Skip to main content

FourFourTwo's Premier League preview: What will and won't happen this weekend

Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger

Manchester United vs Bournemouth

Opta Fact

The big talking point: "Zlatanism". The Swede deserves to be celebrated for what he continues to achieve, but his many signature moments this season have helped to disguise Manchester United's narrow spread of goals. Nobody else in Jose Mourinho's squad has reached double figures or is even close to threatening that mark (Juan Mata has six). Bournemouth are one of the division's most porous sides, so this is a game in which those supporting acts should be expected to shoulder some weight.

What will happen: A landmark. United's next win will be their 600th in the Premier League and, against an opponent who can't stop conceding and a goalkeeper (Artur Boruc) who has never kept a clean sheet against them (for either Bournemouth, Southampton or Celtic), they should be the first club to reach that waypoint.

What won't happen: Luke Shaw won't play... and in not doing so, a growing controversy will burn even brighter. Shaw is a good player and was signed to be United's feature left-back for a decade, but Mourinho needs enemies and is typically only interested in the here and now. 

Leicester vs Hull

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Who are Leicester now? Monday night was an evening of deep catharsis. However, there's a difference between playing Liverpool live in prime time and entertaining an increasingly obdurate Hull in a relegation battle on a Saturday afternoon. So will this be a week of anomalous defiance or a true reflection of what Leicester intend to be from here on in? 

What will happen: Clichés. If Leicester win, Craig Shakespeare will be asked whether he would like his interim job on a full-time basis (again). He'll respond with a series of non-committing platitudes ("just winning games", "focusing on performance") before, sheepishly, admitting (again) that – yes – that would be quite nice. Never change, post-match interviews. 

What won't happen: A Hull comeback. Despite their struggles, Leicester are the only team in the league who possess a 100% record from winning positions. Six times they've taken the lead, six times they've held on for all three points. Marco Silva needs that first goal. 

Stoke vs Middlesbrough

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Middlesbrough are not a top-half team, so this fixture doesn't give Mark Hughes the chance to immediately strike back against what happened at White Hart Lane. Nevertheless, he needs a win. The growing suspicion is that Stoke have now levelled out under their anti-Pulis, but a victory over one of the better defensive sides in the country would put that discussion on hold. Interestingly, however, Middlesbrough's record Premier League away win actually came against Hughes's Blackburn side in 2004: 0-4, obviously. 

What will happen: A home win. Despite the grumbling, Stoke are currently on their longest unbeaten run (seven) at the Bet365 (née Britannia) Stadium since their 17-game streak in 2012. Boro don't really do goals, chances or attacking ambition, so the chances of that comig to an end this weekend are remote

What won't happen: Visiting ambition. Just 24% of Middlesbrough's passes have occurred in the attacking third this season, fewer than any other side in the division. Success for Aitor Karanka will be defined by whether he keeps the club safe from relegation and, no, aesthetics shouldn't really matter. Nevertheless, watching Boro is an assualt on the senses and the pockets of discontent on Teesside aren't as irrational as they might seem.

Swansea vs Burnley

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Relegation-haunted Swansea have improved immeasurably but, other results being what they have been, remain just two points above the relegation places. This, then, is a chance to create some real separation against a club who have the lowest points-per-away-game ratio in the history of the Premier League (0.4). 

What will happen: Swansea will score from a Gylfi Sigurdsson set-piece. Paul Clement's greatest achievement has been his recognition of what his team can and cannot do; they are not nearly as open as they were under Francesco Guidolin or Bob Bradley and are conceding fewer goals. However, with that reticence has come a reliance on final-third efficiency and, inevitably, on Sigurdsson (who has taken 28.4% of their total shots this season). Fortunately, he's also among the finest set-piece takers in the country and has created more chances from dead-ball situations than any other player in the league.

What won't happen: Sean Dyche won't get any "credit". Because he never does. For anything. Despite being perpetually held up as an example to British coaches everywhere and suggested as a credible (really?) alternative to Arsene Wenger in certain parts of the media (by that we mean the Daily Mirror). 

Watford vs Southampton

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Manolo Gabbiadini. What an impression the Italian is making in England: two goals at Wembley, and already three from just two league starts. Should he find the net at Vicarage Road, he would become the first Southampton player to score in each of his first three Premier League appearances. Aesthetically, too, Gabbiadini is a joy; a real asset to the league. Every time he scores, it seems to rely on a different technique or a more elborate form of imagination – not unlike, say, Dimitar Berbatov. English football really can't have enough players like that. 

What will happen: Southampton will surrender a lead. Not team has lost more games from a winning position this season. Should that repeat itself on Saturday, they will become the first team since 2013/14 to lose six games in a season after having led and be one away from the unenviable record shared by 1992/93 Blackburn, 1992/93 Southampton, and 2011/12's Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

What won't happen: A goalless draw. Watford have only failed to score at home once this season (vs Middlesbrough) and eight of Southampton's last nine games have featured three goals or more. 

West Brom vs Crystal Palace

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Palace's resurgence. Whisper it, but Sam Allardyce's team were greatly improved last weekend. Everyone in attendance at Selhurst Park may have subsequently turned to stone, but Palace produced exactly the sort of no-frills defensive performance that their manager cherishes. This is a different test, against a head coach who – how to put this politely – isn't terribly bothered by perceptions. West Brom will play in a low-risk way and are in essence the side that Allardyce will hope his own team can one day become. 

What will happen: Pulis and Allardyce will, figuratively, fight with oversized beanbags for 90 minutes, clumsily smashing each other before collapsing in mutual exhaustion. 

What won't happen: This game to be shown first on Match of the Day. 

Liverpool vs Arsenal

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Liverpool's season. Depending on other results, the Reds' top-four chances might look very bleak indeed by 7.30pm on Saturday. Jurgen Klopp is out of both cups, not involved in any European competition, and could well find himself four points outside the Champions League places if he loses. Worse still, his team enter this game off the back of an atrocious performance against Leicester and are set to face a rested Arsenal team who haven't played since February 20.

What will happen: A late goal. This fixture has seen more 90+ minute goals (16) than any other during the Premier League era. Given the attacking talent which will be on the pitch, and the levels of fatigue associated with the respective playing styles, another late, critical moment seems more than likely. 

What won't happen: A stalemate. Arsenal will likely be without Laurent Koscielny, Liverpool are fragile even when all their defenders are fit, and Jordan Henderson is still struggling with the effects of a bruised foot. It won't be tactically sound, but it may just be a lot of fun. 

Tottenham vs Everton

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Harry Kane vs Romelu Lukaku. Viewing this game as a straight shootout between Kane and Lukaku is of course reductive, but it's impossible to resist the comparison: two of the brightest young forwards in Europe, neck-and-neck with each other at the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts (17). Kane has the advantage of playing for the better side and that's perhaps partly reflected in him having scored more top-flight goals (63) since 2014/14 than any other player, with Lukaku only fifth on the same list (45). More pertinently, the Belgian hasn't scored a goal away from Goodison Park in 2017. 

What will happen: Midfield vs Midfield. Beyond Kane and Lukaku, this will be a fight between Spurs' loaded attacking midfield and Everton's newly resilient middle. Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin have quickly become the effective screen which all Ronald Koeman's teams depend on and their ability to hinder Tottenham's rhythm will define the mood at White Hart Lane.

What won't happen: An Everton win, probably. Forgetting present day form, the Toffees have quietly been building a dreadful record in north London. Having enjoyed their visits to White Hart Lane between 2006 and 2008, they are now without a win there in nine years. Koeman, who has faced Pochettino four times, is also without a victory over his Southampton predecessor.

Sunderland vs Manchester City

Opta Fact

The big talking point: City's top-four place. This is a weekend of opportunity for Pep Guardiola. Liverpool and Arsenal play each other on Saturday and a victory over Sunderland would, depending on results, help create a nice cushion between them and fifth place. Important, too, because with Champions League victory over Monaco looking likely, their attention could well drift between now and May.

What will happen: A good ol' fashioned battering: Apocolypse Now with a football. Yaya Toure will be Kilgore, Aguero will play Willard, and at full-time the napalm will drift from the scorched grass. City's pacy, fluid forward line will prove a nightmare for a Sunderland defence which is short on pace and for an entire team which appears resigned to this season's inevitable conclusion. 

What won't happen: A Sunderland goal scored by someone other than Jermain Defoe. The striker has had 64 shots this season, but none of David Moyes's other players have managed more than 24. Tickets, raffles, etc. 

West Ham vs Chelsea

Opta Fact

The big talking point: Andy Carroll's fitness. It has to be, because West Ham are an entirely different proposition with him in their lineup. Without Carroll, their football lacks penetration and would appear unlikely to trouble a Chelsea defence which Antonio Conte has drilled to a restricting perfection. But with him? Look out, David Luiz. Tally his abilities with Robert Snodgrass's delivery and West Ham might be able to record just their third win in 22 games in this fixture.

What will happen: 20 minutes of West Ham bluster before Chelsea silence the crowd and all the life vents out of the London Stadium. If ever a game needed an early home goal, it's this one. 

What won't happen: Hopefully, a repeat of the scenes in the League Cup. West Ham's planning for life in their new home was sloppy and they paid for that with a flurry of negative headlines at the beginning of the season. You'd hope, perhaps against better judgement, that the stewarding and segregation imperatives are taken seriously this time. 

Now read these...

New features you'd like every day on FourFourTwo.com