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

Tottenham vs Watford (Saturday, 12.30pm)

Opta Fact

Troy Deeney has scored against 41 different teams during his Watford career, but has never scored in four appearances against Spurs for the Hornets.

The big talking point:Spurs’ comeback in Wales. Three post-88 minute goals snatched three unlikely points against Swansea and that’s the kind of result which, when it occurs at this point in the season, can create useful surges in momentum. Tottenham will hope so: banking 12 points out of 12 before the FA Cup semi-final would be an excellent return as they look to apply chasing pressure on Chelsea. 

What will happen: Harry Kane might - might - return. The talismanic forward has recovered from his ankle ligament strain and could be afforded some fitness-building minutes ahead of Bournemouth next week and Wembley the week after.

What won’t happen: Moussa Sissoko will not start. Tottenham’s club-record signing (yes... yes) had a peculiar night at the Liberty Stadium. He spent the first half being berated by his manager for dropping his marking assignments at corners and was then hooked in the second after a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo in central midfield. He’s running out of credit with Mauricio Pochettino.

Manchester City vs Hull (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Sergio Aguero has scored 25 goals in his last 30 Premier League appearances at the Etihad Stadium. The Argentine averages a goal every 99 minutes on home soil in the Premier League. 

The big talking point:Hard to say, because contrasting midweek results altered this fixture’s importance: Manchester City lost any remote chance of winning the title and Hull, by virtue of their excellent win over Middlesbrough, have eased their relegation fears. On the basis that Marco Silva would likely sell his own mother for a goalless draw, the emphasis will fall on City to cut their way through and re-energise their Champions League push.

What will happen: A big score. Silva clearly emphasises Hull’s home games and, to date, that’s been enough to move them out of the relegation zone. However, with two huge wins at the KCOM in the last week and a whole lot of emotional energy expended, don’t be surprised if they lie down at the Etihad. This is a free hit, a game they’re not expected to take anything from, and it will likely show. 

What won’t happen: Any coupon-busting. Hull haven’t actually beaten Man City away from home since 1930. That run may only comprise 10 games, but it’s likely to be 11 by the 5pm on Saturday.

Middlesbrough vs Burnley (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Middlesbrough have scored the fewest goals (22), attempted the fewest shots on target (73) and had the fewest overall shots (273) in the Premier League this season. 

The big talking point:It’s hammer time at the Riverside: either Boro win or the Premier League sun will likely have set. It’s the perfect fixture, too, because Burnley are now safe from relegation and are notorious owners of the worst away record in the competition. 

What will happen: Burnley will allow lots of shots - because that’s what they do. And they’ve done more of it than any other side in the division: 560 of them this season. Factor in the earned indifference with which they’re likely to play and even Middlesbrough might be able to pepper their goal.

What won’t happen: The end of a 63-year run. That’s how long it’s been since Boro have done the double over Burnley. Oh for the halcyon days of the 1953/54 campaign... 

Stoke vs Liverpool (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Liverpool have kept just six clean sheets in Jurgen Klopp’s 30 Premier League away games so far; the same total they’d recorded in Brendan Rodgers’ last 12 away matches with the club. 

The big talking point: Liverpool’s fading Champions League hopes. Was there anything more predictable than points being carelessly lost at Anfield on Wednesday? The easy-looking game, the beatable opponent, the recent win in the Merseyside Derby: this pattern has become so ingrained that it’s almost established itself as legitimate club DNA. Bournemouth’s late goal means that Jurgen Klopp really does need a win in Stoke, lest he should find himself playing teams with unpronounceable names on Thursday nights next season.

What will happen: Liverpool will miss Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana. In fairness, who wouldn’t? The point, though, is that those two players are so fundamental to the way Klopp wants to play that their absence is almost an indication of impending defeat. In the long-term, that's something which must be addressed in the summer; Liverpool are too talented to be so dependent on such a narrow part of their squad. 

What won’t happen: Stoke resistance. For the second season in a row, they’ve taken the last few weeks of the season off. They’re in holiday mode, having won just once since the beginning of March and having scored just a single goal in the last month. Most accept that Mark Hughes has done an admirable job in the Potteries, but this annual habit will be of growing concern to his employer. Peter Coates has spent a lot of money and Stoke's wage bill is far too high for such inertia to be easily tolerated. Tread carefully, Mr Hughes.  

West Brom vs Southampton (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Tony Pulis’ side have scored 27 goals at home so far this campaign; only in 2012/13 (32) and 2010/11 (30) have West Brom netted more at the Hawthorns in a Premier League season.

The big talking point:It’s not abigtalking point, but it’s a surprising statistic: Southampton have never scored a Premier League goal at The Hawthorns from from open play. The last time they found the net was through a Rickie Lambert penalty back in 2013. Maybe it’s the altitude?

What will happen: We’ll talk of what might have been. Southampton’s season has been a bit of a waste and, despite their success in reaching the EFL Cup final, they’ve failed to take advantage of what has proven a weak year in the Premier League’s upper-midtable region. They’re better than their league position. Similarly, West Brom’s avoidable loss at Watford on Tuesday cost them any realistic hope of Europa League football. Regrets, regrets.

What won’t happen: Value for money. This doesn’t scream “classic”, does it? Southampton lost their main point of interest when Manolo Gabbiadini limped off at White Hart Lane and, though progressing, he's unlikely to feature here. Inevitably, West Brom will do what they can to dull the glint of the visitors' artisan players and turn this into the kind of contest for which their opponents aren't really built. Add in the general lack of significance of this fixture and... well, be careful what you pay for your ticket. 

West Ham vs Swansea (Saturday, 3pm)

Opta Fact

Swansea City (66 goals conceded) are the 12th different team to concede 64 or more goals after 31 Premier League games in a season. The previous 11 teams have all been relegated. 

The big talking point:The Football League and how to stay out of it. A few weeks ago, West Ham had no reason to fear relegation, but five straight losses has changed that - as too has the improvement in the teams previously beneath them. For Swansea, the emphasis is even stronger: this is the biggest game of their season to date. They lost to Tottenham in midweek, but were largely impressive; still, what psychological damage did conceding those late goals do?

What will happen: Crucially, Fernando Llorente will play. Paul Clement confirmed on Wednesday night that his targetman has trained well this week and will be ready for Saturday. A good job, too, because Swansea are an entirely different side when he starts.

What won’t happen: Clean sheets. Does anyone trust either of these defences? Swansea's principal restricting tactic is to congest the middle of the field and force opponents to play from wide: dangerous, especially when Andy Carroll is lurking in the box. Offensively, they actually prefer to play that way, too. Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll and Gylfi Sigurdsson will target the box at every opportunity and, if equipped with the right service, Llorente will likely castle a fragile defence that has conceded 13 times in that last five games.

Bournemouth vs Chelsea (Saturday, 5.30pm)

Opta Fact

Josh King has doubled his Premier League goal tally from last season (6) with 12 goals, scoring nine goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances for the Cherries.

The big talking point: The title. Chelsea are still edging forward, but their laboured steps suggest that the air is getting thin around them. They were extremely fortunate to beat Manchester City in midweek, capitalising on some appalling defending and also the visitors' profligacy, and they’ve also started to look ever so slightly imbalanced. Diego Costa, ordinarily such a bold, productive line-leader away from Stamford Bridge, has now scored just one goal in his last five away appearances. Odd.

What will happen: The first goal will really matter. To say that Bournemouth are riding the crest of a wave would be pushing it, but they’ve improved greatly in recent weeks. Also, while their side are now safe for another season, Chelsea remains a novelty fixture for the Dean Court natives. It will be a sell-out on the south coast at a ground which can be extremely loud - especially when a big team is being knocked off course. Antonio Conte doesn’t want to find himself in a losing position on Saturday, because Bournemouth aren’t the feeble side they were two months ago.

What won’t happen: Eden Hazard won’t stay quiet. All that being said, Bournemouth do struggle with dynamic, left-sided playmakers: see the effect Leroy Sane had against them a few weeks ago. Howe has improved his backline as a collective unit, but as individual players they remain vulnerable to the Premier League’s apex predators. Hazard is right at the top of his game and might well feast on Bournemouth's everymen components. 

Sunderland vs Manchester United (Sunday, 1.30pm)

Opta Fact

Manchester United are currently on a 20-game unbeaten run in the Premier League (W10 D10 L0). Of the 16 occasions a team has gone on a 20+ unbeaten run in the competition, this is the run with the lowest points per game average (2.0) and win ratio (50%). 

The big talking point: Manchester United’s season. What, exactly, has Jose Mourinho built? In conversation with the media after the draw with Everton, he was quick to emphasise his side’s long unbeaten record, but also excused their blunt tactics on account of their low confidence. Confused? Fair enough. Sunderland are down, so this game is all about their opponents: can United conclusively be something? More importantly, can they settle on a state in time to grab one of those Champions League places?

What will happen: United to lean on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Again. It’s not an original point, but it’s a reasonable one: after all, Ibrahimovic has scored eight times in his last seven away games. That statistic relates to the Swede’s enduring class, of course, but also to the way the side around him plays and the type of goalscoring chances they typically create. 

What won’t happen: An easy day for David Moyes. Not because of Sunderland’s position in the table, although that doesn’t help, but due to cumulative negativity of the last week and the season as a whole. The supporters are beginning to accept their fate and, using social media as a barometer, are seemingly beginning to turn their attention to what their manager represents. It’s been a year of failure, yes, but also months of submissive football and infectious doom, for which the Scot is the vivid emblem. 

Everton vs Leicester (Sunday, 4pm)

Opta Fact

Everton beat Leicester 2-0 in December, but haven’t done the league double over the Foxes since 1986/87.

The big talking point: Everton’s European aspirations. The clubs occupying 6th to 3rd in the Premier League seem determined to continue tripping over their own feet. Manchester United keep stumbling, Liverpool are still conspiring to throw easy points away, and Arsenal remain unreliable. The consequence of which is that, although unlikely, Everton retain an outside chance of Champions League qualification. 

What will happen: A heavy influence from Romelu Lukaku. He’s not perfect and his future (enormous) transfer fee comes with obvious caveats, but Lukaku has been involved in 18 goals in his last 14 Goodison Park appearances this season. He struggled against Manchester United and has looked like a player in need of a rest in recent weeks, but - sometimes to his detriment - he has principally built his reputation in this type of game.

What won’t happen: Complete Leicester focus. Because, even with Craig Shakespeare’s galvanising effect, how can that be expected? Atletico Madrid and the Vicente Calderon await next Wednesday night and, now safely in mid-table, Leicester’s interest in the Premier League is now likely to be on the wane. 

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal (Monday, 8pm)

Opta Fact

Olivier Giroud has found the net in each of his previous three Premier League games at Selhurst Park.

The big talking point: St Totteringham’s Day, the absence thereof. Had Tottenham not rescued a win late on in Swansea, the margin between Arsenal and their north London rivals would only have been eight points (with a game in hand). As it is, though, that gap stands at a daunting 11. Arsene Wenger’s focus will no doubt be on securing Champions League football, but lose here and the fans will know that their team will be left needing snookers in the battle for local supremacy.

What will happen: Cliché-busting. Sam Allardyce is often presented as Wenger’s nemesis and his football beliefs as a kind of of Arsenal Kryptonite. Why, though? He hasn’t beaten him since 2010. That Allardyce has lost more to Wenger than any other Premier League manager is, of course, partly a product of the latter’s longevity, but it also defeats many assumptions about what this fixture is likely to look like. Palace are better than they were, certainly, but Allardyce's apparent role as Wenger's bogeyman-in-chief is really a myth. 

What won’t happen: An easy night for Emiliano Martinez. A more accurate platitude relates to Allardyce’s belief in the value of set-pieces and, with Arsenal likely to be missing Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, and David Ospina, that will be particularly pertinent here. Palace are not just corners and set-pieces, with Christian Benteke entering some fine individual form, but the cumulative challenge looks ominous for a goalkeeper of very little Premier League experience. 

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