EPL Predictions: Week 34

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Leicester put in a stirring performance to secure Champions League football for next season, whilst Tottenham kept pace with them at the top with a dominant showing against Manchester United. Everton and Crystal Palace played out a dire 0-0 draw in midweek, so we harbour hopes that this weekend will provide a little bit more in terms of entertainment.

2015/2016 Season EPL Predictions Record

Since this column began mid-way through the 2013/2014 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 505/940 results correctly for a success rate of 53.72%, whilst predicting 76 correct scorelines along the way.

  • Roman Barbera: 158/324 – 28 correct scorelines
  • Clinton Madden: 144/324 – 17 correct scorelines

EPL Predictions: Week 34 – Matchday 1

(17) Norwich v Sunderland (18)

Venue: Carrow Road | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 22, 2014 (2-0)

Norwich’s season turned full circle two months ago. Moving from one of the more defensively horrific sides in the league to a team set on grinding their way out of the relegation zone, the Canaries are now a dangerous prospect for any side. They’ve conceded multiple goals in just two of their last seven outings, however they take on a Sunderland outfit that has improved in a similar manner. The Black Cats were respectable against Leicester, and probably should have secured a point when Jack Rodwell missed a golden chance to equalise in the final few minutes.

A class relegation six-pointer which could determine who faces the drop. Norwich will be cagey as a result, as anything but a defeat is good enough for their cause. Sunderland meanwhile need a victory and will push harder than they did against Leicester. If Younes Kaboul and company manage to be as resolute and focussed as they were agains Leicester, they’ll have a chance at holding out Norwich, but whenever Sam Allardyce has to press high and play an attractive brand of football, his sides seem to lose their identity. A draw will see Norwich leave the happier side.

Key Statistic | Norwich have lost just 1 of their last 4 home games, and that came against Chelsea.

Key Player | Timm Klose v Younes Kaboul – Kaboul was exceptional against Leicester and Klose has been an exceptionally good buy for the Canaries. Norwich will defend deep and Kaboul will need to somehow cover Sunderland on the break. 

Prediction | Norwich 1 – 1 Sunderland

EPL Predictions: Week 34 – Matchday 2

(14) Everton v Southampton (7)

Venue: Goodison Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: April 4, 2015 (1-0)

Everton have been shocking over the last month, and now go into their third game this week. Fatigue will play a role, especially with the side safe from relegation and the FA Cup clearly the Toffees’ priority. Southampton meanwhile have European football to play for and have won their last three games against sides not named Leicester. Everton have been notoriously poor at home this campaign, and even against a Southampton side that has been erratic on its travels, they just won’t have the motivation to edge a game that should be relative tight based on talent. Romelu Lukaku has shut down for the season, Ross Barkley is a shadow of his 2015 self and whilst Everton’s back four are doing their job, there just isn’t enough drive through midfield to challenge what has been a sturdy rearguard for Koeman.

Everton are starting to get shots off (21 over the last two games), but just aren’t finding the back of the net. Blowing a lead against Watford summarises their current mindset, and the sooner the league can be wrapped up for the year the better. Roberto Martinez has shown with Wigan that he’s incapable of matching Cup success with league success and this weekend will just further that point.

Key Statistic | Everton have scored just one goal over their last four EPL games.

Key Player | Romelu Lukaku v Shane Long – Long has been a revelation since he started earning starts midway through this season. Lukaku meanwhile has been the lone focal point of Everton for too long this season, and has been exhausted by the side’s lack of a legitimate second target up front.

Prediction | Everton 0 – 1 Southampton

(5) Manchester United v Aston Villa (20)

Venue: Old Trafford | Last Corresponding Meeting: April 4, 2015 (3-1)

Lets not and say we did. This game may as well not be played. Aston Villa would need to win every game and overhaul a 20 goal deficit to even be a mathematical chance of avoiding relegation. This weekend the drop is confirmed, with Manchester United sensing an opportunity to keep touch with the top 4 and overturn the negative goal differential they have with West Ham.

Aston Villa showed some form of resistance against Bournemouth, but a Manchester United outfit at Old Trafford with something to play for is a different beast entirely. Van Gaal isn’t in a position to rest players, so expect  a full-strength eleven to be rolled out after last weekend’s disappointing second half. There is no reason this game should be close, and United have the pace to get in behind Villa’s lines. Chelsea managed to exploit the space offered by Villa’s wing backs expertly, so expect Martial in particular to be a menace. Going forward Smalling is too good a like-for-like match-up for Gestede for Villa to pose any trouble. Their only route to goal, again, will be Jordan Ayew, who will almost certainly look to move in the summer and likely couldn’t care less (justifiably so) how much his side loses by this weekend.

Key Statistic | Aston Villa have netted just once over their last 5 league outings.

Key Player | Anthony Martial v Jordan Ayew – Two of the more exciting additions to the Premier League this season, the difference being that if Martial doesn’t do the job this weekend, there are other players in his side capable of helping out.

Prediction | Manchester United 3 – 0 Aston Villa

(19) Newcastle v Swansea (12)

Venue: St James’ Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: April 25, 2015 (2-3)

Given Norwich and Sunderland are playing each other, a result for Newcastle here would be an immense boost to their survival hopes. By the same token, a loss would be devastating, with survival likely to move at least one point further away. Newcastle have been relatively solid at home this season given their current standing. Having found the back of the net in each of their last three games, Newcastle’s biggest issue under Rafa Benitez has been defence. Unfortunately, Swansea have netted in each of their last seven matches, and have found ways to win matches they weren’t expected to even compete in. Newcastle will enter this match with more drive, but can it be converted into success?

Gylfi Sigurðsson has been incredible of late, scoring at will in a side lacking a genuine in-form striker. Given that, this game could turn out to be lower scoring than many expect. Newcastle need to tighten up in defence and will look to grind to a 1-0 victory if need be. Swansea will look to counter and exploit the spaces Newcastle invariably leave out wide (see Southampton’s goals last weekend). As much as my heart is tipping Newcastle to make the relegation race a little more interesting, the head favours Swansea in an entertaining affair.

Key Statistic | Swansea have scored in each of their last 7 EPL outings. Swansea have won 6 of the last 7 meetings between these sides (1 draw).

Key Player | Andros Townsend v Gylfi Sigurðsson – Two creative forces in midfield, Townsend just looks a class above his teammates at present. Alongside Mitrovic, he is the only player really capable of creating something out of nothing.

Prediction | Newcastle 2 – 3  Swansea

(13) West Bromwich Albion v Watford (15)

Venue: The Hawthorns | Last Corresponding Meeting: October 31, 2009 (5-0)

Watford will be pleased with taking a point against Everton last weekend, but may find their task slightly tougher this weekend against a West Bromwich outfit that has taken points from eight of its last ten home games. So impressive has their streak been, we’re favouring them to take all three points here at a canter. That this game is at The Hawthorns means we should expect an open clash, with the Baggies willing to dictate terms at home this season despite being under the watchful and often negative eye of Tony Pulis. Watford meanwhile have lost just about everything but their FA Cup semi-final – the prize they’re well and truly working towards now.

Expect Albion to capitalise on their opponents’ distraction by putting on a show at home for a fan base that has come to expect a lot in 2016.

Key Statistic | West Bromwich have taken points in 8 of their last 10 home games in the EPL.

Key Player | Salomón Rondón v Ben Watson – Watson was really strong against Everton and ensured the out-of-form Everton midfield remained as such. Rondon meanwhile keeps picking up goals that matter. He doesn’t score in bunches, but his strikes typically matter.

Prediction | West Bromwich Albion 2 – 0 Watford

(10) Chelsea v Manchester City (4)

Venue: Stamford Bridge | Last Corresponding Meeting: January 31, 2015 (1-1)

Manchester City may have had other things on their mid this week, but getting past PSG – something Chelsea ironically couldn’t do this or last season – in the UCL will have them brimming with confidence. Kevin De Bruyne’s return from injury has been crucial to their resurgent form and whilst there may be some rotation in personnel, that the Champions League semi-finals are still a fortnight away and that City are still in with a bit of a battle to remain a top 4 side in the EPL will likely see them try and seal this one early. Chelsea’s unbeaten streak was halted against Swansea last weekend, and the plan to avoid Europa League action next season appears to be in full swing. Youngsters are being blooded and there is no reason to expect a change of tactic from what is otherwise an injury-ravaged squad.

City will be the only team coming into this game with any intent, and with the aura of Stamford Bridge well and truly shattered after this season, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the away team sneak all three points. Personnel will obviously play a key part in determining the outcome, but City should be favourites.

Key Statistic | Chelsea’s run of 15 EPL matches unbeaten was halted on the weekend by Swansea – an indication their motivation has gone.

Key Player | Branislav Ivanovic v Kevin De Bruyne – If De Bruyne doesn’t play, Manchester City may well only take 1 point from this game – that is how good he is. At the same time we feel sorry for Ivanovic, being wheeled out after a horrific campaign, both personally and as a team, to play with the U21s side in a bid to avoid winning so many games as to play in Europe next season. Not really what he’s used to.

Prediction | Chelsea 1 – 3 Manchester City

EPL Predictions: Week 34 – Matchday 3

(11) Bournemouth v Liverpool (8)

Venue: Vitality Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: December 17, 2014 (1-3)

This looms as a high-scoring clash. Bournemouth may have won last weekend, but that victory came against Aston Villa and counts for very little in our eyes. The Cherries have conceded in each of their last 5 games, a streak which included a run of conceding 9 goals over a three game period. Liverpool meanwhile haven’t been much better defensively and come off a midweek clash in Europe. The greatest point of difference between these two sides is in attack. Bournemouth have been average of late, scoring 10 goals over their last 8 games in all competitions. On top of Liverpool’s 4 goals in Europe this week, they’ve scored 23 goals over their past 9 EPL fixtures. Whilst the Reds have been erratic, Bournemouth don’t have anything left to play for this season and should come off second best against a hot Liverpool outfit.

Key Statistic | Liverpool have scored 23 goals over their past 9 EPL fixtures.

Key Player | Joshua King v Divock Origi – Origi will likely start with Liverpool having one eye on the Europa semis. King gets a mention because he scored last weekend for a team whose highest scorer in the league is a man who has been injured for over 6 months (Callum Wilson).

Prediction | Bournemouth 1 – 3 Liverpool

(1) Leicester v West Ham (6)

Venue: King Power Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: April 4, 2015 (2-1)

There is so much to like about these sides. West Ham are an attacking juggernaut capable of matching it with the best, whilst Leicester have become the best defensive side int he league, grinding out 1-0 and 2-0 wins with startling regularity. With both side looking to defend deep and hit on the counter, this game could be wildly entertaining. There are match-ups of note all over the park, with Carroll’s aerial prowess, Kante’s defensive work-rate and Payet’s brilliance all worthy highlights. Leicester are riding a wave of confidence after their incredible run of results, but we see West Ham netting at least once in this one. Leicester gave up chances to Sunderland last weekend, and whilst they’re now at home (where they’ve recorded back-to-back 1-0 victories) they did give up 2 goals to West Bromwich at this venue last month. Can Leicester break down a side that might not necessarily find themselves behind? Time will tell, but we think a draw is in order.

Key Statistic | Leicester have won their last 5 league games (all with clean sheets) and have lost just 1 game at home this season.

Key Player | Kante v Dimitri Payet – This game could well be decided by whether or not Kante can mitigate the influence of Payet.

Prediction | Leicester 2 – 2 West Ham

(3) Arsenal v Crystal Palace (16)

Venue: Emirates Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: August 16, 2014 (2-1)

Arsenal may have almost no chance of competing for the title this season, but looked impressive for the most part against West Ham last weekend. Defensively they were beaten by Andy Carroll’s aerial prowess, but given Palace don’t really boast such a threat, they are a very good shout for a victory at home this weekend. Palace played midweek against Everton and couldn’t get anything going in attack, so 1-2 goals should do it for the hosts.

Arsenal’s greatest enemy will be complacency. Last weekend they threw away the lead against West Ham. Palace have been better away from home of late, capitalising on the speed advantage they hold on the wings. Bellerin in particular can match the best of them, but Gabriel and Coquelin in particular have shown a tendency to panic and foul in such situations. There is a chance things go wrong for the Gunners but we don’t see it happening.

Key Statistic | Crystal Palace have scored 1 goal over their last 3 home matches, but 4 over their past 2 away games.

Key Player | Mohamed Elneny v Yannick Bolasie – Elneny has been brilliant over the past month, over-shadowing his French team-mate in midfield. He’ll have his hands full against the physicality of Jedinkak and pace of Bolasie however. Arsenal are too often out-muscled in midfield. Can he hold his own?

Prediction | Arsenal 3 – 0 Crystal Palace

EPL Predictions: Week 34 – Matchday 4

(9) Stoke v Tottenham (2)

Venue: Britannia Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: May 9, 2015 (3-0)

Preview to come.

Key Statistic | 

Key Player | 

Prediction | Stoke   –   Tottenham

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