Friday 15th September 2017
Bournemouth v Brighton (Home win)
Yet to muster a point this season, Eddie Howe will see this game as the chance to ignite the Cherries’ campaign. Their last two outings have been against two of the bigger boys of the league so a newly promoted side is a welcome visitor at a time when questions are being asked about the highly regarded manager. Ryan Fraser will be missing after picking up an injury at the Emirates, Defoe and King will remain the preferred goal threat.
The Seagulls come fresh off the back of a trawl…, sorry, important home win last week, their first in the Premier League. With few new injury scares, that XI that stuck three past West Brom is expected to take to the field again and they will be hoping to take more points from those expected to be in and around their league position. Fans may have to get used to the regular ups and downs though.
Saturday 16th September 2017
Crystal Palace v Southampton (Away win)
Clearly those in charge at Palace didn’t read my piece last week pleading for Frank de Boer to get a decent amount of time to bed in his ideas, and so the side will be led from the dugout by the apparent ‘safe hands’ of Roy Hodgson. It’s been some time since the ex-England manager was doing the day-to-day management and he hasn’t had much time to work with the players ahead of this match, which makes calling their performance rather tough. With some of the league’s top sides next up, their will be a massive desire to get something from this home game…but will the players – still without some key names - respond?
We’ve gotten used to the Saints being a fighting-for-European-places side in recent years but they’ve not looked so competitive at the start of this campaign. Still without Virgil van Dijk, Mauricio Pellegrino will likely make some changes from the defeat to Watford with the creative Tadic added to the Gabbiadini-supporting midfield of Davis and Redmond, while Yoshida could be brought in to fend off Christian Benteke. I expect them to find a little more rhythm at Selhurst Park.
Huddersfield v Leicester City (Away win)
Two wins and a draw from their first four games in the top flight has been an impressive return for the Terriers, helped by the fixture list being kind. This weekend’s test will be a step up in quality and the away defeat at West Ham on Monday night was not only a disappointing result but also a poor display. Shakespeare will be hoping striker Steve Mounie is passed fit. The Foxes arrive at the John Smith’s Stadium expecting to double their points tally with a win. They’ve shown enough in their tight losses to Arsenal, United and Chelsea that they are still a side aiming for the higher end of the table and in Vardy and Mahrez will still cause plenty of problems for opposition defences.
Liverpool v Burnley (Home win)
It’s been a confusing time at Anfield recently with impressively dominant performances against both Arsenal and Sevilla resulting in a very positive win and a disappointing draw. Sandwiched between those scorelines was a 5-0 thrashing at Man City where The Reds looked a match for the league favourites until Mané’s reckless act, and the general, but far too simplistic, narrative is ‘great going forward, poor in defence’. Without Mané, Philippe Coutinho is decent replacement but whether as one of the front or midfield trios is yet unknown. Burnley have started the season well and are ahead of their hosts on goal difference yet know that they start as massive underdogs. They’ll also know the ‘poor defence’ narrative and will pile on the pressure on the few occasions they are likely to get knowing that Sevilla, and others, have been rewarded despite being outplayed here.
Newcastle v Stoke (Draw)
A win against Arsenal and a more impressive draw at Old Trafford sees Mark Hughes’ Stoke arrive on Tyneside full of confidence but their opponents too will be looking forward to the game. Two wins in their last two have perked up the Geordies’ ambitions and Joselu will again lead the line with Mitrovic still serving his ban. The attacking trio of Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting and Jesé may have too much for them on Saturday but with home support ringing out for 90 minutes, Rafa’s army could well enjoy a point with their pint in the evening.
Watford v Man City (Away win)
Impressive as the away win at St Mary’s was last weekend, Watford know they are in for a tough afternoon’s work when City come to town. Pep Guardiola’s side have scored nine in their last two outings and in Gabriel Jesus and Kun Agüero have arguably the two hottest strikers in the league right now. The fluid 3-5-2 will pile on the pressure but Marco Silva will have his unbeaten side up tactically set up for the challenge. It’s unlikely to stop them though.
West Brom v West Ham (Draw)
If the first four league games are anything to go by, we can expect The Albion to score a goal. But nothing more. And who can knock that consistency that has brought with it seven points although the 3-1 loss to Brighton last time out was a clear low point for Tony Pulis. The Hammers picked up their first points of the season last week in their win over Huddersfield and will argue that returning players (Lanzini, Arnautovic and Noble are still unavailable) as well as the unusual, but planned, first game at home played their part in what could be an upturn in form, or at least fortune.
Tottenham v Swansea (Home win)
Mauricio Pochetino was criticised by some for not doing more in the transfer market but they have shown enough quality in their early games (that includes the defeat to Chelsea and draw with Burnley) that they are potential title contenders. Swansea under Paul Clement have plenty to be positive about but this is not a game they are expected to get anything from. They may look to the Wembley curse on Spurs but if they saw how Dortmund got on midweek they may have to hope for some genius from Renato Sanches instead. Dele Alli returns to support the outstdanding Kane who’ll be looking to add more to tally. Expect Fantasy Football managers to have noticed.
Sunday 17th September 2017
Chelsea v Arsenal (Home win)
It’s the London derby that opened this year’s campaign at Wembley where the Gunners surprised many by lifting the Community Shield. However, a win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday would raise even more eyebrows. Antonio Conte now has Bakayoko up to speed, Hazard back in the fold and a hungry Morata looking to prove his worth. The revised back three, also likely to be mirrored by the opposition, should allow plenty of width, with tracking back a potential game-deciding factor.
A couple of solid home wins in the league and Europe’s secondary competition, with six goals to boot, were pleasing for Arsene Wenger but he knows more than most that this game is where they’ll be truly judged with wounds still open from the 4-0 annihilation at Anfield. Big summer signing Lacazette should start with the non-leavers Sánchez and Özil in behind, with their attitude and application likely to be key to any positive result for the visitors. It’s a big ask.
Man Utd v Everton (Home win)
Concluding week five of the Premier League is, on paper, an attractive battle at Old Trafford. Both games between these sides last season ended 1-1 and that is certainly a possibility again. However, that would involve Ronald Koeman’s talented team to act like one, something they’ve struggled with since impressing everyone with the squad strengthening. The new additions are yet to fully click but they’ve also had to play last season’s top three in the process. The home side, on the other hand, have seen the likes of Matic and Lukaku find their feet from day one, helped, in part, with some easier fixtures to get going. Paul Pogba’s “poor training” means he’s out so Ander Herrera should come in to work with Matic. United legend Mark Hughes frustrated José Mourinho’s plans last week; can another in Wayne Rooney do the business in his old theatre?