Premier League Predictions | Matchday 3

Premier League Predictions | Matchday 3
Aug 26, 2016

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

With the Tees-Wear Derby, Hull’s surprise completion of back-to-back wins coupled with Paul Pogba’s debut for Manchester United after breaking the transfer record, Matchday 2 definitely didn’t provide a shortage of animation. 

And with more captivating fixtures in store for Matchday 3, this week of Premier League fixtures is nicely poised for the neutral, starting with Liverpool’s trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, whilst Arsenal face the biggest test of their title credentials of the season already – their quest to win the Premier League trophy for the first time in 13 years is already showing signs of strain, but the deficit between the summit and the Gunners could be as large as 9 points, after their match-up against Walter Mazzarri’s Watford.

The battle of the early successors, Hull City and Manchester United have a fixture at the KC Stadium. Mourinho’s United have sent a message to the league after breaking transfer fees, signing the world’s best, but Hull are also making one all right. Having been tipped for relegation this season, they are faring well even with only two senior players on the bench after back-to-back victories against reigning champions Leicester & Swansea away from home. Will the wagon fall off the wheels here, though?

It isn’t just about the pacesetters this early on, though. Two sides in the relegation zone (Crystal Palace & Bournemouth), face each other at Selhurst Park. There is already pressure building on this early; and one manager will be facing even more attention & criticism, whilst the other will have a lift off their shoulder. Which manager will it be? Eddie Howe or Alan Pardew?

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, White Hart Lane. KO: 12:30PM

Tottenham weren’t exactly convincing against Crystal Palace last week at home, but the solidness to their game was what worked for them. Harry Kane hasn’t found the net yet, but last season it took a long time for him to lift off, but he still walked his way to the Golden Boot. They have an anchoring back four, and Wanyama is more of an N’Golo Kante package – he covers a lot of ground in the holding midfield role & has aggression, something which Spurs do need – and he can provide that. The 4-4-1-1 system that Pochettino deployed worked a treat against Crystal Palace, as the central midfielders covered a lot of ground, meaning Palace’s strikers such as Connor Wickham had less space to roam free into.

Whilst Liverpool were poor against Burnley at the weekend away, it was Burnley’s defensive organisation that meant they couldn’t create clear cut chances. All they could fashion was half-chances or long-range shots, plus they struggled to play from the back; misplaced passes & they were often forced wide. They did miss Sadio Mane badly to give them the pace on the overlap, but Milner playing at left-back never took off. Like Jurgen Klopp said in his post match interview, the decision making in the game was poor. Whenever a ball went in, not a player in toxic green was there on hand. If they want Champions League football, they need to be able to come to these games and win, especially those that could be destined to be lower down the table, which is only a motive for inconsistency.

If they produce defensive performances like that here, Spurs will overpower them. They could find it hard to find the creativity needed – they may even be relying on Philippe Coutinho to bail them out here. If Liverpool go behind, confidence will go low, Klopp won’t be able to mix up the system due to the players he has got, which will be a problem, and Spurs can only go and score more. But Liverpool do have attacking options aplenty, which is very useful for them. Still going for a narrow Spurs win.

Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool

Fixture: Chelsea v Burnley, Stamford Bridge. KO: 15:00

I just cannot see anything in this but a Chelsea win. Chelsea have been lucky so far this season, especially in their late 2-1 triumph away at Watford. They were dominated by the hosts for long spells, but in the bigger picture, what matters is the points. If you’re looking to win the title, it can be decided by margins. Getting three points and carrying a solid run for the start of the season is what Antonio Conte is after. The Blues have mentality & belief, which is key if they are chasing a game.

Burnley were excellent in their surprise 2-0 dispatching of Liverpool – they were rigid defensively, pressed the Reds and forced the ball out wide, taking the chances that came to them. They also covered a lot of ground in addition, with the centre halves dealing with the little attacking prowess that the Reds offered. It will give them confidence ahead of fixtures against bigger teams, & no doubt will they not be set up to defend, but Chelsea have players like Eden Hazard that offer creativity. If Burnley go a goal down, their confidence & momentum will immediately go; I don’t see the Clarets being able to deal with that all game long.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Burnley

Fixture: Everton v Stoke City, Goodison Park. KO: 15:00

Unlike history implies, Everton have made a strong start to the Premier League season. Ronald Koeman is an intelligent manager & a great fit for the Blues. Judging by the away win at West Brom followed by their midweek trouncing of Yeovil Town, the players they signed are coherently fitting a football team that now has the leadership & aggression that the club needs. They need to hold onto Romelu Lukaku, but at the moment the saga regarding the Belgian’s future isn’t doing him any good on the pitch.

Stoke, on the other hand, were unlucky to lose by such a big margin against Manchester City last week at the Britannia. The referee did rob them with missed penalty shouts, and they came here last season and won. The Potters’ defence, though will be the deciding factor here.

Prediction: Everton 2-1 Stoke

Fixture: Watford v Arsenal, Vicarage Road. KO: 15:00

We’re only, what, three games into the new season, and already the pressure is heaping on Arsene Wenger & Arsenal. The club are facing another tranquil summer in the transfer window, with the supporters not refraining from expressing Wenger’s lack of tenacity to buy a world-class striker as well as the tactical ineptitude followed by the lack of mentality from the team. This, for me (and I’m sure others will agree), is a must-win game for the Gunners. Yes, it’s only the start of the season and the first few games don’t leave an ultimatum for how the season’s going to end, but these are worrying times for Arsenal.

Wenger looks too stingy to spend, even though they’re closing in on German centre half Shkodran Mustafi, the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle is in attack for Arsenal. If they follow the blueprint they are now, they won’t be able to compete with the bigger names, maybe not even top 4. They even got lucky not to concede a stonewall penalty late on against Leicester last week, but this should be a wake up call for them.

Watford, well. They’re winless in all competitions so far this season, however I think they deserve more from their games to show for it. They were fantastic against Chelsea; their pressing game foiled & negated the wide threat that the away side possessed in Hazard & Pedro. They seem to be effective & well drilled defensively, but for the Hornets it was down to silly individual errors. They just simply cannot afford to repeat that against a top side again, but their system at the back is good, and that’s what could make the game close. The midweek shock defeat in the EFL Cup is what will physiologically make it difficult for them to get something out of the game here.

Prediction: Watford 1-2 Arsenal

Fixture: Southampton v Sunderland, St Mary’s Stadium. KO: 15:00PM

Southampton haven’t really impressed me really recently. They’ve struggled for goals so far early on, and they rolled over at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Man United have an incredible midfield and attacking depth, but the Saints didn’t create enough clear cut chances when they got the ball in the 18-yard box. They have the ability to recruit promising young players, but they’ve got too comfortable with selling their indispensable players, and it’s going to be far too much of a challenge to try and replace them this time.

Sunderland have had two defeats from their first two games – in their opening game at Manchester City they deserved at least a point, but a moment of stupidness from Patrick Van Aanholt denied them that. But they didn’t deserve a point or the three at all in their Tees-Wear derby defeat at home to Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough showed more fight throughout the 90, but Sunderland were virtually nullified for most of the game – they only really started showing urgency towards the latter stages of the game. I still think they’ll get a point, which they will be happier with.

Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Sunderland

Fixture: Crystal Palace v Bournemouth, Selhurst Park. KO: 15:00

This is another fixture, in which both teams are under pressure, having not picked up a point so far this season. However, I do think Palace will edge this as they have the prowess of striker Christian Benteke, something they didn’t have available for their trip to Spurs. With Palace having only won 2 games out of 23, the pressure is piling on boss Alan Pardew, despite their exploits in the FA Cup final. If Benteke proves to be a successful transfer given the money he came for, and Pardew’s sacked, it makes little comprehension.

Bournemouth have also struggled for points – they were awful defensively against Manchester United in their first game and didn’t create enough chances against West Ham. Benteke’s aggression will be a problem here, if Palace play to his strengths.

Predictions: Crystal Palace 2-1 Bournemouth 

Fixture: Leicester City v Swansea City, King Power Stadium. KO: 15:00

This time last season, when these two sides met, Leicester were fighting for the title. This time around, there may be less at stake here, but it doesn’t imply that Leicester are playing for just pride here. After failing to win so far this season, a defeat or draw would leave neutrals staring at the rotten tomatoes. Leicester are out to prove doubters that they aren’t a one hit wonder, and they should have done so in their match against runners-up Arsenal, but the referee missed a clear penalty to award late on.

Swansea haven’t impressed me much either – especially after their 2-0 defeat at home to Hull. They haven’t played to their strikers’ strengths, and it seems to be taking time for their new signings to transition, with Fernando Llorente brought in in replacement for the significant departures in the striker role. It takes time for that to happen, but they have work to do if they want to become the side that challenged for Europe in their first two seasons. They lack the pace & aggression here, whilst Leicester have those both. So, I see a comfortable Leicester win.

Prediction: Leicester City 2-0 Swansea City

Fixture: Hull City v Manchester United, KC Stadium. KO: 17:30PM

Hull have surprised everyone. Back-to-back wins without enough senior players on the bench followed by poor ownership & a lack of investment in players. Mike Phelan has shown you don’t need the money to win games. But, they face the biggest test of their season so far as they’re up against Jose Mourinho’s expensively assembled Manchester United, who have also picked up maximum points from games against Bournemouth and Southampton.

United were comfortable in their 2-0 win over Southampton – they had even more midfield depth with Paul Pogba available to make his debut. He was effective, made accurate passes and got up the pitch. Zlatan Ibrahomovic, at 34, who was questioned over his ability to make an impact on the Premier League, has already bagged four goals so far for the Red Devils in all competitions so far, and he can be the deciding factor here. I’m worried that Hull will set up to defend this match – if that’s their gameplan, United can break them down with their prowess.

Prediction: Hull 0-2 Manchester United

Fixture: West Brom v Middlesbrough, The Hawthorns. KO: 13:30

Middlesbrough were fantastic on Sunday against Sunderland in the derby – they pressed well, took control for the first half and defended brilliantly for the second half. They have intelligent players and they can mix up their style as well. I just think they lack aggression from set-pieces, whilst West Brom have Salomon Rondon who has that in abundance, which could cause them problems.

West Brom will stay up this season as they have Tony Pulis, who’s known for defensive rigidness. They did, however struggle to get the ball against Everton, after they gave the Toffees’ back three problems after scoring. They can’t get comfortable here against Middlesbrough though and it could be a difficult day for Gareth McAuley & Jonas Olsson ou there. I don’t think Albion dealt with the set-pieces well last week, and I think they need a centre forward and more midfield reinforcements whilst they are well-drilled defensively. Expect a close game here.

Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Middlesbrough

Fixture: Manchester City v West Ham United

West Ham had a midweek game against Romanian opposition in their Europa League qualifiers, and got knocked out, so they will be weary as they only have two days to prepare. Manchester City, meanwhile are flying after making a solid start to the season followed by qualification to the Champions League group stages, and they’ve had more time to prepare for this. West Ham haven’t been exactly convincing at the start of the season – a defeat to Chelsea followed a narrow victory against Bournemouth in their first league game at home. They didn’t create a lot of chances, and it will be more difficult to get on the ball with City’s pressing game against Stoke – their shape is solid and their attack is also firing on all cylinders; they’ve scored six in two games.

West Ham will also have less confidence – Slaven Bilic blasted his side for their performance against Astra Giurgiu as their fans also booed the side’s performance. They’re clearly missing their influential players in Dimitri Payet & Manuel Lanzini – if they are available to face Manchester City, it could be a different game. Without them, however, it will be difficult.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United


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