The race for the top four hots up even further as we preview this weekends games in the Premier League.
The headline clash this weekend sees fourth placed Manchester United travel to Anfield to take on bitter rivals Liverpool who are just two points off a Champions League spot. You can find our prediction for the top four here.
With no English side in the quarter finals of either European tournament for the first time in 22 years, attention will now focus fully on domestic matters.
Fixtures – Saturday, March 21:
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion (12.45)
An early Saturday lunchtime start is the last thing Man City wanted after their fruitless excursions in the Nou Camp during the week. It now means that they are struggling with just three wins from their last twelve matches. That being said, City have won nine and drawn just one of their last 10 Barclays Premier League games against the Baggies, which stands them in good stead.
For West Brom’s part, they have kept an impressive four clean sheets in their last five League games, but come to an unhappy hunting ground for them on Saturday, as they have lost their last five in a row at the Etihad.
Talisman Saido Berahino is an injury doubt for the match.
Verdict: Man City 2-0 West Brom
Aston Villa v Swansea City
Villa put Sunderland to the sword last weekend following two successive wins against West Brom, and appear to be gathering serious momentum against a Swansea side who look destined to finish mid-table, and were unlucky to lose at home to Liverpool recently.
Both Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor have scored in two of their three Premier League appearances against Swansea City, but Swansea have lost just one of their seven Barclays Premier League meetings with Aston Villa – W3 D3 L1. (Opta Stats)
Verdict: Aston Villa 2-1 Swansea
Newcastle United v Arsenal
Arsenal are unappealing 8/13 favourites going into this important clash against a Newcastle side that will be without suspended duo Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cisse. The Gunners will indeed be crestfallen after their heroic efforts in Monaco, but they have no time to dwell on the aggregate loss as they seek to consolidate their third place (and perhaps even claim second).
Newcastle have won just one of their last five Premier League home matches, and are in poor form – losing 3-0 last week against Everton.
The importance of this tie, coupled with their great record against the Magpies (winning the last six meetings in a row), suggests that Arsene Wenger’s side will nick the much needed points at St. James’ Park.
Verdict: Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Stoke City v Crystal Palace
Stoke have won five of their last eight Barclays Premier League games at the Britannia Stadium (W5 D1 L2), with their only defeats coming against Chelsea and Manchester City.
Defeat last time out on the road against Southampton ended a run of five without loss for Palace away from home in the Premier League (winning three of them). They have also kept just one clean sheet in nine Premier League matches under Alan Pardew, suggesting that Stoke hold the upper hand.
Verdict: Stoke City 0-0 Crystal Palace
Southampton v Burnley
The Clarets’ recent victory against Man City was something of an outlier – it was their first League win since early January. Southampton have seen a run of mediocre form that will probably see them lose out on a place in the top four, while Burnley are on the cusp of lifting themselves out of the bottom three.
In 2015, the Saints have won only two out of seven home games in all competitions. They began 2015 with an impressive win over Arsenal, but the win over Palace was their first in four.
Verdict: Southampton 3-2 Burnley
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City
Spurs have won ten of their last fifteen at home and have lost just once during that time. Whereas having lost eleven away games in the League, Leicester face a huge uphill battle just to win this fixture 11/2), let alone stave off relegation.
Tottenham’s performance was lacking at Old Trafford but back at home it’s difficult to see anything other than a home win.
Verdict: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Leicester City
West Ham United v Sunderland (5.30)
Both sides have won just one of their last 12 Premier League matches, with Sunderland’s vulnerability in particular prompting the club to sack Gus Poyet as manager. The ‘new manager’ factor could well motivate the players into not going down without a fight.
The 4/1 available on The Black Cats looks tempting, as the likes of Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia and James Tomkins are ruled out of the game, although sunderland themselves will be without warhorse Lee Cattermole.
Verdict: West Ham United 1-2 Sunderland
Fixtures – Sunday, March 22:
Liverpool v Manchester United (1.30)
Never dull, always tense and intriguing (and that’s just the inevitable back and forth between Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville), this clash has the added incentive of top four aspirations for both sides, which hasn’t been the case as often as usual in recent years.
With both teams in good form and no fresh injury concerns, it looks to close to call – although Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 14 matches in all competitions at Anfield, along with 13 matches unbeaten in the League, giving them the slight edge.
Verdict: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
QPR v Everton (4.00)
Everton have lost eight and won one of their last nine Premier League away games and have scored just one goal in their last five on the road. (Opta Stats). Their crushing Thursday night defeat in Ukraine over 1,000 miles away also plays into Ranger’s hands. QPR have lost their last four in the League – a run which surely can’t last much longer.
Verdict: QPR 2-2 Everton
Hull City v Chelsea (4.00)
Chelsea have conceded a surprising 17 goals away in the league, which will give an always dogged Hull hope that they can emulate Burnley from last week in beating a title contender at home. A task which is made far more difficult without the services of Tom Huddlestone (suspended) and Nikita Jelavic (knee injury).
The Blues appear to have the measure of Hull, with nine wins and two draws against the Tigers in all competitions.
Verdict: Hull 2-4 Chelsea
*Kick-offs 3pm unless otherwise stated*