Relegation picture becoming clearer
Advantage Manchester City!
Pep Guardiola’s side jumped one point clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League after beating Bournemouth and watching as Jürgen Klopp’s side suffered a second goalless draw in a row away from home, raising further questions about their title credentials.
The battle for the top four remains finely poised with just two points separating Manchester United in fourth and Chelsea in sixth, with Arsenal sandwiched in-between. The former and the latter face off on Sunday in an important clash for both.
At the other end, Huddersfield Town’s and Fulham’s fate looks all but sealed, with Cardiff City in eighteenth, two points adrift of Southampton in seventeenth, and more worryingly for the Bluebirds, five behind Burnley in sixteenth, as the relegation picture begins to become clearer.
Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion 8.30am
In one of England’s more intriguing rivalries, Crystal Palace will be aiming to finally replicate their away form at Selhurst Park and continue to move in the right direction in the league.
Roy Hodgson’s man have won twice as many games away than at home this term, six victories on the road compare to just three on home soil for the Eagles, who triumphed 4-1 at Leicester and 3-1 at Burnley on the previous couple of weekends.
Those results have pushed Palace away from relegation danger, but for Brighton there still has to be a nagging doubt about their top-flight safety despite last Saturday’s important 1-0 home success against Huddersfield.
Chris Hughton’s side is that they have collected only eight points from a possible 42 on their travels. Prediction 1-2
Cardiff City v West Ham United
Cardiff appear to be stuck in a losing rut that will lead to relegation.
The Bluebirds’ results improved in the immediate aftermath of the Emiliano Sala tragedy as they beat Bournemouth and Southampton, but subsequently they have regressed significantly and sustained decisive losses to Watford, Everton and Wolves.
Those defeats have left Neil Warnock’s side with only Southampton presently within striking distance of them as they try to escape the drop zone. E
Worryingly for tomorrow’s hosts, West Ham have won their last seven matches against Cardiff by a 17-3 aggregate, while the Bluebirds have won only one of their last 11 home matches against the Hammers. Prediction 0-2
Huddersfield Town v AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth will not get a better chance to end their dreadful away form than against a Huddersfield side doomed to relegation.
The Cherries have lost ten in a row on their travels by a 29-4 aggregate, although they have visited all of the top six during that sequence.
Eddie Howe’s side are still twelfth in the table, however, if ever they needed a confidence-booster on their travels, then the John Smith’s Stadium is the place to visit, because Huddersfield have collected only eight points from a possible 45 on their own pitch.
There was a rare moment of joy for Huddersfield when they snatched a stoppage-time win over Wolves recently, but they have failed to score in eight of their last 11 games. Predication 0-2
Leicester City v Fulham 11am
Brendan Rodgers and Scott Parker both started their new jobs with 2-1 defeats last weekend. Of these managers, only Rodgers is sure to be still in charge next season having left Celtic for Leicester with surprising haste, whereas Parker, in his own words, is undergoing an “audition” for the Fulham role which he is filling after Claudio Ranieri’s departure.
Fulham were much improved under Parker, especially in the second half, when losing narrowly to Chelsea last Sunday, while, Leicester’s defeat at Watford condemned the Foxes to a seventh defeat in their last nine games. Prediction 2-1
Newcastle United v Everton 11am
Everton have a terrific recent record against Newcastle and may just have found their form again in time to notch up another victory on Tyneside.
The Toffees have won on four of their past five visits to St James’ Park, while in total, Newcastle have won only one of their last 12 matches against Everton.
Everton were emphatic 3-0 winners at Cardiff recently and then put up another spirited display against their local rivals last Sunday when achieving the 0-0 draw.
Newcastle reeled off four consecutive victories on their own pitch to climb away from relegation danger, but a 2-0 defeat at West Ham in their latest outing served as a reality check.
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur
A run of two defeats before a thrilling 1-1 draw against rivals Arsenal, in their last three Premier League games, mean Spurs have dropped from being potential title challengers to battling for a top-four place with Manchester United, Chelsea and even Arsenal all waiting to pounce for their current third spot.
Saints need the points too because they are the club immediately outside the relegation zone and while they appear to have improved under Ralph Hasenhuttl, the progress has not really manifested in terms of results. Southampton have won only one of their last 13 matches against Tottenham. Prediction 0-2
Manchester City v Watford 1.30pm
With nine games to go in the Premier League season, Manchester City are back in the driving seat.
This game gives them the perfect opportunity to make a statement to Liverpool, especially after Klopp’s men put five past Watford just a week ago.
Watford have enjoyed a positive season of their own, sitting comfortably in eighth after beating Leicester 2-1 last time out.
City won 2-1 when these two met in December and will be favourites to clinch another three points tomorrow and show why they are the defending champions. Prediction 3-1
Liverpool v Burnley
Despite five consecutive clean sheets, Liverpool’s hopes of ending their silverware drought this season have taken a hit recently and they need to get back on track against Burnley.
Too many 0-0 draws have affected Liverpool, three in their last five games, and if you add a previous couple of 1-1 results, it becomes five stalemates out of seven. Burnley, after an excellent start to 2019, have slipped again with successive defeats to Newcastle and Crystal Palace and need to be careful not to be dragged back into the heat of the relegation battle.
Even more worrying for Sean Dyche’s outfit is the fact his side are seeking a first victory away to Liverpool since 1974, and despite their misfiring form, Liverpool have not lost at home in the Premier League since April 2017, unbeaten in 35 matches.Prediction 2-0
Chelsea have a big opportunity to boost their Premier League top-four hopes on Sunday against Wolves.
The Blues know they can gain ground on one or both of Arsenal and Manchester United, who meet in the match that immediately follows theirs.
Maurizio Sarri’s side still have a game in hand too, at home to Brighton, so if they can keep racking up the wins at Stamford Bridge they can feel confident of a return to the Champions League next season. Wolves won the reverse fixture in early December with two quickfire second-half goals from Raúl Jiménez and Diogo Jota and they are targeting European football themselves via seventh place in the Premier League or by lifting the FA Cup. Prediction 2-1
Arsenal v Manchester United 12.30pm
Manchester United have already knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Emirates Stadium this season and are now aiming to make it a perfect ten on their travels under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Solskjaer’s magic touch even extended to achieving an historic feat — the first time a two-goal home deficit had ever been overcome in a Champions League knockout tie, with a 3-1 triumph away to Paris Saint-Germain.
Defeat would not be a disaster for either, but victory a huge boost especially if it was for United as it would put them four points clear of the Gunners.
United will have midfielder Paul Pogba back after his suspension against PSG, while Arsenal have also won only one of their last seven matches against Manchester United. Prediction 2-2
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