After a brilliant weekend of action in the Premier League's Matchday 16, it's hard to imagine an encore living up to its predecessor. How could Week 17 top Manchester City beating Arsenal, 6-3? Or Liverpool demolishing Tottenham, 5-0?
Truth be told, it probably can't, but that doesn't mean there aren't some truly intriguing games on tap, including, of course, a heavyweight bout between table-leading Arsenal and Chelsea.
Below, you'll find all of my Week 17 predictions, including a closer look at some of the biggest matchups of the matchday.
|Liverpool||Cardiff City||Liverpool win, 3-0|
|Crystal Palace||Newcastle||Newcastle win, 1-0|
|Fulham||Manchester City||City win, 2-0|
|Manchester United||West Ham||Manchester United win, 2-0|
|Stoke City||Aston Villa||Draw, 1-1|
|Sunderland||Norwich City||Sunderland win, 1-0|
|West Brom||Hull City||Draw, 1-1|
|Southampton||Tottenham||Southampton win, 1-0|
|Swansea City||Everton||Everton win, 1-0|
|Arsenal||Chelsea||Arsenal win, 2-1|
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Without question, this is the biggest game of the week, and you could make the argument that for a struggling Arsenal side, it might be the biggest game of their season.
After drawing against Everton and losing to Napoli and Manchester City in their last three matchups, the Gunners need to not only do a bit of course correction but also prove to themselves that they can win against the tougher Premier League sides on the schedule, especially at home.
For Chelsea, the goal is simple—go ahead of Arsenal on the league table.
Arsenal have a slight advantage in that they'll come into the match on nine days rest, while Chelsea had a mid-week Capital One Cup tie against Sunderland. That's vital for Arsenal, which have seen a few of their primary players become a bit rundown to a busy schedule and injuries along the way to key contributors.
Chelsea's defense has also been suspect of late, though you might say the same for Arsenal after they allowed six goals to Manchester City.
The key for Arsenal is likely going to be Theo Walcott, as the speedy winger gives the Gunners a lot of pace out wide and another goal-scoring threat as well, which he proved with a brace against the Citizens.
For Chelsea, picking out the right striker may ultimately be the key. Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba haven't inspired a ton of confidence this year, so any major contribution from the position could be enough to sink the Gunners.
At home, desperate for a win and to stay atop the table, Arsenal should be given the smallest of advantages. But this game promises to be excellent no matter which way it goes.
Prediction: Arsenal win, 2-1
Tottenham vs. Southampton
After losing 5-0 against Liverpool in Matchday 16, Tottenham sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas. Now, the team has another stiff test having to travel to Southampton.
It's unclear whether a new manager will be able to inspire Spurs to score from open play or generally improve an attack that has managed to score just 15 goals on the season, a dreadful mark from a side that was supposed to be a title contender this season.
Meanwhile, Southampton have regressed a bit after an extremely strong start to the season, but they've lost just one game at home all season and are tied with Everton for the fewest goals conceded (15) on the season.
Given Tottenham's recent upheaval at manager, the team's inability to create goals and Southampton's stingy defense and home form, you have all the signs of a Southampton victory.
Prediction: Southampton win, 1-0
Other Games of Note
Everton against Swansea could be a fun game, as both teams have some firepower, but neither regularly find themselves in shootouts. Everton have been excellent defensively and have really embraced Roberto Martinez's style of play, while Swansea are known for their aesthetically pleasing, ball-control tactics.
We all know how devastating Manchester City are at home, but will they have an emotional letdown at Fulham after smoking Arsenal? Remember, this is the team that has lost to Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Sunderland on the road—crazier things have happened than City losing to Fulham.