Everton v Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s stuttering Liverpool side clicked in to gear at the weekend thrashing a woeful Bournemouth 9-0 for their first win of the season. The shackles that appeared to be on in their poor performances against United, Palace and Fulham were well and truly off and they looked more like the side we’ve come to expect. However, they underwhelmed in midweek and needed a last-minute winner to see off Newcastle.
Conversely, Everton look set for another season of struggles having amassed just 3 points from a very favourable looking first 5 fixtures. The biggest issues appear to be in defence where they are allowing 15 shots per game, something that we can expect Liverpool to take full advantage of with Diaz and Salah in good goalscoring form.
With the last time Everton beat their bitter rivals at Goodison being back in 2010 and the landscape of the two squads, it’s difficult to see anything other than an away win.
Chelsea v West Ham
Chelsea have looked a shadow of the team who finished third last season and seem to have a real fight on their hands to make the top four this time out. Victories over poor Everton and Leicester sides have done little to paper over the cracks at Stamford Bridge and fans will have real concerns with not just the results but the lackluster performances in their games at Southampton and Leeds.
The Hammers have fared no better although they did get off the mark against Aston Villa last weekend although this had more to do with Villa’s performance than West Ham’s. Another positive result followed in midweek with the draw against Spurs and with Scamacca fit to start and record signing Lucas Paqueta arriving with glowing references, Hammers fans will be hoping there is more to come from a side who cracked the top seven last season.
With two sides very much in transition it’s difficult to pick a winner here and I expect the teams to cancel each other out. Draw.
Tottenham v Fulham
Spurs have made a good start to this season with 3 wins and 2 draws from their opening 5 games although performances have been less convincing than this record might appear. Only Bournemouth and Forest have conceded more shots per game and this is surely something Conte will be looking to rectify. Last season’s top goalscorer Heung-Min Son has struggled to get going and this may be the perfect game to give him a rest and an opportunity to start the keepy-uppy king Richarlison.
Fulham, on the other hand, have earnt many plaudits from their start to the season, only tasting defeat once in a narrow loss at well-fancied Arsenal. With Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring 5 goals in 5 games, the visitors will come to North London full of confidence and we can expect them to have a real go at Tottenham.
Despite the positives for the Cottagers, it’s hard to see past a Tottenham side who possess a much better squad and with strength in depth from the bench, I think they’ll just have too much for a valiant Fulham side. Home win.
Newcastle v Crystal Palace
Both these sides come in to this game having made good starts to the season despite some tough fixtures. Newcastle followed up their fantastic display against Manchester City with another good performance at Wolves in a game which should have seen them take all three points and were unlucky at Anfield. They come in to this game with a long injury list and could be missing many of their star players with the entertaining Saint-Maximin a doubt adding to injury concerns over Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes. We should see a start for record signing Alexander Isak and expect him to entertain as he’ll certainly be high on confidence after a goal on debut at Anfield.
Palace gave Man City a real scare last weekend but will be disappointed to have conceded late on in being pegged back by Brentford in midweek. Vieira’s side have only won one game so far this season but with impressive performances against Liverpool and Arsenal to add to the aforementioned game at the Etihad, there’s plenty to be buoyant about for Eagles fans. Wilfried Zaha has started the season on fire with 4 goals in 5 starts and will already be giving Newcastle’s defence nightmares.
Newcastle’s injury worries coupled with two sides who look difficult to separate make this a tough game to call and so I am going to sit on the fence with a draw.
Wolves v Southampton
Molineux hosts two of the league’s least fancied sides in Wolves and Southampton this weekend. The Old Gold have so far flattered to deceive with just 2 goals in their opening 5 fixtures although the additions of Guedes and Nunes have added some attacking guile to Bruno Lage’s Portuguese posse. An avenue that Wolves may look to exploit is Saints susceptibility to set pieces where they’ve conceded 3 goals in the first 5 games.
Southampton have so far belied their tag of relegation candidates taking 7 points from their opening 5 games. Last time out saw an eye-catching defeat of Chelsea where they limited their opponents to just 10 shots all game despite taking the lead on the stroke of half time. Centre-back Armel Bella-Katchup has played a key role in Saints good start although they are yet to keep a clean sheet.
Wolves’ fixtures tend to be cagey affairs with just 47 goals in their last 21 games – 21 goals for and 26 against. Once again this looks like two very evenly matched sides and with the home side’s new signings starting to bed in, I’m expecting that to cancel out Southampton’s confidence from their start and this one to end in a stalemate.
Brentford v Leeds
A trip to the Brentford Community Stadium will bring back fond memories for Leeds fans of their final day escape from the drop last season. For Brentford, the new campaign has begun positively, scoring plenty of goals and losing just one game to Fulham. However, aside from their tonking of Man Utd, they’ve been heavily reliant on late equalisers having scored three times beyond the 80th minute to rescue draws against Leicester, Everton and most recently Palace in midweek. Ben Mee will be looking to exploit Leeds’ weakness from set pieces where they conceded 10 goals from such situations last term and 2 already this season.
Under Jesse Marsch, Leeds have been reinvigorated, executing an energetic high press to great effect and knocking off their own big scalp when they destroyed Chelsea at Elland Road. They come in to this game comfortably in the top half with 3 wins in 5 games, however, they owe much of this to the goalscoring form of Rodrigo who has 4 goals in 5 starts. He looks set to miss this game with what looked like a dislocated shoulder and it remains to be seen if Patrick Bamford is fit to start.
With 2 of the 3 most recent meetings between the sides ending in score draws and only a 94th minute winner preventing the other from being a stalemate, I’m plumping for a share of the spoils again here to continue both sides good starts.
Nottingham Forest v Bournemouth
Steve Cooper’s new look Forest side have taken to the Premier League well and look set to cause a few upsets this season. Renan Lodi has become the latest of 18 new arrivals at The City Ground forming a squad that on the face of it looks Premier League ready. Forest look particularly strong at home where they’ve averaged 15 shots per game and Bournemouth look the perfect opponent to turn some of those chances in to goals having scored just 2 so far this season.
In stark contrast, the Cherries investment has been minimal, so much so that frustrations got the better of Scott Parker and he has been relieved of his duties after his comments following the 9-0 thrashing by Liverpool. Bournemouth’s start has been as tough as it gets having faced Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool but they did show some promise beating Villa on opening day. However, when your goalkeeper is being booked for time-wasting at 0-0 vs Wolves at home, there are definitely questions to be asked.
Bournemouth did the double over Forest last season but with the squad’s looking worlds apart now and with the unrest at the visitors after Parker’s dismissal, I have to go for a home win.
Aston Villa v Man City
Aston Villa look bereft of confidence at the moment. The defeat to West Ham at home last weekend has seen murmurs of unrest amongst fans and Steven Gerrard is under real pressure having seen his side struggle to get the ball up to Ings and Watkins and only managing 9 attempts at goal. With just two wins in their last nine at home, the natives at Villa Park are not seeing a recognizable style of play or much entertainment.
There could scarcely be a worse opponent for a manager under pressure than Man City. Guardiola’s side are ruthless and with 19 goals in their first 5 games, they’ll be looking to rack up plenty more here. Erling Haaland has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and unless rested for the Champions League tie in Sevilla, he will fancy his chances of adding to his impressive goal tally.
If there is a chink in the armour of City, it may be defensively where Palace and Newcastle have exposed them, however, it’s unlikely Aston Villa have the weapons to do similar. City have nine consecutive wins against the Villains and I expect them to continue that trend. Comfortable away victory.
Brighton v Leicester
Brighton had their momentum halted midweek at Fulham having previously won 3 of their opening 4 games. Graham Potter continues to gain admirers for his style at The Amex with his side built on the defensive stability provided by Lewis Dunk and Robert Sanchez. Before their trip to Craven Cottage, Brighton had conceded just one goal this season and so are certainly a tough nut to crack.
Brendan Rodgers is another man under pressure and the bookies favourite to be next for the chop. His Leicester side have just one point from their opening four games and are conceding goals for fun. With Jamie Vardy out of form and the departure of Wesley Fofana now confirmed, they look in free-fall generating just 10.8 shots per game which will not worry Brighton.
Two sides who couldn’t be in more different form, the only outcome I can foresee here is a Brighton win.
Man Utd v Arsenal
The biggest rivalry from the late 90’s has its latest chapter at Old Trafford on Sunday. Whilst we won’t see the dramas of Keane vs Vieira or flying pizzas, we do have two sides who look to have turned a corner recently.
Man United followed up their victory over Liverpool with a workmanlike three points at Southampton and are starting to look like a side who understand what ten Haag wants from them. With new signings Antony and Casemiro likely to make their home debuts, fans will be intrigued to see what they can add to a side who look a lot more confident than a few weeks ago.
Mikel Arteta has his Arsenal side looking much stronger and the additions of Jesus and Zinchenko have helped build on what was already a talented, young squad. Accusations of over celebrating were thrown at the Gunners after the scenes that followed their late winner over Fulham last weekend but perhaps this is a sign of a new Arsenal who can win ugly.
Detractors of the Gunners will point out that their opening fixtures have been very generous and this is their first real test. With the new found confidence and positivity at Old Trafford, I can see two sides that cancel each other out here and both take a point.