Martin King gives you his predictions for this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.
Whenever the Premier League gets up and running, it really gets up and running!
Fans and experts are constantly treated to the most pulsatingly competitive football action in the world and when an international break comes along, well, you know the dull feeling.
England’s top flight returns this weekend with an eighth round of fixtures, the most attractive of which sees champions Leicester City clash with former title-holders Chelsea, Manchester City host Everton before the all-important one, Liverpool facing Manchester United.
The Reds continued their fine form in the last round of fixtures with a 2-1 win over Swansea City. That match, at the Liberty Stadium, came after the opening match of the round which saw Everton draw at home to Crystal Palace.
The rest of the weekend was oddly enough highlighted by five more draws as Premier League sides either wasted the opportunity to get three points or fought to earn a single one. That meant that Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur could all take advantage, and they did with respective victories over Hull City, Burnley and Manchester City.
To be blunt, my form in Gameweek 7 was pure rubbish as I only managed to correctly predict three results. This week offers a chance to better that and I’m ready to do so with another round of predictions.
Liverpool vs Manchester United
It is considered to be one of the biggest rivalries in the football world, along with the famous El Clásico in Spain. It is simply the most important day on the English football calender, the day when the country’s most successful clubs clash.
For the first time this season, Liverpool will face Manchester United in a Monday night encounter at Anfield. Such is the enormity of the occasion that victory – as well as defeat – in this match could set the tone for the rest of each team’s season.
Liverpool come into this match with a few injury uncertainties but I don’t think that should take away from their confidence. The Reds have won their last four games in the Premier League and having celebrated manager of the month Jürgen Klopp’s first year in charge, they’re finally at a stage where they’re able to fully execute the German’s plans on the pitch.
Players like Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and oddly enough James Milner have profited from that. The trio are the club’s top scorers with four goals each in all competitions. Brazilians Firmino and Coutinho, key players for Klopp, enjoyed a fruitful international break with their country, each scoring a goal in the World Cup qualifier against Bolivia.
Thankfully, they’ve returned to Melwood unscathed and I think those goals would’ve served as great confidence boosters ahead of this tie against Man United.
José Mourinho’s men have, so far, had what I would call a mixed season. The Red Devils have looked dangerously good on some occasions, such as their 4-1 thrashing of champions Leicester but days like the one they had away to Watford, including their frustrating draw at home to Stoke, have left many concluding that despite the wealth of talent in the squad, plenty of work still needs to be done.
That obviously goes out the window quickly when they come up against their fierce rivals so we can all expect a great game on Monday. I’m not going to hold back in my prediction, as thanks to good form and home advantage, I see Liverpool defeating Man United in this one.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United
Arsenal vs Swansea City
Swansea appointed Bob Bradley as their new manager over the international break following the sacking of Francesco Guidolin.
That decision came after their defeat against Liverpool where they didn’t necessarily play badly. I watched a few clips of Swansea’s training sessions over the break and coupled with Bradley’s press conferences, it is clear to see that he doesn’t struggle for confidence. He seems to bring a lot of positive energy and a bit of optimism, which will be good for his new side as they’ve struggled for that recently.
From a new manager to a Premier League ever-present in Arsené Wenger. The Frenchman celebrated 20 years in charge over the break and comfortably so with his Arsenal side sitting third on the log, having won their last five fixtures. This sort of form always gets people talking about them as title contenders but we’ve had that for the past ten years, so I’m honestly yet to be convinced.
Either way, I think Swansea will take confidence from their last visit to the Emirates Stadium, which produced a 2-1 victory. The Swans are a good attacking team so I think they will have a fair amount of chances at goal but Bradley will probably also encourage some defensive caution, given the quality of their opponents.
I fancy Arsenal to win it, though. Key to their five successive wins has been the fact that four of those fixtures were games against lower-ranked opposition, so they were almost guaranteed to win them anyway and this clash against the league’s Welsh club is no different.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Swansea City
Stoke City vs Sunderland
Sunderland has probably already reached a point in their season where every match is important, as they still await their first win.
The same could be said of Stoke, who despite a torrid start to the season, have recorded two encouraging draws at home to West Bromwich Albion and away at Old Trafford. As if things couldn’t get any worse for them, though, a man who has arguably been their best player in Joe Allen has been sidelined by injury.
I think a large part of Sunderland’s problems this season has not been their conceding of goals but the manner in which they concede them. I’ve said before that how a team loses matches speaks volumes about their true quality and potential but at the moment the Black Cats are displaying lack in both areas as they make it way too easy for their opponents to score against them. To say that David Moyes needs to address these issues is long overdue.
I think that issue will play a key role in the result at the Bet365 Stadium and I’m going to back Stoke to edge out a first win of the season.
Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Sunderland
Chelsea vs Leicester City
This is a clash of the former champions against the current holders and it opens up the eighth round of league fixtures today.
The international break probably came at the right time for Chelsea, they entered it with a 2-0 win over Hull but I think that even in that victory, there were a few problems that needed addressing. Against teams of a higher quality, the Blues have done badly this season. They’ve been in defensive shambles with Gary Cahill and David Luiz failing to combine their strengths to great effects, meaning that the return from injury of captain John Terry serves as good news.
The Blues faithful will hope that has been taken care of by boss Antonio Conté over the break as they come up against a team they’ve already faced and beaten (in the EFL Cup) in Leicester City.
The league title holders drew 0-0 in their last match against Southampton and there was one moment in particular which I strongly feel sums up the challenge they’re currently facing as a team.
It was a goal-scoring chance when striker Jamie Vardy ran on to Virgil van Dijk’s poor backpass but instead of shooting from a reasonable range, he tried to round goalkeeper Fraser Forster and gave Oriol Romeu enough time to get back and tackle him.
Rewind back to last season and you will see that Vardy found himself in that position hundreds of times and without hesitation went for the shot instead of trying to round the keeper. I think both he and the rest of that Leicester team are suffering from a second-season-syndrome. Moments like that one prove that mentally, they may just be trying a tad too hard to play like they did last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a hint of uncertainty as to what they can achieve after last season.
It’s still a big game, though, and both sides will rightly turn-up for the occasion. I fancy Chelsea to just come out on top. They’ve already beaten the champions once and I just think they’ll do it again.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Leicester City
Crystal Palace vs West Ham United
In their last five games, Crystal Palace has managed three wins and two draws and that has turned their season around after a poor start, putting them eighth on the league table.
Key to that has been the return to form of striker Christian Benteke. The big Belgian has finally settled after a difficult spell with Liverpool, scoring three goals for the Eagles. Benteke will have wingers Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha to thank as the duo has played to his strengths with their crosses – it thus comes as no surprise to know that all three of Benteke’s goals have been headers.
West Ham, on the other hand, is still looking to turn around their winless form – which puts them 18th on the table. They won their last match at Selhurst Park convincingly but that was the West Ham of last season and they’ve struggled to live up to that.
I think they will earn a point this time around. Both sides are gifted with attacking prowess but it will be the side who defend better who I think will stand a better chance of earning a decent result.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-2 West Ham United
Manchester City vs Everton
Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman were teammates back in their playing days with Barcelona and the two have undoubtedly since turned into the world’s finest managers. They’ve put together some talented teams, making this match exciting on the pitch as it is interesting off it.
Man City lost their first match of the season to Tottenham Hotspur in the last round and I think it was more down to Spurs playing well than it was them playing badly. They’ve now got to bounce back against an Everton side full of optimism towards a place in Europe under Koeman.
I think the Toffees will bring the game to their opponents at the Etihad and the news that Romelu Lukaku may be available to play will come as a huge relief to Everton fans. However, anyone who plays against City always needs to be defensively prepared, as they’re going to fire plenty of shots on goal and it’s a certain quality that I think Koeman has brought to Everton so I think they will be on their toes at the back.
Still, I fancy the Citizens to win this one. They can’t afford to lose any more ground on their title charge so I think that plus their quality up-front will lead them to victory.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Everton
Southampton vs Burnley
I can see a home win in this one.
Southampton has been on a decent run of form, with players the likes of Charlie Austin leading them forward. Just as impressive has been their defensive performances as they have kept three successive clean sheets in the last three matches – I’d take a leaf out of that book for Liverpool!
Burnley were excellent by their own standards against Arsenal in the last round. They executed their plan perfectly, frustrating the Gunners but in the end they were the ones frustrated by a late controversial goal by Laurent Koscielny.
I think they will bring the same disciplined performance to Saint Mary’s and it can earn them a point at best but I fancy Southampton to win it.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Burnley
West Bromwich Albion vs Tottenham Hotspur
I think Spurs offered the rest of the league two things following their victory over Man City: A manual on how to beat the best and plenty of fear towards them.
They come into this clash with West Brom with the news of Harry Kane’s return to training after an ankle injury ruled him out for some time and despite the fact that the striker is unlikely to play, it will serve as great news and an encouragement to Premier League player of the month Son Heung-Min to continue his great form and make it difficult for Mauricio Pochettino to overlook him in favour of the Englishman.
Standing in their way will be a West Brom side looking to go a fourth game unbeaten. A player who has stood out for them has been former Tottenham winger Nacer Chadli, who will be looking to make a good impact against his former team for the first time.
It’s going to be a tricky one for Spurs because unlike Man City, West Brom doesn’t play an open brand of football. Tony Pulis will instead organise his team well and put ten men behind the ball to make them difficult to beat but I’m just going to back their opponents to grind out a result at the Hawthorns.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
AFC Bournemouth vs Hull City
For two weeks, Bournemouth has defied my predictions against them with two great results, earning them four points in total.
That’s good confidence for the Cherries and Eddie Howe will be right to expect more from his team against Hull City.
The Tigers have appointed Mike Phelan as their new manager following an impressive start to the season. But the Englishman will have little time to dwell upon that good news because the bad news is, Hull are on a losing run of three straight games.
Obviously the fact that those games were against top class opposition is more than an excuse but Phelan needs to work on turning that form around now that all the talk surrounding his position is over.
I would like to back Hull to get something out of this match but I fancy Bournemouth, who are at home and can express themselves in an attacking sense, to just win it.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-0 Hull City
Middlesbrough vs Watford
I think this will be a close match given the defensive stubbornness of these two sides.
Middlesbrough sits 16th on the table and although it’s not been a perfect season for them, they have ground out some results and that has seen them avoid the relegation zone – or at least for now.
Watford can be confident heading into this tie as Middlesbrough are without a win in their last five league matches against them, drawing two and losing three. Captain Troy Deeney will certainly be on a hot pursuit to score a goal, as it will be his 100th for the club, cementing his status as a Hornets legend.
I think he will achieve that feat at the Riverside Stadium, as I’m predicting an away win for Watford, who I think are better than Boro going forward.
Prediction: Middlesbrough 1-2 Watford