English Premier League, Week 32, preview and fixtures: Will the chaos continue?

Laurence Griffiths

The bottom half of the Premier League table is a hilarious mess, and there’s plenty of room for things to get even more confusing come Sunday evening.

Reading vs. Southampton

Madejski Stadium; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Reading odds of survival grow longer by the week, and if they are to have any real hope of staying in the Premier League then this is a game they'll need to win. There are still some winnable games on tap for the Royals, but with a seven point deficit still needing to be overcome, unless "winnable" is converted to "won" that won't do them much good. Southampton's had their struggles this year, but they've set themselves apart from the other clubs that have spent much of the year in the bottom five and now reside in 12th. The margins are still razor thin, but if the Saints can keep up their pace of the last few weeks, they'll likely be around for at least another season--and with the young talent they've amassed, probably even longer.

Pick: Southampton, 2-1

Norwich City vs. Swansea City

Carrow Road; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Norwich has earned just nine points from their last ten games, which isn't especially good. A season which once looked as though it could end with the Canaries in the top half has now turned into (at least nominally) a relegation battle, and Chris Houghton's side would do well to start putting some wins on the board. That's doable against Swansea, a team that's lost three straight and five of their last ten. This is the part of the season where seeing swoons of this nature from teams that exceeded expectations earlier in the year isn't too unusual, but despite both sides falling off down the stretch they both play attractive football--albeit in very different ways--and should provide a pretty entertaining affair.

Pick: Draw, 2-2

Stoke City vs. Aston Villa

Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

This fixture is well known for playing some of the most horrendously awful games in recent memory. Villa's been playing some better stuff of late, but Stoke's will is likely stronger. This is a huge game for both sides, but it's going to be awful and unless you feel the need to punish yourself for some manner of misdeed you're probably best to wait for the highlights.

Pick: Draw, 0-0

West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal

The Hawthorns; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Despite their best efforts, there's still an opening for Arsenal to back into Champions League qualification. The Gunners seem to be up for the challenge, but this is a tricky one; West Brom have slipped, but they haven't fallen off nearly as much as some would have predicted and they've been a very good side at home. This isn't necessarily a "must-win" for Arsenal's top-four hopes (thanks, Rafa!) but those would certainly be a very useful three points.

Pick: Arsenal, 2-1

Liverpool vs. West Ham United

Anfield; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

With just one relegation place up for grabs the odds of West Ham going down are quite slim, but with just six points between themselves and 18th placed Aston Villa it's reasonable to say that the Hammers are the highest placed team still in conceivable danger of ending up in the bottom three. Liverpool, meanwhile, is the lowest placed team with any conceivable hope of qualifying for the Champions League. They are four places apart in the table. The Premier League is kind of bad, in a relative sense, but also kind of neat.

Pick: Liverpool, 3-1

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton

White Hart Lane; Sunday, 14:05 GMT/9:05 AM ET

Gareth Bale is out for two games, which is significantly better news than it could have been but still most unwelcome. Spurs would be a good team without Bale, but losing one of the best players in the league is never a good thing. Still, Tottenham's got a bit of a cushion, and with Bale expected to be available for Spurs next league game against Manchester City on April 21st, the injury shouldn't have much impact on their Champions League odds.

And speaking of Champions League odds, Everton almost certainly needs a result to keep theirs alive. The odds are of course against it even with a win, but the Toffees have provided quite a few surprises over the course of the season, and with Chelsea and Arsenal both seemingly in a race to see which can self-sabotage to a greater degree, it would be premature to count them out should they manage to take something away from White Hart Lane.

Pick: Spurs, 2-1

Chelsea vs. Sunderland

Stamford Bridge; Sunday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Paolo Di Canio makes his debut for Sunderland, facing off against his top rival for Most Popular Manager in the Premier League. Sunderland's last win game on January 19th and they've taken just three points from their last eight games, slipping to 16th in the table and just one point above the relegation zone in the process and leading to the sacking of Martin O'Neill. That's a pretty difficult situation for Di Canio to inherit, and despite Chelsea's struggles they'll be heavy favorites to make the new manager's debut an unpleasant one.

Pick: Chelsea, 3-1

Newcastle United vs. Fulham

St. James' Park; Sunday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Every time Newcastle look to have escaped the relegation battle, their greatest enemies (that would be themselves) drag them back in. At times they look far too good to be anywhere close to the bottom three, while at others they look very much like relegation fodder. Whichever of those two distinct Newcastle sides shows up most often over the course of the final seven games could go a long way towards deciding whether or not they'll suffer relegation yet again. Fulham is probably safe, but they've not done much to make the case that they're significantly better than the massive clump of teams just below them. This is a winnable game for the Toon, and with breathing room at a premium they'd do well to make sure it's the competent Newcastle team that takes the pitch on Sunday.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Queens Park Rangers vs. Wigan

Loftus Road; Sunday, 16:10 GMT/11:10 AM ET

QPR is likely dead in the water no matter what, but that's looked to be the case on many occasions this year and they've managed to show just enough to stay in the conversation every time. They're very much running out of opportunities to fight their way back, however, and with Wigan being Wigan it's entirely possible that this will be Rangers last chance to make a run towards safety.

Pick: Wigan, 2-1

Manchester United vs. Manchester City

Old Trafford; Monday, 20:00 GMT/3:00 PM ET

A United victory wouldn't mathematically clinch the title, but it would require them to lose every game from here on out with City winning every game from here on out. In other words, United winning would erase any remaining doubt--is there any remaining doubt--of a 20th title win. A case could be made that allowing City to win and allowing some plausability to creep into the frame would be even crueler than further asserting their own dominance, but it's a fair bet that United would prefer to be merciful in this instance.

Pick: United 3-2

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