Is it time to take notice of Everton near the top of the Premier League? They have a chance to move above Liverpool and Tottenham and climb into fourth place when they host fellow high-flyers Leicester on Wednesday.
“Everton have gone under the radar a bit in recent weeks,” said BBC football expert and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson. “They don’t get much of a mention when people talk about the top four.
“That might change if they beat Leicester, and Carlo Ancelotti’s side have got games in hand too. Also in their favour is their schedule compared to the teams above them, who are all still in Europe. Everton will only have to play once a week and, if they can keep their key players fit, they have got a chance.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches this season, against a variety of guests.
For this week’s Premier League fixtures, from Tuesday to Thursday, he is up against Alex Sprogis, guitarist in post-punk band TV Priest.
Alex is a Liverpool fan and told BBC Sport: “It’s something I share with my partner who has had me hooked since we met.
“They have the whole package – flair, spirit and unity. At their best they’re consistently a joy to watch, plus Jurgen Klopp has to be the most likeable manager on the planet, with those teeth and that smile.
“My favourite moment as a fan, on top of being the undisputed best team on the planet last year, is probably the 4-0 Champions League semi-final demolition of Barcelona in 2019 – that Trent Alexander-Arnold corner for Divock Origi to score was just amazing.
“What a history of European comebacks we have. My biggest disappointment was missing the Champions League final that year. I was on a plane heading to China and one of our managers was at the game. He’s a Spurs fan, which made it even worse. I had the last laugh though.
“Growing up, my family were never huge football fans, with the exception of my grandad, who is still a die-hard Southend United supporter.
“For a young kid they didn’t quite have the glamour of all the teams in the Premier League who were on on the football stickers I’d be collecting and swapping at school – so apologies to SUFC for that!
|Crystal Palace v West Ham||x-x||1-1||0-1|
|Newcastle v Leeds||x-x||0-2||1-1|
|Southampton v Arsenal||x-x||2-1||2-1|
|West Brom v Man City||x-x||0-3||0-3|
|Burnley v Aston Villa||x-x||1-1||2-0|
|Chelsea v Wolves||x-x||2-1||2-2|
|Brighton v Fulham||x-x||2-0||0-1|
|Everton v Leicester||x-x||2-0||2-3|
|Man Utd v Sheff Utd||x-x||2-0||2-1|
|Tottenham v Liverpool||x-x||1-1||1-2|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Crystal Palace v West Ham (18:00 GMT)
West Ham are on a great run – they have not lost since before Christmas, have won their past three league games and are into the fifth round of the FA Cup.
They are not just playing well, but they have become really difficult to beat. However, Crystal Palace are also awkward opposition, especially at home.
The Eagles have had a little break too – they last played against Manchester City on 17 January, so they will be ready for this one.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Alex’s prediction: After that 4-0 drubbing from Manchester City I can see Palace conceding here, particularly with Michail Antonio back and looking threatening for West Ham. 0-1
Newcastle v Leeds (18:00 GMT)
Leeds are another side who had the weekend off after going out of the FA Cup and, the way they play, that rest will make them even more dangerous.
They will be running even more than usual, and they have key midfielder Kalvin Phillips back after he miss the defeat by Brighton through suspension.
Newcastle are in awful form – without a win in 10 games in all competitions, with seven defeats and only four goals in that period.
If sacking season has started now, with Frank Lampard leaving Chelsea, then Steve Bruce is in trouble as Newcastle manager if this run continues.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Alex’s prediction: Newcastle are a bit all over the place at the moment but I feel like they can nick a goal against this leaky Leeds defence. Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking side will score too though. 1-1
Southampton v Arsenal (20:15 GMT)
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta picked a strange team as his side’s defence of the FA Cup ended at St Mary’s Stadium on Saturday, when the Gunners had been on a good run.
It is no longer a surprise to see Southampton playing well and, although Arsenal will pick a stronger side and make more of a game of it, I still see Saints winning.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Alex’s prediction: Southampton have been a real surprise package this season and I can see them turning their recent run of disappointing league results around. 2-1
West Brom v Man City (20:15 GMT)
The last time Manchester City failed to win was their draw with West Brom on 15 December, 10 games ago, when Slaven Bilic was in charge of the Baggies.
It is hard to see City dropping points again here. They had a scare against Cheltenham in the FA Cup after resting a few senior players, but they just kept coming forward until they found a way through.
Even with Kevin de Bruyne injured, they have got plenty of creativity in their side, while West Brom know they need more of that.
Manager Sam Allardyce has already increased his side’s threat from set-pieces by bringing in Robert Snodgrass to take free-kicks and corners. Now he wants to sign a big striker to get on the end of them, but that won’t happen in time to affect this game.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-3
Alex’s prediction: Obviously Burnley dished out the upset of the season so far at Anfield last week, so I can’t see another one happening here. 0-3
Burnley v Aston Villa (18:00 GMT)
Burnley followed up their excellent win over Liverpool with another impressive display to knock Fulham out of the FA Cup at the weekend.
I was at that victory at Anfield for BBC Radio 5 Live, and Burnley were so well drilled at the back.
Their two centre-halves, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, are the driving force but as a unit they are very tight.
It reminded me of George Graham’s famous defence when he was Arsenal boss, and they have clearly worked extremely hard on their shape and organisation at the back.
Turf Moor is always a test, especially when Burnley are playing like this, but Aston Villa have also looked pretty sharp since returning to action after being hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and they will make it a close game.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Alex’s prediction: Burnley have left Anfield with some new confidence, judging from how threatening they looked against Fulham at the weekend. 2-0
Chelsea v Wolves (18:00 GMT)
What went wrong for Frank Lampard at Chelsea? They were often too open at the back and his expensive forwards did not quite hit it off, which is unfortunate because they are all very good players.
Lampard’s departure should bring a reaction from the team in this game, though. It looks like Thomas Tuchel will replace him and he will be watching, even if he is not officially in charge by then. Everyone is playing for their place now.
Wolves will be hoping that Willian Jose is eligible to play after joining on loan, because they need more firepower up front and Chelsea do not have the injured N’Golo Kante to protect their defence, but I am still going with a Blues win.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Alex’s prediction: With Chelsea’s big news on Monday about Lampard leaving I think anything can happen in this game. I feel like there will be goals, but I’m not sure they will appoint a new manager in time to get that ‘bounce’ here. 2-2
Brighton v Fulham (19:30 GMT)
This is a big game at the bottom of the table because a Brighton win would open up a bit of distance between them and Fulham in the bottom three.
I am going to back Brighton to take the points too.
Fulham have been playing well without winning in recent weeks, while Brighton did not just beat Leeds in their previous league game – they more than matched them in every department and got the job done.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Alex’s prediction: At some point Aleksandar Mitrovic has got to start scoring for Fulham and I like the look of Ademola Lookman this season. A tight game but I think Scott Parker’s team will edge it. 0-1
Everton v Leicester (20:15 GMT)
Leicester are going well and are a good side even without the injured Jamie Vardy leading their line.
But I am not sure whether they will be able to cope with the physicality of Everton. That could make all the difference here.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Alex’s prediction: Even with Vardy out Leicester look good at the moment and Everton carry plenty of threats too. These are two really good sides that could get in Liverpool’s way this season. I can’t bring myself to give Everton a win though. 2-3
Man Utd v Sheff Utd (20:15 GMT)
As they showed against Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday, Manchester United have hit their stride, especially in attack, and their momentum is going to be hard to stop – they have got plenty of strength in depth if they do pick up any injuries.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have not lost in the league since Arsenal won at Old Trafford on 1 November, and nothing I have seen from Sheffield United suggests they are capable of ending that run.
The Blades are back in Manchester on Saturday when they face Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, so this is not exactly an easy spell for them. At least it is only a short journey home.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Alex’s prediction: With a heavy heart I think our great rivals will win this one. I feel for Sheffield United this season – it’s a shame to see Chris Wilder’s side struggling so badly. 2-1
Tottenham v Liverpool (20:00 GMT)
Liverpool were much better in Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Manchester United. Yes, they lost, but Mohamed Salah was back among the goals and there seemed to be more energy about the whole side.
They looked a bit more like their old selves in midfield and attack and manager Jurgen Klopp will take lots of encouragement from the way they played.
This is another tough game for them, although I would be surprised if it is as open as Sunday’s game was – Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is hardly going to throw everything at Liverpool, regardless of their poor form.
I do not think a draw would be a disaster for either side but, for Liverpool in particular, it is important they do not lose.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Alex’s prediction: The game of the week. This will be tight. As I said, one of our managers is a big Spurs fan, so I’ll give them one goal but we have to win this one and with Salah back in form, I reckon he’ll bag a couple here. Come on Liverpool! 1-2
Alex on Liverpool’s season: The past couple of months have been frustrating at times – I hope we won’t be kicking ourselves for the points we have already dropped. Still, it’s been exciting to see some of the new signings making an impact already – Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota look like great additions – and leaves me hopeful we can still pull something off come the end of the season.
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
Week 18 of the Premier League fixtures was split and played out across the last two midweeks, and saw Lawro take on two different guests, Cassia bassist Lou Cotterill and Shame drummer Charlie Forbes.
Two of the scheduled 10 games were postponed and, additionally, four rearranged games took place, meaning a total of 12 PL matches took place during that period, and complicated the scoring process somewhat.
Manchester City played Aston Villa, and Manchester United played Burnley, which were both postponed from the first week of the season when Celeste was the guest. She correctly picked wins for City and United without getting exact scores and picks up an extra 20 points for herself and the guest total. It did not change the ‘result’ of that week – she still beat Lawro, who also picked up an extra 20 points, but she won by 80-60 rather than 60-40.
Also played was Aston Villa’s game with Newcastle, rearranged from week 11 – Sister Bliss from Faithless went for a 1-1 draw back in November so did not pick up any extra points from Villa’s 2-0 win – and Tottenham’s game with Fulham from week 16. Fraser T Smith went for a 3-0 Spurs win at the end of December and the game finished 1-1. Neither score affected the ‘result’ of their respective game week.
Charlie and Lou both also made predictions for the above four games, but any points they picked up only counted towards their personal totals.
Aston Villa versus Tottenham and Leeds versus Southampton are the two games from week 18 still to be played. So far, from the eight scheduled fixtures that have been played, Lawro is trailing Lou and Charlie by 60-40. It has been marked down as a defeat for Lawro, for now.
Charlie went for a 3-1 win for Spurs at Villa, and Lou went for a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Southampton. Any points they gain when those games are played will be added to their totals, and the final ‘result’ will be calculated.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2020-21
|110||Sister Bliss, Amy Macdonald, Steve White|
|90||Adam Devonshire, Becky Hill|
|80||Celeste Dan Flint, Raye|
|77||Lawro (average after 19 weeks)|
|70||Lou Cotterill, Peter Hooton|
|50||Declan McKenna, Paul Smith, DJ Target|
|40||Gavin ‘Mo’ Edgeley|
|30||Rick Astley, Fraser T. Smith|
|20||Charlie Forbes, Dougie Payne|