Does any team want the top of the Premier League table?
Chelsea entered Week 26 with the table lead after Arsenal were destroyed, 5-1, by Liverpool the previous week. Jose Mourinho's men then opened up the latest matchday with a 1-1 draw against lowly West Bromwich Albion.
This gave Arsenal the opportunity to steal the top spot back if they could earn three points against Manchester United at the Emirates. It didn't happen. Arsenal couldn't muster a single goal, and they too picked up just a single point.
Then there is Manchester City, who sit just three points back and have the clear lead in goal differential. The Citizens, however, couldn't even be bothered to play in their Wednesday match against Sunderland.
Of course, that certainly isn't their fault.
Understandably, high winds, like the kind seen in this vine from Everton, led to both Manchester City's match and the Everton-Crystal Palace showdown being called off:
At any rate, the top of the table is still wildly up for grabs. Check out the latest standings, and then let's begin the process of looking toward next week as I offer a prediction for each fixture on the docket.
|11||West Ham United||26||7||7||12||-5||28|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||26||4||12||10||-8||24|
|Date||Home Team||Predicted Score||Away Team|
|Feb. 22||Cardiff City||2-1||Hull City|
|Feb. 22||Manchester City||3-1||Stoke City|
|Feb. 22||Crystal Palace||2-2||Manchester United|
|Feb. 22||West Brom||3-2||Fulham|
|Feb. 22||West Ham||0-0||Southampton|
|Feb. 23||Liverpool||4-1||Swansea City|
|Feb. 23||Norwich City||1-2||Tottenham|
|Feb. 23||Newcastle||1-1||Aston Villa|
Chelsea vs. Everton
Chelsea responded to taking the table lead for Matchday 26 by allowing a late goal against West Brom and settling for a draw.
Manager Jose Mourinho then took that opportunity to point out his team's shortcomings. Here is the frustrated manager in a post-match quote provided by ESPN:
A complete team kills this game: 2-0, goodbye. We didn’t. For 60 minutes, only one team [was in the game] and that team couldn’t kill the game, especially in the first 15 minutes of the second half. For 10 minutes, the game was poor, and for the last 20 minutes, only one team [was in it] and that team fought a lot to get a goal and a point. I think they deserved it.
In the second half, we were not strong enough to kill the game. They had a reaction, and we couldn’t cope with the reaction. The team stayed back. We started being too deep.
I was feeling that, even if I put some attacking players on, it wouldn't help because the team were really under pressure, and it looked impossible for my defenders to get out of the first third of the pitch.
We gave them the ball and waited for them put it in our box and fight against it. But it is not our game. It's not how we feel comfortable. A lack of personality. We must have the personality to get out.
Chelsea will return home for this match, as they attempt to get quickly back on track, but will do so against an Everton side desperate for points.
Who will win?
Everton are enjoying an overachieving season, but dreams of finishing in the top four are fading. Everton's Week 26 match was postponed, but they entered the week trailing fourth-place Liverpool by five points and Tottenham by two points; both of those squads picked up a full three points in Week 26.
Despite Everton's focus being fixed on this match, I don't see Chelsea coming away with anything less than three points.
It is never easy to score on Everton, but Chelsea will only have to get one score to win this one.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Everton
Arsenal vs. Sunderland
After a scintillating start to the league, Arsenal have come back down to earth.
The Gunners are playing very well, but they've lost their lead in the table, and matches like their draw with Manchester United on Wednesday are the ones Arsenal had been able to pull three points out of earlier in the season.
What transpired, however, was a rather drab affair:
I'm not saying Arsenal v Man Utd was boring. But MOTD is showing tonight's two postponed games first.— Ian Hyland (@HylandIan) February 12, 2014
The Gunners have to find that kind of winning consistency once again if they want to stand atop the Premier League, and I fully expect them to display that spirit in this match.
Arsenal will have both an FA Cup and Champions League match between now and their league contest with Sunderland.
I believe that fatigue will keep Arsenal to just one goal. Just like it will be for Chelsea, however, one goal will be enough.
Sunderland's attack is weak, and they've scored just 25 goals this league year. On top of that, Arsenal don't allow away teams to score in Emirates. Arsenal haven't seen an opponent score on their pitch since Dec. 8.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-0 Sunderland