Here at FFC, we’ve taken to asking all the important questions of the big hitting behemoths of the Premier League. The league is nicely poised at the moment, just the tonic we need to perk ourselves up after an international break lull.
We hate the break, it takes us away from the real business of trolling the most hapless football clubs in our land. But as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. This weekend, the heart is especially fond of the Premier League: there are relegation battles, huge games at the bottom and the chance to see Alan Pardew suffer. At the top, there’s a title race brewing and a race for fourth that doesn’t look like stopping any time soon. Can the teams below them push for Europe? This weekend will see lots of questions answered – and we’ve asked the ones you want answers to.
As we pound on the desk, asking the tough questions of the football clubs who try to hide the truth from you, here are our five big questions for Saturday:
It may be a long shot, but Chelsea have nothing else to play for this season. Out of the cup competitions and out of Europe, their dismal season is in need of a kickstart once again. At this stage, it might be more likely that the season peters out to a drab close, but going on a run now might see them push up the table to an unlikely Europa League finish.
In a season characterised by inconsistency and downright shoddiness of the big teams, Leicester City have been made title favourites by a mix of their own brilliance and the inadequacy of their challengers. Can Chelsea capitalise on that poor form around them and go on a run themselves? Remember, they’re unbeaten in the league since Hiddink took over.
Norwich play Newcastle in a game that has pundits racing to talk about ‘six pointers’ so already you know it’s going to be a big one. But there are two other big games with big effects at the bottom of the table kicking off at the same time. Big Sam’s Sunderland host Tony Pulis’s West Brom in a game that promises to reverberate through the ages – but only if Big Sam is felled by an errant Lee Cattermole challenge and is sent crashing to the turf – whilst Crystal Palace try not to ‘sleepwalk into relegation’, as their manager put it, and lose to high-flying West Ham.
This is a huge weekend in the relegation battle, and whilst we all thought it was any two from Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle, Palace could find themselves only four points above the drop zone come 5pm on Saturday
The Premier League’s late game on Saturday will see perhaps the most intense 90 minutes of Premier League football for quite some time as the unstoppable force of Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing meets the equally unstoppable force of Mauricio Pochettino’s pressing. Whether the clash will cause the end of the world as we know it, no one is certain, but most people would agree we’d take something more exciting than the 0-0 these two served up in Klopp’s first game in charge back in October.
If Spurs win, they’ll put themselves only two points behind Leicester, who play on Sunday, and put the pressure back squarely on Leicester’s shoulders.
With the Pep Guardiola takeover fast approaching, and just after a dismal defeat at home to Manchester United, Manchester City find themselves in mortal danger in terms of Champions League qualification. No one thinks they’ll be able to win the Champions League and qualify through that route, so in order to save Pep the ignominy of having to win the Europa League, can City hang on?
Saturday’s clash with Bournemouth surely see a Manchester City victory, and with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Fabian Delph itching to get back to Premier League action, City could still turn on the gas and push clear of their Manchester – and East London – rivals.
A game against Crystal Palace, who haven’t won in the league since December, who will surely have an eye or two on the FA Cup semi final fast approaching, and who will be without some key players sounds like the perfect game for a high flying Hammers side. But games like these should be handled with kid gloves – they are, as they say in the world of football cliches, potential banana skins.
Win, and the Irons could find themselves chasing the impossible dream. Lose and they may be left dreaming about the impossible.