Michael Bocking gets to grips with this weekend's Premier League & FA Cup action and gives us the lowdown on what to expect.
Michael Bocking gets to grips with this weekend’s Premier League and FA Cup action and gives us the lowdown on what to expect..
Man City V Stoke, 12h45
After putting up very little resistance against Spurs on Monday night, Stoke come into matchday 35 devoid of optimism against a resurgent Man City team. The De Bruyne/Agüero partnership will be exciting City fans and a certain Catalonian gentlemen in Bavaria alike. After a heavy loss and Shaqiri injured, Hughes will surely resort to Stoke 1.0; expect big tackles, long throw-ins and tall strikers. Prediction: Man City 3-0 Stoke
Aston Villa V Southampton, 15h
Winner of the ‘least exciting game of the weekend’ award here with the hopeless Villa facing off against the increasingly dull Saints, whom look cemented into a respectable 8th position. A year ago Villa were brilliant in an FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool with that enigmatic, gilet-wearing cockney Tim Sherwood on the sideline. After confirming their relegation into the Championship and removing that ‘weight off their shoulders’ expect the talent of this Villa team to really start to shine through. Prediction: Villa 0-2 Southampton
Bournemouth V Chelsea, 15h
It must be difficult for Chelsea fans watching former players Lukaku and De Bruyne doing so well in the Premier League considering the ongoing poor performances of the current side. Bournemouth have exceeded all expectations this season and manager Eddie Howe deserves all the praise given to him; the Cherries will be hoping a club with bigger resources do not come calling for the young, talented English manager. Chelsea are 13 points behind top four and the incoming manager has a lot of work to do to turn this group of questionable-characters into a title-challenging team.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea
Liverpool V Newcastle, 15h
This used to be a saliva-inducing fixture in years gone past but now represents an example of two poorly managed football clubs whose fans have suffered due to the poor decision-making of those behind the scenes. However, if Jürgen Klopp can make James Milner look like a silky, gifted footballer as he did in the mid-week derby victory over Everton, then anything is possible. Newcastle look a lot more solid under Rafa in what will be an emotional return to Anfield for the Spaniard. If they had appointed Benitez earlier in the season then the Magpies would surely be in a much more comfortable position.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Newcastle
Sunderland V Arsenal, 14h05
Sunderland were clinical against Norwich last week and will surely get chances against this fragile Arsenal team. Whether their defence can withstand the Gunners’ attacking talent is the real issue and with Alexis Sanchez in a particular rich vein of form with 5 goals in his last 4 games this could get ugly for the black cats. Without even their silver-lining of a guaranteed finish above Spurs, this season has been disappointing for the Gunners even if they hold onto 3rd place. Fans have spoken with their wallets and tickets in the mid-week fixture against West Brom were available on general sale; the owner may start paying attention if his most important number, profit, comes under risk. Prediction: Sunderland 0- 3 Arsenal
Leicester V Swansea, 16h
Leicester were lucky last week after a series of controversial refereeing decisions finished with the softest of soft penalties falling in their favour. With Vardy out for this game and Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea still to come in the league, the pressure really is on Leicester to win this game and if last week serves as an indicator, they may be starting to crack. Have Swansea got zero, one or two managers? I’m not sure anybody truly knows but they have reached the magical 40 point mark and will start planning some changes for next year. Mahrez has been quiet for a couple of weeks and needs a big performance with Vardy out and he has produced goals and assists when it matters this year so don’t be surprised if he does it again. Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Swansea
Tottenham V West Brom, 21h
West Brom face a short trip to White Hart Lane following their mid-week defeat against Arsenal and judging by their lackluster performance against the Gunners, there is little hope for them against the increasingly impressive Spurs. Kane and Ali’s combination play has been excellent throughout the season and was at its pinnacle against Stoke in their 4-0 victory on Monday night. There looks set to be at least 4 Spurs players in the England side that kicks off against Russia on June 11th. The Baggies held Spurs to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture earlier this season and even had more shots on goal than the North London team but this Spurs team has upped a gear since then. Prediction: Spurs 2-0 West Brom
Everton V Manchester United
After an embarrassing 4-0 defeat against local rivals Liverpool on Wednesday, this FA Cup Semi-final is the last chance for Roberto Martinez to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans this year. United have won their last three games and have already beaten the Toffees once in April with Anthony Martial bagging the only goal at Old Trafford. United’s young Frenchman has been combining well with local lad Marcus Rashford but that looks set to be ruined by the return of captain Wayne Rooney. Martinez will face higher expectations if he remains at Goodison Park next year with a new Billionaire owner pledging to invest heavily in the ageing squad. Both managers will fear for their jobs at the end of the season and a FA Cup victory may save them so expect a cagey affair at Wembley. Prediction Everton 1-1 Manchester United (United through on pens)
Crystal Palace V Watford
After pretty much securing their premier league position for next season following a solid 1-1 draw against Arsenal last week, Crystal Palace will be able to focus on their big day at Wembley. They will look to show the attacking flair and defensive solidarity that was present at the beginning of the year with Yannick Bolasie and Yohan Cabaye needing a big performance against the tactically astute Watford. The Hornets have been safe in the league for a long time now and it may have affected their league performances but their victory in the quarter final against Arsenal was very impressive. Quique Sánchez Flores has a strong record in cup competitions winning the Europa League with Atlético Madrid and missing out on a Copa Del Rey with the same club but Pardew has a long history in the FA Cup with Palace. Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Watford