The Battle To Thrive And The Battle To Survive In This Weekend’s Premier League
With the destination of the Premier League title already known, and Manchester City ready to accept presentation of the aforementioned honour before their game this weekend at home to Huddersfield Town, you may be forgiven for thinking that there wasn’t much likely to happen over the final two weeks of the season in the Premier League.
However, you would be wrong as there is sure to be drama at both ends of the table this weekend, with the Battle to Thrive seeing three teams in a dogfight for two of the remaining Champions League spots in the table (behind Manchester City and Manchester United), while there are at least half a dozen clubs involved in the Battle to Survive at the foot of the table, attempting to avoid the unpleasant and costly drop into the Championship.
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So with that in mind, how is this weekend in the Premier League shaping up with these two massive battles in mind?
Battle to Thrive – The Race for 3rd & 4th
West Brom v Tottenham Hotspur (Sat 3pm)
Chelsea v Liverpool (Sun 4.30pm)
Manchester United have joined Manchester City in confirming their participation in the Champions League for next season and that just leaves two qualifying spots open in the Premier League. For a long time, it looked like Liverpool and Tottenham had these spots sewn up, but a drop in league performances in recent weeks, combined with the improved form of Chelsea in fifth means that the London side still have an outside chance of clinching a top four berth.
Chelsea must win all of their remaining three games and hope one or both of Liverpool and Tottenham fail to get the requisite results they need to get to the 75-point benchmark they need to ensure qualification (both sides have a markedly better goal difference than Chelsea).
Spurs face a tricky test on Saturday against a West Brom side that have hit their best run of form of the season with two wins and two draws in their last four, including a win at Old Trafford and a draw at Anfield. Spurs form of late isn’t great with a real mix of displays in recent times but if they can get a win here, they’ll take a massive step towards securing Champions League football again in 2018-2019.
But the biggest game comes at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea take on third placed Liverpool. The Blues do have a game in hand on the reds, but are six points behind, so a win here plus a win in their game in hand, could see that deficit close. However, Liverpool do have a massively better goal difference which means that a win over Brighton at Anfield on the last day should still be enough.
However, with the Reds having claimed a place in the Champions League final in the week despite a 4-2 defeat at AS Roma, they will be in great spirits here and they know a draw or a win at Stamford Bridge, a ground where they have not lost on their last three visits, would be enough to secure their Champions League qualification next season, and enable them to rest key players in their final home game against Brighton if they so wish.
Tips: Spurs recent form isn’t great and West Brom are fighting for their lives, but I believe this is where the Baggies fightback will end and I think Spurs will get the win here. You can back them at 4/9 with Coral, though I’d be tempted to double that up with Chelsea and Liverpool battling out a draw at Stamford Bridge (a 5/2 shot). A £10 bet on that double would return you £50.60.
Battle to Survive – Avoiding Relegation
Stoke City v Crystal Palace (Sat 12.30pm)
West Brom v Tottenham (Sat 3pm)
Bournemouth v Swansea (Sat 3pm)
Leicester City v West Ham (Sat 3pm)
Everton v Southampton (Sat 5.30pm)
Manchester City v Huddersfield Town (Sun 1.30pm)
The relegation battle in the Premier League is still massively complicated and any team from 11th downward is still mathematically possible to be relegated (although for the teams on 38 points, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Watford, that is unlikely).
The teams in real danger include West Brom, Stoke and Southampton who currently occupy the relegation places with West Brom needing at least two wins, plus Swansea to lose all their last three games while Stoke also need two wins to give themselves maximum chance of survival. Southampton are just a point behind Swansea and both of these teams have three games remaining, as do Huddersfield and West Ham.
Stoke get the action underway on Saturday at home to a Crystal Palace side that know one more point will secure their place in the Premier League and who are high in confidence having thrashed Leicester City 5-0 last weekend. We already know West Brom face a tough home game with Spurs, while Southampton kick off in the late evening game on Saturday with a trip to Everton, a team they beat 4-1 at St Mary’s earlier in the season.
Swansea face a trip to Bournemouth to face Eddie Howe’s team who have lost their last three, while West Ham head north to the out-of-sorts Leicester City, who were thumped last week and have lost their form of late, with rumours of player unhappiness with manager Claude Puel.
Then on Sunday we have arguably the biggest mismatch in Premier League history with the mega-wealthy champions Manchester City taking on the relative paupers Huddersfield Town at the Etihad in a game where Huddersfield are an incredible 40/1 with some bookmakers to win this game, such is City’s expected dominance.
Tip – This is a real tangle of games battlng against relegation but I think the best bets here are for the Stoke v Crystal Palace game to end in a draw (23/10), the Bournemouth v Swansea game to also end in a draw (12/5) and for Southampton to steal a narrow win at Everton (6/4). A £10 bet on that treble would return you a very nice £280.50 if the bet is a winner.