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Premier League preview: what will and won't happen this weekend

Everton vs Watford (Friday, 7.45pm)

Opta fact

After winning their first four Premier League encounters with Watford between 1999 and 2007, the Toffees have failed to win any of their last three (D2 L1). 

The big talking point: Attitude. Although not of great consequence, Ronald Koeman will have been less than impressed with what he saw in south Wales last week. Everton were almost flippant in defeat to Swansea and lost by virtue of being outworked. So in this, their last home game of the season (and Romelu Lukaku’s last appearance in blue at Goodison - or at least this particular shade of blue), Koeman will see a chance for his players to put those wrongs right. 

What will happen: He'll likely get that reaction, too. Watford, more understandably, have been slumped on the beach for a while, so this will likely prove the perfect way to draw the curtain on Goodison for the summer. Pay particularly attention to Lukaku, as well. He was particularly underwhelming at the Liberty Stadium and, as ever, that's prompted a discussion about what he’s actually worth to the clubs who reportedly carry an interest in signing him. A strong response against a soft opponent seems a sensible bet. 

What won’t happen: Clues as to Everton’s shape next season. There are a lot of rumours circulating about the club’s summer transfer activity and, with Lukaku’s departure set to generate a club-record revenue, they have the resources to conduct a wholesale rebuild. The next time this team appears at Goodison Park, expect it to look very different. 

West Brom vs Chelsea (Friday, 8pm)

Opta Fact

Chelsea have had a player sent off on their last two Premier League trips to The Hawthorns – John Terry last season and Cesc Fabregas in 2014/15.

The big talking point: The Premier League title. One more win for Chelsea and they’ll be over the line. Antonio Conte has cured the acrimony created by his predecessor and not just led his side to a championship, but also to comprehensive dominance over the rest of the division. On Friday, he can tie the bow on a near-perfect maiden season in England. 

What will happen: Confetti and fireworks. There are admittedly more fitting places for a coronation than The Hawthorns, but it will have to do. And what does it matter? Chelsea would have preferred to secure the trophy in front of their own fans, but planning for the open-top bus parade down the Fulham Road is presumably well underway and, in any case, they're guaranteed a final-day victory lap against Sunderland. 

What won’t happen: Anything unexpected. Despite their recent form, most seem to expect West Brom to be awkward on Friday night. That’s unlikely. Their goals against Burnley were their first since the BC/AD crossover and, as per the unwelcome association with Tony Pulis’s teams, they appeared to clock off the minute their season’s objectives were achieved. A shame, because at one point - albeit fleetingly - the Europa League was a possibility. 

Manchester City vs Leicester (Saturday, 12.30pm)

Opta Fact

Manchester City have won their last four home Premier League games against reigning champions – each of the last two were by a three-goal margin (4-1 vs Manchester United in September 2013, 3-0 vs Chelsea in August 2015).

The big talking point: Champions League qualification. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and City are battling for the two remaining top-four places and now is not the time to concede ground. United and Liverpool are both away from home (against Tottenham and West Ham respectively), so this is a chance to put points on the board early in the weekend and apply some scoreboard pressure. 

What will happen: David Silva and Gabriel Jesus to show their worth. City’s defensive issues remain, as they will until summer reinforcements arrive, but their attacking power has been ratcheted up by those two returning players. Silva’s role is obvious: he’s the critical, creative link between the midfield and the forward line. Jesus’s value, beyond his goals, also arrives in the form of what he allows others to do. He’s particularly adept at dropping into supporting positions and his presence adds a layer to his team’s threat. Though obviously still growing into his talent, he seems to show another part of his range each time he takes the field. A fascinating player. And a terrifying one from Leicester's perspective. 

What won’t happen: A repeat of the last two fixtures. This was a key game on the way to Leicester's title win last season and, more recently, they humbled City at the King Power in late 2016. This is unlikely to be the same. Both are in fine attacking form (arriving at this game off 3-0 and 5-0 wins respectively), but City have the greater purpose and the more obvious necessity - and, though he’s unlikely to admit it publicly, Pep Guardiola will be keen to right one of the major wrongs of his season.

Bournemouth vs Burnley (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Of goalkeepers to play 100 or more Premier League games, only Boaz Myhill (1.73) and Wayne Hennessey (1.71) have conceded more goals per game than Middlesbrough's Brad Guzan (1.66, 253 in 152 games).

The big talking point: Had Burnley not recorded their first away win of the season over Crystal Palace two weeks ago, that discussion would be stuck on repeat. As it is, the only point of relative interest here is Bournemouth's bid to finish in the top half of the table. Though it would take a mighty swing in goal difference, winning here could see them move as high as eighth. Eighth! Bournemouth! 

What will happen: Chaotic, end of season football. Bournemouth are a virtual guarantee of goals: they’ve conceded at least twice in eight of their last 10 games at the Vitality Stadium and five of their last six games have produced three or more goals. With Burnley safe and the pressure off (imagine what a carefree away performance from them might look like), this could be one of those expressive afternoons on which everyone forgets to pack their discipline.

What won’t happen: History. A second successive away win would represent the first time Burnley have recorded back-to-back victories in the Premier League away from Turf Moor. But it’s probably not happening here. Bournemouth’s revival has largely taken place out of sight and away from the Sky/BT cameras, but - while some of their defensive issues undoubtedly remain - they’re now playing their best football since being promoted from the Championship.

Middlesbrough vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Only Romelu Lukaku (14) and Harry Kane (13) have scored more goals than Josh King in 2017 in the Premier League (12). 

The big talking point: This is the deadest of dead rubbers. Does that count as a talking point? Middlesbrough were relegated on Monday night and Southampton are landlocked in mid-table. That probably won’t translate to a thrilling, neutral-pleasing spectacle, so please excuse the indifference.

What will happen: There’s some vague interest in hearing how the Riverside crowd responds to their side. Boro haven’t been an embarrassment at this level, but their approach to survival still rankles with some of their supporters. This team certainly hasn’t 'had a good go' at staying up, so the atmosphere could be a little curious.

What won’t happen: Goals. Middlesbrough’s problems are well known, of course, but Southampton also bring productivity issues into this game. Their performance against Arsenal on Wednesday night was generally adequate, but the lack of creativity - or any discernible link between Manolo Gabbiadini and his supporting players - was troubling. Both of these teams are packing a very light punch at the moment. 

Sunderland vs Swansea (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Since Paul Clement’s first Premier League game on January 3rd, Swansea are the only side not to concede a goal from a set-piece situation (excluding penalties) in that period. 

The big talking point: This could be Swansea’s Shawshank Redemption moment (albeit retrospectively). Depending on Hull’s result on Sunday, victory over Sunderland could secure their survival. Given the horrors they've experienced this season, that's not something anyone expected to be typing five months ago. 

What will happen: Subsidised travel. An anecdote worth knowing: Swansea’s players, in an initiative led by Leon Britton, have paid for their supporters’ travel to Sunderland out of their own pockets. Good for him, good for them; despite the fractures which have occured between the supporters and ownership over the last year, the bond between the pitch and the stands remains as healthy as ever in south Wales. 

What won’t happen: A walkover. Sunderland’s win over Hull was, in a way, disgusting. It relied on a brilliant goalkeeping performance from Jordan Pickford, but also on a group of players who could seemingly only perform when there were no consequences attached. So watch out Swansea: this might be a game which actually has to be won. 

Stoke vs Arsenal (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Opta Fact

Arsenal haven’t lost any of their last nine away league games in May (W6 D3) – the last side to beat them was Stoke in 2011. 

The big talking point: Arsene Wenger’s Champions League record. If Arsenal lose here and Manchester City and Liverpool both win, they will find themselves locked outside the top four. Some of their supporters will pretend to embrace that horror for its agenda-driving purposes but, realistically, it would be a failure with consequences. Alexis Sanchez continues to be coy over his future and he's unlikely to be tempted into staying by a season in the Europa League. 

What will happen: Arsenal win. Wenger and his players had a dry-run for this game, beating Southampton at St Mary’s in midweek. Perfect, because Stoke will prove a similar opponent: generally committed, but there to be beaten. And beat them Arsenal shall. The St Mary’s win was not without its imperfections, but Alexis Sanchez has evidently arrived at some form, Mesut Ozil had his best game in a while, while Wenger’s new formation proved sturdy enough. 

What won’t happen: Those Mark Hughes doubts won’t go away. He’s a British manager and so we’re not really supposed to question him, but this has been a very mediocre season. The pertinent question for Stoke chairman Peter Coates must be whether, with the same players and similar resources, somebody else could perform better. The answer, worryingly for Hughes, is a firm yes.

Crystal Palace vs Hull City (Sunday, 12pm)

Opta Fact

The Tigers have failed to score in seven of their last eight Premier League visits to London (W1 L7), with the only exception being a 2-0 victory against Palace in April 2015. 

The big talking point: Relegation. Crystal Palace need to win. Hull really, really need to win. In fact, defeat here - depending on how Swansea do at Sunderland - could be enough to relegate Marco Silva’s players. It wouldn't be fair on him given the mess he inherited, but that’s still the reality they face. 

What will happen: Away win. Slowly, all the Allardycian strengths this Palace team drew on to pull clear of the bottom three have drained away. They weren't bad at the Etihad last week, they were horrendous - and, after three defeats in a row (Tottenham and Burnley came before City), they now face an opponent in do-or-die territory. Hull weren't particularly awful last weekend, they just ran into an inspired goalkeeper. Replicate parts of that performance and they should get the result they need in south London.

What won’t happen: Settled nerves. If Hull do win, that will create a three-way relegation deathmatch on the final day of the season. Swansea are at home to West Brom, Hull entertain Tottenham, and Palace have to travel to Old Trafford to face Jose Mourinho's joyless but stubborn Manchester United. Ouch. 

West Ham vs Liverpool (Sunday, 2.15pm)

Opta Fact

Liverpool have won three of their four Premier League games in London this season, drawing the other. The last time they remained unbeaten in the capital across an entire league season was in 1988/89.

The big talking point: The top-four places. Arsenal and Manchester City both seem likely to pocket three points and Liverpool really need to keep pace.

What will happen: A Liverpool win. West Ham played well against Tottenham last weekend, but it won’t have escaped attention that they put substantially more effort into that game than they have any other this season. So here comes the inevitable lull - and also legitimate questions over why they can raise their game so noticeably against Spurs, but be ineffective in so many other matches. 

What won’t happen: West Ham have kept three clean sheets in a row, but making it to four looks a stretch. Liverpool struggle to impose their style against teams below them, but that doesn't mean that they consistently fail to find the net. August 2015 is the last time Liverpool suffered consecutive scoreless games in the Premier League and, after the frustration of last Sunday's 0-0 with Southampton, Jurgen Klopp's side will know they simply must push for goals in this one.

Tottenham vs Manchester United (Sunday, 4.30pm)

Opta Fact

Harry Kane has scored against 23 of the 25 clubs he’s faced with Tottenham in the Premier League – though he’s yet to score in six appearances against Manchester United. 

The big talking point: White Hart Lane’s final stand. The wrecking ball is ready to swing and demolition is due to begin next week; this is the last game the old ground will host before closing its doors forever.

What will happen: Very hard to say, because Tottenham don’t have much to play for and United are now focussed on their Europa League final with Ajax. The strength of feeling inside White Hart Lane should be enough to focus the home players, as should the prospect of completing their season unbeaten at home, but recent form seems oddly irrelevant. 

What won’t happen: A full-strength Manchester United. Jose Mourinho has ducked the top-four race with some rather laboured excuses about squad depth. He surrendered at Arsenal under the guise of resting key players for the tie with Celta Vigo and, presumably in a further attempt to distance himself from United’s underwhelming league position, he’ll do the same here. 

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