THE race for Europe is well and truly on after a dramatic weekend on and off the pitch.
Defeats for Leicester and Chelsea left the door wide open for Man Utd to take control of their own destiny – which they failed to do – while over the other side of Manchester, City saw their Champions League ban overturned.
Midweek football is the norm now so we’ll get straight to it, with tips from the Canaries trip to Stamford Bridge…
Chelsea vs Norwich (Tuesday, 8.15pm)
It wasn’t exactly the best three days of Chelsea’s season, that’s for sure.
First the Blues were smashed at Sheffield United in a dreadful performance, before the sucker-punch of Man City’s European ban lifted on Monday morning.
Luckily for them, Fergie-time happened in reverse as Southampton snatched a late point at Man Utd and denied the Red Devils all three points.
All that still leaves Frank Lampard‘s side – who for much of the season have been cruising to a top four position – scrapping it out to make next season’s Champions League.
Luckily for the Blues then, they welcome rock-bottom Norwich who are already consigned to an instant return to the Championship.
Daniel Farke’s side came up playing a brand of expressive, vibrant football and have taken a few scalps along the way – we’re looking at you, City.
But they were figured out as the season went on and it’s been a miserable return to action, with the Canaries losing all six of their top-flight matches since the season resumed.
Chelsea are 1/8 to win the game, as you’d expect with Norwich having nothing to play for.
The Blues have won four on the bounce in all competitions here at the Bridge, at an aggregate of 11-1.
Three of those wins have seen them keep a clean sheet – and we’re happy to back them to get one here.
Chelsea to win to nil is 7/10 and a far better price than taking Lampard’s wounded side on the results market.
We expect plenty of goals in this one as Chelsea look to atone for the shocking performance at the weekend.
And there’s plenty of value in backing them to score in BOTH halves at a very generous 8/13.
Tammy Abraham was a shadow of his early season self against the Blades and might find himself back on the bench for this one.
Check the teams first, but if Olivier Giroud starts he’s the man to be on for a goal.
The Frenchman has looked in fine form since the restart and 3/1 on him opening the scoring is too big.
SunSport’s best bets
- Chelsea to win without conceding: 7/10
- Blues to score in both halves: 8/13
- Giroud first goal: 3/1
Arsenal vs Liverpool (Wednesday, 8.15pm)
What next for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal?
It was a fairly dismal weekend for the Gunners and their European push looks to have fizzled out after a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham in the North London derby.
Despite Alexandre Lacazette‘s stunning opener, the Gunners failed to fire when it mattered and were stung by a late Toby Alderweireld winner.
All Arsenal can do now is win their remaining three matches and hope others above them slip up.
But that will be easier said than done – especially with the champions in town.
Liverpool lost their winning home record in their last game, drawing 1-1 with a spirited and determined Burnley at Anfield.
The Clarets had an inspired Nick Pope between the sticks and were good value for a point.
Do Arsenal have the same level of intensity and togetherness to get a result?
We’re not so sure.
When these sides met at Anfield earlier in the season, you could see why there’s currently 43 points between them in the table. Yep, 43.
Liverpool had 25 shots that day and were good value for their 3-1 win, topped off with a brace from Mo Salah.
With the Reds still celebrating a first title since 1990 and Arsenal licking their wounds from derby defeat, we’re avoiding the result market in this one.
Instead, play on the goals – and expect plenty.
Liverpool can attack at pace, Arsenal can’t defend but do know where the net is.
It’s a cocktail for goals, as showcased by the ridiculous 5-5 draw these two produced when the shackles were off in the FA Cup earlier this season.
4/7 on over 2.5 goals is definitely there to be backed, but we like the over 3.5 at a whopping 11/8.
Five of the last six meetings between the pair have seen that many goals scored – so why wouldn’t there be a goal glut in a potential dead rubber?
Liverpool like it at this ground and have scored eight on their last three visits.
Back them to score at least twice against a Gunners defence which needs a huge makeover in the off-season.
And if you’re going for a Liverpool goalscorer on the road, it’s go to be Salah.
He notched a brace at Brighton and is 11/10 to net anytime, but we like him better to kickstart the scoring at 10/3.
SunSport’s best bets
- Over 3.5 goals at Emirates: 11/8
- Liverpool to score 2+: 2/3
- Mo Salah to open the scoring: 10/3
Crystal Palace vs Man Utd (Thursday, 8.15pm)
We asked a fortnight ago if Ole really was back at the wheel.
There’s a steel and swagger to this Man Utd side that we haven’t seen in years, but just how damaging will that 96th minute equaliser from Southampton be?
They were slow to start at Old Trafford and Stuart Armstrong took advantage, but the way they just shrugged their shoulders and had the game turned around ten minutes later was very impressive.
If they’d held on to win, Champions League qualification would have been in their hands as they prepared to face the side second bottom of the form table here.
But United will surely have to rotate after FIVE games with the same starting XI, especially with a three-day turnaround.
Palace were in with an outside chance of Europe themselves just mere weeks ago after a confident 3-0 win over Sheffield United.
Since then, it’s five defeats on the bounce and Roy Hodgson was apoplectic as his side went down to Aston Villa at the weekend.
Will we see a reaction here?
We expect them to be better – although they couldn’t be any worse – and just look at how Palace ran Chelsea close here a week ago.
That was a game full of fast, attacking football with chances galore for both sides.
And goals. Plenty of them.
United are the over 2.5 goal kings at the moment with their last five Premier League games all featuring three or more goals.
Palace don’t tend to concede many here – just 17 all season, scoring 14.
That probably explains why it’s 2/3 on three or more goals, but with United in their current form going forward but leaky at the back, you take that price.
And we’re going to back both teams to score again, despite Palace’s recent woes.
Hodgson was so fuming after Villa that you’d expect a reaction with the chance to spoil the Champions League party.
Besides, both teams have netted in the last four meetings at this ground – at 23/20, that’s one of the steals of the week.
Marcus Rashford had just one goal in seven before that Saints game on Monday.
As ever with the packed fixture list, make sure you check who is starting before placing your goalscorer bet.
But at 13/8 – the longest out of Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood – he’s by far the value pick in what should be an open game.
SunSport’s best bets
- Over 2.5 goals at Selhurst Park: 2/3
- Both teams to score: 23/20
- Marcus Rashford to score: 13/8
*All odds from Ladbrokes and correct at time of publication.