With the FA Cup quarter-finals taking place this weekend, it means that the upcoming Premier League programme is a curtailed one. However, that does not mean that is any less important either.
Five Premier League matches are on the horizon and the results of those will undoubtedly have ramifications for teams at both ends of the table, whether it be the title race of the battle to avoid the relegation zone.
A week such as this presents the perfect opportunity to get much-needed points on the board and in turn add pressure to the outfits that still have it all to do and with that in mind, here is this week’s Premier League preview:
SATURDAY MARCH 16
BOURNEMOUTH VS NEWCASTLE
It’s fair to say that is has been a rather indifferent spell of results for Bournemouth as of late and therefore a win over Huddersfield last weekend, would have been a very welcome one for manager Eddie Howe.
That win at the John Smith’s Stadium means the Cherries have all but secured top-flight survival for another season and the club can now plan ahead in terms of identifying key summer transfer targets before doing it all over again come August.
However, with their objective of safety now reached, there is always the danger that the South Coast club will take their foot off the pedal and all but cruise along to the final day of this current campaign.
If that does prove to be the case, then this is something that Newcastle will certainly be looking to take advantage of this Saturday, especially as they themselves are not quite clear of the dreaded bottom three.
Rafael Benitez’s men did take a huge step to avoiding relegation last weekend when they came from 2-0 down to get the better of Everton and they will now look to kick on from such an impressive turnaround at St James’ Park.
Another win for Newcastle in any of their last eight games, will all but assure them of warding off the symptoms of ‘Second Season Syndrome’ and if they manage to achieve that against Bournemouth, then GiveMeBet have you covered with odds of 14/5.
BURNLEY VS LEICESTER
After putting together a run of eight league games unbeaten, it looked as if Burnley were going to pull clear of the relegation zone and end proceedings in the relative comfort that a mid-table finish offers.
However, three straight league losses for the Clarets means that there is an air of tension around Turf Moor and manager Sean Dyche knows that they can ill afford to continue that unwanted streak for very much longer.
They go into this weekend’s action just two points clear of the drop zone and will look to increase that gap when they play host to a Leicester side, who in turn picked up their first win under new manager Brendan Rodgers last Saturday.
The Foxes are just on the fringes for the battle to finish in a potential Europa League place and they know with Watford and Wolves in FA Cup action instead, this is the ideal opportunity in which to apply some pressure on their two main targets.
With that objective of a seventh-place finish being just about achievable, it means that Leicester still have something to play for between now and the end of the season, something that indicates their trip to Burnley is far from a dead rubber.
Leicester’s talisman Jamie Vardy has been given a new lease of life since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and having scored in his last two league matches, he looks well versed to make it three on Saturday. You can get odds of 6/4 with GiveMeBet for him to score against Burnley.
WEST HAM VS HUDDERSFIELD
West Ham sit one place above Leicester going into this weekend’s set of Premier League fixtures, although any hopes they had of finishing in the top seven would have taken an almighty knock during their last league outing.
That’s because the inconsistency that they have displayed all too often this season, once again reared its ugly head in South Wales last Saturday. A 2-0 defeat away at Cardiff, showed that the Hammers are not such at a tough nut to crack when on the road.
Therefore, manager Manuel Pellegrini will be happy at the fact that his players get the chance to play in front of their own fans this weekend and also with the visit of basement outfit Huddersfield, it is the ideal chance to return to winning ways.
Things are looking incredibly bleak for Jan Siewert and his players, as the Terriers find themselves now an eye-watering 16 points from safety and it is now a case of not if, but when they get relegated to the Championship.
Last time out they lost to Bournemouth and once again a lack of real attacking threat was their undoing, they’ve scored just twice in their last six games and a paltry fifteen across the whole of this Premier League season.
With just one goal every other league game, there is little to suggest that they will find the net at the East London Stadium and with West Ham being a much stronger outfit at home, a Hammers win to zero at odds of 7/5 with GiveMeBet looks like being a good value punt.
SUNDAY MARCH 17
FULHAM VS LIVERPOOL
Fulham have rolled the dice again and installed Scott Parker as interim manager until the end of the season and although the performances have improved under the former Cottagers midfielder, they still have not yielded any points.
Defeats to both Chelsea and Leicester have only gone on to worsen their plight and with a 13 point gap between themselves and safety, it seems that they, like Huddersfield are bracing themselves for the inevitability of relegation.
This Sunday sees the fixture computer do the club no favours whatsoever, as the visit of Liverpool looms large and should Jurgen Klopp’s men manage to pick up a win in West London, they will return to the top of the Premier League table.
Last Sunday, Liverpool went into their home tie with Burnley four points off the top of the table - a margin that no doubt applied some pressure to the players before kick-off and that feeling would have only worsened when Ashley Westwood put the visitors ahead after just six minutes.
Thankfully though, that goal was almost a wakeup call and from there, the championship challengers went up through the gears to deliver all three points and in turn answer the question that current league leaders Manchester City had asked of them.
Although they haven’t quite been at their brilliant best as of late, Liverpool will be clear favourites to win. Add the fact that Fulham are at least showing some signs of life under Scott Parker and an away win, with both teams to score at odds of 21/20 with GiveMeBet could be a wise investment.
EVERTON VS CHELSEA
The pressure is once again mounting on Marco Silva, as Everton start this weekend’s set of Premier League fixtures lying in the bottom half of the table - a current standing that points to massive underachievement in the blue half of Merseyside at present.
Defeat to Newcastle last weekend halted any signs of a late surge up the table and in turn entering the race to finish the ‘best of the rest’, while the manner of that defeat will definitely have been of real concern to the Everton manager.
After going 2-0 up in the first half, the Toffees then underwent a second-half collapse at St James’ Park and eventually saw themselves undoing all their early hard work, as Ayose Perez slammed home a late winner for Newcastle.
This weekend they play host to a Chelsea side who are still firmly in the race for a top-four finish and should they win at Goodison Park on Sunday, they will go level on points with crosstown rivals Arsenal who currently lie fourth.
Chelsea’s recent swagger was not quite on show last weekend when they hosted Wolves at Stamford Bridge and they needed an injury-time equaliser from Belgian international Eden Hazard to salvage a point.
A point that could prove to be crucial come the final day of the season, especially as it now looks as there are four teams competing over two Champions League paying places and of course one should not forget, that the Blues still have the backup plan of Europa League success also.
Some questioned as to whether their Europa League exploits earlier in the week was the reason why they failed to get the better of Wolves, although that arguably does Nuno Espirito Santo’s men a huge disservice.
Chelsea have enough in their squad to deal with a Europa League trip to Ukraine this Thursday and still get the better of a stuttering Everton side come Sunday, while you can back Maurizio Sarri’s men to be winning at both half time and full time with GiveMeBet at odds of 33/20.