Three of the four live televised matches at the weekend bring together teams in the relegation dog fight and opponents with nothing on the line. The fourth match is critical in the context of qualification for the Champions league because it involves Chelsea at home to Liverpool. The first three fixtures raise the issue of the value of class and ability over incentive and motivation but there is no definitive answer.
When a team desperate for points meet a team who have nothing to play for the outcome can work both ways and home advantage is not a factor. Teams in the relegation mire will be hungry but they are in that position because they are one of the poorest teams in the division and that doesn’t change overnight. The better team may be more relaxed and that means class tells.
However, the team not fighting for the title or a European place could have downed tools in the league. Also they could have bigger fish to fry such as a major final. The inferior team playing for their lives have nothing to lose and the shackles could come off. The trick for betting purposes is identifying each scenario but there is no logic and outcomes are decided on the day and how respective players feel. The cost of relegation is huge and that pressure may be too much or inspiring.
Stoke are in 19th place and have not won in five matches. They also have the worst goal difference in the league which equates to another one point deficit. Only West Ham have conceded more goals and defeat at home to Crystal Palace could be a devastating blow. Palace are safe and have just come off their biggest score of the season, beating Leicester 5-0 at home. In this case desperation can overcome confidence and Stoke can secure three vital points.
If Stoke beat Palace the onus will be on Southampton to beat Everton away from home and that win could be beyond them. Southampton did win their last match but that result followed three defeats and a draw. Everton have clawed their way to eighth place after two draws and two wins and have nothing to play for except pride and prize money which is minimal compared to TV income. Its Everton’s last home match and their fans will demand a performance and a home win is expected.
Huddersfield look in a solid position but their last three matches are against top six opposition. They could fail to pick up another point and get dragged into the bottom three and an immediate return to the Championship. It could not be harder on Sunday with a fixture at the home of the champions. Manchester City have only lost to Manchester United at home this season and Huddersfield won’t beat them in this fixture. It doesn’t look good for Huddersfield and they face the drop.
Liverpool are two places and six points ahead of Chelsea but have played one more match. If they win the match on Sunday Champions League football is assured but if Chelsea win the fourth place spot is again up for grabs. When the match is played Liverpool could have the Champions League final to look forward to and that could influence their approach. Chelsea have a greater need for points and they are fancied to pick up the maximum from this crucial meeting with Liverpool.
In conclusion some of the matches could go for the better team and others for the weaker team but with the greater need for a result. Pinpointing the matches in each category is not easy but Stoke could be the main beneficiaries while Huddersfield and Southampton face a grim weekend.