Premier League Week 25 Preview
After midweek action there is a quick turnaround for Premier League clubs as they play for the second time in a matter of days, and as always there are intriguing fixtures all across the division with serious implications to be felt at both ends of the table. As the finest footballing tipsters are shaping their tips ahead of the weekend’s games, here is a lowdown on three of the most significant encounters.
Manchester City V Leicester City, Saturday 06/01216 at 12.45 GMT
Saturday lunchtime marks a huge game at the Etihad stadium as the Premier League’s first and second-placed sides go head-to-head in a game that will surely be a lot closer than the bookies are suggesting. There is nothing more to be said about Leicester City as this stage, as the impressive way they swatted Liverpool aside on Tuesday night was almost expected, and Manchester City will be full of trepidation as they face Jamie Vardy and co. in a game that could see either side leading the table at the close of the weekend. Not only does this game feature the division’s current best two sides, but it is also a battle between the two highest-scoring teams as well as two of the league’s most in-form strikers with the aforementioned Vardy and City’s diminutive Argentine Sergio Aguero duelling for the golden boot award – Vardy currently leads the way with 18 goals but after an injury ravaged campaign, Aguero is hot on his heels after claiming six goals in his last five league outings. Having said that, these two sides played out a 0-0 at the King Power stadium at the end of December, so everything points to another close match-up, although City haven’t lost to the Foxes in nine games across all competitions. It is City, however, who have an injury crisis ahead of the game, with Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Eliagium Mangala all out. Claudio Ranieri’s side have no fresh injury concerns.
Manchester City 1.55, Draw 4.00, Leicester City 5.75
Newcastle United V West Bromwich Albion, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Attention turns to the other end of the table at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon as the struggling Magpies host Tony Pulis’s West Brom, who are desperate to put daylight between themselves and the drop-zone – currently eight points separate Newcastle in 18th and The Baggies in 14th. Norwich are two points ahead of Steve McClaren’s under-fire side, and currently look the likely contenders to be overhauled if current form is anything to go by. The pressure on McClaren has intensified after spending £24m in the transfer window on Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend, and these two England internationals will be expected to help pull their new side to safety. The early signs during Wednesday night’s 3-0 defeat at Everton were not particularly positive, so a home win here against a side who could be dragged into trouble with a defeat is utterly crucial for the Geordies. West Brom claimed the points in a 1-0 win at The Hawthorns in December, but have only won one of their five league games since – avoiding defeat here will be the away side’s only objective. Newcastle have doubts surrounding defenders Paul Dummett and Chancel Mbemba, taking to nine the number of first team players currently on the injury list, while the visitors have similar concerns surrounding Jonny Evans after the former Manchester United man limped off during Tuesday night’s game against Swansea City.
Newcastle United 2.00, Draw 3.30, West Bromwich Albion 3.75
Chelsea V Manchester United, Sunday 07/02/16 at 16.00 GMT
Two Premier League giants go head-to-head at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon with differing end-of-season aspirations, although both have hit form of late to ensure an enticing prospect in store ahead of the weekend’s final game. Chelsea’s form was somewhat checked after a disappointing 0-0 draw at Watford on Wednesday night, but that is still eight league games without defeat for Guus Hiddink’s rejuvenated side, although the Blues still find themselves 16 points adrift of the Champions League places which have been their stated aim of late. United, meanwhile, have started doing what their fans have long been demanding – scoring goals – but also find themselves five points behind Arsenal and Tottenham in the race for the top 4. Quite simply, a victory here is paramount for both sides if their hopes are to be realised – defeat for the home side in particular would surely rule out any late season charge. These two played out an insipid 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture after Christmas, so the least that can be hoped for is a few exciting moments befitting two sides with such an embarrassment of riches. The visitors will continue to be without Ashley Young, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw, although Phil Jones could return, while Chelsea have more or less a fully fit squad to select from, barring Radamel Falcao who seems surplus to requirements in any case after the Londoners tried to offload him on transfer deadline day. It’s 13th versus 5th at Stamford Bridge – which frankly still seems crazy when said out loud.
Chelsea 2.05, Draw 3.25, Manchester United 3.80
Aston Villa V Norwich City, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Liverpool V Sunderland, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Stoke City V Everton, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Swansea City V Crystal Palace, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Tottenham Hotspur V Watford, Saturday 06/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Southampton V West Ham United, Saturday 06/02/16 at 17.30 GMT
Bournemouth V Arsenal, Sunday 07/02/16 at 13.30 GMT
All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 21.00 GMT on 04/02/15
By: Steven Paget