I’m going to try to get through this week’s intro without mentioning Jose (oops). But Chelsea’s midweek CL performance means there’ll be at least a couple more weeks to get him in. The week’s glamour tie is the North London derby – that’s Arsenal v Tottenham if you live overseas or outside the M25. But more critical matters are taking place Norwich, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Bournemouth this weekend.
And that’s where we start…
12.45 Bournemouth v Newcastle
Could be the match of the weekend. Both teams will fancy their chances of winning – and neither dare face the prospect of losing. Bournemouth hold the 1pt advantage in the PL, but it’s their only one from the last five attempts. A six-pointer but both might have to settle for the draw that’s no good to either of them.
Score Prediction: A tense, terse 2-2
MVP Prediction: Georginio Wijnaldum is finding his feet.
15.00 Leicester v Watford
A real mismatch here. Leicester continue to try to blast everyone they meet off the pitch – and on the whole, it’s working. Watford have a more dogged, workmanlike approach. But that isn’t doing them any harm either. They take two consecutive clean sheets to Leicester. Not sure they will take one home.
Score Prediction: Leicester roll on. 3-2
MVP Prediction: Mmm. Mayrez/Vardy, Mayrez/Vardy. Mayrez. No, Jamie Vardy.
15.00 Man United v West Brom
We shouldn’t expect a goal fest here. United can’t score – three blanks in a row – but don’t concede – four in a row. And we know Tony Pulis’ feelings about a clean sheet – and have managed two in their last three, despite questionable form. The Baggies have only managed 1pt v a top half team this term.
Score Prediction: Can’t back against United. 1-0
MVP Prediction: Chris Smalling is my wildcard for Player of the Year. No, really!
15.00 Norwich v Swansea
Norwich were a bit unlucky (and a bit sloppy) losing 2-1 at Man City. But it was their fourth on the spin and however they come, they chip away at confidence. Swansea haven’t been themselves since August, so this has the look of another six–pointer that neither team is good enough to win.
Score Prediction: So that’s another draw then. 1-1
MVP Prediction: We’re overdue another Wes Hoolahan masterclass.
15.00 Sunderland v Southampton
Sam Allardyce said after the 6-2 spanking at Everton that he was worried about his defence. You don’t last 40+ years in the game without insight like that. The names ‘Pelle’ and ‘Mane’ won’t ease his headaches ahead of this match with O’Shea and Kaboul injured. But I doubt we’ll be seeing a 3-5-2 formation again. The Saints will hope we do. They are five uneaten and starting to march.
Score Prediction: More worries for Sam. 0-2
MVP Prediction: Sadio Mane is attracting more admirers every week.
15.00 West Ham v Everton
I get the feeling West ham are still getting used to the idea that they are actually a good team, hence the odd blip. Saying that the poor performance (and defeat) at Watford last week was the first in eight matches. Everton’s six last week v Sunderland probably counts for about two in real life. But the return of Seamus Coleman is well-timed with Phil Jagielka out.
Score Prediction: Back on track for the Hammers. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Sticking with my man Dimitri Payet.
17.30 Stoke v Chelsea
Away to Stoke is no place for a PL legend’s career to end (ask Steve Gerrard!). But a defeat here could see the Special One becoming the unemployed one. He will miss it, of course, serving a stadium ban. A bit confused. A bit messy. Very Chelsea this season.
Score Prediction: Stoke will LOVE this. 1-1
MVP Prediction: No keeper has made more saves than Jack Butland.
13.30 Aston Villa v Man City
New manager and fresh start at Villa… BIG performance and CL qualification midweek for Man City... This has got ‘choke’ written all over it for City. Or at least it used to have. Last week’s late, scruffy win over Norwich makes me think that City are finally starting to get that ‘Champion’ swagger.
Score Prediction: Same again for City. 0-1
MVP Prediction: In the absence of Sergio, Kevin de Bruyne is de man.
16.00 Arsenal v Tottenham
A busy week for both of the PL’s in-form teams. Three matches in ten days for Tottenham and a heavyweight encounter in Germany for Arsenal. The midweek spanking has added insult to several injuries for the Gunners, so Spurs might smell blood. Their ten-match unbeaten run looks more convincing as it grows.
Score Prediction: Not much between them. 2-2
MVP Prediction: Ozil has outshone Alexis Sanchez recently. But he likes a big stage.
16.00 Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Amazingly this is already Klopp’s seventh match in charge. A midweek trip to Kazan never helps, but the comprehensive win at Chelsea will have whet Jurgen’s whistle and set the bar. Palace have taken just 1pt from their last three but will be fresh for this. And have scored three in each of their last three meetings with Liverpool.
Score Prediction: Not expecting another three here though. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Wilifred Zaha can exploit Moreno’s generosity.
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