This week Gabs is up against @RobinHughes_ after beating @Falcao996 in the last round. Who will come out on top?
LIVERPOOL v EVERTON
This is a tasty one. In recent seasons Liverpool have dominated a lot of the games but this season they only just nicked the first match 1-0. They’re still without Jordan Henderson and Lalana is now injured too so you have to question their midfield coming into this. Klopp’s side have looked better in recent weeks but they’re still not firing on all cylinders, so even at home where they’ve had a good record nothing is certain. Everton meanwhile have been in good form of late and will be licking their lips at making the trip to Anfield. They are without Seamus Coleman, which is a big blow because he’s been having the best season of his career, but they’ve still got Lukaku who is always a huge threat.
BURNLEY v TOTTENHAM
These two teams have been brilliant at home this season. Burnley have been superb at Turf Moor and that’s what will keep them in the league. Their problem has been picking up points on the road but they will face a challenge here against Spurs – even if they are without Harry Kane. Tottenham got over the line against Southampton, where they played a different way with Son up front, and the pressure will be on them here because the teams around them at the top are always picking up points. It’s a must-win for Spurs really but I think they’re more than capable of getting a result.
CHELSEA v CRYSTAL PALACE
I think this fixture looks more attractive now with the recent form of Palace. A few weeks ago I would have said this was an easy Chelsea win but Palace now have three wins on the bounce and their players are proving difficult to beat. Chelsea might be without Eden Hazard but you’ve got another quality replacement in Willian and they’re defensively sound too. Antonio Conte is relentless in his pursuit of this league, he doesn’t allow the players to rest. They have a decent lead at the top and can probably afford to lose three or four games and still win it, but Conte will keep them going. For that reason I’m going to go with a Chelsea win even though I think it’ll be tight.
HULL v WEST HAM
This is an absolute must-win for Hull – and maybe even both teams. Hull are in the relegation zone and have recently been competing in games against teams who are also around the bottom of the table, so it’s vitally important they pick up points. They’ll fancy their chances with the home advantage. At West Ham, Billic is a man under pressure at the minute and I’m not sure if he’ll be in the job next season. They picked up form a few weeks ago and went on a good run but they’ve gone off the boil again in recent games so the manager will be expecting a big performance. I’ve been impressed with Marco Silva at Hull. He’s come to the Premier League with good knowledge and he knows what he’s doing. He might find a way of getting a result here.
LEICESTER v STOKE
Leicester look like the team of old. They won three on the bounce recently and of course have progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals. I think that comes off the back to reverting to the way they played last season. Ndidi has replaced Kante in the middle of the park but overall it’s a similar 11 to the side that won the league last campaign. They’ll be looking for another win again to keep them safe from the bottom but then you look at Stoke who aren’t having a bad season to be fair. Their home form has been very good and even though they lost to Chelsea, they gave a decent showing and were unlucky to lose to a last-minute Cahill goal. This will be a tight game and I think Leicester’s winning run might come to an end.
MANCHESTER UNITED v WEST BROM
This could be one of those games where United just aren’t able to put the ball in the back of the net. The kind where they have a host of chances but come off the pitch feeling frustrated. Regardless, that’s exactly how West Brom are going to play against United – they’ll sit back, frustrate them, make it difficult and try to break on the counter. It worked very well against Arsenal in the 3-1 home win and we all know about their set piece threat too. If United mark as badly as Arsenal did the other week then they could have problems. The question is whether United have the tools to break West Brom down? They are in decent form at the minute and have a good balance of attack and defence. I think they’ll have enough to beat West Brom, who I think just won’t be expansive enough to trouble them.
WATFORD v SUNDERLAND
This is another big game. Watford could do with a win and the manager will be seeing it as an opportunity to pick up three points against a team struggling around them at the bottom. They’ll see themselves as safe from that relegation scrap but they are realistically flirting with the basement clubs and could do with a few wins between now and the end of the season to finish the job. Sunderland are in freefall and struggling to pick up points, so there’s no better time to play them. There are no more freebie games really now for Sunderland, they have to start getting results both home and away no matter who the opposition is. They are capable of going to Watford and getting something, who are a team that’s a bit Jekyll and Hyde, but they have to put a performance together and get Jermaine Defoe involved. I think being at home this could fall in Watford’s favour.
SOUTHAMPTON v BOURNEMOUTH
This will be a great south coast derby. We’re now towards the end of the season and Southampton are just trying to finish as high as possible after their Europa League and EFL Cup distractions. They’ve had a good run in those competitions but it’s hampered their season a little despite coming into form in recent weeks. They had a good win against Watford where they scored four and bagged another four at Sunderland before narrowly losing to Spurs at home, where they had them on the ropes. Bournemouth have picked up vital wins in the last few weeks too and I can see them safe but we know how Eddie Howe’s teams like to play. They’re expansive, play the same way each week whether they’re flying high or struggling, and that should make this an open game of football. I’m leaning towards Southampton because of the way Bournemouth play. I’ve seen them the last few weeks and they’ve been great going forward and scoring goals but they still look frail at the back and give too many opportunities away to the opposition.
SWANSEA v MIDDLESBROUGH
This is another huge game. Swansea had a really good start under Paul Clement and looked like the one team from the bottom who were going to get out of it. But then in the last few weeks they’ve had a few bad results and suddenly the job’s not quite done yet. They’re back in trouble. It’s a huge tame for them, another home clash to tick off against a relegation rival and they really do need a win. Boro are without Karanka now but they still need a change in philosophy between now and the end of the season and change their playing style. They need to be more positive and score goals – to try and win games of football because for most of the season they’ve sat back and let teams beat them too easily. They need to throw more bodies forward, throw more caution to the wind and take the handbrake off. They’re better off losing games if it means they’ll win more of the ones they would have drawn or lost anyway.
ARSENAL v MANCHESTER CITY
The manner of Arsenal’s losses in recent weeks makes it look like the players have given up and stopped believing in the manager. They appear to be ready for someone else to come in with fresh ideas. If they play like that against City then there’s only going to be one outcome – you’re going to get beaten. When you play against any team in the Premier League have to be focused, organised and have fight and will to win. This is one of the games which you could easily be up for if you’re an Arsenal player because you realise if you perform like you did against West Brom with no application, you’re going to get embarrassed. We know what City are going to be about. The game against Liverpool was one of the best games of the season and it was so good to watch, with both teams attacking end-to-end. They have so many attacking players with a lot of different ways of scoring goals – plus the added excitement of having a dodgy defence! There’s so many attacking players and so many ways to score goals. And you just don’t know what Arsenal side will turn up so I’m going to have to go with City.