Martin King brings you all his thoughts and predictions ahead of the second weekend of Premier league action for the 2017/18 season.
Did you feel that?
That rush of excitement, that breath of hope, that weight of expectation, that tense atmosphere, that joyful relief?
All of these elements were in perfect harmony within the hearts and minds of every performer and audience as the Premier League made its long-awaited return to screens worldwide last week – and it did so with a bang.
Arsenal opened up the weekend with an emphatic Friday night win, beating Leicester City 4-3. Watford and Liverpool followed up the entertainment with a 3-3 draw, after which there was a shock result at Stamford Bridge, where Burnley defeated Chelsea 3-2.
There was yet another shock at Selhurst Park, where new boys Huddersfield romped to a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Everton and West Brom recorded respective 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Bournemouth, whilst Southampton and Swansea played out a goalless draw.
Title favourites Manchester City and United enjoyed respective wins over Brighton (2-0) and West Ham United (4-0), between which Tottenham Hotspur earned a 2-0 opening day win at Newcastle United.
That then leads us to the second week of Premier League football, which we can look forward to through some predictions and with the knowledge that if it’s anything compared to the first week, we are in for, well…you already know.
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace
Of the aforementioned elements, probably the only one that dominated the visitors’ section at Vicarage Road at full-time is a tense – add to that very toxic – atmosphere.
Liverpool had just come off a 3-3 draw against Watford, which saw them show-off their entertaining attacking capabilities and yet still allow their defensive deficiencies to overshadow their entire performance.
That said, a win in the UEFA Champions League in midweek was certainly timely, as it at least helped to keep fans and experts on-side, however, with question marks still remaining over the heads of the four men that make up the Reds’ defence, one can’t be completely sold on Liverpool as of yet.
The Reds face a Crystal Palace side that was refreshed by the arrival of a new and ambitious manager in the summer, and yet, humbled by a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town; a result which displayed both the newly-promoted side’s ability to punch above their weight, alongside Palace’s ever-present weaknesses as a team.
Slow starts have almost become the Eagles’ worst enemy in their time in the English top flight, as last season could testify. Palace failed to win in every one of their first three league games, picking up just a single point and with a difficult trip to Anfield following another opening day loss, this season threatens to follow a similar pattern to those of old.
Encouragement, though, can certainly be taken from their recent record on Merseyside.
The South Londoners have won their last three matches at Anfield, with a 2-1 win back in April their last. Continue that form and they could perfectly launch their campaign, whilst ruffling yet more feathers in the Liverpool camp.
I’d like to believe that Klopp’s men will be eager to put an end to their Palace nightmares and finally get up and running in the Premier League following Tuesday night’s decent performance at Hoffenheim.
Once again, that defence worries me but I think the attack will once again produce the goods.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Crystal Palace
Swansea City vs. Manchester United
Back with a bang and back with a strong purpose.
Manchester United opened up their season with a dominant display over West Ham, which saw new signing Romelu Lukaku score a brace, along with solid efforts from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to see them win 4-0.
That result, many felt, sent out a statement of intent from the Red Devils: this could just be their year, however, manager José Mourinho should be wary of taking such a claim too far down his mind, as the Portuguese witnessed his side enjoy a similar start with similar predictions last season, only for United to slump to a sixth placed finish.
Either way, it’s all looking good at the moment and the former Chelsea boss will be demanding more as they make a trip to Wales to face Paul Clement’s Swansea City.
The Swans began their first full season under the Englishman with a rather dull goalless draw at Southampton, which given it’s only the beginning of the season, isn’t such a bad result.
However, with Clement’s best player in Gylfi Sigurdsson recently completing a move to Everton, his departure undoubtedly makes things tougher for the Liberty Stadium outfit, who will surely be looking for some new inspiration against the daunting prospect of facing Man United.
You very seldom sell your best player and still manage to succeed and I think it’s going to take Swansea a while to recover from the loss of such an integral player for them.
That said, I think they’ll struggle against United, who will record another morale-boosting win.
Prediction: Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea
London turns into battleground yet again this Sunday, as fans of the Premier League are set to be treated with an early-season title clash, in Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea’s North London derby.
Last week, Stamford Bridge was an enormous pressure-cooker, as defending league champions Chelsea were shocked by an incredible Burnley performance, which saw them lose 3-2 and end the day with only nine of their men left on the pitch.
Fans and experts’ minds rightly turned to previous seasons when the Blues were the defending champions of a major trophy and as the managers of those sides could easily attest, it didn’t end well. Further failure to secure a result against Tottenham could see the likelihood of history repeating itself overcome Antonio Conté.
Music to the ears of Spurs fans then.
Last season’s runners-up enjoyed a good start to their season with a 2-0 win at Newcastle last Sunday and are set for their first Premier League match at the famous home of English football, Wembley Stadium.
Entering such a huge game on the back of a win will definitely boost them, both points-wise and mentally, as they look to put all predictions of them struggling at Wembley this season to bed – a win against their big rivals would certainly be the perfect way to do so.
Chelsea and Tottenham last met at this very ground on April in the FA Cup, when the Blues recorded a resurgent 4-2 win, whilst in the league, Conté’s side won the first meeting, with Spurs returning the favour in the return fixture at White Hart Lane.
I have a sneaky feeling it’s going to go the way of the Lily Whites again this Sunday, simply because, with two of their key players suspended and a further one stripped from the manager’s plans, Chelsea are simply there to be shot at.
I trust an attacking line-up consisting of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane – amongst others – to do that successfully.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Chelsea
Stoke City vs. Arsenal
Stoke City return to the Bet365 Stadium on the back of a 1-0 loss away to Everton, looking to kick-start their season in front of their home fans.
The Potters are confronted with arguably the toughest start to this season, as following that trip to Goodison and this clash against Arsenal, Mark Hughes’ men face two home games against Manchester United and Chelsea, along with two tricky away assignments to West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United – it could get sticky.
Arsenal, meanwhile, face something of a bogey-ground test this Saturday. The Gunners have won just once in their past seven visits to the Bet365 Stadium and will likely face the usual physical and aerial challenge that Stoke often pose whenever they come to town.
That should mean added pressure for their defence, which has already conceded three goals against a vibrant Leicester City side, facing a string of questions from observing critics, however, Arsene Wenger’s men should have little worry securing another three points, if their attack can add to their four goals from the opening day.
I think we’ll witness another crazy goal-fest here.
Stoke don’t have a strong defence themselves, however, they will already know that Arsenal defence can be got at, though, I still expect the Gunners to come out on top with a win.
Prediction: Stoke City 2-3 Arsenal
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United
Probably the second-biggest shock of the weekend, Huddersfield Town’s 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace launched their first season in the Premier League perfectly, whilst throwing a cat amongst a few pigeons that believed the new boys would struggle from the onset.
David Wagner’s men now have the perfect opportunity to add to their impressive opening display with a match at the Kirklees Stadium, where they will face fellow new boys Newcastle United this Sunday.
Losing at home to Tottenham was damaging enough for Rafael Benitez but to have to deal with yet another controversial incident involving midfielder Jonjo Shelvey was rather inconvenient for the Spaniard and he faces the difficult task of bringing his team back together for this pivotal upcoming match.
It’s a difficult one to predict.
Do you go with the hype and back Huddersfield or does logic mean a Newcastle win?
I’ll just stick my head out for the hype.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 2-1 Newcastle United
Burnley vs. West Bromwich Albion
Well, who says Burnley can’t win a single match away from home?
The Clarets shocked all who thought so and themselves last Saturday with a victory at Stamford Bridge and similar to Huddersfield, they’ll hope to have given themselves the perfect springboard for a decent season in the top-flight.
Up next is a clash against West Bromwich Albion at Turf Moor, where they were at there strongest for most of last season.
Tony Pulis’ men got the kind of win you’d expect them to get in the kind of way you’d expect them to get it last week: a ground out 1-0 win with a headed goal from a set-piece – nothing surprising.
And I think we can expect that sort of season for the Baggies. Perhaps last season they blew us away a bit with a mid-table finish but I don’t think this time they’ll produce anything spectacular.
As for this match, I see Burnley making it a vital two wins in two, as at home they just seem to be a different animal.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Manchester City vs. Everton
This weekend rounds off with an exciting Monday night clash between two of the eight sides that managed a clean sheet in the opening weekend, as Manchester City take on Everton.
Clean sheets are not exactly what this fixture is renowned for, instead goals, drama and entertainment is what we can expect, as the 16 goals in the past seven league matches between the two sides can attest to.
Home side Manchester City take on the Toffees following a 2-0 win away to Brighton, which got their campaign well underway. Pep Guardiola will be pleased to have found a system to provide for both strikers Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesús. With the former finding the back of the net, the City boss will look forward to seeing both combine their talents to fire the club to glory.
Looking to stand in their way (for at least 90 minutes) will be the Toffees, who witnessed the return of Wayne Rooney in fine style last week and with this week seeing them bolster their squad with the signing of Sigurdsson, a fine attacking masterclass can be expected both in this match and for the rest of the season.
Man City may have been annihilated by a scoreline of 4-0 against Everton last December, but I think they will get their revenge with a win here.
I expect it to be an entertaining end to end affair with a couple of goals.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Everton
Leicester City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
They may have opened up their campaign with a loss to Arsenal last Friday, however, there remains a good feeling around Leicester City.
Manager Craig Shakespeare rightly took some plaudits for his side’s performance at the home of the Gunners, as they displayed their great attacking prowess alongside a united team front.
That alone would’ve been the most important quality, especially after the threatening season they had, and it is one the Foxes will be ready to use once more in their return to the King Power Stadium to face Brighton.
As I said in last week’s round of predictions, I expect the Seagulls to be in for quite a tough time in the top flight and after facing Man City it doesn’t get any easier for them with a trip to Leicester.
I’m predicting a win for the Foxes. It may not be as straight-forward as they would like it to be but I see them getting the three points at the end of it.
Prediction: Leicester City 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
AFC Bournemouth vs. Watford
It may come across as a harsh withdrawal of credit, however, Watford’s 3-3 draw at home to Liverpool may not necessarily be the right game to use in order to determine the depth of Marco Silva’s impact on the side.
In fact, it is games like this trip to Bournemouth that should be looked at in order to evaluate the side’s progress – if any is made – as it’s one against their direct rivals and also winnable.
The Cherries will be keen to protect their unbeaten Premier League record against the Hornets, however, this time Eddie Howe will be looking to improve on his side’s opening day loss as well as the four draws between them and Watford with a first win of the season this Saturday.
And it is a win I see them getting at Dean Court. I think a confident Watford side will be difficult for them but I’m backing them for the second week to grab a win – they can’t let me down again, can they?
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Watford
Southampton vs. West Ham United
Southampton take on West Ham this Saturday, in what will be something of a second swing at the ball for them after they struggled to win at St. Mary’s on the opening weekend.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s men take on West Ham United, who were thrashed at Old Trafford last week and are themselves looking to kick-start their season, which will see them play away from home until September, due to their London Stadium home being used for international athletics.
It was at the London Stadium where Southampton enjoyed a 3-0 win over the Hammers, though, with Slaven Bilic’s men getting their revenge with a 3-1 return fixture win at the home of the Saints, both teams will be confident of getting a first win of the season against each other.
Fans of each will be hoping to see some goals as both sides are yet to score thus far and I’m going to predict that both get on the scoresheet, as I see this one ending in a draw.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United