Martin King has, once again, compiled a comprehensive preview of all the Premier League’s fixtures this week.
The Premier League returns once again after a midweek round of action that provided fortune at the bottom of the table, as well as misfortune at the top.
The English top flight’s bottom-four all secured positive results in their campaign for survival, as Hull City and Sunderland recorded respective goalless draws against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City earned a 2-1 win over Southampton while Crystal Palace beat Bournemouth 2-0.
Only one win was recorded from the league’s top six, with Manchester City cruising to a 4-0 victory over West Ham United. Liverpool and Chelsea drew 1-1 at Anfield and Arsenal rather surprisingly lost 2-1 at home to Watford.
Elsewhere on the table, Middlesbrough and Stoke City recorded 1-1 home draws against West Bromwich Albion and Everton respectively, while Burnley managed a 1-0 win over Leicester City.
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We’re on to the next round of action then and to build up to all the potential thrills and spills, we can play the prediction game.
Hull City vs. Liverpool
If Tuesday night’s performance under the Anfield floodlights is anything to go by, then Liverpool can still play ball with the big boys.
However, in recent times, it has been clashes against the ‘not-so-big’ sides that have been a point of concern, as league titles and top-four places have often been lost against sides lingering in the bottom-half of the table (all of Liverpool’s three defeats this season have come against Burnley, Bournemouth and Swansea City).
Enter Hull City, the Premier League’s 19th placed side. If table positions and past form didn’t count, it would probably be safe to consider the KCOM Stadium outfit a decent side on the rise. The Tigers have been reinvigorated by the appointment of new manager Marco Silva, whose impact has been evident in a number of their most recent performances.
It hasn’t been a fairy-tale period by any means, Silva’s record thus far reads three wins, one draw and three defeats in his seven games in all competitions in charge, but it has been the manner in which Hull have recorded each result, with a strong attitude and a tough, well-organised team set-up that has restored belief among the fans that survival can be achieved.
On any team’s fight for survival, a key part of every manager’s mentality is ensuring that something, if not everything, is taken from every match, regardless of the opponent. Therefore, rest assured that Silva will be setting his Tigers side up not only to deny Liverpool but to beat them.
For Reds manager Jürgen Klopp, ridding his side of their frail mentality against lesser sides will be the task at hand, as the German also seeks to restore confidence in his squad and parity in the race for a top finish.
Call it pessimism if you want but I fear the worst for Liverpool in this match. The Merseysiders often struggle against weaker and more desperate sides, breaking down well organised defences has been a problem and I think their defensive troubles are still existent so Hull will fancy themselves a win on Saturday.
I’m going to predict a win for the home side but a look on the bright side suggests that every time I have predicted a Reds defeat this season, I have been proven wrong.
Let’s hope for more of the same.
Prediction: Hull City 2-1 Liverpool
Chelsea vs. Arsenal
After an unexpected defeat at the hands of Watford on Tuesday night, Arsenal travel to a ground that has yielded little success for them over the past years in Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners face league leaders Chelsea, in a North London derby that carries plenty of title significance, as the result could again determine whether the race for England’s top honour still has strong competitors or if indeed its leading competitor is set to win it.
Arsenal blew the chance to go three points clear of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur and six points behind Chelsea, with that home defeat against the Hornets. More than just being a current lapse in form, it presented Gunners fans with a familiar feeling of déja vú, one that is likely to irk them ahead of this match against their opponents.
Chelsea again find themselves in a strong position ahead of a big match. The Blues were probably satisfied with their point at Anfield and even more pleasing would’ve been the fact their other title rivals failed to win. The rest of the world may be heavily anticipating their showdown against their North London neighbours, but with nine points comfortably separating them and rivals Spurs, manager Antonio Conté will rightly be viewing this as he does any other match because even defeat won’t seriously threaten their title challenge.
Add to that a complete squad free of injury and suspension worries and Chelsea’s fate is once again in their hands, with many backing them to take advantage of it.
Arsenal haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2011 and have lost seven of their last ten matches at the home of the league leaders. With the Blues still very strong under Conté, I can’t see that record improving for them in this match.
I think we will witness an entertaining clash that I’m predicting Chelsea will come out on top of.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Southampton vs. West Ham United
Southampton’s mixed run of form in the Premier League only continued with a defeat away to Swansea.
Claude Puel’s men are struggling for consistency, with their recent record seeing them win only one of their last six games. It’s seen them slip down to the lower regions of the table and their unhidden aspirations of a return to Europe next season placed under threat.
The South Coast club made a number of signings last month that will surely boost their squad, however, having lost two of arguably their best players in Virgil van Dijk to injury and José Fonte, who will be returning to face them with West Ham United, there’s a big hole left behind in defence that hasn’t been easily filled.
That said, their opponents will be looking to take advantage of that, as well as exact revenge on the Saints for a 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture at the London Stadium. The Hammers will surely be wounded, though, following a mauling at the hands of Manchester City but they can take encouragement from an attack that netted six goals in the two matches prior to their previous one.
Whether they’re struggling or not, Southampton are tough to beat at Saint Mary’s and having won their last league game their impressively, Puel’s men will be looking to bounce back with the backing of an expectant home crowd.
I think this will be a tight affair. I’m struggling to separate the two sides at the moment so I’m going to go for a draw.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United
Manchester City vs. Swansea City
If England’s top flight didn’t know him when he was first announced as one of Manchester City’s summer signings, then a brilliant full debut performance against West Ham would’ve ensured they know him now.
Gabriel Jesus has been the name dominating the midweek headlines for Man City, after the striker scored and notched an assist in what was only his second appearance for his new side, following a loan return from Brazilian club Palmeiras.
The 19-year-old’s arrival has sprung new life into Pep Guardiola’s side, whose title aspirations seemed to be slipping away, along with their top-four hopes, and will be eager to underline his impact by producing another positive performance, as City look for another win on Sunday against Swansea.
Much like their opponents, the Swans now have their own new source of hope in new manager Paul Clement. Before the Englishman’s arrival, the Welsh side had managed only one win in six matches but since taking charge, Clement has led his side to three league wins in four, results that have finally seen them move out of the relegation zone.
Unfancied they may be against Man City, but a fresh burst of confidence, epitomised by their 3-2 win over Liverpool, will boost this Swansea side, who will be ambitious for another big scalp.
Either way, with City being the fancied side, I’m going to back them to win this match, although I don’t foresee a straight-forward encounter.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Swansea City
Crystal Palace vs. Sunderland
For Sunderland supporters, Sam Allardyce represents yet another cult figure that helped keep their club in top-flight business against all odds.
The man known as “Big Sam” took over the reins from Dick Advocaat just two months into the 2015/16 season, with Sunderland sitting just 19th and despite the club remaining in the danger-zone for most of the season, Allardyce led the Black Cats to safety, maintaining his good record in detrimental situations.
After a failed stint as England boss, the former Bolton Wanderers man is back at it again, this time with 18th placed Crystal Palace and he meets his old side for the first time since his summer departure, looking to pick up only a second league win in charge of the Eagles.
Fellow strugglers Sunderland would’ve cherished a point at home to Tottenham Hotspur in their last match, however, would be forgiven for feeling a bit daunted by their trip to Selhurst Park. David Moyes’ men have lost their last five matches on the road and with Palace determined to win successive matches in the Premier League since September, the Eagles will be looking to ensure that record doesn’t improve on Saturday.
There surely won’t be no love lost between Allardyce and the travelling supporters, as both sides will be eager to get the best out of this vital relegation six-pointer.
I think the confidence of finally ending their winless run at Bournemouth will motivate Palace to earn another win in this match and it is one that I see them getting by the comfort of another two goals.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-0 Sunderland
Leicester City vs. Manchester United
As the old proverbial quote goes: It doesn’t rain but it pours.
It’s been the case for Leicester City for two seasons running. Last season, there was a rain of many uncontainable blessings, as the Foxes overcame all the odds to win their first ever Premier League title. Fast-forward to this season, though, and where it once rained blessings, it pours misfortune.
Manchester United are up-next for them and the Red Devils visit the King Power Stadium with a sense of frustration surrounding them, following their recent results.
United are winless in three league matches, recording three straight-draws against Liverpool, Stoke City and Hull. These results have slowed down their charge for a place in the top-four and, like a little child throwing a rant in the mall as usual, José Mourinho still points his finger towards everyone but his own side.
Either way, his United side will have a great chance to return to winning ways as Leicester haven’t offered even a shadow of a fight against the sides which they overcame last year.
Because of that bad record, I’m going to predict a win for the travelling side, who I think will again be too strong for their struggling opponents. Anything less would surprise me, if I’m honest.
Prediction: Leicester City 1-3 Manchester United
West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City
The robot dance made its return to Premier League screens at the Bet365 Stadium in midweek, where Peter Crouch scored his landmark 100th league goal (boy did he make the world wait for that!).
It was a proud moment for the Englishman, one that more or less told the story of how well Stoke City are doing at the moment. Aside from three defeats against three top sides, the Potters are unbeaten in seven games against their close competitors, with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United a decent bonus in their campaign for another midtable finish.
They next travel to the Hawthorns to face eighth-placed West Bromwich Albion.
Tony Pulis’ side are on a decent run of form themselves, having lost only two of their last six games. The Baggies will most likely be looking forward to adding to the point they achieved at Middlesbrough on Tuesday, as they’ve won five out of their last six home matches.
And given that they’re no longer goal-shy, scoring a total of fifteen goals during that period, West Brom will rightly be confident of another home victory.
Once again, I think this will be another one of the weekend’s close encounters as both sides are playing well and in good form. I think it will end in a draw but wouldn’t be surprised to see a winner.
I just can’t pick one!
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Stoke City
Watford vs. Burnley
Looking at the Premier League table as a newly-promoted side at this time of the season doesn’t always guarantee good news but such is not the case for Burnley fans, who again saw their side record a home win that lifted them to tenth on the league table.
That 1-0 win over struggling champions Leicester was their ninth of the season, more than they’ve managed to in a single Premier League season so manager Sean Dyche can again take credit for the good work he continues doing to establish the club in England’s top flight.
Watford, meanwhile bounced back from a fruitless run of form with a huge win away to Arsenal and will return to Vicarage Road looking to build on their three points, as well as retain manager Walter Mazzarri the full confidence of the home crowd as well as the club chiefs.
A similar performance of grit and quality will be required to win against their opponents, though, as despite failing to win a single match away from home, Burnley have proven to still be a tough match for anyone.
I think the Hornets will deliver the points, though.
They’ll rightly feel as though they must win to build on their good mood and current table position of 13th.
Prediction: Watford 2-1 Burnley
Everton vs. AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth’s season has surely hit a new low with the recent long-term lay-off of striker Callum Wilson. I can imagine he will be a big miss.
With just one win in their last seven matches, the Cherries are surely desperate to get points as they look to avoid slipping into a late season relegation battle but, as ever, getting points is a case of easier said than done.
Everton host Eddie Howe’s men, looking to a continue a good run of form that sees them unbeaten since their 1-0 defeat in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool last year.
Along the way, they’ve picked up some impressive results, with the 4-0 win over Manchester City and 1-0 win over Crystal Palace coming to mind as displays of class and efficiency in attack as well as strength and organisation at the back. Keep that run going and manager Ronald Koeman may still achieve the club’s aspirations of Europa League football come the end of the season.
I think we will witness another entertaining match between these two capable sides and I fancy Everton to be the winners.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Middlesbrough
Tottenham return to White Hart Lane on Saturday evening, with their eyes on securing a win against Middlesbrough.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino may have shrugged off suggestions that his side will be playing with what would’ve already happened at Stamford Bridge in the early kick-off on their minds, however, the London club will surely view this as a must win and with a superb record at home that has seen them win their last six games at the Lane, they will be confident of victory.
Boro come into this game off the back of a draw against West Bromwich Albion. That match was their sixth without victory and even though ending any poor run starts with winning, doing so against Spurs will surely be a big ask.
With that said, I think the home side will have too much quality for Boro. Aito Karanka’s men will try and defend to nick a point but even that looks a fairly big ask for me.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Middlesbrough