Barclays Premier League Soccer, Week 10
Sunderland vs Manchester United
PREDICTION: Sunderland 0-2 United
Sunderland managed to get away with a 2-2 draw in a late comeback at Anfield. The Black Cats were 2-0 down at the 70th minute, but after a walkout from Liverpool’s fans in the 77th minute as a response to a hike in ticket prices, Sunderland remarkably managed to come back and draw the game 2-2. They defended quite poorly overall with two defensive mistakes leading to two goals for Liverpool, but Adam Johnson and new signing Khazri helped inspire a comeback. Frankly Sunderland did not deserve anything from this game having been dominated for 70 minutes, but their comeback against a big team will give them hope of beating the drop. United actually played brilliantly against Chelsea for once, playing a stylish game and dominating Chelsea for most of the match. Rooney has finally gotten into some decent form, De Gea has been playing at a Neuer level, and the team has played with confidence, so I think United will come out of this match with an easy 3 points.
Bournemouth vs Stoke
PREDICTION: Bournemouth 2-0 Stoke
Bournemouth lost 2-0 to Arsenal but played brilliantly in the game. Despite conceding two, they did very well to continue to create clear-cut chances, arguably better chances than those of the Gunners. Unfortunately for them Cech had a brilliant game and luck wasn’t quite on their side, but being able to match a tem of Arsenal’s Calibre toe for toe is a great accomplishment. Stoke’s poor form has continued with another 3-0 loss, this time to Everton. They dominated possession and created a few chances, but their defense was caught out time and time again, with center half Phillipp Wollscheid playing especially poorly. I personally thought the acquisition of Gianelli Imbula would help Stoke defensively, but there still seems to be plently of issues at the back for Stoke. Therefore, I think Bournemouth will take the win and move further from the relegation zone
Crystal Palace vs Watford
PREDICTION: Palace 0-0 Watford
Frankly I’m really not sure about this game. Last time it was a close 1-0 win for Palace via a Yohan Cabaye penalty, but both teams are in relatively poor form. Palace had another poor game against Swansea, managing a draw but still playing poorly. The lack of goals has become appalling, with Scott Dann becoming the top goal scorer from CENTRAL DEFENSE. Watford, usually a dangerous attacking force, were completely toothless against Spurs. Watford were constantly pinned in their own half and simply could not find a way out, registering a single shot on target and an underwhelming 32% possession. That performance will be very worrying for Quique Sanchez Flores as Watford continue their mediocre form, and I would expect him to revert to his favored 4-2-3-1 instead of 4-3-3. Overall I can hardly separate these teams, and although the Watford of earlier this season may show up and win, I’ve decided to go with a 0-0 draw
Everton vs West Brom
PREDICTION: Everton 3-1 West Brom
Everton completely dominated Stoke at the weekend 3-0 in a thoroughly complete performance. The defense had another good game, a great sign for Everton supporters, the midfield, especially Ross Barkley, created a plethora of chances, and Lukaku continued his good form through a goal from the penalty spot. The Toffees have improved significantly in the past few games after their defeat to City and look to continue their good form against the Baggies, who have looked poor recently. They, too, were completely dominated by Newcastle, and had it been for better finishing from their opposition, the score would have been far more than 1-0 for Newcastle. West Brom continue to struggle to create chances and score goals under Pulis, never looking like they were going to have a chance in this game from the moment it began. I don’t see West Brom getting anything from this game, and although they will likely be hard to break down, I expect an Everton win.
Norwich vs West Ham
PREDICTION: Norwich 0-2 West Ham
Norwich suffered a significant defeat at the weekend to bottom of the table Aston Villa, extending a 6 game winless run. The game was actually a fairly close affair, but once again Norwich’s defense was poor, allowing Lescott to score from a set piece and Agbonlahor to double the lead with his first goal in over a year. This loss pulls Norwich into the relegation zone and things aren’t looking good for the Canaries based on current form. West Ham also lost their most recent game, 1-0 to Southampton. Yoshida put Southampton ahead early to worry West Ham fans, but even though they were reduced to 10 men as a result of a horrific challenge by Wanyama West Ham were not able to tie up the game. They played decently overall and dominated possession, but crosses into Valencia and Carroll were poor, as were shots from distance from the midfield, hence the lack of goals. This was a game that West Ham really should be expected to win if they are to qualify for European competition next season, but I think Bilic will demand a bounce back from his men against a very poor Norwich side.
Swansea vs Southampton
PREDICTION: Swansea 1-2 Southampton
Swansea have begun to recover from their dramatic drop in form, drawing Palace 1-1 last weekend. They were unlucky not to win the game, dominating possession in typical fashion, and actually creating meaningful chances, but a lapse in concentration allowed Scott Dann to equalize from a set piece. There have been signs of improvement under Guidolin, and if he can get Swansea’s forwards to be more consistent, especially in regards to finishing, they should escape the drop. Southampton beat West Ham 1-0 in a commendable defensive performance. Having been reduced to 10 men in the 54th minute, Wanyama’s third red card of the season, Southampton were bombarded with waves of West Ham attacks for the last third of the match, but responded with a defensive performance that was reminiscent of their excellent defensive record from last year. They look a far more balanced team now, and with 4 wins from their last 5, they look increasingly difficult to beat. I think Swansea will put up a good fight and both teams will attempt to dominate possession, but I think Southampton’s quality coupled with their recent form will prove to be too much for the Swans.
Chelsea vs Newcastle
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle
Typically a close game, this will be an interesting game to watch. Chelsea managed to steal a point in the dying embers of their 1-1 draw with Manchester United and look to be far more solid under Hiddink. Although they were dominated in the first half od the game, Chelsea came to life in the second half and their persistence was rewarded with a bit of luck for Costa. One major concern, however, is the long term injury to Zouma, Chelsea’s best center back. Cahill looks to be the obvious replacement, but US International Matt Miazga could get a chance to show his qualities against a lesser team. Chelsea can’t be too complacent, however, as Newcastle are typically one of their bogey teams in recent meetings. The Magpies played brilliantly against West Brom, dominating every aspect of the game and leaving worthy winners. As I said earlier, this is typically a game Newcastle have found success in recent times, and I think they could have a chance to get a draw away, exploiting Chelsea’s new defensive partnership. Despite this, Newcastle’s successes against Chelsea have only been at home, so I think Chelsea will take all 3 points in this match.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool
PREDICTION: Villa 1-0 Liverpool
Villa managed to take all 3 points in their 2-0 victory against Norwich in an attempt to slowly climb out of last place. They did manage to score twice in a game and keep a clean sheet, two achievements that have been hard to come by for the Villans this season, so there is certainly improvement in the side. Looking at the stats though, I think Villa got lucky in that they had few chances but managed to put them away when given the chance. I said a few weeks ago that that’s exactly how Villa need to play to stand a chance, and in fairness it worked for them last weekend, but it will certainly be hard against Liverpool. It is worth noting, however, that Liverpool have a relatively lacklustrer defense to say the least and are away at Villa, and they have just recently lost a cup game to West Ham, so I question their form and defensive ability, especially in combating Rudy Gestede. This match is a difficult call, but I’m giving Villa the benefit of the doubt and have decided to go with an upset here.
MUST WATCH GAMES:
Arsenal vs Leicester
PREDICTION: See below
Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-0 last weekend in a game I thought could have gone either way based on how it was playing out. Arsenal did well to take both of their major chances early on to make it 2-0, but they didn’t really kill off the game like a title-winning team should. Bournemouth had plenty of chances in the rest of the game, most notably Harry Arter’s thunderous strike from long range that cannoned off the crossbar. Cech was called into quite a few saves and did brilliantly to keep a clean sheet, if they give Leicester those kinds of chances I doubt things will go so well. Leicester soundly beat City 3-1 in a relatively straightforward affair. Leicester playing their typical counter-attacking brand of soccer and constantly troubled the makeshift center back pairing of Demichelis and Otamendi. Demichelis especially was caught out time and time again, showing Arsenal what happens when a team plays a slow center half against a quick counter attack. Robert Huth, who scored a double from center half, will be a major player to watch on set pieces, as he gave the City defense countless problems. If Mertesacker starts this game I would expect nothing different; with both fullbacks pushed up supporting Arsenal’s attack and only Koscielny and Mertesacker back, Vardy will “have a party” as the saying goes. Gabriel is clearly the better choice for a game like this, but I have a feeling Mertesacker will start as Wenger seems to prefer him over the Brazilian. If Mertesacker starts, the score could be similar to that of Leicester’s game against City, but if Gabriel starts I think the game will be much more competitive. Therefore if Mertesacker starts, I’d predict a 3-1 win for Leicester, but if he doesn’t I’d go with a 1-1 draw.
Manchester City vs Spurs
PREDICTION: City 1-2 Spurs
As mentioned above, City had a calamitous game against Leicester. In a game they were expected by many to show that their quality was superior to Leicester’s form, they did just the opposite and lost 3-1. City created chances, in fairness, but ironically their lack of quality in ters of finishing and service were stark and apparent. City’s lack of a quality out-and-out “destroyer” defensive mid was also obvious in this game, as Leicester’s counter attacks were rarely broken up in the midfield, leaving their shaky defense to deal with the attacking threat which inevitable lead to conceding goals. Spurs beat Watford 1-0 in an utterly one-sided affair. Watford managed a mere 32% possession and one shot on goal over the entire game and were hardly given a chance, with the defensive midfield duo of Dier and Dembele cutting out passes before they could find Watford’s attackers. Spurs’ fullbacks were essentially wingers, with Trippier whipping in countless crosses and Davies finding joy down the left side as well. Gomes was in great form and kept his old club from scoring for over 60 minutes, but the introduction of Dele Alli gave Spurs a new dimension, providing an assist less than 3 minutes on the pitch. Wimmer also did very well having just come in to replace Vertonghen, but looked solid and calm on the ball. One weakness I see in Spurs, however, is the exposure down the wings on the counter, most notably down the left when Rose plays. Zaha exploited this for Palace a few weeks ago and this could prove an issue again if Aguero drifts wide, so this could be a potential weakness. On the whole, I see Spurs as the more solid and consistent team, but I think this time the game will be a lot closer than the 4-0 win last time out for Spurs. I think Aguero will score at some point, as he usually tends to against us, but I think the attackers for Spurs will be able to exploit City’s inconsistent defense and at least get a point, if not a win.