Premier League preview and fixtures, week 34: No, nothing will be clearer after this week

Richard Heathcote

The Premier League has worked itself into a massive tangle of relative mediocrity this season, and the odds are much higher that it will all get more confusing as time goes along.

Fulham vs. Arsenal
Craven Cottage; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Everton still has an outside chance, but at this point it’s looking as though the final Champions League spot will be awarded to the least derpy North London side. Arsenal’s task this weekend would appear to be a bit less daunting than that of their rivals, with Fulham’s recent performances somewhat indicative of a team quite content with their relatively firm grasp on a mid-table finish. The Gunners have a slight edge over Spurs in terms of point, but with Tottenham in possession of a game in hand it’s far from a commanding lead. These are three points Arsenal can’t really afford to drop.

Pick: Arsenal, 2-0

Norwich City vs. Reading
Carrow Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

It’s a testament to how close things are at the bottom of the table that Norwich is in 14th place and still very much in the relegation battle. The extra point the Canaries have over the three teams directly below them will certainly come in handy, as should a relatively easy remaining slate of games. With Reading’s return to the Championship all but a given at this point, Norwich can’t afford a letdown in this game. At this point, if you can’t beat Reading at home, it’s entirely reasonable to question whether or not you’re good enough to stay in the league.

Pick: Norwich, 3-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. Stoke City
Loftus Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Is this game important? It is, absolutely. Stoke’s in freefall, and at this point look as likely as any other club to end up in the bottom three come the end of the season. Should you pay attention to it, or even acknowledge its existence by anything other than inference? No, you should not.

Pick: QPR, 2-1

Sunderland vs. Everton
Stadium of Light; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Well, if Sunderland manage to stay up, I guess the decisions they’ve made in recent weeks are totally justified, right? This is a competitive business. Winning is the only thing that matters at this level. If last week’s thrashing of Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear Derby is any indication, Sunderland will be back next year. Congratulations all around.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Swansea City vs. Southampton
Liberty Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

I cannot be the only person that wishes there was something tangible at stake in this game. Swansea and Southampton are two of the most enjoyable teams to watch the in the Premier League in entirely different ways, and if both teams were just three or four places higher (or lower) in the table, what is likely going to be the most fun game of the week would be absolute can’t-miss stuff. But you know what? Who cares about that. Watch this game instead of the other ones that are important but will likely be bad. That’s what highlight shows are for, right?

Pick: Swansea, 2-1

West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United
The Hawthorns; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Newcastle is as close to safe as you can get while still inspiring hand-wringing articles about the "what-ifs" of their possible relegation, while West Brom is just kinda hanging out at the top of mid-table, as they have been all season. There’s clearly more pressure on the Toon here, but the Baggies have taken an almost childlike glee in proverbially relieving themselves in the breakfast cereal of their opposition this season. Newcastle has that weird thing happening where they look very much like last year’s team on some days and very much like the 2008-09 team on others, and which will show up is pretty much anyone’s guess.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

West Ham United vs. Wigan Athletic
Upton Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Wigan’s under the most pressure in the relegation battle right now, three points back from the pack with a game in hand the only advantage they hold at the moment. The Latics have their fair share of experience wriggling out of situations far more desperate than this and it would of course be foolish to count them out, but the run of great escapes has to end at some point, doesn’t it?

Pick: Wigan, 2-1

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City
White Hart Lane; 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

We spoke earlier about the fight between Spurs and Arsenal for the final Champions League spot, and at the moment it would appear as though the Gunners have the upper hand. Spurs could really change the equation with a win against City, but City is pretty good at football and, well, Spurs. I have absolutely nothing against Spurs; it’s just that, Spurs.

Pick: City, 2-1

Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Anfield; 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Did you guys know Rafa Bentiez used to manage Liverpool?

Pick: Chelsea, 2-1

Manchester United vs. Aston Villa
Old Trafford; 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

Of all the ways to end one of the most important weekends of the Premier League season, this is certainly one of them. Aston Villa is probably not especially pleased that United still have something other than pride to play for; the phrase of the day for the visitors will likely be "damage control."

Pick: United, 3-1

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