Joleon Lescott column: Why troubled Toffees can still secure safety

Joleon Lescott
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Joleon Lescott is still backing his old club Everton for Premier League survival
Joleon Lescott is still backing his old club Everton for Premier League survival

Everton are staring relegation in the face ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Chelsea but I still think they just have enough to stay up.

The mood is understandably low on the blue half of Merseyside after last weekend and the table certainly makes for grim reading.

But having looked at my former club's remaining fixtures, I reckon they can pick up seven or eight points between now and the end of the season, which should see them scramble to safety.

Clashes with Watford and Brentford next month are simply must-win games and I expect them to do so. But they are also going to need to find a battling draw or two from elsewhere.

Being realistic, that’s going to be hard work against Thomas Tuchel’s Blues, or away at Arsenal on the final day. Therefore, a big result at Leicester or when hosting Crystal Palace may be a necessity.

Burnley’s recent form has been phenomenal and you’ve got to give huge credit to Mike Jackson, Ben Mee and the other staff who have stepped up since Sean Dyche’s departure.

There’s been a visible shift in their approach to the last few games, with the Clarets passing more proactively while maintaining their solid defensive foundations — and it’s brought results.

Matej Vydra's goal sealed a huge Burnley win over Wolves last time out
Matej Vydra's goal sealed a huge Burnley win over Wolves last time out

It’s all about these next two fixtures for them. Confidence will be high in the camp and I’m sure they fancy their chances against Watford and at home to struggling Aston Villa. 

Fall short, however, and it’s going to be really tough to pick themselves up for a tricky looking finish.

Talking of tough finishes, Leeds are also not out of the woods yet.

The Whites may only need three or four points but they will do well to take anything from upcoming meetings with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

They could quite easily need results against Brighton and Brentford, which will be easier said than done if they are arriving off the back of three heavy defeats.

Jesse Marsch’s men also trail the other two sides badly in terms of their goal difference — something which could easily still play a part in the final standings.

Tottenham can edge top-four tussle

Tottenham are still Joleon Lescott's pick for fourth place
Tottenham are still Joleon Lescott's pick for fourth place

With Arsenal and Tottenham also in action on Sunday, I found myself looking over their final games — and I currently have Spurs nicking fourth place.

Though they still face a tough trip to title-chasing Liverpool, I think they're capable of getting the job done in their following four fixtures.

Of course, the North London rivals still both have their fate in their own hands given they meet each other on May 12. 

But Antonio Conte’s men have home advantage for that showdown and I expect the Italian’s big-game pedigree to come to the fore when it matters.

For all the quality they’ve shown this season, it’s still hard to trust either of these teams to grind out results when they're needed — especially the Gunners.

Some of Arsenal’s performances against the better sides have been fantastic. Look at the way they put Chelsea to the sword less than a fortnight ago.

Yet prior to that win, they’d been turned over by Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton.

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal look to have a tough run-in
Mikel Arteta and Arsenal look to have a tough run-in

To still be in top-four contention despite that says a lot about the consistency levels of all the Champions League hopefuls in recent weeks.

Looking beyond that, I worry about Mikel Arteta’s men going up to Newcastle in their penultimate game of the season.

It’s sure to be a carnival atmosphere at St James’ Park after their fantastic second half of the campaign and they’ll head into that contest with nothing to lose.

But if you’re in one of the two camps, all you can do is take each game as it comes.

I actually fancy both Arsenal and Tottenham to get positive results this weekend, which brings me on to my Matchday 35 predictions.

Joleon Lescott's Premier League Matchday 35 predictions

Newcastle vs Liverpool (Saturday, 12.30pm, BT Sport)

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool look to maintain their title tilt at Newcastle
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool look to maintain their title tilt at Newcastle

You can’t suggest anything other than a Liverpool win the way they're playing. Newcastle’s home form is great and I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic atmosphere but getting a result is a huge ask.

Prediction: Away win

Aston Villa vs Norwich (Saturday, 3pm)

Villa are struggling. Opponents appear to have gotten to grips with their approach recently and Dean Smith will fancy upsetting his old side. That said, I have to just edge for the hosts.

Prediction: Home win

Southampton vs Crystal Palace (Saturday, 3pm)

A mid-table affair and I’d probably lean towards Southampton on form. Palace have had a tough month and home advantage for the Saints could prove key.

Prediction: Home win

Watford vs Burnley (Saturday, 3pm)

Burnley seem the likeliest winners on form but things are rarely that straightforward at this point of the season. I can see Watford causing them a few problems.

Prediction: Draw

Wolves vs Brighton (Saturday, 3pm)

I’m gutted with Wolves’ recent dip — they could’ve had a top-six finish in their grasp. This looks like a good chance to get back to winning ways at Molineux, though.

Prediction: Home win

Leeds vs Manchester City (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)

Leaders Manchester City face relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road
Leaders Manchester City face relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road

As mentioned, Leeds still need a win to be sure of safety and I don’t think they’ll get it here. For City, I’m sure Pep Guardiola will be targeting a clean sheet and a comfortable evening.

Prediction: Away win

Everton vs Chelsea (Sunday, 2pm, Sky Sports)

This could be a tough afternoon for Everton. I’d expect them to set up similar to how they did against Liverpool but if they concede, I’m not sure where they go from that point.

Prediction: Away win

Tottenham vs Leicester (Sunday, 2pm)

Tottenham need the three points and I just wonder if Leicester’s Europa Conference League semi-final exploits on Thursday may leave a little bit of fatigue in the visiting ranks. If so, that could be pivotal.

Prediction: Home win

West Ham vs Arsenal (Sunday, 4.30pm, Sky Sports)

West Ham are, quite rightly, putting their heart and soul into the Europa League and it has taken a toll on league results, as you’d expect. The Gunners can take advantage of that.

Prediction: Away win

Manchester United vs Brentford (Monday, 8pm, Sky Sports)

No game is routine for Manchester United any more. They could beat Brentford purely by possessing better quality but will they be as well organised or as passionate? A Bees win wouldn’t shock me.

Prediction: Away win

Joleon Lescott was speaking to Matthew Hill

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