With Matchday 14 being packed full of Derbies, Brand ambassador Michael Owen shared his thoughts exclusively with BetVictor on this weekends fixtures.
This round reaches its climax on Sunday, when Liverpool host Everton at Anfield in this weekends final game. Everton are sure to make it a competitive fixture, but with the Reds being unbeaten, it will take a monumental effort from the Toffeemen to inflict a first loss of the campaign, especially in front of the Kop.
Crystal Palace v Burnley
If the table is to be believed Palace and Burnley are equally matched, with both teams sitting on nine points. Admittedly the Eagles are coming off a very tough set of fixtures and picking up draws with Manchester United and Arsenal is far superior form to anything shown by the Lancashire outfit. The visitors have failed to win during their last six games but did pick up two draws . Mondays 2-1 home loss to Newcastle was frustrating but after going 2 down quickly the Clarets created a host of chances and were perhaps a little unlucky not to claim a late point. Any side managed by Sean Dyche are certainly not going to lack fight or character and Burnley will not let recent results affect confidence. Last years good form was based on narrow wins with organised football and I see no reason why they cant secure at least a draw from Selhurst Park.
Michaels prediction: Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Burnley
Huddersfield v Brighton
The unexpected but fully deserved success at Wolves last weekend has certainly lifted spirits considerably in West Yorkshire and with Town moving out of the bottom three they will have gained a huge psychological bonus. They will hope to capitalise on that feel-good factor at home to Brighton, but Rome wasnt built in a day and The Terriers may struggle to back that win up. Arguably an early goal and the ability to play counter attacking football played into Towns hands at Wolves but back at the Kirklees Stadium they may have to take the initiative and have been unable to break opponents down there this season. Brighton havent convinced away this term and their mid table position has been achieved with reasonable home form. Huddersfield still find scoring tough and with Albion unlikely to over commit this game has all the makings of a dour encounter. A draw would not be too bad for either.
Michaels prediction: Huddersfield 0 – 0 Brighton
Leicester v Watford
This pair sit comfortably in mid table and with the top five starting to pull clear a top sixth place looks the best either can achieve this season. Understandably off the field events have derailed City recently although they have maintained their form and will hope to start climbing the table further. A midweek penalty shoot-out victory over Southampton has seen them advance to the quarter final of the League Cup and lifted spirits. Undefeated in four Premier League outings, The Foxes look fair value for victory against a Watford side who are starting to slip a little after a tremendous start to their campaign. The Hornets were poor against Liverpool last week and were lucky to pick up a draw at Southampton previously after the Saints were controversially denied a second goal. This looks a good opportunity for City to put pressure on Everton for the race to clinch sixth and I expect a home success.
Michaels prediction: Leicester 2 – 1 Watford
Manchester City v Bournemouth
The champions have been relentless and look like they could lift the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League quad. I often feel the best time to play City is following a Champions league midweek fixture, but such is the squad strength that even with rotation they always have too much weaponry for opponents. They were given a stern test in Lyon but secured the point from a 2-2 draw to leave them in a strong position to top their group. Bournemouth are next in the firing line and dont look strong enough defensively to cope having lost their last three games all by 2-1 margins. I expect City to score freely in this game. Plenty of players have been helping out on the score sheet too which makes defending against City even harder. Midfield maestro David Silva has been in sparkling form and is currently a favourite to land the PFA Player of the year award. The Spaniard has chipped in with an impressive five goals in the Premier League this term and is certainly a very influential player at present.
Michaels prediction: Manchester City 4 – 0 Bournemouth
Newcastle United v West Ham
Newcastle face West Ham at St James Park with both clubs sitting on twelve points and identical playing records. United were delighted to take maximum points from Mondays trip to Burnley which was their third win on the bounce. The Hammers have had some eye catching results but have struggled for consistency and were thrashed 4-0 at home against Manchester City last weekend. They have a strong forward line so its not often they fire a blank and I expect them to find the net in the North East. With the teams so well matched this has draw written all over it.
Michaels prediction: Newcastle United 1 – 1 West Ham
Southampton v Manchester United
Jose Mourinho continues to look disgruntled and frustrated as his charges struggle for consistency and form this year. The Red Devils are already out of the title race and look unlikely to challenge even for a top four position. Uniteds fantastic 2-1 come from behind win in Turin when they defeated Juventus in the Champions League is arguably the reason United are not looking for a new number one and was by far their best result in a difficult campaign. They managed a late winner to defeat Young Boys on Tuesday but this failed to please most and all doesnt look well behind the scenes. With too many stars off colour the club find themselves back down in seventh place. They face a trip to the South Coast to take on Southampton who are also desperate for a win with former United great Mark Hughes now favourite to be the next manager to leave. Saints were out of luck at Leicester on Tuesday when VAR chalked off a potential winning goal in the Cup and they look a side needing a lucky break from somewhere. United were toothless against Palace at Old Trafford last week whilst the Saints are only off the bottom on goal difference and were once again leaking goals when beaten 3-2 at fellow strugglers Fulham. With both teams in poor form its the visitors who are more likely to get something out of the tie, but the game will not be pretty and is sure to be low-scoring.
Michaels prediction: Southampton 0 – 1 Manchester United
Chelsea v Fulham
West London rivals Chelsea and Fulham meet at the Bridge with the visitors finally able to smile following a 3-2 win over Southampton under new manager Claudio Ranieri. Whether the Tinkerman can follow up his tremendous success with Leicester is extremely doubtful but the Cottagers feel he can at least lead them to safety this season. Fulham are still at the foot of the table but with little between a whole host of clubs they are certainly far from doomed. Aleksandar Mitrovic was highly influential in helping Fulham to playoff success last season and his goals are going to be equally important in the race for survival. He bagged a brace last week and now has seven so far this season. However, the task will be tough as despite an uncharacteristic performance when meekly losing 3-1 against Spurs last week the Pensioners are still enjoying a productive season. With only one reverse they are handily placed to secure a top four finish and are still Londons leading club at present. They can be excused an off day and I fully expect them to bounce back in style with a victory.
Michaels prediction: Chelsea 3 – 1 Fulham
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur
North London rivals Arsenal and Spurs can always be relied upon to entertain especially when facing each other and another exciting encounter looks on the cards in a cracking super Sunday match up. The Gunners will feel more pressure to win to close a three-point gap and the race to finish in the top four looks likely to be between the three big London clubs. Arsenal were unconvincing but still picked up maximum points from their trip to Bournemouth and in forward Pierre-merick Aubameyang have a man in form and one of the deadliest marksman in the top flight. Of course, both teams look full of goals and a high scoring shootout looks likely. I still cant trust either to win though and am happy to predict a goal filled draw.
Michaels prediction: Arsenal 2 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool v Everton
In a weekend of Derby fixtures Liverpool host Everton at Anfield in the final game of the round. With the hosts being unbeaten it will take a monumental effort for the Toffeemen to inflict a first loss of the campaign especially in front of the Kop. Everton have quietly come up on the rails and look a solid favourite to finish best of the rest without the big six. In fact they may even think a top six finish is a realistic aim and with only three defeats have shown plenty of enterprise. With only one defeat in their last seven Premier League fixtures they are one of the form sides and will make things tough for Liverpool. However Pool still have that touch of quality and squad depth their rivals may slightly lack and I expect a tight match but go for a narrow home win. Virgin van Dijk has been in impressive form of late and is more than justifying the huge fee Jurgen Klopp paid for the Dutch international. He scored against the Blues on debut during an FA Cup success back in January when becoming the first Liverpool player to score on debut against Everton since 1901! With great aerial presence and physical quality he will be vital at set pieces and I can see him notching again once more.
Michaels prediction: Liverpool 2 – 1 Everton
Michael Owen is a brand ambassador for BetVictor. For more tips from Michael read his column here.