Football Friday – Weekend Preview

By David de Winter – Sports Editor
@TLE_Sport @davidjdewinter

Liverpool v Everton
A Merseyside derby which takes on added significance thanks to the poor starts to the season made by both teams. Everton have the worst defence in the league so far whilst Liverpool have already lost three times and are yet to find the attacking fluency of last season. Neither team convinced during the week in the League Cup. It could be a cagey match as both teams are desperate to avoid the ignominy of a defeat to their closest rivals, but that said both defences are leakier than a colander so goals will almost certainly be scored.
Prediction: Score draw

Chelsea v Aston Villa
1st plays 3rd (bet no-one predicted that), with Aston Villa looking to put the disappointment of their defeat to Arsenal last week behind them. What easier place to come to than Stamford Bridge? Chelsea are in rampant form, save for conceding a sloppy late equaliser last weekend at the Etihad, and the Villa defence, excellent so far this season, will have to cope with the Blues’ monkey lookalike and goal-hungry frontman Diego Costa. A glimmer of hope for the away side as the normally watertight Chelsea defence has been unusually porous in the opening fixtures.
Prediction: Home win

Crystal Palace v Leicester City
Two teams which have started the season rather brightly; Palace, after the shock resignation of previous manager Tony Pulis, are chugging along nicely under Neil Warnock who has brought them a semblance of stability. Leicester, fresh from totally overrunning an at times non-existent Manchester United defence, have impressed everyone with their attacking verve and willingness to stand toe-to-toe with supposedly superior opposition. Joel Ward and co. will have their hands full trying to stop Leicester’s pacy attacking trio of Vardy, Ulloa and Nugent.
Prediction: Away win

Hull City v Manchester City
With no league win for more than a month, Manchester City can’t afford too many more slip-ups if they are to retain their Premier League crown, even at this early stage in the season. However a confidence-boosting 7-0 thrashing of Championship side Sheffield Wednesday looked ominous. Standing in their way are Hull City who have made an acceptable start to the season but who are also without a league win since the opening day. Between the sticks Hull goalkeeper Alan McGregor could be a busy boy.
Prediction: (Large) Away win

Manchester United v West Ham United
Two teams with very contrasting fortunes. West Ham are on a high after an excellent victory against Liverpool last time out, whilst the Reds, despite shelling out £150 million in the transfer window on everyone except for a world-class centre-back, apparently have, surprise surprise, only one fit first-team centre back. Luke Shaw is in line for his Manchester United debut and, to look on the bright side, the defence can’t play as bad as last week. Still, going forward it all seems to be clicking rather nicely for the Old Trafford side. For West Ham, new forward pairing Sakho and Valencia look to be combining fruitfully – they’ll be hoping the United defence continue their accommodating welcome to opposition attackers.
Prediction: Home win

Southampton v QPR
Apparently, selling most of your best players for grossly inflated prices and replacing them with cheaper, better alternatives is the basis for a successful football team on and off the pitch. Who knew? Southampton certainly did because they are brushing aside all-comers with the minimum of fuss. A lot of people’s tips for relegation, they have continued their development from last season under new boss Ronald Koeman. A midweek win away at Arsenal in the Capital One Cup showed they are not simply a flash in the pan and Nathaniel Clyne did his England prospects no harm with a blinding strike to win the match. Attempting, and probably failing to stop the Saints’ juggernaut are Harry Redknapp’s (who unwittingly resembles cartoon dog Droopy) QPR. Rangers need to stop conceding goals, and start scoring more if they are to avoid the slide towards what looks like an inevitable relegation scrap.
Prediction: Home win

Sunderland v Swansea
After a perfect start, the Swans have faltered somewhat in recent weeks and are without their suspended talismanic striker, Wilfried Bony. However they are up against a Sunderland side who are still yet to record a league victory this term and will be desperate to avoid the relegation dogfight of last season. A 2-1 reverse in midweek at home to Stoke City in the League Cup has done little to improve matters. An important fixture for the Mackems one feels.
Prediction: Scrappy draw

Arsenal v Tottenham
Other than Chelsea, the league’s only unbeaten team come face to face with their North London rivals at the Emirates Stadium. Spurs are yet to win in the league this month and will have their work cut out against the Gunners. Emmanuel Adebayor has looked cumbersome so far this season and the attacking trio of Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela has not yet clicked into place. Arsenal have had a reasonable start but are yet to hit top gear. They will hope that the defensive frailties on show during League Cup defeat to Southampton in midweek do not rear their ugly heads again and, like Manchester United, are paying the price for not strengthening the centre of defence in the transfer window.
Prediction: Home win

West Bromwich Albion v Burnley
Far too early in the season to be classed as a relegation 6-pointer, this fixture nevertheless is significant for both sides. Whilst being very adept at keeping their own sheets clean, Burnley have only put one stain on their opponents’ in five matches this season. Likewise, West Brom have only scored once since the opening day of the season – fortunately it was the winner against Tottenham last weekend, but both teams need to find their attacking mojo if they want to avoid the dreaded relegation scrap. Saido Berahino is the key man for the Baggies.
Prediction: Home win

Stoke City v Newcastle United
Sack Pardew! No don’t! Ashley out! No more cockney mafia! Who knows what Newcastle United fans are thinking? The supporters seem divided over whether to aim their vitriol at Pardew, Ashley, neither, or both. Consequently the much-hyped ‘Sack Pardew’ campaign last weekend was a bit of a damp squib. What they all definitely want is a successful football team and the signs were there in midweek with a victory over Crystal Palace. Their opponents Stoke, also fresh from a League Cup win, will be hoping to kick-start a season that has only yielded four goals. New striker Bojan Krkic has not had the smoothest of Premier League introductions and the injury to Peter Odemwingie has further blunted their attack. Can the evergreen Peter Crouch fill the void?
Prediction: Draw

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