Martin King continues with week 6 of his match predictions series.
The Premier League is slowly but surely gathering pace with each new week and after an exciting fifth round, which offered plenty of entertainment with 36 goals, English football enthusiasts will head into the sixth round this weekend with plenty of expectation for more, but whether or not everyone will get what they want may be determined by finding the answers to a few big questions.
Can Liverpool continue their winning form?
The Reds opened up the round last Friday night with yet another comprehensive display against a top side, beating Chelsea 2-1. Confidence levels couldn’t be any higher for Jürgen Klopp’s men and they will be looking to keep them high against newly promoted Hull City, who are coming off a 4-1 hammering at home to Arsenal.
Will it be three league defeats on the spin for Man United?
José Mourinho’s men may have won in midweek against Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, however, that has clearly done little to lift the pressure weighing down on their shoulders after a 3-1 loss away to Watford, following a derby day defeat against Manchester City.
The Red Devils face champions Leicester City next and the Foxes will fancy the prospect of condemning their opponents to a third straight league defeat, after a 3-0 win at home to Burnley last weekend.
Will anyone knock the top three off their perch?
Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur remain the league’s unbeaten teams and head into this weekend looking to preserve that form.
The trio enjoyed respective wins over minnows Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Sunderland and with the former two hosting Everton and Spurs respectively this weekend – and City travelling to Swansea – the challenge to remain unbeaten is only going to get tougher.
What’s wrong with Stoke City and West Ham?
They both had respectively pleasing campaigns last season, finishing in the top half of the 2015/16 Premier League table, however, five games into the 2016/17 season Stoke City and West Ham United both find themselves in the relegation zone with fans and managers both feeling a great amount of frustration.
Stoke was defeated 4-1 at Crystal Palace whilst West Ham suffered a 4-2 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion in the last round.
Both results came thanks to the duo’s poor displays in defence and toothlessness in attack, a few things that the managers would’ve been working hard on ahead of home ties against the Baggies for Stoke and Southampton for the Hammers.
The sixth round of Premier League fixtures is, of course, sure to answer all of these questions, but ahead of kick-off, let’s see how many I can answer correctly with another exciting round of predictions.
Liverpool vs Hull City
A 3-0 victory in the League Cup on Tuesday served as yet another positive, confidence-building result for Liverpool and this home clash against Hull City offers a great chance for the Reds to continue their form as well as build on their position on the league table.
The other big question is also on Liverpool’s ability to beat these so-called smaller sides. Inevitably we will all point back to that defeat at Burnley and consider the fact that Hull themselves will likely set their team up in a similar manner.
Either way, we’ve got a top-class attacking unit and I really don’t care how many insecurities fellow Reds fans have still got over our back four. Them boys have done a very decent job over the past few weeks and but for a couple of errors here and there, could’ve earned a clean sheet against Leicester City and Chelsea.
I’m going to back them to get better and I think the quality of our frontline will be enough to earn us the three points here and a first clean-sheet of the season.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Hull City
Manchester United vs Leicester City
This is another big game for the Old Trafford crowd to experience and I don’t think the demand for a home win can be any higher at the moment.
What has happened to Man United?
I mean personally, I had to silently endure some senseless boasting in the first opening weeks of the season from a few of my mates, who are Red Devils fans, as they were already claiming the league title as their own but three defeats on the spin and my phone is no longer buzzing – perfect!
But all jokes aside, doing well in this match is crucial for Mourinho’s men. The champions Leicester City are going to head into this one pressure-free and I’d like to see them go for a win given the fact that they’ve still got a very good team. They’ll feel as though they can compete and a fruitful outing against Burnley last week will only fuel their confidence.
I think we will witness an entertaining draw in this one but I think that if Leicester is as defensively suspect as they were against Chelsea – in the EFL Cup on Wednesday – Man United will happily take advantage for that much-needed first league win in two matches.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Leicester City
AFC Bournemouth vs Everton
Bournemouth was unsurprisingly outclassed against Manchester City last week. Nobody really expected them to win and unfortunately, they’re going to have a few games like that in the Premier League.
The south-coast side host Everton, who are like a surfer riding on a high wave, such is the level of quality and confidence within the Goodison Park outfit. Attacking-wise, there was never any doubts over the Toffees but it was defensively where they struggled under former coach Roberto Martinez. I think Ronald Koeman has improved that area and it’s going to be important to their success going forward this term.
I think the attacking nature of both Bournemouth and Everton will make for an entertaining match and I’m going to predict that our Merseyside neighbors come out on the good side of the scoreline.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-3 Everton
Arsenal vs Chelsea
This early period in the Premier League has already served us with some big fixtures and this London derby is another one of them.
Arsenal seems to have recovered well from a slow start to the season which saw them lose against Liverpool and play to a goalless draw at Leicester. The Gunners have since gone on an unbeaten run which has seen them record three straight wins in the league.
I’ll tell you what, that record will come under serious threat in this match as Chelsea are looking to get back to winning ways, not to mention their own great record against Arsené Wenger’s men.
The Blues were heavily disappointed by their defeat to the Reds last Friday but a 4-2 victory in the League Cup over Leicester in midweek would’ve been great for their squad morale.
David Luiz made his second debut for the club in that league clash at Stamford Bridge and if I’m honest, I haven’t seen the impact that his signing has made. When you pay 30 odd million for a defender (ball-playing type or not) the least you expect from him is to make a significant defensive impact, but a frail-looking backline which has conceded four goals in all competitions, ever since Luiz returned to the line-up is not my idea of that.
I think that without captain John Terry, Chelsea will remain susceptible to poor defensive displays.
With that said, I’m going to take a huge gamble and back Arsenal to come out on top of this one. I understand that their recent record in this fixture doesn’t favour them but neither does Chelsea having Luiz in defence with all the Gunners’ firepower.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea
Stoke City vs West Bromwich Albion
I remember expressing the opinion, back in Gameweek 3, that West Brom needs a striker with some flair to provide more goals and assists, a different option to their tall and physical options up-front.
I think that Tony Pulis has finally found that man in former Tottenham Hotspur winger Nacer Chadli. If you saw even a few minutes’ worth of highlights of the Baggies’ 4-2 victory over West Ham last week, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. Chadli was the influential figure in attack that they’ve been missing for a while now. He injected some pace and creativity plus he scored two goals. I think the Belgian will be a big player for Pulis this season.
Speaking of big players, Stoke City’s haven’t turned up this season, have they?
The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovič, Ryan Shawcross and even a familiar face for Liverpool fans in Joe Allen are players all capable of making a great impact but they, along with the rest of the Stoke squad, have performed very poorly thus far.
I think a confident West Brom side can be dangerous for any opponent and given the fact that Stoke is lacking that confidence, I’m going to back the Baggies to earn a win at the Bet365 Stadium. I think their aerial threat and the flair offered by Chadli will get them goals.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Middlesbrough vs Tottenham Hotspur
I initially felt that Middlesbrough made a decent start to this campaign but their last few games have perhaps represented a reality of just how tough the Premier League is for newly-promoted sides.
Their opponents on Saturday, Tottenham, are having to deal with the absence of top marksman Harry Kane with an ankle injury. Manager Mauricio Pochettino confirmed that the club is yet to discover the extent of the injury as a second scan needs to be taken on Kane’s ankle.
I think he’s going to be a big miss for them but summer signing Vincent Janssen will have to step up. Janssen was Eredivisie’s top goal-scorer last season. He’s yet to get off the mark in the English top flight but Kane’s absence provides him with the opportunity to do that.
Besides that, key players Moussa Dembele, Eric Dier and Danny Rose are doubts for this trip but Spurs have a talented squad and I think they will continue their unbeaten run at the Riverside Stadium.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley vs Watford
With back-to-back victories for the first time in the Premier League this season, Watford has finally got up and running under Walter Mazzarri.
The Hornets were excellent in imposing their game plan against Man United last week and the result was a big reminder of just how good they can be, particularly at Vicarage Road.
Their trip to face Burnley at Turf Moor on Monday night is a different challenge, though. The Clarets are without a win ever since we met them in the second round and again I think it’s a matter of them being a tough side to beat and yet always struggling to put themselves in a position to do the beatings.
And with striker André Gray now suspended by the Football Association for improper conduct, the task just gets tougher for them.
I think they will struggle against a fit and firing Watford side on Monday. The best hope I can give them is a draw but I’m predicting a third-straight victory for Mazzarri’s men.
Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Watford
West Ham United vs Southampton
West Ham is coming off two stunning defeats in the league. Their form hasn’t been great and the Hammers will want to make up for that against Southampton this Sunday.
The Saints backed their opening Europa League win with a 1-0 victory over Swansea City last week and I am particularly impressed with the goal-scoring form of Charlie Austin. Personally, I rate him very highly after his 2014/15 campaign with Queens Park Rangers, when he finished as the fourth top goal scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals.
Austin has netted four times in his last three games in all competitions for the Saints and if he just adds some consistency to his game this season, he is good enough to reach the heights he did at Loftus Road (although it is a bit of an ironic statement given the fact that QPR was relegated in that season).
I think West Ham especially miss the likes of Winston Ried, a good defender and leader, in that defence because James Collins and co. haven’t been very good as of late. That will affect them but they will hope that it is not as bad as it was against West Brom.
With that said, I’m predicting a draw in this one. I just think it will be a closely-contested game between two decent sides and although West Ham needs the win the most, Southampton will do enough to earn a result as well.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-1 Southampton
Sunderland vs Crystal Palace
Strolling to a big home victory over Stoke City in the last round was the perfect way for Crystal Palace to continue their winning ways after a slow start to the season.
I think that Alan Pardew has really got his key signings spot on this year. From Steve Mandanda and James Tomkins at the back to Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke up front, the Englishman has bought well and these names are helping to steer the Palace ship in the right direction thus far.
A ship that seems to be doing a Titanic in splitting up and sinking below is Sunderland. The Black Cats are without a single win under manager David Moyes this season and his recent clash with left-back Patrick van Aanholt has left me wondering if perhaps the two aren’t on the same page and van Aanholt could pose a threat, in terms of being a bad influence in the dressing room over this issue.
If Sunderland isn’t on the same page in this tough time for them, I don’t see them overcoming it honestly, because teamwork is important when you’re fighting against relegation.
I’m going to predict an away win for Crystal Palace. I still don’t think Sunderland have the attributes to even face this league season and I honestly see their struggles continuing here.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-3 Crystal Palace
Swansea City vs Manchester City
I can only see a Man City win in this one.
Pep Guardiola’s men are just too good at the moment, with in-form attackers Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling leading them.
Swansea, on the other hand, must be frustrating their fans. The Welsh club often put in performances like the one against Chelsea and are able to get some good results but it seems like against teams of their own calibre, they struggle as they did against Southampton last week.
I can’t see them doing any better in this match.
Prediction: Swansea City 1-3 Manchester City