BPL Predictions, Week 3

Champ Warren ’17

More exciting games are on their way this weekend in Barclays Premier League (BPL), and I personally can’t wait to watch. As before, I will predict the score of the game and provide analysis as to why that will be, including key players as appropriate. Also, the must-watch games will be at the end of the article with a more in-depth analysis provided. As always, feel free to email me with any feedback at cdwarren17@mail.strakejesuit.org.

West Ham vs Chelsea- Saturday, 9 a.m.
Prediction: West Ham 1-1 Chelsea
West Ham looked better this past weekend, beating a strong Palace side 3-1 away from home. Such wins have become a staple for manager Slaven Bilic, with West Ham looking like a top-4 team away from home but average at best at home, making this game hard to predict. Likewise Chelsea finally managed to take 3 points away at Aston Villa this past weekend, a win they desperately needed. Although they did win, 2-0 at that, I still don’t think Chelsea really played like the Chelsea of last year. They were essentially gifted the first goal, a tap in from Diego Costa as a result of a Villa defender losing the ball on his own 18, and the second was an own goal, which for me is not a particularly convincing performance against a very poor Villa side this year. This average performance was again shown in their Champions’ League game vs Dinamo Kiev on Tuesday, in which they only managed a 0-0 draw. Although they have gotten better as far as results go, I don’t see Chelsea getting all 3 points against an in form West Ham team, so I’ve settled on a draw.

Aston Villa vs Swansea- Saturday, 9 a.m.
Prediction: Villa 0-1 Swansea
Villa has been dreadful, unable to score or defend with manager Tim Sherwood somehow still employed as of Monday. None of their key players has performed with any consistency, and even when they have it’s been too little too late. Swansea are in a similar plight, with their form taking a nosedive since their early season wins. Besides a 2-2 draw with Spurs, manager Gary Monk has struggled to get his side to score recently, managing a mere 2 shots on target in their 1-0 loss to Stoke. They have shown some promise though, and that coupled with the fact that their squad is of a higher quality for me means that they’ll come out of this game with all 3 points.

Leicester vs Crystal Palace- Saturday, 9 a.m.
Prediction: Leicester 3-2 Palace
Leicester somehow managed to claw their way back from being 2-0 down away to Southampton to 2-2 via a brace from in form striker Jamie Vardy. I am amazed at how they somehow continue to get points from all these games despite conceding so many goals (they are in 5th place but somehow are yet to keep a clean sheet). Vardy’s form has clearly been pivotal in helping them take points from these, but Leceister seriously need to stop letting in goal if they want to remain anywhere close to where they are in the table right now, especially if Vardy’s form starts to dip. Palace on the other hand lost 3-1 to West Ham at home, no thanks to an unbelievably stupid red card for forward Dwight Gayle. Despite that they still put up a good fight with Yohan Cabaye scoring another penalty and putting in a good performance overall. Palace have the ability to win this game, and they easily could, but I feel like Leicester will find a way to win this one despite conceding in the process.

Norwich vs West Brom- Saturday, 9 a.m.
Prediction: Norwich 1-2 West Brom
Norwich’s game against Newcastle was probably the most entertaining I’ve watched this year, but not for the right reasons from their perspective. The Canaries’ defense had one of the worst showings I’ve seen in a while, conceding a whopping 6 goals to a struggling Newcastle side. Russell Martin and Bassong looked completely disconnected at the back, defensive midfield was nonexistent, and goalkeeper John Ruddy looked shaky throughout and at one point was trying to do fake shots past Newcastle attackers. West Brom managed to barely take all 3 points against Sunderland in a solid 1-0 win away from home, yet were by far the better team and deserved the win. These two team have already played each other in the Capitol One Cup, Norwich winning 3-0, but since then their form has dropped while their opponents’ has improved, leading me to go with a close 2-1 win for the Baggies.

Stoke City vs Watford- Saturday, 9 a.m.
Prediction: Stoke 1-0 Watford
Both Stoke City and Watford have both scored few and conceded few as well. Stoke City is still virtually impossible to predict due to their extremely inconsistent form, but when they do play well they rarely score more than once (from the 4 games they have won so far this season, 3 have been 1-0 wins). Despite not scoring much, they remain in decent form having won their last 3. Watford have struggled recently, especially with Troy Deeney still struggling to find the back of the net. They too have done well defensively, but based on form I think it will be hard for them to get much out of this match, but as with any Stoke game anything can happen.

Bournemouth vs Spurs- Sunday, 9:05 a.m.
Prediction: Bournemouth 0-2 Spurs
Bournemouth come into the fixture having been blown out by Manchester City 5-1 over the weekend and were second best in every position. Their defense struggled to contain striker Wilfried Bony and was unable to withstand the pace and skill of Raheem Sterling, with the former scoring 2 and the latter bagging his first career hat trick. One bright light is that second choice striker turned starter Glen Murray has scored in the past two games, giving Bournemouth a hope to stay up despite losing Callum Wilson to injury. Spurs played out a decent 0-0 draw with Liverpool at home, looking defensively solid after the first 15 minutes or so yet missing chances to go ahead later in the game. Heung-Min- Son’s expected return from injury to replace an injured Nacer Chadli will be a relief for Spurs, as they have played best this season when he has started. Despite being defensively solid, the team has not been particularly free scoring and have a reputation for letting their guard down against lower teams, especially away from home. I think Spurs will come out on top, but I think it will be close throughout.

Liverpool vs Southampton- Sunday, 11:15 a.m.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Southampton
Liverpool played very well against Spurs in their first game under Klopp, looking invigorated and aggressive throughout. Mignolet had a superb game, making some crucial saves as part of a good defensive performance overall. Liverpool also seemed to adapt fairly well to Klopp’s system, pressing Spurs throughout the match and making it difficult for the Spurs defenders to pass out of the back. Despite not scoring, the team looked lively and with the addition of Sturridge to the starting lineup I’d expect them to do better as far as scoring goals. Southampton went into the half against Leicester 2-0 up through two headed goals from center halves Van Dijk and Fonte but played poorly in the second half, giving up two goals to only come away with a single point. I don’t think Southampton will have the mental strength to take all 3 points from a reinvigorated Liverpool, and although they will probably put up a good point, I think Klopp’s men will come out on top.

Must Watch Games

Arsenal vs Everton- Saturday, 11 a.m.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Everton
Arsenal have just pulled off what seemed impossible to most, me included, beating Bayern Munich 2-0 despite having less than 30% possession. Giroud came on as an impact sub and managed to net and was unlucky not to get a second, while Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil combined to put the game to bed late on. Arsenal are in good form overall, beating Watford 3-0 in a late surge of goal and look to be the team to beat right now. One sour note, however, is Aaron Ramsey’s injury against Bayern. The center mid turned winger has played a pivotal role in Wenger’s 4231 system with his defensive contribution and could be missed, but Oxlaide-Chamberlain is familiar in the position and has played defensive roles in the past, so he will likely do well to cover for the Welshman. Everton, on the other hand, were beaten 3-0 by an inform Manchester United side, but despite the scoreline still played decently. They had good buildup in the midfield and decent defending, but they lacked the killer pass on multiple occasions and ended up getting caught out on plenty of occasions. I also don’t understand why Martinez chose to bench Deulofeu and Mirallas for such a big game. Both wingers can play on either flank and could have provided the service Lukaku was yearning for throughout the game with Ross Barkley constantly being marked. Deulofeu especially has looked good this season and like I said last week has matured as a player, so he definitely needs to start. Regardless, Arsenal are in such good form as of late that I don’t see them getting anything but a win in this game.

The Tyne-Wear derby: Sunderland vs Newcastle- Sunday, 7 a.m.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Newcastle
This game is very underwatched by non-English audiences because on paper it seems like nothing special but is one of my personal favorites to watch each year. Both teams are from the North of England and have unbelievably passionate fans, especially Newcastle where they say the whole city lives and breathes soccer. Sunderland has remarkably won the past 5 meetings between these sides, and each year no matter how badly they are playing, they always seem to turn up for this game. New manager “Big Sam” Alardyce will be desperate to win the game to instill some confidence in a lackluster Sunderland side who only have 3 points so far this season, employing his infamous longball-based strategy that will surely cause problems for the Newcastle defensive mids and defenders. Last weekend Newcastle out of nowhere just decided to score 6 goals against a poor Norwich side, looking almost like a completely new team despite conceding a trademark couple of goals in the process. Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum had incredible games, with Mitrovic playing well also, and the team ended up with the perfect result with which to go into the derby. For whatever reason, Newcastle always seem to struggle in the derby, but this is the best form they’ve had leading up to a derby in some time, so if they’re ever going to win this fixture it will be now.

Manchester derby: Manchester United v Manchester City- Sunday, 9:05 a.m.
Prediction: *** See below ***

This game has so many what if’s it’s arguably the hardest game to predict this week. United bounced back from their poor performance against Arsenal to soundly beat Everton 3-0 over the weekend. Van Gaal actually reacted to a poor result and made all the right changes: dropping Depay, giving Ander Herrera some much deserved game time, playing their best combination of defensive mids in Schneiderlain with Schweinsteiger, and actually playing defenders in defense instead of converted midfielders. United played well in every department, defending when they needed to and attacking at every opportunity. Rooney finally managed to score, breaking his longest goal drought of his career, a great sign for United supporters. City come into the game off of yet another demolition, this time smashing Bournemouth 5-1 despite Aguero being hurt. Sterling had a great afternoon in front of goal, scoring a hattrick, but also worked hard, slowly proving his worth. Bony also had his best game in a City shirt, getting a double while contributing an assist. The team did well overall but yet again leaked a goal, as they have for the past 7 games in all competitions. That statistic shows that despite their good performances against smaller teams, there are still weaknesses in the team that could easily be exploited if Van Gaal plays his cards right. If Van Gaal plays the same starting 11 as he did against Everton, I’d say United win 2-1. If instead he decides it’s a good idea to play players out of position, i.e. Ashley Young at fullback and Daley Blind at center half, I’d back City to win 3-1. This is going to be a great game and if you only watch one game this weekend, this is the one.