Mark Young gives his thoughts and predictions for five stand-out games ahead of a truly enticing Premier League weekend. With the main event between Manchester City and Leicester City, in what could be a title decider. Reading’s FA WSL super striker Helen Ward throws her predictions into the ring this week…
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Manchester City 3-1 Leicester City
A huge top of the table clash between Manchester City and Leicester City kicks off week 25 in the Premier League.
The fairy tale continues for the Foxes and following their 2-0 victory over Liverpool on Tuesday night they are sitting pretty on top of the tree by three points. Jamie Vardy added to his astonishing goal tally in that game with a stunning strike and will be looking to take the home side’s defence to task again during Saturday’s early kick off. But what has been an even bigger positive for Claudio Ranieri is that his side are keeping clean-sheets now, with only one goal conceded in the league since Christmas.
Leicester will need to be at their best at the back, as they will be coming up against arguably the best player in the league this week in Sergio Agüero. The Argentinian has been a huge miss for City with his string of injuries, but he has some solid minutes behind him now and the goals are starting to flow (six since the turn of the year to be precise).
Despite Leicester being top dogs coming in to this fixture, it is Agüero that could make the difference this weekend.
Helen Ward’s Prediction: Manchester City 2-2 Leicester City
Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City
Aston Villa host Norwich City on Saturday in what is a must-win fixture for both clubs – Norwich are desperate for a win, but defeat could be the final nail in the Villa relegation coffin.
Villa imploded after a positive start at West Ham on Tuesday night as Jordan Ayew’s moment of madness put his team on the back foot with a shocking red card. One of Villa’s brightest sparks this season elbowed Aaron Cresswell and the match was an uphill struggle from there on for the Villans. Villa are ten points off safety with 14 games to go, but what is going to be a huge problem for Remi Garde in the absence of Ayew is scoring goals. Eighteen goals in 24 games is not good enough, especially when the defence has leaked 40 at the other end.
Norwich will be looking over their shoulders, as they are the ones who are just outside the relegation places. The Canaries are leaking goals too – eight in their last two games – but must believe that a trip to Villa Park is a very possible three points.
A win will be easier said than done against wounded Villa and, with Norwich looking downwards at present, Alex Neil may have to settle for a point.
Helen Ward’s Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Norwich City
Stoke City 2-1 Everton
Roberto Martinez and Everton travel to the Britannia on Saturday to face Stoke City as 10th plays hosts to 11th.
The Toffees put a string of poor league performances behind them with a 3-0 home win against Newcastle on Wednesday, but that has come at a price. Romelu Lukaku went off at half-time with a knock, but goals from Aaron Lennon and two Ross Barkley penalties put a shine on a good performance.
Stoke were uncharacteristically outplayed at Old Trafford on Tuesday as Manchester United romped to a 3-0 victory, but that may have been a blip at the culmination of a long week of cup matches and Everton are the perfect side for the Potters to face.
The Toffees have defensive frailties and the potential to be without their main man up top, while Stoke are without Ryan Shawcross so could concede. However the Potters are more than capable of bouncing back from their cup heartbreak to get back to winning ways against Everton.
Helen Ward’s Prediction: Stoke City 2-2 Everton
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Watford
Tottenham are going about their business in a fantastic fashion at present, highlighted by their 3-0 win at Norwich on Tuesday.
Spurs sit above rivals Arsenal right now, and if the Gunners are still considered title challengers then the White Hart Lane side must also be in the equation. Harry Kane seems to be scoring in every game, with Dele Alli catching the eye and Cristian Eriksen once again finding his best form.
Tottenham also have the best defensive record in the league and, despite Jan Vertonghen’s absence, still looked solid at the back during the week.
Saturday’s visitors Watford are seemingly a tougher nut to crack, as shown by their 0-0 draw with Chelsea in midweek, but Tottenham are on a crest of a wave and could be within touching distance of the top if results go their way this weekend. That should be motivation enough for the Lilywhites.
Helen Ward’s Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Watford
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United
Two clubs that have seemed in crisis for a lot of the season face off at Stamford Bride on Sunday afternoon, as Louis van Gaal takes his Red Devils to Chelsea.
The crisis is at a different levels at each club: United have been in the top six for most of the season, whereas Chelsea are double the points off of a top four position than they are a relegation place. It’s been a strange one.
The Blues had seemingly turned a corner over the last few weeks, culminating in their 5-1 win at MK Dons on Sunday, but Watford stifled them on Wednesday night. Chelsea are still ten games unbeaten under Guus Hiddink though, with a win at the Emirates one of the stand-out results of that run.
Despite the poor performances of Manchester United for a lot of the season, they could well end Chelsea’s run this week. A confidence-building performance at home to Stoke should be the platform from which to build. Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney were all on the scoresheet against the Potters, but the return of Michael Carrick seemed vital as he influenced the game superbly from the middle of the park.
Juan Mata also seemed to have returned to somewhere close to his best in midweek, just in time for a visit to his former home, but Rooney could be the difference here. He’s back in devastating form and, just like he did at Anfield, could nick the winner at the Bridge.
Helen Ward’s Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Manchester United
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