With four wins out of five games in all competitions since football resumed last month, Manchester United are the form team in the country, but will their good run continue against Aston Villa on Thursday?
BBC football expert Mark Lawrenson said: “Watching United now is not quite like watching the United of old – they have got a way to go to reach those levels.
“But where they are similar is in their relentlessness – they are at you all the time. It is if they say ‘if you score two, we are going to score three’ and that is going to make it very difficult for Villa to keep them out.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week he is up against DJ Joel Corry, whose new single with MNEK, ‘Head & Heart’, is out now.
Corry is an Arsenal fan who is enjoying their upturn in form – the Gunners have won their past four games in all competitions.
He told BBC Sport: “There’s been a couple of really good away wins in that run as well, which is especially nice for us because there have been times where we have really struggled on the road.
“We are looking up the table and really pushing for the top five now, which could be enough to get us back in the Champions League if Manchester City don’t get their ban overturned. That would be huge.
“Our next three games are tough – Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool – and we’re Arsenal, so we know it could all go wrong, but things are definitely looking brighter under Mikel Arteta than they have done for a while.”
|Premier League predictions – week 34|
|Crystal Palace v Chelsea||x-x||1-1||0-2|
|Watford v Norwich||x-x||2-0||3-1|
|Arsenal v Leicester||x-x||1-2||2-1|
|Man City v Newcastle||x-x||3-0||4-1|
|Sheff Utd v Wolves||x-x||1-1||0-0|
|West Ham v Burnley||x-x||2-0||2-2|
|Brighton v Liverpool||x-x||0-2||0-2|
|Bournemouth v Tottenham||x-x||0-2||1-3|
|Everton v Southampton||x-x||1-1||1-1|
|Aston Villa v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||1-3|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Crystal Palace v Chelsea (18:00 BST)
Crystal Palace have lost their past three league games. They have lost four in a row under Roy Hodgson before, in February and March 2018, but I don’t see it happening again, despite the fact the Eagles have got nothing to play for.
We know how good Chelsea are going forward, but I am still not convinced by them defensively. They are too inconsistent at the back and I can see them conceding.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Joel’s prediction: My dad is a Chelsea fan but there was no chance I was ever going to support them. It was Arsenal all the way for me. 0-2
Watford v Norwich (18:00 BST)
Between them, the bottom four teams in the Premier League have taken only three points from the last 60 available – at least one of them will get some points from this one, though.
I couldn’t work out why Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki both started on the bench on the weekend, when Norwich lost at home to Brighton.
Mind you, Pukki has only scored twice since mid-December and has not found the net at all in his past 11 appearances.
The Canaries don’t have a goal threat and that’s one of the reasons I am going with Watford here. The Hornets have already beaten each of the teams below them in the table this season, and I’d back them for another three points this time too.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Joel’s prediction: 3-1
Arsenal v Leicester (20:15 BST)
Leicester – and Foxes striker Jamie Vardy – were both back with a bang in their weekend win over Crystal Palace. They were always going to hit form again, it was just a case of how many matches it would take them to find their feet.
Arsenal got a good win at Wolves, thanks to a lovely finish by Bukayo Saka and it was a great game to watch. The outcome could have been very different, though, so I don’t feel as if the Gunners are on a charge towards the top four, or anything like that.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Joel’s prediction: The race for fifth will become so exciting if City do end up being banned from the Champions League and we find out before the last couple of weeks of the season. A win for Arsenal here would put us right in the mix and I am feeling pretty confident at the moment. Come on the Gunners! 2-1
Joel on Arteta and the Arsenal revival: “We have got some good players now but they are still nowhere near as good as the guys I used to watch when I was growing up, when we were winning trophy after trophy for years. There is a lot of work for us to do to get back to be even close to that level but I do feel like we are on the right road now to improving.
“We have had a few up and down years but I feel like Arteta is starting to turn the corner. He is an excellent coach and there seems to be a bit more belief in him, right through the club. I just hope the board back him, so he can build on this start.”
Man City v Newcastle (18:00 BST)
Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus is good, but he’s not as good as Sergio Aguero.
Of the two, Jesus is probably better player outside the box but the Argentina striker might have made the difference for City in Sunday’s defeat by Southampton because he is so deadly in front of goal.
City desperately need Aguero to be back fit if they are to go all the way in the Champions League this season, because there is just no comparison between him and Jesus when it comes to guile and finishing.
I don’t think it will matter too much against Newcastle, mind. City will create a lot of chances, like they did against Saints and I don’t see Steve Bruce’s side keeping them out.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Joel’s prediction: 4-1
Sheff Utd v Wolves (18:00 BST)
This should be a good game because both of these teams have a very similar style. That’s not just in terms of formation, but because they both work extremely hard too.
The big difference is, from midfield going forward, Wolves have got a lot more quality. Their striker Raul Jimenez is such a good player.
I don’t think the Blades will give him much space though, and I just have a feeling that they will dig in and get something out of this game.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Joel’s prediction: 0-0
West Ham v Burnley (18:00 BST)
Burnley have been hit hard by more injuries, with defender Ben Mee (thigh) and midfielder Jack Cork (ankle) potentially out for the rest of the season.
The Clarets have not got much depth to their squad right now, for various reasons, and I think West Ham will move a little closer to safety with a win here.
I always thought the Hammers’ players were too good to be where they are in the table. It looks like they have managed to find the right formula at the right time.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Joel’s prediction: 2-2
Brighton v Liverpool (20:15 BST)
Liverpool were short of their best against Aston Villa on Sunday – I know Reds boss Jurgen Klopp made changes, but their passing wasn’t great.
It wasn’t until Klopp made three changes on the hour mark that Liverpool started playing, and I’m sure Brighton – who are now absolutely safe from relegation by the way – will try to make things difficult again for them here.
But the Reds always seem to win at Brighton – they have collected three points on each of their two visits here in the Premier League, so am going for another Liverpool win.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Joel’s prediction: Liverpool have been absolutely brilliant but I still think they need to do more before they can compare with the great Arsenal teams under Arsene Wenger, like the double winners of 1998 or ‘The Invincibles’ of 2004. Klopp is my favourite manager at the moment, though. 0-2
Bournemouth v Tottenham (18:00 BST)
Bournemouth’s problem against Manchester United at the weekend was that they got them angry. When the Cherries took the lead, it was like swatting a wasp.
That was a bad defeat for them in the end. I know they scored a couple of goals at Old Trafford, but then they go and concede five.
Tottenham have got their own issues, and I am sure Jose Mourinho will be keen to address them in the next transfer window.
Yes, they were hard done by against Sheffield United when their goal was very harshly ruled out but, after that, when they were trying to get back into the game, they did not give Harry Kane much service.
Kane was fed on scraps and, at times, their midfield seemed to be making too many passes and taking the easy option. No-one was making anything happen, and it helped the opposition by slowing the game down.
I still think Spurs will beat Bournemouth, though. After seeing them lose five in a row, it is hard to back Bournemouth to get anything, anywhere, at the moment.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Joel’s prediction: Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe was being talked about as a future Arsenal manager at one point, but it is not going well for him at the moment. 1-3
Everton v Southampton (18:00 BST)
Southampton have been excellent of late, and Sunday’s win over Manchester City at St Mary’s Stadium made up for their poor home results up to that point.
I think they can maintain their run of form when they go to Goodison Park. Everton don’t give much away but Saints always work hard and I think they will get something from this one.
It’s Everton who I see pushing on more next season, though. Purely and simply because I think they will be doing more in the transfer market to improve their squad.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Joel’s prediction: 1-1
Aston Villa v Man Utd (20:15 BST)
Villa were unlucky to end up empty-handed at Anfield on Sunday. They were well organised at the back and tried to get men forward on the break when they could, just without creating many chances.
It could quite easily have stayed at 0-0 though, and that game was the perfect example of where the bigger club with the better bench was able to make substitutions to win the game.
Liverpool could do that because, since football restarted amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams are allowed to use five subs now, instead of three.
I don’t think there was any need to make a change to the laws of the game there whatsoever, and what it does is give all the top teams with more depth in their squad an extra chance to make that quality count.
It is a factor in why the bottom four have picked up so few points since the restart, and it is another problem for Villa in this game too.
United have got so many options up front, and if things aren’t working for them they can just bring someone else on instead.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Joel’s prediction: United are just on fire at the moment. They are looking like United again, and that is the first time I have said that in a long while. Bruno Fernandes has made such a difference there and is the sort of signing that Arsenal need in that he is not just an excellent player himself, he seems to be able to make other people play well too. 1-3
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
From the last round of Premier League games, Lawro got seven correct results with no exact scores, for a total of 70 points.
He beat Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil, who got four correct results, with no exact scores for a total of 40 points.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|110||Aitch, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper|
|90||Avelino, Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|80||Tom Davis, Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|76||Lawro (average after 33 weeks)|
|70||David Baddiel, Richard Hawley, Kojo, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Sonny Bill Williams, Georgia, Al Greenwood, Katie Ormerod, Serge from Kasabian, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Alex Horne, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Big Zuu, Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Tom Grennan, Neil Jones, Simon Neil, Tommy O’Dell, Steve Queralt|
|30||Sam Bird, Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rollins|
|Total scores after week 33|
|Lawro v Guests|