Graham Gillespie gives his thoughts on the latest match.
With all the drama and excitement of a pivotal international break now behind us, we welcome back the weekly grind of the Premier League back into our lives this weekend.
Indeed, if the same fixture last season is any guide to go by, the word grind may be the operative word when discussing the first game of the weekend as Liverpool welcome Manchester United to Anfield, a game which could be the visitors’ first real test of the season. José Mourinho’s side shut up shop in last year’s clash between the two most successful clubs in English football playing out a gloomy 0-0 draw.
However, there are signs that Saturday’s clash will be a bit more inspiring than that game with United having been able to score at a rate of exactly three goals a game in the league, while Jürgen Klopp’s defence appears quite porous at the best of times.
Having said this, don’t be surprised if this game is again low scoring. Mourinho generally sets out very defensively in away games against big clubs, and many of the foreign players who were on International duty are likely to still be fatigued from their travels, especially with the early kick-off.
Two and half hours later, United’s neighbours and table toppers Man City will face the challenge of Mark Hughes’s Stoke at home. City were irresistible at times against Chelsea two weeks ago and on top of being the league’s highest scorers, they also boast one of the best defences, alongside Man United, having conceded a meagre two goals. The addition of Ederson and the apparent maturation of John Stones have been central to this, and it is difficult to imagine that Stoke will manage to penetrate the City rear-guard.
There are four other 3pm kick-offs on Saturday, and perhaps the pick of these will be at Selhurst Park, where Crystal Palace continue on their seemingly eternal quest to just score a goal against Chelsea. There was little learned from the first three games of the Roy Hodgson era with two of them being hammerings at the hands of both Mancunian clubs.
Despite their troubles, Palace have players that could be perfectly suited to Hodgson’s preferred style of play, although it will probably take time for the Croydon native’s methods to yield results.
Chelsea do admittedly have some injury worries, with Morata still recovering from his knock picked up against Man City and Kante damaging his hamstring whilst playing for France, but they should still have enough to secure three points against their London neighbours.
Burnley’s Irish holy trinity of Brady, Hendrick, and Ward should be high on confidence after all playing a key part in Ireland’s crucial playoff clinching victory over Wales, and will be aiming to resume their club’s excellent start to the campaign when West Ham arrive at Turf Moor.
These three also linked up rather spectacularly for the only goal in the Clarets last match as Hendrick smartly finished Ward’s cross following Brady’s raking cross-field ball to beat Everton. West Ham have bounced back a bit from losing their first three games but still haven’t put in a convincing performance and Slaven Bilic will want to rectify this sooner rather than later.
One team you couldn’t describe as unconvincing following their last win is Tottenham. The league’s form striker Harry Kane has a fantastic opportunity to get his October off to the perfect start following his stunning September when he lines out against the struggling Bournemouth. The Cherries last match against a big six side saw them put in an abysmal performance losing 3-0 to Arsenal. If they do the same at Spurs, things could get embarrassing very quickly.
Huddersfield were the team on the end of Totenham’s wrath last time around, but they have a chance to put that game firmly behind them as they head to Swansea. Paul Clement will likely be hoping to see his new signings Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony. Both will need to find their best form soon this season if the Swans are to stay up.
In the Saturday evening game, Arsenal have a tricky away tie at Watford. Based on what we’ve seen so far Marco Silva’s side could be a decent outside bet to be the best of the rest this season and finish as high as seventh or eighth. Arsenal meanwhile have not selected Mesut Özil recently, with Arsene Wenger opting for Alex Iwobi instead and the Nigerian repaid his manager’s faith in him against Brighton finishing off Alexis Sanchez’s delicious back heel. The Gunners have managed to recover after their farcical display against Liverpool in August, but they will need to be at their best to get a win at Vicarage Road.
On Sunday Everton will travel to Brighton and anything other than a win will no doubt see the pressure on Ronald Koeman be ramped up.
In the later game, Newcastle fans will make the punishing journey to Southampton. Jonjo Shelvey reminded us all his excellent passing ability against his old club Liverpool, and if he can maintain this level of performance the Geordies could have a decent spine on their hands, with Shelvey complimenting Elliot in Goal, Lascelles in defence and the underrated Ayoze Pérez further forward.
The last match of this round of fixtures sees West Brom go to Leicester City. Leicester have not gotten the start they would have liked, and they will desperately need a win on Monday before a tough run of fixtures.
Bets of the week
As part of these weekly previews, I will pick the best bets of the week from PaddyPower. Further that, I will be keeping track of these picks and will update my record every week so let’s hope I don’t humiliate myself. Without further ado, here are my bets for round eight of the Premier League:
· Liverpool Manchester United under 2.5 goals 9/10, €5 bet returns €9.50
· Manchester City to win against Stoke to nil 11/10, €5 bet returns €10.50
· Harry Kane to score two or more goals against Bournemouth 8/5, €5 bet returns €13
Note: If you were to include to these three bets in a threefold accumulator €5 would return €51.86
If you are going to place a bet this weekend, please gamble responsibly.
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