With the final stretch of fixtures getting ready to kick in, the title race has narrowed following last weekend’s results with Liverpool and Manchester City having the best chances to win the Premier League. Fulham and Huddersfield Town look like two sides who will likely drop down to the Championship as they languish several points from safety, and needing wins, not draws in order to survive. This midweek slate of fixtures proceeds some big name clashes this weekend, and comes a week before European competitions resume their knockout phases.
Tuesday February 26, 2019
Cardiff City vs. Everton
Cardiff were thrashed by Watford 5-1 in their last home match, and Neil Warnock’s men will hope to turn things around in this match. However, Cardiff have had some recent success in the league with a couple of wins in their last five, but they have historically struggled against Everton. Everton have by-and-large disappointed once again this season which can be attributed to the carousel at their manager post since the team sacked Roberto Martinez. Everton have only won one of their last four and in those they have scored five goals while allowing nine. Both of these sides don’t typically draw, and I think Everton will have enough to see this one out.
Prediction: Cardiff City 1-3 Everton
Huddersfield Town vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Huddersfield haven’t won a match since November 25 when they beat Wolves in the reverse fixture, and since then, they have only secured one point in their last fourteen matches since November 25. Huddersfield may feel like they can get a win in this match as they have fared well against Wolverhampton in the past. Wolverhampton are flying high in the table as they currently sit eighth in the league, and have been one of the best success stories for a newly promoted team in recent memory, at least in terms of performance. They will likely bring their fluid attacking play to this match, and hope that their defense can keep Huddersfield from scoring. I think Huddersfield will manage to nick Wolverhampton in what could be a surprising result.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-0 Wolverhampton
Leicester City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City have had their fair share of problems over the last year which culminated with the sacking of manager Claude Puel following a 4-1 defeat by Crystal Palace. Still, Leicester are a quality side, and last weekend’s scoreline is not indicative of the team that is clearly still trying to find its identity following the departures of N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez. Brighton have been another fantastic story of a resolute team that continues to scrap its way to positive results. Chris Hughton has created a team that is defensively stable, and has plenty of quality to stay in the Premier League. I think a draw is on the cards here as I don’t see either team with a clear advantage, and Brighton should be the happier of the two sides on the day.
Prediction: Leicester City 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Newcastle United vs. Burnley
Newcastle United uncharacteristically spent big in the winter window, but it has not done enough to alleviate the questions surrounding Newcastle and the relegation battle. Rafa Benitez has done a remarkable job with this side, and they have become one of my favorite sides to watch led by their captain Jamaal Lascelles. Burnley are another one of my favorites with their defensive solidarity and team pressing. Recently, they have rediscovered the form that catapulted them to seventh last term, and that was on full display against Tottenham over the weekend. I think this could be a very entertaining match with both sides have plenty of attacking quality to produce goals, but it will ultimately be won by the high pressing of Burnley.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Burnley
Wednesday February 27, 2019
Arsenal vs. AFC Bournemouth
Arsenal come into this match having kept two consecutive clean sheets, a welcome sight for a club that has conceded some really poor goals this season. They easily dispatched of Southampton 2-0 this past weekend, but they did give Southampton a few chances to get back in the game, both at the start and for parts of the second half. Bournemouth will feel aggrieved following their controversial 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton this past weekend, but Eddie Howe’s men have found the second half of the Premier League season quite tough. They are also suffering from a mounting injury crisis, but possess enough attacking prowess to potentially grab a goal. I think the gulf in quality will be too much for Bournemouth, and Arsenal will win comfortably at home.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 AFC Bournemouth
Southampton vs. Fulham
This match will be one that Southampton will have to win if they hope to clear the relegation battle. They have played better lately, but they have still looked disjointed in a season that has seen them change managers and rotate defenders. Fulham possess the worst defensive record in Europe, and things are starting to look dire for newly promoted Londoners. They suffered a humbling defeat last time out against West Ham, and the losing ways could continue in this away match. I think Southampton will have enough to get things done at home against relegation rivals.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Fulham
Liverpool vs. Watford
Liverpool have found goals hard to come by recently in a rut of form that has seen them let Manchester City back into the hunt for the Premier League title. They had a disappointing 0-0 draw with Manchester United last time out that saw their vaunted attack scuffle for most of the match as Roberto Firmino (injury) and Mo Salah (tactical) were both subbed off. Watford hammered Cardiff City 5-1 last time out, and they will feel confident in their ability to score a goal in this match. They have been a solid, if unspectacular, team this term and are in the hunt for potential Europa League qualification. Liverpool simply have too much quality for Watford in this one.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Watford
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
Manchester City have clawed their way back into the title hunt and are beginning to look like the reigning champions once again. They won the Carabao Cup final on penalties in their match on Sunday in a match that was overshadowed by Kepa’s demonstration against Mauricio Sarri. West Ham United have been a mixed bag this season, but hover around the middle of the pack which should be considered a solid showing for Mauricio Pellegrini’s men. They dispatched of Fulham 3-1 at home last time out in a match that they were never in question of losing. I think the reigning champions have sufficient quality to win this match, but that doesn’t mean that West Ham won’t provide a scare to City in the match.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 West Ham United
Chelsea vs. Tottenham
Chelsea are currently a club in turmoil despite being in the hunt for a Champions League place and in the Round of 16 in the Europa League. They lost to Manchester City on penalties last time out, but their embattled manager, Mauricio Sarri, looks like a coach whose system has not worked, and whose time may be coming to a close at Stamford Bridge. Tottenham will almost certainly be looking forward to the North London Derby this Saturday, and they currently sit third in the Premier League. They lost last time out to Burnley, 2-1, and will be hoping to consolidate their hold on third ahead of Saturday’s big match. I think the competing narratives for each side, Tottenham’s lack of a trophy-winning mentality, and Sarri’s benching of Kepa will overshadow what could have been an interesting match.
Prediction: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
Crystal Palace beat Leicester City 4-1 in their last match, but the scoreline is a bit flattering for today’s hosts. Roy Hodgson has done a solid job with his team this term, but they still find themselves in the relegation scrap, in large part due to their defensive frailties. Manchester United have been a revolution under Ole Gunnar Skolsjaer as they have yet to lose since his appointment as interim manager. They did draw last time out against Liverpool, and will need a win if they hope to stay in the hunt for a Champions League place. I think the attacking injuries will be too much for Manchester United to overcome away from home, and the match will end in a draw.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Manchester United