English Premier League Week 5 Preview

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

The Manchester derby looms ominously this weekend as yet another titanic early season fixture. United have started to find some more consistency in recent weeks, while Manuel Pellegrini faces the City conundrum that is finding a balance between domestic and European commitments. Chelsea’s embarrassing home defeat to Basel in Europe shows the clear demarcation between expectation and reality as far as the London giants are concerned. Liverpool dropped their first points of the season on Monday at Swansea and will not have it easy with an expansive Southampton team visiting Anfield this weekend. Norwich and Villa looks like a fixture that is already burdened with the characteristic heft of survival frenzy while Newcastle continue to defy my expectations and will be looking for their third win on the bounce at home to Hull.

Norwich were soundly beaten by a new look Spurs side last week and will doubtless be earmarking this home match as a potential three-pointer. Van Wolfswinkel looked imminently dangerous once again and could prove quite a handful with good service from Snodgrass and Pilkington. Aston Villa must have been gutted by their home defeat to Newcastle, a defeat that must have even taken Alan Pardew by surprise. This game will see two fairly robust teams toil hard all afternoon. Benteke has been in sparkling form again this season; why on earth couldn’t Chelsea have bid £25 million for the man? The Belgian will likely score again to deny the Canaries a home victory. I’ve got a feeling Villa can take it at 2/1.

Liverpool showed no shortage of style in their 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday night. The performance of Victor Moses would have sent shudders of joy through the Anfield faithful, while Coutinho’s shoulder injury could prove to leave an indelible mark on the club’s early season push. Daniel Sturridge scored in his fourth consecutive game but later squandered various opportunities to effectively bury the match. Southampton were stylish but lacked conviction in front of goal at home to West Ham. Rickie Lambert should give the Liverpool centre-halves quite a hard time while the likes of Lallana and Rodriguez look to exploit some of the space he creates. This should be a lovely game for the neutral that will test Liverpool’s tika taka stylistics. Expect a highly entertaining draw at a whopping 32/10, where both teams create numerous chances.

Crystal Palace will no doubt still be incensed for what they perceived to be unfair treatment at the home of the champions last weekend. Ian Holloway wisely chose to remain mute on the topic in his post-match press conference, no doubt fearing the recriminations of a vengeful FA. At home they will feel quietly confident, with the talents of Chamakh and Jerome able to provide a variety of striking options. They also possess more industrious players such as Bannan and Gabbidon to offset their more attacking impulses. Swansea have become an established Premier side and under Martin Laudrup they are always a formidable opponent. Michu broke his duck last weekend and will be hoping to build on that. Palace have just been a little unfortunate thus far this season and I expect their luck to change on Saturday.  A hard fought win for the home team at 19/10.

Newcastle have shown unexpected character in recent weeks with some of their highly touted French imports finally starting to deliver. Hatem Ben Arfa looks unplayable when he gets into the groove and Alan Pardew will be licking his lips at the prospect of a third consecutive league victory. Hull will be ruing missed chances in their home draw with Cardiff. The Spurs combination of Huddlestone and Livermore has given them some valuable solidity while Danny Graham still battles to prove that he has what it takes to cut it at the highest level. Newcastle should have too much for a Hull team that looks a tad thin on the ground. Expect Cisse to be integral to what will be a collector’s item; a solid home victory for Newcastle at 8/10.

With a Manchester derby set to bring some jazz to this weekend’s fixtures it seemed fitting that the calendar threw up a game that could have real permutations at the other end of the spectrum. West Brom have just lacked the killer edge that Lukaku gave them last season. Victor Anichebe has shown some first team rust while Anelka hasn’t quite found his groove as yet. Their midfield of Morrison, Brunt and Mulumbu should have more space this weekend against a Sunderland team whose demise has an air of Italian inevitability about it. Alright, Altidore shouldn’t have had his goal disallowed on the weekend, but truly this team’s problems run deeper than that. They are defensively na├»ve, tactically unsound and seem to operate on the do-or-die approach of manager Paolo Di Canio. I expect West Brom to show the more talented Sunderland team that organisation trumps eccentricity more often than not in this league. Get them at even money.

West Ham have become draw specialists of late and are developing a disturbing lack of edge in front of goal sans Andy Carroll. Everton, on the other hand, remain unbeaten and are starting to develop into a formidable force. The rise to prominence of Ross Barkley has eased the pain of losing the talismanic Fellaini to Manchester United. This should be a fascinating fixture where Martinez’s more continental style is juxtaposed to Allardyce’s brusque pragmatism. Everton have also drawn three of their four games and as such I expect to see a highly entertaining stalemate at 9/4. However, I also foresee goals, so take the over 2.5 goals at 19/20.

Peter Whittingham saved Cardiff a vital point at Hull last week as the Welsh outfit forges ahead with a solid start to the season thus far. Peter Odemwingie has added some firepower to the talents of Fraizer-Campbell and veteran Craig Bellamy. They face an extremely stern test this weekend however with the visit of a Tottenham team that I believe are going places. Spurs have real positive energy at the moment, Eriksson and Sigurdsson combined to unbelievable effect last week. Soldado is alert in the box while Dembele and Paulinho work tirelessly in midfield. What Spurs have now that they have not had in some time is a truly world class bench. This won’t be an easy challenge for Spurs, but with the squad they have I fully expect them to get all three points. Back them at 17/20.

The form of Wayne Rooney must be just an added point of angst for Jose Mourinho as his much vaunted return to Stamford Bridge has yet to really revitalise the fuzzy feelings of years past. Chelsea's lack of a world class centre forward is patently obvious while Mourinho battles to properly integrate his abundance of number tens into one side. They should however be too good for a Fulham team infamous for their ineptitude on the road. Chelsea also have an outstanding home record against fellow London opposition. Martin Jol will no doubt be instilling a sense of belief in his side and urging them to view Chelsea as something of a wounded beast. But Chelsea should be far too strong as their fans demand a performance. Take them on the goal handicap at 8/10.

Arsenal’s victory in Marseille on Wednesday was their tenth consecutive away victory and Wenger must be quietly confident that he can finally end his protracted trophy drought this season. The return to form of Aaron Ramsey has been nothing short of unbelievable while Mesut Ozil has fit in effortlessly. Stoke ground out an impressive goalless draw with City last weekend and will be hoping to once again neutralise the footballing prowess of a bigger team with their physical approach. Arsenal are an altogether different prospect to City, relying more on incessant team movement than periodical individual flourishes. Arsenal are in tremendous form at the moment and Stoke could be in for a long afternoon. Stoke have always given Arsenal problems, especially at the Britannia, but this Arsenal team looks solid and I expect Giroud to lead from the front once again. The Gunners on the halftime-fulltime double will do it for me at 19/20.

With both sides collecting impressive victories in Europe this week, there is an added emphasis on the outcome of this game. The winner will be imbued with confidence as both their European and domestic challenges start to take shape. The loser will not only forsake bragging rights but will feel the overwhelming sense of a season yet to take identifiable shape. Manchester United were rather impressive on Tuesday, playing with a width I have yet to see at Old Trafford this season. Rooney and Van Persie have the potential to really become a potent partnership this season while Fellaini looked assured alongside Carrick in the middle of the park. Yaya Toure’s wonder goal was the highlight of a workmanlike display in the Czech Republic for Manchester City and they will be hoping it can galvanize their rather lacklustre domestic form. I just have a weird feeling that United are starting to emerge this season and will pick up the three points here. With Fellaini, Carrick and Cleverly, their midfield options have far more flexibility. Valencia was brilliant on Tuesday and will give Clichy or Kolarov a torrid time. Grab United at 24/10.

The man knows his football, but even he gets it wrong from time to time. Feel free to share your EPL tips and multiples below.

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