The Premier League has officially concluded, but we’ve still got one last match for the top flight teams: The FA Cup final. Both United and Chelsea will want to try and end disappointing seasons on a high, so expect a tense edge to this match.
Sunwolves v Stormers
The Sunwolves’ massive 63-28 win over the Reds last weekend came at a surprise to everyone, but it showed that when the extremely ambitious style of the Japanese franchise works, it pays off handsomely. They now host the Stormers, who were dealt a loss to the Chiefs at home in Cape Town last weekend – a game which the Stormers should’ve won, and the SA side will need to be weary of a Sunwolves team full of spirit and who have very little to lose.
Predicted result: Stormers by 10.
Sharks v Chiefs
The Sharks have seen some revived form since a bad-spell after their tour overseas, despite the loss to the Bulls last weekend. The Durban side have shown that they have a well-balanced forward and backline game, but haven’t hit the full stride they’re so close to achieving. The Chiefs’ shock loss to the Jaguares a fortnight ago was remedied by a decent win over the Stormers last weekend, and a second win in SA would do wonders for the Hamilton side’s championship hopes. It’s a tough one to call, but we think the Sharks can handle the greasy conditions at home better than their visitors.
Predicted result: Sharks by 5.
Lions v Brumbies
Elton Jantjies, who will be playing his 100th Super Rugby game, will be hoping to steer a reshuffled Lions team back to winning ways after they suffered three losses on the bounce in Australasia. Playing at home, the Joburg side will have some renewed vigor to make Ellis Park the treacherous ground that it’s become in past seasons, but it’ll be no easy task against the Brumbies. The Canberra side haven’t had a consistent set of performances this season, most recently going down to the Rebels last weekend. It should be an opportunity for the Lions to rack up some much-needed points if they’re to slide back into log-leading contention.
Predicted result: Lions by 10.
Jaguares v Bulls
The Jaguares have been the surprise team of 2018 (so far). Everyone who has watched Super Rugby since their addition has known that they have tons of potential, and halfway through this season, they seem to be tapping into it. After beating the Rebels, Brumbies, Blues and Chiefs away from home, the Jaguares return home to host the Bulls. John Mitchell’s Bulls side look to be in playoff contention at the way they’re going, and will be keen to rack-up another win before heading to Australia.
Predicted result: Bulls by 3.
Chelsea v Manchester United (FA Cup)
Mourinho faces off against his previous club once again, and this time there’s silverware on the line. Both Mourinho and Conte are in desperate need of consolation prizes after less than optimal seasons, but since Conte isn’t likely to be at Chelsea next season, it’s more important for Mourinho to keep building up the confidence of his squad. Neither team has been impressive in attack all season, but Chelsea have been decidedly worse, proven by their inability to break into the top 4 despite having a decent squad. This match is likely to be drab and a war of attrition, but Mourinho has managed to grind out results against the top 6 from the Premier League, and he’s likely to manage that again this time around.
Predicted result: Chelsea 1 – 2 Manchester United
Barcelona v Real Sociedad (La Liga)
Barcelona have a few stars that will be heading to the World Cup, most important among them being Lionel Messi. This final match will give a good indication about the kind of form that some of the important international players are in, and Barcelona will want to end their title winning campaign on a high at home. Sociedad are 10th on the log and have four wins in their last six, which seems decent. Over the course of the season, though, they’ve conceded the joint highest number of goals (58) of any team that didn’t get relegated, so Barcelona’s attack is likely to get a lot of joy out of them.
Predicted result: Barcelona 3 – 0 Real Sociedad
Villarreal v Real Madrid (La Liga)
This is Real’s final game before they play the Champions League final against Liverpool in a week’s time, so they’ll have two objectives for this game: keeping their key players uninjured, and getting a victory so that if Atletico Madrid lose then Real will end up finishing second on the log. It’s unlikely that Zidane will want to risk big name players like Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos, but he may do it to keep them sharp and also to guarantee maximum points for the season. Villarreal have only lost once in their last six games, but that was a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Barcelona. Their defensive record isn’t stellar having conceded 48 across the campaign, so Madrid should manage a victory even though it’s likely to be a tough away match.
Predicted result: Villarreal 1 – 4 Real Madrid
Words by Jeremy Proome & Elan Solomon.