Liverpool were knocked off the top of the Premier League by Manchester City’s win at Everton on Wednesday, but is the Reds’ recent dip in form down to them feeling the pressure in the title race?
BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson says: “Much has been said about how Liverpool have lost their heads and all those kind of things – but they haven’t lost it, they are just having a spell where they are not playing particularly well.
“City have had the same, and nobody said they were bottling it when they lost games, did they?
“There are so many Liverpool fans panicking about the way the team is playing when I just think the more sensible supporters are thinking ‘hold on a minute, win our game in hand and we are three points clear’.
“I think Saturday’s game against Bournemouth might help to calm everyone down, with a ‘back to business’ type of performance and result.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week he is up against actor Jamie Dornan and photo-journalist Paul Conroy, who have worked together on new film A Private War, the story of acclaimed war correspondent Marie Colvin.
Dornan plays Conroy, who was Colvin’s long-term colleague and was with her on her last assignment when she was killed by an airstrike in Syria in 2012. Conroy was badly injured in the same blast but survived.
Dornan and Conroy became close friends while the film was being made, but as Conroy told BBC Sport: “Paul and I get on very well, until it comes to football.”
Dornan, who grew up in Belfast, said: “There are a huge amount of Liverpool and Manchester United fans all over Ireland but it is United for me, mainly down to George Best – our airport in Belfast is named after him – and through my dad.”
Liverpool fan Conroy said: “When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, our house backed on to Anfield. We would go down to the entrance, Bill Shankly would be coming out and we would yell, ‘All right, Bill’ at him – and he would yell something unprintable back.
“Kevin Keegan used to have a TR7 car and we used to go, ‘Can we mind your car, Kev?’ with a little bit of extortion and menace, and he would kind of go, ‘All right, lads’ and hand over the money.
“They were very different times. Shankly used to walk down the road with his wife and get on the bus after the match.”
“You don’t get that now,” added Dornan. “But I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is probably cool enough to get the bus home.”
|Premier League predictions – week 26|
|Result||Lawro||Paul & Jamie|
|Fulham v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||1-4|
|Crystal Palace v West Ham||x-x||1-1||2-1|
|Huddersfield v Arsenal||x-x||0-2||0-2|
|Liverpool v Bournemouth||x-x||3-0||3-1|
|Southampton v Cardiff||x-x||2-1||0-1|
|Watford v Everton||x-x||2-0||1-3|
|Brighton v Burnley||x-x||0-1||1-1|
|Tottenham v Leicester||x-x||2-1||2-2|
|Man City v Chelsea||x-x||2-1||3-1|
|Wolves v Newcastle||x-x||2-1||0-0|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless stated.
Fulham v Man Utd (12:30 GMT)
Manchester United are flying at the moment and it surely is only a matter of time before Solskjaer gets the manager’s job permanently.
I can only see one outcome here – another United win, which would be his 10th victory in 11 games as interim boss.
That is a brilliant run, but I don’t agree with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola that United are back in the title race. They are not in the running for that at all.
I worry for Fulham, who followed up their impressive 4-2 win over Brighton with a pretty limp defeat at Crystal Palace last weekend – when I thought they would dig in and get a draw.
The Cottagers are now seven points adrift of safety and it seems like they cannot string two results together, which is a big problem for a team in their situation.
I am not sure Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri has many cards left to play to try to change things around, and they are running out of games too.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Jamie and Paul’s prediction(Jamie): Fulham are my second favourite team – I love going to Craven Cottage and I want them to stay in the Premier League… but this result isn’t going to help them do that. 1-4
Jamie on United: We are playing much more attractive football now under Solskjaer than we were under Jose Mourinho. I don’t want to point the blame anywhere but Solskjaer is getting the best out of the players, which wasn’t happening previously. The last 10 games have been a very exciting time to be a United fan again.
Crystal Palace v West Ham
West Ham did very well against Liverpool on Monday night – they got a point, but could have won it.
Marko Arnautovic should be back to lead the Hammers’ attack on Saturday because, if he is fit, he has to play.
I am not quite sure what to make of Manuel Pellegrini’s side because sometimes I look at them and think, ‘This lot are a good team’ and then there are games where I watch them and think, ‘Have this lot just met each other in the street?’
That’s the way West Ham are, and part of the reason they are so inconsistent.
Palace have got their own problems, mind you.
They have won their past two home games in the league and FA Cup but their results at Selhurst Park have been iffy this season and I think a draw is the most likely outcome here.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction(Paul): I did a little bit of research before doing these predictions and my lad Max found when Sylvester Stallone and Robert de Niro did them [in January 2014] . The reason they went for Crystal Palace is Stallone just liked the name, so that is the same reason I am going with. I am going to stick with Sylvester Stallone. 2-1
Huddersfield v Arsenal
Huddersfield played some nice football in their defeat by Chelsea last week, but they looked very open.
You can see why their former manager David Wagner was far more cautious and played the way he did, because he thought that was their only chance of nicking the odd result.
There is no great pressure on Jan Siewert whatever happens here, because this game is more about the story at Arsenal, and what is happening to them.
Defensively, the Gunners are just not very good and I’ve been a bit puzzled by some of Unai Emery’s decisions.
Last week, in their defeat at Manchester City, Emery played with two left-backs – Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac – in his side, but Bernardo Silva still toasted the two of them down that flank.
I just think Emery is really struggling to find a solution to his defensive problem, especially with his side’s injury issues – although Shkodran Mustafi should be fit after limping off against City.
Surely Emery must look at the situation and think his side’s best form of defence is attack, especially for this game. If they can find a way of creating a lot of chances, they will win.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Jamie and Paul’s prediction: 0-2
Liverpool v Bournemouth
Liverpool’s biggest problem at the moment is that they are a bit thin on the ground, numbers-wise, especially at the back.
It wouldn’t be too bad if they had only lost one defender, one midfielder and one attacker, but they are all in the same sort of department.
Even Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum, who are both injury doubts for this game, are more defensive-minded midfielders, rather than attacking.
So Jurgen Klopp has lost that shield a little bit and even Virgil van Dijk has started to look a little bit ordinary because there are so many different people around him.
But the Reds are at home and playing a Bournemouth team that are not good defensively.
After beating Chelsea 4-0 the Cherries went and lost 2-0 at Cardiff last weekend, which is like going one from extreme to another.
I am not sure what kind of performance we will see from Eddie Howe’s team this time, but I would still back Liverpool to win comfortably.
Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
Jamie and Paul’s prediction (Paul): Two for Mo Salah and someone else can knock another one in. Just go for it lads, don’t let me down. 3-1
Paul on Liverpool: I can’t say enough about Jurgen Klopp – what a man. There is that feeling about Liverpool now, among the fans, that things are coming back to the way they were. I think those days are coming back and fingers crossed they are.
Southampton v Cardiff
Cardiff’s form on the road has not been great this season – they have only one win and two draws to show for 12 games, and only Fulham have picked up fewer points.
Southampton’s home form is not exactly impressive either, with only two wins from 12 games at St Mary’s, but both of them have come since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge at the start of December.
I know they are still hovering just above the relegation zone but Saints are still unbeaten in the league in 2019 and I think Hasenhuttl deserves more credit for changing the mood at St Mary’s, as well as his results.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction: 0-1
Watford v Everton
This is easily the biggest game of the season for Everton boss Marco Silva, who goes back to his former club on the back of a run of four defeats from his past five games.
You have to applaud Everton’s owner Farhad Moshiri for coming out this week and backing Silva but, if they carry on losing, it becomes very difficult to keep doing that.
I know the Toffees put in a spirited performance in midweek against Manchester City but this is a tough game for them. Watford are inconsistent, but they are also a dangerous attacking team.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Jamie and Paul’s prediction (Paul): I dreamt this one last night. My dad’s an Evertonian so I’m giving him the thumbs up. 1-3
Brighton v Burnley (17:30 GMT)
Brighton are into the last 16 of the FA Cup after beating West Brom on Wednesday night, but they are on a poor run in the league.
Burnley, in contrast, have kept on picking up points in recent weeks. They are another team who are still unbeaten in the league in 2019 and, after drawing their past three games, I just have a sneaky feeling they will go to the Amex Stadium and win.
It has got the makings of a tight game, because I don’t think either side will give very much away, but Burnley are in better form so I would back them to edge it.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction: 1-1
Tottenham v Leicester (13:30 GMT)
Leicester created enough chances to get something out of their game with Manchester United, but the point they got against Liverpool last week is the only thing they have to show from their past five games in all competitions.
In contrast, Tottenham just keep on finding a way to win games despite obviously still being without some of their key players.
When you look into why or how they have done it, it all leads back to Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. I think he will collect another three points here.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction: 2-2
Man City v Chelsea (16:00 GMT)
City have had a big week with games against Arsenal and Everton, but they were able to start with Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling on the bench against the Toffees, so at least those two will be fairly fresh.
Chelsea have had the week off after thumping Huddersfield last weekend but I don’t think that win over the Terriers changes the fact that all is not well with Maurizio Sarri’s team.
They will still pose a threat to City’s title bid, though.
The stories about Eden Hazard going to Real Madrid just seem to get stronger and stronger every week, but as long as he keeps performing then that is not an issue.
This is going to be City’s toughest game of the week, because Chelsea have got some very good players.
I would back Gonzalo Higuain to score for Chelsea, and his movement in the box is top class, but City are on a roll, and I am going to go with them to win it.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction (Jamie): City seem to be back on the pace again after a bit of a wobble. 3-1
Wolves v Newcastle (20:00 GMT)
Newcastle’s new signing Miguel Almiron should make his debut and I am looking forward to seeing how he gets on.
I have seen lots of footage of him and he looks like a player but it will be an interesting night for him because the Premier League is very different to the MLS, and Wolves are a team in form.
Of all the teams chasing seventh place, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team are definitely the most consistent in terms of performances, and I can see them getting a fourth-straight win on Monday.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Jamie and Paul’s prediction: 0-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
Not very well. He equalled his lowest score of the season, 20 points, after getting two correct results and no perfect scores from last weekend’s 10 Premier League games.
He lost to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarter-back Ryan Fitzpatrick, with Sanu scoring 50 points (five correct results, no perfect scores) and Fitzpatrick scoring 30 points (three correct results, no perfect scores).
However, Lawro did much better with Manchester City’s win over Everton in their rearranged game on Wednesday, and scored 40 points for correctly predicting the champions would win 2-0.
|Total scores after week 25|
|Lawro v Guests|
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 218-19
|140||The 1975’s Ross MacDonald|
|90||Jim Glennie, Mario Hezonja, Karl Pilkington, Chris Stark|
|83||Lawro (average after 25 weeks)|
|80||Richard Ashcroft, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg James, Mark Wahlberg|
|60||Idris Elba, Dolph Lundgren, Mumford & Sons, Dillian Whyte|
|50||Bring Me The Horizon, Theo Ellis, Drew McIntyre, Mohamed Sanu, Dolph Ziggler|
|40||Tom Grennan, Josh Warrington|
|30||Ryan Fitzpatrick, Oti Mabuse|
Lawro’s best score: 260 points (week seven v Karl Pilkington)
Lawro’s worst score: 20 points (week 24 v Grime star Yizzy & week 25 v Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarter-back Ryan Fitzpatrick and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu)