Barclays Premier League predictions, Week 11
Champ Warren ’17
This week the Merseyside Derby and Newcastle’s game against City have both been cancelled, so there are only 8 games this weekend.
West Ham vs Sunderland
PREDICTION: West Ham 2-1 Sunderland
West Ham come into this game having beaten Blackburn 5-1 in the cup in a solid expected win. Granted Blackburn were a man down for the last half hour, West Ham did well to kill the game off and win comfortably, two things they have struggled with in the past. Sunderland remarkably managed to beat Manchester United at home 2-1 by making use of set pieces, one of United’s main weaknesses. Frankly they were unlucky to concede a rebound, but Sunderland are picking up form right when they need to. Sunderland chose to go with 3 defensive mids with attacking fullbacks providing width last time out, and they proved that breaking them down through the center of the field will be especially difficult. Gaps left by the fullbacks, however, will likely be the best way to attack Sunderland. If players like Nolan and Payet, if he plays centrally, can release the likes of Moses, Emenike if he starts, and Antonio down the wings, potentially whipping balls into Carrol, I think West Ham will eventually break down the Sunderland defense. Sunderland will look to play the ball up to N’doye for him to knock it down to Defoe and Khazri, so Kouyate will need to have a good game and stay tight to the Senegalese striker. Overall I see this going West Ham’s way based on the quality of their squad, but I think Sunderland will put up a good fight
Leicester vs Norwich
PREDICTION: Leicester 4-0 Norwich
Despite Leicester’s losing to Arsenal last game week, I believe it was a bit harsh on the Foxes who had to play a man down for 30 minutes, giving up 2 goals to lose the game late on. They didn’t play poorly, but things didn’t fall for them that game. Norwich managed to go 2-0 up against West Ham in their last league match, but showed their defensive instability yet again by conceding two to only come away with a draw. Although there has definitely been some improvement in the Norwich side, their issues are still there. This is the kind of game that Leicester love: sitting back against a possession-focused team, allowing them to overcommit especially their fullbacks, and counter with pace against a weak defense. I really don’t see much of a chance for Norwich in this game, especially because if they keep fullbacks back then their attacking threat is severely limited. As a result I expect nothing but a win for Leicester.
Stoke City vs Aston Villa
PREDICTION: Stoke 3-0 Villa
In their last fixture, Stoke beat Bournemouth 3-1 away from home in a counter-attacking type of game. They sat back and let Bournemouth hold possession, but took their chances when they came. Villa, on the other hand, were annihilated 6-0 at home, their worst defeat in decades. They were completely outclassed in every position and there was very little effort in the team. In my mind that game basically affirmed wheat everyone knew: Villa are definitely going down. I see Stoke being comfortable in this game, as Villa don’t possess a real goalscorer, and I think Imbula will help lock down any potential attacks. I think the quality of Stoke will be too much for the Villains to handle, resulting in a convincing win for Stoke.
Watford vs Bournemouth
PREDICTION: Watford 1-1 Bournemouth
Watford have kind of dropped off recently; they have struggled for consistent goals and their defense has not been up to its previous standards from the first half of the season. In fairness, they have still managed to get decent results lately, but Watford need to find some more consistency if they want to climb up into the top third of the table. Bournemouth are in a very similar position, minus the fact that they never really had a goalscorer in the club after Wilson was injured (who is their top scorer despite having been out of action for months). They’ve only managed one goal in their past three, and defensively have not been as good as they can be, but they have an easy schedule ahead and will look to improve their form to improve their chances of beating the drop. In this game I think Deeney will find a lot of space and I expect him to get on the score sheet, but only if Quique Sanches Flores goes back to his 4-2-3-1 instead of his experiment in the 4-3-3. Bournemouth don’t really have an out-and-out defensive mid, which I think will continue to be an issue, so I expect them to struggle to defend both Deeney and Ighalo. I do expect them to snatch a goal at some point as Watford have been questionable defensively as of late, but I don’t think either team will win this one.
West Brom vs Crystal Palace
PREDICTION: West Brom 0-0 Palace
West Brom are known for playing bad soccer but somehow managing to get results, but recently Tony Pulis’ strategy has not gone to plan. They were beaten 1-0 (starting a full strength 11) against Reading, a mid table championship team, and although they did somehow beat Everton 1-0, they only had one shot on target and were lucky to get bailed out by poor finishing from Everton and the heroics of Ben Foster. Palace beat a mediocre Spurs side 1-0 in the FA cup, playing decently well overall, but on another day with a full strength Spurs team in the league I believe the score would have been different. Looking at this game, both sides don’t score many goals (Scott Dann, the center back, is still Palace’s top scorer), so I doubt there will be many chances in this game. I expect it to be a nervy clash with West Brom sitting back and booting it up for counters, but they will definitely make things difficult for Palace who, as mentioned previously, have their own scoring problems. Overall I’m going with a boring 0-0 draw, but I could see either team barely winning it through a bit of luck.
Spurs vs Swansea
PREDICTION: Spurs 2-1 Swansea
Spurs have played well in the league, but will be fatigued from two Europa League games sandwiching their FA Cup game against Palace. Although a full strength Spurs team was not on display against Palace, the game showed how important many of the first team players are and the gulf in class between Spurs’ first team and subs. Swansea have not played since the 13th, a 1-0 loss to Southampton, a game that was pretty close but ended up going the way of the Saints. They will, however, be well rested, which could be a big factor in this game. Spurs have a good record against Swansea, 7-2-0 in the 9 past games, but that will certainly be tested this game. Pochettino will likely start a strong team against Fiorentina, further tiring an already tired squad, but Spurs are known to have good fitness and I think they will be back to their best in this game. Both teams will be looking to hold possession, but Spurs will have the home advantage and, I think, will be more successful at it, putting Swansea in an awkward position. Overall I think Swansea will put up a good fight and I think they will score, but I still see Spurs as favorites to take 3 points.
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Southampton vs Chelsea
PREDICTION: Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
Southampton continued their great form with another win and another clean sheet in their last league game. The defense has drastically improved since the return of first choice keeper Fraser Forster, but their forwards have been mediocre and goals have still been hard to come by. Chelsea, another team in form, beat City’s youngster 5-1 in the FA cup and have continued to maintain their consistency since Hiddink has taken over, with Hazard finally scoring via a free kick and the whole team continuing to improve. This game is a hard one to call as this is typically a bogey game for Chelsea: they are 1-2-1 against Southampton in the past 4 meetings of the teams. Southampton’s defense will be exceptionally hard to break down, especially at home, but Chelsea are very such good form going forward. The only weakness I see in the Chelsea squad is in defense with the absence of Zouma. Cahill has been decent deputizing for the Frenchman, but Terry, who picked up a knock in the FA cup game, has not played with him extensively and could be caught out by the likes of Shane Long, Mane, etc. I can’t really separate the two teams all things considered, so I’m going with a 1-1 draw.
Manchester United vs Arsenal
PREDICTION: United 1-2 Arsenal
United’s good form looks to have been lucky; recently they have lost to both Sunderland at home (2-1) and Danish Europa league minnows Midtjylland (2-1 away). The slow, boring style under Van Gaal has continued, and in my opinion results like this were going to start happening sooner or later. I think Van Gaal has gotten very lucky in this season, mostly because his defense (especially de Gea) have been relatively solid and almost every team have had some degree of inconsistency this season. Now that the defense has dropped in form, the flaws in the team are starting to show themselves more, even against what should be easy opponents. Arsenal drew Hull 0-0 in the cup and lost to Barcelona 2-0 in the Champions League and have plenty issues of their own. The defensive mid spot is still an issue, the wide mids have been inconsistent at best, and Ozil frankly doesn’t have anyone besides Giroud or Welbeck to pass to, unless the pass is backwards as Arsenal demonstrated against Barcelona. Wenger was visibly upset at the performance and the lack of concentration and discipline from the likes of Flamini in particular (how Flamini is still getting games at Arsenal is beyond my comprehension), but I think he will force a reaction from his team for this game. Arsenal, in fairness, didn’t play badly before the first goal, even looking the more dangerous team at times, and I also believe they have a superior squad and team dynamic, so I favor them for this match. Giroud looked threatening in the air against Barcelona, and I’d expect him to dominate against the likes of Blind and/or potentially McNair, along with Welbeck’s energy and runs helping Arsenal create chances. Although United are at home, I really don’t see them as being on Arsenal’s level despite their recent underwhelming results, so I expect an Arsenal win in this game.