With the international break out of the way, we can get back to business and focus on what has been a turbulent time for the Premier League.
The appointments of Jurgen Klopp and Sam Allardyce highlight the different agendas of Liverpool and Sunderland perfectly. Liverpool, a flagging dynasty, are aiming to inject some lost vitality and reposition themselves as a giant of the game. Sunderland are just hoping to instill a sense of responsibility and stability into their side. Liverpool’s trip to Spurs will be an interesting gauge of just how much work Mr Klopp has on his hands whilst United’s trip to Everton may just be the game of the weekend.
While the two aforementioned glamour fixtures will be covered in full previews, I've taken a look at the rest of the games. There may not be as much hype around them as the other two ties, but there are definetly a few hidden gems to be found among them.
Saturday 17 October
Tottenham Hotspurs 27/10
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Aston Villa 72/10
There is a whole host of bad juju going into this game. The loser of this one may be next on the old managerial scrap heap, heaping huge importance on what would otherwise seem a routine exercise for the current champions. Tim Sherwood’s newly assembled side has failed to meet expectations, mostly due to a porous defense that looks ever more vulnerable. Attacking ability like that posed by Grealish and Sinclair counts for little when calamitous mistakes are being made on a weekly basis. Chelsea are undergoing their own identity crisis, slipping from one catastrophe to another. Mouriniho’s insistence on playing Fabgregas as a holding midfielder just reeks of the exact same arrogant petulance that defined his stay at Real Madrid.
Verdict: Chelsea to win but not by a large margin.
Crystal Palace 9/10
West Ham 57/20
Crystal Palace’s season has gone from strength to strength, leading many to earmark Alan Pardew as the favorite to succeed Roy Hodgson as the England national manager. He recognizes that pace and strength are critical components if you want to succeed in the Premier League. Wingers, Bolasie and Zaha have been instrumental, while Cabaye has quietly conducted proceedings in the middle of the park. West Ham’s brilliance on the road is also a result of their pace and strength in wide positions. Sakho and Moses exemplify this point. But I see the fullbacks, Cresswell and Jenkinson, being found out by Palace’s explosive wingers.
Verdict: A fairly comfortable win for the home side.
Manchester United 12/10
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Manchester City 7/20
Well, if there ever was a time for a newly promoted side to visit the Etihad, this may well be it. Bournemouth have their own injury concerns, with Gradel, Wilson and Mings long term asbentees. City will also be without two of their better players; Aguero and Silva. Eddie Howe will see this as an opportunity to get a jump on other prospective relegation candidates, possibly picking up a point where other sides will get decimated. However, players such as Nasri and Bony will be desperate to stake their own claim for a starting spot, while De Bruyne will play in his preferred number ten role. If those three click, Bournemouth may be in for a long day at the Etihad.
Verdict: City to win handsomely
Leicester City 7/2
This one looks like it could be a belter. Southampton were brilliant at Chelsea, with Mane giving a performance that echoed that of Chelsea’s ongoing transfer target, Paul Pogba. Pelle has also become a far more consistent goal-scorer, while Wanyama has knuckled down well, after a disruptive summer. Leicester City’s own fantastic season shows no sign of abating just yet, and what’s so impressive thus far is their ability to replicate their home form on the road, usually only a characteristic associated with the top sides. The Vardy-Mahrez combination rightfully gets all the plaudits, but one can’t discount the efforts from the likes of Schluup and Drinkwater.
Verdict: Total Goals over 3.5:This may seem like a bold call, but come on, this one has 3-2 written all over it.
West Brom 19/20
West Brom have been in a state of steady decline in recent weeks, with a somewhat ageing squad battling to keep up with the vagaries of a league that seems set to overlap them, despite the Pulis factor. The appointment of Sam Allardyce was an absolute no-brainer. The phlegmatic boss should at least be able to instill some old fashioned terror into his squad. It really irks me when you hear Sunderland fans living under the illusion that they are Arsenal. “We are worried that he brings the wrong brand of football”. I mean, what exactly is the Sunderland brand of football. Kevin Phillips stopped playing for you guys ten years ago.
Verdict: Both sides to score -no: This could be the most boring game of the season with both managers renowned for their pragmatism. I hesitate at predicting a 0-0, but both sides really do struggle to find the back of the net.
Watford are definitely one of the sides that has surprised me. I think a large part of that success has to be attributed to a rejuvenated Heurelho Gomes in goal. Ighalo and Deeney have formed a potent understanding, but the amount of times that the former Spurs keeper has saved their bacon is astounding. And to think, he was something of a parodic figure during his time at White Hart Lane. That being said, this is an Arsenal side that could finally be realising their massive potential. The decision to play Theo Walcott up front this season has paid handsome dividends thus far, while Sanchez is finally emerging from the mist of a major Copa America hangover.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double: Arsenal to win both halves. Arsenal will likely be a side that gives many of the lower ranked teams a harsh reality check.
Sunday 18 October
Norwich City 7/4
I kind of feel for poor Steve McClaren. The Newcastle faithful are a demanding lot, and they don’t seem to take cognizance of the side at McClaren’s disposal. Alex Neil’s side have been bullish thus far, with a plethora of experienced Premier League players aiding their quest for survival. Hoolahan and Jerome in particular provide a considerable attacking threat for a side with street smarts. Ultimately, I feel that McClaren is destined to end his tenure soon, and perhaps another disappointing result will put him out of his misery.
Verdict: I’m actually going to back the draw: Norwich will come here and get exactly what they want, while McClaren could well be on his way out if it ends in defeat.
Monday 19 October
Stoke City 28/10
Stoke were always a side that I fancied to start moving up the ladder. Mark Hughes has quite an exciting blend of white-knuckled pugilists and more expansive players. Arnautovic has been the revelation this season: The Austrian playmaker has evolved and become far more influential in the attacking third of the pitch. Swansea have been a bit hit and miss in recent weeks, I feel like sides have caught on to their brand of Tika Taka football. Jonjo Shelvey is being closed down more effectively, while Gomis is not quite finding the space previously afforded to him.
Verdict: Double Chance: Stoke to win or draw
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