Premier League Predictions | Matchday 2

Premier League Predictions | Matchday 2
Aug 19, 2016

Arsenal Bournemouth Burnley Champions League Chelsea Crystal Palace Everton Hull City Leicester Liverpool Manchester City Manchester United Middlesborough Southampton Stoke Sunderland Swansea Tottenham Watford West Brom West Ham

Following an exhilarating rush of Premier League goals, action & results, Matchday 2 begins with Jose Mourinho’s expensively-assembled Manchester United taking on Claude Puel’s Southampton from the south coast.

Matchday 1 served up some tepid games on Saturday, but it livened up, with the double bill of Super Sunday, with Mourinho’s United commencing their quest for a 21st league title away at Bournemouth, and Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side who are fighting for a Champions League spot next season, come up against title challengers Arsenal.

Jose Mourinho started off his tenure at the Red Devils with a comfortable 3-1 away triumph at Eddie Howe’s Cherries, whilst their bitter rivals also sent out a bold statement to the early pacesetters, with a 4-3 victory away at the Emirates, in front of a disbelieving Arsenal crowd. In fact, most neutrals were left bereft of words to express the game, with five goals hitting the back of the net in the last 45.

It was the new signing for Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who stole the show with his debut league goal for the Manchester club, and his team-mates and manager will definitely need him to show more of hi prowess, and better movement as well when they face Southampton in Mourinho’s first home match for them. Paul Pogba can add pace & skill in the centre of midfield, as well as creativity – he was sidelined for Sunday’s clash. Liverpool’s focus would be in integrating the pace on the flanks, a department the Reds lack with Sadio Mané sidelined with a muscle injury for their trip to promoted Burnley.

So – will promoted Burnley & Middlesbrough pick up their first three points of the season? Can Pep Guardiola build on his winning start at Manchester City away at Stoke in the lunchtime kick-off? Chelsea will have an opportunity to build on their 2-1 home win over West Ham United with a away fixture at Walter Mazzarri’s Watford.

Fixture: Manchester United v Southampton, Old Trafford. KO: 20:00

After watching United cruise past Bournemouth, even though this will be a more difficult proposition, I don’t see anything but another Manchester United win. Southampton have lost their key strikers which they would have ideally wanted for this game (Pelle, Mane) to other clubs, but they have a good squad nucleus in midfield. The loss of Mane to Liverpool was a win-win, as they got an equally nippy winger in Nathan Redmond who even had proven experience in the Premier League.

However, Southampton looked shorn of creativity going forward against Watford in their first game, with the cutting edge missing in the final third. They had enough shots on goal to even win the match, but you need to be prolific in football – and Manchester United are no exception. I don’t think they’ll be able to take as much control of the game as they did on Saturday, especially with the hosts’ midfield depth.

Mourinho was criticized for dropping Schneiderlin and preferring Fellani in the centre of midfield, despite the Belgian’s good performance. But, now Paul Pogba is back after the suspension he is carrying from Serie A, their midfield depth is going to be stronger than ever. Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be in contention for a start as well, but he is yet to impress Mourinho so far.

I just think that Man United will overrun Southampton’s midfield, as they will have even more creativity in the midfield with Pogba available.

Prediction: Man Utd 2-0 Southampton

Fixture: Stoke City v Manchester City, Britannia Stadium. KO: 12:30PM

After Hull City’s unexpected success against the champions, Leicester City, you’d have thought that I’d learnt a moral story in not writing another team off against the favourites. However, I just simply cannot refrain from thinking that Manchester City will win here. Stoke have beefed up their midfield depth with the capture of Joe Allen and Egyptian winger Sobhi, but Manchester City just have too much in the locker for me. The department in which Stoke lack, really is defence.

They have a lot of creativity going forward with Shaquiri, Sobhi etc, but Machester City are known for adopting a newfound pressing game under Guardiola, and even though they left it late for the win against Sunderland, that was merely a reality check for Guardiola, who is coming in for a shock in the biggest league in the world. It will take time for them to adapt to the philosophy, but it’s settling in as implied in their midweek dispatching of Romanian side Steaua București in the Champions League qualifiers. Consistency was an issue last season, and they did actually drop points here last season. Their tempo needs to improve though.

Prediction: Stoke City 1-2 Manchester City

Fixture: Watford v Chelsea, Vicarage Road. KO: 15:00PM

Watford impressed me at the weekend with their insistent defensive shape at the back away at Southampton in Walter Mazzarri’s first game. However, they didn’t create enough – Ethienne Capoue’s early strike was their only shot on target during the whole game. You can’t deny though that they were under renewed pressure from Southampton late in, and they dealt with it well. But, I don’t see them being able to pull off that resilience here. as they have Eden Hazard, the 2014/2015 POTY who was nullified last season. When he’s at his best, he can punish a lapse of concentration. They also have a new attacking option with Belgian Michy Batshuayi possibly leading the line.

Chelsea had gained a reputation for counter-attacking football under Jose Mourinho in 2013-2015, when he often deployed a “park the bus” gameplan against must-win games such as Manchester City & Liverpool away back in 2014. But we saw a vast improvement from the embarrassment that was 2015/2016 – there was more energy, movement, purpose, grit, pressure & togetherness about their play in the 2-1 win against West Ham at Stamford Bridge. Whilst West Ham were slightly poor out there, their lack of possession and time on the ball to make things happen was down to Chelsea’s pressing game. Nobody than N’Golo Kante covered ground better. Most of Kante’s passes were successful, and he can add the tempo that the Blues found in their title winning 2014/2015 season.

If Chelsea can maintain the tempo, pressing, energy and determination here, I can see them winning comfortably. Goalscoring could be an issue this season, if Ighalo & Deeney recreate their lack of goals towards the end of last season.

Prediction: Watford 0-2 Chelsea

Fixture: Tottenham Hostpur v Crystal Palace, White Hart Lane. KO: 15:00

Crystal Palace were shocking, and had a shocking result at home to West Brom last time out. They just kept running into blind alleys. With no Dwight Gale, they will 100% require a nippy striker to get them the goals.  They lack the pace now, without Yannick Bolasie on the wing, who moved to Everton. However, Christian Benteke could be the solution for them in the long-term, after an forgettable spell at Liverpool. The game was dreary at Selhurst Park, and their forward issue showed as they failed to create chances. I think goalscoring problems won’t stop until a new striker is signed.

Spurs, in my opinion, were dominated in the first half against Everton and struggled to get on the ball. They improved after the break, and only Martin Stekelenburg prevented a late winner. Goals won’t be an issue for them though, as they have the likes of Harry Kane going forward. I cannot envisage anything but a home win.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Crystal Palace 

Fixture: West Brom v Everton

I’ve never been an admirer of Tony Pulis’ ‘defensive’ style that he has deployed with West Brom & Stoke, but you have to admire the Welshman’s tactical astuteness and talent to successfully set his teams up to defend resiliently, and gritty results, despite poor performances at times. However, I do think they need several additions to beef their squad up, especially going forward as Pulis implied in a press-conference. Many have been suggesting Pulis’ brand of football will finally be exposed and West Brom will be relegated. But, with Pulis in charge, it’s difficult to imagine that. They didn’t create a lot of chances against Crystal Palace, but smash and grab struck as their secured a gritty win. That’s the way he plays sometimes.

Everton, meanwhile will be disappointed not to have come out of their clash against Spurs last week with the 3 points. Especially after dominating the away side for the first half. However, you cannot overlook Ronald Koeman’s experience in this league and he’s brought in some impressive signings, with Ashley Williams stepping in for some leadership. They’re creating chances, they just need to be clinical with them. They will also need to be able to maintain performance levels for the whole 90 minutes.

Prediction: West Brom 0-1 Everton

Fixture: Swansea City v Hull City

These are two teams that I’d expect to be nearabouts the same place in the league in May. Hull surprised many with their workhorse of a performance against the reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City. Despite the result, I still think they will be relegated and the poor squad depth, ownership issues etc will cost them dearly, coupled with the lak of senior veteran players on the bench available to play. Swansea, meanwhile are destined for a finish just above the relegation spots, but they will struggle with goals this season. Losing Gomis and Eder is a blow to their hopes of a top-table finish. They got a good start away at newly-promoted Burnley, as new signing Fernando Llorente linking up with £15m of Borja Baston showed signs of promise in the game.

I expect a gritty game here, but Swansea will edge it. Hull’s energy/fatigue levels is a worry, and they will struggle with players from the bench, as they lack experienced players. Even though youngsters could seize the chance to impress, relying on 18/19-year olds can be a flawed policy in football.

Prediction: Swansea City 1-0 Hull City

Fixture: Burnley v Liverpool

Burnley have been in the Premier League twice. On both occasions, they have been relegated. They just seem to be having the same issue with regards to their limited squad depth – losing Joey Barton and Michael Duff is going to be a blow to their midfield. The Burnley title-winning team of the Sky Bet Championship was good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not enough in the Premier League – a league progressing from strength to strength. The issue isn’t the effort or desire of the squad, it’s the lack of money being invested. Signings are needed to beef up the squad, or it could be a familiar feeling for the Clarets. They only created half-chances against Swansea, with arguably their best player, Andre Gray, spurning a few chances.

Liverpool produced the Premier League’s best game of Matchday 1 when they somehow came away with 3 points against Arsene Wenger’s deprived Arsenal. It was a tale of two halves; Arsenal had all of the ball and chances in the first, with Liverpool struggling to implement their pressing game. But, the fantastic free-kick equaliser by Coutinho just before half time galvanised them going into the second as they began to tear Arsenal into shreds – at one point in the game they were leading 4-1. But, despite a glittering attacking display, a defence that tried their best to lose a point, as the Reds were left hanging on. They are looking good attacking-wise, and even without Mane, I see them comfortably winning here, albeit they may have wanted a home fixture (was scheduled to away due to Anfield’s development)

Prediction: Burnley 1-3 Liverpool

Fixture: Leicester City v Arsenal, King Power Stadium. KO: 17:30PM

The King Power, the home of the Premier League champions. After giving bookmakers who wrote them off at the start of the season a taste of their own medicine, the last thing Claudio Ranieri wanted was to lose arguably one of their most integral midfielders who covered ground along with Danny Drinkwater & gave Leicester a new dimension in terms of their tempo – N’Golo Kante. Leicester losing Kante reminds me of a similar situation when Liverpool finished 2nd in the Premier League back in 2009, and lost one of their most complete central midfielders, Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid in the summer. The following season? Not so rosy for them. Even though the Foxes have replaced Kante with Nampalays Mendy, Kante is more of a running player who covered a lot of ground, something which Leicester need more.

They also captured Ahmed Musa, a striker who bagged goals in pre-season. But they looked nervous, especially the back four, particularly new signing Luis Hernandez. Surprisingly, the away side didn’t really create much either, but Jamie Vardy wasted some good opportunities in the first half, whilst Hull’s new makeshift defence consisting of central midfielder Jake Livermore, were excellent. A loss here wouldn’t be the ideal coronation for Premier League champions, but Arsenal at home is never easy, even with your own fans behind you.

Arsenal are also under pressure following the calamitous 4-3 defeat at home to Liverpool. Arsene Wenger especially felt the heat, as he opted to leave out new signing & midfielder Granit Xhaka, but they were without Olivier Giroud, Koscielny & Mesut Ozil, which was integral to their defeat, plus fans booed their side off at the final whistle. Attacking replacements are a must & a new CB is also needed, or Arsenal won’t be able to compete for the title or even top 4, which could be the final nail in the coffin for Wenger. Early points are needed here for the momentum, ad they could be the difference at the end of the season, as Arsenal may have to sweat for the three points in May. Even though the trio of Giroud, Ozil & Koscielny are available, their defence will let them down here. I see Leicester grabbing a set-piece goal here.

Prediction: Leicester City 3-3 Arsenal

Fixture: Sunderland v Middlesbrough, Stadium Of Light. KO: 13:30PM

A derby here, but I see a cagey game. Again, I can image these teams being close in the table come May. I’ll start with Sunderland. Well, after scrapping for relegation in previous seasons, David Moyes led the Black Cats to an impressive pre-season. They went into the game with Manchester City, with being tipped for a comfortable defeat. They looked destined to hold on for an unlikely draw against stuttering hosts, but it was a moment of stupidity from Patrick Van Aanholt that was the gulf from a point to no points. They had created chances to even go and score more goals, but they didn’t put them away, and they were punished. Everything on the pitch, tactically etc was spot on from David Moyes & the team, but it was that moment of concentration. However, the game also showed that if they continue to perform like that, they will have more of a statement to make than a team fighting for their lives in the league.

Middlesbrough, the visitors, hadn’t been in the Premier League since their relegation in 2008/2009, but they’re tipped for a successful return to the top flight, with some quality signings such as Victor Valdes, Viktor Fischer & striker Alvaro Negredo. Like Sunderland, Middlesbrough are here clearly to make a statement. That they want to be more productive in the league this season. They have a good squad full of depth – Alvaro Negredo is like a bird in the air, and Gaston Ramirez is a creative attacking-minded midfielder. They had a good result on their return, with a draw against Stoke. If they play to their players’ strengths, they will do well.

Prediction: Sunderland 0-0 Middlesbrough

Fixture: West Ham United v Bournemouth, Olympic Stadium. KO: 16:30

This is West Ham’s first appearance at the Olympic Stadium, and no doubt will the atmosphere be incredible. West Ham, I weren’t convinced by at all in their first game of the season away at Chelsea. Stamford Bridge is a difficult place to go to, but after adding to their squad and their impressive season last term, you would have expected to see the Hammers compete more. Losing Ayew, their record signing due to a thigh injury isn’t a good way to start the season, but I still think West Ham will win this comfortably. Bournemouth were shirking defensively & passive against the title favorites, Man United. Whenever a ball got to their main man, Callum Wilson, it was a matter of poor control or not knowing quite what to do. They just lack options contrary to West Ham, and those stand-out matchwinners, which West Ham possess, with Payet etc. Even though Bournemouth edged a thrilling clash between these two at Upton Park at the start of last season, I just cannot see them repeating that feat.

Prediction: West Ham United 2-0 Bournemouth

Written by Stephen Lindelll (@SteLindellLFC)

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