What a difference a week makes. If you’re Steve McClaren – which you are almost certainly not, by the way – this weekend’s 15-mile trip to Sunderland will look a lot less daunting than it did before Newcastle’s six-goal drubbing of Norwich.
If you’re one of the PL.com managers that played your Triple Points Captain card on Georginio Wijnaldum, your League Ranking will be looking much more healthy on the back of his four goals.
Having made that pick you are likely to be a clairvoyant and won’t be needing my PL Predictions. But here they are anyway…
15.00 Aston Villa v Swansea
Two managers that need a hug. And a performance. Villa have just a single point from eight PL matches, but competed well v Chelsea and with Spurs, Man City and Everton to come NEED something here. Swansea’s 2pts from five matches since beating Man United is hard to explain. Ayew is fit again, but he and Gomis need their mojo back.
Score Prediction: Villa to edge it. 1-0
MVP Prediction: Micah Richards to boss Gomis.
15.00 Leicester v Crystal Palace
Well, we know Leicester will score twice – they have six matches in a row now. But have a habit of going two down first. Palace are better at the back, but don’t carry the threat going forward and Leicester’s gung-ho approach will suit Palace’s counter-attacking style. End to end is a gimme, but can’t see a winner.
Score Prediction: Another ‘Desmond’ for Leicester. 2-2
MVP Prediction: Palace struggle against pace. So this has Jamie Vardy written all over it.
15.00 Norwich v West Brom
Norwich players will have been wearing disguises and keeping their curtains closed this week, following their six-goal humbling at Newcastle. We can expect a reaction. West Brom have only a narrow win over Sunderland to show from their last four, so will see this as points up for grabs.
Score Prediction: But Norwich will want all three. 2-1
MVP Prediction: A job for the Norfolk Messi, Wes Hoolahan.
15.00 Stoke v Watford
Watford look on the verge of a crisis to me. Lots of endeavour, but their lack of PL nous in the last third is starting to show. Stoke meanwhile could be teetering on the edge of finding their feet (after years of only looking for heads). Four wins in a row – all by a single goal – will have boosted confidence and this match could see them kick on.
Score Prediction: A two-goal win. 2-0
MVP Prediction: Joselu is a handful.
15.00 West Ham v Chelsea
Whoever is in charge of writing the record books needs to sharpen their pencil. West Ham have won just one of their last 18 meetings with Chelsea, failing to score in their last five. But as the PL’s second highest scorers up against the PL’s 4th worst defenders, history is in the making.
Score Prediction: 2-1. More ‘naïve and weak’ refereeing on the cards.
MVP Prediction: Dimitri Payet has created 39 scoring chances so far. Nuff said.
5.30 Arsenal v Everton
Everton have got the short straw this week. All was looking sweet for the Toffees until Man United turned up looking like the team of old. Now they have an Arsenal team looking invincible. Three wins, none conceded and two strikers competing for one position looks too hot for Everton to handle.
Score Prediction: More of the same. 3-1
MVP Prediction: Mesut Ozil is quietly starting to look the part.
12.00 Sunderland v Newcastle
What a difference a six-goal drubbing makes. Before last weekend Steve McClaren must’ve been dreading this match. But a win here and everything will suddenly look much more rosy in Toon. Sunderland’s PL status has depended on the points they’ve take off their north-east rivals over the last few seasons. A draw is the minimum requirement here.
Score Prediction: But I think they’ll get it. 1-1
MVP Prediction: If he finishes the match Aleksandar Mitrovic.
2.05 Bournemouth v Tottenham
Bournemouth have – naturally – lost bite since Callum Wilson was side-lined. And the five-goal blitz at Man City will be a severe test of their character – and PL credentials. Tottenham haven’t won since putting four past City and only won once away this season (at Sunderland). Their own Top Six credentials are also on show here.
Score Prediction: After a poor midweek showing, Tottenham need this. 0-1
2.05 Man United v Man City
For perhaps the first time since the shift of power in the summer, this is a test of United’s progress. The midweek bench had the look of a few being rested for this one. City’s midweek bench had Vincent Kompany on it, but they have not kept a clean sheet since it was on the pitch (eight matches ago). Aguero and Silva’s absence will also please LVG.
Score Prediction: Not United really believe yet. 2-2
MVP Prediction: Anthony Martial can underline his fledgling cult status.
4.15 Liverpool v Southampton
When Klopp met Kop didn’t go quite to plan on Thursday and things don’t look promising on Sunday. Liverpool have drawn seven of their last eight and another point v an in-from Southampton would probably do here. The Saints let a two-goal lead slip v Leicester – easily done these days – but prior to that their form is tidy. They won’t be hay leaving empty handed.
Score Prediction: A point apiece. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Adam Lallana will have as much incentive as any.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much more successful but miserable one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt