Lawro’s predictions v boxer Anthony Crolla

BBC Sport expert Mark Lawrenson



BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson is pitting his wits against a different guest each week this season.

Lawro’s opponent for this weekend’s Premier League fixtures is boxer Anthony Crolla.

Crolla, who is looking to regain his WBA lightweight title when he fights Jorge Linares in Manchester on 25 March, is a Manchester United fan who says his all-time favourite player is Eric Cantona.

“Growing up, I absolutely idolised ‘The King’ and everything he did,” Crolla told BBC Sport. “When I played at school, my collar would always be up like Eric’s. Before any boxer, he was my first childhood hero.

“As I got older I was a big Paul Scholes fan as well – I think he is appreciated more now than he was back in the day – but Cantona is still the greatest.”

Antony Crolla in a Manchester United shirt<!–

Crolla says his favourite United memory is the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona, recalling: “I was 12 years old so a bit young to go over there but back home it was absolute madness – I remember flipping off the couch when our winner went in”

United striker Wayne Rooney is well known for his love of boxing but how does Crolla think the England captain would do in a bout with team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

“It is hard to go against Zlatan but I might do here,” Crolla explained. “I know Zlatan is big into mixed martial arts and would have a bit of height and reach on Wayne, but he would not be able to use his feet.

“It would be a great fight because the pair of them have got great attributes for being a boxer, but I’ve seen Wayne hit the pads first-hand and, honestly, he can punch.

“Wayne comes from a boxing background too so I would go with him. I know he can box a bit.”

Man Utd striker Wayne Rooney and Anthony Crolla<!–

Wayne Rooney’s uncle ran a boxing gym and he used to train there as a boy – but his football career meant he hung up his gloves at the age of 15

You can make your Premier League predictions now and compare them with those of Lawro and other fans by playing the BBC Sport Predictor game.

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

LAWRO’S PREDICTIONS

All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated.

SATURDAY

West Brom v Arsenal<!–

West Brom v Arsenal (12:30 GMT)

West Brom have lost two on the trot, and their performances in those defeats were disappointing as well.

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West Brom 0-2 Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis decries ‘tepid’ performance

The Baggies are yet to beat a top-seven team this season but I am expecting a response from them on Saturday after their recent displays.

They don’t have the attacking players to really unhinge the top sides but you can see why they do so well against everyone else because they are strong, well organised and committed.

I think Tony Pulis’ side have probably reached their ceiling, if you like, in eighth place – but that is still a big achievement. They know what they are good at, and it works.

I am still not quite sure what to expect from Arsenal, especially on the road, but on the upside for the Gunners it has been a quiet week for Arsene Wenger after they reached the FA Cup semi-finals.

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FA Cup: Arsenal 5-0 Lincoln City highlights

It still feels like Arsenal are in limbo, though, because there is so much to be decided about Wenger’s future, and Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s contracts too.

They have a mixed record at The Hawthorns with only one win in their past three league visits, and I don’t see them leaving with three points this time either.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Crolla’s prediction: This is a tough away game for Arsenal. I think they are feeling the pressure lately so I’m going for a bit of an upset here. 1-0

Crystal Palace v Watford<!–

Crystal Palace v Watford

Watford conceded four goals at home to Southampton last time out, when they paid the price for giving Saints far too much time and space to play.

Eagles boss Sam Allardyce apparently cancelled a warm-weather training trip to Dubai last month because of their poor form but they went away to Morocco following their last game, on 4 March, after their results improved.

Allardyce knows when to give his players a carrot or the stick, so I am going to go with another Palace win – which would be three on the spin for them.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Crolla’s prediction: Palace are in need of points, because they are in a bit of a relegation dogfight. I see this being quite a scrappy game, maybe with Watford getting a late equaliser. 1-1

Everton v Hull City<!–

Everton v Hull City

Everton’s build-up to this game has been overshadowed by the news that leading scorer Romelu Lukaku has turned down a new contract.

Lukaku could yet sign a new deal of course, and his current contract still has two years to run, but he clearly wants to play Champions League football – and next season, not the one after that.

I don’t see the Lukaku situation affecting the outcome of this game, though, or his performance.

Hull had an excellent win over Swansea last week and are within one win of safety, but it is going to be tough for them at Goodison Park.

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Hull 2-1 Swansea: Marco Silva says Hull were ‘obliged’ to win

I am sure on-loan Tigers striker Oumar Niasse would have had a point to prove to Toffees boss Ronald Koeman, but he is ineligible to play against his parent club.

It’s clever by Koeman. He did not even give Niasse a locker when he was still at Everton but he is not letting him play against them either, and his performances for Hull will mean he gets more money when he sells him too.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Crolla’s prediction: Everton have found form and are certainly a threat with the big man, Lukaku, up front. I fancy them to win this – it will be very hard for Hull. 3-0

Stoke City v Chelsea<!–

Stoke City v Chelsea

Stoke showed with their 0-0 draw at Manchester City in their last game that they are capable of digging in against the top teams, but I don’t see them holding out against Chelsea.

This is another hurdle for the Blues in their title bid, but I think it is one they will clear comfortably.

Whatever Stoke can throw at Chelsea, I think they will deal with it. There is nothing remotely fragile about Antonio Conte’s team at all.

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FA Cup: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United highlights

What has been significant for Chelsea is how few injuries they have had, which is very similar to Leicester last season.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill, who are part of their solid three-man back-line, are all ever-presents in the Premier League, and David Luiz has only missed one league game since he rejoined the club at the end of August.

They have had minor injuries and suspensions here and there, of course, but they have a core of players that have featured in most of their matches – only 13 different players have started Chelsea’s 21 league games since 24 September.

Over the whole season, 10 of their squad have started 21 or more Premier League games out of a total of 27 so far.

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FA Cup: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United – Funnies, action and analysis

Apart from them, Cesc Fabregas, Willian and Pedro have come in and out of the team on a regular basis when needed, and John Terry has started four times, but not since mid-September.

The only other players to begin games in the league this season, Oscar and Branislav Ivanovic, also made their last league starts in September before Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation – and both left in January.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Crolla’s prediction: Chelsea have got to drop points at some point and Stoke is a tough place to go. Think it is going to be a draw. 2-2

Sunderland v Burnley<!–

Sunderland v Burnley

I was impressed by Burnley when I saw them at Anfield on Sunday, although for all their good play, balance and organisation they did not really look like they were going to score in the second half.

They took the game to Liverpool but did not really create many chances.

If Steven Defour is fit enough to return after making his comeback from a hamstring injury in a friendly against Canadian side FC Edmonton in midweek, then that should help them pose more of a threat.

Bottom of the Premier League<!–

Sunderland are six points adrift of safety now, and although this is not quite their last throw of the dice, it is not far off it.

Black Cats boss David Moyes could also have some players coming back from injury – Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Victor Anichebe.

But I am going to tip Burnley to win. The way they are playing, they surely cannot go the whole season without an away win.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2

Crolla’s prediction: Burnley are certainly due an away win, and think they deserve one for their performances recently. I think this game is going to play a massive part in the relegation battle – Sunderland badly need the win but I am backing Burnley to get it, although they may be hanging on at the end. 1-2

West Ham v Leicester<!–

West Ham v Leicester

Like Burnley, Leicester are another team yet to win away in the league this season – and again, I think the Foxes will put that right this weekend.

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Leicester City: Craig Shakespeare says everyone can be proud of Champions League victory

Since Claudio Ranieri was sacked, Leicester seem to be producing the same type of performances that won them the league last season – and it is working for them.

West Ham are on a poor run of four games without a win and I think Leicester’s revival will continue.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Crolla’s prediction: This one is a tough one to call. Leicester have found a little bit of form lately but things seem to be clicking a bit for West Ham too. 1-1

Bournemouth v Swansea<!–

Bournemouth v Swansea (17:30 GMT)

It is vital for Swansea that Fernando Llorente is fit, because he has become so important to the Swans’ style of play and the focal point of their attack.

Bournemouth got the victory they badly needed against West Ham last week which takes the pressure off them a bit after such a poor run of results.

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‘Relief’ for Howe after first win of 2017

They are at home, where they always seem to create a lot of chances. They often leave themselves wide open at the back too, but I fancy them to win again on Saturday.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Crolla’s prediction: Both sides are struggling but I am going with the home team here – I think that will play a big part in it. 2-0

SUNDAY

Middlesbrough v Man Utd<!–

Middlesbrough v Man Utd (12:00 GMT)

It’s not a huge shock that Aitor Karanka was sacked by Middlesbrough when you consider the terrible run they were on, and the reports that he had fallen out with some of his players.

So the vultures had been circling and although the timing is a bit strange, with so few games left, that probably just means they already have his replacement ready to take charge.

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FA Cup: Middlesbrough 0-2 Manchester City highlights

I think we might see Boro play with a bit more freedom now Karanka has gone, which was one of the criticisms he faced.

There will be a reaction from the fans too, because many of them were unhappy with Karanka’s playing style.

Add all that together and I would not be surprised if Boro get something from Manchester United on Sunday.

United have a big squad so they should be able to cope with playing on Thursday night too, but they are not the same side without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Crolla’s prediction: It is never easy going to the Riverside Stadium but we need to bounce back after a couple of disappointing results and I fancy us to win there. 0-2

Tottenham v Southampton<!–

Tottenham v Southampton (14:15 GMT)

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been making all the right noises about how his side will cope without the injured Harry Kane, but they will undoubtedly miss him.

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Mauricio Pochettino concerned for injured Kane

Kane has been in brilliant form and part of what makes him so deadly is his ability to score goals out of nothing.

Southampton are a strange team and very difficult to predict, but I am going to go for a scruffy Spurs win – even without Kane, they still should have enough.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Crolla’s prediction: This should be a good game. Harry Kane’s injury means it is going to be tough for Tottenham and I think they will struggle to score. 0-0

Man City v Liverpool<!–

Man City v Liverpool (16:30 GMT)

City are out of Europe and this starts a run of successive league games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea which could go a long way to deciding whether they are back in the Champions League next season.

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Guardiola criticises players’ approach

I think it is a good time for Liverpool to play them, and we know what Jurgen Klopp’s side are like against the top teams anyway – they have not lost to anyone in the top six in 2016-17.

There could be a backlash from City after their defeat by Monaco but, even if there is, I don’t see them keeping a clean sheet.

The Reds will get chances but they will have work to do at the other end too.

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is on his way back from injury and although Klopp does not like to rush players I would want him starting at City. Even so, their squad remains wafer thin.

Top of the Premier League<!–

Klopp has a decent record against City – he lost out to them in last season’s League Cup final but has won all three of his league games against them.

The Reds won 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on their last visit, but I don’t see a repeat of that result.

I am going for a draw, which I think Liverpool would take now.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Crolla’s prediction: I think the blue half of Manchester wins this one. Both sides have leaked a few goals recently but I am going for City to edge it. 3-2

Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

*Does not include scores from postponed games.

Lawro’s best score: 140 points (week 22 v James McAvoy)

Lawro’s worst score: 20 points (week 28, but only five games played so far) or 30 points (week four v Dave Bautista)

Lawro's League Table<!–

How did Lawro do last week?

Lawro picked the correct winners of all four of last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-finals and was spot on with the scoreline of Manchester City’s win over Middlesbrough, giving him a total of 70 points.

Lawro was up against Sophie Rose from Chelsea supporter channel CFC Fan TV and Manchester United followers Adam McKola and Stephen Howson from Full Time DEVILS.

He came out on top because Sophie got four correct results with no perfect scores for 40 points, while the Full Time DEVILS picked three correct results with no perfect scores, giving them 30 points.

Lawro was also up against Sophie and the Full Time DEVILS for the weekend’s five Premier League games, including Manchester City’s draw with Stoke which was rearranged to midweek.

Lawro got two correct results, with no perfect scores, for a total of 20 points.

As things stand, he is ahead of Sophie (one correct result, no perfect scores = 10 points) but behind the Full Time DEVILS (three correct results, no perfect scores = 30 points) but their full tally will not be known until the games postponed because of the FA Cup are played.

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