It’s remarkable how quickly this Premier League season has flown by.
It only seems like yesterday that we were all hotly anticipating the start of a brand new campaign after a summer of seismic change on the Premier League landscape. And now, as we approach Week 36, we’re getting closer and closer to finding out who’ll end up with what when the curtain comes down.
Looking back to that opening weekend, I doubt there would have been many predicting that Liverpool would be five points clear at the summit with just three games remaining. The Reds showcased their battling qualities again in Week 35 with a hard-earned 3-2 victory against Norwich City, capitalising on Chelsea’s lapse as they lost 2-1 at home to Sunderland.
Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho will meet at Anfield in what promises to be an intriguing contest on Sunday, with Liverpool knowing a win over Chelsea virtually guarantees the title.
After their win at Carrow Road, Rodgers spoke of how the players took inspiration from Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall and how his team are relishing the pressure of the title race per BBC Sport:
She talked about stress—it can prove difficult but can also offer you great determination to fight.
Those were words we gave the players before the game. We stuck them on the wall.
It is a club that is as one at the moment—and we are all fighting to achieve the ultimate goal
Manchester City are just about hanging on in the title race and face a tough task when travelling to Selhurst Park to take on an in-form Crystal Palace team.
Elsewhere, Everton can move into fourth place with a victory over Southampton in Saturday’s early kick-off. The Toffees triumphed over their former boss David Moyes and his Manchester United team in Week 35, and they will be looking to put the pressure on Arsenal, who face Newcastle at the Emirates on Monday night.
Down at the bottom, Sunderland host Cardiff City in a game where both sides must win to keep their survival hopes alive. Fulham will be hoping to put pressure on Norwich when they host Hull City with the Canaries travelling to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United.
Here are your Week 36 fixtures and predictions ahead of what promises to be a thrilling finish to the Premier League:
|Premier League Fixtures: Week 36|
|Southampton vs. Everton||26 April 2014||12:45 p.m.||0-2|
|Fulham vs. Hull||26 April 2014||3 p.m.||1-0|
|Stoke vs. Tottenham||26 April 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Swansea vs. Aston Villa||26 April 2014||3 p.m.||1-0|
|West Brom vs. West Ham||26 April 2014||3 p.m.||1-1|
|Manchester United vs Norwich||26 April 2014||5:30 p.m.||2-0|
|Sunderland vs. Cardiff||27 April 2014||12 p.m.||1-0|
|Liverpool vs. Chelsea||27 April 2014||2:05 p.m.||3-1|
|Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City||27 April 2014||4:10 p.m.||0-1|
|Arsenal vs. Newcastle||28 April 2014||8: p.m.||3-0|
Southampton vs. Everton
The Toffees aren’t giving up on their Champions League dream just yet. After falling to a 3-2 defeat against Crystal Palace, many expected Everton to falter against a Manchester United team that were in-form and well-rested.
But Roberto Martinez’s team put on a clinic in counter-attacking football, and the 2-0 scoreline flattered the Red Devils. Now, Everton go to Southampton knowing a win would not only guarantee European football for next season, but three points on the south coast would see them move back above Arsenal and into fourth.
The Saints could well be there for the taking, too. They are marooned in mid-table and have little to play for—in their last three games they’ve failed to win and scored just once, per WhoScored.com. The terrible injury to Jay Rodriguez seems to have affected them too and Everton should look to take advantage.
Martinez’s men have great incentive going into this one, and while Southampton are a very capable outfit, the Toffees should be too strong here. Especially with the Champions League still a very attainable target.
Prediction: Southampton 0-2 Everton
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Week 35 probably couldn’t have gone any better for Liverpool. Fabio Borini, the man on loan at Sunderland from Anfield, scored a late penalty to sink Chelsea and the Reds took advantage at Norwich with a gritty 3-2 win.
As The Times' Oliver Kay touches on here, it was not the first time this season a Liverpool loanee has sunk Chelsea:
With just three games to go and a five-point buffer, the league leaders would have to endure a serious collapse if they were to relinquish their grip on the Premier League title now. And having overcome a host of tests in their remarkable 11-game winning run, it’s difficult to see that momentum ceasing. They play with a fluency and swagger that makes them so pleasing on the eye, but there’s also a steel that makes the team so difficult to beat.
The same perhaps cannot be said of Chelsea. They were attritional and restrictive in their attacking against Sunderland, while a rash lapse in concentration gave the Black Cats the opportunity to seize victory. Mourinho launched a sarcastic attack on the referee, per Dominic Fifield in The Guardian, but the cold, hard truth is that his team were simply not good enough to beat a side at the bottom of the Premier League.
Everything points towards a Liverpool win here. They are confident and clinical at the moment, while Chelsea seem ponderous and a little distracted by their Champions League exploits. Liverpool will win comfortably, virtually guaranteeing the Premier League title.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Chelsea
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City
What a run the Eagles have put together under Tony Pulis. Their victory at West Ham was their fifth in succession, and they are a team that look to be playing with freedom and fluency now their Premier League status is guaranteed.
Palace are a seriously impressive outfit. They defend with unyielding diligence and commitment, while attacking with pace and adventure on the break. Pulis has fashioned an extremely cohesive team, and they will be looking to continue their winning run when Manchester City roll up on Sunday. Their latest run is their best since 1992:
City know they simply must win to stand any chance of hauling themselves back into title contention. The loss at Anfield and draw against Sunderland means they’re rank outsiders at this juncture, but they need to keep the pressure on Liverpool and Chelsea. As we’ve seen already with Sunderland’s exploits at Stamford Bridge, big upsets are not out of the question at this stage of the season.
I think City will grind a result out here. Sergio Aguero is returning to full fitness, and he—together with the mesmeric David Silva—will be key to City unpicking the stingy Palace back line.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-1 Manchester City