English Premier League: Latest EPL Rumors, Preview and Predictions for Week 31
Players from around the Premier League will return from international duty this week and begin preparing for the season's stretch run. Although Manchester United have all but clinched the title, there's still plenty to decide elsewhere in the table.
Manchester City should grab one of the other Champions League spots. Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal are battling for a berth in next season's marquee club event. Everton is also lurking if a couple of those squads slip up down the stretch.
The Europa League is the consolation prize, but still better than missing European play altogether. It's definitely more appealing than the challenge facing QPR, Reading and Wigan, which currently sit in the relegation zone and need a strong finish to survive.
So it should be an intriguing sprint to the finish despite the fact United have run away from the pack. Let's analyze some of the latest rumors from around the league, followed by previews and predictions for the week ahead.
Luis Suarez Latest
The race to land Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is already beginning to heat up. He leads the Premier League with 22 goals and is drawing interest from top clubs across Europe, which puts the Reds in a tough spot heading into the summer.
John Edwards of the Daily Mail reports Bayern Munich are emerging as the favorites to land the 26-year-old superstar because Pep Guardiola's brother is serving as an agent for Suarez. Juventus and Barcelona are also mentioned as interested clubs.
Liverpool would love to keep their main asset as they seek a return to the Champions League. Alas, with so many top-tier sides lining up to make a run at him once the season ends, the Reds have to be realistic. As for Suarez, he's got the skill set necessary to thrive anywhere in Europe.
Barcelona Tracking City Stars
Manchester City can't be pleased with their title defense. After winning the championship on a thrilling final match day last year, the club is 15 points out of first with 10 matches left. It could signal some changes on the horizon during the offseason.
Barcelona appear ready to help that process, reports John Cross of the Daily Mirror. He states the La Liga superpower is tracking Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany as potential transfer options depending on how the market falls.
Both players continue to play key roles for City, but Aguero has struggled to match his goal-scoring output from last season. If the club does decide to overhaul the roster before next season, Barca would be an ideal landing spot for the duo.
Match of the Week: Swansea vs. Tottenham
This week's Premier League action doesn't feature a truly marquee matchup. No battles between Champions League contenders and a lot of mismatches, at least on paper. So Tottenham's quest to get back on track takes center stage against a dangerous Swansea side.
While the Jacks are a distant ninth in the table, they did capture the Capital One Cup after eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea along the way. Michu has been the club's driving force, scoring 15 goals in league play. No other Swansea player has more than five.
It's crucial that Tottenham walk away from the match with three points. They have dropped three straight matches, including a very disappointing 1-0 home loss to Fulham the last time out, and are quickly losing their grip on a Champions League spot.
Sunderland vs. Manchester United
The Red Devils have an FA Cup match with Chelsea on Monday, which means Sir Alex Ferguson may choose to shake his lineup for this clash. Still, he won't go completely overboard knowing United doesn't want to give City even a glimmer of hope in the title chase.
Prediction: 2-0 Manchester United
Arsenal vs. Reading
Arsenal understands their margin for error in order to qualify for the Champions League is extremely small. That means home matches against clubs currently sitting in the relegation zone are must-wins at this point in the campaign. The Gunners will deliver.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United
City should be able to take advantage of a shaky Newcastle back line that ranks near the bottom of the Premier League in goals allowed. The second-place squad hopes United slips up before their upcoming clash to open the door for a late run.
Prediction: 3-0 Manchester City
Southampton vs. Chelsea
Southampton was able to fight back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a draw in the first league match between the two sides this season. The Blues probably won't be as forgiving this time around as they try to put some distance between themselves and Tottenham.
Prediction: 2-0 Chelsea
Swansea City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Speaking of the Spurs, it will be interesting to see if Gareth Bale and Co. can get back on track after their recent skid. Now that teams are focusing their defensive efforts on Bale, Tottenham needs other players like Clint Dempsey to step up.
Prediction: 2-1 Tottenham
West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion
Even though West Brom have put together a strong campaign, in large part due to the emergence of Romelu Lukaku, they haven't been nearly as effective on the road. That should allow West Ham to earn at least a point as they look to avoid a relegation battle.
Wigan Athletic vs. Norwich City
Wigan have their sights set on Aston Villa with a match in hand and three points away from safety. If they want to catch Villa, or another club near the bottom of the table, they can't afford to drop points in their remaining winnable home matches.
Prediction: 2-1 Wigan
Everton vs. Stoke City
Everton have quietly gotten back in contention for Europe after a slide dropped them out of the picture for awhile. As always, the Toffees will need to be patent as they attempt to break down the strong Stoke back line, but they should be able to earn all three points.
Prediction: 1-0 Everton
Sunday and Monday Predictions
Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
Liverpool remain on the fringe of contending for a European spot, which makes a match with an equally desperate Aston Villa side intriguing. The break gave the Reds time to recover after a loss to Southampton and they should bounce back strong.
Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool
Fulham vs. Queens Park Rangers
Dimitar Berbatov has been a solid addition for Fulham, but the lack of support for the veteran striker is why Fulham sits in 10th place. QPR is looking to make one last push toward getting out of the bottom three and should steal a point on the road.