The Premier League reaches an early season crescendo with a fabulous Super Sunday lineup this weekend.
The Merseyside derby promises to be a tense affair, with Brendan Rodgers’ credibility being called into real question in the wake of mass spending. Roberto Martinez’s side is starting to take shape, a formidable accomplishment in the wake of the entire John Stones debacle. The match of the weekend sees table topping United host an Arsenal side under perpetual pressure. This promises to be an exciting battle between Arsenal’s intricate passing and United’s expansive wing play. Elsewhere, City host Newcastle in a must-win game while Sunderland cannot afford to lose to West Ham at home. The plight of the North-East sides has become a persistent theme for the last two years of fixtures. It will take a lot to beat the astonishing goals tally of last weekend, but there should be plenty of action with various sides lacking defensive cohesion.
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Saturday 03 October
Crystal Palace 15/20
West Brom 38/10
Palace were at their pragmatic best following a slightly drab 1-0 victory over a plucky Watford side. Wilfried Zaha’s pace and perseverance earned them a vital spot kick that Cabaye duly converted. Tony Pulis will have been left devastated by an uncharacteristic home collapse against the Toffees on Monday night. There is something of a central defensive crisis following injuries to both McAuley and Olsson, which has been compounded by the dubious form of James Chester. Saido Berahino continues to remain the one shining light at a Pulis side struggling to find the consistency they had last season. Though I appreciate Pulis’ abilities on the road, Palace should have too much pace against a rag-tag defensive unit.
West Ham United 27/20
Oh, poor Dick Advocaat. The defensive calamities that ail Sunderland just seem to grow exponentially. If it’s not the prehistoric figure of Kaboul seemingly dealing with defensive senility, it’s got to be Van Aanholt’s almost ingenious ability to foil their offside trap at every moment. You have to feel sorry for the likes of Borini, making runs that are ultimately inconsequential in the light of such defending. West Ham are on the road again, exactly where they feel most at home. I just can’t see Sunderland containing the guile of Payet, nor the pace of Moses and Sakho. Back the Hammers at 27/20.
Norwich City 5/4
Leicester City 21/10
This one is a strange one. These are probably the two surprise packages of the season, both punching far above their weight in a season thus far characterized by surprises. Alex Neil’s side have benefited from sticking to the nucleus of the side that was actually relegated from the league recently. They have a Premier League match awareness that allows them to operate over their limitations. Hoolahan and Jarvis are their dynamic players, while figures such as Redmond and Howson provide solidity to the side. Leicester are the great entertainers, failing to disappoint their fans despite losing 5-2 at home to Arsenal. I see this one developing into a goal-fest. Owing to Leicester’s penchant for the elaborate, I foresee an open fixture that could go either way and such Over 3.5 Goals is the tip at 19/10.
Manchester City 1/4
Newcastle United 92/10
The Toon Army travels to Manchester City on the back of a morale boosting point over title contenders Chelsea. Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez took some of the pressure off Cisse and Sissokho, providing a blueprint at least for the passion expected by the Geordie faithful. Two weeks ago there were murmurs that this City side could become the next invincibles, such was their swagger and depth in talent. Vincent Kompany’s injury seemed to coincide with a clear dip in form with the side, with Demichelis struggling in central defence while Nicolas Otamendi still looks to be bedding into the English game. I’m going for the halftime-fulltime double, with a draw at halftime followed by City finding another gear in the second at 28/10.
Bournemouth are probably quite relieved to be hosting a fellow promoted side in the face of their minor injury crisis. Callum Wilson joins Gradel on the sidelines, greatly diminishing the attacking potency of the side. Watford will sense this as a possible opportunity to impose themselves away from home. Ighalo has been prolific feeding off of the presence of Troy Deeney, while Gomes is a far different proposition in goals to his hysterical days at Tottenham. Though I sense this is Watford’s opportunity, I can’t fully commit to a rare away victory. Back them to win or draw on the Double Chance at 7/10.
Aston Villa 27/20
Stoke City 2/1
Tim Sherwood is a manger under real pressure. I touted Villa for great things at Liverpool following their Carling Cup performance, but they were always playing second fiddle to a Sturridge-inspired performance. Stoke picked up their first win of the season following probably their worst performance of the season, such is the schizophrenic relationship between performance and result. John Walters has led the line admirably while Shaqiri and Bojan provide quality behind him. Villa will be hoping that Grealish and Agbonlahor can disrupt the likes of Whelan and Wilson, forcing them into rash challenges. I still don’t think that either of these defences are equipped to keep a clean sheet, thereby letting me off the hook of making a big decision. Back Both Teams to Score at 17/20.
Chelsea’s entire season may be defined by their next two home games. It took some character for them to regroup and steal a point at St James, but they now need to go on a run of three or four wins in order to mount a real defence of their title. Southampton are resurgent, with Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long putting pressure on Graziano Pelle to keep his shooting boots on. Wanyama and Mane will relish a vulnerable looking Chelsea midfield. Surely Mourinho has to resist the urge to play Fabregas in a holding role. He is a defensive liability while Ivanovic needs a three-week break from the game. The way Behrami destroyed him at Porto will hopefully be the final straw. If Chelsea heed the obvious selection calls, they should be able to pick up a morale boosting win at 7/10.
Sunday 04 October
Super Sunday kicks off with a massive Merseyside derby. Roberto Martinez’s side have been brilliant in recent weeks, showing off a surprisingly deep squad in the wake of various injury concerns. Fuenos Mori has looked efficient, while Galloway and Browning have deputised well for Coleman and Baines. Deulofeu has been their secret weapon, surprising many left backs with his devastating pace and dangerous low crossing technique - such an obvious remnant from his days at Barcelona. Lukaku and Barkley will pose a shaky Liverpool defence plenty of problems with their sheer physicality. Daniel Sturridge showed why he is probably England’s most talented player last weekend. Despite having just returned from a long injury, he galvanised the entire club with his deft touch, astonishing turn of pace and unerring finishing. However, I expect Sturridge to be less effective away from home while Lukaku’s physical presence will disrupt a soft Liverpool defence. Back the Toffees to pick up the three points.
Swansea City 17/10
Tottenham Hotspurs 31/20
Though I wouldn’t say that the bubble has burst at Swansea, there has certainly been a halt in momentum in recent weeks. I think that there is a slight lack of depth in the squad, necessitating less player rotation than other squads. Mauricio Pochettino’s gradual revolution at Spurs has started to show some fruition in recent times, with Lamela earning himself a recall to the Argentine squad in the wake of Messi’s injury. Harry Kane has rekindled the whole working class hero thing he had going on last year while Eric Dier has brought Stones-esque solidity to the side. Back Spurs to win at 31/20.
Manchester United 26/10
Arsenal’s ignominious start to the Champions League has just heaped more pressure on Wenger to start winning these top of the table encounters. United have heaped on the nostalgia of late, topping the table for the first time since Alex Ferguson timeously exited the scene. Anthony Martial has not only exploded upon the scene in his own right, he has freed up Rooney to drift more liberally into dangerous zones. Petr Cech will no doubt be drafted back into the squad given United’s potency up front. I expect Juan Mata’s battle with Coquelin to be hugely important. Wenger’s side just don’t have the self-belief to beat a top contender at this point. Back United to win or draw on the Double Chance at 15/20.