The weekend welcomes back another round of Premier League action, after a largely disappointing couple of weeks for English clubs in their quest for European glory.
Only the Manchester clubs came out victorious; the Champions League Round of 16 saw losses for both Chelsea and Liverpool, while Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League.
Manchester City will have a chance to clinch their first proper silverware of the season this weekend against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup, but how will the other clubs fare back in their domestic league?
Can Liverpool maintain their winning streak at Vicarage Road?
Liverpool bounced back from their disappointment in Europe with a morale-boosting 3-2 victory at Anfield against West Ham last week, probably Jurgen Klopp will be hoping for a more straightforward task this time round.
Fans will be hoping for fewer heart attacks too, although with just three more victories required to clinch the league title – who really cares?
It is clear as day that the Reds have not been playing their best football at the moment, with the trip to the Hornets proving to be a pretty daunting challenge. Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded three goals in their last two games – not disastrous by any means – but with Nigel Pearson welcoming the return of Ismaila Sarr, you might want to think twice if you were predicting a straightforward encounter.
The German will likely stick to the same line-up as he did against the Hammers, perhaps giving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the nod over Naby Keita, who has yet to really put in a performance this season.
Watford’s 0-3 loss to Manchester United last weekend might have actually flattered the visitors a little, in a game which saw Troy Deeney’s goal harshly ruled out after yet more VAR controversy. The captain’s goal would have made it 1-1 and massively altered the complexion of the game if it stood.
Pearson will be desperate for a result too, with the fear of relegation becoming increasingly tangible with no wins in their last five games.
A slim margin for Liverpool seems on the cards; with the Reds quality enough to see them take one more step forward to the ultimate prize, while the shadows of relegation will be looming increasingly larger over Vicarage Road.
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Liverpool
Increasing pressure for Frank Lampard
Poor old Lampard, we can only imagine the sleepless nights the Chelsea legend is facing. They flew off the blocks with a solid start to the season which surpassed all expectations: Tammy Abraham was practically Didier Drogba with just a different hairdo; Mason Mount looked all set to be England’s next biggest prospect; the likes of Reece James and Fikayo Tomori were proving that they belong at the elite level; while Christian Pulisic was beginning to justify his massive price tag.
Here comes the problem though - the architects of their great start are made up of largely kids, with the average age of the above just 21. They are clearly talented kids with enormous potential, with all of them more than capable of establishing themselves as future Chelsea legends.
But inconsistency will inevitably be the recurring theme at this stage in their career, as their lack of experience is being exposed cruelly at the highest level. Recent results are showing exactly that – the impressive victory over Tottenham Hotspur is sandwiched by significant losses to Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Let us not forget that Lampard falls in that same category too, having only Derby County in his managerial job experience.
The silver lining is that things can only surely get better from this season onwards, and there is not many better ways to start than with a visit to Eddie Howe’s struggling Bournemouth side this weekend.
The reverse fixture might have seen the Cherries nick an impressive 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, but nothing seems to be going right for them at the moment as they inch closer to the danger zone.
Their recent loss 3-0 loss to Burnley was as cruel as it must have been exasperating for all involved at Bournemouth, the manner of the game surely casting some serious doubts over Vitality Stadium – with one or two heads dropping, perhaps already resigning to their fate.
Prediction: Bournemouth 0-3 Chelsea
The Bruno Fernandes Show
What a signing the Portuguese is proving to be – although the only surprise here is that it took an eternity for Manchester United to secure his services.
The quality Fernandes possesses means that the playmaker is settling in his new club like a duck to water, taking little to no time to orchestrate things on the pitch for the Red Devils.
Another cheeky penalty in the midweek Europa League tie shows just how confident he is, and Fernandes might prove to be the key for their Champions League push, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be relieved to be finally able to exorcise the ghost of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira.
It is definitely still early days to determine if the former Sporting Lisbon man will take on the Bebe or Cristiano Ronaldo path, but with standout performances in his first four games, the early signs are definitely good.
Everton found themselves on the wrong end of a five-goal thriller last weekend at the Emirates Stadium, but you would not bet against Carlo Ancelotti’s side to quickly bounce back. The Italian manager has been inspiring since his arrival, leading the Toffees back up to the upper half of the league table.
Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have to be at their very best against a very resolute Manchester United rear-guard of late, while looking forward to add to the tally of the 22 Premier League goals between they share this season.
Competition in the middle of the table is quickly heating up – a win for the Toffees will see them close the gap with the Manchester club to just two points and still very much remain in the running for European football next season; while victory for Manchester United will see the momentum for the top four race shift hugely in their favour.
Prediction: Everton 1-1 Manchester United
Game to watch: West Ham vs Southampton
We are expecting a flurry of goals here, with both teams not exactly boasting watertight defences but are actually pretty decent going forward.
The Hammers face an almost must-win game as they host the Saints this weekend, hoping to bounce back from the 3-2 defeat at Anfield. It was a brave performance that perhaps deserved at least a point, and David Moyes can take heart from the effort by his team.
The huge problem here is that time is quickly running out for the London outfit, who sits in the relegation zone with the upcoming run of fixtures looking not particularly kind.
Three London derbies in the next five games will see them host Chelsea and make trips to the Emirates and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium; throw Wolverhampton Wanderers in the mix and even the most ardent of West Ham fans will start to visualize trips down to less glamorous stadiums next season.
That leaves Moyes with Southampton this weekend to most realistically mastermind a victory and gain all three massive points – while adopting a similar plucky, all-out approach as they did against Liverpool should result in a cracker of a game.
Prediction: West Ham 3-2 Southampton
Game to avoid (at all cost): Newcastle vs Burnley
Both teams have flirted with relegation at some point over the course of the season, although it is fair to say we should expect the black and white of the Magpies and the Clarets to remain a fixture next season.
Both sides have been pretty solid but definitely unspectacular throughout the season – are there any players here you would actually pay good money to watch?
Ok, Dwight McNeil might be the only exception, but we suggest tuning in to the other fixtures, or simply just watch Jordan Henderson and his creative team figure out what coconuts are all about – all in the glory of The Office – in the latest LFCTV masterpiece.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-1 Burnley