The Diego Costa affair has turned into a media circus that really only detracts from the beautiful game. Perhaps the media itself is to blame for all but eliminating every other football related event to a curious footnote to one crazy guy’s predilections.
In any event, Chelsea picked up a vital three points and travel to Newcastle with self-righteous indignation on their side. The match of the weekend looks to be City’s trip to Spurs, with Pellegrini’s men fresh off their first - rather incongruous - defeat. A hip-again United host struggling Sunderland in what could be a long afternoon for Dick Advocaat, while a jaded Liverpool side look to score more than one goal for the first time this season as they host Villa.
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Tottenham Hotspurs 11/4
Manchester City 9/10
Spurs should not let themselves be too distracted by their midweek Capital One Cup defeat to bitter rivals Arsenal. They have been steadily improving and in new signing Son seem to have a capable foil to Harry Kane. Manchester City will similarly do well to avoid dwelling on the missed opportunities at West Ham, where Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure dominated the Hammers for huge tracts of time. City look exhilarating at the moment, with De Bruyne appearing to perhaps be the missing piece in their kaleidoscopic jigsaw. Spurs, at home, can’t afford to just park the bus and absorb pressure. City will unlock their defence. Look for De Bruyne to score in his third consecutive game and also add an assist. He has an element of Bergkamp about him. City to win at 9/10 is the tip.
West Ham United 11/10
Norwich City 9/4
Slaven Bilic’s side will no doubt be earmarking this as a chance to underline their early season form with a more traditional home victory. Their Herculean away efforts have afforded them the opportunity to be slightly sloppy at home. Norwich have been excellent on the road, with Cameron Jerome offering them a strong focal point to hold up the ball and bring their exciting midfielders into the game. Hoolahan and former Hammer Jarvis will be looking to exploit the defensive inefficiency of Cresswell and Jenkinson. West Ham will be hoping that Moses and Payet will continue their already lucrative partnership. I expect West Ham, as they did against Newcastle, to consolidate an amazing away victory with a solid home win.
Stoke City 15/10
I was quite surprised by Bournemouth’s victory over Sunderland. The comfort of the victory bears testament to the self-belief of a club consistently punching above their weight. Matt Ritchie’s stunning goal, coupled with Callum Wilson’s striking exploits, have exemplified that there is no lack of quality at the occasionally swashbuckling club. Stoke’s attempts to redefine the ideology of their club have not quite come to fruition yet. The likes of Shaqiri, Bojan and Affalay have been introduced to bring sexy back to a club associated with more strong-arm tactics. While you have to admire their ambition, perhaps it is time for Hughes to use a bit more caution in trying to instigate such a fundamental change. I feel that this will be the weekend when some pragmatism returns to the Potters. Back them at 15/10.
Swansea City 11/4
Swansea City and Southampton share DNA in that they both embrace the tenets of attractive football. They also both possess a focal point in attack, Pelle and Gomis respectively, that allows for an end product to their elaborate interplay. Garry Monk has done remarkably well at Swansea, with Shelvey coordinating their attacks expertly. But I feel that this may be a bubble that could burst. Gomis is not the type of striker who will remain potent the whole season. Koeman’s side will find their rhythm and I feel will ultimately finish above the Swans this season. Southampton to win or draw on the Double Chance is very short at 1/4 but looks a safe bet for multiples.
Manchester United 1/5
Dick Advocaat must be regretting his decision to stay on the sinking ship that is Sunderland. Forget about the 4-1 defeat to a tremendous City side in midweek, just look at the way they defended against Bournemouth. The suspension of a terribly out of sorts Younes Kaboul has left them with terrible options in the heart of defence. Former United stalwarts Brown and O’Shea are too cumbersome while Coates is a questionable decision maker. United are flying high, with Martial and Depay offering pace aplenty to disturb the static Sunderland backline. United have the opportunity to win both halves here with a pacy side. Take them on the halftime-fulltime double at 6/10.
Aston Villa 52/10
Liverpool’s penalty shootout victory over Carlisle Town was hardly the sort of result that will inspire confidence going forward, especially with murmurs of Ancelotti being lined up as Rodgers’ potential replacement at the club. Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge looked sharp last week however, while Lallana looks to be regaining a semblance of his Southampton form again. Tim Sherwood is still struggling to amalgamate his plethora of new players into a cohesive unit. However, the pace of Traore and Ayew could prove devastating against a Liverpool side precariously vulnerable to swift counterattacks. Jack Grealish’s slippery running abilities will prove difficult for Can and Lucas. I don’t see Liverpool winning, but I can’t fully give Villa credit for a victory. Aston Villa on the Double Chance offers great value at 29/20.
Leicester City 3/1
Leicester City’s heroics have captured the imagination of the entire footballing consciousness. Mahrez and Vardy have become household names while the King Power Stadium has become a cathedral for the Foxes. They must be the fittest team in the league according to their propensity for late match surges, a fact that will not be lost on Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman is experienced enough to have left the entire Chelsea fracas behind him for now. He will also do well to not fall into the trap of chasing this game and opening themselves up to Leicester City’s quintessential counterattacking. It’s some kind of compliment to Ranieri’s Leicester that I find it hard to separate these two sides. I predict a 2-1 either way, so go with Over 2.5 Goals at 6/10.
Newcastle United 4/1
I think I’m in a pretty vocal minority that believes Chelsea will do well sans Costa for a few weeks. The belligerent Spaniard’s suspension may also do something to elevate the charm profile of a club beset by controversy. Remy and Falcao should be able to benefit from a highly talented midfield that had some more control last week. Steve McLaren’s side are in dismal form and are just the team that the Londoners will be looking to face. The central midfield, consisting of the likes of Anita and Colback, will not be able to contain a Chelsea side that will be united in adversity. I expect the sage Mourinho to once again spur the Chelsea side on in a tough spot. Back the Blues at 6/10.
Sunday 27 September
Crystal Palace 19/10
Watford have surprised everyone with their defensive acumen and ability to break successfully. Troy Deeney, though not finding the score-sheet himself this season, has been the talisman of their attacks, proving an able target man and link. Pardew’s side will be eyeing this one up as a three-pointer, with Bolasie and Sako prepared to bomb Watford’s flanks as often as possible. This is another one that is just too close to call. However, given Watford’s preponderance for keeping things tight, I can’t see both sides finding the net here. Both Teams to Score - No - is available at 9/10.
Monday 28 September
West Bromwich Albion 2/1
The return to goal-scoring form of Saido Berahino will come as welcome relief to a West Brom side desperately lacking imagination in the early parts of the season. He will be looking to feed off Rondon and disrupt an Everton backline that may be without the virtuosic John Stones. The gangly central defender walked off gingerly in their midweek triumph at Reading, a sight that will have left Martinez somewhat dismayed. Having said that - there is something quite exciting and dynamic about this Everton side. McCarthy and Barry provide solidity while the likes of Deulofeu and Barkley surge relentlessly forward. Galloway and Coleman provide width while Lukaku is the stereotypical target man. I feel that Martinez has finally found his groove with regards to this squad, despite various crucial injuries. Back the Toffees at 14/10.