Five midweek fixtures. If we must…
It’s a strange set of five midweek fixtures that arguably nine of the teams could do without…
Man City travel to Newcastle on Tuesday but will already with thinking about the arrival of Ronaldo and Co seven days hence.
Watford, Everton, Man United and Palace are all on FA Cup duty at the weekend. Liverpool and West Ham look are badly in need of some R ‘n’ R. Arsenal must just wish it could just all be over.
That leaves Newcastle - who will be aiming to drag Norwich into the quicksand and use their corpse as a means to clamber out. And West Brom who have barely warranted a mention all season. So I won’t start now.
7.45pm Newcastle v Man City
A second consecutive win for Newcastle will put them level on points with Norwich and could even lift them out of the Bottom Three. The bad news is Newcastle have only managed back-to-back wins once this season – at home to Liverpool, then away at Tottenham bizarrely enough! The even worse news is City appear to have their mojo back. City are a better team and Sergio Aguero a better striker with Kevin De Bruyne on the pitch. And the kick-a-man-when-he-is-down news is City are 23-1 up on Newcastle in their last six PL meetings.
Score Prediction: Make that 24-2. 1-2
MVP: After his five goals last time give Sergio Aguero the armband.
7.45pm West Ham v Watford
Both teams could probably do without this midweek engagement. Watford have an FA Cup semi-final to think about at the weekend and West Ham are creaking after a long, but excellent season. The Hammers haven’t won since early March, six matches ago (D5 L1) but will want to hold on to sixth place over the final straight. Watford will be relieved to have ended their six-match run without a win at the weekend. But the goals have dried up badly – it’s now just three in seven, five in ten. Expect changes in personnel, but not in front of goal.
Score Prediction: A win at last for West Ham. 2-0
MVP: Andy Carroll is hot right now.
8pm Liverpool v Everton
Ideally, Everton would want to leave a few out of this one in preparation for a potentially season-saving FA Cup semi-final at the weekend. But neither bragging rights nor their current PL position will allow it. Everton really shouldn’t be level on points with Watford and Bournemouth at this stage of the season. Likewise, Liverpool should really be above Southampton and West Ham. Form says they will be after this.
Score Prediction: No mercy on Merseyside. 3-1
MVP: Philippe Coutinho is the man for the big occasion.
8pm Man United v Crystal Palace
We can expect changes from both sides due to their FA Cup semi-final involvement at the weekend. United’s changes which might give their team a more experienced look, strangely. Wayne Rooney could certainly use another game under his belt after a leaden, sometimes clumsy return to the starting line-up on Saturday. Palace’s point at Arsenal will have lifted a considerable weight off their shoulders after a stressful 2016. Should these teams meet again in the Cup Final, there won’t be many clues to be drawn here.
Score Prediction: We might even get some goals at Old Trafford. 2-1
MVP: Wayne Rooney needs to play his way in the team for the weekend.
7.45pm Arsenal v West Brom
The ignominy of playing for third place after looking like the Champions-elect for much of the season can’t be much of a motivation for Arsenal. But they have only themselves to blame. West Brom will revel in the prospect of spoiling another home performance for their hosts and might feel slightly aggrieved at being mugged by Watford at the weekend. But otherwise this is a dead-rubber.
Score Prediction: West Brom can’t score so 1-0
MVP: Hector Bellerin will be a threat and should keep a clean sheet.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s short, unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much longer, more successful but immeasurably more rubbish one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt