Liverpool's clash with Arsenal at Anfield, Tottenham Hotspur's game against Everton at White Hart Lane and the meeting between bottom-placed Sunderland and high-flying Manchester City highlight the Premier League fixtures in Week 27.
Liverpool and Arsenal's fixture is sure to have major implications in the race for a top-four finish. Both teams need points after falling off the pace in the title race while also being put under pressure by an in-form Manchester United.
It's a similar story for Spurs, who are trying to stay viable in the pursuit of leaders Chelsea. Tottenham are 10 points behind their London rivals but will want to at least cement second place against an Everton side looking to keep up with United.
If Spurs come unstuck against the Toffees, City will be keen to take advantage by heaping more misery on relegation-threatened Sunderland. The Citizens could cut the gap to Chelsea to eight points and also have a game in hand.
Every member of the chasing pack will hope Chelsea stumble in a tricky fixture at West Ham United's London Stadium. Here's the full list of fixtures, along with picks and predictions:
|Premier League Fixtures Week 27: Picks and Predictions|
|Saturday. March 4||12:30 p.m./7:30 a.m.||Manchester United vs. Bournemouth||United||2-1|
|Saturday, March 4||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Leicester City vs. Hull City||Leicester||2-0|
|Saturday, March 4||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Stoke City vs. Middlesbrough||City||1-0|
|Saturday, March 4||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Swansea City vs. Burnley||City||2-1|
|Saturday, March 4||3 p.m./10 a.m.||Watford vs. Southampton||Watford||1-0|
|Saturday, March 4||3 p.m./10 a.m.||West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace||Draw||1-1|
|Saturday, March 4||5:30 p.m./12:30 p.m.||Liverpool vs. Arsenal||Draw||2-2|
|Sunday, March 5||1:30 p.m./8:30 a..m.||Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton||Spurs||3-1|
|Sunday, March 5||4 p.m./11 a.m.||Sunderland vs. Manchester City||City||1-4|
|Monday, March 6||8 p.m./3 p.m.||West Ham United vs. Chelsea||Draw||1-1|
Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Liverpool will still be smarting from wasting a great opportunity against Leicester City on Monday. The Reds were beaten 3-1 by the Foxes at the King Power Stadium, missing the chance to move back into the top four.
With Arsenal, City and United having no league program, the men from Merseyside had the chance to reassert their top-four credentials. However, familiar failings continue to let down manager Jurgen Klopp's team.
Specifically, issues persist across a suspect defence. It doesn't help when half the Liverpool back four is currently comprised of players who aren't natural defenders. Midfielders James Milner and Lucas Leiva are operating at left-back and centre-back, respectively.
Klopp's cause also isn't helped by injuries further forward. In particular, skipper Jordan Henderson could be a big miss in midfield, after Klopp indicated the England international's foot injury may rule him out against the Gunners, per James Andrew of MailOnline.
Arsenal have to take advantage of the holes in the Liverpool ranks, especially in defence. It will mean the Gunners getting star duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil back on track.
Sanchez will always be a threat, but Ozil has looked decidedly sluggish in recent matches. ESPN FC's Tony Evans has called on Ozil to exert his influence at Anfield: "Liverpool will press him hard at Anfield, denying him time on the ball, but the Arsenal man has the knack of being able to find space in the most congested areas. If Ozil imposes himself on the game, manager Jurgen Klopp's Reds side will have a battle on their hands."
Evans believes Ozil's form between now and the end of the season will determine not only how this campaign ends, but also the future of Arsenal's star duo and that of manager Arsene Wenger as well.
Both these teams have ample talent in forward areas to guarantee goals, but their respective defensive frailties will prevent either from getting the three points each desperately needs.
Tottenham vs. Everton
If Liverpool have injury woes defensively, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino knows how they feel. He will be sweating on the fitness of centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld before the visit of Everton.
Both defenders experienced problems during the recent 4-0 win over Stoke City. Yet Pochettino revealed how he substituted the pair merely as a precaution and remains hopeful both will be fit for Sunday, per James Olley of the London Evening Standard:
In fact, Dave Fraser of The Sun has reported Alderweireld has already received the all clear to play on Sunday.
Spurs will need their key defenders fit and available to help keep Everton’s Romelu Lukaku under wraps. The prolific Belgium international is in a three-way tie, one also featuring Tottenham’s Harry Kane, as the top scorer in the division with 17 goals, according to WhoScored.com.
Lukaku is also on the brink of breaking Duncan Ferguson’s record as Everton’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League.
Former Chelsea man Lukaku has revealed how Ferguson has been urging him to break the record, per Chris Beesley of the Liverpool Echo: “He knows it’s for a good cause, he wants me and my team-mates to win and I want to win. I’m a winner, I want to win as much as I can and score as much as I can. Then, I’m happy.”
Lukaku’s pace, power and technical quality would surely unhinge a makeshift Tottenham back line if Pochettino’s injured defenders aren’t fit enough to play.
Sunderland vs. Manchester City
City possess the firepower to heap more misery on a Sunderland side already looking resigned to the drop. The Citizens can count on marquee striker Sergio Aguero for goals now that the Argentinian is back in the starting XI.
However, it’s younger attackers such as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane who have been catching the eye lately. In particular, Sane is showing his immense potential more often as a decisive force in matches.
The German’s pace, close control and eye for the back of the net are sure to frighten a Sunderland side constantly leaking goals.
Of course, scoring them has also been a major problem for manager David Moyes’ side. His team is still too reliant on 34-year-old Jermain Defoe to win matches.
However, Defoe has scored just one in six, and Moyes is worried by the lack of service the ex-Spurs ace is getting, according to the Guardian’s Andy Hunter: “We know if we can get the ball to Jermain [Defoe] he will get a shot away or an opportunity. We are not getting him enough service but it is because we are not getting enough good ball further up the pitch."
Moyes can take heart from Sunderland upsetting City more than once in the North East during recent seasons, even if a repeat looks unlikely this time.
Those chasing Chelsea will know points are already at a premium given the Blues’ commanding lead. However, it’s the more realistic concerns, namely finishing in the top four, that are set to be impacted by results this weekend.