By Dehinbo Timothy
The E.P.L returns this weekend with action packed games across ten busy centres. The pick of the bunch is the lunchtime kick-off at White Hart Lane on Saturday where Spurs hosts Liverpool.
We had shocking results on Matchday 2 which includes Burnley’s 2-0 win over Liverpool despite having only 20% of the possession. Hull City, on the back of their opening day 2-1 win over Leicester, defeated Swansea 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium.
There were also wins for the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Everton and Middlesbrough. So, we kick start our weekly preview at White Hart Lane
TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS VS LIVERPOOL
Tottenham come into this game on the back of a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last Saturday. The Lilywhites opened their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw away at this weekened’s Merseyside neighbours, Everton. Kane is yet to get off the mark this term and will be hoping to do that this weekend when the Reds come calling.
Liverpool thrashed Burton Albion 5-0 on Tuesday night in the second round of the EFL Cup, and Klopp will be expecting more of the same performance this Saturday. Sadio Mane missed the game against Burnley, but payed on Tuesday and turned in a devastating performance which is sure to keep the Spurs backline on its toes. This fixture at the Lane was Klopp’s first game in charge last October which ended goaless. A high pressing game is expected from both sides which should result in goals.
Liverpool were fantastic going foward against Arsenal but conceeded thrice. Then they turned in a rather lackadaisical and lethargic display against Burnley. It remains to be seen which Liverpool side will turn up for the game and their shaky defence is one which Harry Kane will be looking to prey on. A high scoring contest is expected.
PREDICTION: TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS 2-2 LIVERPOOL
CHELSEA VS BURNLEY
Things are looking good for the Blues after three consecutive victories in all competitions this season. They’ve recorded a pair of 2-1 wins in the league plus a 3-2 win over Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
Michy Batshuayi has scored thrice and provided an assist in his three games since his arrival in July and will be hoping for a start on Saturday when Sean Dyche’s men visit the Bridge. The 2-1 comeback win over Watford would have delighted Antonio Conte as he seeks to banish memories of last season’s disastrous title defence. Burnley come into this game after beating Liverpool 2-0 at Turf Moor thanks to goals from Sam Voakes and Andre Gray. They had just 20% of the possession, but took their chances when it arrived on the break.
The Clarets got a 1-1 draw in this fixture last year after Ben Mee cancelled out Branislav Ivanovic’s early strike. Nemanja Matic was also sent off in that game for his reaction to an outrageous tackle from Ashely Barnes prior to Burnley’s equaliser. The Blues also defeated the Clarets at Turf Moor on the opening day of that season and will be confident of picking up another win. Their shaky defence however, is sure to give Burnley a chance of getting a goal.
PREDICTION: CHELSEA 3-1 BURNLEY
CRYSTAL PALACE VS BOURNEMOUTH
Devoid of creativity in the opening two matches, losing Yannick Bolasie to Everton, and bringing in Christian Benteke for a club record fee, Crystal Palace come into this game against Bournemouth, hoping to re-invigorate their poor season so far. Their opening day 1-0 defeat at home to West Brom, was followed by another defeat last Saturday, this time, in a London derby against Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane.
The Eagles are yet to score a goal this season, and have looked devoid of creativity. Christian Benteke has been brought in to score goals and he made his debut in the 2-0 win over League 2 side, Blackpool on Tuesday night in the second round of the EFL Cup at Selhurst Park. With Benteke in the side as a real target man, expect Jason Puncheon and Wilfried Zaha to whip in crosses frequently whenever they outmanouevre their markers.
Bournemouth, come into this game on the back of two consecutive Premier League defeats. However, this run was truncated in a 2-1 win over Morecambe Wanderers in the second round of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night. The Cherries started their campaign with a 1-3 home defeat to Manchester United. This was followed by a last gasp defeat at West Ham last Sunday. The Cherries have also lacked creativity in their opening two games.
Callum Wilson and Josh King have been starved of service, with both yet to get off the mark. Jordan Ibe will be hoping to have a better day in the office following two underwhelming performances so far. Both sides lack creativity and it could lead to a very boring game with few chances and nothing to choose.
PREDICTION: CRYSTAL PALACE 0-0 BOURNEMOUTH
EVERTON VS STOKE CITY
Things are looking good for Everton this season as they chase a European spot following a good start to their campaign. They started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Spurs. Then a 2-1 comeback win at West Brom was followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Yeovil Town in the 2nd round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night at Goodison Park.
Ross Barkley has looked impressive so far in this new campaign, and will be looking to continue his good form with another good performance against the side they thrashed 3-0 away in March. Ashely Williams and Yannick Bolasie could be set to make their full Premier League debut while Romelu Lukaku is in line to make his first Premier League start this season. Stoke City, after losing 1-4 at home to Manchester City last Saturday, thrashed Stevenage 4-0 away from home in the EFL Cup on Wednesday, with forgotten man, Peter Crouch, scoring a hattrick.
In this fixture at Goodison Park last season, December 28th to be precise, Stoke won 4-3 thanks to a stoppage time penalty from Marko Arnautovic after Romelu Lukaku and Xherdan Shaqiri had traded braces. This should provide us with a good game, but Everton look better defensively, and are unlikely to conceede as high as the four goals they conceeded in December. Their new defensive solidity should see them win this, although the Potters have what it takes to get on the score sheet.
PREDICTION: EVERTON 2-1 STOKE CITY
LEICESTER CITY VS SWANSEA CITY
Swansea got their campaign off and running with a 1-0 win against Burnley at Turf Moor. However, they were given a reality check by Hull after the Tigers defeated them 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium. Andre Ayew and Ashely Williams have left the Welsh side, while Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston have all joined from Sevilla and Atletico de Madrid respectively to strengthen the attack.
They dominated possession against Hull, but struggled to break down their opponents before the Tigers scored twice in the second half. Leicester City haven’t started well, losing their opening game, and drawing 0-0 at the King Power Stadium against Arsenal. Jamie Vardy is yet to get off the mark, and will be hopeful of doing so against a Swansea side that is likely to dominate possession. Leicester City thrashed Swansea 4-0 in the fixture in April on their way to lifting the Premier League title.
This’ll be a very tight game. With Leicester likely to sit back, and break on the counter with Musa and Mahrez on the flanks, while Shinji Okazaki will as usual, be at his tireless best, covering every blade of grass in support of Jamie Vardy. I’m tilting towards a slim win for the hosts.
PREDICTION: LEICESTER CITY 1-0 SWANSEA CITY
SOUTHAMPTON VS SUNDERLAND
The Black Cats have started the season in their usual slow form, with a pair of 2-1 defeats. A Paddy McNair own goal saw them fall 1-2 to Man City after Jermaine Defoe had momentarily drew them level. Then, a dreadful first half performance against Middlesbrough in the North East derby saw them fall two goals behind before Patrick Van Aahnlot scored a second half consolation.
They booked their place in Round 3 of the EFL cup after Adnan Janujaz strike saw them defeat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 on Wednesday night. Their hosts have also had struggles as per their early season form. They forced Watford to a 1-1 draw at St Mary before losing 2-0 to a Manchester United last Friday. They didn’t take part in the Round 2 matches of the EFL Cup as they were given a bye into the next round due to their involvement in European competition. This tie ended 1-1 last season after Virgil Van Diijk stoppage time effort cancelled out a late Jermaine Defoe penalty. Both sides needs to start picking up points starting from this weekend.
For the Black Cats, a defeat will almost guarantee another season of relegation dogfight which they will be keen to avoid. A more solid looking Saints with Pierre Emile-Hojberg sitting in front of the defence and launching passes into the attackers with the creativity and guile of Dusan Tadic, and pace of Long and Redmond upfront should pick up their first three points of the season.
PREDICTION: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 SUNDERLAND
WATFORD VS ARSENAL
The Hornets come into this game on the back of a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Vicarage Road. Etienne Capoue had given them the lead, early in the second half before the Blues rallied on, to pick all three points. They showed tiredness at the back in the final quarter of the game which Chelsea capitalised on to snatch all three points and coach Walter Mazzari, will be expecting a much improved performance when Arsenal come calling.
The Gunners thrashed Watford 3-0 in this fixture last season. A cagey first half had ended goaless before an Alexis Sanchez inspired second half performance led the Gunners to victory on the night. Contrastingly, Alexis Sanchez is struggling for form this season, and to a large extent, Arsenal as a team. Failure to sign a defender has been their biggest Achilles heel due to injuries to Gabriel Paulista and Per Mertesacker. Attempts to bring in Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia has proved abortive so far.
A top quality striker is yet to be signed despite Giroud’s poor form in patches, while Wenger’s experiment of playing Alexis Sanchez as the lone man upfront hasn’t yielded fruits. Expect the Hornets to turn up with their usual pressing style led by Capoue and Watson in their new 3-5-2 formation with Deeney dropping to help the midfield when they lose the ball. Nordin Amrabat was impressive against Chelsea, and will be hoping to have a good afternoon while squaring up against Nacho Monreal.
It remains to be seen if club record signing Isaac Success is fit to make his Premier League debut Both sides should find the net in this game, but the Gunners have what it takes to pick their first win of the season.
PREDICTION: WATFORD 1-2 ARSENAL
HULL CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED
Saturday’s late game sees Manchester United travel to the KC Stadium to face this season’s suprise package, Hull City. The Tigers have made a fantastic start to life, back in the Premier League, with two victories from two matches plus a midweek win over Exeter City in the EFL Cup to book a 3rd Round spot.
Hull were odds-on favorites for the drop following Steve Bruce’s resignation, and failure to make any summer signing which left supporters disgruntled, but they’ve made nonsense of their relegation tag with two wins against the Premier League champions and an already established side, Swansea City. However, caretaker manager Mike Phelan, knows they face the toughest test yet, as they welcome Manchester United. The Red Devils have won their opening two games, by dispatching their opponents in a professional manner.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored in both games so far, and will be looking to continue his scoring run as United seek to reclaim the Premier League title they last won in 2013. Paul Pogba also made his debut in the game against Southampton. Despite a nervous start where he gave the ball away, he recovered his composure to turn in a majestic performance which would have delighted the United supporters.
Hull, will be dependent on the aerial threat of Adama Diomande and Abel Hernandez upfront, with deliveries from Robert Snoodgrass, their major outlet to a goal. It should be an interesting game full of energy. United’ll stroll to a comfortable win.
PREDICTION: HULL CITY 0-2 MANCHESTER UNITED
WEST BROMWICH ALBION VS MIDDLESBROUGH
Tony Pulis would be disppointed with the outcome of last weekend’s 1-2 home defeat to Everton. Gareth McAuley had given the Baggies a 9th minute lead, but they couldn’t consolidate as Everton equalised on the stroke of half-time before striking the winner in the second half. This weekend’s opponents Middlesbrough, have started the season well, winning once and drawing once in their opening two games.
Alvaro Negredo has scored and assisted in his first two games and will be looking to continue his good start for the North East based side. Aitor Karanka will be looking for a response from his side after their extra time defeat to Fulham in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night. The Baggies were also dumped out by Northampton Town on penalties after it ended 2-2 at the end of 120 minutes. West Brom are a defensive side, Middlesbrough are an effective side, with the right balance in midfield and attack.
Both side’s approach could culminate in a boring game which we’ve been accustomed to under Tony Pulis’s teams. Goals in this game is likely to come from set plays especially from Albion, while Boro’s likeliest scoring opportunity is to come from long range pile drivers, off the boots of Gaston Ramirez, Christian Stuani or Albert Adomah.
PREDICTION: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
MANCHESTER CITY VS WEST HAM UNITED
So far so good, its been a good start to the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City, with four wins from four, across all competitions. They qualified for the Champions League group stage after thrashing Romanian side 6-0 on aggregate, and have been drawn against Pep’s former side, FC Barcelona, last season’s group stage opponents, Borussia Moenchengladbach, and Scottish giants, Celtic FC.
City lost 1-2 in this fixture last season after two first half goals from Victor Moses and Diaffra Sakho while Kevin De Bruyne, on his debut, pulled a goal back, on the stroke of half-time. West Ham on their part, have started their campaign with a win and a defeat. Michail Antonio scored the only goal as they defeated Bournemouth at the Olympic Stadium, and also lost the second leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off at home to Romanian side Astra Girgiu 1 nil,which sees them out of the competition.
Dmitri Payet came on in the second half against Chelsea, a game which they lost 2-1, but was not in the Matchday squad for their defeat of Bournemouth. Andy Carrol was also missing on the day, and boss Slaven Bilic will be hoping to have both players fit and ready for this weekend’s game against the league leaders. City rested some key players for their Champions League tie on Wednesday having won the first leg 5-0 away.
Kelechi Iheanacho was injured and will not play any part in the game after he was stretchered off. Expect the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero to return to the side. West Ham have shown how good a side they can be on the counter attack, especially when Payet is involved. This should provide us with an interesting spectacle with goals at both ends.
PREDICTION: MANCHESTER CITY 3-1 VS WEST HAM UNITED.