Premier League Week 27 Preview
The Prem is back!
After FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League matches have dominated the last fortnight in England, it’s back to the bread and butter of the Premier League with a weekend jam-packed with exciting fixtures whose results hold consequences for every part of the league table. With Manchester City and Liverpool facing off in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, there are only eight Premier league fixtures, but with busy midweek schedules for many of the sides involved in European competitions, and further Premier League encounters taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, it could be a case of who will survive the fixture pile up intact?
West Ham United V Sunderland, Saturday 27/02/16 at 12.45 GMT
It may have flown slightly under the radar, but there has been something of a revolution taking place at Upton Park, in what is to be of course, West Ham’s final season in their famous old satdium as they will up sticks and move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford for the start of next season. While Sam Allardyce maintained the Hammers’ Premier league status with a brand of pragmatic football much unloved by the fans, Slaven Bilic has overseen an upturn in both performances, results, and crucially for the fans, the quality of football being played. And with Dmitri Payet pulling the strings in the middle of the park, an assault on the top four and Champions League qualification is still a very real prospect for the East London side – they currently sit seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City. Sunderland, meanwhile, and the Irons’ old boss, Mr Allardyce, have a rather different outlook as their struggles near the foot of the table continue, although the Black Cats will have been buoyed by their defeat of Manchester United last time out. This will be Big Sam’s first return to Upton Park, and the reception he will receive is expected to be cool, but his side are now only one point from safety, and he would dearly love to get one over his old side and the supporters who gave him such a hard time. For the home side, Andy Carroll is expected to return but Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho will not be rushed back, while for the visitors, both Duncan Watmore and Jeremain Lens are out.
West Ham United 1.85, Draw 3.75, Sunderland 4.50
Leicester City V Norwich City, Saturday 27/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Another week and another big game for Leicester City, who despite their late defeat at the Emirates last time out, remain top of the Barclays Premier League table. That loss may have been galling for Claudio Ranieri and his men, but the nature of their performance, especially with ten men, will have pleased the Foxes’ boss, and with no further games against any of their top four rivals, the destiny of their season remains in the underdog’s’ hands. Beating Norwich on Saturday is a must, and most will expect them to do so, especially considering the Canaries’ rotten form of late – Alex Neil’s side threw away a 2 goal lead once again a fortnight ago against West Ham, and the nature of his team’s defending will be of great concern to the young boss. It’s six games without a win now for the visitors, and they only remain out of the drop down due to goal difference. Foxes’ right back Danny Simpson will serve a one game ban after his sending off at Arsenal, while Norwich can welcome back Alex Tetty after a two game ban of his own. And finally a lovely little statistic. Leicester stars Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored more goals between them this season (33) than the entire Norwich side (30).
Leicester City 1.53, Draw 4.50, Norwich City 6.50
Manchester United V Arsenal, Sunday 28/02/16 at 14.05 GMT
The biggest game of the weekend, at least from a marketing perspective, is at Old Trafford where Louis Van Gaal’s United side will try to strength their claims on a top four place while simultaneously putting a dent in Arsenal’s title aspirations. There were mixed results for these two teams in Europe midweek, although the quality of opposition was far from similar, and how these two sides recover from those exertions could be crucial here. Arsenal are now only two points off the top after their dramatic win over Leicester two weeks ago, but the Gunners know that they can ill-afford to drop points with Tottenham and Manchester City also in close contention. United will still harbour aspirations of a top four finish but are six points behind fourth-placed City and must begin their charge if they are to break into the qualification places. Arsenal destroyed United with a three-goal blitz inside the opening 20 minutes at the Emirates in October, and the home side will not be confident heading into this game after losing at Sunderland last time out, and nursing an injury list which now includes 14 players, including Anthony Martial who pulled out of the Europa League game on Thursday during the warm up with a tight hamstring. The visitors will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who injured his knee against Barcelona.
Manchester United 3.25, Draw 3.30, Arsenal 2.40
Full list of Week 26 fixtures
Southampton V Chelsea, Saturday 27/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Stoke City V Aston Villa, Saturday 27/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
Watford V Bournemouth, Saturday 27/02/16 at 15.00 GMT
West Bromwich Albion V Crystal Palace, Saturday 27/02/16 at 17.30 GMT
Tottenham Hotspur V Swansea City, Sunday 28/02/16 at 14.05 GMT
All odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 15.00 GMT on 26/02/16
By: Steve Paget