - ACL injury)

Citeh have dropped far too many points due to draws this season, but they do still have the best away record in the league. It suggests that there is a lack of quality to open up the defences they face at home, but they do have the ability to make use of the extra space afforded on away trips, where the home team can very rarely sit back against them as much. This season has been far from the expectations that were raised by the appointment of Pep Guardiola, then blasted to the moon by his run of six victories in the Prem to launch the season in style. Now the season is in its final stretch and there are no trophies and the possibility of missing out on the Champions League next season. That is nothing short of a disaster for the blue half of Manchester.
Most important player: Sergio Aguero. The response to the arrival on pitch of Gabriel Jesus could either act as a spur to Aguero or lead to him going into a sulk. City need Aguero to be goaded into playing better, as he has not been at his goalscoring best for the last few matches.

Defining Battle: the central midfield is key, City want to dominate the ball and Boro need to do everything they can to stop that happening.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-3
Ed003 - 0-4
Ed004 - 0-3
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed018 - 0-2
Ed025 - 0-3
Ed033 - 0-1


Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Premier League 4:30pm

Dembele (late fitness test - ankle injury)
Vorm (doubt - knee injury)
Winks (out - ankle injury)
Rose (out - MCL injury)
Lamela (out - hip injury)
Carter-Vickers (doubt - knee injury)

Eight wins in a row has seen Spurs cut Chelsea's lead to just four points, as their form has been irresistible. A defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final could have stopped them dead in their tracks, but they recovered to clinch a narrow win over Palace in midweek. Now they face bitter rivals Arsenal, knowing the Gooners would love nothing more than to stop Spurs' title bid. So far Spurs have been unbeaten at White Hart Lane, with fifteen wins in the seventeen games so far. This is even more of a must-win than the usual North London derby, with so much more at stake for Spurs than just pride.
Most important player: Eric Dier. The England international has become a key part for Tottenham, not just for his versatility, but also for his cool head, which allowed Mauricio Pochettino to move him back into midfield when others were losing theirs against Palace. That calmness could be vital as Spurs chase down bitter rivals Chelsea.

Koscielny (late fitness test - knee injury)
Mustafi (out - thigh injury)
Cazorla (out - plantaris injury)
Reine-Adelaide (out - ankle injury)

This is almost certainly the first time in many years that Arsenal will end the season below their local rivals, the last thing they want is to give Spurs fans more bragging rights by losing the derby. Their form of late has been patchy, away from home the Gunners have been in patchy form all season, but they are on a winning streak right now of their own, having won three matches on the bounce, though one was in the FA Cup. Will Arsene Wenger stick with his new formation, which has so far given him 100% success, or will he be tempted to change it for this match? If they are to get into their usual top four place, they really can not afford to lose this game, even the Europa League could be out of reach if they do not maintain their winning run.
Most important player: Alexis Sanchez. On his day he can be a matchwinner. If Arsenal get him enough of the ball in dangerous parts of the pitch, even a defence as excellent as Spurs' will struggle to keep him from scoring.

Defining Battle: the Arsenal defence are likely to be really up against it with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in fine form. How well they can cope will go a long way to deciding this game. If they are pushed too deep, there will either be big gaps between them and the midfield or the midfield will have to drop too.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 3-2
Ed004 - 2-0
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 1-1


Monday 1st May 2017


Watford v Liverpool Premier League 8pm

Cathcart (doubt - knee injury)
Kaboul (out - hamstring injury)
Zarate (out - ACL injury)
Watson (doubt - groin strain)
Pereyra (out - knee injury)
Gomes (doubt - ?)
Doucoure (doubt - overload)
Cleverley (doubt - overload)

The Hornets have not managed to sort out their inconsistency issues yet, with three wins and three defeats in the last six games. They are much better at home, which is, in large part, why they are sat in midtable safe from relegation and preparing themselves for another season in the Premier League. The challenge for Walter Mazzarri now is to pick up enough points to finish in the top half, then hope that is enough to give him another year in charge.
Most important player: Jose Holebas. On his day he can provide excellent quality with his left foot, though he does have a tendency to pick up silly bookings due to ill-discipline. Against a Liverpool side that often struggles to defend against crosses, his delivery can create chances.

Sturridge (late fitness test - hip flexor strain)
Klavan (late fitness test - knee injury)
Mane (out - cartilage knee injury)
Lallana (doubt - thigh injury)
Henderson (out - foot injury)
Ejaria (out - ankle injury)
Ings (out - ACL injury)

Just when it looked like Liverpool were on a roll, the Reds weaknesses were once again exposed, as they succumbed to Sam Allardyce's Palace side, despite dominating possession. They now need to lift themselves once more, to try and secure the points they need for a top four finish. With the pace, trickery and goal threat of Sadio Mane missing, there is a need to find a new way to create chances in these last four games.
Most important player: Dejan Lovren. The big centre back has shown he can dominate a big powerful opponent, with his total overpowering of Romelu Lukaku a couple of weeks back. He has also shown an ability to make a hash of simple defending. Now he has been rewarded with a new contract, despite his disastrous performance against Palace, he needs to repay the faith shown in him.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 0-2
Ed003 - 0-3
Ed004 - 0-4
Ed007 - 0-2
Ed018 - 2-3
Ed025 - 0-2
Ed033 - 0-1

Written by Tris Burke April 29 2017 06:15:47