Last weekend was a massive week in the context of the Premier league. Liverpool’s victory at City completely changed the perception that City will be an unstoppable monolith that will run away with league. Leicester’s lofty position perfectly encapsulates the crazy, schizophrenic nature of the league. Spurs have been a model of consistency- hardly a word that one can accuse the North London side of being too often. Pochettino’s side take on Chelsea in what is building up to be a huge derby with a myriad ramifications. Victory for Spurs will really solidify their position as a top four or even title- contender. Simultaneously, defeat for Chelsea could really be the final nail in their Champions League coffin. That is just the highlight in what is bound to be another captivating weekend in the Premier League.
Saturday 28 November
Stoke City 5/4
Sunderland’s performance at Palace had Sam Allardyce’s Northern fingerprints all over it: the use of a flat back five clear evidence of Big Sam’s modus operandi. It will be interesting to see if Allardyce will persist with the same dogmatic practices in front of the home support. Stoke City have finally started to deliver on the potential of their talented squad. Bojan and Affelay have been instrumental creative forces, while Arnautovic and Sheqiri have become more consistent.
Verdict: Stoke to win- Stoke have been excellent on the road and will counter to great effect against a Sunderland side perhaps encouraged to be slightly more aggressive.
Manchester City 5/10
City have enjoyed an awful week that has cast a fairly considerable cloud on their credentials. The defeat to Juventus can be offset by the fact that they have already qualified, but the defeat to Liverpool was disturbing for a variety of reasons. Liverpool could have scored seven or eight goals, at times walking through the City defence at will. I feel that Coutinho and Firmino were actually surprised at the ease at which City relented. Toure has looked lethargic and may well be rested for this encounter. Southampton’s decent run ended with a somewhat deflating home defeat to Stoke City. Graziano Pelle is going to have a long afternoon as I expect a vicious City backlash.
Verdict: City to win
Crystal Palace 7/10
Newcastle United 3.65
Defeat here will certainly spell the end for Steve McClaren. Not only will it be yet another defeat in a wretched run of form, it will be a concrete distillation of their regression since the departure of Palace manager Alan Pardew. Newcastle’s ragtag consortium of players can’t string together two consistent performances. Players we perceive as talented- Sissokho and Perez- are troublingly inconsistent and seem to have lucrative moves on the agenda. Palace, for me, are actually an overachieving side on the brink of three consecutive losses. Their attack is overly dependent on Sako and Puncheon, while their solid defensive unit showed frailty against Sunderland.
Prediction: Double Chance: Newcastle to win or draw at 21/20. I fancy Newcastle to get a point but still fear for Steve McClaren.
Eddie Howe’s side have lived by the virtues their manager espoused in their promotion campaign. It has all been very bold and adventurous, but at some point discretion has to become the better part of valour, especially with the gigantic injury issues that have beset Bournemouth. Everton have scored ten goals in their last two games, with Barkley and Lukaku in sparkling form. Deaulefeo has been unbelievable, providing Martinez with an enigmatic talent that could be the difference in mounting a concerted European push.
Prediction: Everton to win- Before last weekend I may have taken the double chance, with Bournemouth winning or drawing. But after relinquishing a two-goal lead to Swansea I feel their confidence will be down, especially going up against a buoyant Everton.
Aston Villa 16/10
If Remi Garde never had a sense of the magnitude of the task that confronts him before last weekend, he should now. Villa were utterly benign against Everton, with very little attacking threat or defensive cohesion. Surely they should be starting Gestede as the ostensible target man. Watford have shown that they are up for the fight this season, pushing United all the way last weekend. Sanchez Flores will be earmarking this as a possibility to get some valuable away points. Verdict: Both teams to score- No at 15/20. Both sides will likely take the pragmatic approach and I don’t see both sides getting on the score-sheet.
Leicester City 2/1
Manchester United 5/4
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Sunday 29 November
Tottenham Hotspur 14/10
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West Ham United 19/20
West Bromwich Albion 28/10
This is an interesting one. With Dimitri Payet in the side, I would have certainly felt West Ham too creative for Pulis’ men. Now they look a disjointed team, with Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll starved of quality service. Enner Valencia is also a long-term absentee, which really stretches their attacking options. West Brom have proved more dogged a side than I had imagined, with Morrison and Fletcher proving a well-balanced midfield duo. Rondon has yet to really hit the ground running, and it will be interesting to see if Pulis opts for Rondon and Berahino as a combination this weekend, Verdict: Total Goals less than 2.5- West Brom will be typically stoic on the road while Bilic will just be aiming to do some damage control in the wake of last week’s demolition by Spurs.
Norwich City 42/10Draw 32/10
Norwich were really outclassed against Chelsea, despite the narrow one-nil victory margin. Redmond was a constant threat with his pace while Hoolahan is their most creative player. They are up against an Arsenal side fresh from a morale-boosting European victory. They also have Aaron Ramsey back in the fold while Theo Walcott is expected to return soon. The oft-maligned Olivier Giroud has been in magnificent goal-scoring form and will be relishing the continued assistance of Ozil and Cazorla. Verdict: Arsenal to win. Despite the West Brom defeat, Arsenal should have too much firepower for a spirited Norwich side.
Swansea City 11/2
Liverpool’s tremendous victory over Manchester City has truly reignited the belief that the Reds could be on their way to becoming a force in English football. Truth is, everyone knew that Liverpool had this kind of performance in their armoury against the bigger clubs. This fixture, at home to a possession based side like Swansea, has been the type of encounter that has hamstrung the Reds in recent times. Swansea, however, have been in a dramatic form slump that has seen Gary Monk’s future thrown into doubt. Gomis has been off the boil while Shelvey seems stretched by dual England and club commitments. The fire of Ayew and Montero missing of late while Liverpool seem to be gathering momentum at just the right time.
Verdict: Liverpool to win. It will be tight, with Swansea able to frustrate Liverpool in defence, but I expect the combination of Firmino and Coutinho to pull the Reds through.
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