With the arrival of December comes Matchday 11 in the Premier League. Though there will be just nine games, as Aston Villa vs Newcastle is postponed after Newcastle’s squad had to isolate after several players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
Burnley vs Everton
Burnley continued their harrowing performances at Manchester City in the league, beaten 5-0 for the third time at the Etihad. Manager Sean Dyche will want a markedly improved performance from his players against Everton, hoping to repeat their 1-0 win last season in October 2019.
To pull off an improbable victory, Burnley must improve their lack of goals, as they are the join lowest scores in the league this season, with a paltry four. Injuries and a lack of spending in the transfer market has hamstrung Burnley’s start. Things need to change.
Things also need to change for Everton after a lacklustre home defeat to Leeds. With a fourth defeat in five games, the Toffees’ blistering league start has hit the buffers, sliding down to eighth.
Photo: Jon Super – Pool / Getty Images
As I’ve written in recent weeks, suspensions and injuries would be a test of whether Everton can sustain ambitions of being a Top 6 side. Having Lucas Digne, as well as Seamus Coleman out injured hurt them against Leeds and a win at Burnley is needed to start December off on the right track.
Prediction – Burnley 0-2 Everton.
Three points for the Toffees.
Manchester City vs Fulham
Manchester City ended November on the right note by smashing Burnley for five. Although sitting in 11th, things aren’t as bad as they look, currently three points off 4th and with a game in Fulham.
Beating Burnley by such a dominant also helped their goal difference, as prior to the game they had scored only 10 goals in the league. Manager Pep Guardiola will look for a repeat performance against an opponent they have beaten in their last 10 games. Yet while many observers would point to a Manchester City victory on Saturday, Fulham will feel they will have a chance after their shock 2-1 win at Leicester City on Monday night.
The Cottagers showed an organisation and diligence rarely seen this season and raced into a 2-0 lead. It was redemption for two players – Ademola Lookman and Ivan Cavaleiro – who atoned for their penalty misses by scoring against the Foxes.
Despite conceding in the 86th minute, Fulham’s defence held and now sit above the relegation zone. A vital win will give them added confidence heading into the game against Manchester City.
Prediction – Manchester City 3-1 Fulham
Manchester City to move up the table.
West Ham vs Manchester United
The Hammers continued their excellent league form, even if they rode their luck against Aston Villa on Monday night. Yet victory has propelled them to fifth – heights not seen since the days of Slaven Bilić in the last days of Upton Park.
That they have continued this good form without Michail Antonio is equally as impressive. Real optimism is exuding in East London and now have their highest points total after 10 games in nine years. Manchester United is a real test for West Ham, but one that is not insurmountable.
As for Manchester United, their 3-2 win at Southampton certainly was a tale of two halves. Awful in the first half and 2-0 down, it was the introduction of Edinson Cavani that helped ignite a fire in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Photo: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images
Coming back to win 3-2, it showed resilience and character from a side enjoying playing away, winning all of their games this season. Yet Manchester United need to make sure they do not repeat their first half performance at West Ham. Lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Prediction – West Ham 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United to continue their away form.
Chelsea vs Leeds United
Though Chelsea did not lose against their now early title pace setters Spurs, it was the North London side that would have felt more content with the point. That is why Frank Lampard will be wanting a decisive performance against Leeds on Sunday. While it won’t end up like the thunderous 1970 FA Cup Final replay, Chelsea will want to keep their unbeaten record and strengthen their hold in the top four.
Frank Lampard and Marcelo Bielsa have history from their time in their Championship, but Bielsa will be coming to Stamford Bridge with confidence after a morale-boosting victory at Everton.
Their ability to hold the Toffees thanks to another great performance in goal by Illan Meslier and take their chance at the latter part of the game might be a template for Leeds to use at Chelsea. Having said that, if Chelsea get an early goal then Leeds will have to impose themselves more under Bielsa’s relentless style of football. High risk but could be high reward.
Prediction – Chelsea 2-0 Leeds United
Chelsea to continue their unbeaten run.
West Brom vs Crystal Palace
To narrowly overcome Sheffield United 1-0 last week for their first league win of the season was a massive confidence booster for West Brom in what was a six pointer. With Fulham’s surprise win at Leicester keeping the Baggies in the relegation zone, they must build on their win by repeating their performance against Crystal Palace.
Matheus Pereira will be key to their chances of a win. He created nine chances against Sheffield United last week, the most by a player in a single league game so far this season. The key question is if Pereira can create against Palace will the West Brom strikers convert at a better rate?
Crystal Palace paid the price for their profligacy in front of goal by losing 2-0 at home to Newcastle last Friday. Eberechi Eze showcased his creative abilities, but without Wilfried Zaha, Palace lacked a player to create a game changing moment of brilliance.
Photo: Getty Images
Roy Hodgson’s side have only won eight games from the 29 Zaha has missed since 2014. It goes to show the importance of the player, but also the need to diversify their attacking threat. 57% possession yielding just three shots on target means Palace must do better at the Hawthorns on Sunday with or without Zaha.
Prediction – West Brom 1-1 Crystal Palace
Points to be shared at the West Midlands.
Sheffield United vs Leicester City
These are tough times for Sheffield United, as defeat at West Bromwich Albion means they are the only team not to win in the league or keep a clean sheet this season. It wasn’t for want of trying, as they were denied by the heroics of West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
But the statistics are grim for Chris Wilder. No team has stayed up in the Premier League having picked up just one point from their first 10 games. They need to pick up points fast by scoring goals or it will be a long season for the Blades.
As for Leicester City, they will be looking to not be surprised again by a side in the bottom six like they were against Fulham. Manager Brendan Rodgers was disappointed at his side’s defensive errors and in the Premier League such mistakes are quickly punished.
Fulham’s ability to siphon off Leicester’s supply to Jamie Vardy would have concerned Rodgers and will be something that needs to be rectified at Sheffield United or better teams in the league will take notice of the Foxes’ weakness.
Prediction – Sheffield United 0-2 Leicester City
The Blades’ woes to continue.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal
The game of Matchday Eleven. Two sides with contrasting fortunes makes for an interesting North London derby that is rarely dull. Spurs sit atop the table and would have been buoyed to avoid defeat at Chelsea last week. Getting a point at Stamford Bridge led manager José Mourinho to slyly caution his side was a pony in the title race.
Spurs are on a roll since their opening day defeat at home to Everton, going undefeated in the league despite their hiccup against West Ham. Beating their rivals would cement their title credentials. As for Arsenal, November has proven a rough month for them, with defeat at home to Wolves made it three league games without a win and languishing in 14th.
Photo: Pool via Reuters
The Gunners missed the presence of Thomas Partey, as the midfield was outfought, but it is their bluntness upfront that is shocking. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been ineffective, Alexandre Lacazette ponderous that has led to Mikel Arteta dropping him and Willian fading after his debut performance in their opening day win against Fulham. But form goes out the window in a North London derby and a win at Spurs could rejuvenate the Gunners’ flailing season.
Prediction – Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Arsenal
Points to be shared in North London.
Liverpool vs Wolves
VAR was not Liverpool’s friend against Brighton, as they had a second goal ruled out for offside and then awarded Brighton a penalty in stoppage time that led to the Seagulls’ equaliser. It wasn’t the best of performances by Liverpool though Jürgen Klopp spent his post match interview criticising VAR and the broadcasters for scheduling their games believing it has contributed to their injury list.
Klopp should look to the positives like Diogo Jota being their top scorer with nine goals. Injuries are also opportunities for academy players like Neco Williams and Curtis Jones to step up like Trent Alexander-Arnold did when Nathaniel Clyne was unavailable. Wolves will be coming to Anfield on the cusp of a deserved victory at Arsenal. The way Nuno Espírito Santo’s players struck at the Gunners and held them off in the second half deserves praise.
The return of Adama Traoré was a much needed boost for Wolves and harried Arsenal. Yet it was Pedro Neto who caught the eye and can lead the line in Raúl Jiménez’s absence after his sickening clash of heads with David Luiz in the first half. Now sitting in sixth place, Wolves will eye another scalp in Liverpool.
Prediction – Liverpool 1-1 Wolves
Another eye catching display by Wolves.
Brighton vs Southampton
Three league games unbeaten has managed to give Brighton a bit of daylight from those in the relegation zone and their recent good form was culminated by their performance at Liverpool. Graham Potter’s players put in a gutsy display and thoroughly deserved their point.
The important thing for Brighton is to build on a confidence boosting display on Monday night and improve their wretched home form. However, losing top goalscorer Neal Maupay to a hamstring injury makes it a tough task. Meanwhile, the watchword for Southampton will be concentration after throwing away a 2-0 lead and losing 3-2 to Manchester United.
Southampton’s first half display was nothing short of magnificent and it was James Ward-Prowse that was at the forefront of it with a goal and assist. His set pieces have always been lethal yet this season the midfielder has come on leaps and bounds as a player. Ralph Hasenhüttl is building a good team on the South Coast and could replicate the highs when Mauricio Pochettino was manager.
Prediction – Brighton 0-1 Southampton
The Seagulls to be culled.
By: Yousef Teclab
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matt Dunham – PA Images