Cardiff 1 Chelsea 2
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer retains a lot of goodwill, not least from enigmatic club owner Vincent Tan who has learnt lessons aplenty from the club’s failed Premiership campaign. The Blue Birds have easily been the worst team in the second half of the season, and I can’t envisage them being anything but cannon fodder for Chelsea. A make shake-up is in the offing at Stamford Bridge where a striker who can guarantee 25 goals and youth are needed.
Hull 1 Everton 2
This is a dead rubber. Defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester City knocked the wind out of Everton’s sailing as they choked in the chase for Champions League qualification. Having ensured their Premiership survival, Hull City are meanwhile focused on next weekend’s FA Cup final against Arsenal. England manager Roy Hodgson will be interested in the performances of Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and fledgling genius Ross Barkley. I am tipping Everton to edge a close contest.
Man City 3 West Ham 1
Manuel Pellegrini has the heart of stone. Even when the champions’ elects stuttered, following the 0-1 loss to Chelsea in February, he never flinched. His calm temperament has been as crucial to City’s title aspirations as Yaya Toure’s drive, Joe Hart’s saves, Vincent Kompany’s leadership and Eden Dzeko’s goals. Sam Allardyce’s West Ham will want to put on a good show to stem off fan pressure but they will be no match for the Royal Blues’ firepower.
Spurs 2 Aston Villa 0
I pity Tim Sherwood. If it hadn’t been for his emotional outbursts in the face of adversity, he could have kept his job. As it turns out, Spurs’ ruthless chairman Daniel Levy is already searching for a replacement, with Ajax Amsterdam legend Frank de Boer as well as Southampton’s Mauricio Pochettino among the names in the reckoning for next season. All the same, Sherwood should bow out on a high as Villa are left with nothing to play for.
Liverpool 3 Newcastle 1
If there was an accolade of team of the season, Liverpool would win it hands down. The Merseyside club have punched far above their weight, especially in the second half of the season when their sheer will to win has put them on the cusp of glory. PFA and Football Writers footballer of the year Luis Suarez will want to atone for the tearful display at Selhurst Park as he chases the prestigious European Golden Boot.
Sundeland 1 Swansea 1
Gustavo Poyet has pulled off the Houdini act of the season. The Uruguayan himself had started preparing for life in the championship when his side found their wits. It is impossible not to admire the mental resolve of a team that has visited the Ettihad, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, and emerged unscathed. Going forward, Poyet must address poor home form and inability to beat bottom half opposition. A draw will be good enough for both sides.
West Brom 2 Stoke 1
Pepe Mel’s Brummies have staggered to the finishing line, mostly because the Spanish coach took some time to adjust to life in the Premiership. Inability to see out games has been another major problem. But it is an easy to fix problem. Additionally, Mel ought to be given more say in transfers as the sale of Shane Long against his will, was at best, ill advised. Victory against Mark Hughes’ Potters would be good a good send-off.
Norwich 1 Arsenal 1