EPL Week 31 Predictions: Premier League Picks, Key Players and FixturesMarch 11, 2019
Week 31 of the 2018-19 Premier League season will feature just five matches due to FA Cup commitments, but title hopefuls Liverpool and top-four chasers Chelsea will still be in action.
The Reds visit Fulham before Chelsea face Everton, both on Sunday.
The likes of Newcastle United, Leicester City and West Ham United will be in action on Saturday. Here's a look at the fixture list, complete with predictions:
Saturday, March 16
Bournemouth 1-1 Newcastle
Burnley 2-1 Leicester
West Ham 1-0 Huddersfield
Sunday, March 17
Fulham 0-3 Liverpool
Everton 1-2 Chelsea
Eden Hazard, Chelsea
If there was any doubt regarding Hazard's importance to the Blues, the Belgian reminded everyone with an excellent solo goal that salvaged a late draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in Week 30.
That strike took his total production tally up to a career-best in the Premier League, highlighting how good he's been this season:
Wolves easily handled the Blues for much of the contest, as Maurizio Sarri's refusal to adapt to his opponents once again held his side back. He finally made a formation switch and introduced Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after the break, and it's no coincidence the hosts improved almost immediately.
Will the manager learn his lesson ahead of the Everton match? It's doubtful, and that means Hazard could be called on again to make the difference. The Toffees have struggled for consistency, but at their best they're capable of making life hard on just about any club and did so against Liverpool in the last Merseyside derby.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Liverpool
Sunday's visit to Fulham falls in between key contests against Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur, and if Reds manager Jurgen Klopp is smart, he'll use the opportunity to rest his starters for the season's stretch run.
The Reds trail Manchester City by a single point in the standings, and full-back Andy Robertson highlighted the importance of every single match still to come:
Liverpool FC @LFC
"The position we’re in now, one point behind with eight games to go, if we perform like that – especially with our attitude – then it’ll stand us in good stead." @andrewrobertso5 looks ahead to the final eight @premierleague games with excitement: https://t.co/jeTJLT0CeZ https://t.co/kAa3Kua5DC
While that's true, keeping your key players fresh is vital. Fulham have lost six straight and 10 of their last 11 matches―if ever there was a time to rest some members of the regular starting XI, this would be it.
If Klopp does rotate, Shaqiri will likely get his first start since January. The Swiss international has enjoyed a solid season at Anfield, doing more than enough to earn the trust of Klopp as a starter if needed.
He should feast against a poor Fulham side if he's 100 per cent healthy, and with a strong showing he would give the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino some much-needed rest ahead of the coming weeks.