By Mark Young.
After a week that saw Premier League clubs eliminated from Europe, we head straight back into top-flight action this weekend. There are some huge battles, including Liverpool v Manchester United for a place in the top four, Everton face relegation-threatened QPR and Southampton host Burnley.
James Olley, Chief Football Correspondent for the London Evening Standard goes up against Mark this week…
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
Liverpool have managed to close the gap on the top four to two points and can cement superiority in their fight for a Champions League place when they host Manchester United.
Jordan Henderson’s deflection helped collect all three points at Swansea, while United had a fantastic 3-0 win over Tottenham last Sunday in what is being dubbed as their best performance this season so far as Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney all got on the scoresheet.
It will be interesting to see how both teams line up as key players are set to return, with Steven Gerrard no longer injured and Angel Di Maria back from suspension. The common factor for these two teams is that without these two players, they have played better but as with most tense affairs, they could cancel each other out.
Liverpool 2-2 Man United
Liverpool are flying at the moment but United were much improved against Spurs and if they can maintain that intensity to their play, they can get the draw they need to keep the Reds at bay in the top four race.
Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal were one strike from making history on Tuesday night as they went out on away goals to Monaco in the Champions League. But now they face a tough trip to the North East on Saturday as they look to bounce right back from their disappointment of a supposedly easy draw.
Newcastle have been in a poor state and lost easily to Everton last Sunday, but the Magpies always seem to up their game when big clubs come to visit.
They beat Chelsea and only poor defending meant losing by a single goal to Manchester United and I believe they can gain a much-needed point against a leggy Gunners side.
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Newcastle are ravaged by injury and although Arsenal will be dejected by their Champions League exit, 15 wins from 18 games suggests they are in good enough form to win.
QPR 2-1 Everton
Toiling Everton were dumped out of the Europa League and the long trip to Kiev could spell trouble when they go to Loftus Road this weekend.
While QPR are struggling with the possibility of being cut adrift of the safety zone in the Premier League, the Hoops would be confident of gaining three points from a beleaguered Toffees team in front of a passionate home crowd.
Rangers were awful against Palace last week but with Charlie Austin having the season of his life, Everton could yet again be looking over their shoulder in a poor end to a long week for them.
QPR 1-2 Everton
The Europa League has had a debilitating effect on Everton’s season but there have been signs of improvement and they can heap further pressure on QPR.
Southampton 1-0 Burnley
Ronald Koeman’s Southampton managed to gain a terrific point at Stamford Bridge last weekend and could continue to push for a top-four spot with a home win over Burnley this weekend.
Burnley were magnificent in beating Manchester City at Turf Moor last Saturday but could struggle against a robust, effective Saints team who should be buoyed by their point off Chelsea.
The best defence in the Premier League had been breached at Burnley earlier in the season as Southampton suffered a small blip, but one goal should be enough for the Saints this weekend as they go marching on towards the top four.
Southampton 3-0 Burnley
Burnley beat Man City last time out but their away record is poor and the Saints were full value for a draw at Chelsea and can claim maximum points at home.
Tottenham 3-1 Leicester City
Another top-four contender, Tottenham, will also be looking to continue a relatively positive run this weekend when they play the seemingly doomed Leicester City at White Hart Lane.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men were awful at Old Trafford last weekend with the on-fire Harry Kane unable to get any service up to him at the Theatre of Dreams. That should be different this weekend as he comes up against one of the worst defences in the league, but Leicester have already won at Spurs this season as they came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in the FA Cup.
Since then, the hosts have been to a cup final and hit a great run of form so it should be almost routine for the North London club this week to push the current top four closer towards them.
Tottenham 2-1 Leicester City
Spurs have had a long campaign and struggled at home on occasion against so-called weaker sides but they bounced back well from Capital One Cup Final disappointment and should be too strong for struggling Leicester.
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