Following what has been a fairly clamorous week for everyone connected with Liverpool Football Club, the prediction game continues as another build-up to a huge weekend of Premier League football begins.
All the clatters of discontent among the Reds faithful were triggered by a late collapse against Bournemouth, which saw Liverpool beaten 4-3. Their rivals Everton and Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw after that before a Monday night bottom of the table clash between Middlesbrough and Hull City was won by Boro 1-0.
The action began on Saturday, though, when a top of the table clash left much for the imagination, as league leaders Chelsea came from a goal down to beat Manchester City 3-1. London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur made light work of West Ham United and Swansea City, thrashing both sides 5-1 and 5-0 respectively.
West Bromwich Albion took massive steps up the table courtesy of a 3-1 home win over Watford whilst Stoke City recorded a home win of their own, beating Burnley 2-0.
Lastly, Crystal Palace took some heat off manager Alan Pardew with a 3-0 win over Southampton while Sunderland only upped the temperature on Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri, the Black Cats beating the champions 2-1.
As with every other weekend in England’s top flight, we head into this one with expectations as well as a number questions, none of which carry more significance than the one on every Liverpool supporter’s mind and that is: will the Reds bounce back?
Find out my views on that and many other pressing issues by reading on. It’s the 15th gameweek of the prediction game!
Liverpool vs West Ham United
As per usual, following a league defeat, Liverpool fans were in classic hysterical mode for at least five days. Work was probably a bore and all Premier League review shows on television were avoided (I probably did that!)
But amidst all the tumult, there needs to be calm among Reds fans. Making any rash conclusions at this time of the season – especially considering how far we’ve come under Jürgen Klopp – should be avoided as the German will duly reunite his players for Sunday’s clash against out-of-form West Ham United.
Theirs is a situation much worse than ours: 8 defeats out of 14 league matches, an average of 2.07 goals conceded per game (only Swansea City have a higher average with 2.21) and failure to settle into a brand new stadium compounded by mounting injuries and a place right on the edge of the relegation zone – these are tough times to be a Hammer.
That, though, doesn’t make this meeting any easier for Liverpool, especially considering their fruitless record against the same side last season (four matches against West Ham in all competitions which yielded no wins at all). Sure, it’s a different Reds side with renewed strengths, however, getting one over a bruised Hammers side shouldn’t be an easy challenge, even at their new fortress Anfield.
Liverpool will need to dig deeper than they did at the Vitality Stadium to win this one but following a squad trip to Spain – which would’ve offered much needed time for reflections – I believe Klopp will have his men refreshed and, as is his philosophy, angry to return to winning ways.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 West Ham United
Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur will be going against an Old Trafford record of theirs that is largely poor but has threatened to improve in recent times.
Of their past five matches at the Theatre of Dreams, Spurs have won only two, losing the other three, before which they had never won at the home of Manchester United in the Premier League era.
United themselves may hold proud their record against the Lily Whites, however, their most recent home record in the build up to this fixture spells pure disappointment (the Red Devils have drawn each of their last four consecutive matches at home). Add to that a most recent draw away at Everton and United’s failure to win matches is clearly alarming.
Tottenham can count themselves a confident side heading into this match. Despite their Champions League exit being a disappointment, the significant return of striker Harry Kane has more than softened the blow as the Englishman has scored a total of five goals in only three league games since his return from injury.
I’m going to back him to make another massive impact on this match and although I want to see Spurs to win it, I’m going to predict yet another stalemate.
Man United will create a lot of chances again but Tottenham, on their day, have one of the league’s best defences so I think they will frustrate the Old Trafford crowd again here.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Swansea City vs Sunderland
To never rule a team out in any situation is a lesson well taught by the Premier League every season but as the weeks go by, it’s becoming easier to abandon that lesson in favour of the opinion that Swansea City are finished.
Bob Bradley’s appointment has yielded only one win, two draws and four heavy defeats and I gave him some hope to turn the situation around in the early days of his tenure but if I’m honest, he hasn’t done the business.
Sunderland, on the other hand, were very easily ruled out in the early stages of the season, however, it’s slowly starting to turn around for David Moyes’ men.
The Black Cats have collected nine points from their last four matches – a good run considering the other three points were lost at Anfield – and should they win this match and Liverpool beat West Ham, they will finally move out of the relegation zone.
The mood may be gloomy at the Liberty Stadium but I think the Swans will rightly put up a fight against their opponents this Saturday.
Oddly enough, I expect goals in this match and think Sunderland will edge a win.
Prediction: Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland
Arsenal vs Stoke City
It’s been a very good week for Arsenal fans, who have witnessed their side record back-to-back victories in both league and continental competitions.
Key to that and an unbeaten run of 13 league games has been an exceptional Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean is, alongside Chelsea’s Diego Costa, the Premier League’s top goal-scorer with 11 goals – 5 of which have been scored in Arsenal’s last two games.
This week has been largely dominated by talks of a new contract, as well as the odd link to Manchester City, however, he will be fully expected to keep his head down and carry on his great form and that is this weekend’s opponents Stoke City’s first difficult challenge.
Impressively enough, Mark Hughes’ men have kept four clean sheets in their last seven games, which is proof that the Potters defence has tightened up, after the seven games before that saw them concede a shocking 16 goals.
Against rivals in the top half of the table, though, they’ve struggled. This season, Stoke have taken only one point from games against Manchester City, Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, making this latest trip to the Emirates a rather daunting one.
I can’t see anything other than a victory for the league’s 2nd placed side.
In the form they’re in, Arsenal can rip any side to shreds and although Stoke will rightly attempt to make it hard for them through compact defending and counter-attacking, anything other than three points would be seen as a disappointment by the Gunners crowd.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Stoke City
Burnley vs AFC Bournemouth
I probably don’t want to write about them and you probably fell sick in your stomach as soon as you came across their name but Bournemouth (there, I just said it) deserve credit for their show of character last week against, well…you know who.
This weekend they face a tough trip to Turf Moor, where a Burnley side determined to bounce back from three straight defeats lie in wait.
Against anyone other than the sides in the league’s top five, I’m always going to back the Clarets to get a result because I just think their resolute defensive style – which has obviously come under great scrutiny over the past few games – is good enough to ensure that they get a point, maybe even three.
And I’m going to back them to hold Bournemouth to a draw, as Sean Dyche’s men are in need of a performance as well as a result, which I think they will dig deep to earn on Saturday.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Bournemouth
Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion
If the anybody was ever in doubt over Chelsea’s title credentials, then last week’s 3-1 victory over Manchester City turned them into believers.
I hate to say it, but everything Liverpool need and have to be to return to title glory can be seen and found in this Chelsea side. On any given day they can be a free-scoring side, they can come back from behind or even protect a 1-0 lead over the space of 50 minutes. Most important of all, they’ve been consistent, eight games unbeaten with only two goals conceded against City and Tottenham is quite a record and you get a feeling it’s only going to continue.
That’s bad news for West Brom.
The good news, of course, is that they’re in a good way and sit 7th on the table, with Albion optimists even predicting a run for Europe (ridiculous, right?)
Either way, this match has ‘Chelsea win’ written all over it.
The Blues have a fairly comfortable run of games coming up in this month of December so they’ll be looking to make the most of them in order to solidify their title challenge.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Watford vs. Everton
With only one win in their last four games, Watford can probably count themselves fortunate to not have slipped closer to the table’s relegation places.
Instead they sit in 11th and the immediate task for Walter Mazzarri’s men is to return to winning ways, as they open gameweek 15 up with a home clash against Everton.
From initially knocking on the European doors, our Merseyside neighbors have easily slipped back into mid-table, thanks to some lackluster performances and poor results.
I still find the case of striker Romelu Lukaku quite interesting. The big Belgian has only managed a single goal in six games for Everton and considering his and the entire club’s desire to play in Europe in the coming seasons, both sides must do better, really. An injury to winger Yannick Bolasie doesn’t help the situation but I’m actually going to back them for an away win here.
I think it depends on which Watford side turn-up here. It could either be the strong and resilient side we know they can be or the toothless and defensively frail bunch we’ve witnessed over the past couple of games (by the way, where on earth is Troy Deeney with that 100th goal?!)
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Everton
Southampton vs Middlesbrough
Last night, the Saints went marching out of Europe following a 1-1 draw with Hapoel Beer Sheva, a result that saw them finish third in their group and the side from Israel go through.
Claude Puel’s men would’ve rightly been disappointed to exit the competition so early, however, as is always my point with these results, it provides them with a good opportunity to focus solely on the Premier League for the remainder of the year, an opportunity that starts exactly where they left it all on Thursday night, Saint Mary’s.
Southampton host Middlesbrough, who – depending on how you see it – sit comfortably in 13th place after recording a win over Hull City on Monday night. I think the timing of this away match could work perfectly in their favour because all the pressure’s on the home side to lift the crowd after Thursday night’s result so, if Boro can try to see out the first half hour or so without conceding then they could frustrate their way to a result.
I think they can get a point but I’m just going to predict a win for Southampton, who are always a strong side at home and will be driven by the pressure to deliver a mood-changing display.
Prediction: Southampton 1-0 Middlesbrough
Hull City vs Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace brought to an end a winless run of 6 games last week, beating Southampton 3-0.
In a some way, it was a fortunate result for them, given goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s early Christmas giving mood. With that said, I don’t think Palace fans should get over-excited just yet because with the pressure still on manager Alan Pardew’s shoulders, another tricky fixture sits in front of them in the shape of Hull.
The Tigers are once again facing the prospect of relegation and are still being disturbed by injury worries but as mentioned above, this doesn’t make it an easy one for Palace.
I do think they will just edge this one, though, so I’m going to predict a 2-1 win for them.
Prediction: Hull City 1-2 Crystal Palace
Leicester City vs. Manchester City
If there was ever a single word to describe Leicester City’s current situation, it’s dismal.
The champions (and it’s getting old that term) were humiliated 5-0 by FC Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday night and I don’t think we need to overlook that result simply because the Foxes had already progressed to the next round on top of the group, it’s a fair reflection of just how bad their form is at the moment.
Manchester City, on the other hand, drew 1-1 with Celtic, also booking their place in the Champions League round of 16 but like their opponents this weekend, they’ve got some serious damage to repair as their defeat against rivals Chelsea saw them slip down to fourth. Add to that the loss of South American duo Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho to a pair of suspensions and the task is not all that easy after all for boss Pep Guardiola.
However, if Leicester are anywhere near the side they’ve been over that last few weeks then it will be. I think Man City will win this one.
Guardiola will be looking for his players to step up their game following last week’s result and even without Aguero, I still think City will be difficult opponents to live with.
Prediction: Leicester City 1-3 Manchester City