By Alex Greenberg
Last Sunday’s big event, The Super Bowl, kind of disappointed. It was a boring game and then afterwards we had to sit and listen to Peyton Manning force his endorsements of Budweiser and Papa Johns into his post-game interview and speech. It certainly wasn’t a classic or a game worthy of the stage it was played on.
This Sunday is the real Super Sunday. Only six points separate the top four teams in the Premier League, and those four teams are all facing off this weekend. Leicester play Arsenal at the Emirates, and Tottenham face Manchester City at the Etihad. The title could very well be decided during what is one of the Premier League’s most important weekends in recent memory.
The big game last weekend may not have panned out, but we’ve got two massive games on Sunday with just as much on the line.
Now on to my predictions for this crucial weekend of matches.
Manchester United at Sunderland (7:45 AM)
The gap between Manchester United and the teams competing for the title continues to grow. United could’ve kept pace last week but allowed Chelsea a late equalizer through Diego Costa. Any realist knows that Man U will not win the title this year, but Louis Van Gaal will still be expected to finish in the top four. Sam Allardyce spoke this week about how playing DeAndre Yedlin in Sunderland’s relegation fight is “a tough ask” due to Yedlin’s lack of experience. With Billy Jones out injured for Sunderland, expect to see the young American at right back. And expect United to go at Yedlin for the full 90 minutes. If Yedlin scores I will buy everyone who re-tweets this column a drink.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Sunderland
West Brom at Everton (10 AM)
Everton are coming off two impressive 3-0 wins over Newcastle and Stoke, while West Brom are winless since they faced that same Stoke team on January 2nd. The Baggies struggled to get past League 1 side Peterborough United midweek in the FA Cup, only going through on penalties after 120 minutes of football. West Brom’s tired legs could allow for a big night for Romelu Lukaku and for Everton.
Prediction: West Brom 0-3 Everton
Watford at Crystal Palace (10 AM)
It hasn’t been talked about that much, but Crystal Palace’s fall down the table recently has been staggering. Palace haven’t won in the Premier League since December 19th. That victory against Stoke was also the last time they scored more than one goal in a game. Palace fans turn to Emmanuel Adebayor as their last hope for much-needed goals from the striker position. Watford weren’t able to do much attacking against Spurs last weekend, but this game should be more even in terms of possession and chances. Watford are due for a bit of luck after some heartbreakingly close losses to the big teams of the Premier League this season.
Prediction: Watford 2-0 Crystal Palace
West Ham at Norwich City (10 AM)
West Ham had a bump in the road last week on their quest to qualify for a European competition this season. Victor Wanyama made a stupid challenge and got a red card, but Southampton held strong with only 10 men. Norwich’s bump in the road last weekend was more like a three-car highway pileup. The Canaries lost their fifth straight in the Premier League, this time losing to relegation fodder Aston Villa. With Newcastle’s win pushing Norwich into the relegation zone, they’ll need to produce some sort of response against the Hammers. Unfortunately for Alex Neil, I don’t think his side has defenders good enough to keep the Canaries in the Premier League. Sebastian Bassong is clearly past it and is not a Premier League caliber player anymore.
Prediction: West Ham 3-1 Norwich
Southampton at Swansea City (10 AM)
I had written Southampton off five weeks ago when they lost to Norwich for their sixth loss in eight games. I thought Ronald Koeman would end up getting sacked if his fortunes didn’t improve. Luckily for Koeman his Saints team have been one of the hottest teams in the Premier League since then. They’ve now won four of five and can look forward to playing a Swansea team that still finds themselves in a relegation battle. This should be a relatively easy win for Southampton unless Gylfi Sigurdsson can muster some more Icelandic magic in Wales.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Swansea
Stoke City at Bournemouth (10 AM)
Stoke are so unpredictable. They looked ready to challenge for European places, but now they’ve lost three games in a row by a score of 3-0. For all the talk about Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic creating things going forward, Stoke are definitely shorthanded on the defensive side of things. Bournemouth are very well coached and will at least get a point here. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Benik Afobe back on the scoresheet.
Prediction: Stoke 1-1 Bournemouth
Newcastle at Chelsea (12:30 PM)
I wish this was more of a relegation battle, but Chelsea have actually done pretty well since Guus Hiddink took over for Jose Mourinho. Hiddink hasn’t lost as Chelsea manager, but I doubt he’ll get the job next year. Chelsea may not have much to play for, but John Terry certainly does. The 34-year-old center back still has hopes of being awarded a new one-year contract at the end of this season. Somehow he’s turned back the clocks and continues to be one of Chelsea’s best defenders. With Kurt Zouma now out long term he probably is Chelsea’s best defender. Frank Lampard thinks Terry deserves a new contract…do you?
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Chelsea
Leicester City at Arsenal (7 AM)
Arsenal are really the only team who has significantly gotten the better of Leicester in the league this season. They beat Claudio Ranieri’s men 5-2 at the King Power Stadium back at the end of September. That game served as Leicester’s first defeat of the season. Arsenal didn’t defend too well in that match, but Alexis Sanchez’ hat-trick was the difference maker for the Gunners. If Sanchez can have even half of the impact he had in the last fixture, Arsenal should win. But if there’s been one takeaway from this Premier League season, it’s never to count Leicester out of a fight, even against a big side like Arsenal.
Prediction: Leicester 1-2 Arsenal
Liverpool at Aston Villa (9:05 AM)
Super Sunday is really about the other two matches that this game is sandwiched in between, but this could end up being the most dramatic of Sunday’s contests. Liverpool looked comfortable in a 2-0 lead last week, but their defensive frailties reared their ugly head again as they conceded two late goals to Sunderland. Aston Villa did something very rare last weekend, they won a game! Remi Garde deserved a bit of fortune after all that has happened to Villa this season, but Liverpool should really win this game. If they don’t win, except more anger from Liverpool fans despite Fenway Sports Group ditching their ticket price increases. I fancy Simon Migonlet and Dejan Lovren to find ways to keep Villa in the game.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-2 Aston Villa
Tottenham at Manchester City (11:15 AM)
This game changed completely when it was announced that Vincent Kompany and David Silva were going to be healthy and available for Manchester City. City with and without their Belgian captain in defense is night and day. The last time these two teams played, Spurs won 4-1 as Kompany watched injured from the sidelines. If Kompany is fully fit then this game could really go either way. Spurs defend better than Manchester City, but both teams have attacking players who are capable of producing magic at any moment. Sergio Aguero against Harry Kane, Yaya Toure against Mousa Dembele, Hugo Lloris against Joe Hart, this game has some fascinating matchups at each position on the field. There’s just something about this Spurs team. The comparisons to Redknapp’s Champions League team with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Rafael Van Der Vaart keeps coming up, but I think Mauricio Pochettino’s men this year are better. It’s not just about talent for Spurs, it’s about their mentality. I’m not sure Manchester City have that mentality this year. I’m predicting and hoping for a historic win for Tottenham.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City