Recap’ on Matchweek 27
Manchester City restored their 16-point advantage at the top of the Premier League in the 27th round of matches, with Sergio Aguero scoring four times in their 5-1 thrashing of Leicester City before Newcastle beat Manchester United 1-0 with a goal from Matt Ritchie.
With 11 games remaining, City know that six more wins will be enough to clinch their third title in seven seasons, although their match against Arsenal this weekend has been moved to next Thursday as the two teams will instead meet at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final.
United remain in second place, two points ahead of Liverpool and three clear of Chelsea, who they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Liverpool were 2-0 winners at Southampton in the last round of games, while Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 home success against West Brom to keep both clubs on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Tottenham remain firmly in the hunt for a top four place after Harry Kane’s second-half header gave them a 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the North London derby. Spurs are a point behind Chelsea, while Arsenal have now slipped seven points behind their great rivals.
Following United’s example and winning the Europa League now looks to be their best route back into the Champions League.
At the other end of the table, Newcastle’s crucial victory at St James’ Park has lifted them to 13th place, two points above the relegation zone. West Ham eased their fears of being dragged into the mire with a 2-0 win over Watford, while there were important wins for Swansea and Huddersfield.
The Swans beat Burnley for their third win in four matches, while Huddersfield ended Bournemouth’s seven-match unbeaten run with a thumping 4-1 victory at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Both teams are one point above the bottom three, with the relegation places occupied by Southampton, Stoke and West Brom, with the latter now seven points adrift of safety.
The pick of the 28th round of matches is that clash between United and Chelsea, while Tottenham’s trip across London to face Crystal Palace at noon on Sunday promises to be a cracker. West Brom must beat Huddersfield at the Hawthorns if they are to retain any hope of avoiding the drop, while Brighton host Swansea in a crucial six-pointer.
Premier League: Matchweek 28
Stoke v Leicester City
Stoke City have the worst away record in the Premier League this season, taking a total of just six points, while they have earned just a single point from their last seven matches on the road. Nine of their away league games have ended in defeat and it’s hard to see them getting anything from their trip to Leicester on Saturday lunchtime, which kicks off this round of fixtures.
Leicester have won four and lost only one of their last seven at home in the league and have their sights firmly set on finishing seventh – the best of the rest after the ‘Big Six’, who have stretched well clear of the pack. The Foxes were well beaten last time out at the Etihad Stadium, but that result aside they have been playing well and they restored some confidence with a home FA Cup win over Sheffield United last weekend, in which Jamie Vardy scored for the fifth successive match.
Recommended bet: Leicester HT/FT
Southampton v Burnley F. C.
Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino is under increasing pressure after his side slipped back into the relegation zone, but they have been playing well away from home over the last few months and they have every chance of taking something from Saturday’s trip to Burnley.
Since losing 5-2 at Tottenham on Boxing Day, the Saints are unbeaten in five away matches in all competitions. They have won three of those, including the last two, both at West Brom. They also drew at Old Trafford and Vicarage Road in the league. Burnley have lost their way since their fantastic opening to the season and after their 1-0 defeat at Swansea they are without a win in 10 league matches, losing five. They have failed to score in six of those games and scoring goals is a big problem for them at Turf Moor – they have managed just nine in 13 home league games.
Recommended bet: Southampton to win to nil
Man Utd v Chelsea
All the statistics point towards a low-scoring affair at Old Trafford on Sunday, with United’s four games against their direct rivals for a top four finish – Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham – producing a total of only four goals this season. United have scored only one of those, in their 1-0 home win over Spurs, while they have kept nine clean sheets in their last 11 matches in all competitions.
Jose Mourinho’s side have the best home defence in the top flight, conceding just five goals, with Manchester City and Burnley each scoring twice and Newcastle the only other visiting team to breach their defence. They will certainly look to keep things tight again, as they hold the upper hand in the battle to finish second.
Recommended bet: Manchester Utd to win 1-0
Crystal Palace v Tottenham
Crystal Palace have made great progress under Roy Hodgson, but a lengthy injury list is beginning to bite and they have taken only two points from their last four games, conceding nine goals in the process. Wilfried Zaha, Mamadou Sakho and Scott Dann are the biggest losses, but Jeffrey Schlupp, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jason Puncheon, Martin Kelly and Bakary Sako are also absent from Sunday’s game against Tottenham and that makes the Eagles vulnerable. Tottenham are unbeaten in their last 14 games in all competitions and have lost only one of the last 19 – 4-1 at Manchester City. However, their last five away matches have all been scoring draws, with the last three ending 2-2.
A largely second string Spurs side drew at Rochdale last Sunday, meaning most of their first choice players have enjoyed a 10-day rest since the trip to Juventus in the Champions League. That should give them the edge at Selhurst Park.
Recommended bet: Tottenham to win and both teams to score – 3.3 – William Hill.
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