The Premier League final hurdles are well in front of the twenty sides now as the league is quickly coming to a close. Attention remains purely on the domestic league following an FA Cup Semi-Finals weekend and European commitments put aside, mainly due to Manchester United being the sole survivors. So while there are a handful of sides that could be excused for being on the beach, the importance for quite a few is going to be wracked up a notch meaning pressure could be the catalyst for some real shocks at this time of the year. Midweek fixtures means the floodlights are on and points are there to be had so out of just the five midweek fixtures, I’ve looked at three that you might want to keep an eye out for.
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- Chelsea vs Southampton (Tuesday)
The only fixture played on Tuesday is crucial for the Premier League title race. The Blues can put down a huge marker with just six games to go by going seven clear at the top with a win. Chelsea again performed when it mattered most in the FA Cup semi-final beating Spurs despite not playing their best football. The interest for me here lies with Southampton’s attitude and ability to make life uncomfortable at Stamford Bridge, there is no doubting they have a ready made squad to cause an upset and importantly they are fresh going into this contest.
I would expect the group that Claude Puel has to be well up for this and I’d doubt this squad less than I would the surrounding teams who have nothing to play for so the challenge is set for Chelsea. Conte has not had to deal with many forced changes all season, without doubt a pivotal factor in their league position I believe so the way Chelsea finished at Wembley, I cannot see fatigue being an issue. The opening stages of the game could be telling, seeing how Chelsea react to the momentum they built at the weekend, if Saints can play them at their own game with a high press it could unsettle them and cause panic because it now really is there’s to lose. Playing first really makes it an interesting week for both Chelsea and Tottenham, if I were to make a prediction for this one I can see a 1-0 Chelsea victory with a bit more Hazard magic likely to be the deciding factor.
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2. Crystal Palace vs Tottenham Hotspur (Wednesday)
Any football fan knows there’s something a bit extra about having a game under the lights, combine that with a flying Eagles side and you’d expect nothing less than a rocking Selhurst Park for the arrival of Pochettino’s men. I feel the energy of the crowd and the confidence and structure Palace will play with means this is a seriously challenging game for Spurs to have, the last thing they wanted after a demoralising defeat at Wembley. I can see Spurs having a lot of the ball but struggling to break Allardyce’s side down, regardless of Chelsea’s result prior Spurs can’t slip up at all know and for me that points towards another slip up for Tottenham.
Zaha, Townsend and Benteke should provide their own threat making it a full throttle match. This can however be a huge statement from Spurs once again at least putting the pressure on Chelsea still. Having seen Eriksen, Alli and Kane all deliver high class moments at the weekend you’d have to admire them if they keep producing the goods. Certainly an interesting game lies ahead. I’ll predict a 2-0 Crystal Palace win.
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3. Manchester City vs Manchester United (Thursday)
What happened? This game was meant to be a title decider before a ball was kicked and that’s really what it should be, instead it’s the battle of fourth v fifth and for an all important Champions League spot which personally never adds any value to a match. The Manchester Derby itself though certainly should be captivating from a tactical point of view, this is very much an opportunity of redemption for Man City and a perfect opportunity for Man Utd.
It’s been an awful campaign for Guardiola in my opinion, results wise it makes for bleak reading. He does have questions to answer and this is the perfect opportunity to lift spirits and to do the double over Mourinho in the league. Meanwhile Man Utd who have also been shocking in the league as a whole should smell blood, with a trophy in the cabinet and a European semi-final, positivity should be coming out of Old Trafford and inflicting damage on their rivals will create such momentum you’d struggle to see the Red Devils losing until the end of the season.
In terms of the game and result we’re likely to see, I think it could be a very sporadic match filled with high and low tempo periods where Mourinho will keep it compact and take the pace out of the game during spells but equally look to exploit space through Rashford and Mkhitaryan who’s direct running can get United up the pitch. I can see Pep being bold in his approach so it points to there being a few goals so my prediction is a 2-1 Manchester City win.
What are your predictions? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Ben Sutherland