The four teams involved in the Semi Final have had their League matches pushed back to Tuesday and Wednesday and then the final games of the 2019/20 season will be played at the same time on Sunday. There is still plenty to play for at both the top and bottom of the table, but the tight window to fit in all the football needed to complete the season does mean that there is more thinking time for players to analyse what kind of results they need to achieve their ambitions for the campaign.
I am not sure that is helping or hindering, but teams are responding to the pressure in a better way than I may have imagined. That also goes for the Championship where Leeds United are a point away from securing their place back in the Premier League after a long absence and both West Brom and Brentford are still fighting to join them.
This week the top four race in the Premier League will see Leicester City try and set the standard for the results when they play on the same day Manchester United face Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final. A win for Leicester City will mean a draw on the final day is likely to be enough to earn a Champions League spot, but they face Tottenham Hotspur who are desperately trying to earn their spot in the Europa League.
Later this week Manchester United and Chelsea have big Premier League games to try and put themselves in commanding spots for the top four places too and there is a feeling the Cup Semi Final may give the winning team the momentum and the losing team in a poor spot going into the final week of the Premier League season.
Down the bottom both Bournemouth and Aston Villa may look at their remaining fixture list and believe the 'great escape' is still on. They've both earned big points over the last week and in their final home games they will be chasing wins that will put some serious pressure on the loser of the big West Ham United versus Watford game which is played on Friday night.
Watford need the win more on that evening with Manchester City and Arsenal to round out the season and that would also potentially leave a huge West Ham United versus Aston Villa clash to come on the final day of the season.
Things will definitely be a lot, lot clearer by the time this penultimate round of fixtures are completed- it is also a big round for those chasing points in the Fantasy Football game and I will have more thoughts on that below.
Before that you can read my thoughts on the upcoming Premier League games and the two FA Cup Semi Final matches below.
Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: Mikel Arteta has some inside knowledge of Manchester City, but passing that on to players that are clearly not as good as those that Pep Guardiola can call upon doesn't mean an awful lot.
Arteta's Arsenal team did start brightly when these teams met last month, but Manchester City ended up warming up to the task and were comfortable 3-0 winners at the Etihad Stadium. They were aided massively that day by David Luiz who made a mistake to allow Raheem Sterling in for the opener and was then sent off while giving away a penalty early in the second half.
Since the opening two games of the resumption, Arsenal have won 5 of 7 games in all competitions. However you do have to worry about the amount of chances they have given up in the last couple of games and I am not going to read too much into a very fortunate win over a Liverpool team that have seemingly come off the boil since winning the title.
The Gunners can't rely on that this weekend when facing Manchester City who have rested some key players and have been creating chances for fun. They were not at their best in the 2-1 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday, but Manchester City should have the confidence of Aymeric Laporte back in the team, while a fully rested Kevin De Bruyne is a real threat to Arsenal.
Kevin De Bruyne has already scored three times against Arsenal this season and I do think Manchester City are going to have large periods of control in this one.
Arsenal have been clinical in front of goal and have players who can produce the stunning finish, but defensively there are holes. They are going to need Manchester City to be as wasteful in front of goal as Liverpool were to have any chance, but I think that is a long shot.
Manchester City have beaten Arsenal 7 times in a row and I simply can't see that run ending here. All of those wins have come by two or more goal margins including a 3-0 win in the League Cup Final in 2018 and I do think the defending FA Cup Winners will have too much on the day.
I have to respect the fact that Arsenal have managed to stay in games where they have been put under intense pressure, but this Manchester City have been blowing past teams when they get the wind in their sails. I would worry for Arsenal if they concede first and I will back Manchester City to win by two or more goals in the first of the FA Cup Semi Finals to be played this weekend.
Manchester United v Chelsea Pick: The second Semi Final in the FA Cup this weekend looks to be a very competitive affair, although you can understand the reasons Manchester United are favourites to win this one.
They have beaten Chelsea in all 3 meetings in 2019/20 and Manchester United have found goals fairly easy to come by in those wins. They are also unbeaten in 6 against Chelsea since losing to them in the FA Cup Final at the end of the 2017/18 season, while Manchester United are unbeaten in 19 in all competitions and their last 12 away from Old Trafford.
Chelsea have been in anything but poor form having won 8 of their last 10 in all competitions, but they have lost 2 of their last 3 away from Stamford Bridge. A bigger worry is the amount of goals conceded in those games (8) and if the recovery time between games was the same for both clubs I would really like Manchester United to win this one.
I still give the favourites the edge, but I don't think it should be underestimated the advantage Chelsea potentially have with the way the schedule has worked out.
The Blues played at home on Tuesday, but Manchester United have had to travel down to London on Thursday and then return to Manchester before making another long journey down to the capital on Sunday. This comes at the end of a week when Manchester United also played on Monday night and there have been one or two signs of fatigue in a squad that has been heavily relying on their starting eleven.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can't really freshen up the team in the way he would like without weakening the starting eleven, but he will be confident his attacking players are performing well enough to expose Chelsea's soft underbelly.
However, it has to be noted that Chelsea are playing well going forward themselves and they managed to give some key players a bit of rest in their 1-0 win over Norwich City.
Neither manager is likely to play a cautious style and I do think the amount of football being played over the last month will have an affect in this one. The key for Manchester United is to get on the front foot early and make Chelsea open up, while Frank Lampard may want to ride out the early storm with the expectation that his team will likely have more in the legs the longer this game goes.
You can't ignore how well Manchester United have seemingly matched up with Chelsea this season, although the results have perhaps been a little harsh on the West London club. 10 of the last 16 FA Cup Semi Finals have ended with at least three goals shared out and both Manchester United and Chelsea have produced plenty of positive attacking football over the last month coupled with some iffy performances at the back to believe this could be the latest Semi Final to trend in the goals direction.
I still give Manchester United a narrow lean, but the scheduling alarms me and instead I will back goals to be the outcome of the second Semi Final.
Norwich City v Burnley Pick: It has been a hard month for Norwich City who have shown very little fight to avoid the drop.
This isn't down to a lack of effort, but Norwich City have simply been short of quality at either ends of the pitch at this level. They don't create enough chances and they don't defend well enough and ultimately that is not a recipe that will enable a team to avoid relegation.
Norwich City have lost all 4 Premier League games played here since the three month break and they have not scored in any of those. There haven't been a lot of chances for them, although they are facing a Burnley team who have been giving up some big opportunities without being punished.
Confidence is flowing in the away dressing room as they have battled through difficult moments to find big results. Burnley are unbeaten in 3 away Premier League games and have kept 2 clean sheets in that time so the feeling is that they will be a little too good for Norwich City in this one too.
Burnley have recently won at Crystal Palace and West Ham United and in the last three seasons they do have a 3-4-2 record away from home against those clubs that have been relegated. This season they have won at three of the five clubs that are sitting immediately above Norwich City and been unbeaten in the other League games.
The squad is stretched by injury, but I still think there is enough quality from set pieces that could give Burnley the edge here. I would expect Norwich City to put in a huge effort to end their losing run in the League in their final home game, but they have simply not been up to task of late and Burnley securing a narrow win looks the most likely outcome of this one.
Bournemouth v Southampton Pick: There is plenty more on the line for Bournemouth compared with Southampton in this South Coast derby, but the home team are going to get anything but an easy ride.
Despite having little to play for, Southampton have been playing with verve and attacking intent and that has helped produce a 5 game unbeaten run. They are also unbeaten in 4 away from St Mary's and have played their best football away from their own Stadium, while Southampton look to be creating chances for fun at the moment.
An injury hit Bournemouth defence is going to struggle to contain them if Southampton are anything near the standards they set in draws at Everton and Manchester United. With Danny Ings still hoping to chase down the Golden Boot I do think Southampton are going to provide plenty of threat here.
However, Southampton are far from watertight at the back and that has to be encouragement for Bournemouth who likely need two wins from their remaining two Premier League games if they are going to avoid the drop.
Eddie Howe will feel there is every chance Bournemouth can do that having seen his team impress against Leicester City and Manchester City over the last eight days. The team look to have suddenly have been given a huge shot of confidence and Bournemouth are producing the kind of attacking threat which had seemingly disappeared down the stretch.
A bit of good fortune helped on their way to the win over Leicester City last weekend, but that has encouraged the players and I do think Bournemouth will get forward and attack this game.
Everything is pointing to goals even though the South Coast derby at the Vitality Stadium has tended to be tighter affairs than the fixture played at St Mary's. Earlier this season four goals were shared out when these teams met at Southampton which means the last 3 at St Mary's have ended with three or more goals shared out, but the last 2 here have finished up with low-scoring draws being the outcome.
The situation should make this an open game and both teams have been creating plenty of chances to believe we will see goals here.
Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City Pick: This is a huge game for both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City who are both aiming for European competition next season. At least Leicester City are secured of playing in the Europa League, but Brendan Rodgers and his team are hoping for a Champions League berth, while Tottenham Hotspur are desperate to at least be playing in the Europa League.
Both teams had impressive wins during the week against Newcastle United and Sheffield United respectively, but I think both Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers know this will be a much more difficult outing for their teams.
Chances may not be flowing in this fixture, but I do have to give the edge to Tottenham Hotspur who are playing at home.
Tottenham Hotspur have won their last 3 games here and deservedly so and now host a Leicester City who have lost 4 of their last 7 away games in all competitions and failed to win any of those. The absence of James Maddison is a real blow for Leicester City, although Jamie Vardy will be confident his pace can hurt an ageing Tottenham Hotspur back line.
Ultimately Leicester City have not been creating a lot of chances away from home of late and if you take away the nine goals scored at Southampton you would note they have only scored 22 goals in 17 away games.
In recent matches this is a team struggling to create good chances in the final third and Tottenham Hotspur have defended well enough at home to believe they can at least contain their visitors.
Jose Mourinho's tactics can be difficult to watch at times, but Tottenham Hotspur have created decent chances in their last 3 home games. They have won all 3 and the win at Newcastle United will have continued the good feeling around the club who can put the pressure on those around them by winning on Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur have won their last 2 home games against Leicester City and they might have a narrow edge in this one. I just think Spurs are creating the better chances of the two teams of late and having home advantage may be enough to secure a narrow win here.
Brighton v Newcastle United Pick: There isn't as much on the line in this fixture as the thinking may have been back in August, but both Brighton and Newcastle United have performed well enough to earn their spot in the Premier League.
Brighton are not mathematically safe just yet, but they have a vasty superior goal difference to Aston Villa and Bournemouth and it would be a stunning turn of events that would send them down now.
That should give the players some freedom and Graham Potter has refused to change the style with his team looking to get forward and play enterprising football. It has been effective at bringing more entertainment for the fans, but Brighton have not been as strong defensively as they were under Chris Hughton.
However, the attacking style will work well against a Newcastle United team who have achieved all they can and who have looked shaky at the back in the last couple of weeks. Injuries have been piling up and Steve Bruce may already be thinking about the improvements he will need to make for the squad to perhaps push on next season.
At least his team have still looked a threat going forward and they will likely find some spaces to exploit too in a game that could be more entertaining than most would believe. Newcastle United have scored goals aplenty since the restart (at least when they are not facing Manchester City) and they do have players who can make a big difference for them.
Both teams should find a way to hit the net so the attacking players could be interesting 'cheaper' choices for those playing the Fantasy game. I honestly would not be surprised if we see at least three goals produced with a 2-1 scoreline either way looking the most likely outcome of the fixture.
Sheffield United v Everton Pick: It might have been a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium for Sheffield United, but Chris Wilder and the squad know it is not one that has ended their chances of playing European Football for the first time. They have to respond on Monday when they host Everton, but there is every chance they can do that when you consider some of the levels produced by Carlo Ancelotti's men over the last couple of weeks.
Reaching acceptable standards is the minimum Chris Wilder accepts at Sheffield United and I do expect a reaction from his team to their defeat at Leicester City.
The Blades will work hard and they might have too much intensity for Everton, especially at home. Sheffield United had won 3 of their previous 4 Premier League games before the loss to Leicester City, while they have won 4 home League games in succession and have looked very good in doing that.
I expect Sheffield United will have the better of the chances in this one and their visitors have just had a few issues at the back which have been exposed since their win over Leicester City. Everton have been conceding far too many chances and I do think the home team can expose those problems.
To make matters tougher for Everton, they have lost some consistency going forward and breaking down Sheffield United has been a tough task for many this season. The side have lost 4 of their last 5 away Premier League games and Everton have not scored in their last 2 on their travels.
The one concern for Sheffield United is that they have not always been clinical in the final third- the first goal will be huge in this fixture, but I do think Chris Wilder will have his team coming out with a lot more intensity than Everton and that can see them control the fixture and produce a big win.
All signs are pointing towards the home team being the more likely winner, although the last few games in any Premier League season can produce some surprising results. The pressure is on Sheffield United to win the game if they want to earn a place in the Europa League, but I think Chris Wilder will have them ready to produce.
Wolves v Crystal Palace Pick: Roy Hodgson will not want his Crystal Palace team to end the season with eight straight Premier League losses, but injuries are piling up at the back and this is a team who do not score a lot of goals to make up for that.
In their last 6 defeats, Crystal Palace have conceded at least twice in 5 of those. Their last 3 away defeats have all come by two or more goal margins at Liverpool, Leicester City and Aston Villa and the squad is stretched.
This should be the kind of game that Wolves take advantage of, although it does have to be said that Nuno Espirito Santo's team can be one that works hard and doesn't really blow teams away. They dropped two points last week at Burnley, but Wolves have had time to prepare for this fixture and they have won 4 of their last 6 at home.
The 3-0 win over Everton was helped by goals either side of half time, but Wolves will be confident they can create chances against a Crystal Palace team who have struggled at the back. Crystal Palace have been giving up some big chances through the last month and away from home they have really been struggling which can be exposed by Wolves.
The home team will have to bare their teeth and make sure they don't allow Crystal Palace to hang around when they can become very dangerous with nothing to lose.
I do believe Wolves can do that though with Raul Jimenez back amongst the goals and Crystal Palace slumping towards the end of the season. Wolves have kept clean sheets in 6 of their last 7 at home in all competitions and they have largely been able to contain their opponents.
Now they face a Crystal Palace team who have failed to score in 5 of their last 6 Premier League games including in each of the last 3 away from home. You can never discount the likes of Wilfried Zaha or Andros Townsend doing something special to change that, but Wolves have largely defended very well and I think they are more likely to win this game with a clean sheet to boot.
Watford v Manchester City Pick: After winning the domestic treble last season, Manchester City are 'only' going to win one of the three trophies they compete for in England this time around. It is a hugely disappointing season, but Pep Guardiola will be reminding his players that there is still the huge prize of the Champions League on offer.
The defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi Final is a huge blow for Manchester City and the final two Premier League games is a chance to earn some momentum before the Champions League resumes. They didn't play badly against Arsenal, but the attacking play was largely predictable and defensively Manchester City continue to offer out chances to opponents.
Away from home they have really begun to struggle with 4 losses in their last 6 games played away from the Etihad Stadium.
However no one can take anything for granted against Manchester City who have been creating plenty of chances and who thumped Brighton 0-5 at the Amex Stadium in their last away Premier League game.
Watford know all about the kind of devastating attacking football Manchester City can play having lost 4 of the last 7 against them by five or more goal margins. Even hosting the game at Vicarage Road hasn't helped much with 4 losses in a row to Manchester City and those coming by a 2-15 margin.
The home team have won back to back games here, but they were behind to both Norwich City and Newcastle United and recovering from a goal down against Manchester City is a completely different kettle of fish. Nigel Pearson will also have been disgusted to see the level produced in Watford's 3-1 loss at West Ham United on Friday evening and will know that it simply is not going to be good enough against a team as powerful as Manchester City.
Nigel Pearson may get a break if Manchester City make big changes to the starting eleven, but I expect a strong team to be selected as Pep Guardiola looks for a big response to the Cup defeat. They should be able to expose the issues Watford have had at the back, although the home team could play their part with the pace they have in the final third and with Troy Deeney up front.
Even then it is a big ask for Watford to contain Manchester City and I think they will be too good on the day. They have responded to their last 4 defeats by winning the next game by at least two goals and I would expect the visitors to be a little more clinical in the final third which can set them on the way to a comfortable win here.
[UPDATE] Since writing this preview the surprising news out of Vicarage Road was that Nigel Pearson was being sacked with two games left. It is very difficult to know how the players will respond over the last week of the season, while most fans and neutrals will feel the decision is very harsh on Pearson.
Ultimately Watford have usually made the right choices when it comes to changing direction with their manager, but this is going to be a tight finish. There was clearly some real disappointment in the performance at at West Ham United and Watford may need help to survive the drop considering which two opponents they have left.
We may see a big reaction from the home team with a new voice to listen to, but even now I would be surprised if Manchester City don't dominate the game and prove too strong when all is said and done.
Aston Villa v Arsenal Pick: This is not an easy game to get a read on, but it looks like being one that is arguably more important for Aston Villa than Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta's men are desperate to return to European competition, but results have gone against them over the last two weeks and they may effectively be out of contention by the time this fixture kicks off. That would mean the focus is on the FA Cup and it is not out of the question that Arteta will rotate his first eleven who have put in a huge effort to see off Liverpool and Manchester City in back to back games.
Those are impressive wins at any time of the season, but Arsenal have not been dominant and perhaps been fortunate to have won both games. In terms of chances they have been dominated, but Arsenal do have clinical attacking players who have to be respected.
They are players who can cause a host of problems for Aston Villa, although I do think Dean Smith's team have defended much better this side of the three month break. 4 points from the last 6 available has given Aston Villa a shot in the arm in their fight against relegation and this is a team who have been creating chances and perhaps deserved more points than they have earned.
A part of the problem is that Aston Villa do not have a striker who can be relied upon to score the chances that do come their way, but I think they have players who can give Arsenal something to think about.
If Arsenal are perhaps just a little fatigued from the efforts put into the last two games, Aston Villa can take advantage here. They should be rested having last played on Thursday and Aston Villa have created chances against opponents at Villa Park while getting ready to face an Arsenal team who have looked vulnerable at the back despite the positive results earned.
Arsenal did win 3 away games in a row before the defeat at Tottenham Hotspur and they are a team who have world class talents in the final third that don't need too many good looks to score goals. That is a concern for Aston Villa, but I think the home team have been playing well down the stretch and can at least earn a point which should give themselves every chance of avoiding the drop as we enter the final weekend of the 2019/20 season.
Manchester United v West Ham United Pick: There were a couple of changes made to the Manchester United team to try and freshen things up, but tactically Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked to have got things wrong in their FA Cup Semi Final defeat to Chelsea on Sunday.
A change in system simply removed some of the attacking intent we have seen from Manchester United in recent weeks, but the defeat will be put to the back of the fans' minds if they can win this fixture. A win would put Manchester United in command of a top four place with a single game left to play and a big win would really put the side in a very strong spot ahead of the final game at Leicester City.
The first port of call for Manchester United will be making sure they win the game though and not to worry about the margin of victory. At Old Trafford Manchester United have scored plenty of goals in recent weeks and that has to be encouraging for the players as they look to bounce back from a poor performance.
David De Gea will be hoping to be given a chance to redeem himself after being to blame for the first two Chelsea goals on Sunday, but the attacking players should all be restored to the starting eleven. That is important for Manchester United who have to take the game to a West Ham United team whose back to back wins might have kept them in the Premier League.
The Premier League status could be officially confirmed without West Ham United needing to kick another ball if Aston Villa fail to beat Arsenal, but regardless David Moyes looks to have guided the team out of trouble.
In recent games West Ham United have looked menacing going forward, but there are still holes defensively which should be exposed by Manchester United. The Hammers may have nothing to lose, but that may also mean a slight drop in intensity and they are a team who do allow teams to build up some steam and create important chances against them.
Manchester United have won 3 in a row at home against West Ham United and I think they will be grateful for having this game on Wednesday. There have been one or two signs of some fatigue as the run of games might have taken a toll on what has been a small squad that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to trust, but I do think there is enough in the final third for Manchester United to win this game well.
I think it is fair to believe West Ham United will cause some problems with their own talented threat in the final third, but ultimately I think Manchester United bounce back from the defeat on Sunday. The home team might have too many goals for West Ham United and I think Manchester United win by at least two goals.
Liverpool v Chelsea Pick: There has been a slight drop in intensity in the Liverpool team since they won the Premier League title, but I do think some of the results have been a little harsh on them. They have dominated both Burnley and Arsenal in their last two League games, but a combination of poor finishing and strong goalkeeping has restricted the amount of goals Liverpool have been able to score.
To make matters worse, Liverpool have not defended very well with mistakes being punished at the back.
However, Jurgen Klopp has to believe his team are still playing at a good enough level to win a game like this one. He will be looking for his players to produce a performance fitting of a day on which Liverpool will pick up the top flight League trophy for the first time in thirty years and the players are well rested compared with Chelsea.
Liverpool last played a week ago and Chelsea just had a tough FA Cup Semi Final to complete on Sunday, although the win will have given Frank Lampard's team a spring in their step.
With Leicester City crushed just down the road at Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea are now one win from securing their Champions League spot for the 2020/21 season. Frank Lampard would love to ease the tension on the final day by winning this fixture, and Chelsea have long had a decent record at Anfield before being beaten here last season.
Chelsea do produce an attacking threat away from home which will have to be respected, but they have been struggling defensively and that has to encourage Liverpool here.
The first goal feels like it would be very important on the day and I do think Liverpool are playing better than their results suggest. They are creating chances and I would expect the home team to do that against this vulnerable Chelsea defence, while the occasion should be one that Liverpool enjoy with their trophy presentation coming at the end of the fixture.
It should be a decent game, but I think Liverpool will have the edge and can end their 2019/20 season at Anfield in a manner fitting the rest of the campaign.
MY PICKS: Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap
Manchester United-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals
Burnley - 0.25 Asian Handicap
Bournemouth-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals
Tottenham Hotspur - 0.25 Asian Handicap
Brighton-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals
Sheffield United - 0.25 Asian Handicap
Wolves Win to Nil
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap
Aston Villa + 0.5 Asian Handicap
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap
Liverpool - 0.25 Asian Handicap
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United v West Ham United)
*Midfielder- lean is towards Bournemouth, but there is time until the deadline and I will have that final choice up on Twitter*