Paul Merson’s predictions for Arsenal vs Newcastle and other Premier League GW26 fixtures

The Premier League is back this weekend
The Premier League is back this weekend

The Premier League is back with another round of matches this weekend, and we're fast approaching the business end of the season. We also have our first cup final of the English season this weekend, with Chelsea and Liverpool battling it out for the Carabao Cup.

We'll know a lot more about this title race by the end of March. Manchester City have a difficult run in the next few weeks and will play crucial games against Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool. If Man City win their next four league games, they're winning the Premier League title.

Arsenal suffered a setback in the Champions League last night, and they'll be looking for a statement performance. Manchester United have come into their own under Erik ten Hag and are now within touching distance of the top four.

With Luton's resurgence in recent weeks, the relegation battle is also beginning to heat up considerably. Here are my predictions for this weekend's round of Premier League matches.

Crystal Palace vs Burnley

Crystal Palace take on Burnley this week
Crystal Palace take on Burnley this week

This is a massive game. Crystal Palace had a decent result at Everton, and games like these are their bread and butter. If they win this game, they'll have picked up four points from two matches. They're playing at home this weekend, and I'd really worry for them if they drop points in this game.

Burnley need to have a plan B, and they've got to change it up in the Premier League. You can play 'Total Football' against lesser players in the Championship, but you can't go toe-to-toe against Arsenal and expect to win. I can see it now with Southampton in the Championship - they'll get blown away playing the same way in the Premier League.

Burnley should stick with Vincent Kompany if he wants to stay at the club, but I don't see them staying up. They need back-to-back wins in the Premier League at the moment, and they can't afford to lose this game.

Burnley do have an upset in them. I've seen them go to places like Nottingham Forest and get a result - it isn't beyond them. Crystal Palace have a new manager in Oliver Glasner and a feel-good factor about them, and it could get them over the line.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-0 Burnley

Aston Villa vs Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest take on Aston Villa this week
Nottingham Forest take on Aston Villa this week

This is a dodgy game for Aston Villa. I've watched enough of Nottingham Forest, and they're dangerous on the counter. Villa are going to have a go this weekend, but Forest have a lot of pace on the counter and that could hurt the hosts.

Aston Villa play a high line, and that does leave them vulnerable at the back. I wouldn't be shocked if Forest managed to get a result, but I'm going to back Aston Villa to win this game.

Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Nottingham Forest

Manchester United vs Fulham

Manchester United take on Fulham this week
Manchester United take on Fulham this week

Manchester United seem to keep winning all the time now. They weren't the better team against Aston Villa, but they pulled it off. Luton were dominating them at one point, but I can't remember Onana making a single save.

Manchester United are going to score goals in this game, and Fulham will need to score as well if they want to get a result. Man United have a set front three now, and they're performing consistently for Ten Hag.

I like Rasmus Hojlund, and I think he's going to be a superstar. He was injured when he arrived at the club, but you can now see that he's fit and settled. He's only 21 years old, and he's been brilliant for United.

Fulham have picked up only seven points from their travels so far, and have been poor away from home. I can only see a Man United win in this fixture, and that would put them right into the top-four race.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Fulham

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Everton

Everton take on Brighton & Hove Albion this week
Everton take on Brighton & Hove Albion this week

I watched Everton last week and I was quite shocked - they were very poor against Crystal Palace. The thing with this game is that Everton were poor last year as well, and they won this exact fixture by a 5-1 margin. This is a hard game for them, however, and I don't see a repeat of last season.

Brighton need to win as much as Everton do this weekend. If their manager wants a job at a bigger club, he needs to bring some consistency into his teams. Brighton are too up and down at the moment.

Everton were very fortunate against Palace at the end, and I thought that was a very disappointing performance. Brighton are the superior force when it comes to passing and movement, and I'm going to back them to win this game.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 3-0 Everton

Bournemouth vs Manchester City

Manchester City take on Bournemouth this weekend
Manchester City take on Bournemouth this weekend

Manchester City haven't looked particularly impressive recently. Chelsea gave them a hard game and created chances of their own. City played against Brentford in their midweek fixture, and they never really went anywhere with their passing.

This won't be an easy game for Man City. The pressure's on at the moment, and they're four points behind Liverpool in the title race. If they fail to win this game and then lose to Liverpool, it could mark the end of their title run.

Bournemouth had a great run in the middle of their season but haven't won their last four Premier League games. Man City aren't blowing teams away at the moment, but I expect them to keep the pressure on Liverpool and win this game.

Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester City

Arsenal vs Newcastle United

Newcastle United take on Arsenal this weekend
Newcastle United take on Arsenal this weekend

Arsenal suffered a big blow last night. They last won a European trophy 30 years ago. It just shows you how hard European competitions really are - you need the experience. They had a lot of the ball away from home, but they didn't really know what to do with it. I'm not sure why they changed the away-goals rule - you're now going to get games like this because teams will go into a shell in their away matches.

I don't think their European setback will affect Arsenal this weekend. Newcastle have been inconsistent recently but have managed to remain unbeaten in their last five matches. They're scoring goals, but they're conceding far too many goals as well. They cannot go to Arsenal this weekend and defend like that - they'll get destroyed.

Newcastle's defence is struggling at the moment, but they don't have much to play for. I like watching them play because they open games up, but they don't want to do that against Arsenal - it could get messy. Bukayo Saka could have a field day in this fixture, and I expect Arsenal to win this game comfortably.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Newcastle United

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Sheffield United

Sheffield United take on Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend
Sheffield United take on Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend

Wolves have been amazing in recent weeks, but they're another team that tends to be very inconsistent. They've defeated both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, but they suffered a defeat against Brentford. The problem with Wolves is that when the pressure's on and they need to win, they don't.

Wolves could go above Newcastle in the Premier League standings if they win this game and other results go their way. If Wolves are at the top of their game this weekend, they should be able to defeat Sheffield, but that's easier said than done.

Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 Sheffield United

West Ham United vs Brentford

West Ham United take on Brentford this weekend
West Ham United take on Brentford this weekend

I think this game is going to be decided in the first 20 minutes of the match. If Brentford score a goal, it could become a very hostile atmosphere. The fans could get on West Ham's back, and you wouldn't want to be a West Ham player at the stadium.

With West Ham, their season could change so quickly. They're still in the Europa League, and if they win their next few games, everybody will think it's been an amazing season. The fans are putting pressure on the club at the moment, however, and they need to be careful what they wish for.

Brentford will have to face Chelsea and Arsenal after this game, and they'll need a result here. They did well at City and they could frustrate West Ham - I'm going to back Brentford to pull off a victory here.

Prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Brentford

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