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English Premiership weekend preview: Top-four battle intensifies ahead of huge round

We head into Round 21 of the English Premiership this weekend and there are some crucial matches taking place as the battle for the playoffs looks set to go right down to the wire.

Table-toppers Saracens have already secured a place in the playoffs and it is unlikely they will be caught at the summit as they hold a six-point advantage over second-placed Sale, who have played a game more.

The Sharks are also closing in on a top-four finish, as they are ten points clear of London Irish in fifth, but the AJ Bell Stadium-based outfit are not in action this weekend and that presents the chasing pack with an opportunity to reduce the arrears.

Leicester and Northampton occupy third and fourth place respectively, the pair both on 48 points, while Exeter Chiefs are in sixth on 43, Bristol sit seventh on 41 and Harlequins are a point behind in eighth.

Home comforts for Newcastle

WhatNewcastle Falcons v Gloucester
WhereKingston Park, Newcastle
When19:45, Friday 24th March
How to watchBT Sport 1 & BT Sport Ultimate
OddsNewcastle Falcons 21/20, Tue 18/1, Gloucester 5/6

Round 21 kicks off with 10th-placed Newcastle Falcons' home clash against Gloucester at Kingston Park on Friday at 19:45, with the visitors one place and 12 points better off than their hosts.

The Falcons have been better on home soil of late, winning three of their last four across all competitions, and they may have enough to overcome a Gloucester outfit that have lost their last six away Premiership matches.

Newcastle at 21/20 in Game Betting 3-Way Result looks to be the value play here.

Expect fireworks at Welford Road

WhatLeicester v Bristol
WhereMattioli Woods Welford Road, Leicester
When12:30, Saturday 25th March
How to watchPRTV
OddsLeicester 4/11, Tie 22/1, Bristol 11/5

A home win for Leicester would put them another step closer to securing a top-four finish, while a victory for Bristol on their travels would put them right back into the mix for the playoffs.

Both sides are in brilliant form heading into the contest, with the Tigers on a four-game winning streak and the Bears claiming the spoils in their last five assignments.

Bristol have scored an impressive 201 points across those victories, while Leicester have amassed 123 points, and a high-scoring affair could be on the cards.

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Sarries to power on

WhatSaracens v Harlequins
WhereTottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
When15:00, Saturday 25th March
How to watchBT Sport 1 & BT Sport Ultimate
OddsSaracens 2/7, Tie 25/1, Harlequins 11/4

Saracens have been the dominant force this season, winning 13 and losing just three of their 16 matches, and they should have no problem overcoming a Harlequins side that have lost their last six away games across all competitions.

Quins have shipped 276 points during those losses and another heavy defeat could be coming as they take on a Sarries outfit that boasts the second-best attack in the Premiership.

The 10/11 odds for Saracens at -9 Handicap in Game Betting 3-Way is hard to ignore.

Crucial battle in top-four race

WhatLondon Irish v Northampton Saints
WhereGtech Community Stadium, Brentford
When17:30, Saturday 25th March
How to watchBT Sport 1 & BT Sport Ultimate
OddsLondon Irish 1/2, Tie 20/1, Northampton Saints 17/10

Fourth-place Northampton make the trip to the Gtech Community Stadium to face fifth-placed London Irish on Saturday with just two points separating these two sides.

After a narrow defeat to Exeter in the Premiership Rugby Cup final last time out, the Irish now turn their focus back to the Premiership and they are in good form, winning five of their last six in the league.

They now welcome a Northampton side that have been wilting on the road and were thumped 62-8 at Bristol in their most recent away encounter. In total, the Saints have lost seven and won just one of their eight away league matches this season.

A Result for the hosts at 1/2 in Game Betting 3-Way looks the way to go in this one.

Chiefs to boost play-off hopes

WhatBath v Exeter Chiefs
WhereRecreation Ground, Bath
When15:00, Sunday 26th March
How to watchBT Sport 1 & BT Sport Ultimate
OddsBath 17/10, Tie 20/1, Exeter Chiefs 1/2

It has been a miserable campaign for Bath, who sit bottom of the standings, and they could be in for more woe when they welcome top-four chasing Exeter to the Recreation Ground.

The Chiefs picked up the Premiership Rugby Cup last time out, so confidence will be high, and they should have more than enough to dispatch a Bath side that have the worst home record in the division.

Bath are also the second-lowest scorers in the league, amassing just 353 points, and backing Exeter at 1/2 in the Result market looks like the smart play.

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