April Fools’ Day is upon us and English Premier League supporters everywhere must be wondering what the joke will be over this weekend. Chelsea faithful and Leicester City supporters may be thinking April 2nd will reveal the two teams swapping positions in the league table, ending the most elaborate April Fools’ joke in Premier League history. Gunners’ supporters will be expecting Arsenal to have proven not to be ‘classic Arsenal’ in pursuit of a title, ‘lowly’ Leicester and perpetual ‘nearly top 4 but ‘ Spurs are the only teams in Arsenal’s way. Surely, Manchester United fans will be chuckling when Louis Van Gaal’s attempt to draw a booking for fourth official Mike Dean is revealed to be a choreographed prank to take attention away from the Red Devils’ uninspiring performances this season. The Premier League has dealt an assortment of realities which could easily be mistaken for April “Fools’-esque” jokes this campaign. As another international break ends and Premier League action returns this weekend, who will prove to be the jokers and the pranksters of the weekend’s fixtures?
Aston Villa vs Chelsea
April Fool of the Match: Interim Villa manager Eric Black gets the nod as he has been told he will be managing a Premier League club only to show up and realize he’s taken over Aston Villa who would be mistaken for a Premier League football team – like FIFA would be accused of being the picture of business ethics.
Match hunch: Aston Villa shows some spirit and fight for the first half and get to the half 0-0. In the second half Villa reverts to looking like a Championship side and Chelsea overpower the table bottom feeders.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa.
West Ham vs Crystal Palace
April Fool of the Match: Wayne Hennessey has conceded his fair share of soft goals this season. Hennessey will find himself wishing he had done better once again en route to a West Ham goal.
Match hunch: West Ham has been one of the most in-form sides in 2016 while Palace has been in free fall since a sizzling start to the season. On top of Palace’s poor form Alan Pardew is set to be missing a number of key players due to injury. Meanwhile, Dimitri Payet continued his remarkable form scoring a stunning free kick and recording an assist for France over the international break. The friendly confines of Upton Park help the Hammers take down Pardew’s Palace.
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Crystal Palace
AFC Bournemouth vs Manchester City
“Jes”ter of the Match: Candidates to receive “Jes”ter of the Match honors must have a name beginning in “Jes”. Scroll through the team sheets aaaand…Jesus Navas! Navas has failed to score in his last 71 Premier League appearances for City. Expect that streak to extend to 72 this weekend. *ouch*
Match hunch: Man City now appears firmly focused on the Champions League over the Premier League based on performances in recent weeks. With a hefty injury list and a trip to PSG in midweek, the trip to Bournemouth this weekend looks particularly tricky. Regardless, I expect City’s quality to show through and Pellegrini’s lads to pick up a hard earned 3 points against the Cherries.
Prediction: Man City 2-1 AFC Bournemouth
Norwich City vs Newcastle
Maniacal Magpie of the Match: Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrated his dramatic late game goal against Sunderland in Newcastle’s last match with a Newcastle supporter who made his way onto the pitch. That same Newcastle supporter storms onto the pitch at Carrow Road to celebrate another Newcastle goal before being tackled, restrained, and escorted out of the stadium by authorities.
Match Hunch: Carrow Road will be the site of an important relegation battle this weekend. Norwich has taken 4 points from their last two matches while Newcastle scored an emotional late game equalizer to rescue a point against Sunderland in their last match. Despite Norwich posting consecutive shutouts over their last two contests for the first time in 2016, the Canaries’ defense has been known to leak goals. Norwich City’s defense comes back down to earth this weekend as Rafa Benitez records his first win as Newcastle manager.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Norwich City
Stoke City vs Swansea City
Goose Swan of the Match: Bafetimbi Gomis will take the honors for his trademark crawl in celebration of a goal. The only problem…Gomis will mistakenly celebrate a goal scored by the Potters. Silly Swan!
Match Hunch: Stoke City still have an outside shot at securing European football for next season while Swansea will surely feel they are 3 points away from securing another season as a Premier League club. Stoke will have some key absentees, but stand out performer Marko Arnautovic will find himself on the score sheet once again in a solid Stoke City performance.
Predictjon: Stoke 3-1 Swansea City
Arsenal vs Watford
Goonery Gooner of the Match: Petr Cech will be out injured so David Ospina is set to start in goal for the Gunners. Ospina will emerge wearing Cech’s trademark headgear in an attempt to fool Watford into thinking Ospina has stolen Cech’s talent a la the Monstars in Space Jam. Despite only fooling Watford mediocrity Allan Nyom, Ospina does a serviceable job as usual in place of Cech helping Arsenal record the victory.
Match hunch: Arsenal seem to be out of the title race, but the Gunners will have revenge on their minds as they face a Watford side which knocked Wenger’s men out of the FA Cup not so long ago. Watford will prove to be a difficult opponent for Arsenal once again, but in the end Arsenal will be too much for Watford.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Watford
Sunderland vs West Brom
April Fools’ Prank Victims of the Match: Sadly Sunderland supporters in attendance will be the victims this weekend. Sunderland will force their supporters to witness a rather unattractive match of football while also keeping fans hopes of avoiding relegation alive with a precious point. Sunderland fans won’t realize they’ve been fooled until Sunderland is ultimately relegated at the end of the season. Sorry Black Cats supporters.
Match Hunch: The only thing less inspirational than watching Sunderland as an attacking side this season is watching a Tony Pulis side ever trying to attack. Sunderland is squarely in the middle of a relegation battle so a point will suit Big Sam’s side just fine. A 0-0 draw is a score line a Tony Pulis side has never shied away from. The teams split the honors this weekend.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-0 West Brom
Liverpool vs Tottenham
“You Gotta be Kidding Me!” of the Match: Christian Benteke will come on as a late game substitute with Liverpool holding a 2-1 lead. Benteke will be presented a glorious opportunity to seal the victory and hit the post thanks to a valiant effort from Hugo Lloris. However, the rebound will fall right back to Benteke who will tap into the open net. APRIL FOOLS! It’s Christian Benteke…he’ll miss the follow up as well much to the dismay of Jurgen Klopp.
Match Hunch: You may be shocked to learn Liverpool has not recorded consecutive wins at Anfield in the Premier League once this season. Liverpool’s last home game in the Premier League was a 3-0 victory over Manchester City. Surely Liverpool won’t manage a win against an in-form Tottenham side this weekend, right? Wrong. Both sides will have a lot of attacking intent and excel when they are not in possession of the ball. Expect a high energy match with a fair amount of chances for both sides. In the end, Liverpool will edge Tottenham and put a huge gash in Spurs title hopes.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham
Leicester City vs Southampton
Clownin’ with Claudio Moment of the Match: Loveable Leicester City manager, Claudio Rainieri, leads little Leicester to another victory as the Foxes continue their improbable run. In his post-game interview, Rainieri will insist Leicester are still just trying to avoid relegation, let a wry smile upon his face, and calmly utter “chat shit, get banged”. Even Rainieri is susceptible to a little Vardy fever now and then.
Match Hunch: Southampton enjoyed the moment of their season last match with an improbable comeback win to beat Liverpool 3-2. Meanwhile, 1-0 has been the score line of choice for the Foxes as they have recorded three consecutive 1-0 victories in the Premier League. Leicester stars Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante both got on the score sheet for their respective countries over the international break to continue each player’s fine form. Leicester makes it a fourth consecutive 1-0 win in the league.
Prediction: Leicester City 1-0 Southampton
Manchester United vs Everton
Devilish Fools of the Match: Manchester United supporters will fall victim to the rumors linking Romelu Lukaku with a potential move to the red side of Manchester. Supporters watch with a bittersweet feel as Lukaku nets against United, while also admiring a potential United star next season. The joke is on Man U as Lukaku snubs United this summer for another club that is Champions League bound. Spoiler alert: Manchester United will not qualify for the Champions League next season.
Match Hunch: Both teams come into the weekend struggling for any real consistency throughout the Premier League season. Somehow, Manchester United is very much in contention for 4th place in the Premier League after a victory in the Manchester derby last match. However, the Red Devils fail to take all the points in an entertaining affair with Everton.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Everton