Paul Merson's predictions for Premier League GW 31 fixtures

Premier League football is back after an eventful international break
Premier League football is back after an eventful international break

After what turned out to be an eventful international break, we're back to reality as the Premier League returns with yet another set of intriguing fixtures. It's weird because the break felt much longer than usual, but the most entertaining league in world football resumes for the business end of the 2021-22 campaign.

Italy's elimination was absolutely mind-blowing, I mean, this is why we watch football because no one knows what's going to happen! Portugal vs Italy would have been a different game, but it wasn't meant to be for the reigning European champions. Italy could play against North Macedonia 100 times in the next few days and they'd win every single time, that's how unbelievable that game was.

With the Premier League title race and the top four chase heating up, what do we have in store for us this week?

Liverpool vs Watford

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League
Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League

This is a massive game for both teams. If Liverpool win, they'll go top of the Premier League table and that's absolutely unbelievable when you consider the fact that Manchester City were 14 points clear at one point.

There's never a right time to play a team like Liverpool, but Watford wouldn't mind the timing of this fixture. The Reds had a lot of players on international duty and with a huge UEFA Champions League game against Benfica coming up, will they look to rest a few players? Additionally, with Mohamed Salah coming on the back of another devastating defeat for Egypt, will that play on his mind?

With Trent Alexander-Arnold missing due to injury, Jurgen Klopp might turn to Joe Gomez or James Milner to deputize at right-back. I think he'll go with the latter, because when Milner plays, he hardly ever disappoints.

Liverpool should win this game, but it'll be a lot harder than people think.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Watford

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Norwich City

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

Brighton have completely lost the plot in recent weeks, but each time I look at Norwich City, it just feels like another defeat could mean floodlights out for them in terms of their Premier League survival hopes. That said, Brighton haven't won a game in god knows how long, so who is to say Norwich don't have a chance?

I don't think Brighton's winless run will continue for much longer, so I expect them to get three points and put the final nail in Norwich's coffin.

Prediction: Brighton 2-1 Norwich City

Burnley vs Manchester City

Peterborough United v Manchester City: The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round
Peterborough United v Manchester City: The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round

Burnley are a hard place to go and suddenly - suddenly this is a different game for Manchester City. I expect Liverpool to win, so Pep Guardiola and co need three points to reclaim their place at the top of the Premier League standings. The away team will undoubtedly see a lot of the ball and have close to 75% possession, but will they manage to score goals?

It could well end up like the Crystal Palace game where they ended up dominating but couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. Burnley, on the other hand, will look to keep it tight and take their chances from set-pieces. It could be a cold, windy, rainy day at Turf Moor, so this will be an interesting game.

Manchester City have the option of playing Gabriel Jesus up front, but more than ever, I think they'll go with a false 9 once again. If you play a center forward, that's perfect for Burnley as they want someone to mark.

Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Manchester City

Chelsea vs Brentford

Burnley v Chelsea - Premier League
Burnley v Chelsea - Premier League

Brentford gotta pick their games between now and the end of the season. They are already safe from the drop in my opinion, but they still need a few more points to be absolutely sure they don't get dragged into a relegation scrap in the coming weeks.

Christian Eriksen played and scored in both games for Denmark during the international break, but will he play this one? His future is an interesting talking point, as Brentford only gave him a short-term deal. If they stay up and offer him a contract, I think he'll look to take it because in many ways, Eriksen will feel indebted to Brentford for taking a chance on him when there weren't too many teams queuing up to take him when he left Inter Milan.

I think Chelsea will win this game quite comfortably to cement third place in the Premier League.

Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Brentford

Leeds United vs Southampton

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United - Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United - Premier League

This could be an exciting game with lots of goals, so I'm predicting a 2-2 draw. Leeds have had a couple of good results on the spin under Jesse Marsh and should comfortably avoid the drop if they carry on playing like this, but Southampton are a good team as well.

They played really well against Manchester City in the FA Cup but ended up losing 4-1, which I felt was a bit harsh. A draw won't be a bad result for either of these teams.

Raphinha is a player who has generated a lot of transfer talk in recent weeks, with Barcelona reportedly interested in snapping him up this summer. I think he'll leave Leeds regardless of what happens - he's capable of playing for any of the big boys in the Premier League.

Real Madrid and Barcelona still have the charm when it comes to foreign players - when either of the two clubs come for a player, they inevitably end up getting them.

Prediction: Leeds United 2-2 Southampton

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Aston Villa

Everton v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Everton v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League

Aston Villa have turned a corner - the result against Arsenal was a wake-up call for them. Ollie Watkins will be on a bit of a high after scoring for England, so I think Villa could win this one

As for Wolves, with Raul Jimenez suspended, I think they'll struggle in front of goal.

Prediction: Wolves 1-2 Aston Villa

Manchester United vs Leicester City

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League
Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League

As I've said hundreds of times before, you never quite know what you're going to get with Manchester United. Leicester have got a big UEFA Europa League game on Thursday and in all honesty, that's a bigger game for them at this stage of the season than a Premier League clash against the Red Devils, so a handful of players could be rested for this one.

I keep on predicting Manchester United to win and I don't know why, but I think they'll win this one 2-1 and put major pressure on Arsenal.

Bruno Fernandes' contract situation is an interesting one and pretty much sums up where Manchester United are as a club at the moment. I'm not saying he's a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but how can they give someone a five-year contract when they haven't even got a permanent manager? What if a new manager comes in and doesn't quite fancy Fernandes, because there's every chance coaches won't like the way he throws his hands up in frustration or his style of play.

He's a good player and I like him, but he hasn't set the world alight at Manchester United this season. I just find it a bit strange that they've given a massive long-term contract to a player when they haven't sorted out their managerial dilemma, it's a big call by the club.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City

West Ham United vs Everton

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League
Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League

With games against West Ham and Burnley in the pipeline, Everton have a massive week of football coming up. They have to make sure they don't lose games, but I don't know if Frank Lampard will set his team up like that. Against Crystal Palace, they started the game really well but ended up losing 4-0, which has got to be worrying for the manager.

Much like Leicester, West Ham have a Europa League game coming up, so they might look to rest a few key players for this one. Despite that, I think the Hammers will win here, as I don't believe there is 90 minutes of good football in Everton at the moment. They show flashes of brilliance in games but the consistency just isn't there.

Prediction: West Ham United 2-0 Everton

Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United

Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

If Harry Kane turns up, Tottenham will win this game of football. I was very surprised by Newcastle's performance against Chelsea and felt there was no chance they'd lose to Everton, but that was exactly what happened despite Everton going down to 10 men!

This is a very difficult game for Tottenham as I've been really impressed with Newcastle under Eddie Howe, but the home side should win this one.

Kane's future has once again come under the limelight and it'll be up to him this summer. Manchester City are reportedly in for Erling Haaland so they may not come back in for him, so could it probably be Manchester United? If they get Kane and Declan Rice, I think they can challenge next season under a good manager.

Will he look to move on in search of trophies or stay at Tottenham to break Alan Shearer's goalscoring record? Something tells me he might stay - his mind is probably made up already!

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Newcastle United

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League
Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League

I've predicted wins for Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham, so Arsenal have to win this one to be on track for a place in the Premier League top four. Palace have a big game against Chelsea in the FA Cup to look forward to a little later in the month and the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise are injured, so they probably won't be risked for this one.

Arsenal got a massive result against Aston Villa after losing to Liverpool and will do well with another win here. This is a big game with a lot of pressure, but I think Mikel Arteta and co will get all three points.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal

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Edited by Paul Merson
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