Paul Merson's predictions for Manchester City vs Aston Villa and other Premier League GW38 fixtures

The 2021-22 Premier League season has had its fair share of drama
The 2021-22 Premier League season has had its fair share of drama

After nine grueling months, the 2021-22 Premier League campaign is finally set to conclude this weekend. For the first time in the league's decorated history, the title race, relegation battle, and the top four races could all be decided on the final day of the season. It sums up how competitive it's been in the English top-flight this time around.

Liverpool looked over and out at one point. They had two games in hand but were 12 points behind Manchester City, so it's absolutely unbelievable that they're still in with a chance of winning the Premier League title. It's been a phenomenal season and I've been involved in football far too long now to think that it could all be plain sailing on matchday 38.

Watch this space - that's all I can say before I go ahead and make my predictions for the 10 Premier League games this weekend. We've already seen our fair share of drama, but we could see a few more twists and turns on Sunday as there's so much at stake!

I've done about 14 end-of-season shows in my broadcasting career. I also did the iconic QPR vs Manchester City game in 2012 when Sergio Aguero scored in stoppage time to win snatch the title away from Manchester United's grasp. So you never quite know what you're going to get.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United

Newcastle United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Newcastle United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Palace play tonight as well, so how they head into this game will largely depend on the outcome of their clash against Everton. That said, Manchester United will play the way they have all season - they can't wait to get to the beach and refresh ahead of the 2022-23 season under Erik ten Hag.

Patrick Vieira has done an outstanding job this season and has changed the way Palace play. They've been unlucky with a couple of last-minute goals going against them, but he's sort of overhauled an aging squad and adopted an attractive brand of football.

Could he be the next Arsenal manager? It all depends on timing, for me. When Sir Alex Ferguson was about to retire in the early 2000s, a handful of names were reportedly in the running to replace him but none of those links came to fruition. Arsenal have given Mikel Arteta a new contract but if he starts the 2022-23 Premier League season with a series of underwhelming results and Vieira does so with a string of wins, he could well be the next Gunners boss!

I think Palace will win this game 2-1, as Manchester United have just not been good enough in recent weeks.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Manchester United

Arsenal vs Everton

Newcastle United v Arsenal - Premier League
Newcastle United v Arsenal - Premier League

The shackles are off for Arsenal after their calamitious 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United last weekend. They were absolutely atrocious, no two ways about it. Usually, you have games where certain players play well, but this is arguably the first time I've seen a team where each of their players was off color - it was one of the worst performances of the 2021-22 Premier League season.

The way I read into Granit Xhaka's comments, I got the feeling that the Arsenal players believed it would be a walk in the park against Newcastle but it was far from it. Fair play to him for being honest, we don't want players beating around the bush after a catastrophic defeat. He spoke from the heart and gave his honest opinion of the game, but he was slammed by a large portion of the Arsenal fan base. I feel a bit sad for the bloke, but sometimes fans' frustrations tend to boil over due to the stakes involved.

Everton have done reasonably well in my opinion, but Jordan Pickford's performances have papered over their cracks. He won them three points against Chelsea and Leicester City with a string of world-class saves, so I wouldn't be going too far if I said that they'd have already been relegated without his crucial interventions.

At the moment, he's England's #1 goalkeeper and when push comes to shove, he usually steps up and performs. Aaron Ramsdale has been shaky in recent weeks, but you have to give credit when it's due as Pickford has really come big for Everton in the run-in.

The pressure is off for Arsenal, they'll win this one comfortably. Will that be enough for a top-four spot? Only time will tell.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Everton

Chelsea vs Watford

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League
Everton v Chelsea - Premier League

What score would you like? How many do you want? Watford led at home last time out, but they got smashed 5-1 by Leicester City. I give them no chance against Chelsea as their season has fizzled out and turned into a bit of an embarrassment.

Chelsea have a big summer coming up. With a handful of key players set to leave the club at the end of the season, they need a few players to shore up their backline. However, they can't do any business till the new owners come in, so they're stuck in a bit of a sticky situation at the moment.

Antonio Rudiger will be a massive miss for them, while Andreas Christensen has shown his quality under Thomas Tuchel. Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are also being linked with moves away from Stamford Bridge, so defensive reinforcements are the need of the hour for the Blues.

This game will be a walk in the park for Chelsea judging by the contrasting fortunes of the two teams this season.

Prediction: Chelsea 4-0 Watford

Leicester City vs Southampton

Watford v Leicester City - Premier League
Watford v Leicester City - Premier League

This is a great end-of-season game involving two sides that play free flowing football. Jamie Vardy has returned to his best in recent weeks and is a player I'm a big fan of. He's really sharp and is a good finisher, I think he definitely has another season left in him if he's looked after properly.

Neither of these teams has anything to play for, so I think we'll see a lot of goals as they'll look to express themselves.

Prediction: Leicester City 3-2 Southampton

Brentford vs Leeds United

Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

Once again, this game will depend on what happens between Aston Villa and Burnley later today. Pascal Struijk's 92nd-minute equalizer against Brighton could turn out to be an invaluable goal for Leeds United and could well be the moment that keeps them in the Premier League.

They were average in the first half against Brighton, but if they play this game like they did in the second half, they'll definitely get at least a point. They are playing for survival, so I expect them to show enough fight and get a positive result.

Kalvin Phillips' future has been a major talking point as he has been linked with moves to a handful of Premier League clubs. If Leeds stay up, he'll stay, but if they get relegated, I think he's a goner. One thing is for sure, though - he's not signing for Manchester United! 100%, no chance I can see that happening considering the history between the two teams.

Prediction: Brentford 1-1 Leeds United

Burnley vs Newcastle United

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League
Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League

Newcastle got a fantastic result against an Arsenal side that came into the game to virtually seal their place in the top four, they'll be too much for Burnley, who I think will get relegated. They were at home against the Gunners, but they'll want to finish the season on a high, so they won't lie down and get beat.

Eddie Howe has done an unbelievable job since taking over the reins at St. James' Park and has brought the right players in, with the likes of Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Bruno Guimaraes showing their class since signing for the club in January. It looked bleak for them at the turn of the year, but they've turned it around in some style, fair play to them for that.

Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Newcastle United

Norwich City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League

It's probably a strange thing to say because Norwich are rock bottom and were the first team to suffer relegation, but they always have their moments in football matches. They were battered 3-0 by Leicester last time out, but they had a lot of good chances to score in the first half. If they can put away some of the chances they create, there could be a bit of drama, but the way they approach games could play into Tottenham's hands.

I'll only say one thing - if Spurs can't beat Norwich City on the last day of the season with a place in the Premier League top four at stake, what's the point of them being in the UEFA Champions League in the first place?

Son Heung-Min and Mohamed Salah are going head-to-head for the Golden Boot, I have a funny feeling they might end up sharing it! As for the Premier League 'Player of the Season' award, I think Kevin De Bruyne would be my pick as he makes a world-class team like Manchester City tick. Salah had a great start and it's probably a bit harsh on him, but hasn't really set the world alight since the turn of the year.

Prediction: Norwich City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Brighton & Hove Albion vs West Ham United

West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League
West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League

This is another one of those end-of-season football matches that could have a lot of goals in it. West Ham were outstanding against Manchester City, with Jarrod Bowen grabbing the headlines once again with a fantastic first-half brace.

I really like him, he's had an outstanding season and could well secure a big move this summer. That said, West Ham are also a big club, so it remains to be seen what happens to him.

Prediction: Brighton 2-2 West Ham

Liverpool vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Villarreal v Liverpool Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League
Villarreal v Liverpool Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League

You don't come this far in a Premier League title race only to falter at the final hurdle, so I think Liverpool will win this one comfortably. I was shocked with the number of changes they made against Southampton, but the players Jurgen Klopp put out gave it everything they had to get all three points.

Manchester City should have beaten West Ham last week but ended up dropping two valuable points, enhancing Liverpool's hopes of winning the title on the final day of the season. The narrative that is building up sounds like a bit of a fairytale, as Pep Guardiola and co prepare to take on Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa on Sunday.

The former Liverpool captain never won the Premier League with his boyhood club, but could he do them a massive favor and take points off Manchester City? Regardless of what happens in that game, Liverpool have to do what's in their control, which is to beat Wolves and I think they will do that. Bruno Lage's side have fizzled out in recent weeks, so I don't see this one being too much of an issue for the Reds.

Liverpool should be able to win this one even without the services of Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk, who were both withdrawn prematurely in the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate were outstanding against Southampton and in attack, they are spoilt for choice with Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino all available for selection.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Wolves

Manchester City vs Aston Villa

West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League
West Ham United v Manchester City - Premier League

I've been involved with the beautiful game for far too long to think of this as a foregone conclusion, but I genuinely don't think Villa will have enough to beat Manchester City. Guardiola and his players shouldn't have taken it until the last day, but they are still in control of their own destiny and should get the job done.

That said, Manchester City have been guilty of leaving themselves open at the back in recent weeks. Villa have the likes of Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho, who are all dangerous players in their own right. City will have to bide their time and stay patient, like they did against Leicester City in 2019 when Vincent Kompany scored a worldie of a goal to effectively win the title for his team.

This has been an incredible season and in football, you never quite know what's going to happen. Do we have more twists and turns in store as yet another Premier League season draws to a dramatic climax? Only time will tell.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Aston Villa

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