Paul Merson's Premier League predictions - Week 36
Merse says Villa, Hull and Cardiff could slip towards relegation
Last Updated: 25/04/14 8:29am
This is a hard game to predict until you see the team sheets. I think Jose Mourinho will go through with his pledge to play a weakened team because the league is not in his hands. Even if they win at Anfield they will still need favours from elsewhere to win the title - but if they beat Atletico Madrid on Wednesday then they are in the Champions League Final and so that's his priority. I still don't think it's right because the wages are paid for by all the Premier League TV money, not the Champions League and I think it's disrespectful to put out a weakened team. You have to say everything is going right for Liverpool, though. Even on Tuesday night, when they weren't even involved, you saw Petr Cech and John Terry get injured. They are taking advantage of that fortune, which is what you've got to do and it wouldn't surprise me if they won this easily. Chelsea can easily go there and get a result and will always be in the game if they put a proper team out, so until I see the team selection I will go for a draw. I'm not convinced Chelsea's team will be that weak and a draw would be ample good enough for Liverpool - but if Mourinho does rest his whole team then it could be 4-0.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2
Crystal Palace v Man City (4pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1)
This is a Catch-22 call as well because if Liverpool win then Man City will go out there thinking it's all over. I'm sure Manuel Pellegrini would rather have played first and if Liverpool win then I could see this being quite open. Palace are safe and we could see both teams going out and playing with freedom, not worrying too much about if they win or not. I actually think Man City will end up winning the game - and then hoping that Crystal Palace can do them a big favour against Liverpool, which would not be a huge shock given the way Tony Pulis' men are playing.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-2
Sunderland v Cardiff (11.30am, Sun, Sky Sports 1)
This is the biggest game of the weekend for me because it's lights out for whoever loses. Everyone wants to be playing in the Premier League, but if you lose this then it's goodnight. I've said that a lot of times over the last few weeks, but you need confidence at this stage of the season and if Sunderland win this then I'd make them a certainty to stay up with the games they've got coming up. They really should win this game with the confidence they have from drawing at Man City and ending Jose Mourinho's unbeaten home record at Chelsea. In contrast, I looked at Cardiff last week and with 10 minutes left you'd have thought Stoke were the team fighting to stay up. I can't see anything but a Sunderland win here.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0
Arsenal v Newcastle (7pm, Mon, Sky Sports 1)
Arsenal have turned another corner and if you look back I think it has all hinged on the fitness of Aaron Ramsey. If he had been available all the way through then I think their season would have been a different story. They look like a completely different team with him in it. I think most teams that play Newcastle between now and the end of the season will expect three points with the way they are playing. I don't think Liverpool need to worry about beating them on the final day unless a major improvement occurs over the next two weeks because they are completely and utterly gone at the highest level. They are in the middle of the table and simply can't win a football match for toffee. This is a fairly easy prediction for me - it has to be an easy home win.
PAUL PREDICTS: 4-0
Man Utd v Norwich (5pm, Sat, Sky Sports 1)
This game could be laughable. Just watch the Man United players start playing now Ryan Giggs is in charge. If David Moyes was in charge I probably would have tipped a 2-1 win for them - but not with any confidence - but now I'm going for 4-0. The players had just stopped playing for him. If you'd fallen off the moon during the Everton game and I told you that this was a team that had dominated English football for the last 20 years you'd have laughed at me. On Saturday they will be flying all over the pitch and the contrast will be laughable. For Norwich it's all about timing. This is very bad timing for them - and they will just hope Chelsea and Arsenal don't have anything to play for when they play them. It could be a bad time to play these teams, but it could end up being a good time. This is bad timing for them, though.
PAUL PREDICTS: 4-0
Southampton v Everton
Southampton have become a bit of a weird team, losing at home to Cardiff and drawing at Villa. They can't score a goal at the moment and I wonder if a few of their players have got in the back of their heads that they don't want to get injured before the World Cup. That's understandable, especially after what happened to Jay Rodriguez, but some of them are taking a gamble because it's not a foregone conclusion they will go to Brazil and taking your foot off the gas is a bad move. Their results haven't been great lately, but I expect them to raise their game again and all the pressure is on Everton. I haven't been impressed with them in their last couple of away games, even though they were good against a shocking Man United team last Sunday. They have not been consistently brilliant and I think this will be draw.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1
Fulham v Hull
This is a must-win game for Fulham and Hull may find themselves back in the scrap if they lose it, especially if Sunderland beat Cardiff. Hull haven't got the easiest set of fixtures, but if they can go to Craven Cottage and get a result then they should be safe. This is a six-pointer for both teams and Hull will be one of the teams on the slippery slope if they lose. They got well beat by Arsenal the other day and I actually think Fulham will win because they're at home. They were poor at Tottenham last week, but they have been decent at Craven Cottage recently.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-1
Stoke v Tottenham
Stoke are always very good at home and I never like to back against them, so this will be a hard game for Tottenham. I actually think Spurs have done fairly well under Tim Sherwood and I'm not sure what people were expecting, but I just think they could lose to a Stoke team who are on a decent run. I think they will be a bit too strong for a Tottenham team that knows their manager won't be there next season.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-0
Swansea v Aston Villa
This is massive football match. Both of these sides are one game away from being safe - but they need to win that game and whoever gets the three points on Saturday should be ok. I really worry for Villa at the moment because they are on a slippery slope and they may only be three points off relegation by the end of the weekend. The players look shot to me - they have been smashed in several games and should have been out of the game against Southampton on Saturday, a game where they seemed to be playing for a point at home They look tired, short of ideas and I think the season has caught up with a young squad, especially with Christian Benteke injured. I'd be shocked if they won and I see nothing but a Swansea win here because the victory over Newcastle last week has really taken the pressure off. Villa need to win one of their next two games and, for me, they are the team in real trouble at the moment.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0
West Brom v West Ham
West Ham at home is a nice game for West Brom and they need to get a result and not rely on the teams below them losing. The problem for Pepe Mel is they have got a couple of injuries and Chris Brunt might have to play at full-back - and the likes of Matt Jarvis or Stewart Downing should be able to get some success out of that. If the wingers get crosses in to Andy Carroll then anything can happen and I think it could be a draw. That will leave West Brom in a bit of trouble, but I think they have got enough in midfield and defence to survive. They are not too good going forward, but in the other positions they are decent.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2