Premier League preview: What will and won't happen this weekend
Arsenal vs Everton
- Alexis Sanchez has 23 Premier League goals this season. The last Chilean player to finish as top goalscorer in one of the big five European leagues was Iván Zamorano in La Liga for Real Madrid in 1994/95 (28 goals)
The big talking point: Arsene Wenger’s 19 consecutive Champions League qualifications. The record is seriously under threat now. Arsenal must beat Everton, but they also have to rely on Liverpool dropping points to an already-relegated Middlesbrough. Not a good position to be in.
What will happen: The Europa League. Cue a lot of “never fancied her anyway” from the Arsenal fans, and maybe even a few laboured blogs posts about why this galling failure is a necessary evil. Whatever keeps them warm on those cold Thursday nights.
What won’t happen: Any reassurance for Romelu Lukaku’s suitors. Here’s the problem: Everton are going to want a vast amount of money for Lukaku, meaning that he’s only really available to five or six European clubs. The question then becomes: have the teams operating at that level really seen enough to justify that kind of expenditure? He’s a very capable Premier League forward, but does he translate not just to the Champions League, but to the latter stages of that kind of competition? It’s relevant here, because he has failed to deliver against this kind of side numerous times; not just failed to score, but to do anything of note.
Burnley vs West Ham
- Despite playing his last Premier League game on January 2, Dimitri Payet will end the season as West Ham’s most creative player in the competition this season (74). The next best is Manuel Lanzini with 56 chances created for the Hammers
The big talking point: Next season. This is a party: both teams are safe. Rather than picking out an individual detail from the game itself, the focus is really on what happens next - how Burnley establish themselves at this level, and how West Ham use the money they have available in the summer.
What will happen: Hopefully, some kind of response from West Ham after last weekend. Given how poor some of the sides below them are, it’s damning that Slaven Bilic’s players arguably gave the worst home performance of the season - by any club - during their defeat to Liverpool. It may not have come with any lasting consequences, but it was bad enough from the supporters’ perspective to demand an immediate repayment at Turf Moor.
What won’t happen: Winston Reid won’t make the trip. The West Ham centre-back had a knee operation on Friday morning is now gone until August.
Chelsea vs Sunderland
- This will be David Moyes’ 499th game as a manager in the Premier League (P498 W196 D135 L167, winning 723 points)
The big talking point: The trophy, guards of honour, and selfies on the pitch. It’s going to be that kind of day at Stamford Bridge.
What will happen: Do you remember the castle in Game Of Throne with the trapdoor? Sunderland, figuratively, are going to be thrown through that.
What won’t happen: Nobody will be left wondering why these two teams are in the situations they are. Even in party mode, Chelsea are capable of running up a big score against Sunderland and the thought of an apathetic David Moyes team should be enough to worry the Premier League historians. Expect this to be a thoroughly chastening departure.
Hull vs Tottenham
- If Harry Kane were to end the season as the Premier League’s top scorer, he’d be the fifth player to win the Golden Boot in successive seasons, along with Alan Shearer (94/95, 95/96, 96/97), Michael Owen (97/98 & 98/99 both shared), Thierry Henry (03/04, 04/05, 05/06) and Robin van Persie (11/12, 12/13)
The big talking point: Hull’s relegation still seems slightly unjust. Their ownership deserves it, of course, but Marco Silva has brought about such positive change in such a short period of time that it’s hard to escape the feel that he deserves more.
What will happen: Probably a Tottenham flourish. With second place secure they have nothing to play for, but Mauricio Pochettino is still haunted by the memory of how his side finished last season. Don’t assume that Spurs’ standard will drop just because of the circumstances - it certainly didn't on Thursday night in their 6-1 trashing of Leicester. They remember that Newcastle game.
What won’t happen: Similarly, don’t expect too much harmony at the KCOM. Silva rightly has appreciation from the crowd, but the guns might well turn on the Allam family like never before; this was an opportunity for the club to advance and the owners have fumbled it. It's a minor miracle that they even stood a chance of survival by last weekend.
Leicester vs Bournemouth
- 11 different English players have made 20+ Premier League appearances for Bournemouth this season. The last Premier League team to do this were Aston Villa in 2000/01 (also 11 players)
The big talking point: Bournemouth could potentially finish eighth if they win this. Look at their squad, look at their ground: that would be a phenomenal achievement in their second season.
What will happen: However, Leicester seem more likely to take the points and climb into the top half at the visitor’s expense – and especially so after Thursday night's humbling loss to Tottenham. End of the season or otherwise, that was an entirely unacceptable – and uncharacteristic – performance: there is never, ever an excuse for losing 6-1 at home, and Craig Shakespeare will presumably spend the next few days taking aim at some individual attitudes.
What won’t happen: Shakespeare made such a strong start after replacing Claudio Ranieri that it's rather escaped people's notice that he's won just two of his last seven Premier League games. Whatever happens on Sunday, we'll have to wait until the new season begins before knowing whether he's a credible long-term option or has just been a short-term antidote.