After what seems like an eternity, the Premier League is back this weekend, so without further delay here is The Big Kick Off’s Predictions for Matchweek 31 of the 2021/22 season.
Yes, it’s been a hectic international break with world cup slots decided for some teams. But for the likes of Mo Salah, the Italian players in the Premier League, and a whole host of other players from across the world, the international break represented the end of their world cup dreams.
How some of those players shrug off the disappointment and perform for their clubs this weekend could have a bearing on the Premier League. For a start, Salah’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane scored the winning spot kick to knock Egypt out of the the world cup.
Might International Rivalries Derail Liverpool’s Title Challenge?
Can those two put international rivalries behind them, and there was a lot of fallout from that match, and unite in the common cause of trying to win the Premier League?
It sounds like a no-brainer. But Senegal also beat Egypt on penalties in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, and in the rerun of that match on Tuesday, the contest again went to penalties, and there were plenty of talking points and ugly incidents that may have left a bad taste in the mouth of Liverpool’s Egyptian striker.
We will soon find out if there is any hangover from that match, and when Salah slots home his third goal from Mane’s pass at about 2.15 on Saturday afternoon, everyone will no doubt be laughing at me for daring to suggest last Tuesday’s antics could have upset the Liverpool applecart.
Liverpool set to go Top of the Premier League this Weekend
It is remarkable to think that – albeit for a possibly just a couple of hours – Liverpool are almost certain to be top of the Premier League tomorrow. Just a few weeks back, the Premier League title race was dead. Now it is as alive as ever.
The latest betting sees Manchester City still as the favourites. Pep’s men are 4/9 (1.44), while Liverpool are 13/8 (2.62). City sounds short, but in a two horse race those odds aren’t what would be known as a racing certainty.
Anyway, onto the match predictions for this weekend, and it’s at Anfield we start, where Salah and Mane will no doubt be refusing to pass to each other this Saturday lunch time….. (it’s a joke Liverpool fans!)
Liverpool v Watford – Saturday 12.30pm
For the second time in a matter of weeks, Sadio Mane has put one over his Liverpool teammate Mo Salah, and the Egyptian forward must by now be sick of the sight of him by now.
I’m sure they’re both too professional to let that affect them, and they both know they have to put hostilities behind them if they have any chance of catching Man City.
As for Watford, they’ve got Leeds and Brentford on the horizon, and they may well have one eye on those upcoming more winnable fixtures.
Watford boss Roy Hodgson didn’t pick up 1 point away to Liverpool as manager of Crystal Palace, and with Liverpool on a nine match Premier League winning run, I don’t see Hodgson’s luck changing on Saturday..
- Verdict – LIVERPOOL WIN
Brighton v Norwich – Saturday 3pm
Brighton has lost their last six Premier League matches in a row, their worst run since Graham Potter took charge – and beyond!
The Seagulls will see this as a chance to end that run, and Graham Potter will be hoping the international break will serve as a reset for his team.
As for Norwich, they are on an even worse run than Brighton – a seven match losing streak.
The Canaries don’t look like they’ve totally given up on Premier League survival yet, and they do have a goal in them. Their big problem is they find it too difficult to keep goals out at the other end.
One or both of these teams’ losing runs will end on Saturday, and I’m going for Brighton to get the win.
- Verdict – BRIGHTON WIN
Burnley v Man City – Saturday 3pm
The Clarets had their mini revival back in February, but have since lost three on the spin.
In total, they are four matches without a win. So on a bad run like that, and desperate for points to stay in the Premier League, what is the last thing Sean Dyche needs?
Yes, a visit from Pep’s Manchester City!
Burnley only lost 2-0 away at the Etihad earlier in the season. Compared to their usual five goals they ship there, quite a good result.
I remember on the day thinking that Burnley had done well. But with 3 points imperative for City this weekend, I fear for the Clarets.
- Verdict – MANCHESTER CITY WIN
Chelsea v Brentford – Saturday 3pm
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are on a five match winning run in the Premier League, and have won 12 from their last 13 in all competitions. Only Liverpool in the Carabao Cup Final have stopped them winning all 13.
The Blues look comfortable for third place in the table, but they can’t take their foot off the gas just yet.
Brentford can consider themselves unlucky to have lost to Chelsea in the reverse fixture in October. On that day they were arguably the better team.
The two wins over Norwich and Burnley were huge for Thomas Frank’s team, and they may well have already secured them another season in the top flight. But despite those wins, I can’t see them getting anything at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
- Verdict – CHELSEA WIN
Leeds v Southampton – Saturday 3pm
How big a win was Leeds’ 3-2 comeback against Wolves in Matchweek 30? That remarkable comeback, along with the injury time winner against Norwich the previous week, have given Leeds a 7 point gap over the bottom 3.
This gap will release some of the pressure that had been building, and in turn could improve performances and results.
Leeds have been hit with the news that Patrick Bamford is out for at least the next six weeks, but even without their main striker, they will still see a match against out of sorts Southampton as winnable.
After an impressive run earlier in the new year, Southampton are now on a three match losing streak. Away from home they haven’t been too clever this season, and it is a big ask to expect the Saints to turn that around after their last three results.
Neither of these two are trustworthy or predictable though, so I’m going for a draw.
- Verdict – DRAW
Wolves v Aston Villa – Saturday 3pm
I’m sure Bruno Lage will tell his players that the last 30 minutes against Leeds shouldn’t have to be season defining. All in all, it’s been a great season for the men from Molineux, so they shouldn’t be too downhearted by letting one match they should have won slip away.
As for Aston Villa, it seems like they are progressing under Steven Gerrard, but for every step they take forward, they seem to take another one back.
A decent three match winning run has been followed by back-to-back defeats. Although in fairness to Villa, the defeats were at the hands of West Ham and Arsenal.
This is another of those matches that could have any one of three results.
- Verdict – DRAW
Manchester United v Leicester – Saturday 5.30pm
Two of the Premier League’s more volatile teams meet in the evening kick off on Saturday.
After a couple of poor results, a Ronaldo inspired Manchester United pulled a huge performance out of the bag when they beat Spurs 3-2 in their last outing.
The Red Devils should be helped out on Saturday by an inconsistent Leicester team who have had an especially poor season on the road.
Yes, the Foxes have shored up that leaky defence a bit lately. But I can see United having too much for Leicester on Saturday.
- Verdict – MAN UTD WIN
West Ham v Everton – Sunday 2pm
Onto Sunday, and we start off at the London Stadium with West Ham v Everton. Yes, Everton are on the road again. And that should come with a health warning for the Toffees’ fans.
West Ham have won their last two home PL matches, and also had that remarkable Europa League night against Sevilla. The Hammers last result was a 3-1 defeat away to Tottenham just before the international break.
Everton boss Frank Lampard went in two footed on the back of his team’s 4-0 loss to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup. Lampard publicly criticised his team after that loss, in what was a massive gamble.
If it pays off, great. If it backfires, it could have disastrous consequences for Everton. Either way, on current form, I can’t see them heading back to Merseyside with anything other than another defeat.
- Verdict – WEST HAM WIN
Tottenham v Newcastle – Sunday 4.30pm
Tottenham’s 3-1 win over West Ham has put them right back in the mix for a top 4 finish, and they know they can’t afford any slip ups this weekend if they are to maintain that push.
Both Man Utd and Arsenal have winnable looking matches, meaning Spurs have to be ready for a confident Newcastle side, who have been on an excellent run of late.
Yes, Newcastle may have lost their last two, but they can consider themselves extremely unlucky against Chelsea. Although in the defeat away to Everton, they only had themselves to blame.
I don’t think this is a home banker, but I do think Spurs will find a way.
- Verdict – SPURS WIN
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Monday 8pm
I know, I’ve just said that Arsenal have a winnable match on Monday, and on form, I’d have to stand by that view.
Yes, Palace have had a great season under Patrick Viera, and they’ve done far better than I thought they would under the guidance of the Frenchman.
Formwise, Palace are four unbeaten, with two draws, and two wins. While for Arsenal, they have won six of their last seven.
The one defeat came at the hands of Liverpool, but the Gunners bounced back well from that loss by winning 1-0 at Villa Park the following weekend.
I think Palace will push the Gunners all the way, but I have to go with Arsenal to get the 3 points!
- Verdict – ARSENAL WIN