Arsenal host Chelsea on Sunday but which of these inconsistent sides will come out on top?
“Take away Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester City, and there are a lot of bang-average sides in the Premier League this season,” said BBC football expert Mark Lawrenson.
“People talk about how good Chelsea are ‘on their day’, and say the same about Tottenham or Arsenal too – but they are not having many days.
“All of these sides are being beaten by teams you would not expect to, and sometimes pretty easily.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This weekend, he is up against rapper and Manchester United fan Avelino.
Avelino, whose latest song Higher Power is out now, has been frustrated by United’s up-and-down form this season – and thinks Paul Pogba could help provide the solution.
“Nothing comes as a surprise to me with United this season,” he told BBC Sport. “I have been saying for a while that, in the bigger games, we tend to do all right.
“We just need to figure out a different way of playing because when we are asked to have most of the ball, it is like we don’t know how to break teams down – there are no ideas, it is like we are running into a brick wall.
“The reason Pogba could help fix that problem is because of his inventiveness. He can just pick a pass or do something where he changes a game with one moment.
“He is head and shoulders above the other guys. It is almost like being back in the playground, when one of the older boys would get on the ball. Everything about him is just better.
“I don’t think he can do it on his own, though. We have to build on what we have with him in the team, but we definitely need one or two other players who can do something similar.
“People say he is inconsistent but I think we have to admit United are not one of the best teams in the country right now, and he needs some help.
“Pogba plays with the best of the best for France, but it is not the same for him at United – and when the United team does not perform then it does not seem fair to always say it is his fault.”
|Premier League predictions – week 20|
|Brighton v Bournemouth||x-x||1-2||2-1|
|Newcastle v Everton||x-x||1-1||1-1|
|Southampton v Crystal Palace||x-x||2-0||0-1|
|Watford v Aston Villa||x-x||2-1||2-0|
|Norwich v Tottenham||x-x||0-2||2-1|
|West Ham v Leicester||x-x||1-1||1-2|
|Burnley v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||0-3|
|Arsenal v Chelsea||x-x||1-1||0-2|
|Liverpool v Wolves||x-x||2-0||1-1|
|Man City v Sheff Utd||x-x||3-0||4-2|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless stated.
Brighton v Bournemouth (12:30 GMT)
Brighton played well in the first half against Tottenham but ended up with nothing to show for it.
That seems to happen quite often with the Seagulls. They are nice to watch but they are not clinical at putting teams away.
Bournemouth are pretty similar, just more experienced at this level. Cherries striker Callum Wilson is fit again, which is a big boost for them, and it would be just like them to go to Brighton and win.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Avelino’s prediction: 2-1
Newcastle v Everton
Everton got a good win over Burnley in Carlo Ancelotti’s first game as Toffees boss. They had to wait to make the breakthrough, but they deserved the points.
The worst thing Newcastle did in their defeat at Old Trafford was scoring first, because they made Manchester United angry.
However, the Magpies have been in decent form at St James’ Park under Steve Bruce – they have not lost there in the league since Arsenal beat them on the opening weekend.
If they react as a team, like they did after their last heavy loss against Leicester in September, when they responded by winning three and drawing one of their next five games, then they will get something out of this one.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Avelino’s prediction: 1-1
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Southampton produced their best performance of the season to completely outplay Chelsea on Thursday.
Their results have picked up a lot in the past month, which shows what a good idea it was to back Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl when he was under pressure earlier in the season.
A lot of clubs might have reacted differently after losing 9-0 at home when they were in the bottom three.
Crystal Palace also got a really good result, fighting back from 1-0 down to beat West Ham, especially because the Eagles do not score very many goals.
I am going with another Southampton win here, though. They have the worst home record in the top flight at the moment, but Hasenhuttl has developed a knack of picking the right team to get the job done.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Avelino’s prediction: 0-1
Watford v Aston Villa
Watford are off the bottom of the table and their improvement continues. They had to work very hard for their point against Sheffield United last time out – but they got it.
The great thing for new Hornets boss Nigel Pearson is that he has come in and got results straight away.
Doing that means he gets a response on the training ground too, because the players think: ‘He knows what he is talking about.’
Aston Villa hung on to beat Norwich but it is a real worry for them that they are conceding so many goals and chances.
It is alarming how open they are, and that is why I am backing the Watford revival to continue.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Avelino’s prediction: 2-0
Norwich v Tottenham
Norwich made lots of chances in their defeat by Aston Villa but, not for the first time this season, they finished empty handed.
The Canaries will think they can get at Spurs too but, unless they improve defensively, this will probably end up with a familiar outcome for Daniel Farke’s side.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Avelino’s prediction: There might be a bit of a shock here. 2-1
West Ham v Leicester (17:30)
I thought Leicester’s tactics were strange in Thursday’s defeat by Liverpool. James Maddison was on the left of midfield but he kept disappearing to come inside and play, because that is what he does.
That left Trent Alexander-Arnold completely free to pile forward down Liverpool’s right. Everyone knows what a threat he is, and I don’t really understand how Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers did not spot what was happening, or try to change things to stop him.
Leicester are now without a win in three league games, and I am not convinced they will get a victory here, either.
The pressure is mounting on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini as his side slide down the table, but they have picked up some decent one-off results along the way and I just have a feeling this will end up in a draw.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Avelino’s prediction: 1-2
Burnley v Man Utd (19:45)
Which Manchester United will show up? At the moment, you just don’t know.
As poor as they can be – their defeat by Watford before Christmas, for example – United are very dangerous when they are at it.
This is a tough game to predict, because I also think Burnley will be better than they were when they lost at Goodison Park in their last game.
But if United play well, they will win.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Avelino’s prediction: I have been buzzing off United striker Mason Greenwood since before the season started. He is unreal.
I speak to some of the people at United and, even in the summer, his name was buzzing.
He was the talk of the club, with people expecting big things from him, so I started looking into him and saw this young guy who is two-footed and has got ice in his veins with his finishing. He has got a lot of work to do, but you can see what everyone is talking about – he is just so dangerous.
I love seeing talented young players but what sticks out for me is if I can identify character and temperament too.
If I could pick one player for United to sign in January, it would be Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. He is quick, dynamic and young, and he is creative and hungry for success too.
He would be able to handle the pressure of playing for United too – obviously talent is the first thing you need but to be a success at big clubs you need the right mentality too, and he showed that by going to Germany and becoming a key player for his team.
As for the game? It is a tough one but we are going to go there and absolutely pulverise them. Pogba will be back in the side too. 0-3
Arsenal v Chelsea (14:00)
This is Mikel Arteta’s first home game as Arsenal boss, and I am sure that will give everyone a bit of a lift.
But I just don’t trust the Gunners defensively – you can’t, because it is still the same players, regardless of who is in charge.
Chelsea are so inconsistent at the moment too. I watched their defeat by Southampton last time out and, as frustrating as they were in that game, I would not be surprised if they played much better here.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Avelino’s prediction: Willian looked like Lionel Messi when Chelsea beat Tottenham last week. I am a big, big fan of the Blues right now, and their manager Frank Lampard.
Chelsea are a young team so they are going to have some weeks where things do not go so well for them, but it is exciting to see a lot of young English players get their chance. 0-2
Liverpool v Wolves (16:30)
The number of chances Liverpool have created in the first five minutes of their past two league games is just frightening.
What Jurgen Klopp’s side are doing slightly differently now is they keep hitting these long balls, from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk, and they are so accurate.
It is so difficult for teams to try to stop them, because they don’t really know what is coming.
It just means Liverpool keep getting behind defences, and not just from interplay in the opposition half – they can hurt you from distance now too.
That is what whoever they are up against has to contend with, and I think they will cause real problems for Wolves – who will have had a day’s less rest than them before playing it too.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Avelino’s prediction: I love watching Wolves. They are good defensively and they are a good counter-attacking team, and I think they can come away with a point. 1-1
Man City v Sheff Utd (18:00)
Sheffield United have not been beaten in any of their nine away league games so far, but this is by far and away their toughest assignment to date.
If City play anywhere near as well as we know they can, they will have too much firepower for the Blades.
I am not expecting United to make life easy for them, because they will be solid and well organised, and they are a clever side.
But the teams who have beaten City at Etihad Stadium this season – Wolves and Manchester United – undid them using absolute pace, and Chris Wilder’s side do not have that in their attack.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Avelino’s prediction: To beat City at the Etihad like Wolves and Manchester United did, you pretty much have to play the perfect game.
As great as Sheffield United have been this season, I think City will have too much for them. Kevin de Bruyne is playing like an alien at the moment, and is the best player in the Premier League without a doubt. 4-2
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last week?
From the festive Premier League matches on 26 and 27 December, Lawro got five correct results with no exact scores from 10 games for a total of 50 points.
He was beaten by singer-songwriter Richard Hawley who got four correct results, but with one exact score, for a total of 70 points.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|90||Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|80||Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|77||Lawro (average after 19 weeks)|
|70||David Baddiel, Richard Hawley, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Sonny Bill Williams, Serge from Kasabian, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Stephen Fry, Neil Jones, Tommy O’Dell|
|Total scores after week 19|
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