It’s that time again. Game Week three is almost upon us - with just four teams still 100%, Jose in crisis, Leicester in a Champions League spot and Man City embarking on a mad trolley dash to snap up every player available in Europe. Unless, Chelsea have snatched him from under their noses of course.
My weekly predictions have a PL.com slant and include a stab at the man most likely to rack up the best points total. Early days for string form lines though, but if you haven’t yet procured Mr Aguero and you have the funds – get him bought!
Manchester United are not due to kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday until September 26th (by which time their opponents Sunderland might already be cut adrift). But this week it’s a Saturday lunch-time assignment…
12.45 Manchester United v Newcastle
100% so far for United, but not really caught fire yet. LVG seems set on his best starting 11, so expect the threat to come from Januzaj and Depay’s direct running, while Rooney gets up to speed. Wazza does enjoy playing against Newcastle though – scoring 12 and assisting seven in his 20 encounters. Just a single point so far and a diabolical record at Old Trafford doesn’t bode well for Toon. Just the one win in 21 PL visits (D7 L13) and will be waiting at least another season for their next.
Score Prediction: United to click into gear. 3-0
MVP Prediction: Memphis Depay is the man here. Two classy CL goals will do him no and could make hay up against a rookie right-back.
15.00 Crystal Palace v Aston Villa
Palace lost the points but won plaudits against Arsenal and will fancy continuing their recent good record against the Villa - just one defeat in their last six. Glenn Murray lead the line on opening day, then Connor Wickham v Arsenal, but it’s been Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and the rejuvenated Jordan Mutch that have impressed. Two 1-0s for Villa so far, one for the other against. Look a bit toothless to threaten too much.
Score Prediction: Palace to edge it. 1-0
MVP Prediction: Jason Puncheon looks a real threat. And handles most set-pieces.
15.00 Leicester City v Tottenham
Leicester have kicked off where they left off last season, which means they still think it’s May. Or they have found their feet in the top flite. Either way, Tottenham have their hands full getting anything here. Tottenham need a result here after a low-key blank at Man United on opening day, then spilling a two-goal lead at home to Stoke last week. Has the look of goals – their last ten meetings have averaged 4.3 per match…
Score Prediction: Five of which have ended 2-1. But I think Spurs can earn another 2-2.
MVP Prediction: Riyad Mahrez is the PL.com top points scorer (25) with Marc Albrighton (20) not far behind.
15.00 Norwich v Stoke
Suspect Norwich would prefer this match to be at Stoke – they are now unbeaten in 13 away matches since Alex Neil took over in January. Their 4-5-1 formation is designed to play on the counter attack, with three-assist-so-far Wes Hoolahan revelling in the number 10 role. Stoke will provide a sterner test that Sunderland did last week. They hit the target a club PL record seven times pegging back a two-goal deficit away at Spurs last week and will unleash Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri…
Score Prediction: I fancy Stoke will out-muscle their hosts for their first win. 0-1
MVP Prediction: Biram Diouf has shone this season.
15.00 Sunderland v Swansea
Sunderland’s team selection will be interesting – and perhaps give us a few clues as to how Dick Advocaat’s team meeting went this week. News that Jermaine Defoe could be heading to Bournemouth will not help team morale (and it won’t do a great deal for Bournemouth;s, to be fair). But we can expect a more secure looking formation for the visit of a Swansea side in good shape. Andre Ayew’s two goals have swelled his PL.com take-up to 10.1% and together with Bafetimbi Gomis (10.3%) he can fire the Swans to another win here.
Score Prediction: Consecutive north east slaying for the welsh dragons. 0-2
MVP Prediction: Bafetimbi Gomis will be a wrecking machine in amongst that suspect backline.
15.00 West Ham v Bournemouth
This looks a tough assignment for Bournemouth. After two narrow squeaks (1-0 on opening day and then again at Anfield) this is where the nitty gritty starts. Another blank on the points and goals front will set up a run of three season defining matches v Leicester, Norwich and Sunderland. West Ham will have been appalled at getting turned over at home after their opening day triumph at Arsenal. Should get back on track.
Score Prediction: One goal looks enough to beat Bournemouth at the moment. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Dimitri Payet came with a big reputation, so far looking deserved.
13.30 West Brom v Chelsea
A good time to play Chelsea, or the worst possible time? I reckon Tony Pulis will relish the challenge of rattling the out-of-sorts Champions. Regardless of the Eva Carneiro nonsense and John Terry’s half-time withdrawal at Man City, Chelsea look flat and lacking inspiration. We can expect personal changes – Zouma might start to counter Berahino’s pace and Cuadrado could get an opportunity to nail down a place, before Pedro arrives. But they won’t get any encouragement from their hosts.
Score Prediction: I’m expecting two parked buses. But a win for Jose. 0-1
16.00 Everton v Man City
Hard to back against City the way they have started the season, but they haven’t had a happy time of it at Goodison in recent years. They’ve only won one of their last six visits, losing four of the other five. Everton rescued a potentially calamitous start last weekend and would snatch your hand off if you offered them a draw here, I suspect. John Stones could earn Everton a £40m record fee and himself a transfer if he manages to keep Aguero under wraps.
Score Prediction: Tight, but can’t see Everton holding out for 90 minutes. 0-1
MVP Prediction: Sergio Aguero was unplayable last week. Wait til he is match fit…
16.00 Watford v Southampton
Hard to draw too much from Watford’s two draws so far. But they will see this as a good opportunity to go one better with Southampton busy in Europa League action on Thursday night. The Saint’s loss of two more big hitters – Schneiderlin and Clyne – with possibly Mane to follow the former to Old Trafford, looks like leaving a bigger dent than the exodus the previous summer. They need something here.
Score Prediction: And I think they are good enough to get it. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Troy Deeney looks a proper handful and can get off the mark here.
20.00 Arsenal v Liverpool
Arsenal look to have a bit more steel about them this season. Francis Coquelin and fit again Mikel Arteta might well keep their array of ball players on the bench, which might frustrate fans and FL managers alike. But Ozil looks a few pounds heavier and a yard quicker. Liverpool are two from two without being convincing. The presence of Christian Benteke has given them an option they didn’t have last season, but they’ve only beaten Liverpool once in eight attempts and still look short of the Top Four to me.
Score Prediction: An average of four per match in the last six meetings. But fancy 1-0 will do it.
MVP Prediction: Mesut Ozil could be the difference.
It’s been a season of away wins – ten so far is double the number of home wins. I have predicted another four, with 19 goals for you to get on the end of.
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