We’re lucky enough this week to have a full schedule of Premier League matches on Tuesday and Wednesday. Teams have now passed the halfway mark in their seasons as the table continues to take shape.
The January transfer window gives teams an opportunity to bring in more players who will have a part to play in the dramatic production that will be the second half of the season. Teams at the bottom will be hoping to add that bit of attacking quality or defensive structure that they have been lacking. The relegation chase this season should be particularly interesting, as this year has seen an unprecedented level of spending in the Premier League. But what is different now is that the lower table teams are in some cases doing just as much wheeling and dealing as the top teams. The Premier League’s lucrative TV contract means that even Bournemouth and Swansea City can spend big in an attempt to push up the table. Those who don’t spend as much, or make bad purchases, could find themselves playing in the Championship next August.
Without further ado, here are my predictions for Match Day 21 in the Premier League.
(All times EST)
Crystal Palace at Aston Villa (2:45 PM)
It’s hard to believe that a team’s season can effectively be over by January, but that’s the case with Aston Villa. Nothing will save the Villains from relegation this season. These are truly dark days for Aston Villa, a club that has never been relegated from the Premier League. Villa drew 1-1 with League Two club Wycombe in the FA Cup at the weekend, causing things to get ugly after the game. Villa fans abused their players and staff as they walked off the field and later onto the team bus. There was a surreal moment where captain Micah Richards confronted Villa fans who had made the trip and attempted to soothe their grievances. Manager Remi Garde today called on Villa owner Randy Lerner to break his silence and address the concerns of the fans. Much of the problems at the club can be traced back to poor decision making and spending by ownership. You won’t be surprised to hear that Lerner is also the owner of the Cleveland Browns, he’s gotten pretty good at ruining sports teams.
Prediction: Palace 3-1 Villa
West Ham at Bournemouth (2:45 PM)
West Ham will be riding high after they dismantled Liverpool in their last Premier League match, but they still have injury issues. Manuel Lanzini aggravated a thigh injury in that game and will be out six weeks, and the Hammers could also be without Cheikhou Kouyate and Enner Valencia. Meanwhile Bournemouth will have some reinforcements for their squad as new signings Benik Afobe and Juan Iturbe should be available for this game. West Ham have not done a good job of following up big results with wins this season, and I think they may fall asleep on Bournemouth just a bit. New faces for the Cherries in attack will inspire a bit of creativity and lead them to victory.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 West Ham
Manchester United at Newcastle (2:45 PM)
A snoozefest in the FA Cup against Sheffield United has not done anything to improve manager Louis Van Gaal’s standing among Manchester United fans. Anything other than a win against Newcastle could spell the end of Van Gaal’s time at Old Trafford. Newcastle probably should’ve beaten Arsenal last week, but couldn’t find the back of the net from multiple chances inside the box. Desperation for United will get them a goal and a win, but it won’t be pretty.
Prediction: Man United 1-0 Newcastle
West Brom at Chelsea (2:45 PM)
Chelsea are undefeated in four games following the replacement of Jose Mourinho with Guus Hiddink, but they still sit in 14th place, 13 points behind the Top Four. This needs to be three points if the Blues are to make a realistic push for a spot in Europe next season. West Brom won’t bow out of the way easily. Tony Pulis is sort of like the English Mourinho in the way he sets his teams up, focusing on restricting space and beating teams with long balls and set pieces. They’ll park the bus a bit to do it, but I think West Brom will take a point at Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Chelsea
Everton at Manchester City (2:45 PM)
Manchester City have lost five matches this year, the most of any team currently in the Top Four. They’ve fooled around a bit but are only three points behind league leaders Arsenal. It’s a weird situation at City now, manager Manuel Pellegrini knows that the job won’t be his next year, even if they win the title. Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed that he wants to manage in England, and he’s been heavily linked to Manchester City. Pellegrini is a professional and won’t let the Guardiola rumors bother him like they might another manager. I think City’s offensive firepower will prove too much for an Everton team that can be defensively challenged at times.
Prediction: Man City 4-2 Everton
Watford at Southampton (2:45 PM)
These are two teams going in opposite directions. A few years ago, Southampton were in Watford’s position. They were the new team in the Premier League who were taking scalps from the big clubs and establishing themselves in the top flight as more than just a relegation candidate. Now as Watford fly, Southampton sink. The Saints have only won one of their last eight matches, putting Ronald Koeman under pressure for the first time during his spell in management on the South Coast. Problems between Koeman and striker Sadio Mane will not help things. With the goals drying up, Saints will need Mane or Graziano Pelle to get back to their form of last season. Watford have been unlucky against some of the big clubs lately, but I expect them to handle Southampton here.
Prediction: Watford 2-0 Southampton
Norwich City at Stoke City (2:45 PM)
Norwich City are probably the least talked about team in the Premier League this season. They don’t get blown out and have done a job of positioning themselves to stay above the relegation battle. Alex Neil deserves credit as this edition of the Canaries looks much more defensively sound than the Norwich team that was relegated from the Premiership in 2014. Stoke have hopes of qualifying for the Europa League, but they’ll need to be more consistent. They’ve got much more offensive firepower than Norwich, and that should be enough to get the result in this one.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Norwich
Sunderland at Swansea City (2:45 PM)
Sunderland are used to being in a relegation scrap, Swansea City are not. Since the Swans were promoted to the Premier League in 2011 they have never finished below 12th, but they will this season. Swansea are just two points clear of safety and are coming off a shocking 3-2 defeat to League Two side Oxford United in the FA Cup. Alan Curtis has been appointed Swansea boss until the end of the season, something which Swansea fans are not happy about. Sunderland fans on the other hand are fully behind Sam Allardyce, who knows what it takes to keep a team in the Premier League. The difference between these two sides will be the ability to finish chances, and Sunderland have Jermain Defoe, one of the best finishers the Premiership has ever seen.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-0 Swansea City
Leicester City at Tottenham (3:00 PM)
In a couple weeks time these teams are going to be sick of each other. Spurs and Leicester played to a 2-2 tie in the FA Cup on Sunday, meaning the two teams will play a replay in Leicester next Tuesday. Before the cup business can be settled they will face each other as the second placed and fourth placed teams respectively. Mauricio Pochettino’s training methods have turned Tottenham into the fittest team in the Premier League, and they were able to rotate significantly for the cup match on Sunday. I think Spurs will be a bit fresher and will catch a tired Leicester team out with their high pressure system. Even if Jamie Vardy plays for Leicester, he’s not anywhere near the player that Harry Kane is for Tottenham.
Prediction: Spurs 3-1 Leicester
Arsenal at Liverpool (3:00 PM)
This should be the marquee match-up of the league this week, but these two historically big clubs have not been at their best lately. Liverpool haven’t won by a scoreline other than 1-0 since November when they beat Manchester City. Arsenal are only a couple weeks removed from being smashed 4-0 by Southampton, and they did not deserve their narrow win against Newcastle. This game should see the leaders get back to form and the distance between Liverpool and the Top Four increase. It’s usually a problem for Arsenal, but right now there are just too many injuries for Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge is the definition of being made of glass, but on top of his usual issues Coutinho, Henderson, Lovren, Skrtel, Ibe and more are also unavailable for Liverpool. It’s a shame because this would have been a good game had Arsenal not sent Jack Wilshere and his injury bug to infect those at Anfield.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Liverpool