So here we are. After a season of ups, downs, shocks and plenty of manager changes, we’re at the last game of the season and my last EPL preview write up. It’s been great writing these, but I’m kind of looking forward to the season finishing with Newcastle safely in the top flight for one more year, so I can focus on fixing the many issues with my NRL SC team!
The 16-game round 37 didn’t serve up as much in terms of goals, with less than two a game on average, but it did have its fair share of interesting results. Brighton beat United, which doesn’t affect too much but is still an upset result. Leicester continued their poor run with a loss to West Ham but then beat Arsenal 3-1. Huddersfield managed back to back draws with City and Chelsea to confirm survival and Southampton beat Swansea to pretty much do the same.
West Brom beat Spurs 1-0, which with their recent run of form earned Darren Moore the manager of the month award. Unfortunately, it came on the same day they were relegated by the Saints win over Swansea. Stoke are down as well after losing to Palace.
With the benefit of two games, Aubameyang scored 23 points to be the highest scoring player for the round. If only I’d triple captained him over Pogba!
Last round ahead on Sunday, with places still to play for at the top and bottom. As unlikely as it may be, If Southampton lose to City and Swansea beat Stoke with a combined 10 goal swing, the Swans stay up at the expense of the Saints. At the top of the table, fourth place is still up for grabs, with Liverpool and Chelsea within two points of each other in fourth and fifth. Let’s jump in to the last round of games:
Southampton v Man City (Game of the Round)
This one has ramifications at both ends of the table. A ridiculous goal fest could send Southampton down, but more realistically just the win for City takes them to 100 points for the season.
The Saints look likely to stay up, largely thanks to two wins and two draws in their last two games. City’s form has been good all season, losing only two and drawing only four of their 37 games so far. To put that in perspective, they’ve won 31 games while Southampton have won seven (City have also won seven more than the nearest rivals United).
The sides have met 27 times in the Premier League, with City leading 14-6 in wins, including both of the last two. Can’t see anything other than a big City win here.
Burnley v Bournemouth
Burnley can’t move up or down from 7th place in this one, but Bournemouth could sneak into the top half with a win. Not great form on either side, with just one win each in their last five. Only three previous meetings for these two and never a draw, with the Clarets leading 2-1 in wins. Nothing great in the form here, I’m tipping the draw.
Crystal Palace v West Brom
I’ve spoken to West Brom’s great form above, but Palace have matched that, with three wins and two draws in an unbeaten last five in their own push for safety. The Eagles are now one of four teams on 41 points and one of six who could still finish in the top half.
These sides have met 11 times and this level and both won four, drawing three times. Last out in December this finished 0-0 but the four meetings before that finished in two wins apiece, one home and one away for either side. That kind of form means any prediction is a bit of a stab in the dark, but I’m backing Palace here.
Huddersfield v Arsenal
The Terriers have done brilliantly to keep themselves up and ensure all three promoted teams remain in the PL. They have just one loss from five, but also just the one win in those. Arsenal’s away woes continued, the loss to Leicester last out meaning they’re without a win away in 2018.
Just the one match previously, in which the Gunners romped 5-0. Can they break the away hoodoo and end Wenger’s reign with a win here? I think so.
Liverpool v Brighton
With Champions League duties taking some attention, Liverpool’s recent form in the league is patchy at best, with one win in five, although three draws in there as well. Brighton lost to City last out, but beat United the game before. As well as offering the prize of top four and another season in the elite European competition, another goal for Salah sees him take the goal scoring record outright.
This being the Seagulls’ first season here, just the one game of history. In that, the Reds were 5-1 victors. I think this may be a bit closer, but the team and individual prizes on offer will be enough to focus Liverpool and get them home.
Man United v Watford
In their last five, United have two losses and a draw. Despite that, they’ve secured second place this season. Watford beat Newcastle last out, but that was their first win in a while as they’ve slumped in the second half of the season.
The two sides have played nine times at this level and United have won eight of those, with no draws and the Hornet’s one win coming at home last season. Safe to say this won’t be a draw and everything points to the Red Devils in this.
Newcastle v Chelsea
As I said last week, the Magpies had looked like they were already on holidays with the recent form and that continued with the 2-1 loss to West Brom. The 1-0 loss against Spurs though saw Newcastle doing enough to warrant at least a point. Chelsea’s form is a complete contrast, unbeaten in five and dropping points only in their last game against Huddersfield.
45 previous matchups here with 22 Blues’ wins to 11 for the Magpies and 12 draws. Newcastle led the game earlier this season before going down 3-1. Can’t see them winning in a fixture they haven’t won since 2014. Chelsea win.
Tottenham v Leicester
Spurs win over Newcastle last out means they are guaranteed a top four finish, despite the loss to West Brom. While Tottenham’s form of late can be described as patchy, Leicester’s has just been poor, with the win over Arsenal the only one they have in their last five.
In 23 previous meetings, the Foxes have won ten to Spurs’ eight (five draws). The last match finished 2-1 Leicester, but Spurs won the one before 6-1. Nothing for either team to play for, so I’m on the fence. Draw?
Swansea v Stoke
The other game in the “impossible” relegation swing equation sees already-relegated Stoke travel to Swansea. Poor form for both sides heading in – Swansea have lost four on the bounce while Stoke also have no wins in the last five and just three points.
The teams have played 13 at this level. The Potters have won six and the Swans four. The form does favour the home side in this with all of Swansea’s wins and five of Stoke’s coming in home games, a trend in all of the last three meetings. For me, it’s not a question of whether Swansea win, it’s about whether they can win by enough to overturn a 10 goal deficit on Southampton’s for and against.
West Ham v Everton
Two good results in the last two for the Hammers, with a draw against United and win over Leicester, but form prior to that was poor. Everton are now unbeaten in five, with two wins and three draws. The Toffees can only finish 8th or 9th, while the Hammers, currently 15th, could go as high as 10th with a win.
These sides have spent a good few seasons in the Premier League over the years, so have played each other 43 times before. Of those, Everton lead 24-7 in terms of wins (12 draws). The Toffees are also unbeaten in the last three between the sides and won the reverse fixture this season 4-0 courtesy of a Wayne Rooney hat-trick. This could be Rooney’s last game in England before a rumoured move to the MLS, so he will want to sign off with a win and I think he will.
With Liverpool chasing a win for top four and Salah (10.4m) chasing one more goal for the record, it’s no surprise he’s among the top five trades in this week. In a similar vein, players have also jumped on Firmino (9.4m), who scored two in the reverse fixture for the Reds.
Also among the top trades this round in Aubameyang (10.7m) with Arsenal looking to sign off for Wenger with a bang and the recent form of the forward.
Players also expecting Chelsea to account for Newcastle have jumped on Olivier Giroud (8.3m), although for me his form hasn’t been as consistent as you’d like.
Topping the trades this week is Wilfried Zaha (7m). Not at all surprising given he’s almost single-handedly pulled the Eagles to safety and that Palace host an already relegated West Brom.
With a lot of teams not having a horse in the race this last round, picking a captain is a bit tricky in case teams rotate youth players in. With that in mind, I’m sticking to games with teams who have something to play for.
City will want 100 points with a win this week and will do so off the back of Jesus, Sterling, Sane etc. all who would make good captain choices.
Salah has been a captain choice in almost every game this season and this in no different.
I think Huddersfield will have nothing left in the tank this week and Arsenal will run ragged, so I’d be looking at Aubameyang or Ramsey.
Bet of the Week
Just the five right last round, with some surprising results. Odds on this week’s picks.
Southampton v Man City – City $1.40
Burnley v Bournemouth – Draw $3.40
Crystal Palace v West Brom – Palace $
Huddersfield v Arsenal – Arsenal $1.53
Liverpool v Brighton – Liverpool $1.17
Man United v Watford – United $1.36
Newcastle v Chelsea – Chelsea $1.57
Tottenham v Leicester – Draw $6.00
Swansea v Stoke – Swansea $1.83
West Ham v Everton – Everton $3.00