Barclays Premier League–Week 12
Champ Warren ’17
Although there are midweek games this week, 20 games are a lot to predict in one week, so like I’ve done previously I’ve decided to only cover the 10 games this weekend.
Chelsea vs Stoke City
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2-1 Stoke
Chelsea had a very mixed game against Southampton: first they conceded to Ireland International Shane Long via a shocking defensive mistake from Baba, equalized via a flukey cross-turned-shot goal from Fabregas, and managed to find a late winner via an Ivanovic header. Southampton dominated in terms of chances during the first half, but Chelsea showed the fighting spirit the squad had been lacking for so long to be able to respond and take all 3 points. Stoke got a decent 2-1 win against Aston Villa and looked strong overall. Arnautovic has continued his good form and is Stoke’s best player right now, so the matchup of him vs Ivanovic will be one to watch. A concern for Chelsea will be Pedro’s hamstring injury; the Spaniard had recently found some form and was looking dangerous on the left side, so this will be a big game for Hazard as he attempts to fully rediscover his form. I’d also be curious how the relatively untested combination of Ivanovic and Cahill fare with marking the likes of Diouf should he start, as the movement and dynamism of the Senegalese forward could cause them problems. Although Stoke have gotten back into some form recently, I see them struggling against Chelse away, so I think the Blues will just get by with this one.
Manchester City vs Aston Villa
PREDICTION: City 3-0 Villa
City beat Liverpool on penalties this weekend in the Capital One Cup final in an exciting game full of chances, fantastic saves, and Yaya picking up an angry Lallana (look this one up if you haven’t seen it). They played well and despite only scoring one goal they constantly were creating chances and were unlucky not to beat Mignolet more than once in regulation. Villa lost 2-1 to Stoke in a game that was never really that close despite what the score suggests. Villa were down 2-0 and managed to claw one back, but nothing really came out of it. There really isn’t much to talk about for this one: Villa are basically already relegated and even if Pellegrini doesn’t get his tactics spot-on I still expect City, even despite some potential squad rotation, to have an easy time.
Everton vs West Ham
PREDICTION: Everton 1-1 West ham
Everton did not play last weekend due to the Merseyside Derby being postponed, so their squad should be very well rested despite ther midweek game. West Ham played narrowly beat Sunderland 1-0 in a closely contested game with few goals. Andy Carroll looked very dangerous upon being subbed in and Antonio’s pea-roller into the bottom left corner was the difference at the end of 90 minutes. (Also, another video to look up is Khazri’s attempted rabona, this one’s pretty good too, almost as good as Richard Dunne’s infamous attempt at Villa). Emenike was poor against Sunderland so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carroll start, who I expect to have a good game against the Everton center halves who this season have been weak in the air. One issue for West Ham, however, is that they will have just played Spurs midweek, and it could prove difficult to cope with for a team that’s not used to a rigorous schedule. If West Ham weren’t playing Spurs midweek I would have gone with a 2-1 win for the Hammers, but I’ve decided on a 1-1 draw
Newcastle vs Bournemouth
PREDICTION: Newcastle 0-1 Bournemouth
Newcastle also didn’t play last weekend, but they will definitely need to show up for this game. Bournemouth drew 0-0 with Watford in a pretty boring game with few chances. The Cherries are still struggling to get goals, so much so that their top goalscorer is still injured Callum Wilson with a mere 5 strikes. Their defense has been shaky as well, so they desperately need to pick up points against an even worse defense. It’s hard to predict who Newcastle will start, especially up front, which makes it hard to predict what the dynamic of the game will be like. Looking at the last time these two sides met Newcastle took 3 points via a 1-0 win, but recorded only a 2 total shots compared to Bournemouth’s 16. Newcastle were completely outclassed in that fixture and the fact that they took 3 points from the game was one of the most undeserved wins I can remember, but I think Bournemouth will win against Newcastle who have struggled mightily at home.
Southampton vs Sunderland
PREDICTION: Southampton 1-1 Sunderland
Southampton’s improvement in defensive form in the past few weeks hass been a major improvement for the average performances the team had been showing this year, but the past two games for the Saints have been losses to Chelsea and just recently Bournemouth via mistakes from Fraser Forster. Sunderland were 2-1 down from the 67th minute on but managed to claw back an equalizer in the 90th minute through sub Fabio Borini in a very close game that could have been won by either side. Just as I thought Southampton were starting to pull some results together, their inconsistecy has shown again. Sunderland should be in good spirit coming into this game as Whabi Khazri has been a very positive addition to the team, so I think they could have a chance here. I criticized them for letting Fletcher leave for France but they did well to replace him with N’Doye, whereas Koeman has continued to tinker with Southampton’s formation, which causes instability and inconsistency for the squad in my opinion. Therefore, although I’m tempted to go for a Southampton win, I think Sunderland will be looking to capitalize and extend their recent form and will get something from this match.
Swansea vs Norwich
PREDICTION: Swansea 3-0 Norwich
Swansea didn’t have much going forward except for Paloschi’s poacher’s finish against Spurs early in the game, but Fabianski was incredible between the sticks for the Swans, making save after miraculous save to keep Swansea in it despite conceding two goals off of corners late on. Norwich were pretty abysmal against Leicester; they defended decently, more from Leicester being poor than Norwich being good, but they had almost no threat going forward in either of their two recent games. Cameron Jerome has proved he cannot finish to save his life and Mbokani can’t seem to get a game. I could see jerome causing problems in this game, but he still can’t finish at all so the only real threats would be Wes Hoolahan if he plays and Nathan Redmond, who has looked good in his past two games. Although Swansea didn’t have much going forward against Spurs, that was mostly because they were choked out by Dier in the midfield, so I expect them to respond. I see Swansea winning this game without too much trouble, sinking Norwich deeper into the relegation zone.
Watford vs Leicester
PREDICTION: Watford 1-1 Leicester
As of publishing Watford haven’t played their midweek game, but they played out a boring 0-0 draw with Bournemouth at the weekend with neither player really threatening. Their attack has continued to be underwhelming and Ighalo’s form has dropped, so their defense still needs to step up in bigger games like this. Leicester were put in an awkward position against Norwich: they uncharacteristically dominated possession as Norwich insisted on sitting back on countering which put Leicester in an awkward position. They almost looked like they didn’t know what to do. They couldn’t counter, balls into the box weren’t very effective until Ulloa came on, and they didn’t have any penetration from long rage or from possession on top of the box. This basically created a blueprint for playing against Leicester, make them play and they’ll struggle. They barely won against Norwich and drew West brom, so their form is questionable at the moment. I think Watford will try to follow the same kind of game plan, but if they try to do it the same way they did against Spurs, i.e. playing 4-3-3 with Deeney up top, they’ll lose the midfield. I’m very unsure either way, but I’ve decided to go with a draw.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
PREDICTION: Palace 2-2 Liverpool
Palace have started to fix their scoring problem as Connor Wickham has come back into form, scoring 3 in the past 2 games. Their defense is still questionable at times and the lack of consistent goals is still an issue, however. Liverpool lost to City on penalties in the Capital One Cup Final, having come back from a 1-0 deficit, and managed to upset the Manchester club 3-0 in the midweek. They did well to take their chances and their clean sheet shows a massive improvement to keep the likes of Aguero, Yaya, and Silva out. This fixture has historically gone in favor of Palace and have won the past two meetings, but this time I think it will be harder to call. Palace have improved but so have Liverpool, and I see them very equally matched. I’m hesitantly going with a 2-2 draw, with the home advantage potentially cancelling out Liverpool’s quality, but the game could really go either way. The fixture almost always has a decent amount of goals, so I think it would be a good watch.
West Brom vs Manchester United
PREDICTION: West Brom 1-1 United
West Brom pulled a huge upset against Leicester in the midweek, drawing 2-2 with the leaders in a game they could have won. Rondon did what he should be doing more often, running at defenders and shrugging off challenges with his strength and the defense kept Mahrez and Vardy out. They remained compact and hard to break down as always, and I believe they were unlucky that the two goals they conceded were from distance. United beat a struggling Arsenal 3-2 at home and then followed it with a hard fought 1-0 win against Watford. Although they had been struggling for form recently, the emergence of Marcus Rashford from out of nowhere has reinvigorated this United side. Some of the injured players, most notably Martial, are said to be coming back for this game, which will be a huge boost for the side. This game will be a big test for United, as West Brom are notoriously hard to break down, so United will need to effectively use their possession and create chances instead of passing it aimlessly like they’ve done so much this season. In opposition to the hype currently surrounding the team, I don’t know that United have what it takes to beat West Brom, and I think we will potentially see a relapse in form for the Red Devils.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Spurs vs Arsenal
PREDICTION: Spurs 1-0 Arsenal
This is the big one. This week we have the second North London Derby of the year and I believe that it is the most important match of the year for both teams in terms of defining their respective seasons. Spurs beat Swansea in a great comeback win at the weekend but struggled to play their usual style against West Ham in the midweek, losing 1-0. In the first half of the latter game Spurs had only recorded a single shot on target, poor for a currently top 4 team, and the team was visibly tired from all the recent fixtures. In case you’ve been living under a rock Arsenal’s form has been shocking as of late. They have recorded 3 straight losses in all competitions and have looked a shell of the Arsenal we saw for the first half of the season. Almost every player has looked underwhelming, save Joel Campbell, Cech, and perhaps Ozil, Giroud hasn’t scored for something like 11 hours of open play, and now Cech and Koscielny are out for this game. As a Spurs fan I recognize how biased I am trying to predict this game, but despite many pundits saying how easy this game will be for Spurs, I’m hesitant to agree. Obviously Arsenal are struggling, but a derby is different; form means almost nothing in games like these (just ask Sunderland). However, even the most loyal Arsenal supporters will admit that a Mertesacker-Gabriel, both of which have been appalling as of late, is not necessarily ideal, nor is starting Ospina in such a crucial game when the Colombian hasn’t played in quite awhile. The key battles in this game are, for me, Joel Campbell vs Rose/Davies as this is where I expect Arsenal to be most dangerous, both sets of defensive mids vs both players in the number 10 role, and Kane vs the two Arsenal defenders, both of whom have struggled with marking this season. As I said before Spurs have been tipped as favorites for this game given the home advantage and the injuries/form of Arsenal, but I expect it to be a very cagey game where neither team wants to mess up early. I think the game will eventually open up, however, and although I feel like Ospina will have a good game in net (he usually seems to do well in big matches), Kane has a good record against Arsenal and Spurs have incredible fitness, so I think Spurs will just barely win 1-0