The final chapter of the Premier League season is underway and this round of fixtures will complete the year of 2017. Will we be looking at the title winners already as Manchester City continue their incredible run? Will Swansea City end the year bottom placed? Which of the six clubs vying for top four will end the year on a high? It’s all to play for.
Bournemouth v Everton
Bournemouth stole a point against West Ham in their last fixture in somewhat controversial style but Eddie Howe wouldn’t care as it means they showed determination and steel to come from 3-2 down to score that last minute equaliser. However, what that result also shows, and what has been the problem for the Cherries this season, is that when trying to play attractive football, it can cause internal defensive problems.
For Everton, 2017 will mark a turbulent season where they were hovering over the self-destruct button under Ronald Koeman but have since revitalised themselves under Sam Allardyce. However much the Toffees’ fans want attractive, stylish football, they simply won’t get that under Allardyce, who described their football as ‘average. But they will merely enjoy picking up the points. Their defence has looked particularly solid recently and so I think they’ll win here.
Bournemouth 1-3 Everton
Chelsea v Stoke
Even though Chelsea haven’t looked as inspiring as they did last season, they’re slowly but surely adding pressure onto second-placed Manchester United and continue to pick up points. Now on a run of 4 games without defeat, the Blues can mount a challenge to finish 2nd and will look to continue this impressive run against a side they thrashed in the reverse fixture.
Stoke City are staring despairingly at the relegation zone as they find themselves just three points above it. They haven’t won any of their last four away games and I don’t expect them to take anything here at Stamford Bridge. They won’t end 2017 in the bottom three but who knows if they’ll stay above it at the end of the season?
Chelsea 3-0 Stoke
Huddersfield v Burnley
The Terriers can be absolutely delighted with the way their year has gone, by not only being promoted into the Premier League but also showing real grit in performing admirably as well. Many thought they’d struggle but David Wagner has got them playing some good football. Even though they have endured some heavy defeats, it’s their never-say-die attitude which has helped them to some great results at home.
Equally, Sean Dyche can be thrilled with the way his Burnley side have taken this season by storm and find themselves within touching distance of a Champions League place. What a story that would be if they pip one of the big clubs to the Top 4! Their performance against Manchester United was fantastic and even though they could have had all three points, it’s in games like this where they can make up the difference.
Huddersfield 1-2 Burnley
Liverpool v Leicester
This is an entertaining fixture featuring both sides who have come up with some exciting matches over the last few seasons. At Anfield, Liverpool have a fantastic record as they are unbeaten this season and with news over Van Dijk joining soon, this can only mean the Reds will get better defensively, which is going to help them a lot. In the meantime, they’ll still have to deal with a shaky defence.
Leicester started off the season in poor fashion but since Claude Puel’s arrival, they’re definitely playing better football and looking more like their former selves. With the form of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy returning, the Foxes will definitely be a threat here.
Liverpool 4-2 Leicester
Newcastle v Brighton
When Rafael Benitez joined Newcastle and brought them back into the Premier League, there was a lot of eagerness for the Magpies to retain their position in England’s top division and become a mainstay once more. However, even with a promising start to the campaign, a series of poor results means that Benitez must simply sign more players in order to succeed. Alan Shearer put it perfectly as describing Newcastle as “a Championship team playing in the Premier League.”
For Brighton, the season has looked very good in that they’ve had some great results against bigger clubs and haven’t looked out of place. Chris Hughton has done a great job in ensuring the Seagulls don’t get stuck fighting relegation but must continue picking up the points. It could so quite easily go downhill unless they are careful.
Newcastle 1-1 Brighton
Watford v Swansea
Marco Silva must have sighed a breath of relief as Watford finally won their first game in six matches. The three points are vital at this stage of the season and really does cement the Hornets position at mid-table. Even though they only had one shot on target in their victory over Leicester, they should get a lot more shots here.
Swansea are tipped to go down and it’s no surprise as they have played very poorly up till now. Sacking Paul Clement with no immediate replacement is shocking behaviour from the board and fans will not be happy. Their hammering at Anfield simply justified how poor their season has been and I just don’t see any major improvement happening, even with new manager Carlos Carvajal who will need time to settle.
Watford 4-1 Swansea
Manchester United v Southampton
This fixture couldn’t come soon enough for Jose Mourinho as he seeks to get his United side back on track in the (already over) title race. A series of poor results has seen them slip up while Manchester City continue to win, which will now break the Portuguese’s record of winning a domestic title in every second season at a club. His complaints of not spending enough will grant him very little sympathy.
Southampton have had a torrid end to the year in that they are now seven games without a win and only two points from safety. Charlie Austin has been the only bright spark in an otherwise dull season but he’ll be banned for this fixture and after seeing their poor performance in the 5-2 loss to Tottenham, they’ll surely lose here.
Manchester United 2-0 Southampton
Crystal Palace v Manchester City
Crystal Palace started the season in terrible style as they suffered seven defeats in a row before making a shock win over Chelsea their first points of the season. Since then, Roy Hodgson has somewhat managed to repair the club but there are still question marks on whether they can stay up. Their recent defeat to Arsenal showed courage but also poor defending and that’s something they’ll have to fix soon.
Manchester City are surely home and dry as they sit atop the Premier League 15 points clear. Pep Guardiola may be criticised for spending millions on his defence but at the end of the day, City will be Champions of England and who knows how far they can go in the Champions League? I fully expect them to continue this exceptional winning run well into 2018.
Crystal Palace 0-5 Manchester City
West Brom v Arsenal
2017 is not looking like a promising season for West Brom as they are struggling to find the form that has kept them in the Premier League for so long. They are 19 Premier League games without a win now and will not find victory in this fixture either.
For Arsenal, it’s the same story every season. With a fight for Top 4, they’ll need to pick up victories in matches like these or find themselves with another season in the Europa League. Major defensive improvements will be key and January could help but in any case, winning these kind of games should be part and parcel. However, a poor away form record still haunts them but I think this is a winnable game, especially as they have finally found their shooting boots.
West Brom 1-3 Arsenal