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West Brom vs Liverpool – Liverpool win or draw
If Liverpool are to cement a place in the top four, having played at least one game more than each of their rivals, they simply need to win games like this. The Reds came from behind at Stoke last time out and Jurgen Klopp will hope that game proves a turning point for a side that has famously struggled to win against sides beneath them in the table.
West Brom are of course in that bracket but as has been the case on more than the odd occasion from Tony Pulis sides, they’ve tailed off to transform what might have been an exceptional season into just another good one. The Baggies lost at home to Southampton last time out, which was something of a shock given their strong record at the Hawthorns, and they haven’t beaten the Reds in their last 7 meetings. Four of said matches have ended in draws though, so it won’t be plain sailing for the visitors.
Manchester United vs Chelsea – Chelsea win or draw
Much like Klopp at the weekend, Antonio Conte celebrated his side’s victory at Bournemouth as wildly as ever, praising his players’ courage in their pursuit of the title having bounced back from a shock defeat to Palace. The Blues have a tougher task this weekend to get a win that’s for sure, though United’s unbeaten streak of 21 league matches has still seen them unable to break the top four.
The reason is pretty simple. As Jose Mourinho attests their poor finishing, particularly at home, has resulted in far too many draws. A total of 12 stalemates is level best – or worst depending on how you look at it – with Boro, while a whopping 9 of those draws have come at home. Chelsea have only lost in the capital this season, at Stamford Bridge and to each north London rival, and haven’t been beaten by the Red Devils in 12.
Marseille vs Saint Etienne – Marseille win or draw
OM have drawn three consecutive matches to all but surrender the chance of a top 4 and subsequent European finish. They must beat Sainte, who are just one place and three points below them, on Sunday to have any chance of catching Lyon. Rudi Garcia has endured a pretty disappointing time at the helm of the club since his appointment but can still rely on a strong home record, with the team having lost just 2 of 16 at the Velodrome this season.
Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, have underwhelmed on the road with just four wins from 15 and haven’t beaten Marseille in 7. In fact, they haven’t won against OM away from home in 38 years!
Preston vs Norwich – Preston win or draw
OK, so Norwich won 7-1 last weekend, but their record away from home is dismal. Only relegation threatened Bristol City, Blackburn and Forest, along with relegated Rotherham, have picked up fewer points on the road (17). The Canaries have picked up just two from their last six away from Carrow Road and a trip to Deepdale is a daunting prospect.
Preston have exceeded expectations under Simon Grayson to harbour feint hopes of a play-off place at this late stage in the season, owing much to their excellent form at home. Unbeaten in nine in front of their own fans, with 16 points from the last 18 available and 17 goals in those six home matches, they should keep that run going come Monday.
Ipswich vs Newcastle – Newcastle win
While promotion is of course the number one priority, failure to win the league would be viewed by many, and perhaps Rafa Benitez himself, as an underachievement by the manager. The Magpies were huge favourites to claim the title ahead of the campaign and while they’ve been in the top two for much of it, the Spaniard will be keen to finish at the league’s summit come May.
Newcastle will be aiming to bounce back from defeat at Hillsborough in their last away game – their first on the road in seven – when they travel to Ipswich, whose recent victory against Wigan ended a run of five consecutive draws at Portman Road. Indeed, the Tractor Boys are tough to beat at home if difficult to watch at times, losing just four of 21, but the visitors strolled to a 3-0 win in the reverse fixture and should complete the double on Monday.
QPR vs Sheffield Wednesday – Wednesday win or draw
After a strong run that ensured they would avoid a relegation battle QPR have taken their foot off the gas and fallen to three consecutive defeats. By contrast Wednesday have recovered from a slump that threatened to derail their play-off bid and recently secured a superb and thoroughly deserved win over Newcastle.
The Owls have been fairly patchy on the road but only three sides have lost fewer away games this season (7). The visitors are also unbeaten in four against Monday’s hosts, who now have very little but pride to play for.
Derby vs Huddersfield – Derby win or draw
Gary Rowett has enjoyed an unbeaten start at Derby at the time of writing, leading the club to three consecutive wins for the first time this year, and the Rams remain in with an outside chance of a play-off finish. Huddersfield, meanwhile, are pretty assured of their top six finish but have all but surrendered the chance to go up automatically following three defeats in four ahead of Friday’s fixtures.
Wagner’s men have suffered back-to-back defeats away from home, conceding six and failing to score, while Derby have lost just four home games all season. With 8 goals scored in Rowett’s first four matches in charge, they’ve looked far more threatening on the attack having boasted a strong defensive record all season.
Middlesbrough vs Arsenal – Arsenal win
The Gunners fell to a fourth consecutive away defeat in the Premier League at Palace, doing so for the first time ever under Arsene Wenger. The pressure continues to mount on the Frenchman, but while last Monday’s hosts had enjoyed a revival of late, the same can’t be said of their opponents a week on.
Middlesbrough’s current streak of 14 games without a win is the longest in the Premier League all season and while Steve Agnew has led the side to two draws in their last three games, the goals are still proving difficult to come by to say the least. It’s got to the embarrassing point where golden boot hopeful Romelu Lukaku has scored more goals (23) than the entire Boro side (22). Despite their awful form you’d have to fancy Arsenal to score, while the same can’t be said of their doomed hosts.