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Joleon Lescott column: Gunners going eight clear unlikely to shake City
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Joleon Lescott
Leaders Arsenal will hope to extend their advantage over Manchester City on Sunday
Leaders Arsenal will hope to extend their advantage over Manchester City on Sunday

With Manchester City in FA Cup action this weekend, I'm expecting Arsenal to head into the international break with an eight-point lead in the Premier League title race.

The Gunners host managerless Crystal Palace on Sunday and it's hard to see them causing an upset on current form. 

For some sides, trailing by eight points at this stage would be a psychological blow — but I don't expect City to have issues in that regard.

The champions will still expect to win their game in hand and also know they have that showdown with Mikel Arteta's men at the Etihad on April 26.


As a City player, that's enough to keep your spirits high. But we all know they're still going to need another slip-up somewhere from the leaders.

It's in Arsenal’s hands, plain and simple. Do I still expect City to chase them down? I certainly hope so, but it's hard to be confident.

I thought that victory at the Emirates for City was going to be a turning point but then they slipped up against Nottingham Forest a few days later.

Perhaps there's some nervous energy in the camp that I've been underestimating — or even mental fatigue.

Pep Guardiola's champions have been hitting such high standards under intense pressure for so long now, it's bound to take a toll at certain points.

Meanwhile, this level of expectation is a new thing for Arsenal and they seem to be enjoying the fear factor they now carry into matches.

So far, they've embraced the pressure. But the stakes will get higher and higher with each passing game, which is when we'll see what they're really made of.

Tight at the bottom

Bournemouth stunned Liverpool to seal a massive three points last week
Bournemouth stunned Liverpool to seal a massive three points last week

What a relegation battle we have on our hands with nine teams separated by just five points.

All of those sides are in action bar West Ham and every team knows a run of three wins would lift them right out of trouble — though that is easier said than done!

Some of these teams have only won five or six matches all season, so realistically their best chance of picking up points is going to be when they face each other.

Any success against the likes of City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and even Liverpool is a bonus really. 

Those victories— like Bournemouth's over the Reds last Saturday — do wonders for a team's confidence, though I always feel the most useful wins are when you beat a relegation rival.

Six-pointers always have a lot of extra focus and pressure attached, so losing them can be a real hammer blow to morale.

For the Irons, I still have faith in David Moyes' men to get over the line.

I'm sure fans are getting a bit nervous but I just feel their quality will eventually shine through when it counts. Similar comments would also apply to Leicester and Wolves.

Southampton, Leeds and Bournemouth start the weekend in the bottom three and if I was being pressed for a trio to drop, that wouldn't be far off who I'd go for.

I was worried for Forest but they seem to be playing with great spirit, so perhaps Steve Cooper's side are going to prove me wrong.

It's a nightmare to follow if your team is in the thick of it but for neutrals, I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun.

Time for my Matchday 28 predictions!

Joleon Lescott’s Premier League Matchday 28 predictions

Nottingham Forest vs Newcastle (Friday, 8pm, Sky Sports)

Steve Cooper's Nottingham Forest have given themselves a chance of Premier League survival
Steve Cooper's Nottingham Forest have given themselves a chance of Premier League survival

Newcastle will be aware of how tough a trip this could be with Forest enjoying the big occasions this season — especially on their own patch.

Eddie Howe's team can count on a great backing at home, which helped them against Wolves, but I think this will be significantly trickier for them.

I can see this being an entertaining start to the weekend.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest 2-2 Newcastle

Aston Villa vs Bournemouth (Saturday, 3pm)

Aston Villa are well clear of the relegation battle and may even be dreaming of a late surge towards the European spots.

You'd like to think Bournemouth could build on that brilliant win over Liverpool but we all know about their inconsistencies, which is why they are where they are.

It's a tough trip to Villa at the moment, so I'll go for a home win.

Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Bournemouth

Brentford vs Leicester (Saturday, 3pm)

Leicester have really puzzled me this season. I thought they'd be a bit weaker without Kasper Schmeichel but not to this extent. They've really struggled.

I think they will be OK in terms of the relegation battle but this is another tough game for them.

Brentford are so good on their own patch and I fancy the Bees here.

Prediction: Brentford 3-1 Leicester

Southampton vs Tottenham (Saturday, 3pm)

Antonio Conte saw Tottenham return to winning ways last weekend
Antonio Conte saw Tottenham return to winning ways last weekend

I'd be surprised if Tottenham don't win this.

Southampton have picked up a few results but I think they're outclassed at both ends of the pitch against Antonio Conte's visitors.

That win over Forest will have improved spirits at Spurs and means they can follow up on the South Coast.

Prediction: Southampton 1-3 Tottenham

Wolves vs Leeds (Saturday, 3pm)

Wolves fans will expect to see their side clinch three points — alarm bells may start ringing again if Leeds turn them over.

I certainly hope my old club can prevail and I expect them to. They'll play their own game and should have too much for Leeds.

If the Whites do leave Molineux empty-handed, they'll be in huge trouble.

Prediction: Wolves 2-0 Leeds

Chelsea vs Everton (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sky Sports)

The confidence Chelsea will have picked up from their recent wins will have helped Graham Potter immensely.

But they still aren't playing free-flowing football and I think Everton will be content going to Stamford Bridge to frustrate.

A goalless draw would be brilliant for the Toffees but they may just come up short.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Everton

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace (Sunday, 2pm)

As I've touched on above, I’m expecting the Gunners to move eight points clear with victory over Palace.

Although I want to see Palace recapture their best form, it seems unlikely this will be the fixture where things click into gear.

Given the confidence in the two camps, I have to reluctantly go for a comfortable home win.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Crystal Palace

Joleon Lescott was speaking to Matthew Hill


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Joleon LescottPremier LeagueArsenalAston VillaBrentfordChelseaCrystal PalaceEvertonLeicester CityLeeds UnitedAFC BournemouthNewcastle UnitedNottingham ForestSouthamptonTottenham HotspurWolverhampton Wanderers
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