That beautiful feeling of knowing Premier League football is back on TV and before our eyes for fans and stakeholders respectively returns this weekend after yet another round of UEFA Nation’s League and similar continental engagements for players plying their trades in England. it was a great experience for some and better forgotten for many, if you line up for the German national team, you’d wish the break never happened.
We’re back to business here, momentum must have been taken from some teams who were riding high and would feel they can pick up from where they stopped, for Arsenal, it’s six wins out of six domestically and they can only want more; it was great for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to go into the break with a victory, one that was clawed from the jaws of defeat against Newcastle who must feel undone but no questions, they let it go. The champions host Burnley on Saturday and Tottenham strolls across town to play West Ham, their bogey team.
Only two points separate the top five after round eight, who would have thought given the run of victories few teams had in the opening games, some are settling to places now and a certain Watford comes to mind, right about now we stick out our necks again and deliver our predictions for round nine of the English Premier League games.
Saturday 20th October
Chelsea vs Manchester United
What a way to return to league action, lunchtime kick off in the Stamford Bridge sunshine and it’s Chelsea, joint top with mesmerizing pressing football against a team that must build on the sensational 45 minutes of football we witnessed before the break, they must make sure the 45 before never happens again. For the sake of football, the cancer in Manchester United must be cut off, let fans enjoy football again, let the glory days return, let the league table look like what Manchester United faithfuls dream, if that will happen, it has to start here, at the home of Chelsea where they have lived a good life so far this season, mesmerizing football at its peak and the best of Eden Hazard in blistering form.
Chelsea have everything it takes to land the title this season, they have squad depth in case of injury to key players, their big money goalkeeper is beginning to have a say in games with key saves in the 3:0 win at St Mary’s and everyone already knows about the quality of their rich midfield from the defensive core to the attacking brilliance, the trio of Jorginho, Kovacic and the intelligent Belgian will win you the league any day, what are you talking about?
This fixture could light up your weekend, but it could also frustrate you if Jose Mourinho chooses to be what he likes to be, negative! his players have criticized his approach and they were justified in the second half at Old Trafford before the break, will they dare Chelsea?
Head to head will always favor United, not many teams have it better than the Red Devils but recent records tilts towards Chelsea with only one of the last five producing more than two goals and that was the only one of the last five where both teams scored.
Player to watch: David De Gea
Verdict: Chelsea to win
Newcastle vs Brighton
St James’s Park
Newcastle saved a life last time out, but that gesture only happened at the detriment of the survival hopes, eight games and just 2 points, what does that mean? relegation scraps! It’s time to press the panic button at St James’s Park, how do you bottle such first half performance at Old Trafford? How do those players feel after such unforgivable second half capitulation? If you can’t show some guts for just few minutes to see out a game even with a point from a comfortable point of getting the entire three on offer then you should not be in the Premier League, we don’t care about your history or the records of your legends, if you can’t show some dignity and pride in the black and white shirt then you should be duly relegated.
Step forward Brighton, a point a game so far, not bad for the south coast Seagulls and they can even make it better here, they won the last time out against flying West Ham and can win again here, the victory over the Hammers lifted them from gloomy results and came at a time their opponent were firing, it was unprecedented, commanding and great to say the least; Chris Hughton will not have to worry about the relegation battles if his lads continue doing what they’re doing, standing up and be counted and showing just why they deserve to stay another year with us.
It ended goalless last year December between these two on this ground late December 2017, outside that it’s been pretty even with each winning here and there.
Player to watch: Kenedy
Verdict: Newcastle to win or draw
Manchester City vs Burnley
The Champions are back on top, they wrestled the top spot from Liverpool after the Anfield side went six games without dropping a single point. Burnley are the visitors, it should not be a big deal of any sort but considering the peculiarities of the timing, fresh from the international break and Burnley being an unpredictable bogey team, you won’t stick out your neck like that without thinking twice.
Manchester City were not particularly at their best at Liverpool but they did better than the 4:3 loss they suffered, their first and one of just two defeats last season, but they did well to shut out Liverpool for the first time in the entire season, they certainly miss Kevin De Bruyne and can’t wait to have him back, they’re struggling in Europe too, the late win against Shakhtar doesn’t commensurate with the hard work they put in, now they have it all to do as they try to re-enact last season’s blistering form.
Burnley have turned a corner too, they had no business dropping points against Huddersfield though and they will rue those two precious points which would have strengthened their confidence.
Burnley did hold the Citizens to a 1:1 draw last season, one of the few to nick something from them but outside that, the records show a one sided affair, you’ll be surprised if it goes otherwise on Saturday.
Player to watch: Sergio Aguero
Verdict: Straight win City
Cardiff vs Fulham
Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff City would feel hard done last time out, they lost to Spurs, not a big deal considering the actual size of the opposition but they played a healthy chunk of the game with ten men when Joe Ralls was handed his marching orders just before the hour mark, they limited Tottenham to few chances and Neil Etheridge made stunning saves to keep it at a respectable 1:0. From that game they would be confident that they can pick up from there and start taking points from games, like the one in question here, if safety is on their cards, they have to fight here like a team and make efforts to win.
Fulham hosted Arsenal before the international break and they certainly won’t like to remember the game forever, they pegged the Gunners back just before half time but they shipped four goals in the second half, in all honesty, they didn’t show enough fight in the second half, their leveler in the first half was against the run of play, they were perilously outplayed by Arsenal; for a team that paid so much for loads of players in the summer, they should be doing better.
Man for man, Fulham should be winning this, but will Cardiff lie and be beaten again? From winning position, Cardiff lost to the Clarets before the game at London Stadium, they have been showing potential but they just lack ideas in the final third.
The Lilywhites are unbeaten in five games between these two, interestingly, both sides have scored in the last five games they have played against each other, goal fest anyone?
Player to watch: Josh Murphy
Verdict: Both teams to score
Bournemouth vs Southampton
The Cherries have only lost one of their last five, that was the better forgotten day out at Turf Moor, the 4:0 embarrassment remains the Clarets’ record win in the league till date. Scoring goals has never been the problem of Bournemouth, in fact they have only failed to score on two occasions, one against Chelsea and the other against Burnley, but shipping goals for fun is also a thing they enjoy; Eddie Howe’s side has scored 16 times and conceded 12 times, not healthy to be honest, but they didn’t only keep a clean sheet last weekend, they also walloped Watford 4:0, what a result that was, for high flying Hornets, that was a banger.
Southampton lost to Chelsea 3:0 at home, not news, not a bad result considering the gulf in quality between the two but the arrays of opportunities the Saints created in the game would make them feel they could have gotten away from the game with a better result; Kepa Arrizabalaga made consecutive great saves to deny Danny Ings and Ryan Bertrand repeatedly, had they gotten a goal when it was 1:0, the complexion of the game would have been very different.
Southampton edges the head to head with March 2016 being the last time the Cherries got one over the Saints but they have played a considerable amount of draws, there is an outside chance that this could be one of those games.
Player to watch: Callum Wilson
Verdict: Bournemouth to win or draw
Westham vs Tottenham
Next we’re at West Ham’s London Stadium, for the battle of neighbors, one fixture Spurs hardly enjoy but one that has treated us to great goals and intense moments. The last time these two met on this ground was in September last year, weeks before the Hammers stunned Spurs with a second half sensation in the Carabao Cup about a year ago now, it ended with same score line, 3:2 and confirmed how tense it always come between the two.
West Ham lost at Brighton the last time they played in the premier league, it was a Friday fixture and not many expected them to lose considering how great they were with a sleek run which includes a draw at Stamford Bridge and the full scalp of Manchester United a week later.
Tottenham had a man advantage and still couldn’t offer much against Cardiff, a lot is wrong with Spurs at the moment but Mauricio Pochetino still believes there are more positives than people report, they benefited from the break as they have a few men back but Dele Alli and Danny Rose are still unavailable.
Harry Kane hasn’t returned to that monstrous form we know of him, he is struggling to come up with anything meaningful upfront and he was pathetic to watch against the Welsh side but he was a different figure in England’s 3:2 success over Spain in the UEFA Nations League, if he brings that form to this game, West Ham will have a lot to do to contain him; on the flip side, Felipe Anderson and Marko Arnautovic are never going to let you enjoy your afternoon, it’s going to be interesting in London.
Player to watch: Harry Kane
Verdict: Both teams to score
Wolves vs Watford
The last of the simultaneous fixtures is at the Molineux where Watford will attempt to rescue the ship from sinking. The Hornets won their first four, beating Spurs in the process but now have back to back defeats starring them in the face, they also have to do whatever they would on Saturday without two of their regular back four, Kabasele and Holebas are both suspended and will sit out Saturday’s affair, this adds to the unavailability of Daryl Janmaat who is out till early November.
Wolves are on form, they should be considering the amount of sheer quality in the squad, they are fifteen points strong, two better than Watford with a run of fantastic victories home and away, look at Wolves, they aren’t here to play, they want to compete and stay, and with the amount of quality available to them, they will do wonders.
Form is one thing, momentum is another, for Wolves they seem to have both and will make the most of it here, interestingly, Watford loves to attack, coming back from the international break helps them to start afresh but with key players out, they have to dig deep and bring out something special, remember the “Cojones” that Troy Deeney spoke about then? Now is the time to prove it.
The last day of January 2009 was the last time Wolves beat Watford on this ground, the other two since then ended in stalemates but they did win away from home in December 2014. Watford will do more than bagging yellow cards to earn a point here.
Player to watch: Ruben Neves
Verdict: Wolves to win or draw
Huddersfield vs Liverpool
John Smith Stadium
Huddersfield are yet to score a single goal against Liverpool in their Premier League history and it’s a good time for them to face the Kops with Juergen Klopp’s men missing a few of their key players after the international break came so unkind to them with players like Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Naby keita and James Milner doubtful for the fixture and the subsequent Champions League fixture in midweek.
Huddersfield fought out a point at Burnley, they are really trying to hold their own, they certainly can’t win a match but they seems to be getting points in hopeless places, it’s not all gloom and doom considering how poor the quality is down there at John Smith Stadium but they stay fighting, till the end when they will eventually go down if miracles don’t happen again.
Liverpool may be in a bit of turmoil but that shouldn’t make them bother about this fixture, they should win even with nine men and no disrespect to the Terriers; Liverpool should win, they have Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge to call on should the preferred duo be unavailable and Wijnaldum will welcome Fabinho should Keita and Milner be out as doctors foresee.
Goal scoring isn’t the forte of the Terriers, they also struggle to keep their rear from leaking, how do they stop Liverpool from hitting them hard?
Player to watch: Firmino
Verdict: Liverpool to win
Sunday 21st October
Everton vs Crystal Palace
Everton seem to have finally gotten their mojo back after series of needless draws, dropping points to team they should have beaten even with fewer men, no disrespect; Everton went to Leicester and returned with the three points on offer, heaping more misery on Claude Puel and the Foxes, Gylfi Siggurdson, Richarlson are beginning to find their feet together and that will only mean exciting times for the fans of the Toffees.
Crystal Palace are still undecided on whether they want to stay in the Premier League or go down, they don’t make any sense when Wilfried Zaha isn’t in the mood, even though injury helped them to sideline the mole upfront, Christian Benteke, they still don’t have anyone else to score for them; Palace hosted Wolves last time out and lost, they were well outplayed by Nuno Espirit Santo’s side.
Premier League is about consistency, you don’t get to make strong impressions if you can’t hold your own in dire situations, with players settling into Marco Silva’s tactics and summer acquisitions gaining form, Yeri Mina and Gomes in question, Everton can only get better; the last five between these two happened in the Premier League with three of them ending in stalemates, the other two went one way though and your guess is right… to Everton.
Player to watch: Gylfi Siggurdson
Verdict: Straight win Everton
Monday 22nd October
Arsenal vs Leicester
Arsenal are back from the international break without any major injury, although they have Mesut Ozil to worry about with his back injury which kept him out of the heartwarming win at Craven Cottage. Talking about the away victory, the manner in which Arsenal blew the Lilywhites away in a commanding second half display talks of their strength this season; four mesmerizing goals including a contender for goal of the month which must be credited to the master strokes of Unai Emery’s substitutions, Aaron Ramsey finishing off a move he started, leaving even the Fulham fans clapping for the beautiful football.
Leicester are not yet sure of where they belong this term, one moment they’re doing very fine even against top oppositions, the next they’re shipping four at home to Bournemouth and losing to Everton, they are without Demarai Gray and Wes Morgan who got sent off in the 2:1 reverse to the Toffees, they have to trust the youthful Caglar Soyuncu, the young Turkey Center Back who was nearly going to sign for Arsenal in the summer.
Arsenal are in a different world right now and it will be very hard for them to lose to the Foxes, the momentum that they built before the break with six straight wins means so much to them and they would hope the break hasn’t taken it away from them, with Sporting awaiting Arsenal in midweek, the Gunners will look to continue their dominant record over the Foxes on Monday.
Player to watch: Alex Lacazzette
Verdict: Arsenal to win
Strictly the writer’s opinion