Premier League, Week 27 preview: Who's going to slip up?

Chris Brunskill

The title and top four battles are as close as ever so who's going to blow it?

Chelsea vs. Everton

Stamford Bridge; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Everton's Premier League chances are once again slipping away, and to have anything approaching a real shot at a top-four finish they'll need some very impressive wins over the next two months. That's not to say Chelsea away is a "must-win" for Roberto Martinez's side, but it's clearly a huge three points at stake for the Toffees; winning at the Bridge wouldn't be enough to make Everton anywhere near favorites for a Champions League place, but with a game in hand, it would make their outlook significantly more favorable. It's a similarly huge game for the Blues, whose edge over their title-seeking rivals is razor thin. Two very good teams playing a high-stakes game? Not the worst way to start the weekend.

Arsenal vs. Sunderland

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

One of the better things about the season entering its stretch run is that games which would barely be worth paying attention to in, say, October are suddenly pretty interesting. Both Arsenal and Sunderland are still right on the edge of winning their (respective and disparate) battles, but can't think of themselves as frontrunners just yet; despite the obvious gap in talent, that both teams have so much riding on every result makes every game they play from here on out significantly more important. That doesn't mean games such as these will end up being any more competitive or engaging than usual, but this is where the buildup to the season-ending drama begins and it's a whole lot of fun.

Cardiff City vs. Hull City

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

It's tempting to say that the above sentiment applies to this game as well, but that would be a lie. Maybe if it were taking place in late April or something, but the lack of a team that isn't bad makes it a bit harder to work up any excitement.

Manchester City vs. Stoke City

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

And now we're back to games where both sides where both have a lot at stake and one isn't horrendous! Unfortunately the other is Stoke City, so there's that. (Is that fair to the current iteration of Stoke, who aren't nearly so ground-breakingly unwatchable as they were under Tony Pulis? Probably not. But the world had to put up with that crap for like five years, so I don't really feel too bad about it.)

West Bromwich Albion vs. Fulham

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

Fulham's still in the basement of the Premier League, but despite actually beginning to look like something approaching a competent team over the past few weeks they've gone and sacked Literally Everyone and hired Felix Magath who-in case you were unaware-is an absolute crazy person. It's not really that dissimilar to Sunderland hiring Paolo Di Canio in the sense that the Cottagers are seemingly banking on their players being so terrified of their lunatic boss that they play well enough to avoid the drop. West Brom are likely the best team to be in immediate danger of dropping into the bottom three-and probably better than a few teams in relatively safer positions-but with the relegation battle being such a tight affair this season that probably won't be of much consolation. The Baggies probably don't "deserve" to be in such a precarious position, but here they are; what matters now is how they respond.

West Ham United vs. Southampton

Upton Park; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

West Ham's had a big couple of weeks, starting with a draw at Stamford Bridge and following up with three straight 2-0 wins over teams that were at the time ahead of them in the table. Big Sam's side has shot up the 11th in the table, not quite free of the relegation battle but looking safe for the time being. Southampton hasn't been on nearly such a tear, but their season continues to impress; well ahead of the enormous relegation battle that is the table's bottom half, they're one of three teams that can accurately describe themselves as having mid-table stability; that's not the most exciting place in the world to be, but given where they were this time last season, they'll probably take it.

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

Selhurst Park; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

Manchester United could still conceivably qualify for the Champions League, but it would require something close to a major collapse from at least three teams above them in addition to significantly better form than they've shown this season. There's really not much more to say about David Moyes' first season at Old Trafford; calling the experiment a failure so soon would clearly be kind of crazy, but there are legitimate reasons to believe that it is ultimately doomed to fail. It's a strange position to be in, and for the fans of a club that's had so much success over the last two decades, it's got to be a remarkably unfamiliar one as well.

Liverpool vs. Swansea City

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

Liverpool's title hopes are still alive, but despite being just four points behind the leaders they're clearly on the outside looking in at the moment. There's not much room for error, and though Swansea are likely better than the rest of the clubs below the 30-point threshold they're not a side that should be taking points away from Anfield if the Reds hope to take title.

Newcastle vs. Aston Villa

St. James' Park; Sunday, 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

There might not be two sides in the Premier League harder than predict than these. At times this season Newcastle has looked to be a side on the verge of breaking into the fight for European places, while at others they've looked far closer to the side that narrowly escaped relegation last season. Aston Villa seem to oscillate between up-and-coming, thrilling counter-attacking menace and a dour mess of a failed project. This could be the weekend's best game-especially given Villa's tendency to be significantly better and more watchable away from home-or it could be a complete and total snoozefest. The English Premier League's mid-table, catch the fever!

Norwich City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Carrow Road; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Spurs are once again having the same season that they've had every season in recent memory; very good, still amazingly frustrating, seemingly right on the edge of breaking into the league's elite tier without actually seeming to make any forward progress from year-to-year. It's far from the worst place in the world to be, but at some point it's also got to be really, really annoying.

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