Martin King has a look at this week’s Premier League fixtures as a continuation of his weekly series.
It’s been an awfully busy week that has produced four successive days of football from three different competitions.
The first bit of action, at the beginning of the week, was the last Premier League match of Gameweek 8, as Liverpool drew a blank against rivals Manchester United. The weekend prior saw the league’s top two teams in Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur slip-up, with Everton and West Bromwich Albion holding both to 1-1 draws respectively.
The league’s other top contenders in Arsenal and Chelsea each took steps in the right direction with victories over Swansea City and champions Leicester, while Stoke City and West Ham United each earned much-needed wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace.
Elsewhere, the league’s south-coast sides won big as Bournemouth thrashed Hull City 6-1 before Southampton beat Burnley 3-1 and to round-off the recap, Watford grabbed a hard-fought 1-0 win away at Middlesbrough.
With that, it’s time to look ahead to the latest round of Premier League action with the ninth gameweek of our very own prediction game.
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Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion
Liverpool head into this tie against an in-form West Brom side, after a 0-0 draw against Manchester United on Monday night.
The match obviously produced a lot of talking points, mainly the fact that United’s primary intentions were to play on ultra-defensive mode, in an attempt to stop the Reds from exerting the sort of attacking influence that has seen them romp to victories over Arsenal, Leicester City and Chelsea.
To some extent José Mourinho’s men succeeded and I think we find ourselves looking at this clash against the Baggies with the expectation that they will try to do the same.
Tony Pulis’ men are unbeaten in their last four games, with one win and three draws. Looking at their entire season thus far, they haven’t lost a single match by more than two goals, that is a testament of just how tough a team they are to beat and for a Liverpool team used to scoring in fours and fives, it’s another big challenge.
There’s a fair amount of belief and expectation that Jürgen Klopp’s starting line-up on Saturday evening will be more or less the one that has managed to become his strongest this season, with midfielders Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum recently making welcome returns from injury.
I think that will play an important role in driving Liverpool to victory, which I think they will earn – though I don’t think it will be by four or five goals. The last time West Brom visited Anfield the match ended in a 2-2 draw, with Klopp and his team saluting the Kop (the German way).
I hope we can see that gesture again but this time after a win.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Manchester City vs Southampton
Southampton traveled to Italy on Thursday to face Inter in a Europa League group stage match. I kept an eye on the match, live from the famous San Siro stadium, and thought the Saints put in a good performance, they were unfortunate to slump to a 1-0 loss.
From one European arena to another, Claude Puel now turns his attention to the even more difficult task of getting a result at the Etihad Stadium, where a wounded Manchester City lie in wait.
The Citizens suffered a defeat of their own in Europe, as Pep Guardiola’s former club Barcelona thumped them 4-0 in the Champions League. That made it two defeats in only three games in all competitions for City, whose ‘unbeatable’ tag is fast falling away.
Southampton may have a comprehensive 4-2 victory over their opponents at Saint Mary’s last season to take some confidence from, but their record away to City wouldn’t fill them with much of the same (the Saints have lost their last five league matches away to City).
Guardiola’s men will be keen to keep that good record going while Puel will be trusting his side to keep a seventh clean sheet in nine games. I think the former is more likely to occur and am going to predict a 3-1 win for City.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Southampton
West Ham United vs Sunderland
When you’ve gone five league games without a single win, how you break that poor run of form really doesn’t matter and West Ham United’s hard-fought 1-0 win at Crystal Palace proved that.
They barely made it past the Eagles alive, anyone who watched the game wouldn’t have been blamed for thinking Palace deserved at least a point but Hammers’ fans won’t care because the three points are all that mattered.
Now they find themselves with a great opportunity to make it successive victories with a match against winless Sunderland and (without saying any more on David Moyes’ woes) I’m going to back them to do just that.
Prediction: West Ham United 3-0 Sunderland
Arsenal vs Middlesbrough
With a run of some favourable fixtures, including Burnley, Swansea City and now Middlesbrough, Arsenal was always expected to rack up some victories.
I think this will be another one. The Gunners are fresh off a demolition of Ludogorets Razgrad, where the likes of Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott continued their great form.
I don’t see Boro living with that sort of class on Saturday, especially after they failed to get anything from a close game against Watford last weekend.
I think Arsenal will romp to another victory.
Prediction: Arsenal 4-1 Middlesbrough
AFC Bournemouth vs Tottenham Hotspur
Bournemouth was “flawless” in their 6-1 victory over Hull City, said manager Eddie Howe and in many cases they were.
The Cherries are noted as a free-flowing attacking football side and I think that performance was as complete as I’ve seen from Bournemouth in a while. Heading into this game, I heard a lot of people look at it as an opportunity for Tottenham Hotspur to move to the top of the table but, believe it or not, this is as much an opportunity for Howe’s men to claim a big scalp here.
Spurs are coming off two draws each in the league and the Champions League this week and are still unbeaten. I think the loss of defender Toby Alderweireld to injury is a big blow to their plans because the big Belgian has been a key part of them but something that Spurs have lacked in the past has been squad depth and they’ve got that now so I can’t imagine Lily Whites fans to be too worried.
I really think that if Bournemouth impose themselves on this game in an attacking sense, but even more in a defensive sense, they can earn a result at the Vitality Stadium. I fancy them to hold Spurs in this one.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley vs Everton
Everton was good value for their point at the Etihad Stadium last week in a performance that earned goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg plenty of praise, not least from his critics.
The Dutchman saved two penalties as well as making a host of other crucial saves and will no doubt be looking to continue that form at Turf Moor this Saturday afternoon.
This is a difficult test for the Toffees as the Clarets may have results like the one they had at Southampton frequently away from home but at Turf Moor, you can be certain they will hold their own. Once again, I expect them to be closely packed behind the ball, not allowing their opponents space at all in that defensive third and that’s a challenge for Everton to break them down.
I think they’ll accept that challenge and I’m going to predict that they just edge it.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Everton
Hull City vs Stoke City
I had a laugh with some of my mates last week over the timing of Mike Phelan’s appointment as Hull City manager.
You look at their last four league results: a 6-1 thrashing at Bournemouth, a 2-0 loss at home to Chelsea, a 5-1 mauling at Liverpool and a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal and those are usually enough to put any manager on the brink of the sack, so it looks like a bit of irony that Phelan has been appointed amidst this torrid run of form for Hull.
Either way, the Tigers face a Stoke City side determined to win back to back games for the first time this season. A couple of funny things happened last week like I initially reported that Joe Allen would be missing with injury against Sunderland but then he pops up on the Premier League’s goal rush with a goal against the Black Cats and I’m left thinking: he really is divine!
Jokes aside, though, I think it’s going to be a tough afternoon for Hull because Stoke won’t want to slip back to their losing form again. I’m going to predict that Mr. Welsh Pirlo leads them to another win at the KCOM Stadium.
Prediction: Hull City 1-2 Stoke City
Leicester City vs Crystal Palace
Foxes striker Islam Slimani insisted this week that it’s tough playing for the champions of England because every team wants to beat you. Well, Islam, that’s the reality and Crystal Palace will be looking to prove those words true.
The Eagles’ loss at home to West Ham came as a bit of a surprise last week and again, with the amount of chances they created, including a missed penalty by Christian Benteke (perhaps a bit of revenge from the Palace gods for scoring on the same side for Liverpool last season) they should’ve earned atleast a point.
Leicester’s winning form in the Champions League continued in midweek against FC Copenhagen but they’ve got to carry that form back to the Premier League, where they’ve won only two games. I think their opponents will bring the fight to the King Power Stadium but I’m going to back the Foxes to nick it.
Prediction: Leicester City 2-1 Everton
Swansea City vs Watford
Last week, we were given a first glimpse of Bob Bradley’s Swansea City and despite losing 3-2 against Arsenal, I thought the Swans showed great character to want to return from three goals down.
Their problem again, however, was their lightness in defense. Up front, they have always looked a danger so it’s perhaps something Bradley would’ve been working on from the very beginning of his reign a little over two weeks ago.
For Watford, consistency is something that has eluded them this season. They’ve only won back to back games once this season and have struggled to build on their wins in the long run so boss Walter Mazzarri will be keen to bring their up-and-down run to an end.
The Hornets will be in good spirits after their 1-0 win away to Middlesbrough but I think Swansea will still play positively because Bradley has brought some fresh ideas, as well as a presence that would make players want to react and when players of their quality do react, some good results can be produced.
I think this one will end in a draw. I’d like to pick a winner but I expect a tight match.
Prediction: Swansea City 1-1 Watford
Chelsea vs Manchester United
Chelsea opened up the last round with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Leicester City and now face the crucial test that is Manchester United.
The Red Devils will be lead by former boss José Mourinho, who left the club in turmoil last season. The United manager saw his side overcome Turkish side Fenerbahce in the Europa League after their draw at Anfield on Monday.
Obviously, a lot of us Reds fans thought their mentality on the night was negative and I just wonder – with the number of United fans I know already claiming a win – how they’ll expect to get through Stamford Bridge with three points playing like that because Chelsea may not have fully recovered from last year but they showed against Leicester that they’re no easy side to play against.
Ever since 2002, United have only won once at Stamford Bridge, with a bulk of their games there ending in a draw. Entertainment has been a constant in these clashes but even I’m struggling to believe we’ll be guaranteed that this time with Mourinho’s tactics.
I think we’ll witness a similar result to the one these two produced last season at Stamford Bridge and it will probably favour Chelsea a whole lot more given their position on the table.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United
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