Yet another game week is upon us as the midweek fixtures give way to the traditional weekend fixtures.
There was a lot happening in the EPL as managers were sacked, were hired and got their 1st wins in since joining all within the space of the few days since we last got together. Title races were ended in the eyes of one manager, whilst the 2 main contenders continued to pull away from the pack.
Let’s get into what we have in store this weekend where there are a few derby clashes to whet the appetite.
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
We start at Wembley, where the 2 North London giants face off in what now looks like a race for the Champions League rather then the title itself. Spurs went down at the Bridge, with Trippier scoring a comedy own goal to put the tin lid on what had been a largely disappointing performance. Pochettino’s side have lost successive Premier League matches and now need to look over their shoulder with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea closing in.
Defeat here would leave Arsenal only one point behind them. Arsenal were rampant vs Bournemouth, and that 5-1 win means they will be full of confidence heading into Saturday’s early kick-off and will hope to have caught their rivals at the most opportune moment. The home side will likely make changes after 2 poor performances, with the aforementioned Trippier sweating on his place in the side. Dier should miss out again with illness, and this will come too soon for Alli. Rose and Vertonghen are back in contention.
Emery will look to bring in some of his big hitters after resting the likes of Xhaka, Lacazette and Ramsey in midweek. Kolasinac was withdrawn through injury before the hour and he joins Koscielny on the doubtful list here. A big game!
Prediction TOT 1-1 ARS
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester City
At the Vitality, Eddie Howe and his men welcome the defending champions to the south coast as they look to put behind them the ghosts of a pasting in midweek from Arsenal. The Cherries will be happy to return to home soil where they are unbeaten in five in the league, including a 4-0 win over Chelsea in recent weeks.
They will need to be on top form, because they are facing a side chasing the title and who can overtake Liverpool into first by avoiding defeat on Saturday, albeit this could be only temporarily. Guardiola’s side have won their last four league matches and have kept a clean sheet in their last three, so whilst they may b feeling it in the legs by fighting on all 4 fronts, they will start as massive favourites here. Bournemouth continue without Lerma as he serves the last match of his suspension, whilst they are likely to still be without cook as he nurses a groin injury. Indeed Howe will be restricted by injuries if he wants to freshen up the side.
Mousset scored their only goal vs Arsenal and could start again here. For City, Walker, Bernardo Silva and Sterling should all return to the starting XI on Saturday and the latter may even play through the middle if Aguero is rested. Kompany isn’t used to playing so many games in quick succession these days but Guardiola has few options with Stones and Laporte sidelined.
Prediction BOU 0-2 MNC
Brighton & Hove Albion v Huddersfield Town
Along the coast at the AMEX, Brighton welcome the bottom side Huddersfield for a crucial game at the wrong end of the table. Brighton are yet to win in the Premier League in 2019 (seven matches) and are now only two points above the bottom three after losing to Leicester and Southampton winning on Wednesday night.
Anything other than three points at home to Huddersfield would be a really damaging result for Hughton’s side. In the other dressing, the visitors tail will be up after their dramatic late win in midweek. Huddersfield ended their 14-game winless streak in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Wolves on Tuesday. The Terriers are still 11 points adrift of safety but Tuesday’s result has at least given the club a boost.
Brighton have Andone available again after serving a ban, but Balogun is still sidelined and Gross was forced off with a hamstring injury so is unlikely to play here. They welcomes several key players back against Leicester and will look to the likes of March, Murray and Propper to fire them to victory here. For he visitors, Mounie and Grant will hope to keep their places up front after playing well in midweek. Mooy is the natural choice to replace Stankovic in central midfield if Siewert opts for fresh legs in midfield. Puncheon will also hope for a recall.
Prediction BHA 2-1 HUD
Burnley v Crystal Palace
Turf Moor is our next stop as the Eagles swoop in for a visit to face Dyche and his Burnley side. Both teams lost in midweek and this was on the back of some recent good form for both. Burnley’s loss at Newcastle meant an end to an 8 game undefeated streak whilst Palace also brought a similar 6 game streak to an end at home to Man Utd.
Both teams are locked on 30 points, though Palace have a significantly better goal difference, so this promises to be a tight but entertaining affair. Dyche will not make wholesale changes but the likes of Brady and Lowton could come into the starting XI. Illness kept Westwood out midweek and he remains a doubt here. In the other dugout, Hodgson will contemplate changes after Wednesday though Sakho and Wan-Bissaka will be missing. Dann will push for a start, as will Kouyate and Benteke.
Prediction BUR 0-1 CRY
Manchester United v Southampton
Old Trafford will be buzzing as the home side under the guidance of Solskjaer welcome the Saints to Manchester. United continued their sparkling form under the new boss, extending his unbeaten league record as United boss to 11 matches in midweek after winning 3-1 away to Crystal Palace. That result was one of the most impressive under Solskjaer, as United had nine first-team players out injured. They have the chance to gain ground in the race for the top 4, especially as 2 of the side above them meet at Wembley in the early KO.
As the home side were winning in London, Southampton were winning at home 2-0 to Fulham. This was massive as it moved Hasenhuttl’s men out of the bottom 3 at the expense of their opponents. They come into this one having only lost 1 of their last 5 against United at Old Trafford. The Red Devils injuries are beginning to ease, with Rojo and Rashford recovering to make the bench in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. The latter should return to the starting XI here. Fred and Alexis Sanchez failed to impress on their audition for a regular starting berth and could both be demoted to the bench.
Given the quick turnaround between matches, Hasenhuttl may have to look at rotating his starting XI. Stephens, Long, Targett and Armstrong did not start Wednesday and are candidates to do so here. Ings is pushing for a recall but may settle on a bench spot.
Prediction MNU 3-1 SOU
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Cardiff City
Molyneux will be packed as the home side look to get back on track against the Bluebirds.
Wolves fell to a surprising loss in midweek at Huddersfield., although it was their 2nd loss to the Terriers this season. Their opponents were also losers in midweek, going down 3-0 to Everton at home. This meant they slipped back into the bottom 3, and will hope to pick up a positive result here to attempt to get back out.
Wolves have not changed their side much all season, and with no injuries or suspensions, we could see an unchanged side despite their loss in the week. Cardiff should welcome back Niasse after his enforced absence against his parent club and Camarasa should also return. Paterson and Murphy came off the bench against Everton and should return to the starting XI here.
Prediction WOL 2-0 CAR
West Ham United v Newcastle United
Saturday evening and we’re off down the London Stadium to see the Hammers take on the recently resurgent Magpies in what should be an entertaining game.
West Ham escaped from the Etihad with only a 1-0 defeat, but were poor and City should probably have scored more. Pellegrini’s charges have only won one of their last seven matches in all competitions and face a Newcastle side in great form. Benitez’s men have surged up the table in the last month or so after a run of four wins in their last six and they won on their last visit here which will fill them with confidence ahead of this one.
The Hammers talisman Arnautovic missed the midweek game with illness but is hopeful of featuring. Noble, Zabaleta and Snodgrass were on the bench on Wednesday, though should return to the starting XI here. For the visitors, Benitez has no reason other than fitness issues to change his starting XI after another positive result in midweek. Yedlin could rotate in for Manquillo if he opts for fresh legs but this could be the only change. The form of Hayden and Longstaff in midfield has the Toon Army buzzing and they will look to continue that here.
Prediction WHU 1-2 NEW
Watford v Leicester City
Super Sunday starts at Vicarage Road, where the Hornets face the Foxes in what will be Brendan Rodgers 1st game in charge of his new side. Watford were thumped 5-0 by Liverpool in midweek. But they are unbeaten in their last three on home soil, but will look to improve on their record of scoring only once in any of their last four home games.
Leicester won 2-1 at home with new boss Rodgers watching from the stand and the former Liverpool and Celtic manager will want to get off to a good start here. Gracia will be happy to welcome back one of his key men, as Holebas returns from suspension and will slot back in at left-back on Sunday.
Sema could also replace Hughes but wholesale changes are not expected despite their heavy loss in the week. It remains to be seen how Rodgers will set up his side, with a 4231 his preferred formation at Parkhead. Leicester have no fresh injury concerns and could name an unchanged side here.
Prediction WAT 2-2 LEI
Fulham v Chelsea
Craven Cottage is the next stop and the managerless Fulham welcome their more illustrious neighbours to this derby match.
Ranieri is gone after only 16 games in charge, and former Chelsea man Scott Parker takes charge for this one. The loss to Southampton put them only 3 points ahead of bottom, and the decision to sack the experienced Italian looks like a surrender to the inevitable relegation.
The Blues emerged from their internal controversies after the League Cup final to win 2-0 at home to Spurs. They will start this game heavy favourites given the poor form of their opponents, but derby games can spring surprise results. Fulham will still be without Bettinelli and Mawson, whilst this may come too soon for Schurrle to face his former side.
Chelsea may make changes ahead of this one, with Kepa expected to back in nets after being dropped in punishment midweek. Emerson, Giroud, Barkley and Loftus-Cheek will also push to start if Sarri makes other changes from the side from midweek.
Prediction FUL 0-4 CHE
Everton v Liverpool
The curtain is brought down on the weekends fixtures as Everton welcome the Red side of the Mersey to Goodison for the derby. With Liverpool chasing the title, the Toffees will be desperate to land a blow to their neighbours in this one. Both sides picked up much-needed victories in midweek. Everton won 3-0 away to Cardiff while Liverpool tanked Watford 5-0. Form goes out of the window in derbies, but given Everton’s recent issues in the derby (no wins in the last 18 since 2010) Klopp and his men will be looking to win here to maintain their lead at the top of the table.
Silva will look to welcome back Zouma who has served his suspension and is expected to replace Jagielka in Everton’s backline. Mina is also an option after recovering in time to make the bench in midweek. Gomes will hope to replace Schneiderlin in central midfield but no other changes are expected.
For the visitors, Firmino missed out in midweek but Klopp expects the Brazilian to be available on Sunday. Henderson was dropped against Watford on Wednesday but will push to captain the side in the derby.
Prediction EVE 1-2 LIV
So there we have it and another breathtaking weekend is ahead of us in the FPL. Point to be won and lost, and team selection may be key with some big matches over the course of the 10 games.
So until next time….
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