5 things to look out for this weekend in the Premier League

With just seven games remaining of the Premier League season, there is still everything to play for. This weekend sees several important games at both ends of the table which will go some way to answering these five questions.

Will Chelsea lift their Loftus Road hoodoo?

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe's top 5 leagues in 2015

Only Lionel Messi (8) has more assists than Matt Phillips (7) in Europe’s top 5 leagues in 2015

Leaders Chelsea should have the title wrapped up by now, however their recent performances have been all but impressive. Added to that is the fact they have only won at Loftus Road once in their last 13 visits to West London. With Matic and Fabregas walking a disciplinary tightrope, and Diego Costa out injured, this could be yet another tough afternoon for Chelsea. QPR have scored seven goals in their past two games with Matt Phillips becoming instrumental in the R’s push for survival. If Chelsea can overcome this hurdle, the title is almost guaranteed, but if they slip up then they could give Arsenal a chance to catch up.

Can Arsenal maintain their title challenge?

For 75 minutes of their match against Liverpool, Arsenal played like champions. This weekend they face Burnley at Turf Moor in a test of their title credentials. In normal circumstances you would assume the title race is all but over, but with Chelsea stuttering recently and with such an unpredictable season already, the Gunners know that nothing except a win will do. Burnley will be a tough test, recently drawing with Chelsea and Tottenham, and beating Manchester City, and it will be a test of this Arsenal team’s mental toughness to see whether they can challenge at the top of the table.

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Arsenal have picked up the most points in the league so far in 2015

Who will be relegated?

Okay, so this question can’t be answered this weekend, but the game at the Hawthorns could go a long way to answering it. If Leicester lose, then they risk being cut adrift at the bottom of the table. West Brom have conceded seven goals in their last two games and could be in danger of being dragged back in to the scrap if they lose. Leicester’s late win at West Ham saw them gain ground on their rivals, whilst West Brom were on the end of a surprise thumping at home to QPR. QPR, Burnley and Hull all unlikely to pick up maximum points in their games, and Sunderland and Villa have tough games, so three points for any of the bottom seven will be welcome in the fight against the drop.

Will the Manchester derby be the final nail in Pellegrini’s coffin?

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win 5 in a row against United

Despite their poor run of form, City can be the first team in the Premier League era to win five in a row against United

Sunday sees a stuttering Manchester City visit their in-form rivals United, with the pressure building on boss Manuel Pellegrini. City have lost three out of their last five, and plenty of their stars are out of form. Sergio Aguero hasn’t scored in over 500 minutes and Yaya Toure has failed to reach the heights of last season. Louis van Gaal, on the other hand, appears to have stumbled across a team that fits, with injuries to Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao allowing Wayne Rooney to flourish up front with Marouane Fellaini finding his Everton form in midfield. After winning the title last year, Tuesday’s defeat to Palace has left the Champions in fourth, below their rivals for the first time in 18 months. Rumours about Pellegrini’s future refuse to go away, and however much his players have let him down this season, a defeat at Old Trafford could be the final nail in his coffin.

Who will finish fifth?

With just one point separating Liverpool in fifth and Southampton in seventh, the battle for fifth is hotting up. Liverpool have lost the momentum with two losses in a row, all but ending their hopes for a top four finish. This week they face Newcastle on Monday night, which on form is a guaranteed three points. Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel are back from suspension, which will good news for Brendan Rodgers who may want to shake the team up to get back to the form of the last couple of months. Spurs have laboured to getting results in recent weeks, edging past Leicester and QPR whilst drawing with Burnley. Aston Villa visit White Hart Lane, led by former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood. Villa could be a tough test for Tottenham, with Christian Benteke being the highest scorer in the Premier League since Sherwood’s appointment. Southampton, despite playing well, have struggled to score goals recently, as highlighted by their defeat at Everton last week. The host a hapless Hull side who could conceivably not pick up a single point for the rest of the season. Sadio Mane could return for the Saints in order to give Graziano Pelle the support he needs for Saints to find the net.


Premier League gameweek 2: Unhappy return for Redknapp

Harry Redknapp’s return to White Hart Lane was a disaster for QPR, as they were demolished 4-0. Nacer Chadli bagged two goals, whilst Eric Dier grabbed his second goal of the season and Emmanuel Adebayor completed the rout. Louis Van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United continues to be unimpressive, as they were held to a draw at Sunderland. Juan Mata opened the scoring, but ex-Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell equalised with a header. In the final game on Sunday, a late Ryan Shawcross goal saved Stoke’s blushes against 10 man Hull City. James Chester saw red early on for the Tigers, but Nikica Jelavic managed to give them the lead from close range. However Shawcross’ scrappy finish gave Stoke the draw.

Chelsea maintained their perfect start to the season as they overcame a tricky game against Leicester. Diego Costa netted on his home debut and Edin Hazard made sure of the points. Swansea are another team with a perfect start, as the edged past Burnley 1-0, with Nathan Dyer breaking clear to score the winner.

Arsenal came from two goals down to draw 2-2 away at Everton. Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith scored in the first half, but late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud maintained the Gunners unbeaten start. West Ham demolished managerless Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park. Débutante Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing scored two quick first half goals. Marouane Chamakh brought Palace back into the game, but Carlton Cole wrapped up the win for the Hammers.

Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Newcastle in this season’s first goalless draw. Newcastle were reduced to ten men late in the game as Mike Williamson earned two yellow cards. It didn’t take long for a second goalless draw, as Southampton drew with West Brom. James Ward-Prowse came closest for the Saints as his free kick struck the post, whilst summer signing Brown Ideye came closest for the Baggies, with Fraser Forster denying the striker after a clever turn.

On Monday, last season’s top two face off at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City play Liverpool.

Premier League gameweek 1: Swans stun Van Gaal

The biggest story of the opening weekend of the new Premier League season was Swansea’s stunning 2-1 victory over Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at Old Trafford. Returning midfielders Ki Sung-Yueng and Gylfi Sigurdsson scored either side of a Wayne Rooney goal to secure Gary Monk’s team their first win at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Leicester City secured a late draw at home to Everton through a Chris Wood strike. Aiden McGeady opened the scoring with his first Everton goal before Leonardo Ulloa equalised on his Foxes debut. Steven Naismith put Everton back in the lead but Martinez’s men were unable to hold on to the three points. QPR lost on their return to the Premier League as James Chester capitalised on some poor marking to head Hull ahead. Rangers had a chance to equalise from the spot as Chester was harshly punished for an alleged handball, but Alan McGregor saved Charlie Austin’s penalty.

Arsenal, fresh from their Community Shield victory, came from behind to beat manager-less Crystal Palace 2-1. Brede Hangeland headed Palace ahead, but Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey scored in injury time in each half to secure the win. Palace also had Jason Puncheon sent off. Arsenal’s north London rivals Spurs also opened their season with a win, 1-0 at West Ham. Spurs had Kyle Naughton sent off for blocking a goal bound shot with his arms, however Mark Noble sent the penalty wide. In the second half, things were evened up as James Collins was sent off for a second bookable offence. Débutante Eric Dier rescued Pochettino’s men as the defender broke through and scored in injury time.

At the Hawthorns, Lee Cattermole hit a superb opener to put Sunderland ahead but West Brom pulled level as Saido Berahino converted a very soft penalty. Berahino doubled his tally with a second half volley, but Seb Larsson rescued a late point for Sunderland. In the other match on Saturday, Aston Villa beat Stoke 1-0 through an Andreas Weimann goal, which Stoke’s Asmir Begovic would have felt he should have kept out .

On Sunday, champions Manchester City weren’t at their best as they edged past Newcastle 2-0. David Silva put the champions ahead after an excellent assist from Dzeko. But Newcastle responded well and had plenty of chances to equalise. Their inefficiency was punished as Sergio Aguero tidily finished in stoppage time to put City top of the league. Liverpool coped well without Luis Suarez as they narrowly beat Southampton 2-1. Raheem Sterling beat the offside trap to open the scoring, but Nathaniel Clyne powered in an equaliser after some nice interplay with Dusan Tadic. Southampton really should have taken the lead, but Morgan Schneiderlin crashed his effort against the bar whilst new signing Shane Long headed the follow up wide. Liverpool took full advantage of that, as Daniel Sturridge netted the winner after Southampton failed to clear the ball.

On Monday, newly promoted Burnley host championship favourites Chelsea.

The woes of QPR, and is ‘Arry all that?

QPR are floundering at the bottom of the Premier League, showing little sign of life, and no-one should be surprised. A team packed full of mercenaries will never show the same spirit and grit that a team such as West Brom’s great escapees or even Wigan’s annual group of relegation dodgers. The latest member of this ‘guns for hire’ squad is Loic Remy. He could have moved to Newcastle, 5th bottom, but roared on by over 50,000 Geordies each week, or QPR, who are rock bottom but have money coming out of their ears. Just like his predecessors, Cisse, Ganero and Bosingwa, Remy followed the money, with QPR reportedly offering £40,000-a-week more than the Magpies. That’s paying top, top wages for another distinctly average player. When QPR go down, they will be in serious financial trouble. A squad of average mercenaries on high wages and long contracts is just a recipe for disaster, Portsmouth all over again.

Another resemblance to the Portsmouth situation is the media darling Harry Redknapp. If you believe most of the media, ‘Arry is destined to keep the R’s up. But apart from hanging out of his car window on transfer deadline day, what has he done? Nothing, that’s what. He bankrupted Pompey, took Saints down, and cost Spurs a Champions League place, throwing away a 13 point lead to their nearest rivals. Anyone who says, “well he kept Spurs up” are obviously completely dependent on being spoon fed lies from the Harry loving media. Tottenham were never going down with players like Bale, Modric and Dawson, in fact the real failure was Harry not getting Spurs in to a regular Champions League place with those players, especially with rivals Arsenal and Liverpool looking incredibly weak.