Can Louis van Gaal win at the Bridge 15 years on? Can Burnley take advantage of QPR and Hull’s break? Here are the Premier League talking points this weekend…
Will Tony Pulis’ departure on the eve of the new season inspire Alan Pardew’s Palace? (Crystal Palace v West Brom – Saturday, 3pm)
When Pulis left Selhurst Park less than two days before the start of this season, many placed Palace among the favourites to go down.
Since, via an indifferent spell under Neil Warnock, the Eagles have gone from strength to strength under Alan Pardew, winning 10 of his 15 games in charge to leave them in 11th place.
The Palace players won’t need much motivation against Pulis’ Baggies, who have lost their last three games, including two winnable home clashes against QPR and Leicester.
Can Burnley gain a psychological advantage over Hull and QPR in the fight for survival? (Everton v Burnley – Saturday, 3pm)
QPR and Hull City may be glad to have a week off due to the FA Cup semi-final clashes, but Burnley will be thinking otherwise.
Their trip to Goodison Park gives them an opportunity to climb out of the relegation places, leapfrogging their two relegation rivals, a feat Sean Dyche would see as a “ball is in your court” mental boost with five games remaining.
But Everton have improved of late, winning three of their last four Premier League games, and the Toffees have not lost at home since Boxing Day.
Can Leicester lift themselves off the bottom of the table for the first time since November? (Leicester v Swansea – Saturday, 3pm)
What seemed like mission impossible just weeks ago now looks to be on the cards as the Foxes have dug their way out of what appeared a relegation formality with a couple rousing results. A win against Swansea could lift them off the bottom at the end of a match round for the first time in five months.
Having previously not won in the league since January, Leicester’s victories over West Ham and West Brom have taken them to within three points of safety with a game in hand over their rivals.
As with several teams in mid-table, Swansea have little to play for, and Nigel Pearson will file this clash in the ‘winnable’ pile alongside remaining home clashes against Newcastle, Southampton and QPR plus trips to Burnley and Sunderland. What a finish it could be…
Can Saints cling on to their slim Champions League hopes with a win over faltering Stoke? (Stoke v Southampton – Saturday, 3pm)
Saints’ recent indifferent form has seriously harmed their top-four chances, but Manchester City’s stumble has just about kept them in the hunt.
They have never qualified for Europe’s elite competition, and will feel they need to win each of their last six games to stand a chance, with a trip to Manchester City a potential decider on the last day of the season.
They will need Graziano Pelle firing, and finally have the Italian in high spirits after grabbing his first league goal since December in the 2-0 win over Hull last weekend.
Will Louis van Gaal reverse United’s recent downfalls at Stamford Bridge and halt Chelsea’s title plans? (Chelsea v Man Utd – Saturday, 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports 1)
Chelsea have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League home games against United, winning seven, but Van Gaal’s side will fear nobody while on a fine run of form.
They’ll want to further delay Chelsea’s title-winning party, but a win for the Blues would put them 10 points ahead of Arsenal with the same games played and six remaining.
The last time Van Gaal managed at Stamford Bridge, his Barcelona side fell 3-1 in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2000, but won the second leg 5-1 at the Nou Camp.
Can Man City continue their home dominance over West Ham in the Premier League and allay any top-four fears? (Man City v West Ham – Sunday, 1.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
West Ham have never won in the Premier League at the Etihad, their last victory at City coming in 2003 at Maine Road just weeks before the Hammers were relegated.
Both sides have stumbled of late, and come off the back of disappointing results; City’s Manchester derby defeat and the Hammers dropping two points in the last minute at home to Stoke.
The last time these sides met at the Etihad, City’s win handed them the Premier League title, but this time Manuel Pellegrini is looking to save the season, and the same result could settle any fears of dropping out of the Champions League places.
Can Newcastle prevent matching their worst ever Premier League losing streak and in-turn kill Spurs’ Champions League hopes? (Newcastle v Tottenham – Sunday, 4pm, live on Sky Sports)
Newcastle’s worst ever run of six straight defeats came around this stage last season, and they can match it on Super Sunday if they fail to pick up a result in front of a St James’ Park crowd drained of soul in recent weeks.
Problems at the club run deep, but barring some extraordinary events below them, they will stay in the Premier League for another season.
Spurs are not out of the running for a top four spot, but disappointing performances against Burnley and Aston Villa have left them praying for a major slip up from Manchester City to have any hope of a first Champions League appearance since 2010/11.