With another international break approaches, teams across the Premier League will want to end Matchday Eight with a win. Here is what to watch out for.
Brighton vs Burnley
Despite losing 2-1 to Spurs, it was a valiant effort from the Seagulls. Tariq Lamptey excelled yet again and is increasingly growing in stature in his first full season at Brighton.
For Graham Potter, a win is sorely needed against Burnley on Friday. Brighton haven’t won a league game at home this season and are currently winless in their last five league games despite their positive approach play under Potter.
For Sean Dyche, Friday’s game is more of a relegation six pointer than it is to Brighton. Matchday Seven was terrible for Burnley. A 3-0 defeat to Chelsea, coupled with Fulham’s win on Monday, left them rooted to the bottom of the table.
Without a win in the league, things look rough for Burnley and defeat to Brighton will compound worries they are in a relegation dogfight. Add the growing rumour of a takeover from different consortiums and you have a swirl of upheaval at Turf Moor.
Prediction – Brighton 2-1 Burnley
Brighton to get their first home league win.
Southampton vs Newcastle
Southampton go from strength to strength after losing their first two league games. Beating Aston Villa 4-3 to lift them to fifth, the storm Ralph Hasenhüttl had to navigate in the first half of last season has passed into something positive.
James Ward-Prowse was the star of the show at Villa Park, scoring two wonderful free kicks and shining brightly in midfield. Though Southampton will be relieved that Danny Ings’ knee injury suffered at Villa Park will not require a long term absence. Though out for four to six weeks, Southampton will be grateful for the international break.
Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Newcastle United got back to winning ways due to Callum Wilson’s brace in a 2-1 win against Everton. Lifting them to 11th, the Magpies now have a top striker in Wilson that can have them look forward.
Wilson already has six league goals – the same amount as top scorer for Newcastle in the league (Jonjoe Shelvey) last season. Steve Bruce will look to Wilson to add to his goal tally against a Southampton side that has already scored 12 goals.
Prediction – Southampton 1-1 Newcastle
Points to be shared at St Mary’s.
Everton vs Manchester United
After a barnstorming start in the league, I posed the question of what would happen if injury and suspensions were to hit Everton. That question seems to have been answered with two straight defeats to teams who finished in the bottom half of the table last season.
Their loss at Newcastle last week was especially dire, manager Carlo Ancelotti displeased at how his side lost concentration and focus. Both of these traits will need to recovered against Manchester United and show their fast start to the season isn’t a fluke.
Photo: Michael Regan / Getty Images
As for Manchester United, their lacklustre defeat to Arsenal was turgid, made worse by managing just two shots on target. No wins in their first four home games for the first time since 1972 is a milestone Manchester United could do without.
The insipid display in such a big game was shocking to see and Pogba’s poor display in midfield brings questions on whether he should be dropped. Lying in 15th in the league, as well as the terrible showing in their Champions League defeat at İstanbul Başakşehir, heightens the pressure on Ole Gunner Solskjaer. The return of Antony Martial from suspension will help Solskjaer who needs all the assistance.
Prediction – Everton 2-1 Manchester United
The pressure to increase on Solskjaer.
Crystal Palace vs Leeds United
Palace were thoroughly outplayed at Wolves – a team well coached by Nuno Espírito Santo. Though the prospect of losing Luka Milivojević for three games due to a straight red card is a blow Palace will want to avoid by appealing the decision.
If the appeal is rejected they will miss his graft against an intensive Leeds side. Palace may be safety first in trying to soak their opponents but in Wilfried Zaha have the ace in the hole that can change the game if given the opportunity. Palace will hope they can do that on Saturday.
Leeds United will want to bounce back from a heavy 4-1 defeat to Leicester City on Monday night. Many things went wrong, conceding two goals within 21 minutes did not help, neither was crumbling to Leicester’s strong pressing.
We must remember Leeds are a newly promoted side and will expect one or two heavy defeats such as the one against Leicester. Losing Rodrigo to COVID-19 didn’t help but games like Crystal Palace are crucial to pick up points if they want to avoid relegation or something more – they are just three points off fourth.
Prediction – Crystal Palace 1-2 Leeds United
Leeds’ attacking play to overwhelm Palace.
Chelsea vs Sheffield United
Winning 3-0 at Burnley continues Chelsea’s revival after their struggles defensively. The arrival of Édouard Mendy has resulted in an uptick in their fortunes in defence with four clean sheets.
Frank Lampard would have been pleased with Hakim Ziyech’s performance – a goal and an assist is ample proof that Ziyech is returning to his Ajax form. Facing Sheffield United will be a test on whether the building blocks of progress have been set for Chelsea or proof of their inconsistency. Missing Kai Havertz due to COVID-19 is a blow yet the two week international break is a fortunate cushion for Chelsea.
Photo: Getty Images
For Sheffield United, it is clear they have fallen into the trap of second season syndrome. A narrow 1-0 loss to Manchester City puts them in the relegation zone – seven points worse off from last season.
Two interlinking factors are key – injuries and lack of goals. Losing Jack O’Connell to injury for the season removes Wilder of one of his defensive pillars so impressive last season.
Without O’Connell it makes them vulnerable in defence and relying on a main goalscorer is difficult when remembering they scored only 39 goals in the league last season. The Blades have scored just once this season.
Prediction – Chelsea 3-1 Sheffield United
Chelsea to run riot.
West Ham vs Fulham
The Hammers once again displayed their tenacity against the big teams and their 2-1 loss to Liverpool showed how far they’ve come in the last month or so. Liverpool’s penalty that led to the equaliser has been much debated but David Moyes was right to point out their feelings of disappointment at missing out on at least a point is a good sign of their progress.
Though Michail Antonio is out for the game against Fulham with injury, West Ham will hope he will return soon after the international break. His performances has been the crux of the Hammers’ recent good form and they missed his absence at Liverpool.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Fulham are another team heading into Matchday Eight with confidence after beating West Brom 2-0. Aleksandar Mitrovic was brilliant in bringing other teammates into the game, Fulham’s first goal being a case in point. A clean sheet was vital to a defence that has been awful at times.
Propelling them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season will give the Cottagers hope. Manager Scott Parker was right to say wins breed confidence and that is why Fulham need to build on this with a result (at least avoid defeat) at the London Stadium.
Prediction – West Ham 1-0 Fulham
The Hammers to be resilient.
West Brom vs Tottenham Hotspur
Losing to Fulham was a serious blow to the Baggies. Last week I wrote how the game was the first relegation six pointer of the season underlining how important it was.
So displaying such timidity in front of goal understandably upset Slaven Bilić. Karlan Grant lashing the ball wide after a defensive error encapsulated their ineffectiveness upfront. One shot on target despite having more possession will not win you Premier League games or avoid relegation unless there is a marked improvement.
After their opening game loss to Everton, Tottenham have recovered well to go unbeaten, residing in 3rd despite blips like the collapse against West Ham.
West Brom is a fixture that Jose Mourinho will expect victory, as they face a daunting run of league games after the international break in Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Anything less than a win against the Baggies will set them back ahead of the international break and those important league games.
Prediction – West Brom 1-3 Tottenham
Spurs to down the Baggies.
Leicester City vs Wolves
Leicester City made light work of Leeds to make it back to back away league wins and jump up to second. It seems they have recovered from their blip at Aston Villa and their signings have already clicked into the fabric of the team. Wesley Fofana has made his presence felt in defence and has brilliantly deputised in the absence of Çağlar Söyüncü.
Meanwhile, Cengiz Ünder has struck up a powerful twin axis with Jamie Vardy, so effectively shown in the league wins at Arsenal and Leeds respectively. Add the impressive displays in the Europa League and things look bright for the Foxes.
Photo: Getty Images / Catherine Ivill
Yet they will be tested by a Wolves side also brimming with confidence after their 2-0 win against Crystal Palace put them into sixth. The performance of full back Rayan Aït-Nouri was eye catching and shaping up to be another successful move from Wolves’ recruitment team.
As I’ve said in recent weeks, Wolves harbour ambitions of breaking into the elite table of the Premier League and a win against Leicester will make pundits think they can break new ground. They have the players to make a real impact yet it all depends on concentration.
Prediction – Leicester City 2-1 Wolves
The Foxes to make Wolves cower.
Manchester City vs Liverpool
Without doubt the game of Matchday Eight. Residing in 10th, Manchester City need to win so to shrug off their indifferent start to the season. Beating Olympiakos in the Champions League on Wednesday shall boost their confidence and notching three clean sheets in their last three games is a bonus.
Photo: Alex Livesey / Danehouse/ Getty Images
While defence is still a possible weak spot for Manchester City, the possible return of Sergio Agüero is massive. They have missed his threat in the middle and just haven’t been able to fully replace his talents upfront. Alas, you do feel that Manchester City are different this season and their cloak of invincibility has eroded.
Liverpool may have struggled with the absence of Virgil van Dijk but it has led to others to come out of nowhere. One such player is Nathaniel Phillips whose man of the match performance against West Ham brought such a smile to Jürgen Klopp’s face. Another new player that has caught the eye is Diogo Jota who has started his career at Liverpool with a bang.
Scoring the winner to beat West Ham, as well as a hat-trick against Atalanta in the Champions League, the Portuguese international is putting pressure on Liverpool’s front three especially Roberto Firmino. Klopp will hope competition will improve performance amongst his side especially against Manchester City on Sunday.
Prediction – Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool’s front three to be the difference.
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Manchester United was a signpost of their progression under Mikel Arteta. It wasn’t the fact they had beaten one of the Big Six away from home for the first time since 2015. It was how they dominated Manchester United with Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny strangling their opponents in midfield.
Yet it is vital for the Gunners to build on this with a league win on Sunday night. Inconsistency will herald more questions on whether Arsenal can really push for the top four. A repeat of their performance at Old Trafford, albeit with more goals, would quieten a few critics.
As for Aston Villa, they will hope to rebound on what was arguably their worst performance in the league this season. Two goals in stoppage time to lose 4-3 to Southampton masked what was a insipid display and were 4-0 down at one point.
Manager Dean Smith was right to lament his side’s continuous poor decisions that led to Southampton’s goals. A marked improvement is required and Villa will take encouragement from last season when they beat Arsenal at Villa Park and ran them close at the Emirates.
Prediction – Arsenal 2-0 Aston Villa
Arsenal to head into the international break with three points.
By: Yousef Teclab
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Michael Regan – Getty Images / James Williamson – AMA