(Photo via manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
The Premier League is returning to action this weekend after 2 weeks off due to some European and FA cup games. I am taking a look at every match-up for this weekend, including the Capital One Cup Final and placing my own predictions for each game.
Saturday February 27
West Ham United vs Sunderland 7:45 am
First game of the weekend is 7th place vs 19th place. This game does not seem as the most exciting on paper, but there is a lot riding on this for both teams. Sunderland will have the opportunity to get out of the relegation zone, thanks to a string of good results against the top teams. On the other side, West Ham has been on a decent run of results themselves, trying to push for one of the European places for next season. I think Sunderland will be forced to wait until next game to get out of relegation after a 2-0 loss this weekend.
Southampton vs Chelsea 10:00 am
One of the most anticipated match-ups of the weekend has two teams in their best form of the season. The last time these teams met, Chelsea’s previous manager, Jose Mourinho, added to his collection of wild interviews after answering a question with a 7 minute response after losing 3-1 at home. Since that game, Mourinho has been fired and Chelsea is in their best moment of the season, losing just once since the firing. Southampton, on the other hand, has had 6 straight clean sheets in the Premier League and hasn’t lost a game since January 9th. This game will have fireworks, but I like Chelsea to go to the South coast and get revenge, winning 3-1.
Stoke City vs Aston Villa
In what is probably the fixture of the weekend that has the least amount of anticipation, we have 10th Stoke City place vs 20thplace Aston Villa. Aston Villa is coming off the brutal 6-0 loss to Liverpool just two weeks ago. Everyone has Aston Villa pegged in to be relegated being 9 points away from safety. Meanwhile, Stoke City has won 1 game out of their last 6 premier league games, leading to them being a long shot to get a European spot. I think Stoke City has too much quality for Aston Villa to match-up with, winning 2-1.
Watford vs AFC Bournemouth
In this matchup, we have 9th place vs 15th. Both these teams have the goal of survival at the end of the season. With 12 games left, both these teams are in good positions to accomplish this goal. Watford, currently being 12 points above relegation, guarantees that they will be in the Premier League next season. For Bournemouth, they are currently only 4 points above safety. After going through their own injury crisis this season with losing their best goal scorers, Bournemouth surviving would be an incredible accomplishment. I think this game will be a very even game, finishing in a 1-1 draw.
Leicester City vs Norwich City
1st place vs 17th place. Leicester City is trying to recover from their tough 2-1 loss to Arsenal last Premier League games 2 weeks ago. If one of the most incredible stories in sports history is to continue, then Leicester will have to win this weekend to take advantage of these “easier games.” Norwich City has been on a terrible run of form in league play, getting just 4 points out of 21 points. I like Leicester City to continue to delay questions about their title credentials by winning comfortably 3-0 at the King Power Stadium.
West Bromwich Albion vs Crystal Palace 12:30 pm
Probably the worst game of the weekend is put as a primetime game. If it were up to me, this game would be at 10 o’clock, that way it would get lost in the mix and no one would know. 13th place vs 14th is not what you want for views in week 27. West Brom will do what they always do, which is park the bus. For those of you not familiar with what this means, it is basically putting 10 of the 11 players around the box and just defend with no attack. Crystal Palace is one of the worse teams at breaking down teams with very few goal scoring players. This game has 0-0 written all over it.
Sunday February 28
Manchester United vs Arsenal 9:05 am
With two of the most historic teams in the league, this is the match that’ll get the most headlines for the Premier League this weekend. Arsenal is coming off a very disheartening 2-0 loss to Barcelona midweek, all but confirming that they will be knocked out of Champions League. Arsenal will be looking at the Premier League as their number 1 priority for the rest of the season. Manchester United is coming off a crazy 5-1 win against FC Midtjylland in Europa League play on Thursday. This game will be somewhat encouraging, but may give them false hope. The difference in quality from Midtjylland to Arsenal is too big to quantify. I think Arsenal complete the double over United, and win 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Swansea City 9:05 am
In a game that’s not too difficult to predict, we have 2nd place vs 16th. Tottenham have been one of the most consistent teams all season, and will look to show their credentials for Premier League Champions. They have the best defensive record and are coming off an impressive 3-0 win against Fiorentina on Thursday with a rotated side. Swansea City is continuing to struggle to stay above the relegation zone. In this game, I have Tottenham winning 3-0.
Capital One Cup Final
Liverpool Vs Manchester City 11:30 am
This game may not be a Premier League game, but it has two of the biggest Premier League Teams facing off for the first trophy of the season. The last time these teams met, Liverpool smashed City 4-1 in early November and is remembered by me as Jürgen Klopp’s coming out party as manager. It was his first huge win when being the underdogs. Liverpool has recently had injury boosts as both Daniel Sturridge and the Manchester City killer, Phillipe Coutinho, are back playing. Now with these players playing on Thursday and still recovering from injuries, I will be both shocked and happy if both of them are able to start this game with all of the quality they add. On the blue side of this game, City is coming off an efficient 3-1 win against Dynamo Kiev in Champions League play on Wednesday. City will be out for revenge. My prediction for this game is for Liverpool to win 2-1 and to be the beginning of the Jürgen Klopp era, as he would win his first trophy for his new team and the first trophy for Liverpool since 2012.
– J. Barras