Paul Merson's predictions for Liverpool vs Manchester United and other Premier League GW 26 fixtures

Liverpool vs Manchester United is undoubtedly the standout fixture of the Premier League gameweek
Liverpool vs Manchester United is undoubtedly the standout fixture of the Premier League gameweek

We’re heading into yet another exciting Premier League game week. Having picked up a thumping 4-0 win over Everton in midweek, Arsenal have managed to re-establish a five-point lead at the top of the table. Manchester City will try not to let the Gunners run away with it.

But they will have their work cut out against a resilient Newcastle United on Saturday. But the match to look forward to this weekend is the one between storied rivals Manchester United and Liverpool. The two teams have had starkly contrasting fortunes this season and irrespective of Liverpool’s current form, this fixture hardly ever stops short of being an absolute cracker.

There is plenty to look forward to in the Premier League this week. Here are my predictions for Gameweek 26.

Manchester City vs Newcastle United

This is a massive game for Manchester City and their title aspirations. I expect Arsenal to be five points clear and keep pushing relentlessly. Newcastle United have the quality to take the game to City on the counter.

Newcastle are very good at the back. Even in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United, they defended well even though they conceded two goals. But one of those goals came from a set-piece and the other one was an own goal.

The Magpies, however, need to get better at putting away their chances. That's something they've struggled to do and that's something they need to improve quickly.

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Pep Guardiola pushes players to play a lot of games and then suddenly changes the setup. So it's always tricky for young players. Phil Foden hasn't played a whole lot of minutes of late.

But it'll be interesting to see whether or not Phil Foden has done enough to get a chance after his excellent performance against Bristol City in midweek.

Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 Newcastle United

Chelsea vs Leeds United

It's a huge game. This is not really the game that Chelsea's focus is on. They have to beat Dortmund next week in the Champions League. But surely, they've got to win this one against Leeds United. Tottenham Hotspur put them to the sword last weekend.

It's such a tough game for Chelsea but I back them to win this one. They've won just two of their last 16 matches. That's appalling for a club of Chelsea's stature. They must win this one.

In my opinion, Graham Potter's future will be decided on Tuesday after the game against Dortmund. It's the only competition the Blues are in right now. Who will replace him? People say Pochettino might. But he used to manage Tottenham Hotspur and that could make him a no-go.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Leeds United

Arsenal vs Bournemouth

If Arsenal can win against Bournemouth on Sunday, they are likely to be five points clear of Manchester City. From there, they will be favorites to win the title as there won't be a lot of games left.

Gabriel Jesus is back and Jorginho and Leandro Trossard are settling down well. All the players they've bought are pulling their weight. They've been success stories in their own way. I thought the Gunners were absolutely outstanding against Leicester City in the first half last weekend without scoring.

Jesus' return will be like bringing in a new signing. It gives Eddie Nketiah some much-needed rest and the Brazilian's return will give everyone a great deal of confidence. The game against Bournemouth is a must-win for the Gunners as far as their title charge is concerned.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Bournemouth

Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace looked comfortable against Liverpool in their 1-1 draw last weekend. They should have gone for it a bit more. You don't get Liverpool in that sort of a position often. But they just couldn't go for the kill.

Meanwhile, Villa had a good result, beating Everton 2-0 away from home. Unai Emery's side needs to be a bit more consistent. I'm backing Villa to win this game. Palace just find it difficult to score goals. On the other hand, Villa have Watkins, who has scored five goals in his last five Premier League matches.

I don't see Palace getting relegated this season but they'll need to improve their form in front of goal. They've gotta make hay when the sun shines. When they come up against the teams around them on the table, they have to beat them.

Prediction: Aston Villa 2-0 Crystal Palace

Brighton & Hove Albion vs West Ham United

Brighton were very unlucky against Fulham last weekend. I don't know how they lost that game. They were all over the Cottagers and had 21 shots and seven shots on target. Fulham mustered just two on target. It's rather unfortunate that they didn't even get a point out of that game.

Brighton will need to aim for a Europa League spot as the Conference League would just be a drain on their time and resources next season.

Meanwhile, West Ham United dominated Nottingham Forest and earned a big 4-0 win. But they will have their work cut out against the Seagulls this weekend.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 West Ham United

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Tottenham Hotspur

You just don't know what you're getting with Tottenham Hotspur from one game to the next. They were average against Chelsea in the first half and then managed to score a couple of goals in the second and put the game to bed without doing anything spectacular.

Wolves had a shocking result at home on 18 February, losing at home to Bournemouth. Then they went and drew with Fulham at Craven Cottage. They are a better team than most people think. If Harry Kane was playing for Wolves, there'd be no doubt about this result.

But as that's not the case, I believe Wolves will be able to eke out a point from this one. For me, Spurs are still the favorites to finish at fourth this season.

Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Southampton vs Leicester City

This is one of the games to look forward to this weekend. Leicester City crashed out of the FA Cup in midweek against Blackburn Rovers. They can be really poor at times.

I'm backing Southampton to win this one if James Maddison doesn't play. If he plays, Leicester will win. That's how big the attacking midfielder is for them.

Southampton have to win this game. These fixtures don't come around often. They have some difficult games coming up. They have Manchester United, Brentford, Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester City coming up after this. They have to beat a vulnerable Leicester City on Saturday.

Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Leicester City

Nottingham Forest vs Everton

Everton's threat has generally been limited to set-pieces of late. They have become a bit harder to beat under Sean Dyche but that's not saying much. They got booed off the pitch after their 2-0 loss against Aston Villa last weekend.

I see Nottingham Forest being too much for them to handle at City Ground this weekend. Everton's last away game was against Liverpool and they were shockingly poor in that game.

I’m backing Nottingham Forest to win this one 2-0. Forest are very good at home. Their away record is atrocious. I expect them to win. Nottingham will get a seven-point lead over Everton if they do that.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest 2-0 Everton

Liverpool vs Manchester United

This is how quickly football changes. You'd be surprised if Manchester United got beaten here. How many times have we been able to say that about this game in the last few years? The way Manchester United are playing, they will take the game to Liverpool.

They are excellent on the counter and their players seem to make the right decisions whenever they break. United will want Liverpool to have a go at them so that they can hit them on the counter. Klopp's side could play right into United's hands on Sunday.

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Marcus Rashford will be looking to put Trent Alexander-Arnold under pressure much like Vinicius Junior did in the Champions League a couple of weeks ago. If United beat Liverpool, their confidence will be high and they will keep themselves in the title race for now.

A win would be massive for Liverpool as they will get closer to the top four with that. A couple of successive wins could be huge for them.

Erik ten Hag seems to know exactly how to handle his players. Tactically, he is very good. In the Carabao Cup final, his substitutions were spot on and he made the right decisions. He killed the game at the right time by making some really good defensive substitutions.

It just shows you that a club just needs a good manager to maximize their potential.

As for Liverpool, Salah hasn't been good this season after signing a new contract. Both the Golden Boot winners from last season have been poor this term. Teams are always looking to silence Salah and that puts him at a disadvantage.

Having said that, I wouldn't sell him at the end of the season though because unless Liverpool are sure they can get an upgrade, there is no point to it. But I do believe that there are plenty of players in Liverpool's midfield who need to go.

All their Premier League rivals will strengthen in the summer and Liverpool will need to keep up. They'll need to rejig their setup because the current one is not working like it used to.

Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United

Brentford vs Fulham

This is a massive game for both sides. I'm going to go 1-1 for this one. Brentford got a point against Palace with the last kick of the match and that's not how the game was expected to play out. The Bees need to do better in the games that they are tipped to win.

Fulham are a far better team than people are willing to give them credit for. This will be a tight contest.

Prediction: Brentford 1-1 Fulham

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Edited by Paul Merson
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