After the torture of the International break which have seen several players unable to feature for their club sides in a while after picking up various degree of injuries, Ladies and Gentlemen, We are back, yes the Premier League makes a much needed return this weekend alongside other leagues across the globe and as usual some really juicy ties are up for preview.
The Champions are at the Bridge
Lunchtime kickoff on Saturday sees the last two Champions of the league go head to head. When Chelsea won the league two seasons back, they made a mess of their defense the following season and same is the fate that seems to be befalling Claudio Ranieri’s men this season, inconsistent performances thus far sees them lying 12th on the log with just 8 points collected from seven games. For Antonio Conte’s men, their win in the last game just before the break was much welcome to steady the ship after back to back defeats. A defeat for Leicester in this game will be one too many already especially with their away form thus far been less than sterling, whilst a win for the Blues will do them a world of good as they edge further towards the top four.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 Leicester City 1
Arsenal VS Swansea City
This is not a good time for the Swans or any team really to be facing the gunners, Arsene Wenger’s lads look so formidable at the moment, defending resolutely and attacking ruthlessly, with their last minute goal against Burnley (though it needed the help of Koscielny’s hand) showing the teams new found spirit and ability to mix it when it matters. For the Swans, who recently appointed former USA Manager Bob Bradley as the man in charge, it’s a case of hoping the new manager effect that at times works on the psychology of a team comes to play here. Arsenal are on a roll and the Swans would have to be at their defensive best, which is something they have lacked in most games to get anything from this fixture.
Prediction: An Arsenal win
Perfectly set up for a City response?
After looking almost untouchable and already crowned league champions after the first six games, Manchester City have proven to be a team made of humans after all with a draw in the UCL at Celtic followed by a defeat at Spurs in a game where they were out thought, out muscled and out played.
For Pep Guardiola, some feel the pressure of the defeat was one he never really saw coming and claimed he is showing signs of panic already with the several bans placed on players activities in the team, this claim will be further tested with the visit of Ronald Koeman’s Everton to the Etihad, after a fine start for the Mersysiders, they have run into a dry patch with no win in their last three games. Koeman will have seen the Spurs game and how the midfield of Sissoko and Wanyama stifled City’s creativity with the forwards not giving much room for Claudio Bravo to build the game from the rear. A lot of work will be required form the likes of Idrissa Gueye, Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverley if he gets to play with Lukaku standing a chance as the City’s defense still looks far from convincing. City are favorites but like all Pep’s team, do they have a plan B if Koeman’s tactics works as well as that of Pochettino?
Prediction: City 2 Everton 1
The Battle of the Bottom teams
It is Stoke hosting Sunderland in a game that I have penned as one of the biggest ties of the weekend. This is a relegation 6 pointer that would see the winner moving out of the red zone while further condemning the losing side chances. Both sides are yet to pick up a win this season and whilst that of Sunderland have not been too surprising considering the lack of quality in the side and outside the likes of Defoe and the injured Januzaj, you find it hard to see them scoring goals or even creating them, Mark Hughes side have however been alarming with their below par performances despite the presence of decent individual talents in their rank, the likes of Arnautovic, Joe Allen, Bojan and Shaqiri should be doing more really. The team was fortunate to steal a point last time at Old Trafford and will be hoping to build on that as they desperately seek their first win at home.
Prediction: Stoke City 2 Sunderland 1
It’s West Brom against Spurs
17 points from a possible 21, 2nd on the log and the first side to defeat Peps’ army is no mean feat and Spurs are proving that last season’s run wasn’t a fluke by any standard, even with the loss of their key striker to injury, the team has spread the responsibilities with the likes of Jansen, Son and Alli racking in the goals. A trip to West Brom is another stern test that they have to win if they are to enhance their title credentials, the Baggies have not been at their best but over the last weeks, they seem to have found form with their expensive signing Nacer Chadli showing the class he is made of, Rondon getting in among the goals and the tenacity with which they battle resurfacing yet again. Pochettino will definitely need to deploy a different set of tactics from the City game in this one and whilst the Baggies may not parade the big name players, the test might prove to be at same level if not sterner.
Liverpool Vs Manchester United
The stand out game of the weekend sees one of the fiercest rivalries in English football taking place at Anfield as the two most successful clubs in the league clash. Former United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson fulfilled a lifelong dream when he knocked Liverpool off their perch and placed the red devils as the new dominant force in the league, Liverpool have since failed to win the league since 1990 and United’s performances over the last three season sees them going down this road if not quickly fixed. Jurgen Klopp’s side are on the up with 5 wins in all competitions whilst United’s seeming resurgence was halted last time around by Stoke City, Liverpool are seeking to be in the title race once again and for that to happen this is one of the games they need to win to further lay down their marker whilst for Jose, his lads cannot afford to drop further points behind the leading pack. Henrik Mkhitaryan could make a return in this whilst, Emre Can has also been passed fit for Liverpool. United have recently had a good run at Anfield winning their last two encounters there though the man who bagged the solitary strike last time in Wayne Rooney might be starting from the bench. This is a game that holds more than just three points but for either manager, getting the three points irrespective of how it comes is key.
Other fixtures and Predictions
Bournemouth VS Hull City – Bournemouth Win
Crystal Palace VS West Ham – Palace Win
Middlesbrough VS Watford – Draw
Southampton VS Burnley – Southampton Win