Cracks starting to show at Anfield
Are Liverpool cracking under the pressure? Is the Premier League title heading back to Manchester City?
Jürgen Klopp’s men missed the chance to go five points clear at the summit last weekend after a 1-1 draw with West Ham, before watching on as Manchester City leapfrogged them with victory over their Merseyside rivals Everton in midweek.
Although Liverpool can regain top spot, albeit for a day, with victory over Bournemouth at Anfield tomorrow — in their game in hand — serious questions have been raised over the mental resilience of Klopp’s side after back-to-back draws opened the door to Pep Guardiola’s men to reclaim their crown and prolong Liverpool’s 28-year wait for top-flight glory.
Fulham v Man Utd
Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be aiming to build on their run of nine wins since mid-December and add to the mounting pressure on relegation-threatened Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Having drawn to Burnley, United bounced back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Leicester City last time out to leave them just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Fulham have struggled for such pick-me-ups with just one win in their last six outings. Their latest defeat, away at fellow strugglers Crystal Palace, left Claudio Ranieri’s men second bottom in the table, seven points adrift of safety. Prediction 0-2
Crystal Palace v West Ham 11am
West Ham travel across London to Selhurst Park, where they will face a team just two places below them in the table.
Palace come into the game on the back of a vital victory over Fulham. The Eagles have not beaten West Ham at home in their last four, but with the additional firepower of Michy Batshuayi, on loan from Chelsea, and West Ham’s growing injury list, Roy Hodgson’s men will fancy their chances of ending that hoodoo. Prediction 2-1
Huddersfield v Arsenal
Arsenal’s away form has been poor since mid-December, but surely they cannot fail to beat a Huddersfield side who are heading relentlessly towards relegation from the Premier League.
In fairness to Arsenal, they have had to visit Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United within their last six away league games, yet have also lost to Southampton and West Ham and drawn at Brighton & Hove Albion. However, they could not hope for a more straightforward road trip than to face a Huddersfield side, who have completely forgotten the art of scoring goals and appear not to have improved for their recent change of manager, Jan Siewert replacing David Wagner. Prediction 0-2
Liverpool v Bournemouth 11am
Liverpool have had the wake-up call they may just have needed in the Premier League title race and they will be desperate to return to winning ways against Bournemouth.
Klopp’s side have won only two of their last six games and only scrambled over the line in those, by one-goal margins against Brighton and Palace.
Considering Bournemouth’s poor away form of eight straight defeats on the road into the equation and Liverpool look strong favourites to reclaim top spot. Prediction 2-0
Southampton v Cardiff
A vital encounter for both sides in their battle against the drop. Southampton remain an enigma under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. They are definitely harder to beat since the Austrian’s arrival, undefeated in their last seven games.
Cardiff have had a traumatic few weeks because of the Emiliano Sala tragedy and they warrant great credit for their 2-0 win at home to Bournemouth which evoked an outpouring of emotion from their highly stressed manager Neil Warnock.
Cardiff away form has been poor, but they have the added incentive of jumping out of the relegation zone and above sixteenth-placed Southampton with a win. Prediction 1-1
Watford v Everton
Everton manager Marco Silva returns to the club that sacked him just over a year ago, with Watford presumably not regretting the decision to bring in Javi Gracia so quickly.
Silva took over on Merseyside last summer, but Watford are certainly no worse for not having him still with them. Gracia is doing a very good job, with Watford in the top half of the Premier League table. In contrast, the pressure continues to build on Silva with Everton on a run of only four wins in 15 games. Prediction 2-1
Brighton v Burnley
Since this became a Premier League fixture last season, Burnley defender James Tarkowski is the only player to have scored a goal in his club’s three games against Brighton.
Ashley Barnes’s last-gasp equaliser at home to Southampton last weekend extended seventeenth-placed Burnley’s unbeaten run in the league to six matches, leaving them two points clear of the drop zone. Prediction 1-0
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City 9.30am
Tottenham may now consider themselves to be challengers in the Premier League again as the gap between themselves and the top spot has now been cut to just five points after late goals carried Spurs through to wins in their last three league games.
Leicester manager Claude Puel’s job security seems to have been a constant source of speculation throughout this campaign and that has been the case once again over the last few weeks as his side have lost four and failed to win any of their last five games.
Tottenham have been made to work hard before scoring late winners in the last three weeks. However, with the influential Son Heung Min back from international duty and in goal-scoring form, Mauricio Pochettino’s men look good to continue to add pressure on the table-toppers. Prediction 2-1
Manchester City v Chelsea 12pm
Having returned to the top of the table, Pep Guardiola’s men are now odds-on favourites again for the title.
Chelsea started the campaign looking like potential title challengers of their own after a blistering start to the campaign under Maurizio Sarri, which led to them starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten run.
However, since then, the Londoners have tailed off somewhat and with Tottenham and Manchester United in good form, they face a fight for a top-four finish at best now.
Despite a confidence boosting 5-0 hammering of Huddersfield Town last weekend, Chelsea have lost their last three away matches in all competitions including a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Bournemouth and failed to score in all three. Prediction 2-1.