With the top four cast in stone, the focus turns to the relegation battle. Either Hull City or Newcastle United will fall. Both have home games against teams with little to play for except price – and only one of those teams appears to have any at present.
We take a look at the big weekend matches and suggest how to make even some money for your summer holidays…
Remember, you can get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
Arsenal (Odds: 1.39) have clinched third place unless Manchester United can achieve a swing of eight goals with the Gunners – and that is very unlikely to happen.
So with the top four cemented and West Brom (8.60) safe from relegation, there is very little riding on the outcome.
West Brom have won three of the last 35 meetings and the Gunner have scored at least once in the last 21 clashes. Five of the last six meetings yielded under three goals and with the way the Gunners have been miss-firing of late, all three of those trends may well hold true.
The Baggies beat Chelsea 3-0 last week and they may well think it is ‘job done’. We see the Gunners rolling Albion over.
VERDICT: Arsenal 3 West Brom 1 @ 11.00
BEST BET: Arsenal to win & over 2.5 goals @ 1.90
Leicester (Odds: 1.58) become the second team in as many seasons to be bottom of the Premier League at Christmas yet still survive the drop.
Their sole defeat in their last eight games came at home to champions Chelsea and they have kept a clean sheet at home in three of their last four games.
QPR (5.70) were left in the lurch by Harry Redknapp, who bought badly and walked out after the transfer window. Their prize asset, Charlie Austin, is likely to ply his trade elsewhere next season.
While fortunate that they have a good man at the helm in Chris Ramsey, who has been appointed head coach on a three-year contract, the club appears to be in financial meltdown and it will take a monumental feat to see them bounce back quickly.
Rangers won fewer points in the league (nine) in 2015 than any other team, even after beating Newcastle last week. It is easy to see a confident Leicester side taking their momentum into the close season with a win and there has been a positive result in each of the last eight meetings.
VERDICT: Leicester 2 QPR 1 @ 7.60
BEST BET: Leicester lead at HT @ 2.06
Sunderland (Odds: 9.80) have managed to keep their Premier League status for another season, though who will be in charge on the opening day of the new season remains open to question.
The Black Cats have won just three of their 17 games on the road this term and have managed just 14 goals. Though they held Arsenal scoreless to secure their survival on Wednesday, it was a physically and psychologically draining game, as interim manager Dick Advocaat’s tears in the press conference afterwards showed.
Chelsea (1.36) clinched the title with three matches remaining so have earned the right to lose some motivation. Yet having been thumped 3-0 by an inferior West Brom side will have hurt Jose Mourinho.
Good managers inspire bounce-back performances and while Sunderland have remained undefeated in the last three meetings, it is unlikely that they will inflict Chelsea’s first home league defeat of the season.
Chelsea have won 17 of the last 21 meetings and 11 of the last 14 have yielded three goals or more. Those are trends that can be your friend. In fact, Sunderland could get a thumping.
VERDICT: Chelsea 5 Sunderland 0 @ 32.00
BEST BET: Both teams score – No @ 1.82
West Ham (Odds: 4.60) have seemingly given up. It is bordering on criminal that those who don the famous claret and blue have simply not appeared to put it in at all since the turn of the year.
The Upton Park faithful have been treated to poor performance after poor performance and the board’s refusal to give Sam Allardyce their wholehearted backing has caused nothing but apathy from over-paid, and oft-ordinary players.
The Hammers need to remain in the Premier League next term before they head to the Olympic Stadium. This may well herald the start of an exciting time at the club, but the current crop of players do not seem to be buying into it.
Newcastle (1.74) have suffered an horrendous run of form. They are a ludicrously short price for a team that has taken just one point from their last 30 available. But that says much about the opposition.
It is a straight fight between The Magpies and Hull, who are two points behind but who have a superior goal difference, to see who goes down.
Newcastle have not lost back-to-back games against the Hammers since 2000, but if the West Ham players are still playing for Allardyce, the incentive is there to win. Big Sam was sacked by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and he would perhaps like a measure of revenge.
It is all hypothetical, of course. West Ham players Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll are both Newcastle legends and they would not like to see the club go down. They may even return to Tyneside before too long.
Despite nine defeats in 10 matches Newcastle are odds-on to win. West Ham still appear massive value, but you are taking a big chance if backing them, as they appear to have thrown in the towel long ago.
VERDICT: Newcastle United 2 West Ham 0 @ 9.20
BEST BET: Newcastle to win @ 1.74
The remarkable job Shaun Dyche has done with Burnley (Odds: 3.60) and the equally effective job the board have done in sticking to their plan, means the Clarets immediate future will not be a concern.
While they have ultimately paid for their prudence, they will be in excellent financial shape compared to some in the Championship and have refused to mortgage their future on the present.
The loyalty they have shown Dyche, an excellent motivator and fine man-manager, is something every Burnley fan – and every football fan for that matter – can take pride in. Theirs is a blueprint that many clubs can learn from.
Aston Villa (2.08), safe for another season, are looking forward to next week’s F.A. Cup final against Arsenal. Injury will be at the forefront of the players’ minds.
There have been five draws in the last eight meetings but Villa have won just two of the last 10 clashes. Both sides found the net in seven of the last eight meetings and that trend may continue.
As with most of the games, there is nothing hanging on the outcome and we look for an entertaining draw.
VERDICT: Aston Villa 1 Burnley 1 @ 6.40
BEST BET: Burnley to score @ 1.42
Tottenham (Odds: 2.98) could still finish fifth and qualify for the Europa League. They are a point behind Liverpool with an inferior goals difference.
Tottenham’s hierarchy probably believe that playing on Thursday nights in the Europa League harms their chances of making the top four and the promise of Champions League football. Perhaps they feel they are above all that?
In fairness, sides traditionally struggle in league matches after a Thursday night jaunt around the more obscure grounds in Europe.
Liverpool have a tough game at Stoke. The Reds may have been unsettled by the talk about Raheem Sterling’s contract and may be drained by the emotion of Steven Gerrard’s last home game. Both are ready-made excuses for not wanting Thursday night football and they were certainly not at the races against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Everton (2.34) have only their final position in the table to play for but should secure tenth place.
We don’t think Spurs will put it all in, to be brutally honest.
BEST BET: 3 goals or more @ 1.68
Alan Padrew’s Palace showed last week that they are something of a bogey side to Liverpool and they spoilt Steven Gerrard’s Anfield send-off with a remarkable 3-1 win. What goes around comes around, however, and Swansea have held the Indian Sign over the Eagles in recent times, remaining unbeaten in the last seven meetings.
Palace have failed to score in five of the last seven meetings, of which the Swans have won four. They also led at half-time in five of the last six clashes.
Throw in the fact that Palace have the worst home record in the Premier League, taking just 18 points from their 18 games and you have the potential for an upset.
VERDICT: Crystal Palace 1 Swansea 2 @ 11.00
BEST BET: HT draw @ 2.12
Southampton’s (Odds: 6.00) season has been nothing short of tremendous. Many were berating the board for selling a few prize assets at the end of last season, but sound management from Ronald Koeman, combined with a perpetually blossoming youth system, means they continue to reap the benefits.
Clubs such as West Ham, who had a long history of bringing through young talent, but who veered from that path by bringing in mediocre – and often expensive – foreign players, are now looking at the Saints with envy. Or at least they should be.
City (1.55) are all that is bad about the modern game in this country: Throw money at the best foreign players and buy trophies. Gone are the days of the likes of Everton, West Ham or West Brom challenging for the title – or even the top four. Money has made the Premier League, but also killed English football and English talent.
Both sides scored in six of the last seven meetings, seven of the last nine meetings yielded over 2.5 goals and there has been a positive result in 13 of the last 15 meetings.
City have secured second place, but the neutral will want a Saints win. One in the eye. A small token gesture. It probably won’t happen though.
VERDICT: Man City 2 Southampton 0 @ 10.00
BEST BET: Man City win to nil @ 3.20
Anyone who has read this blog will know we have fancied Hull (Odds: 3.15) to fall for quite a while.
In order to stay up, they have to beat Manchester United (2.20) and hope that Newcastle do not manage to beat West Ham. That may well be too much to ask.
Hull have not managed a point against United in seven attempts and even an old pals’ act may not be enough to help Steve Bruce’s side.
United will likely be on their holidays after finishing fourth and they have only won a third of their 18 road games. That is by no means title-winning form and the Red Devils will have to improve upon that next term if they are to challenge.
Hull have won just five of 18 league matches at home this season and they have managed just 19 goals. Bruce needs a miracle and while Hull may eke out a victory, ultimately it may not be enough.
BEST BET: Hull to win @ 3.15
Steven Gerrad’s Anfield send-off was akin to being at a wake.
Understandable to a degree, for where would Liverpool (Odds: 2.14) be without Stevie G?
He has dragged them to a Champions League success, an F.A. Cup (both won on penalties) and a League Cup, but there has been no silverware for nine years, no title for 25 years.
While the likes of Phillippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge have proven major transfer success stories, the future of this once-great club is filed with doubt.
The treadmill of quality home-grown players who would die for the club may well end with Gerrard. And that is a travesty. A strong Liverpool used to mean a strong national game. No more.
Stoke (3.40) have a fine manager in Mark Hughes, who will soon have the chance of another top job. He may have felt he had something to prove after being ousted at Man City, but he has always been a winner. “He was impossible to play against,” according to Chelsea’s legendary captain Colin Pates, and his teams are proving equally tough to play against now.
Motivation is a factor. Brendan Rodgers may well not tolerate such a below-par display in Gerrard’s final game for Liverpool, but as the Raheem Sterling saga is showing, managers don’t have much of a say. Player-power is king.
While the future Reds manager will wish to head to America with a win – the Legend deserves that at the very least – Liverpool may well not welcome European Thursday night football again. Stoke are simply too big a price to ignore.
VERDICT: Stoke 2 Liverpool 1 @ 11.00
BEST BET: Both teams to score @ 1.67
Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.
You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsibly www.gambleaware.co.uk