Seventeen matches are taking place over this gameweek. Yes, you heard that right! Feel free to use my predictions as a method of preparing your Fantasy Premier League teams, if you are that way inclined. If not, then please read for pleasure or for a second-opinion on any monetary tips that you seek to pursue!
Games of the week
Chelsea vs Manchester United: Stamford Bridge, Sunday 16.30 (Sky Sports)
Chelsea will be full of confidence after their Champions League victory against Atletico Madrid in midweek. They dominated possession against the Spanish outfit but struggled to carve out clear openings against the deep-block. However, Olivier Giroud scored a stunning bicycle kick to hand the Londoners the advantage in this two-legged affair.
While it was a fantastic result, the game still illustrated Chelsea’s troubles in the final third. The Blues look comfortable in possession but they struggle to carve out that final killer pass. Atletico never gave Chelsea a clear opportunity in front of goal; that was down to excellent organisation but it was also because of Chelsea’s lack of precision in attacking areas.
United have not scored against any member of the traditional top-six since Bruno Fernandes notched a penalty in the club’s embarrassing 6-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. Zero goals scored in five league matches. However, on the other hand, their big-six opponents have only found the net once — a penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Four clean sheets out of five. Four stalemates didn’t make for great neutral viewing but it was certainly an improvement on their dismal display against Spurs.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly doesn’t trust his players in the biggest matches. He has put an emphasis on organisation and defensive resilience in order to combat the defensive frailties that he feels he has. David de Gea has never truly recaptured his best form while the central defenders in front of him also leave a lot to be desired.
Solskjaer has mastered the stalemate in big matches but they could have taken victory against Liverpool and Arsenal. A lack of composure in killer areas proved costly. This Chelsea team is open to being stung on the break. Without Thiago Silva, that back-three is not nearly as commanding.
Liverpool vs Chelsea: Anfield, Thursday 20.00 (Sky Sports)
This one really is huge! A Champions League six-pointer.
The Reds are really struggling and they need a pick-me-up. Hopefully for them, they will enter this match on the back of a league victory against Sheffield United. Anything less and you really would fear for them in this crunch clash.
Jurgen Klopp has been dealt the worst hand possible. Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Diogo Jota are all out injured; the first two were long-term absentees but the recent knocks to Henderson and Fabinho have really stuck the knife in.
Thomas Tuchel’s emphasis on possession might play into Liverpool’s hands. The Reds can sit deeper and look to hit the Londoners on the counter. Chelsea will be expected to win this but they do lack a clinical edge in forward areas; that’s not something you can accuse Liverpool of.
Manchester City vs West Ham United: Etihad Stadium, 12.30 (BT Sport)
City are the high flyers but West Ham have also had a very good season; the Hammers are remarkably sitting in a top-four spot. However, recent months have proved that this season is Pep Guardiola’s and everybody else is simply a toy for the Manchester marvels. They may have spent a lot on their squad, but Guardiola’s style is simply stupendous and his team are a joy to watch.
West Bromwich Albion vs Brighton & Hove Albion: The Hawthorns, 15.00 (Sky Sports)
Sam Allardyce will have taken a lot of confidence from the manner of West Brom’s performances against recent opposition. The only thing lacking has been the killer finish. This match against Brighton is the perfect opportunity for Allardyce to get his first win at the Hawthorns. The Seagulls are struggling for goals.
Leeds United vs Aston Villa: Elland Road, 17.30 (Sky Sports)
Villa faces a struggle without the talismanic Jack Grealish, but their squad is good enough to cope with his short-term absence. Leeds should take the game to Dean Smith’s team, probably holding more of the ball and taking more shots on goal. However, the Yorkshire-based outfit are notorious for their defensive vulnerabilities and a Grealish-less Villa should still be able to take advantage of that.
Newcastle United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Newcastle lost Callum Wilson to injury almost seamlessly after welcoming Allan Saint-Maximin back from his absence on the sidelines. Together, the dynamic duo would propel the Magpies out of trouble but the footballing gods are not being too kind! They also face a Wolves team that have miraculously turned around their horrendous form.
Crystal Palace vs Fulham: Selhurst Park, 12.00 (BBC Sport)
Palace’s win in the South Coast derby against Brighton was much needed. They were outplayed in almost every statistic, but that didn’t matter to Roy Hodgson. However, from the perspective of sustainability, Palace’s style of play isn’t necessarily the way to build momentum. Fulham are in good form and they will fancy their chances of taking an away victory.
Leicester City vs Arsenal: King Power Stadium, 12.00 (BT Sport)
Leicester are flying domestically under Brendan Rodgers. With many of the traditional top-six teams looking vulnerable, this could be the year for the Foxes to return to the Champions League. It won’t be an easy game against an Arsenal team that are steadily building back some form.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Burnley: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 14.00 (Sky Sports)
Spurs have had an underwhelming 2021 but they have had some enjoyment in recent Europa League matches against Wolfsberger. Jose Mourinho will be hoping that those comprehensive victories provide some confidence to his troops. Equally, he will want his rested stars to show some energy at the weekend. The team that he picks should have too much for a depleted Burnley team; Sean Dyche just wants his injury list to shorten.
Sheffield United vs Liverpool: Bramall Lane, 19.15 (Sky Sports)
Liverpool should be licking their lips against the league’s bottom outfit. But Klopp’s men are in dreadful form and their record against those teams at the bottom is far from impressive. Each week feels like a must-win for the Reds and this is no exception. Quite frankly, they should find a way to get the job done against a team that simply looks resigned to relegation.
Everton vs Southampton: Goodison Park, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Everton fans will still be celebrating their first win at Anfield of the 21st century. However, it’s the games where they are expected to win that have been curtailing their push for European football. A rested Danny Ings will be smelling blood against an unconvincing defensive setup, however, the Saints are falling down the mountain at a pretty rapid pace.
Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Etihad Stadium, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Wolves have dug themselves out of the rut they were in, looking a lot more secure defensively. Nonetheless, this match looks like being a bridge too far. City is in imperious form. There really isn’t much more to add, although, the Blues traditionally struggle against back-five setups.
Burnley vs Leicester City: Turf Moor, 18.00 (Sky Sports)
Leicester have been racking up the matches in the league and Europa League. The Foxes could be without the influential James Maddison for this week’s matches and that will compound any tiredness issues. Burnley know how to defend in a deep-block and Leicester may struggle to break them down without their main creator available.
Sheffield United vs Aston Villa: Bramall Lane, 18.00 (BT Sport)
United’s surge in form has now dimmed and the realities of relegation are staring them in the face. They will return to the Championship because the quality in the squad simply isn’t at Premier League level. Nonetheless, they continue to show fight and spirit in the majority of their games; it won’t be a walkover for the visitors.
Crystal Palace vs Manchester United: Selhurst Park, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
This should be a comfortable victory for United but they can’t seem to do many comfortable victories. Palace’s win against Brighton illustrated that they should be able to grind out enough victories to push well clear of any relegation trouble. However, they have been on the wrong end of some pastings against the bigger teams this season, and United have an excellent record on their travels.
Fulham vs Tottenham Hotspur: Craven Cottage, 18.00 (BT Sport)
It was a very tight London derby in the reverse fixture but this one really is a must-win for Mourinho. They are playing catch-up in their bid for the top-four. That being said, Fulham are a tough nut to crack and they look the likeliest of the current bottom-three to make a push for survival.
West Bromwich Albion vs Everton: The Hawthorns, 18.00 (Sky Sports)
Everton’s kryptonite is playing against deep-blocks. Unlike Southampton, West Brom will be content to sit deep and frustrate, even though they need to start winning more football matches. Their recent efforts against Burnley and Man United were indicative of a team on the up. Unfortunately, they need to start turning potential into three points.