The international break beckons again, not many fans like the feeling, for the fear of injuries to their loved players, the hangover it presents upon return to league actions and the obvious fact that the club they love won’t be on TV for a weekend at least, odd feeling to say the least.
Before then, we have a job to do, we have a weekend to enjoy scintillating Premier League football; Manchester United have it all to do as they host a bogey team, Newcastle who haven’t won a game this season, the loss to Leicester last weekend threw Rafael Benitez’s side into the relegation talks and with a squad that puffs and huffs, you can’t expect less. Cardiff City are flirting with the drop, they gave it their all against Burnley but managed to lose it in the end, giving the Clarets their second straight win having gone five without victory; Huddersfield is the final of the trio without a win this season and not many will fancy them against a very much revived Burnley.
Premier League predictions is here, it’s a point where everyone likes to win, who wants to go into the International break with a loss hovering around their heads? When you lose a game with hopes of fixing it in days it gives you a better feeling, if you do this weekend you’ll have to deal with the bitter taste for a while. For us, it’s about predictions… Let’s do it.
Friday, 5th October
Brighton vs West Ham
Brighton have gone cold, the early season form has disappeared into some hurtful results, the resilience that is known with them is no longer there, they weren’t expected to beat City last weekend, they lost 2:0, quite respectable but the costly mistakes they made in the game led to the two goals, you don’t switch off against a team like Pep’s, you have to concentrate for the entire duration of the game.
West Ham have turned a corner, they won for the first time after losing four on the bounce and they haven’t looked back; they are the talk of the league after that sensational 3:1 success over hapless Manchester United, a win here could usher them into the top ten depending on by what margin they do, but they are well placed to challenge for something other than relegation scraps.
Talking tactics, Brighton are not afraid to fight, they always take the game to their opponents and sometimes leave the back door open for fast paced opponents to ask questions of Shane Duffy and Dunk but upfront they have a Glenn Murray who at 35, still knows exactly where the goal post is and is ever ready to deliver; on the side of the Hammers, Marko Arnautovic is everything good, he was sorely missed against Chelsea and he showed exactly why against Manchester United.
Brighton beat the Hammers home and away last season but Manuel Pellegrini’s side are ahead on head to head. In the weekend curtain raiser, it’s a game of who wants it more.
Player to watch: Felipe Anderson
Verdict: Both team to score
Saturday, 6th October
Burnley vs Huddersfield
Burnley beat Cardiff away from home last Sunday, great result for last season’s surprise package and it’s a great opportunity to build on that result with a game against a very beatable Huddersfield. The Clarets were patient and resolute against the Bluebirds, they waited for an opportunity and they didn’t let it slip once it came. The idea of leaving Ashley Barnes on the bench for the Cardiff game bemused many, but Sam Vokes made sure they didn’t have to pay for it.
Huddersfield lost again last weekend, for the fifth time in seven games and they have every reason to be worried, they didn’t offer too much resistance to Spurs in their 2:0 reverse and even had to give away a very cheeky penalty; beyond their inability to score goals which they already know is a problem, they also have problems shutting their doors, they concede needless goals and at this rate, they will be seeing championship football next season.
It’s about results but it would be unfair to hand David Wagner the sack letter, the German can do very little about the quality of his team, he can only work with the materials on ground; Sean Dyche will look to heap more misery on the guy in the opposing dugout and it will be a huge surprise if the Terriers get out of Turf Moor with anything at all.
Statistics doesn’t even favor the Terriers, they played out a goalless draw in both legs last season but the Clarets have won the three that preceded those two stalemates.
Player to watch: Sam Vokes
Verdict: Burnley to win
Watford vs Bournemouth
Watford will love to win this one to make sure their early season heroics doesn’t vanish like it used to whenever they start the way they have this season; Watford went into last weekend’s game against Arsenal with more points on the log than that of Emery’s side and it was the first time in the history of the Premier league that the Hornets have gone into a fixture with Arsenal while they top the Gunners on the table. The loss was one that came with loads of fights, they were the better side for a good period and looked the likelier to score before Cathcart unfortunately diverted into his own net under pressure from Alexander Lacazzette.
Bournemouth got the better of Crystal Palace to erase the effects of that horrible loss at Burnley and they did it the right way. Palace aren’t very easy to beat, they are fast and compact, pace for pace it was even on the day and the Cherries won it by being the more clinical of the two.
This fixture will be enjoyed by the neutrals, two sides that are not afraid to attack, they enjoy working hard and can be so much of a trouble if allowed to roam. In the dugouts, it’s Jarvi Gracia up against Eddie Howe, two offensive minded managers with almost the same style of play, they are on same points and neck to neck in 6th and 7th position, the only difference is the fact that Watford are quite physical and robust in tackles.
Interestingly, in the last five fixtures between these two, four have ended in a stalemate with three of them being a 2:2 score line, it’s not likely to be different this time.
Player to watch: Troy Deeney
Tottenham vs Cardiff
Tottenham Hotspur were successful on the road against Huddersfield last weekend but succumbed to the quality magic of Lionel Messi in Europe on Wednesday, leaving them with zero point and in danger of crashing out of the UCL so early. In the win over the Terriers, Spurs didn’t have to do much and they most likely won’t have to against the Bluebirds, there is no match for them in midweek so they can have their best legs on the pitch and go for it the best way they can.
Welsh side Cardiff would feel highly unlucky after playing so well but failing to get past Burnley more than once but allowed the Clarets in twice which condemned them to yet another defeat; Neil Warnock’s side must be the most hard done of the three without a win, not for the lack of efforts but they have been beaten when they put in better efforts than their opponents.
Football is most times a game of moments, it’s okay to press hard and peg back your opponents but if you don’t take your chances when you should, you’d regret it when your opponents strike. It will be very hard to ask Cardiff to win here, but impossibility is nothing, they will have to defend greatly as well as they attack when they can, they will have their moment, if they get a chance and convert it, they might have a beautiful story to tell, otherwise, it would be a very long afternoon in London.
Cardiff’s record against London sides are terrible and not worthy of mentioning, in fact they haven’t scored against Tottenham since forever, they need a result to change this ugly trend.
Player to watch: Harry Kane
Verdict: Straight win Spurs
Leicester vs Everton
King Power Stadium
The next of the 3:00pm fixtures is happening live at the home of 2015 champions, Leicester City and Everton is their visitors. The Foxes won away at Newcastle last weekend to heap more coals to the burning fire at St James’s Park, it was theirs to win as the Magpies didn’t offer much in terms of competition. The win took Leicester to 8th, three points clear of their opponents on the day.
Everton won again at last, so much for their summer investment, they have only won twice in seven attempts, drawing games they should be winning, no disrespect but they had no business playing 1:1 with Huddersfield at Goodison Park.
Leicester are still struggling with identity this season, they haven’t started with same teams with one player either suspended or injured, making them one of the most inconsistent line ups in the league this season, same with Everton who have had their fair share of injuries and suspension; the two sides know what to do, they know what the fans expect, the version of Everton that blew Fulham away on Saturday will trouble any team but will they fire like that against Leicester?
Leicester will hope to improve on their form, win one lose one has been the story all season long and they will like to enjoy some good feeling going into the break.
There’s no shortage of goals in fixtures between these two, Everton has won three of the last five but the last time these two met at the KP Stadium, the Foxes ran out 2:0 winners.
Player to watch: Richarlison
Verdict: Both teams to score
Crystal Palace vs Wolves
Selhurst will host arguably the most difficult team to play in the premier league right now, Wolves in the Sunshine right in front of the fans of the Eagles who want to see their team win again. Crystal Palace lost on Monday at Bournemouth, they did their bit but it was not enough, Wilfried Zaha was on hand to provide the assist that leveled matters before Junior Stanislas marked his return to active football after a lengthy injury layoff with a strike from the spot just three minutes before fulltime.
Wolves are fast establishing themselves as a difficult team to play, they got a point each from both Manchester Clubs and are 9th on the table despite the difficult start to life in the league. Nuno Espirit Santo’s men are fearless, disciplined and adventurous, they press hard and concentrate for most part of the game, making it hard for opponents to catch them unawares.
Crystal Palace have it all to do in this game if they want to get their desired result, they have won the last three between these two but Wolves will not give them enough time to make decisions, in the continued absence of Christian Benteke, whom they should rightly offload in January if they know what is best for them, Jordan Ayew will return upfront and the over reliance on the brilliances of Wilfried Zaha will also continue, Palace won’t be anywhere near the premier league without the Ivorian forward.
Player to watch: Wilfred Zaha
Verdict: Wolves to win or draw
Manchester United vs Newcastle
Manchester United must win this game, they don’t have a choice. The Red Devils lost at Westham last weekend and it wasn’t pretty, the Hammers took the game to them, beat them bank robbers and turned the heat on Jose Mourinho who now has more nays than his at Old Trafford; in the loss to the Hammers, everything went wrong for the Red Devils and Mourinho said after the game that some players care more than the others, whatever that means must be sorted before early pace setters go completely out of sights.
Newcastle are in trouble and they don’t look like getting out of it soon. Early fixtures weren’t kind to them but they shouldn’t have lost last weekend to Leicester, right in front of their own fans, in fact they showed more resilience against the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and City than they have against Cardiff and the Foxes, if they want to stay up, they have to start picking points.
Manchester United are a gulf apart in terms of the quality of men available to the two but they are not firing, there are more points between the top two and United than there are between United and Newcastle who are second from bottom; setting up to nullify oppositions is a sign of weakness in your own preferred tactics, Mourinho often starts Fred on the bench just to accommodate taller midfielders, believe in the quality of your men and set up to confound your opponents not benching quality players just because they aren’t big enough.
Solomon Rondon is unavailable for the visitors so Joselu will continue to start, Man United can call on Marcus Rashford who served ban for head butting Beadsley in their 2:0 win over Burnley, being the last time they won a football match. Manchester United must win, they don’t have a choice
Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku
Verdict: Manchester United to win
Sunday 7th October
Fulham vs Arsenal
Fulham are underwhelming, no doubts about that, for all the money they spent in the summer, over a 100m pounds and they’re just a place above the relegation zone? Not good enough by the sphere’s of anyone’s imaginations. When fans turn up at Craven Cottage, they want to see beautiful football, they want to see their big money signings impressing and proving their worth, but playing catch ups after conceding early like they did against Watford or throwing away healthy leads like they did against Brighton won’t lead them anywhere, they have to start taking initiatives early and seeing games out.
Arsenal are on a roll, seven wins on the bounce including two clean sheets which must gladden the hearts of their fans but they also have to note that the team hasn’t come out tops against a real title contender; they lost to Manchester City and Chelsea early on and still have Liverpool, United and Spurs to play, although the latter two look extremely beatable from all indications so far.
The Arsenal mentality look different, they now win games without even hitting top gear, it will take more than usual for Fulham to get a point from this fixture; Arsenal suffered on the road so much last season, in three away games this season, they have won twice and narrowly lost at Chelsea.
The 3:3 draw in 2012 comes to mind when this fixture pops up with Mikel Arteta missing from the spot with the last kick of the game, Arsenal have a daylight edge when it comes to head to head but the Lilywhites didn’t spend so much for nothing.
Player to watch: Alexandr Mitrovic
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Southampton vs Chelsea
St Mary’s Stadium
Chelsea were a yard unlucky last weekend when they lost their lead over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge with just three minutes left on the clock, their former player, Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score a belter against them for their second consecutive stalemates in the league after previously going five without dropping a point. Eden Hazard could have sealed the win when he broke away but managed to miss with only Allison to beat.
Southampton aren’t looking the part this season, not like they did last season and in fact they aren’t exciting to watch, a bit too pedestrian and they largely depend on one spark or two every game day, you won’t cope with elites like that. Wolves dispatched Southampton cleanly last weekend and they don’t look like they will find joy here either, in fact they have lost their last five encounters with Chelsea and this will definitely continue the trend.
Chelsea may have to stop trying to help Alvaro Morata if they want to win games, they could have beaten WestHam if Eden Hazard wasn’t trying to help the Spaniard get on the score sheet and again last weekend he wasn’t needed as Olivier Giroud could have scored the late chance the former Real Madrid forward fluffed; Southampton don’t score too many goals, they used to know how to defend but since shipping Van Dijk out, they seem to have lost their way defensively.
Chelsea will set up to attack everything in sight, Southampton doesn’t stand a chance, but if they do find themselves behind Chelsea’s defense, they had better take that chance.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Liverpool vs Manchester City
Good people of the world wherever you are, this is one fixture that will stop the clock for a moment, skip heart beats and send tempers rising, this fixture will have a lot of goals in it as usual with a average of four scored per game between these two, in fact they scored 12 goals between them over two premier league games last season and it doesn’t look like they won’t again this term, ladies and gentlemen, this is the game of the season so far, 1st against second, both on same points after identical results, it’s Liverpool at home against Manchester City.
Liverpool had Daniel Sturridge to thank for his late screamer at Stamford Bridge last weekend with defeat starring at them, they left a lot of gaps against the Blues and should have been punished if Hazard had been more clinical, they should never try that against a more ruthless City; Liverpool have abundance of talents, so much squad depth but if their first choice center back pairing aren’t available, can Matip and Lovren fill the void? Can Moreno stand in adequately for Robertson? Is Mignolet a good back up for Allison?
let’s talk City shall we? They haven’t been so good this season to be honest, the loss to Lyon exposed them, but they are still the team to beat. The brutality that characterized their game last season isn’t there this term, they struggled to win at Hoffenheim in midweek with David Silva rising to the occasion late on, domestically they have been playing rather weak sides, you can’t judge a team like City on results against the likes of Cardiff, Fulham or Huddersfield, this is a real test.
Ironically, Liverpool always find a way to beat City even at their best, the comprehensive bashing in the champions league last season comes to mind, but remember… no two games are the same. Liverpool are without Naby keita who was hurled off on stretcher after injuring his back against Napoli in their UCL defeat in Naples, City are still without Kevin De Bruyne and it will be down to the available players to rise to the call.
Player to watch: Sadio Mane
Verdict: Both teams to score
Strictly the writer’s opinion