Leicester’s transformation in the space of a year is pretty unbelievable. Even by Chelsea’s standards. After 13 matches last season they were rock bottom, with just two wins and ten points on the board. This time around they lead the table and might have a record breaking striker come Saturday evening.
Jamie Vardy’s ten goals in ten matches has him currently rubbing shoulders with legendary PL goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy. Another v Ruud’s old club on Saturday evening and he will barge past him.
Whatever happens in the next two thirds of the season, it has been a fantastic achievement by Leicester. And one in the eye for those who were laughing up their sleeves at the appointment of ‘Tinker Man’ Claudio Ranieri. I wouldn’t mind him having a tinker with my PL.com team…
No lunchtime fixture this week. It all kicks-off at Villa…
15.00 Aston Villa v Watford
The optimism gained from Villa’s point v Man City in Remi Garde’s debut match in charge quickly evaporated at Everton last week (0-4). It remains their only point from eight matches. All three relegated clubs last season had more than double Villa’s 5pts at the same stage last season. Watford have deserved better from their last two defeats and will fancy this.
Score Prediction: Rear Garde action. 0-0
MVP Prediction: Brad Guzan is my man here.
15.00 Bournemouth v Everton
Things are starting to look equally grim for Bournemouth. Seven matches without a win and a treatment room full to capacity suggest a long, hard winter for the Cherries. Chelsea and Man United are next up too. Everton can be a little hit and miss but have only been beaten by Top Four teams.
Score Prediction: Looks like a ‘hit’ day. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Romelu Lukaku is seven in seven.
15.00 Crystal Palace v Newcastle
Palace’s slip-up at home to Sunderland was the only blot on the copy book v teams below them so far and their third defeat in five matches. Pardew will see anything less than maximum points as a flop v his old team. Newcastle’s lucky win at Bournemouth ended a run of 12 without a win on the road, during which they’ve mustered just three goals.
Score Prediction: Must win for Palace. 2-0
MVP Prediction: Wilifried Zaha looks good enough for Man Utd.
15.00 Man City v Southampton
Funny side, Man City. After insipid displays v Norwich (W), Villa (D) and Liverpool (L) they need a performance to get back on track. Interestingly they’ve only taken four points from a possible 15 v Top Nine teams. Southampton are eighth but have failed to beat anyone outside the Bottom Seven. Best Away defence in the PL though.
Score Prediction: Can’t see a winner. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Kevin de Bruyne looks the best bet.
15.00 Sunderland v Stoke
There was an element of a ‘mugging’ about Sunderland’s win at Palace, but that’s what Sam Allardyce was brought in for. And you can’t argue with two wins from four. Stoke have become specialists in 1-0 away wins – last week made it three on the bounce. Five clean sheets from six too. All since Mark Hughes added ‘flair’ to the side…
Score Prediction: If it ain’t broke. 0-1
MVP Prediction: Jonathan Walters was born for Away trips to Sunderland.
17.30 Leicester v Man United
The top two! Who’d have thunk it this time last year when Leicester were rock bottom and United were, well, fourth. LVG has made United less easy on the eye but tougher to beat since then. Leicester are unrecognisable and in their best form of the season, winning their last four and claiming their first two clean sheets.
Score Prediction: Can’t see a repeat of last season’s 5-3. 2-2
MVP Prediction: Got to be Jamie Vardy on his big day. Potentially.
12.00 Tottenham v Chelsea
Tottenham sit ten places and ten points ahead of their visitors in a season of club records for both clubs. Spurs are 12 unbeaten since the opening day and have the chance to rubber-stamp this season’s power shift in the Capital. Chelsea have only won one of their last nine trips to Tottenham and that was when they were good, but have had an extra couple of days to prepare.
Score Prediction: A tiring week might mean a draw will do. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Harry Kane is seven from four.
14.05 West Ham v West Brom
West Ham’s wheels seem to have buckled, if not exactly come off in since beating Chelsea three games ago. Only the Bottom Three have conceded more goals at home which will encourage the visitors, who have only managed three Away goals (from seven matches) all season. Beating Arsenal will not have done confidence any harm though.
Score Prediction: Stop. Hammers time. 3-1
MVP Prediction: Payet leaves big boots to fill, but Manuel Lanzini can try.
16.15 Liverpool v Swansea
Liverpool’s Home record makes shocking reading this season. Only Bottom Two Bournemouth and Aston Villa have so far left empty handed, but consecutive away wins at Chelsea and Man City suggest Klopp is making progress. Swansea have just managed the single win in nine (poor old Villa again) with goals proving a problem (three blanks in their last five). They’ll need a couple here, you’d think.
Score Prediction: Should be straightforward. 3-1
MVP Prediction: With Coutinho doubtful, I’ll go Nathanial Clyne.
16.15 Norwich v Arsenal
Norwich performed well at Chelsea (lost), were unlucky at Man City (lost), dominated West Brom and Leicester at home (lost, lost). By the odd goal each time. They are easy-on-the-eye – whichever choice of their three yellow and green kits they choose - but just five points from a possible 24 is a worry. And then the PL’s best Away team arrive. Arsenal are prone to blips around CL matches, but have won three of their last four Away matches by three-clear goals.
Score Prediction: Oh dear. 1-3
MVP Prediction: Olivier Giroud has four in four on the road.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s short, unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much longer, more successful but immeasurably more rubbish one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt