Manchester City will give new Premier League champions Liverpool a guard of honour before Thursday’s game at an empty Etihad Stadium, but who will prevail on the pitch?
“I am sure the Liverpool players will have been partying,” said BBC football expert and former Reds defender Mark Lawrenson. “And, since the season started in August, they have been geared up to take the title off City, so will they have the same edge now they have done it?
“I know Jurgen Klopp is as driven as City boss Pep Guardiola in terms of their players maintaining their performance levels, especially against a team as good as City, but even being 5% off will make all the difference in a game like this.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week he is up against grime MC and Radio 1 Xtra DJ Big Zuu, who is a Liverpool fan.
Big Zuu, whose new track, ‘Move Right’, is out now, has also recorded a new freestyle rap celebrating the Reds’ success.
He told BBC Sport: “Because of lockdown I have just been celebrating at home, talking to all my friends and family that support Liverpool – just buzzing really.
“But I have made a freestyle for BBC Sport about us winning the league as well. I did one last season (see below) when we eventually just missed out – but this time we did it. I have just been kind of planning for when this new one will come out.
“Jordan Henderson messaged me on Friday morning, saying he wants to hear the freestyle, so everyone is just getting a bit excited about it all at the moment!”
Big Zuu puts Liverpool’s long-awaited success down to their strength from front to back – and the right attitude too.
“The quality across the squad is top tier,” he added. “I also think the fact there is no egos there either is important too.
“I think the addition of Virgil van Dijk at the start of 2018 was the best signing the club has ever made. He was exactly what we needed in our defence and he completely changed the complexion of the whole club.
“I remember the first game he played for us, against Everton in the FA Cup. I was at it, luckily enough. I was in the Kop when he scored the winner in front of us.
“You could just feel it then – the energy that he brought to the team. And just watching him command the back line in that game, you could already feel like he had such a presence.
“When we signed Alisson from Roma that summer, and got it right in goal too, then I think it was over from there. We have always had quality up front – we had Fernando Torres, we had Luis Suarez – when we fell fell short in the league before, but that is not enough on its own.”
Liverpool’s title was confirmed when City lost at Chelsea last week and Big Zuu definitely enjoyed the moment.
He explained: “Kevin de Bruyne scored one of the best goals of the season to equalise for City in that game – I have not seen a free-kick hit like that. He hit it and it went into the sky then somehow dipped under the bar.
“That just shows his quality, especially because they were trying to keep hold of their title a bit longer, but Chelsea got the breaks and when that Willian penalty went in then everyone was buzzing.
“Seeing the video of the Liverpool players celebrating together afterwards was just amazing.”
|Premier League predictions – week 32|
|Brighton v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||1-3|
|Arsenal v Norwich||x-x||2-0||3-1|
|Bournemouth v Newcastle||x-x||0-0||1-2|
|Everton v Leicester||x-x||1-1||1-1|
|West Ham v Chelsea||x-x||0-1||0-2|
|Sheff Utd v Tottenham||x-x||0-2||0-1|
|Man City v Liverpool||x-x||1-1||2-2|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Brighton v Man Utd (20:15 BST)
Brighton have picked up four points from their two games since the restart and it could have been six if they had put away their penalty against Leicester.
But if you’d offered a win and a draw against Arsenal and Leicester to Seagulls boss Graham Potter before the restart, he would have swum the channel to get it, especially with the teams below them in the table doing next to nothing.
The pressure is off Brighton a bit here, but I would still back Manchester United, who have also made a very positive return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Their boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a lot of changes for their FA Cup win over Norwich. They didn’t play well, but they still got through.
The race for the top four – and even fifth if Manchester City’s Champions League ban for next season is upheld – is going to be an exciting one. United are in the thick of it, and I think they will push on here.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Big Zuu’s prediction: For Brighton not to lose at Leicester shows there is something going on with them – they played well in that game. But United are in incredible form, so I’ve got to go with them. Maybe Brighton will score first, but United will come back at them. Sometimes they need that kick up the backside to get going. 1-3
Arsenal v Norwich (18:00 BST)
Arsenal sneaked into the FA Cup semi-finals by beating Sheffield United on Sunday and they enjoyed a bit of good fortune in their win over Southampton in the league last week too.
That’s football, though, and it should give them a bit of a lift – not that they should need it against Norwich.
I agreed with Canaries boss Daniel Farke, who described their FA Cup defeat by United as ‘lose lose’ because they played 120+ minutes and had Timm Klose sent off, and suspended.
They worked so hard to end up with nothing and, in terms of the end result, they would have been better off losing with 11 men inside 90 minutes. That sounds strange, but it was basically what Farke was saying.
He can take some positives from Norwich’s performance, of course, but I don’t recall them creating too much in any of their games so far. I cannot see them opening Arsenal up.
Assuming they are victorious, that would make it three wins in a row for the Gunners but, even if it happens, it would not mean they have turned a corner, or anything significant like that. You just cannot trust them as a team or know what they are going to do next and that situation has not suddenly changed.
As I said on Football Focus on Saturday, Arsenal have got as many problems off the pitch as on it, when they used to be so good at both.
It is a massive job for Mikel Arteta to turn things around, and he cannot do it on his own. I look at that club and think ‘where are they going?’ because they really need a strategy and an idea of how to sort their recruitment out before anything is going to change.
They need a leader in that department, with a definitive plan. Arsenal’s former co-owner and vice-chairman David Dein, who left in 2007, must look at them and think ‘what the heck has happened?’
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Big Zuu’s prediction: Arsenal have been a bit topsy-turvy but they have got a couple of wins now which means Hector Bellerin can finally plant some trees – he said he would plant 3,000 trees every time they won, then they lost their next two games. One of my friends said Hector’s house must be full of compost, but he is going to be using some more of it very soon because Norwich do not look good right now – I am backing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get a couple for the Gunners. 3-1
Bournemouth v Newcastle (18:00 BST)
Newcastle didn’t turn up in the first half against Manchester City and it was probably just as well there were no fans inside St James’ Park because they would have been howling about that.
They were better in the second half but there’s still no way that they could say they deserved to go through and they did not really even have a proper go at City.
Staying up was the aim for the season, though, and they probably need one more point to be sure of doing that.
I think they will get it on Wednesday. Magpies boss Steve Bruce will play his best team this time and Bournemouth have lost both of their games since the restart and are all over the place.
The only positive thing for the Cherries so far is that everyone else around them, apart from Brighton, have not picked up many points either.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-0
Big Zuu’s prediction: I would give this one to Newcastle. I am not sure Bournemouth have got that fight they need, and they have not been too convincing for a while. 1-2
Everton v Leicester (18:00 BST)
Leicester have looked a little lethargic since the Premier League returned and of course now they are out of the FA Cup too.
Physically, the Foxes look off the pace, which is always going to affect them. Up front, Jamie Vardy just does not look as sharp as he did earlier in the season.
It looks like they are going to need a few games to find their feet properly, which is a problem because the teams below them have already closed the gap.
Everton, in contrast, are already back at it and I think they will fancy their chances here.
But Leicester still don’t concede many goals even if they are not at full throttle going forward, which is why I think this will end up as a draw.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Big Zuu’s prediction: This is a big game for Leicester and it is tough to call. I can’t see a lot of goals, but there might be some last-minute drama. 1-1
West Ham v Chelsea (20:15 BST)
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has shown his ability to improve his side during games – they showed it against Manchester City last week and again to knock Leicester out of the FA Cup on Sunday.
They have not played well for the entire game in any of their three games in the past 10 days, but they have won them all.
West Ham in contrast, have lost two out of two and my worry with them is still where their goals are going to come from.
It is hard to see them getting anything out of this game but all is not lost – they have got two home games against Watford and Aston Villa in the final fortnight of the season and, the way all of those teams are playing right now, it looks like the relegation battle will go right to the wire.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-1
Big Zuu’s prediction: This is big for both teams. West Ham boss David Moyes is under a lot of pressure and I know the goal they conceded against Tottenham that was actually a hand-ball, broke his heart. It is going to be hard for the Hammers, though, because Chelsea are looking good at the moment and Christian Pulisic has been quality. The pace they have got in their attack is unreal. 0-2
Sheff Utd v Tottenham (18:00 BST)
Sheffield United are another side who have lost their cutting edge – which is something I thought would be an issue when they first came up to the Premier League.
I thought the Blades had Championship-level strikers who would struggle to score when they made the step up.
I got that spectacularly wrong for the first few months of the season because they were fantastic before the season stopped, but since then they have not looked like scoring many goals.
They are just not creating enough chances anymore, which is a problem. Championship-quality strikers need more opportunities to score in the Premier League, and they are not getting them.
Tottenham have not exactly been convincing lately either but they do have goals in their team, which is why I am going for another Blades defeat.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Big Zuu’s prediction: Sheffield United are still fighting for a European spot but they are not in good form, and Spurs are just starting to hit their stride under Jose Mourinho. If they score one goal they will hang on to it for dear life. 0-1
Man City v Liverpool (20:15 BST)
City have had to watch Liverpool wrap up the title but Pep Guardiola’s side are trying to win every other trophy this season, and they are going well.
Last season, this fixture was a thriller – with City winning 2-1 and John Stones making a brilliant goal-line clearance to help them secure victory at an electric Etihad Stadium with everyone in the ground knowing the title was on the line.
This scenario is clearly very different. Both teams will have something to prove, of course, but the main thing driving both of them this time will probably be that they don’t want to lose. Quite often in games like that, nothing really happens.
There is no way Guardiola will field a weakened team this time, or Klopp for that matter, but I just don’t expect it to be a classic for some reason. It doesn’t help that there won’t be any fans there.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Big Zuu’s prediction: This could go so many ways. City could just be so angry that they absolutely dominate us. We could be a bit hung-over, or we could turn up and say ‘we are Premier League champions, let’s go and show it’.
I think it will be tight, but there will be some goals because of the quality of both attacks – there is going to be lot of really intricate passes played to try and open each other up – and both teams will go as hard as they can. 2-2
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
Lawro correctly predicted the outcome of three out of the four weekend FA Cup quarter-finals but his guest, Peter Crouch Save Our Summer co-host Alex Horne, picked all four winners correctly.
Horne also made predictions of the latest round of Premier League games, which started on Saturday with Aston Villa versus Wolves and will end on Thursday with Manchester City against Liverpool. Along with Lawro and Big Zuu, he will have to wait until full-time at Etihad Stadium to find out his total score for week 32.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2019-20
|110||Aitch, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper|
|90||Avelino, Helen Housby, Jo Harten, Bobby Seagull, Geraint Thomas|
|80||Tom Davis, Andy Murray, Stephen Graham|
|77||Lawro (average after 31 weeks)|
|70||David Baddiel, Richard Hawley, Kojo, Michael Johnson, Craig Mitch, Alex Scott|
|60||Sonny Bill Williams, Georgia, Al Greenwood, Katie Ormerod, Serge from Kasabian, Stefan Ratchford|
|50||Chelcee Grimes, Reece Parkinson, Sam Warburton|
|40||Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Tom Grennan, Neil Jones, Tommy O’Dell, Steve Queralt|
|30||Sam Bird, Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rollins|
|Total scores after week 31|