After a pretty entertaining week of international football, we return to the Premier League on Saturday and Sunday for some all-important games at both ends of the table.
The big one at the head of affairs is Sunday’s clash between Tottenham and Chelsea, two sides vying for a place in next season’s Champions League. Both were knocked out of Europe’s elite competition in the round of 16, Spurs losing out to Juventus and Chelsea falling short against Barcelona. Apart from the FA Cup, qualification for next year’s competition is the only thing these two sides have left to play for. Spurs will meet Manchester United in one FA Cup semi-final, while Chelsea face Southampton in the other. In the Premier League, however, it’s Spurs who have the upper hand. Mauricio Pochettino’s side is 4th in the table and five points ahead of Conte’s Chelsea who occupy 5th. A win for Spurs would see them open up a sizable gap with just seven games remaining, but a win for Chelsea would open up the competition for a top-four finish.
At the other end of the table, there’s a massive relegation clash between West Ham and Southampton at the Hammers’ London Stadium. Their last home game, against Burnley, saw ugly scenes as furious fans attempted to confront the club’s owners in the director’s box. The game was also stopped on several occasions as frustrated fans took to the pitch to vent their anger. Currently, David Moyes side are 17th with 30 points – just a place and two points above the Saints who reside in the bottom three. Mark Hughes has taken over at St Mary’s and started his reign with an FA Cup win at Wigan. His task is to lead Southampton away from the drop zone and this game is the archetypal ‘six-pointer’.
In calmer waters are Burnley, and we’ve made plenty of profit this season backing Sean Dyche’s men. Consistently underestimated by the bookies, the Clarets remain in 7th place and continue to fight for a potential Europa League place. Leicester and Everton are breathing down their necks, but Burnley keep on getting enough results to maintain their long-held position. On Saturday they travel to a West Brom side which has lost the last eight games on the trot and sits bottom of the table, some ten points from safety.
First up, we’re backing both teams to score in what should be a highly entertaining game at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Chelsea have home advantage and can look back to a 2-1 win at Wembley against Spurs back at the start of the season. Their rivals will also be without talisman Harry Kane, although that didn’t stop them smashing four past Bournemouth and three past Swansea in the last two games.
The Blues will certainly be glad to be back on home soil after losing three away games on the bounce at Barcelona and both Manchester clubs, although they did beat Leicester in the FA Cup on their last road trip. However, in the sanctuary of Stamford Bridge, they are unbeaten in 20 games apart from the anomaly of a 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth. They’ve won the last two here against Spurs, and both teams have scored in the last three meetings on Chelsea soil.
Spurs have been in fine form, despite that 2-1 Champions League defeat to Juventus, and are unbeaten since losing to Manchester City prior to Christmas. They’ve won five of the last six games, but have only managed two clean sheets in the last eight. Four of the last five games against Chelsea, both home and away, have resulted in both teams scoring and the match could easily go the same way on Sunday. Chelsea must win this in order to close the gap on their rival, but Spurs are as good as anyone at hitting teams on the break. There is also no love lost between the two sides, so we can expect a fiery game with plenty of action.
Both of these clubs find themselves in the doldrums ahead of Saturday’s fixture and the game could go a long way to determining their respective fates this season. David Moyes oversaw something of a revival when he first took over as West ham boss, at one point even reaching the top half, but a series of lacklustre performances have seen the Hammers drop away and hurtle towards the relegation zone. They have just one win in eight games and have lost four of the last five. It doesn’t help that the atmosphere at the London Stadium has become poisonous and the capitulation in the 3-0 defeat at Burnley suggest West Ham players will find it hard to play in front of their own fans for the remainder of the season.
That’s something Mark Hughes will be looking to take advantage of as he oversees his first Premier League game as Saints’ boss. However, the former Manchester United striker will have his work cut out as his new side has only won five games all season, and only two of those have been away from home. There is some confidence to be drawn from recent games though because Southampton have only lost twice in the last twelve fixtures.
West Ham have a difficult run-in over the last eight games, and that makes this one as close to a ‘must-win’ game as it could be. Southampton face Arsenal and Chelsea in their next two so getting something here is of equal importance to the Saints. A draw would be better than a loss for both, but the necessity for points should lead to a fairly open game and it should come as no surprise to see both teams on the scoresheet.
Finally, we’re backing Burnley to return a win at very tasty odds away at West Brom. It’s true that the Baggies are venturing ever-closer to the last chance saloon, and that makes them dangerous, but they have shown little sign of a revival in the last eight consecutive defeats. Burnley showed exemplary professionalism in their last outing against a side in a similar position, West Ham. Sean Dyche’s side showed a tactical masterclass as they weathered the early Hammers storm, silenced the crowd, and took advantage in the second half.
West Brom have suffered damaging home defeats recently to Huddersfield and Southampton. The inability to beat relegation rivals on home soil is the hallmark of a side destined for the drop.
Chelsea v Spurs – both teams to score
Sunday 1st April, 16:00 GMT
West Ham v Southampton – both teams to score
Saturday 31st March, 15:00 GMT
Burnley to beat West Brom
Saturday 31st March, 15:00 GMT