Last week we took a break to watch some FA Cup action. This weekend, the Premier League returns, with some important matches in the relegation battle and the fight for European spots.
Hull City vs. QPR – Saturday, 10:00 am ET
Hull form: W/L/L/L/D/W
QPR form: D/L/L/L/L/W
Prediction: Hull 3 – QPR 1
At first glance, this may not be the most exciting game this weekend. These two teams are both Premier League bottom feeders and pretty consistent relegation candidates. However, this game has significant implications for the relegation race. With 13 games left in the season, every point is critical, and every match is big, especially if you are in the relegation zone. Both of these teams have climbed out of the relegation zone in recent weeks, with QPR sitting in 17th with 22 points and Hull at 16th with 23. A win for either of these teams would be huge, as three points would put some serious breathing room between themselves and the drop zone. The “magic number” (according to others) to avoid relegation is 30 points, and both of these teams will be scrambling to reach safety as the season reaches its end. Hull City beat Aston Villa 2-0 and scraped out a draw against City, while QPR finally won their first away game at Sunderland last week. I’ve talked before about how QPR actually have some good pieces and have been particularly unlucky at home. Charlie Austin has really, really impressed with 13 goals in 19 this season – even more impressive when you consider he was a bricklayer just a few years ago. However, they have been truly appalling at home. It took more than half the season for them to bag their first away win, and that’s why I think, even with Charlie Austin’s fantastic form, they will fall to Hull City at KC Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United – Sunday, 7:00 AM ET
Tottenham form: W/L/W/W/W/L
West Ham form: D/D/W/L/D/D
Prediction: Tottenham 2 – West Ham 1
The big story coming out of North London in recent weeks has been Harry Kane. I already covered him, so I won’t spend time here talking about him. Spurs have been in some great form recently (no surprise it has coincided with Harry Kane’s rise), garnering 12 points out of a possible 18. Even though they lost to Liverpool 3-2 in their last runout, the game was close and it could have really gone either way. Tottenham have really been trending upwards and also have a great record at home. West Ham’s story is a different one. If the season ended today, the club (which currently sits in eighth place) would achieve its best League finish since 2002. Their season has declined somewhat, as they have slipped down from third back in December. The Hammers managed to grind out two draws against Manchester United and Southampton, but they suffered some bad news as they found out that Andy Carroll would be out for the rest of the season following knee surgery.
This match is important for Spurs, who need to garner as many points possible in the rest of the season if they want to firmly secure a Champions League berth. A shock loss to West Ham could bring the Hammers into contention for one of the Europa League, while a Spurs home victory means that they could tie Arsenal on points (if the Gunners draw) or leapfrog them into fifth (if Arsenal loses). West Ham could pull out an impressive victory, but I’m guessing that a Harry Kane brace will push Spurs to victory.
Southampton vs. Liverpool – Sunday, 11:15 ET
Southampton form: W/W/W/L/W/D
Liverpool form: D/W/W/WD/W
Prediction: Southampton 3 – Liverpool 1
In one of the most important matches in the Champions League hunt, two of the League’s in-form teams meet at St. Mary’s Stadium in the south of England. Liverpool have garnered the most points in the last six, taking an impressive 14 point out of a possible 18 and have gone on a nine-game unbeaten stretch that began in December. Both Liverpool and Southampton have won six out of their last nine games, although Southampton did lose rather surprisingly to Swansea City a few weeks ago. Regardless, these are two teams in fairly good form. Liverpool’s last League outing saw Mario Balotelli FINALLY score his first League goal (it only took more than half the season, Mario), which ended up being the winner in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Spurs. Daniel Sturridge’s return after his almost season-long injury layoff has given them a huge boost, and he has shown no signs of rust since his return. The last time these two played, Sturridge netted a late winner at Anfield on opening day. The Reds will need Sturridge to be firing on all cylinders if they want to beat the League’s best defense. The Saints have allowed just 17 goals all season, even lower than league-leaders Chelsea. Liverpool have also lost five of eleven away games, which is a good sign for Saints, who will be looking to shake off a gritty 0-0 draw against West Ham in their last League match.
Even though both teams have been playing very well recently, I think that Southampton will be able to put the Reds to the sword on Sunday. This will be Sturridge’s first real test since his return, and despite his apparent match readiness, I think he’ll have a tough time against the League’s best defense. Southampton are a ruthless team, and with Liverpool’s penchant for defensive errors, the Saints will be ready to pounce. Expect Southampton to win comfortably at home. Regardless, this should be one of the best, if not the best, match of the weekend. Enjoy it!
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