CHELSEA are clinging onto their seven-point lead as we enter the final furlong of the 2016-17 English Premier League title race.
In-form Tottenham Hotspur are the challengers-in-chief, yet both Liverpool and Manchester City could still be in the hunt if the Blues stumble towards the finish.
Arsenal have slid right out of contention and could wind up outside the Champions League places for the first time in two decades, while Manchester United will have to start winning at home if they have any designs on the top four.
Meanwhile, it looks as though Sunderland and Middlesbrough are on the way out, with Hull City and Swansea City battling over the remaining relegation slot.
Matchweek 33 Premier League betting
Tottenham -400 – Draw +450 – Bournemouth +1200
Crystal Palace -125 – Draw +260 – Leicester +333
Everton -250 – Draw +350 – Burnley +750
Stoke -105.26 – Draw +240 – Hull +310
Sunderland +210 – Draw +240 – West Ham +130
Watford +138 – Draw +230 – Swansea +210
Southampton +350 – Draw +290 – Man City -133.33
West Brom +320 – Draw +270 – Liverpool -117.65
Man United +162 – Draw +220 – Chelsea +180
Tottenham Hotspur vs. AFC Bournemouth
Saturday, April 15, 2017 – 9:30pm AEST – White Hart Lane
- Spurs to win both halves – +163
- Dele Alli first goalscorer – +450
Time is running out, but Spurs are doing everything in their power to pile pressure on Chelsea and close that seven-point gap.
They have not dropped a single Premier League point since losing to Liverpool back in February, with last week’s mauling Watford marking their sixth straight win.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Mauricio Pochettino is that his charges have found other avenues to goal besides Harry Kane.
Dele Alli has been prolific since Christmas, while the likes of Son Heung-min and Eric Dier have also contributed goals on a regular basis.
Victor Wanyama should return this week to bolster an already-solid midfield, but Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Bournemouth have a seven-point margin of their own to deal with, albeit one they would hope to expand rather than contract.
While it looks like a battle between Hull and Swansea for the final relegation spot, three games without a win means the Cherries are far from safe.
Finding the scoresheet is not an issue for Eddie Howe’s men, but the number of times they have conceded multiple goals in a game this season is a real cause for concern.
The reverse fixture at Dean Court produced a goalless draw – one of Bournemouth’s few clean sheets this season.
But Spurs have averaged four goals per game against them in all formats, so anything but a dominant win for the hosts appears unlikely.
Southampton vs. Manchester City
Sunday, April 16, 2017 – 2:30am AEST – St Mary’s Stadium
- Man City win/both teams to score – +210
- Sergio Aguero first goalscorer – +275
After an early February wobble when they lost two games they ought to have won, Southampton have been pretty solid.
They have lost only one of their last six, and that was against a Spurs side in potentially title-snatching form.
The Saints were good enough to grab all three points away to the always-difficult West Brom last week, courtesy of Jordy Clasie’s maiden Premier League goal.
They could have as many as three key names back in action, with Soufiane Boufal (muscle), Steven Davis (ankle) and Manolo Gabbiadini (groin) all pushing to prove their fitness.
Whomever runs out in the red and white will face a Man City side keen to get back to business after snapping a four-game winless run.
The 3-1 win over Hull was sweet relief after a difficult stretch that included consecutive fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
In good news for the Citizens, Sergio Aguero – apparently destined for the trade table at season’s end – has now scored in four games on the bounce.
Yet it was Kelechi Iheanacho who found the back of the net when these two drew 1-1 at Eastlands in their last meeting, and also in the 4-2 defeat at St Mary’s the season prior.
But City’s away form is second only to Chelsea’s, while Southampton’s home record is among the worst in the division.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool
Sunday, April 16, 2017 – 10:30pm AEST – The Hawthorns
- Half-time Liverpool/full-time Liverpool – +200 at Sportsbet
- Philippe Coutinho first goalscorer – +500
So solid for so much of the season, West Brom have begun to unravel over the last month or so.
The 1-0 defeat to Southampton last time out was their fourth loss in six EPL games, with their only win in that period coming against Arsenal.
With no injuries or suspensions to speak of in the first-team squad, it is hard to explain why Tony Pulis’ charges are so far short of their disciplined, determined best.
They will need to find something when Liverpool come to town.
The Reds have looked a little way short of full capacity themselves since thumping Everton a few weeks ago, but the cause is much more obvious.
Sadio Mane has not featured since limping off injured in that Merseyside derby win, and Jurgen Klopp’s men have not looked quite the same since.
They will have to make do, however, as the Senegalese striker will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for a knee problem.
Adam Lallana is also expected to sit out this week, while it remains unclear when – or if – Jordan Henderson will return.
Liverpool have struggled to break down the Baggies in recent years, settling for draws in four of their last six meetings.
Yet they have been solid on the road in Premier League 2016-17 and should fancy their chances against an Albion side that looks a little more vulnerable than usual.
Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Monday, April 17, 2017 – 1am AEST – Old Trafford
- 1-1 correct score – +220
- Pedro first goalscorer – +700
These are interesting times for Manchester United.
A continued inability to secure wins at home has the fans restless, while Jose Mourinho’s recent work in the press suggests a manager who is just as frustrated as the punters.
A 3-0 romp at Sunderland last week was just the ticket after a trio of home stalemates against Bournemouth, West Brom and Everton.
But while United might be falling flat at the Theatre of Dreams, still they have not lost in the Premier League since October – a remarkable run of 21 games.
This is an ominous fixture, however, as it was Chelsea and their four unanswered goals that gave the Red Devils their last taste of defeat in this division.
Wins against Man City and Bournemouth sees the Blues chugging along nicely towards the title, but the superb form of Spurs means they cannot afford to take their feet off the gas.
United will be eager to shut down Eden Hazard, who has scored four times in Chelsea’s last five fixtures.
The battle of the midfield could be most entertaining as the much-lauded N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic take on Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.
Chelsea have not lost to United in any competition since 2012, and one suspects they will be most determined to keep that record in tact.