2017/18 Premier League predictions: week 4
Saturday 9 September 2017
Manchester City v Liverpool (Draw)
Following the international break the Premier League opens up with a potential cracker. Two of last year’s top four meet at the Etihad and with Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp in the dugouts we can expect an entertaining affair. City will be without ex-Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling (suspended) and Ilkay Gundogan (injured) while captain Vincent Kompany is a major doubt. Kyle Walker returns from suspension and will take up his wing-back role on the right. With De Bruyne and David Silva linking with a frontline of Jesus and Agüero, goals will be expected by the home fans.
Klopp is likely to start with the same team that trounced Arsenal last time out although has decisions to make in defence: Mignolet or Karius in goal, Gomez or Alexander-Arnold at right back, and Moreno or Robertson on the other flank. After two wins and a stunning goal for Scotland during the break, new signing Robertson will be in confident mood. The midfield and attacking six completely dominated the Gunners but will find this a much sterner test, although Guardiola is not going to sit back meaning spaces should open up for the speed duo of Mane and Salah, and the skill-dustrious Firmino. His compatriot Philippe Coutinho has been ruled out but we may see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, likely off the bench.
Result: Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool. Well that's not our best prediction ever. But who could have seen Mané getting sent off like that...
Arsenal v Bournemouth (Home win)
Arsene Wenger needs an immediate response following their embarrassment of a performance at Anfield last time out. And he’ll surely make several changes to the starting line-up, some forced. With The Ox now in a different shade of red, and star player Alexis Sanchez a fitness doubt, expect new signings Kolasinac and Lacazette to take on the mantle. There is still plenty of quality in the squad but attitude and desire are being questioned. The Emirates crowd won’t need much of an invitation to make their feelings known on Saturday.
An early goal for Eddie Howe’s side – or even just a resolute performance – will be enough to make the visitors feel more welcome that the hosts. In Joshua King and Jermain Defoe they have the potential to make it an uncomfortable afternoon for the Gunners. Nathan Aké is a doubt but if fit will likely see Howe keep to three at the back with five across the midfield. Keeping hold of the ball will be key to the Cherries getting something from this game but they may have to wait a little longer for their first points of the season.
Brighton v West Brom (Away win)
Although picking up only a point in their first three fixtures Chris Hughton knows that they have already faced two of the tougher teams in the league (City and Leicester) and performed admirably. The draw at Watford will give them confidence going into this home game which may be a chance for us to see two new signings José Izquierdo and Ezequiel Schelotto, although probably as substitutes. With injuries to Sam Baldock, Beram Kayal and Isiah Brown keeping them out, Seagulls’ fans will be pleased to hear that Glenn Murray is back to lead the line. He may not get many chances against this industrious Baggies side so will need to take them when they come along – the side are still waiting for their first ever Premier League goal.
With single goal wins over Bournemouth and Burnley and a 1-1 draw against Stoke West Brom are sitting on an impressive seven points but Tony Pulis will be wary that these fine margins can be reversed ever so easily. The addition of PSG’s Grzegorz Krychowiak in midfield could turn out to be an excellent piece of business while holding on to the impressive Jonny Evans was equally important for their solidity. This will not be a goal-fest but Brom will remain in the top four positions come the end of the weekend.
Everton v Spurs (Draw)
Two important new players are potentially missing for Ronald Koeman as he faces a Spurs side keen to get winning again after two disappointing results. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has a chance of making it while Ajax arrival Davy Klaassen is almost certainly out. Despite these and other absentees, the Toffees will look at a strong league run at Goodison, which has seen them fail to pick up maximum points in only one of their last 11. A new front three this term of Sandro, Rooney and Sigurdsson may take time to click into gear but have all shown enough in their recent past to suggest goals will come. Gueye and Schneiderlin can expect a busy time of it in the middle of the park, or wherever they are pulled in to support.
Whether it’s the Wembley curse or not, defeat at home to last season’s champions and carelessness after dominating Burnley throughout sees Spurs with only four points from three games. But there is no doubting the quality of the London outfit. With the three of Alli, Son and the regularly impressive Eriksen looking to feed, or feed off, front man Harry Kane, the home fans will watch their goals against column increase on Saturday, however, I expect them to put up enough of a fight to maintain their overall difference. New signings Fernando Llorente and Serge Aurier will almost certainly have to wait a while longer for their debuts.
Leicester v Chelsea (Draw)
The centre of midfield is the obvious place to start when assessing this clash. Ex- Foxes Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante could line up for the visiting team against a Leicester team void of 14-seconds-late-for-transfer Adrian Silva. This will mean Craig Shalespeare will probably set out with a 4-4-1-1 with Mahrez (another transfer deadline day almost story) and Albrighton providing the width, Matty James and Wilfred Ndidi working the middle and escape runs, pressure relieving and in-play goal threat coming from Okazaki and Vardy. Stick a unit of your local currency on Riyad taking a bow in front of the home crowd from a set piece.
Following an opening day shock defeat to Burnley (those things can always happen), the champions come to The King Power Stadium on the back of two wins against teams that finished second and seventh. Impressive results but question marks remain on Conte’s side outclassing opponents as they did last season. Although we may see Drinkwater at some point, more likely it’ll be a chance for another signing, Tiemoué Bakayoko, to show some of his Monaco form that caught the eye last season. His bursting runs, the creativity from Cesc and the speed of Willian should see new striking star Álvaro Morata get some chances. Enough to tip the balance, I’m not convinced.
Southampton v Watford (Draw)
Both sides come into this match with D-W-D results and five points on the board. Certainly new Hornets coach Marco Silva will be the happier of the two managers after the three games and will not fear a trip to St Mary’s at this stage of the season. Barring some incredible discussions and training regime, Saints will remain without star defender Virgil van Dijk but otherwise Mauricio Pelligrini has a full squad to choose from. Redmond and Tadic will offer some threat along with Manolo Gabbiadini but so far they have not suggested the opposition net will be bothered too often.
Silva, on the other hand, has a lengthy casualty list although he’ll be hoping Younes Kaboul removes enough doubt to start the game. Daryl Janmaat is another that may be risked but either way we can expect a 4-3-3 formation with young Chalobah joining Cleverley and Doucouré in midfield. If Andre Gray and Richarlison can click in the way that the manager believes they can then the Saints’ backline may have an uncomfortable day.
Stoke v Manchester United (Away win)
Mark Hughes will be hoping that Jack Butland can show why some people rate him as England’s number one to keep Stoke in this match with United starting the season so well. Ex-Spurs player Kevin Wimmer will come into the defence to replace Ryan Shawcross (injured) and former Red Devil Darren Fletcher should recover in time to fill the midfield slot alongside Joe Allen. Saido Berahino is expected to lead the line and with Shaquiri and Jesé supporting could test De Gea from time to time.
Three wins, three clean sheets and ten goals scored. José Mourinho’s start to the season has been as good as could have been expected. A controlled win against a decent Foxes side last time out was the biggest statement so far and a victory away to Stoke would strengthen, without solidifying, their highest of goals this campaign. The current starting XI for United has plenty force but is balanced with the poise of Mata and youthful exuberance and pace of Rashford. Butland is likely to have a busy day and may bump into Romelu Lukaku on a few occasions. Mourinho will also have an eye on the first game in the Champions League group stage midweek if the scoreline allows one or two rests.
Sunday 10th September 2017
Burnley v Crystal Palace (Home win)
Both of these sides were involved in opening day shocks but for very different reasons, Burnley beating the champions and the Palace being upset by the new Terriers. Nicking a late draw at Spurs was a nice pre-Fifa-break send off for Sean Dyche and he is likely to hand the nicker of that goal, Chris Wood, his full debut. His other new signing, Nahki Wells, though, won’t recover from his knock in time for the Palace visit. Their very early season form suggests that the London club may struggle more this season while they transition to a new way of thinking. New manager Frank de Boer is trying to get his own philosophy across to a decent enough squad but whether he has the individuals to carry it out will take time to assess. Time they may not have. As crazy as it sounds, especially with several players out injured at the moment, many reports suggest this could be his last game if there is not some improvement. I can’t see it today but do hope de Boer is given longer to prove himself.
Swansea v Newcastle (Home win)
Fans of Swansea and United will arrive at the Liberty Stadium confident of celebrating three points come Sunday evening after good wins against Palace and West Ham respectively in their last outing. And for the Swans there is added excitement about seeing two new players integrated into the Welsh fold. Former her Wilfred Bony has returned and could immediately link up with young Abraham up front, while the potential coup of the late summer transfers will see Renato Sanches join up with the midfield. How Paul Clement deploys his side is of interest but there is certainly an interesting mix available to him now. Rafa Benitez’ frustration at the lack of key signings has been obvious. Fact! This had led to rumours linking the Spaniard away from the generally adoring Toon army. Whether the 3-0 win before the break was a sign that there is plenty to be positive about in the north east is still uncertain and this trip should tell us plenty about their strengths or otherwise. Joselu will start up front with Mitrovic suspended and although Jonjo Shelvey is now eligible for a return, Rafa may start him on the bench. I see Paul Clement with the smile on his face come the end of this one.
Monday 11th September 2017
West Ham v Huddersfield (Draw)
If you’d said that one of these teams would be third and the other in last position after three games, few pundits would have predicted the order. The Hammers made some seemingly astute signings in the summer but as yet, due partly to key players being missing, Bilic has failed to pick up a single point. The heavy defeat to Newcastle before the break didn’t help his standing and so pressure is on to get things right against Huddersfield. Clearly, being without the talent of Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini has diluted their attacking threat and getting Winston Reid back into the side will be a plus. Terriers fans are loving their time at the top table and will see this trip to London as a chance to continue the roll. Steve Mounie is leading the line well since his arrival and the likes of Ince, Kachunga and Mooy behind are making good strides. This should be an entertaining Monday night match up and a share of the spoils a sign that fortunes of both these sides is going to reverse over the coming weeks.