Round one is done but not dusted, at the predictions table, we had fun and just a blip at Spurs’ stadium where bookings didn’t fly as expected, encouraging start to say the least but the round owes us two fixtures, both for the Manchester twins; both had been handed days off having played further legs in European competitions respectively, United will host Crystal Palace and City are away to Wolves, interesting fixtures with rich history.
Jose Mourinho started off with a loss at home to a new look Everton, he did record a win in Europa league qualification tie on Thursday but he hasn’t stopped talking, complaining about fixtures, player fitness and attitude are strong parts of his tactics but to what end? He doesn’t know if he should focus on the league or cup competitions, but the huge addition of Gareth Bale on loan from Real Madrid and Reguilon on permanent basis will help his cause.
We’re back at the predictions table, with a reminder to everyone: Gamble responsibly.
Saturday, 19th September
Everton vs West Brom
After last week’s debut, most teams and pundits will look at Everton differently, Marco Silva and Ronald Koeman will grow green with envy at the amount of ridiculous talents available to Carlo Ancelloti, the midfield trio of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Andre Gomes can compete with any midfield in the league and the smart footwork of James Rodriguez means opposing fullbacks must be wary of overlaps, Everton won’t be the same again when they do train together for a little while more.
West Brom entered into bookies’ books as favorites for the drop after their poor showing against Leicester last weekend, Slaven Bilic must be wondering how long before he’s booted out of the Baggies’ dugout, out of the 24 times that Everton and West Brom have squared up, the Toffees have come out tops half of the time with the Baggies winning six times, the trajectory is not about to change with Bilic’s side having to look for a way to stop Richarlison from marauding down the left and James Rodriguez from tearing them down from the right, West Brom won’t see the ball too often and clearly can’t see a win for them here.
Verdict: Straight win Everton
Leeds United vs Fulham
It’s worth noting that it’s been sixteen years since Elland Road last saw a Premier League game involving their darling Leeds United, the fans won’t be there live on Saturday but good luck trying to control the ones outside the arena, they will watch on the big screen as their lads try again after a very heroic showing against the champions last weekend, a late penalty denied them a point at least in a game that could have gone either way.
Fulham hosted Arsenal and were swept away by a new look Arsenal, they had an early chance to settle nerves but Bernd Leno rose to Aboubakar Kamara and thwarted his attempt to round him, that was about it for the day and that explains a lot about Scott Parker’s side.
This is the first of the fixtures for the new boys to go against each other, Marcelo Bielsa is already a household name in the league after last week’s effort, more of the same and the Lilywhites won’t stand a chance, but Scott Parker will be well aware of the fact that a loss here means they’re already booking their ticket back to the championship as early as game two.
Verdict: Leeds to win
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
We’ll have the pleasure of seeing Manchester United for the first time on Saturday with the visit of Crystal Palace to Old Trafford, Donny Van De Beek will be on hand to make his debut and we’d love to see what trio or quartet is called on in the midfield by Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. Manchester United have been quiet in the transfer window, they were reported to be interested in Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon, both as usual are on their way elsewhere, something that is fast becoming a norm since Sir Alex Ferguson left, wondering if the biggest club in England has lost the ability to attract top talents.
Crystal Palace won their first ever opening day home game last weekend with the defeat of Southampton, great start for the Eagles, if there’s one wish for them, it certainly would be that the current transfer window ends without Wilfred Zaha moving to another club, but in the context of this fixture, they will have to be full of lady luck to get a result here; United need a strong start, they need to protect their manager, Ole will have too much to deal with at the press, questions will surround Mason Greenwood and his philandering while on camp with England in Iceland, while the issue has been over flogged by the media, it’s up to the manager to protect his boy and not turn it into victimization. At Old Trafford, Eagles will have to fly beyond the clubs of the Devils to avoid being munched for lunch.
Verdict: Straight win United
Arsenal vs West Ham
No home fans yet but Gabriel Maghaeles, Willian and maybe Saliba if called upon will officially feel the turf of the Emirates and the magic it brings, a day Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will begin another journey after penning a new three year deal, everything is happening right for the Gunners and a few additions, especially at the base of midfield in the mode of the touted Thomas Partey and a creative force like Aouar, they will be ready to compete again.
West Ham were on the losing end last weekend, false start for David Moyes in a season they’d hope to tell better stories than that of relegation battles, they were poor from start to finish against Newcastle and will no doubt have to do more than necessary to stand a chance against a resurgent Arsenal side.
Arsenal beat West Ham home and away last season with the victory at the new London Stadium being the only victory in the Frederick Ljuimberg era, a day Nicolas Pepe came to party and showed why he was bought for a club record fee too, in the win over Fulham, Arsenal showed brilliances from the back, composure and grit to see the game out, too early to say but this Arsenal might be different from the ones we saw last season.
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Sunday, 20th September
Southampton vs Spurs
St Mary’s Stadium
So’ton gave everything they had against Crystal Palace but the hosts ran away with a precious win, they have the chance to have a go at the wounded lion, bruised and battered Spurs with Jose Mourinho having a thing or two to say about the position of the free kick they conceded from, that aside, So’ton must be brave and must bring back the energy that they exerted on Spurs on this ground last season when Danny Ings turned inside Toby Alderwereld before slotting past Hugo Lloris in goal.
Spurs went past Bulgarian side, Botev Plodiv in Europa on Thursday night, they can put the horrendous home show against Everton behind them and restart their league campaign, they can be fired up by the imminent arrivals of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon, the former was a sensation at White Hart Lane before swapping the Premier League for La Liga where he won everything including an unprecedented back to back Champions League titles, why it didn’t end well with Madrid will be discussed on other days but his stats cannot be overstated.
It’s a London derby, one both sides need after losing by same margins in their respective first games.
Verdict: Over 7.5 corners
Newcastle vs Brighton
St James’s Park
Will Newcastle be the surprise package this season? Why not? As much as fans would love to dream, the presence of Steve Bruce as the manager would leave doubts in the heart of many, quite unfair to think because the former Manchester United defender has earned the right to be respected, surviving in the league the same season quality sides like Bournemouth and Watford went down isn’t a mean feat, attracting solid talents like Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser shouldn’t be underestimated either, maybe for Bruce, the end will justify the means.
Brighton showed signs of brilliance at home against Chelsea, they were overpowered at the end and never looked like winning at any point but the signs were there that they could shock anyone, relegation candidate? Maybe too early to say but they can pick up from there and take their battle to Newcastle, their attack minded football will have it all to do against a resolute defense but the main battle will be in the middle of the pack, Adam Lallana limped off against Chelsea, would he be out for long as usual?
Verdict: Newcastle to win or draw
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Chelsea were dominant for long against Brighton but there were lots of lapses and should it be a different opposition on the night, it might be different in terms of outcome.
Chelsea went for trickery and bullish long balls on the night at the Amex, leaving Timo Werner upfront to battle for everything, the German forward joked about giants at the back afterwards, if he’ll score lots of goals in England, he has to be ready to do what Didier Drogba and Diego Costa did, battle it out, or fail woefully like the likes of Mateja Kezman, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and Alavaro Morata, etc!
Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp was captured live screaming wow wow wow after Leeds United took the battle to them on the opening day, Mo Salah did convert from the spot to complete his hatrick but on other days, they’d have shared the points; Trent Alexander Arnold struggled for the entirety of the minutes he lasted and must appear stronger next time before pundits start asking if the plaudits are getting into his head, the fullback tactics and the inverted triangular midfield have been found out, Klopp must introduce something else, this sort of fixture at this stage means a lot to the league table, either or both will drop points, depending on what happens elsewhere, the gap is about to be introduced.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Leicester vs Burnley
Leicester are joint top with Arsenal and only behind the Gunners on alphabetical order basis, they were precise and direct against the Baggies who also had a man sent off, Timothy Castagne also offered lots down the right and he can also play on the left, give it to Brendan Rodgers, he has moved on from Ben Chilwell and must be grateful to the injury to James Madison which must have discouraged suitors, the lad has signed new deal and will be ready to take the league by storm again.
Burnley didn’t play last weekend with both Manchester clubs handed a week off, Sean Dyches must be quite unhappy at the state of things, he hasn’t added a single player to his side and with his squad very thin, this may be looking like the season Burnley goes down.
Leicester are quite predictable, but can they be stopped? Burnley will be playing to avoid defeat while Leicester will be playing to win, on the premise of such permutations, there’s only one direction to tilt.
Verdict: Leicester to win
Monday 21st September
Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
Aston Villa have done some fine businesses in the current transfer window, the biggest will be the long term contract of Jack Grealish, their talismanic midfielder has signed for another five years, his release clause is now unattainable for most clubs and he can focus on helping Villa stay in the league. Arsenal’s Emiliano Martinez has joined Villa on a permanent basis for a good sum too, great to see for the Argentine who wants to be in goal for Argentina at the next world cup, it’s worthy of note that the 28 year old spent ten years at Arsenal and didn’t get recognition until the twilight of his days at the Emirates, hoping he gets to shine to sustain the current hype around him.
Sheffield United lost at home to Wolves last weekend, reality is finally setting in after a season to remember last time out, not for lack of effort against Wolves by the way, they gave everything and just won’t be able to measure up, here they will have to defend as Villa attempt to go at them but it’s theirs to lose as Villa will be a bit jaded having not had a competitive fixture since July.
Verdict: Over 7.5 corners
Wolves vs Manchester City
Monday night football will be rounded off by a fixture that turned heads last season, Wolves were two down at some points in this fixture at the end of last year and somehow managed to claw back before Raul Jimenez headed home from an Adama Traore cross to win the game much to the dismay of Pep Guardiola.
City are filing out for the first time after being handed a break last weekend, they are yet to conclude on their defensive shopping with either of Kalidou Koulibaly and Jose Jimenez touted to join, they currently have Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte in defense to complement Otamendi, Stones and Eric Garcia who we thought was on his way to Barcelona.
Wolves will be happy to wait this one out, they won’t get to see more of the ball but they will be happy to counter fiercely with Traore hugging the line and catching City’s high press off guard.
Pep Guardiola and City can’t afford to have a slow start, they have to win and compete with contenders from the start, they handed too much advantage to City last time, and they can’t afford to do that this time.
Verdict: City to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion.