Barclays Premier League, Week 6
Champ Warren ’17
Yet another international break is finally over, in which a few countries, most notable Ireland, managed to qualify for EURO 2016 in their playoff matches. Most of the players have had a decent rest, much needed before the intense Christmas period, and we should be in for a great list of fixtures for this weekend.
Watford vs Manchester United- Saturday, 6:45 a.m.
PREDICTION: Watford 1-0 United
Watford has been very defensively strong so far this season. Despite conceding 3 to Arsenal, arguably the most in-form team at the time, they have conceded very few goals and are consequently one of the best defensive teams in the league. They also continue to score goals through Ighalo and overall seem to be a solid team despite the myriad of additions to the squad over the summer. United’s form has been average at best: drawing game after game, playing some of the most boring games I’ve ever watched, and lacking a true attacking intent. The over-reliance by Van Gaal on possession has morphed into constant sideways and backwards passing and the side continue to lack a consistent goal scorer (besides Martial, who has been forced to play out wide and has proven far less effective in that role). Looking at the two sides, Watford look to be the more confident side and definitely the one with more of an attacking threat, so I have decided to go with a narrow 1-0 win. Both teams are known to be solid defensively, however, so the game could easily end in a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea vs Norwich- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1-1 Norwich
Chelsea, unlike most predicted, have continued their poor run in the BPL, losing 1-0 to Stoke last match day 2 weeks ago. Some interpreted their win against Dinamo Kiev as a turning point in the season, a result that could inject some confidence and a winning mentality into players who desperately need it, but sure enough the sub par domestic performances continue. Despite dominating possession and creating a few chances here and there, in my opinion Chelsea still lacked the mental strength and confidence to get a result, and thus they were punished for not taking their chances. Norwich managed a narrow win against Swansea last game week and managed to play well despite being forced to rely mostly on counter attacks. This could bode well for them as such a style is exactly what Chelsea struggled with against Stoke. Redmond out wide left will certainly be a challenge for whoever plays right back for Chelsea and Jerome and/or Mbokani are always threats, so I think Norwich might have a chance at this one of they can remain solid defensively.
West Brom vs Arsenal- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Brom 0-3 Arsenal
West Brom were unlucky against United, giving away a goal cheaply to United through a poor defensive clearance and letting in a second via penalty as a result of a red card for McAuley. They by no means played well, but in my opinion 2-0 was a bit flattering to United. Arsenal managed to walk away with a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in the North London derby and can be satisfied but also disappointed in many aspects. The Gunners were poor in the first half and only really began to start playing well about 70 minutes in (although I am biased multiple other non-biased sources claimed the same thing). Cazorla gave the ball away countless times and was accordingly subbed off at the half, and Sanchez did not look at his best, but Ozil did well when given the chance and Giroud did well to get into space for chances despite him missing multiple opportunities to put Arsenal ahead. Despite their shortcomings, I still think Arsenal is a team in form, and I expect them to easily get past a fairly average West Brom side.
Everton vs Aston Villa- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Everton 2-1 Villa
Everton played well in their 1-1 draw vs West Ham and will look to do even better in this fixture. Almost every stat for the two sides were almost identical, and they should be happy with a point away from home. Lukaku continued his good form, scoring a goal and creating chances all over the pitch. Against all odds, Villa managed to barely get away with a 0-0 draw with Manchester City and looked a much improved side in new manager Remi Garde’s second match in charge. They held possession well despite pressure from City and played decently going forward, but Ayew did not look ready to score, and there was a noticeable lack of crosses into the box. Villa will also be without their promising left back Amavi, who got injured over the international break and is confirmed to be out the rest of the season. I do think Villa will start to improve, but I don’t think they will get anything from this game.
Newcastle vs Leicester- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Newcastle 1-3 Leicester
Newcastle was unbelievably lucky to get any point from their game against Bournemouth, much less a win. Ayoze Perez managed to snatch a goal completely against the run of play and managed to hold it thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of their Irish second choice keeper Rob Elliot. Leicester also managed to win a hard fought game against Watford, despite getting dominated in terms of possession. Claudio Ranieri’s side did well to play on the counter, and Vardy scored yet again as he approaches record breaking territory. The whole side looks to be brimming with confidence and despite their tendency to leak goals I expect them to easily beat an inconsistent Newcastle side.
Southampton vs Stoke City- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Southampton 1-1 Stoke
Southampton has played very well lately but have not scored as many goals as they should have. Dusan Tadic has done brilliantly down the left wing and Ward-Prowse has played well in his more advanced role, but I just feel like they could do better as far as scoring goals, as evidenced in their mere 1-0 win vs Sunderland despite dominating proceedings. Stoke City did well to cope with Chelsea’s pressure and managed to snatch a 1-0 win as a reward for their hard work defensively, but nowadays who doesn’t beat Chelsea anyway. Jonathan Walters is also one to watch as the Irishman scored 2 goals against Bosnia-Herzegovina to put Ireland through to the Euros. Regardless, they are beginning to play better on a more consistent basis and I expect them to challenge Southampton in this match.
Swansea vs Bournemouth- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Swansea 0-1 Bournemouth
Swansea are in a similar situation to Chelsea right now: dominating possession but consistently failing to create meaningful chances. The players don’t seem to be clicking the way they were at the beginning of the season, especially going forward, as they didn’t manage a single shot on target against newly promoted Norwich. Bournemouth, as mentioned earlier, were extremely unlucky not to win their game against Newcastle. They played very well in all departments but a momentary lapse in concentration cost them the match. In my opinion the Cherries are due a win and if they continue to show some belief in themselves I’m confident that they can take something from this game.
Crystal Palace vs Sunderland- Monday, 2:00 p.m.
PREDICTION: Palace 2-0 Sunderland
Crystal Palace has responded well to their humbling 5-1 loss to City a few weeks back by drawing Manchester United and defeating Liverpool. Despite registering fewer shots and significantly less possession against Liverpool, Palace still managed to make the most of their chances and defend fairly well in the process. One issue they have had, however, is the lack of goals coming from the striker position, so it will be interesting to see whom they play at no. 9 this weekend. Sunderland sit just above last place and continue their mediocre form. They were dominated both in terms of possession in their 1-0 loss to Southampton and in my opinion were lucky to not lose by more. Sam Allardyce’s appointment has not had the impact many expected, with Sunderland struggling to adapt to his tactics and the Mackems still leading the league in terms of most goals conceded. A result against Palace would be a huge boost for them, but it will be no easy task.
MUST WATCH GAMES:
Manchester City vs Liverpool- Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
PREDICTION: City 2-1 Liverpool
Manchester City were very unlucky to draw a resolute Norwich side 0-0 two weeks ago. Both Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling missed chances from point blank range and City hit the crossbar in the dying embers of the match, but as a whole City should have done better with the chances they were given. Despite their poor performance, I think City will rebound from their poor result and be motivated to prove their doubters wrong. Although Bony may be out of this match with an ankle injury, Kelechi Ikeancho has looked promising when coming on as a sub and City’s other attacking players still managed to create chances despite Bony being almost marked out of the game. Liverpool lost 2-1 against Palace in a game that reminded me of Liverpool of last season: playing well for large parts of the game and creating lots of chances, but conceding sloppy goals in crucial moments. As I have said before, Klopp likes to play a 4-2-3-1 with pacey wingers and quick attacking play, but Liverpool’s only true winger is Jordan Ibe, who, despite his obvious talent, is still very young and not quite starter quality for a team like Liverpool. Lallana also played on the left, and although he does have experience in wide positions from his time at Southampton, he is not a true winger and in my opinion does not fit Klopp’s system. Sturridge is rumored to be fit for this match, which could prove pivotal as he is far more mobile than Benteke. This fixture is notorious forn being difficult to predict (in the last 13 meetings, City have won 4, drawn 4 and Liverpool have won 5), but given Liverpool’s recent run of unconvincing results I think City will just edge this one.
Spurs vs West Ham- Sunday, 10:00 a.m.
PREDICTION: Spurs 2-0 West Ham
Spurs come into this fixture having drawn against Arsenal in a game where both teams could have won. Spurs played exceptionally well for 70 minutes, creating numerous chances yet failing to convert after Kane’s goal in the 32nd minute. Arsenal turned up the pressure in the last 20 minutes and managed to equalize through a Kieren Gibbs half volley at the back post. As a Spurs fan I was obviously disappointed in the result because I know we could have done better, but there were still plenty of positives to take from the game: Kane looks to be soundly back in goalscoring form, Dembélé continues to play brilliantly in the number 10 role, the Dier-Alli partnership can thrive even against top opposition, and Spurs also are second in least goals conceded. One concern is that Lamela is suspended for this match due to his accumulation of yellow cards, which could give Heung-Min Son a chance to show why he should be restored to the starting lineup. West Ham drew a very even game against Everton, but the biggest news ahead of this game is that star signing Dimitri Payet is out for multiple weeks due to injury. West Ham have relied on the Frenchman throughout the campaign as their main creator and goalscorer; he leads the team in both goals and assists. I’m not sure who Slaven Bilic will play to fill such a void but Payet will surely be missed. Despite this, West Ham are not to be taken lightly; they sit in 4th spot (just above Spurs) and have dangerous players like Andy Carroll who always pose a threat. This game will be a huge test for both squads, but I think Spurs will come out on top.