The big news this morning is that Rick Parry has been kicked out agreed to leave his post as Liverpool chief executive at the end of this season. It’s what Rafa Benitez wanted, so you’d assume that he really is on the ‘verge’ of signing that new contract (unless he decides he wants Villa, Silva, Ramos and Lahm signed up for next season before he agrees to put pen to paper). The search for Parry’s successor will continue in the background but for now Benitez is the unofficial king of Anfield with support of the players and a majority of the fans.
Liverpool tactically outclassed Real Madrid in Europe, but they’ve got a different type of game this weekend with a trip to Riverside where Southgate’s men will be faster, stronger and more desperate to win the game than, say, the nine-time European champions. Torres will miss that trip but regardless of the personnel, Liverpool should be able to secure 3 points and keep pressure on 17-time league champions Manchester United.
People keep saying that the league title is a certainty for United but it’s far from a wrap – they have a tough run-in and two home games against Arsenal and Liverpool which in theory should be 6 points in the bag but could easily see United lose points. As long as Liverpool keep winning games, they’ll be in with a chance till they get to Old Trafford (and get beaten, obviously).
Chelsea however, are out of the race. Hiddink may have said differently but Premier League managers have figured out how to play against Chelsea over the last couple of years and and 10 points in 12 games, especially with no chance left to take off points from Liverpool and Manchester United, is out of their league. They could still catch Liverpool though, but that means winning their home games and in Wigan they’ve got a great chance to do, provided they can score.
Things are not so simple for Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton. The three are pretty much guaranteed European football next season, the question is who will be playing in the Champions League and who will be playing in the Europa League? Everton would have an outside chance at the best of times but with their injury troubles they might have to contend themselves with dealing West Brom’s Premier League aspirations another death blow. Arsenal host Fulham at the Emirates and Aston Villa take on Stoke at Villa Park – both are winnable games with the slim possibility of a draw – I’m afraid we’ll have to wait till next week to see any changes in the top 6.
Manchester City and West Ham have 12 games to go and no European football to play for – having said that there are points to be won and both teams will need to step up their league form to stand a chance of winning this game. City only seem to wake up for the big games and West Ham don’t seem to wake up at all, so this should be a snoozefest unless Bellamy decides on the 3-iron.
Speaking of snoozefests…the last two games on this week’s preview are Hull v Blackburn and Bolton v Newcastle. With the seasons they’ve had, I’m not sure even their supporters would want to see Bolton or Newcastle play, while Hull v Blackburn promises to be a grueling battle of wills which, if Blackburn can score, will put further pressure on a Hull City in virtual free-fall since everyone figured out they were poor man’s Reading from 3 seasons ago and adapted accordingly. Blackburn, on paper, should win this, as should Bolton. Yes, on paper. That would be more interesting, wouldn’t it?
English Premier League Fixtures
Middlesbrough v Liverpool – Liverpool.
Everton v West Brom – Everton.
Chelsea v Wigan Athletic – Chelsea.
Arsenal v Fulham – Arsenal.
West Ham v Manchester City – Manchester City.
Hull City v Blackburn Rovers – Blackburn.
Bolton Wanderers v Newcastle United – Bolton.
Aston Villa v Stoke City – Aston Villa.
Make your predictions below, and remember, if you can’t watch the games in the stadium or on TV, you can always watch football online, or follow our live scores.