By Timothy Dehinbo
The opening week of Premier League action threw up some fantastic games and gave us an early insight there are some clear front runners but it will still be a wide open affair this season.
After Friday night’s football, which saw Manchester United beat Southampton 2-0 courtesy two wonderful goals from Ibrahimovic , we have a lunch time kick off on Saturday at the Britannia where the Potters host the Citizens.
STOKE CITY VS MANCHESTER CITY
Xherdan Shaqiri’s superb second half free-kick saw Stoke force a 1-1 draw at the Riverside in their opening game of the season after they had gone behind to an early Alvaro Negredo’s goal.
Mark Hughes’ll be hoping for the sort of display that saw the Potters run out 2-0 winners in last season’s clash, thanks to a brace from Marko Arnautovic.
Manchester City come into this game on the back of a 5-0 thrashing of Steau Bucharest in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off tie in Romania. Sergio Aguero scored a hattrick despite missing a pair of penalties while two of their Spanish imports, David Silva and Nolito also got on the score sheet.
The Citizens had to depend on a late own goal from Paddy McNair to see off Sunderland in their season opener and boss, Pep Guardiola’ll be looking for more of the same type of performance his side put on display in Romania. This week’s has seen the future of Joe Hart thrown into doubt after reports emerged the Citizens has agreed a £16m deal for Barcelona shot stopper Claudio Bravo which’ll see the England No 1 leave the Etihad.
This should be an exciting game with both sides having an array of flair players, expect goals at both ends, but I see the Citizens picking up a slim win.
PREDICTION: STOKE CITY 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY.
After the lunch-time kick-off, we have five games at 3PM. We begin our preview in Lancashire where the Clarets hosts the Reds.
BURNLEY VS LIVERPOOL
This game was scheduled to take place at Anfield, but due to the on-going construction work being held in the Anfield stands, both sides agreed to play this fixture at the Turf Moor.
The Clarets were given a ‘Welcome Back To The E.P.L’ result as a late Leroy Fer’s goal handed Swansea City a 1-0 win. The Clarets held their own for long spells of the game before succumbing to the Swans late goal. Facing Liverpool won’t provide them with too much joy as the Reds gave Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League a sit-up and take notice performance at Emirates on Sunday.
The Reds had trailed to a Theo Walcott’s goal before Phillipe Coutinho’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time levelled up the scores. The Brazilian added a third goal after Adam Lallana had fired the Reds ahead. Sadio Mane added a brilliant individual effort to make it 4-1 before Oxlade-Chamberlain and Callum Chambers effort gave the game a more respectable scoreline.
Klopp would be seeking improvements from his defence but their firing attack would see them beat the Clarets.
PREDICTION: BURNLEY 1-3 LIVERPOOL.
From Lancashire, we take a trip to South Wales where Swansea play their first home game of the season, as they host relegation favorites, Hull.
SWANSEA CITY VS HULL CITY
Swansea City would be seeking a second win in as may games when they welcome the Tigers to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. A late Leroy Fer’s goal handed them all three points in their trip to Turf Moor.
Ashely Williams and Andre Ayew have both left the club which saw Gylfi Sigurdsson lash out at the club for allowing key players leave, which in turn, saw him drop to the bench for their opening day win.
Borja Baston could make his debut after his £15m move from Atletico de Madrid while Fernando Llorente is set to make his home debut. Hull provided the first suprise of the season having being written off, by securing a 2-1 home win over defending champions Leicester City. Mike Phelan’ll be seeking a win to further enhance his chance of taking over as permanent manager following the club’s chase for a new manager after Steve Bruce left his post last month.
A lack of summer arrivals has left supporters disgruntled and a defeat here would further deepen the club woes. But sorry to Hull! I just don’t see them getting anyhere here as the Swans’ll be too powerful for them.
PREDICTION: SWANSEA CITY 2-0 HULL CITY
From South Wales, a trip to North London beckons where Spurs host The Eagles in a London Derby in one of the 3PM kick-offs.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS VS CRYSTAL PALACE
An improved second half performance saw Spurs force a 1-1 draw at Everton thanks to Erik Lamela’s second half header. Spurs were abysmal in the first half but improved after the break.
Summer signing Vincent Janssen also came on in the second half and linked up well with Harry Kane and would be looking to start alongside the Englishman upfront. They face a Palace side who was disappointing in their 0-1 home defeat to West Brom thanks to Salomon Rondon’s second half strike for Albion.
Yannick Bolasie has left for Everton and his mazy runs and bag of tricks will be missed. A home win is a no-brainer, although Palace could get a goal. Son Heung Min scored the only goal in this tie last season.
PREDICTION: TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS 3-1 CRYSTAL PALACE
Another London derby takes place as The Hornets hosts Antonio Conte’s side.
WATFORD VS CHELSEA
A spirited performance saw the Hornets pick up a 1-1 draw against Southampton last week. Etienne Capoue gave the Hornets an early lead in the 9th minute before Ben Watson was sent off in the final quarter of the game.
The Hornets then had to withstand a lot of pressure from the home-side to pick up a point. Mazzari will demand more of that doggedness and fighting spirit from his side when Chelsea come calling. Chelsea defeated West Ham 2-1 on Monday night with Diego Costa firing home an 89th minute winner; although he was lucky to still be on the pitch after lunging in on Hammers goalkeeper Adrian.
N’Golo Kante was at his combative best and was equally lucky not to have been sent off for a rash tackle on Dmitri Payet. It promises to be a fascinating battle between Etienne Capoue and N’Golo Kante which holds the key as to where the tie’ll swing.
This tie ended goaless last season, but Chelsea under Conte with a different team spirit and work-rate could pick all three points although there are lapses at the back which the Hornets can exploit.
PREDICTION: WATFORD 1-2 CHELSEA
We take a break from the London derbies and head off to the West Midlands where Albion will be hoping for all three points against the Blue half of Merseyside.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION VS EVERTON
Typical Tony Pulis! Albion ground out a 1-0 win at Selhurst Park thanks to Salomon Rondon’s second half goal. That is the sort of performance that has become accustomed to the Baggies since Pulis took over.
They’ll be seeking to pick up another positive result when Everton visits The Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon. The Toffees couldn’t consolidate on their early lead at home to Spurs last week as a second half goal from the visitors cancelled out Ross Barkley’s early free-kick.
Idrissa Gueye was very impressive as he slotted in seamlessly into a midfield trio alongside Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. Everton came from two goals down to pick all three points in this fixture last season in a five goal thriller. Romelu Lukaku who scored twice that Monday night, has been linked with Chelsea and it remains to be seen if he plays after missing the Spurs game.
West Brom as usual will depend on set pieces where powerful centre-backs Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson will be looking to make their aerial presence count. Salomon Rondon will also be looked up to, to hold up long balls and alleviate some pressure. The Baggies’ll sit back and invite Everton unto them, with few chances set to be created. A draw looks possible here.
PREDICTION: WEST BROM 1-1 EVERTON
The seventh and final game on Saturday sees last season’s Top two sides face off against each other at the King Power Stadium in a late kick-off having suffered opening day defeats.
LEICESTER CITY VS ARSENAL
What a game this tie was last season! The Foxes were thumped 5-2 at home as an Alexis Sanchez’s hattrick rendered Jamie Vardy’s brace useless.
Both sides attacked each other from the offset, and we would want to see a repeat of an attacking game. Well, who doesn’t like an attacking, expansive and open end to end game? The Foxes lost 2-1 after Robert Snoodgrass effort saw Hull pick all three points in their first game last week Saturday.
The centre-back pairing of Luis Hernandez and Wes Morgan was far from impressive as they failed to deal with Hull’s attack. Mark Albrighton could come back into the starting eleven in place of Demarai Gray while Shinji Okazaki is set to replace Ahmed Musa uptop.
Arsenal on the other hand come into this game after losing 3-4 at home to Liverpool. The centre-back pairing of Rob Holding and Callum Chambers will have Jamie Vardy licking his lips.
An open game is on the cards here and with both sides struggling in defence, an exciting clash beckons.
PREDICTION: LEICESTER CITY 2-1 ARSENAL
A North East Derby takes place at the Stadium Of Light on Sunday afternoon as The Black Cats hosts Boro.
SUNDERLAND VS MIDDLESBROUGH
When a North-East derby rings in the air, you’d assume its a clash of two foes as the Tyne and Wear side of the North East come together, but its a different clash this time around.
Middlesbrough are back in the Premier League after they were relegated in the 2008/2009 season. Aitor Karanka’s mean kick-started their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke. Summer signing Alvaro Negredo scored on his debut while Gaston Ramirez who was superb in the game hit the post twice, before Stoke’s equaliser.
Sunderland, despite levelling thanks to Jermain Defoe lost 2-1 to Manchester City after a late own goal from Paddy McNair. David Moyes has signed Donald Love and McNair from Manchester United while Adnan Janujaz came in on loan from the Manchester based side as well. Expect Karanka’s men to put in their usual shift of tireless workrate, snapping into tackles in what promises to be a full blooded affair.
Jermain Defoe as usual, will be looking to fire the Black Cats to victory, and is their best bet of a goal. Fabio Borini’s work-rate will also be vital while the set-piece ability of Wahbi Khazri and the aerial abilities from Lamine Kone will be extremely useful at set-plays as is the marauding play of Patrick Van Aahnlot from full back. I’m backing Sunderland to win this game here.
They looked good against Manchester City and weren’t really troubled despite ceeding possession for the most part of the game.
PREDICTION: SUNDERLAND 2-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
The final game of the weekend sees The Hammers, fresh from their Monday Night defeat take on The Cherries at The Olympic Stadium in East London.
WEST HAM UNITED VS AFC BOURNEMOUTH
After losing 2-1 to Chelsea, thanks to an 89th minute effort from Diego Costa, Slaven Bilic will be looking for a response when his Hammers side host Bournemouth in Sunday’s kick-off.
This tie produced seven goals last season as the Cherries took advantage of the Hammers indifferent early season form to prevail 4-3 thanks to Callum Wilson’s hattrick and a Max Gradel strike. The Cherries lost 1-3 at home to Manchester United on Sunday due to mistakes at the back which Eddie Howe will be keen to rid his team off when they visit the Olympic Stadium.
Dmitri Payet came off the bench in Monday’s defeat and is most likely to start. Andre Ayew’s injury could hand a chance to Sofiane Feghouli to deputise on the flanks while Andy Carrol will be hoping for a better outing as he looked isolated all through Monday’s game after being deprived of service. The Cherries are yet to win a Premier League game on Sunday, and that trend looks set to continue on Sunday.
PREDICTION: WEST HAM UNITED 3-1 AFC BOURNEMOUTH