It’s that point where every point matters, where teams try to steer clear from surrounding teams, where no one wants to be pegged behind, where the teams in the red zone scramble for points and try to step up, it’s the tail end of October where men leave the boys behind, where is your team on the table?
Manchester City are on top of the table, albeit on goal difference but for how long? They have a huge one this weekend, Kevin De Bruyne is back and buzzing, very dominant in their midweek UCL success in Ukraine but what version of Spurs will come to party? Chelsea are the next best after the front two by points, only ahead of Arsenal on goal difference; the Blues are away to Burnley on Sunday while Arsenal stroll across town to negotiate Crystal Palace for three points, at this stage, momentum matters.
Down the ladder, time is running out for big spenders Fulham, yet another loss last weekend to Cardiff meant they are now below the Welsh side and they get to mingle with Huddersfield and Newcastle.
Premier league predictions is here, you either keep up or fall off, and when you fall too far off, your ambitions reduce to mid table finish or relegation survivals, shall we?
Saturday 27th October
Fulham vs Bournemouth
Enough of excuses from Fulham, they have to start picking points, they have to start winning games too, you don’t spend over a 100 bucks on decent players and come up with horrendous results week in week out, you don’t ship goals for fun and expect to be taken seriously, in fact, the Lilywhites have conceded 25 goals, 6 more than anyone else in the league, you can’t take such team serious.
Bournemouth are such a nuisance of a team, they can frustrate even their own fans, never afraid of attacking and taking the game to their opponents, they enjoy scoring and have improved on their defending too, they are in sixth and could even have been better if not for that one bad day at work at Turf Moor and a draw that should never have happened, give it to Eddie Howe, his team is buzzing.
this is a game between a team that needs to win and a team that always want to win, it will be an entertaining one because the Lilywhites are never too afraid to fight too, their discipline and concentration weaknesses only need big addressing; one thing Fulham will however be wary of is the head to head, twice they have met in competitive football, twice they have lost to the Cherries and one of those losses was an emphatic 5:1 home reverse, on a day Bournemouth are in the mood, they can do it again.
Player to watch: Josh King
Verdict: Bournemouth to win or draw
Liverpool vs Cardiff
David and Goliath? is that what you wish to call this? You won’t be far off if you do, Cardiff are by every standard too small compared to what Liverpool possess in history, achievement and even form; Liverpool destroyed Partizan Begrade on Wednesday night in Europe and are neck to neck with Manchester City on the league table, despite the injury scare after the international break, the Kops have fared well and are not in danger for whatever reasons, at least not yet.
For the first time this season, Cardiff won a game, they weathered the storm as Fulham took the game to them, they led and they were pegged back but they managed to find the net again and killed off the game, doom is lifted even if it’s temporary, Cardiff aren’t in the bottom three, they will start a game from a position of comfort for once and they can breathe.
Liverpool are clear favorites here even if they’re playing the game on the visitors’ ground, Naby keita is still out injured but Fabinho showed what he can do in the game against Belgrade, on paper it’s everything Liverpool and the result should not be different; If you saw Cardiff last weekend, the hunger, the thirst, the aggression as they labored to regain the lead will tell you Liverpool must be careful, wins like that turns teams to monsters, in football, everything can happen.
Player to watch: Mo Salah
Verdict: Liverpool to win
Watford vs Huddersfield
Huddersfield will look at this fixture and see opportunities, they didn’t do too badly against Liverpool, as talented as the Anfield side is, they came out conceding only just once, they can build on their brave defending and punish adventurous Watford on Saturday. Huddersfield have been trying of late, to be honest they aren’t playing as bad as results show but in football, only goals win games, if you can’t get the ball in the net, you don’t stand a chance.
Watford were tipped to lose last weekend, Wolves were next to Arsenal on the form table and couldn’t have lost to Watford, but Jarvi Gracia pulled a great stunt and his men, even though depleted, went on to hammer Wolves 2:0, what a fight, massive guts and discipline, now they face the Terriers, with their fans rooting for them, David Wagner has it all to do at the Vicarage.
Huddersfield would want to leave the red zone, one thing that will give the Terriers confidence is the fact that they beat Watford home and away last season with the 4:1 success at Vicarage road very fresh from last season.
Player to watch: Andre Gray
Verdict: Watford to win
Southampton vs Newcastle
St Mary’s Stadium
Next we’re at St Mary’s Stadium, home of the Saints who lost three of their last five, up against Newcastle that are not only yet to win this season but they are also so poor they have lost four of their last five so it’s a game of big time strugglers.
Southampton gave a good fight at the Vitality Stadium last weekend, they couldn’t find a breakthrough but also made sure they didn’t bulge in defense, great to see them shutting out a potential threat as the Cherries are known to score goals.
Newcastle are in turmoil, they are the most distressed team in the league and they can tell there’s no solution to their problems in sight, not for the lack of players that can do it, in fact they have more men than some teams around them but there’s more to their headaches than what happens on the pitch; ownership crisis, uncertainty over managerial position, fans protests and weak transfer budget among others cripple the team’s focus, will they find a way round it?
Rafael Benitez’s skills will come handy now, that is if he doesn’t jump ship, if he does, Zinedine Zidane won’t be able to get them out of trouble, and the earlier they wake up, the best for them. The Saints edge the last five slightly with two draws and two wins for Mark Hughes side all in the league but this will be a game of who wants it more.
Player to watch: Charlie Austin
Verdict: Full time draw
Brighton vs Wolves
The last of the simultaneous fixtures is at the Amex, home of the very unpredictable Brighton and they’re up against the wounded Wolves Wanderers, it will be an interesting one.
The Seagulls went to St James’s Park last weekend and didn’t settle for a point, they took all three, heaped more misery on Rafa Benitez and his lads, Kayal’s first half strike stood till the end and shot Brighton up the ladder, two straight wins and the Seagulls can only dream, can they make it three on the bounce for the first time in their premier league history?
Wolves couldn’t believe their as Watford took the game to them so early and they couldn’t find a response, it’s not all gloom and doom for Nuno Espirit Santo’s men, it could be a blip they’d rise from almost immediately, a win here and it’s quickly behind them, but a loss could eat deep into their confidence and set a horrible feeling in.
Wolves are exciting to watch, they are such a strong side and the loss to the Hornets shouldn’t dampen them, Brighton won the last two between them, albeit in the championship but Wolves know only a win will do well for their momentum.
Player to watch: Beram Kayal
Verdict: Full time draw
Leicester vs Westham
King Power Stadium
Leicester are known for just two of the three probable outcomes, they either win or lose, the Foxes don’t draw, nine times they have played and alongside with Arsenal and Spurs, they have never drawn a game. Last time out, they took the game to Arsenal the best way possible, they were brave and got the lead, but the new Arsenal were just too strong for them, the absence of a few first team regulars wouldn’t pass as an excuse as the opposition on the day was just too much of a burden.
Westham seems to have lost steam again, their start was horrendous, they seemed to have turned a corner with victories over Manchester United and Everton, but losses to Brighton and Spurs took six points out of them when they should have been targeting four, at least considering their fire and fury at some points; They did well against Spurs to be honest, gave good fight especially in the second half, quite unlucky with two disallowed goals but they live to fight here.
Claude Puel is under pressure, there are speculations of sack and unrest, he has this fixture to halt the rot and deliver; for Manuel Pellegrini, it’s down to him to push the team forward too, he has materials, he has the experience, he knows what to do, he has to start doing it.
Westham were triumphant the last time these two met on this ground at the tail end of last season but Leicester edge the last five with two wins and two draws.
Player to watch: Marko Arnautovic
Verdict: West Ham to win or draw
Sunday, 28th October
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
Crystal Palace are still not looking the part, as always they blow hot and cold in games, one moment they press hard and seem like they will go on and win, the next moment they’re struggling to keep their rearguard together, against Everton last weekend they were not any different, they held on till the last few moments before caving in to two well taken goals, leaving them in 15th place after three successive losses.
Arsenal are no doubt the form team of Europe, 12 straight wins and it doesn’t look like stopping even after this weekend, they found chink in the Sporting Lisbon armour with a spirited second half display and will no doubt heap more misery on Roy Hodgson who rarely enjoy day outs against Arsenal; in Arsenal’s last league game, another second half master class blew Leicester away, their composure after going behind to level almost immediately helped them to build on the comeback after the restart to go on and win the game comfortably.
Palace have only beaten Arsenal once in the last five meetings and twice since like forever, it will be a very long afternoon for the Eagles who really can’t do anything outside the creativity of Wilfried Zaha. Arsenal have potent scorers and a diminutive midfield, discipline will have to be at its best for the hosts on Sunday.
Player to watch: Alexander Lacazette
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Burnley vs Chelsea
Burnley are the next in line to face the fire powers of the Blues, the high pressing and intelligent runs, Burnley will need to be disciplined throughout to stand a chance of picking a point from the affair.
Burnley were well beaten last weekend at the Etihad, they can look at some referee decisions and wondered if it would have been different but in all honesty, they were never going to beat a Manchester City that’s on top form and in the mood.
Chelsea were home to United and were just seconds away from their first loss of the season before Ross Barkley charged in with an equalizer at the death against United, the game mirrored Chelsea’s season, start on a high, get the lead and then take the foot off the gas to allow opponents back in, had United closed out the game, they would have been punished for their lackadaisical attitudes towards the end of the game.
Burnley will feel hard done by this fixture, this is a game that is coming after a very difficult one, but they can have some relief after this as they travel to Westham next and then another trip to inconsistent Leicester. The Clarets will take inspiration from their 3:2 success at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of last season, their only win against the Blues in a long while, they have two draws in the last five tho, a huge confidence boosting point.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard
Verdict: Straight win Chelsea
Manchester United vs Everton
Manchester United lost to Juventus in midweek but not many were expecting them to win anyway, they did give a fight but had David De Gea to thank for keeping the scoreline modest.
Chelsea was United’s host last weekend and it would have been a memorable win had they held on to the death; United were disciplined when Chelsea monopolized the ball, they took their chances when they had them, that simply helped them to find themselves at the brink of victory.
Everton now know how to win, they beat Palace last weekend and are primed to trouble United here as well; in their sleek win over the Eagles, Everton showed grit, the game was heading for a stalemate before they took laws into their own hands and find goals to settle the affair, Marko Silva will take thie credits as his two substitutes combined to hand him the result.
Manchester United are in tenth, one point and two places below Everton but there’s a slight difference in the atmosphere at Old Trafford, they dare not have a slow start like they did against Newcastle, if they concede twice hoping for another grand second half, they won’t have a good story to tell.
United won the last two between these two without conceding a single goal, the previous three were stalemates though but this game will be a cracker, a huge opportunity for the hosts to rise above dark clouds and start their rise to where they should be. The hosts struggle to keep clean sheets at home, Everton only have three clean sheets in 25 games, that tells you something.
Player to watch: Anthony Martial
Verdict: Both teams to score
Monday, 29th October
Tottenham vs Manchester City
Monday night football takes us to Wembley as we wrap up the week, and it’s probably the biggest game of the round as two of the top five go head to head at the National Stadium.
Spurs were quite lucky last weekend as they needed to dig deep to contain Westham who took the fight to them till the end, they were disciplined and will prefer to look at that for inspiration instead of the poor finish to life in their champions league encounter with PSV in midweek where they had Hugo Lloris sent off and lost their lead to end the game all squared.
Manchester City were merciless against Burnley and went on to win at Shakter Donesk, it was a great feeling to win convincingly in Europe after two difficult games including the home loss to Lyon, one shocking result that haunts Pep Guardiola till date.
This game will have bearing on the league table as Liverpool would go top with a win until this game happens at least, elsewhere, Arsenal and Chelsea can also go top with wins if Liverpool loses, that means Spurs can win and top too if the other three lose, it’s a huge game and must be treated as such.
On form and momentum, it’s with the visitors, they have Kevin De Bruyne baack and he’s a huge factor, how Spurs try to nullify his strengths will be seen on Monday, but this will be exciting to the neutrals.
Player to watch: Kevin De Bruyne
Verdict: City to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion