The Premier League returns from an eventful international break, with clubs wanting to start Matchday Nine with a win. Here is what to watch out for.
Newcastle vs Chelsea
After a disappointing defeat at Southampton, the international break brought added worries for Newcastle, as Miguel Almirón’s agent Daniel Campos hinted the forward is ready to leave the club and there was interest in the Paraguayan international.
Furthermore, Newcastle are sweating on the fitness of Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, the absence of the latter would be a blow to their attacking capabilities. A defence that has conceded 13 goals will be tested on Saturday. Chelsea on the other hand are motoring along well, as beating Sheffield United 4-1 means they are 11 games without defeat. Three of Chelsea’s new signings, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Timo Werner were on the score sheet.
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Though it was another new signing in Hakim Ziyech that was flawless in his two assists. Frank Lampard was pleased with his team’s balance and if it can be maintained then Chelsea will be a force in the league this season.
Prediction – Newcastle 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea to continue their undefeated run.
Aston Villa vs Brighton
After the setback at Leeds United in Matchday Seven, Aston Villa roared back into life with a fantastic 3-0 win at Arsenal. They were excellent in nullifying the Gunners and took advantage of their opponents chasing the game.
This is a different Villa side to last season where their defence was prone to lapses and goals were hard to come by. Villa scored 41 goals from 38 games last season – they have now scored 18 after eight games this season. Many wondered if Villa paid too much for Ollie Watkins – no one is saying that now.
If goals are easy to come by for Villa that is not the case for Brighton. The Seagulls once again displayed their profligacy infront of goal in their 0-0 draw against Burnley. It wasn’t for the want of trying – Brighton had 19 shots on goal – the most by any side without managing to score in any Premier League game so far this season.
However, there comes a time when possession needs to be turned into goals, as they lie in fourth from bottom with six points from eight games. The last time they picked up a lower total after eight games was in 2002-03 (with four points) and were relegated from the second tier of English football.
Prediction – Aston Villa 1-0 Brighton
Villa to pick up where they left off.
Tottenham vs Manchester City
The game of Matchday Eight. Spurs will look to continue their good league form when their players return from the international break. They have remained undefeated since their opening day loss to Everton and sit second in the table.
A strong front three in Son Heung-Min, Gareth Bale and Harry Kane has produced 18 goals and 12 assists. Yet it is the defence that has impressed – they have the joint lowest amount of goals conceded in the league so far. That defence will be put to the test against Manchester City and victory could strengthen (early) talk of their title credentials.
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Manchester City will look at the return from the international break as a chance to start anew, especially as they sit in 10th. Victory against Spurs could be a tonic for City to push on. Having said that, they need to cut out mistakes in defence if they want to beat Spurs.
Manchester City may have been unhappy that Manchester United legend Roy Keane labelled Kyle Walker a idiot but the penalty he conceded makes it the second time this season. It is not the first time the full back has made a error and possibly an avenue for Spurs to target.
Prediction – Spurs 1-1 Manchester City
A tight game in North London.
Manchester United vs West Brom
Manchester United are another club that hope they can use their win at Everton as a springboard now the international break has ended. Ole Gunner Solskjær is in dire need of points especially as his job was under much speculation earlier this month.
However, they will hope Victor Lindelöf and Anthony Martial can be fit. Meanwhile, Paul Pogba needs to transfer his international form for France to Manchester United if he wants to start and not be on the bench. Until then, Solskjaer will look towards Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes.
As for West Brom, though there was several positives to take against Spurs two weeks ago, it still ended in defeat. Conceding on 88 minutes must have been frustrating for manager Slaven Bilić. The Baggies lack goals, only scoring six and half of those was in the 3-3 draw vs Chelsea.
Worse still, they have failed to win their first eight league games for only the second time in their history. The last time that happened was in the 1985-86 season and were relegated from the First Division as it was known then. The omens don’t look good for the Baggies.
Prediction – Manchester United 2-0 West Brom.
The Baggies to stay in the relegation zone.
Fulham vs Everton
Fulham are another club that would have rued Matchday Eight. Conceding a late goal is always galling, but to miss a penalty deep into stoppage time – especially in the way Ademola Lookman casually struck his panenka, was quite galling.
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However, the international break would have given Scott Parker time to reflect on what to take from the West Ham game. Points against Everton is a must when you look at their following three games – two away games at Leicester City and Manchester City before they host Liverpool.
As for Everton, defeat to Manchester United has meant they are without a league win in four games. Some might say the Toffees’ wind has petered out though their next three games (Fulham, Leeds and Burnley) are against sides currently in the bottom six.
It is a chance for Everton to overcome their blip in the league and push up the table. However, they will be hoping Richarlison will be able to take part in the upcoming games after suffering a bad challenge from Edinson Cavani while on international duty. A lengthy spell on the sidelines after serving his suspension would be a blow.
Prediction – Fulham 0-1 Everton.
Everton to win in West London.
Sheffield United vs West Brom
With no win in eight, just a solitary point, the Blades are in dire need of a win. They may have taken a surprise early lead at Chelsea in their last league game, but they were blown away by their opponent’s firepower.
That is why if the Blades make a good start against West Ham they must follow through on it. Sheffield United are suffering from injuries, with manager Chris Wilder already fielding six different players in his back three this season. Having said that, Wilder is a manager that doesn’t deal in excuses but results. He will be wanting one at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
West Ham may have sneaked a win late on against Fulham, but it means they have lost just once in six league games. As said before, it is a great revival after a tumultuous offseason when many thought they were candidates for relegation.
Defeating Sheffield United could lift them into the top half and would be a further vindication for David Moyes – a manager at the butt end of jokes after his disastrous tenure at Manchester United. Maybe now his reputation is slowly being repaired.
Prediction – Sheffield United 1-2 West Ham
The Irons to strike while it is hot.
Leeds United vs Arsenal
Leeds United’s comprehensive defeat at Crystal Palace means they linger in the bottom six. Though many wondered at the start of the season if Patrick Bamford would be able to lead the line, which he has done so effectively, the real concern is at defence. Being unable to retain Ben White now at Brighton could turn out to be costly.
However, they will take heart in their last game at Arsenal in the FA Cup where they caused the Gunners all sorts of problems despite losing 1-0.
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Problems is what Arsenal have after a shock 3-0 loss to Aston Villa. The Gunners were poor – overwhelmed in midfield, pressured in defence and shockingly toothless in attack. To have two shots on target at home was something Mikel Arteta could not accept rightly lambasting his side’s performance.
Arteta will be expecting a marked improvement at Elland Road on Sunday, with players such as Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needing to improve their performance. Anything less than three points will rankle a fanbase that do not want a repeat of last season.
Prediction – Leeds United 0-1 Arsenal
The Gunners to hold firm.
Liverpool vs Leicester City
The international break has made Liverpool’s treatment table something out of a First World War aid station. Several first team players have COVID-19 (Mohamed Salah) or suffered injuries while on international duty (Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson) leaving them doubtful. It is in defence where Jürgen Klopp has the most worries.
Gomez is out for most of the season and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury at Manchester City keeps him out for a month. Liverpool’s defence is down to the bare bones and the invulnerability behind the defence has been ripped. Which is why a win would be so impressive.
Leicester City are rising high after their 1-0 win against Wolves put the Foxes at the top of the table. When Calgar Soyuncu was sidelined with injury, some wondered if Leicester would falter like they did at the end of last season. The arrival of Wesley Fofana has been part of the reason behind their excellent performances in the league and Europe. The other factor has been Jamie Vardy and Cengiz Under striking up a effective partnership in attack. Leicester City’s recruitment deserve glowing praise.
Prediction – Liverpool 0-1 Leicester City
The Foxes to lay down a marker.
Burnley vs Crystal Palace
Though a point at Brighton still keeps them in the relegation zone, manager Sean Dyche will try to use it as a potential springboard like other clubs in the league. However, Burnley have to see this fixture as a chance to gain points, especially with their upcoming fixture list. Their next three games after Crystal Palace is Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal.
Defeat on Monday could mean they are reliant on trying to gain a result in those games. Furthermore, the club are in takeover talks with potential suitors. A win could put them out of the relegation zone and would certainly boost morale at Turf Moor.
A team already high on morale is Crystal Palace. Their 4-1 win against Leeds United prior to the international break lifted them to sixth in the league. Palace manager Roy Hodgson was thoroughly pleased at his team’s performance and it was Eberechi Eze who was the star of the show with a goal and an assist.
With Eze finally displaying the talents that persuaded Palace to pay QPR £16m, a enticing partnership between Eze and Wilfried Zaha could have wonderful possibilities on how far Palace can go – possibly a top half finish for the first time in six years. A win at Burnley would reinforce such dreams.
Prediction – Burnley 1-2 Crystal Palace.
Palace to build on their last league win.
Wolves vs Southampton
Wolves felt aggrieved at the awarding of the penalty that decided their game at Leicester. However, the return of the Premier League after the international break can help Wolves recover from their defeat. Home wins need to be the priority for Nuno Espírito Santo’s team, as they have won just two from their first four home games.
Having said that, victory on Monday night would propel them up the table into the European spots and keep them on track. Defeat would be a step backwards and their next two games afterwards is Arsenal and Liverpool.
This time last year, Southampton were 19th in the relegation zone with just eight points after losing 2-1 at home to Everton a few days earlier, leaving Ralph Hasenhüttl’s job insecure. Their fortunes have remarkably turned around 12 months later, as they sit in fourth with double the points total than at this stage last season.
Defeating Newcastle had for a short time propelled them to the top of the table and it signified the club’s recent revival. Importantly, Southampton coped without the injured Danny Ings against Newcastle, as Che Adams came to the fore. Adams and others will need to do the same against a good Wolves team.
Prediction – Wolves 2-1 Southampton
Southampton to taste their first defeat since late September.
By: Yousef Teclab
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Soccrates Images – Getty Images / Malcolm Couzens – Getty Images