So with the FA Cup quarter-finals boasting 5 Premier League teams, there are just 4 Premier League games being played this weekend – perfect for someone who is starting this at 3:20 pm on Friday and hungover.
Saturday 11th March
Bournemouth vs West Ham
Well at least Bournemouth didn’t lose last weekend, yet no win still in 2017. But what a strange game it turned out to be against Manchester United. They managed to get themselves a point out of a game where they were quite unfairly down to 10 men for the entire of the second half. Also shoutout to Boruc, he was blindingly brilliant in net for Bournemouth. However, they are going to pay a price for that now. With Andrew Surman picking up an automatic 3 game suspension and Tyrone Mings picking up a 5 game suspension for his alleged “stamp” in the same game Bournemouth’s squad will be stretched to its limits in a testing time for this club. This run with Mings and Surman could define their season, either survive comfortably or be dragged into a relegation scrap.
West Ham, on the other hand, are 6 points clear of the host and are in that dangerous part of the season where they have not a lot else to play for so Slaven Bilić’s will need to keep them motivated for a strong finish to the season. He is without a few player’s and he will be waiting on late fitness tests to see if Winston Reid, Alvaro Arbeloa and José Fonte. Not an ideal situation for Slaven, but he will have the boost of Michail Antonio returning from suspension.
Bournemouth haven’t won in 8 Premier League games and they have conceded a minimum on 2 goals in their last 5 home games. Not looking good here for Eddie and his men. But I think that with both teams out of form it’s the perfect time in the season for Bournemouth to grab their season by the scruff of the neck and get the win but West Ham’s threat in the air will be a problem. My bet for this game would be over 2.5 goals, 3.5 goals if you are feeling brave.
Hull City vs Swansea
Think the one thing I have learnt with Hull is that you shouldn’t give out too much praise too early. I had praised Hull and Marco Silva when I first started this blog thing and in recent weeks they have looked less like the side that was so good against Liverpool and more like a Hull City of old. They haven’t won in three matches and have managed to find themselves back in the relegation zone. You do have to feel for Marco Silva, who is missing no less that nine player’s due to injury including key players like Ryan Mason, Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson. However, there is hope for Hull, they are at home this time out where they have fared far better this season and Swansea away from home, have not been especially watertight ship when it comes to stopping goals flooding in. They have conceded at least 2 goals in 6 of their last 7 away league games. Swansea did what I said they would do and win their game against Burnley – just. Fernando Llorente seems to be a powerful threat and is leading the line effectively for Paul Clement’s side.
Honestly not sure which way this one will go and I can see this one ending in a stalemate, although I could see Swansea snatching this one away from Hull, so draw or Swansea would be my bet.
Everton vs West Brom
Both these teams lost last time out, more surprisingly West Brom who fell victims to Crystal Palace! I have a feeling the end of the season could be a horrible one if your team is down there with just a few games to go. However back to these two teams. Everton were stopped in their tracks by Spurs last weekend and will be wanting to return winning ways and revert back to the more attacking style of play that Koeman has had Everton playing this season. Koeman decided that he was going set his team up with a slightly more defensive shape against Spurs naming 4 central midfielders, which to be fair was a probably a wise decision.
West Brom’s loss to Crystal Palace was a shock and meant their run of 5 games without a defeat came abruptly to an end. Pulis will be looking for his team to bounce back from the latest result but may find it difficult against an Everton team that has won it’s last 4 home Premier League matches and last 3 of those they have been leading at half-time and then gone on to win the game.
I would think that Pulis and West Brom will be looking at back-to-back losses here and Everton should go on to secure the win.
These previews are getting shorter and shorter. Might have to stop drinking altogether…
Sunday 12th March
Liverpool vs Burnley
The only Premier League game on this Sunday and everyone has been saying that this is a game that could be a potential banana skin for Liverpool. But I just cannot see it if I’m honest. Yes, Burnley will not be as stupid as Arsenal were when they visited Anfield, but again you cannot look at Burnley’s away form and think that they can actually cause an upset here, surely not?
Liverpool deserve credit for the way they played against Arsenal in the first half last Saturday and as poor as Arsenal were, Liverpool were brilliant. I did highlight in my previous preview, the attacking options that Liverpool have especially from midfield. Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum were superb against Arsenal and Arsenal’s midfield just couldn’t deal with them. For Liverpool fans sake they will just hope that they can replicate this on Sunday.
To be fair to Burnley they were extremely unlucky to not get a point to add to their 2 away points against Swansea on Saturday. But the underlying fact is that they are just awful away from home but I’m sure Sean Dyche will have a game plan that he believes will work and get the desired result. History is not on Burnley’s side, however. They have not won at Anfield since 1974 and of course as I seem to mention most weeks they are yet to win away from home this season in the league.
Liverpool all the way here and I would be putting Liverpool to win to nil to increase the odds. Burnley to score 3 now.
Well this wasn’t my best effort so far and I do apologise for that, but I’m hanging so give me a bit of slack.
So this week’s PL preview I have had some feedback suggesting that I should put my own betting tips for each game cheers, James. I’m not very lucky when it comes to betting so if you do end up using these then please don’t blame me if they don’t come in! You have been warned…
Also, I’m going to try and keep each game more streamlined this week, easier to read for you and quicker for me to write.
Saturday 4th March
Manchester United vs Bournemouth
So the day’s early kick-off see’s a Manchester United team that has won 5 games in a row, including a cup final and two legs in the Europa League, come up against a Bournemouth team that hasn’t won in their last 5 matches. Two very polar opposite teams in terms of form.
Bournemouth can’t buy a win in 2017 and are still looking for their first in 2017 and need a good result to help them steady the ship, in a storm that has dragged them into the relegation battle. It’s really hard to write something positive here about a team that I admire highly, I guess the one positive is that their fixture looks reasonably favourable and you’d expect a team blessed with their sort of talent can get themselves out of this hole and survive another season in the Premier League. But even then they are missing club captain Simon Francis and goal scorer, Calum Wilson who is a long term injury concern after having torn his ACL for the second time.
United, on the other hand, will have much higher expectations – which is stating the bleeding obvious. But after their league cup triumph last weekend, in order for people to call José’s first season in charge a success I believe that he really needs to get United back into the Champions League – forget the FA cup United need to restore themselves as a club that competes amongst Europe’s elite.
Machester United are looking very good at present and it’s very hard to see them losing here against a team that is so out of form. Bournemouth have conceded at least 2 goals in their last 7 games, lost 6 out of their last 7. Couple that with the fact Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 league games it makes for a bleak outlook for Bournemouth. Manchester United to win to nil would be my bet for this game.
Leicester vs Hull
Well, Leicester you proved me wrong against Liverpool but as Martin Keown said on Match of the Day: “Ranieri will have been kicking the television” there was just such a contrast from that performance to their last performance under Ranieri. Saying that, will Hull be as open as Liverpool were on Monday night? Doubt it.
But honestly, Leicester looked like the title winning team that blew away the competition last year and it’s just so strange to see a team flipping the switch that quickly and that dramatically. It’s like when I’m hungry and I eventually eat some food, I become a completely different person. Craig Shakespeare is clearly a very capable man when it comes to managing. I doubt he will make any changes to the team that put Liverpool to the sword but he will have options off the bench if needed in Islam Slimani and Leonardo Ulloa, especially if Hull set out to make themselves extremely difficult to breakdown.
Hull will have obviously seen Monday nights game and will know for a fact that they cannot play in the same way that Liverpool played. But Hull are, clearly, a completely different team to Liverpool. Marco Silva has made them a lot harder to break down which is shown in the fact that Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have struggled against them. I’m sure he will have them set up to frustrate their opponents and with Hull being just a point from getting themselves out of the relegation zone they need a positive result here. But it’s not looking good for Marco Silva’s gang. They have lost 10 of the last 11 away matches and have lost 77% of the away games this season. Ouch.
Personally, I don’t think that you can judge Leicester on one performance, it’s the next few games which we will see their true character (alright Brendan) and you’d think that with the fans back onside they could win this one, especially being at home. My bet for this week would be Leicester to win and under 2.5 goals.
Stoke vs Middlesbrough
God, I’m glad this one is going to be televised. One team being their usual inconsistent self and the other just cannot find the back of the net.
Stoke to be fair to them have often been very effective against the teams below then in the table but just not as effective against teams above them in the table. So luckily for them then Middlesbrough are up next and they are at home where they haven’t lost for 7 games and have only lost twice all season. The bet365 arena is a tough place to go – trust me I’ve had to endure Arsenal going there for the last 6-7 seasons. They will be looking to get themselves back to winning ways after getting pumped against Spurs 4-0 on Sunday and Middlesbrough are probably the team you’d want to play at this point.
Middlesbrough have failed to score a single goal in their last 5 away games and more worryingly they have failed to win their last 12 away games. As was said on the football ramble podcast, it’s like when you play against Middlesbrough: the first goal wins! And I can see this being a Stoke win but by just a one-goal margin. So my bet would be Stoke to win and under 2.5 goals but if you are feeling brave a correct score of 1-0.
Swansea vs Burnley
A big game for these two in the bottom half of the table. Although Burnley are in 11th place their away form is left to be desired and Swansea will now want to push on and get themselves clear of the relegation zone.
Swansea were powerless to stop Chelsea last weekend although they could take encouragement and their confidence should not be dented from their performance, as it took Chelsea a while to break them down and Pedro’s goal that got Chelsea back in front, was due to an error from Lukasz Fabianski. But they now have now 4 very winnable games in a row that could propel them to 36 points which would put them in a much more favourable position to stay up this year. It starts here against a Burnley team that has picked up just 2 points on the road this season. They have won their last two home games and I’m sure Paul Clement will have them chomping at the bit to get all 3 points.
I don’t think anyone really knows why Burnley are such a force at home then become so tame away from home, if you do, I would be sending an email to Sean Dyche right now. They will probably stay up this season which, in itself, is a fantastic achievement considering the size of the club and their budget. It’s even more impressive if you look at teams like Sunderland and Crystal Palace who are far worse off than them with far bigger budgets. They are missing their record signing in Steven Defour which is a big blow for them, although Jeff Hendrick will be returning from suspension and it’s very difficult to see them getting much from this game. For Burnley’s sake that they prove me wrong.
I can only really see the Swans winning this and we all know that any team can beat any team on a given day in the Premier League, I just can’t look past Burnley’s away form. I would have Swansea to win this one with under 2.5 goals.
Watford vs Southampton
Two more mid-table teams go head-to-head, although one of them you would have thought at the beginning of the season would be much further up the table. Yes, Southampton I’m talking about you.
Watford have been in reasonable form recently just 1 defeat in 6, although they have only won 2 of those. Unspectacular at best. But they are most probably safe from the threat of being relegated and will be aiming to finish as high up as possible but need to guard now against any sort of complacency.
Southampton are in the same position really although their form, in the league, is probably even less spectacular than Watford’s. Their EFL Cup final experience, their first in a quite a while, was cruel on a team an injury-hit backline and a team that had managed to get themselves back to 2-2 from 2-0 down in a cup final. But now the player’s need to return their focus to the league and finish the season strongly. No excuses. They should be okay to climb further up the table, especially if Manolo Gabbiadini continues his fantastic form in front of goal.
This one is tough to call and I think that it will end in a scoring draw. I think a bet on over 2.5 goals would be a good shout with both defences missing key players.
West Brom vs Crystal Palace
One of the inform teams in the league comes up against a team who’s manager says that his team needs to respects the point.
West Brom’s fantastic start to 2017 continued against Bournemouth coming back from 1-0 down to take all 3 points last week. They have now just lost 1 league game in 2017. In terms of form over the last 8 games, they are the 5th best team in the Premier League. Baseball caps off to Tony Pullis and his men. Especially 37-year-old Gareth McAuley, who’s got 6 goals this season that’s just one less than big Sally Rondón. That’s an impressive return and shows you also where one of West Brom’s strengths lies: at set-pieces. It is no secret that Pullis is renowned for his teams being good at set-pieces. I still don’t get why there is this negative stigma towards teams being good from dead ball situations. It’s a very good opportunity to score from and yes, it’s not the same sort of football that certain teams like Barcelona and Bayern play but it works and can work effectively.
Palace are not so in form as the hosts. Yes they won last week against Middlesbrough and the performances of big Sam’s side have been slowly getting better each week but that was only their second win in 2017 and they haven’t even picked up any other points from anywhere else that’s just 6 points from a possible 24. It’s not looking so good. I think that they are going to have to catch West Brom on an extremely off day to get anything out of this one.
The only thing you’d say for West Brom now is that they need to keep their eye on the ball, although Everton might seem a long way off, Everton have a very tough away fixture at White Hart Lane on Sunday and a win, which I fully expect for them to do, will mount pressure onto Everton going into their game on Sunday. If this was me I’d be placing a bet on West Brom to continue their form here.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Surely this will be the first game on Match of the Day on Saturday evening, 4th vs 5th with neither team looking particularly confident. I can’t wait for this game and will be running home from work to watch.
Liverpool are in a run of indifferent form at the moment. A loss to Hull followed then a brilliant performance against Spurs and then a very poor performance against Leicester. I’m sure Klopp will have had stern words with the squad since then and will definitely have them fired up for this one. You’d think that this the Liverpool team will be glad to be at home this week and will be looking to use that Anfield atmosphere to their advantage which has been shown to prove a difference as Liverpool are undefeated in 19 games in their last 20 home games. Liverpool’s front line scares me slightly, as an Arsenal fan, especially if they all click into gear and if the supporting players behind them in the creative form of Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana they pose a serious threat to Arsenal’s backline.
The problem with Arsenal is that you just don’t know which team will turn up. It will either be one that has shown they can stick it out at the bigger grounds and get something or it will be like the team that had a meltdown in front of everyone’s eyes two weeks ago in Munich. Liverpool fans might not forgive me for this but Liverpool are not the same threat that Bayern are but they are a team that can really hurt Arsenal. Arsenal have had two weeks off and still managed to pick injury’s, it’s just classic Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny is in a protective boot, Santi Cazorla out for the season and Mesut Özil may not have shrugged off an illness to play. All in all, a great two weeks off for Arsenal. Granit Xhaka will be back after suspension and hopefully, for the love of god, Laurent Koscielny has recovered from his hamstring injury that he suffered against Bayern. Arsenal and Arsène Wenger, need a win here. A win here would keep up the pressure on the teams above them and a loss could see them drop out of the top 4. As much as I would like to see Welbeck and Lucas given a chance to prove themselves I don’t think Wenger will risk it, especially Danny Welbeck and his knee. Iwobi, I believe, is now is in cruise control and just seems not to be at his best and needs to a spell on the bench to remind him that his name is not automatically on the team sheet each week. but I would expect Wenger to keep the faith and start him. Hopefully, Alexis Sanchez continues his brilliant season here and leads
the line to all three points. It will be a tough game for this Arsenal team.
I can see both teams cancelling each other out here, my heart says Arsenal will cruise to victory, just like every game they play, but my head and the form book points towards a draw. I would advise if Granit Xhaka starts, place a bet on him to get booked and I think that you this one you should go for a draw and both teams to score.
Sunday 5th March
Spurs vs Everton
Not a bad game to start your hangover Sunday is it? Two top managers battling out in the early Sunday kick-off.
Spurs got over their European midweek calamity, with a thumping 4-0 win over Stoke and had it all wrapped up by halftime. By all accounts, both teams should have called it at half-time. Although Mauricio Pochettino will be slightly concerned to see whether or not that both Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen both will be fit for this game after came off with knocks. Harry Kane is banging in goals and I would hate to agree but he is up there with some of the world’s best strikers. He’s proved that he isn’t just a one-season wonder, this is his third consecutive season with 20+ goals and although sometimes you might want to question his technique, the man is scoring goals and that’s all that matters for Spurs right now.
As much Spurs look very much look the favourites for this game having won their last 8 games at home, Everton are in a good form having only dropped 4 points in their last 7 games and will definitely test this Spurs side tactically. Koeman seems like a very shrewd tactician and with the options that he has at his disposal, especially in the centre of midfield, you can understand why this one is becoming so difficult to call. Lukaku has the same amount of goals as Harry Kane this year in the league and will definitely cause Spurs problems, especially if Spurs’s first choice centre-halves are not available. Barkley is looking back to his best, although I’m not a fan of his new lid.
Another tough one to call here, although I think everyone wants this one to be an open, end to end game I think this one could end up being a quite cagey affair. I would say this for this one, will end in a draw and that maybe the best value bet you’ll get. However, I hope both teams prove me wrong.
Sunderland vs Manchester City
Isn’t this the sort of time that Sunderland start their great escape? Because this would be one hell of a way to kick start it into motion.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind expects Sunderland to win this one considering that they have lost their last two including a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Southampton. I do feel sorry in a way for Sunderland, David Moyes will be sweating on the fitness of potentially 7 different players which just is not the ideal situation – the odds this time around seem even more than ever stacked heavily against Sunderland. Really struggling to write anything remotely positive here for Sunderland… If they can keep it tight and frustrate Manchester City and not conceded, there is a small window of opportunity to hit City on the counter and get Jermain Defoe 1 on 1 with the keeper, then you’d back Defoe to score. But that is a big if.
City, on the other hand, have found some rhythm in recent weeks and right so are favourites to win here. They have won 3 games in a row now and are back to scoring freely, they have scored at least 2 goals in their last 4 Premier League games. With their midweek win in the FA cup, they are now undefeated in their last 8 in all competitions. Although this fixture may seem to have already been won, City will need to make sure that they get themselves on the scoresheet in order to stop Sunderland growing in confidence.
History is not looking good for Sunderland. City have won their last 6 matches in all competitions against Sunderland, and in the last 4 of those City have been winning at half time and full time. With that stat, I would not be surprised if that continued and that’s why I would be betting on Manchester City to be winning at both halftime and fulltime.
Monday 6th March
West Ham vs Chelsea
The final game of the weekend and it’s a London derby the first Premier League fixture between these two at the London Stadium.
West ham have been steadily going about their business and are now comfortably sitting mid-table and will be wanting to solidify their league position and build for next season. Andy Carroll is an injury doubt although Andre Ayew is in the wings to fill in. Top goal scorer Michail Antonio will be a big miss following his suspension against Watford. There’s not a lot you can really say about West Ham at the moment, well I am so I’m just going to leave it there.
Chelsea continue their charge towards the title. They have now won 17 out of their last 20 games in the league which is just, as my boss would say, top banana. Hazard, Pedro and Costa have 33 goals between them in the league which equates to 60% of their goals, so there’s no secret to where the goals are coming from. Conte just seems to have every other manager and team in the league bamboozled with Chelsea’s formation and teams are struggling to cope with this.
It’s just so difficult at the moment to go against Chelsea and you just feel that it’s not going to change this week. Especially if City, Spur’s and Arsenal win they will want to keep that 10 point cushion. But this is the Premier League where any team can beat any other team. But if it was my money I think I’d have a bet on Chelsea with an Asian Handicap of -1.0.
Thanks if you got this far and I hope if you do fancy a bet this might of helped. But please don’t blame me if nothing comes in.
A slightly shorter blog post from me this week due to the EFL cup final involving Southampton and Manchester United.
Saturday 25th February
Chelsea vs Swansea
So Chelsea continue to roll on in emphatic fashion. Yes, they didn’t win in against Burnley, but they could have quite easily lost against a team who are as fearless at home. Also, can we just appreciate and marvel that was Robbie Brady’s freekick, to pull that off, under that sort of pressure, is just astonishing. Back to Chelsea, they have had plenty of time to recover from their FA Cup exploits against Wolves and return their attention back to the Premier League. The league leaders looked comfortable for the most part against Wolves and you’d very much expect them to continue this impressive run going. Antonio Conte will most probably revert back to his trusted line-up this weekend lead by Diego Costa. The man is just superb at his job if he worked at McDonald’s he’d have all the stars. The most impressive thing this year though is his attitude and his phenomenal work rate. His temper is vastly improved and the channelling his aggression is proof the of the incredible man-management skills of Antonio Conte.
Swansea will not be disheartened though and should go into this game believing that they can get something out of this game. They have been resurgent under one Paul Clement, who I did mention in my last preview by the way, but having seen them against they just look so much more organised without the ball and Chelsea will find it difficult to break down this dogged Swansea defence. It’s a tough ask for Swansea but good results don’t come without hard work as Paul Clement has reiterated to the press this week “How hard are we willing to work to make sure we are continuing to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season?”. A leader in it’s purest form.
I think Chelsea will win but maybe not as comfortably as some may think.
Crystal Palace vs Middlesbrough
Think this break in the fixture list came at just the right sort of time for Big Sam’s men. With less than desirable results against Everton and Stoke means that Palace are still in the relegation places and it’s now becoming a real possibility that Big Sam is staring at his first ever top-flight relegation square in the face. But as I said this break has given Palace a small amount of time out of the media’s spotlight and for Palace’s sake you’d hope, that has given them time to work on the things that have just not been going right up till this point. Cristian Benteke has looked very isolated leading the line and this is reflected in the fact that Palace had just one shot on target against Stoke and that was from the left boot of Patrick van Aanholt. Okay, they have looked better defensively and it may be encouraging for the manager but they need results and fast. With just 13 games remaining it’s now or never for Palace.
Palace will fancy themselves here with another team that is struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, although Boro did net 3 against Oxford in the FA Cup. Middlesbrough have looked quite solid all season epitomised by the Boro skipper Ben Gibson, who I have been impressed by this season. Boro have been making it tough for opposition teams to play against them this season but worryingly haven’t won a Premier League game since the 17th of December, they’ve only picked up 5 points from a possible 24. No one is expecting for them to pick up the full maximum 24 points but it will be concerning for Mr Karanka and his superiors.
It’s got a bore draw written all over this – I hope I’m wrong and it turns into a cracker.
Everton vs Sunderland
Everton are the in-form team in the Premier League at the moment. 4 wins and 2 draws in their last 6 games, picking up more than any other team. Mr Koeman has got them playing a good brand of football and they look very good to have a strong finish to the season and my goodness, will they fancy it this weekend. Although they did fail to score against Middlesbrough last time out in the league, Victor Valdes had a cracking game in between the sticks, last time they met Sunderland they won 3-0.
What the hell happened David Moyes and Sunderland! I started bigging you up and had a bit of hope for you then you go and lose 4-0, at home to Southampton who had only won once since Christmas prior to that! It just feels like 2 steps forward, 2 steps back with Sunderland at the moment. They need to get out of this cycle and start moving forward and out of the relegation zone. Considering how good they were against Palace and how ruthless they were in front of goal that day, they mustered one shot on target against Southampton. SO FRUSTRATING! But can they get back to winning ways?
No. I just can’t see it and Everton should be able to continue their hot streak.
Hull City vs Burnley
I really do think that Hull have a massive opportunity here to get themselves out of the relegation places. They have been performing well recently, they will feel quite aggrieved that they didn’t get anything from the Emirates and will feel pretty confident going into this game against Burnley. Lazar Markovic looked like a completely different player to the one that had fallen out of contention at Liverpool. He glided past Arsenal defenders and his turn of pace was only something I wish for. He was unlucky not to get an assist too. But Hull are looking very, very strong under Marco Silva and it’s hard to see this side not beating the drop. Although Paul Merson would disagree.
Burnley played their part in one of the biggest shocks in the FA Cup in recent years against Lincoln City. What took most people by surprise is that they lost the tie at home and we all know how good they are at home. Away from Turf Moor, Burnley are just not the same beast. They turn from Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (the guy from Game of Thrones) to well, me. It’s incredible really and I’m sure there is a space there for a sports psychologist to make some good money there, or a good dissertation topic – thank me later. I think that the way the two teams come into this match it makes for an interesting and potentially free flowing game (tight and cagey game incoming).
I think that Hull will win this one but Burnley won’t roll over without scoring at least one.
West Brom vs Bournemouth
West Brom are definitely one of the most solid teams in the league this year. What I think that is the most impressive thing about West Brom this season is that they are scoring far more goals and playing a much more attacking style of football, exactly what Baggies fans have been crying out for. The
y have struggled however this year against the 7 teams above them, 1 point from a possible 24 points and still have 6 games to play against these 7 teams. However against the teams below them in the table is a completely different story – the Baggies have been extremely efficient. They have lost just 1 game in 17, against these teams. That one loss just happens to be on this weekend’s opponents – Bournemouth.
Bournemouth are in desperate need of a win here otherwise, they will be embroiled in the relegation battle. They have lost 5 of their last 6 away games and have conceded over 2.5 goals in those 6 away games. Things are not looking very promising here for Bournemouth and will be sweating on the fitness of Jack Wilshere who picked up a knock against Manchester City. Already without Simon Francis, Bournemouth’s defence is looking very fragile and when coming up against a rampant, in-form West Brom; I really do fear for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. Please don’t let me down, Eddie…
With West Brom in fine form, especially at home, 6 wins in their last 7 home games. It’s hard to look past West Brom. But Bournemouth have trained this last week at Real Madrid’s training ground so maybe Mr Zidane and Co have taught them a thing or two.
Watford vs West Ham
There’s not a lot of mouth-watering fixtures this weekend, but some rather important one’s in the middle of the table. A win for either Watford or West Ham would bring them closer to that top half of the table and away from the bottom half of the table. Firstly avoiding any sort of doubt of being dragged into a relegation battle and secondly the prize money from the final standings will also be extremely important for the clubs financial circumstances.
Watford continued their inconsistency against Manchester United and although started brightly were undone by mistakes and a slick United outfit meant the failed to keep their momentum going. I’m sure that Watford will be targeting this game as a game they can get a positive result out of and try building a run of form.
Saying that West Ham will also see this game as one they can also get a positive result from. West Ham showed some fighting spirit against West Brom that maybe they lacked earlier on in the season. For all the negative vibes surrounding the club they are not doing too badly, yes it’s not quite what they were promised when they moved to the London Stadium, which feels slightly like the Brexit campaign, West Ham are not in a terrible position. It’s good to see a man of Lanzini’s talent and in the absent of a certain West Ham traitor is flourishing.
The day’s late kick-off has the potential to be a good one especially with both defences less than impressive in recent weeks.
Sunday 26th February
Spurs vs Stoke City
For all the plaudits that journalists and fans have been giving Spurs, they just cannot do it at Wembley or during the week, can they?! This week the crashed out against a Gent side that is sat 8th in the Belgian Pro League which is a bit of a disaster really for a team boasting the talent that it does. Seriously Dele I cannot believe you even protested it, yes you didn’t mean it but it was a very poor tackle/ a tackle that a horrible middle-aged man playing Sunday league can only ever dream of. But that is a shed load of potential games off their schedule and can now focus their attention on the league and I’m sure Mauricio Pochettino will be demanding an instant response. They have only twice dropped points at home this year and White Hart Lane is clearly a ground that is very difficult to visit, against a team that has a very poor record when playing them.
Stoke have lost 4-0 in the last two meetings between the teams in the league and Spurs have scored over 2.5 goals in the last 5 matches against Stoke in all competitions. Just to add to Stoke’s misery they have lost 4 games their last 5 with that one game coming against lowly Sunderland, oh and I had forgotten to mention that their injury list is building. It’s not looking good for Mark Hughes’s men, is it? I guess this is where they need to show what they are made of and show some consistency but will they find it in this game facing a wounded Spurs side?
Well… no, I doubt it. Spurs are brilliant at home, as long as it’s not Wembley and they should win this one comfortably.
Monday 27th February
Leicester City vs Liverpool
There is so much to discuss with the departure of Claudio Ranieri and the decline of Leicester but I’m going to keep this short (I’m going to be writing a post about him soon). Two weeks ago the Leicester hierarchy had given him “unwavering support” but when you are that close to the bottom and with the money of the Premier League on the line, decisions, brave decisions have to be made. I don’t want to discuss this any further in this particular post but what I will say now is that now he has gone, the Leicester players need to start performing if any of them want to have any sort of job come pre-season. If they start performing now and winning games and keep themselves up then you can maybe start to understand why Ranieri needed to go. However, if they don’t and they do get relegated, then will the sacking of Ranieri have been worth it? But in terms of performances, they need to vastly improve, do Leicester. Not really the most ideal game for them to potentially jump start a recovery but you’ve got to start somewhere, I guess.
Liverpool, you couldn’t ask for a better game to get back into the swing of things. Leicester have failed to score in 6 games and lost their last 5. They have had a good break out in La Manga after their congested January fixture list and will be refreshed and raring to get themselves into that top four club. Sadio Mané looks like the catalyst for Klopp’s team at the moment and has sparked them back into life after his return from the African Cup of Nations. Furthermore, against Spurs, Liverpool looked a lot more defensively solid too which coupled with Spurs lack of penetration on the day, meant they recorded their first victory of 2017 and their first clean sheet in the league in 2017 too.
How will Leicester react now that they have parted way with Claudio Ranieri, will his sacking spark them into life? I can’t see it myself and I can see Leicester dropping into the relegation zone here and it then becoming a huge crisis.
Thank you if you got this far, I do appreciate it. Feel free to leave a comment or some feedback. This probably hasn’t been my best post ever but hey ho! Cheers, Skeelsy.
Three weeks ago if you had said Arsenal, at home, would cruise to victory against Hull I would have agreed with you. But how Arsenal have fallen in that time. A far from convincing win against Burnley, a win against a heavily rotated Southampton side in the FA cup with a heavily rotated Arsenal team as well, defeat to a Watford team who before that game hadn’t won a game since the 10th of December and defeat to a far superior Chelsea team, has got us Arsenal fans on edge. This fixture now no longer looks like the routine win that you would have assumed it may be. Hull have been resurgent under the reign of Marco Silva. Hull have picked up some big results in recent weeks against Man United and Liverpool which has really boosted their chances of beating the drop. Confidence will be high and they will believe that they can get something out of this game.
I still think that Arsenal will and should have enough to beat Hull in the day’s early kickoff but the seeds of doubt have been planted by some extremely poor performances in the last week. Sanchez and Özil need to play like the world-class players that they can be, but the whole team need to show spirit and fight to get us fans back onside. I really hope that Lucas Perez gets a chance soon too. He’s looked fantastic in every game that I have seen him in since his arrival but Wenger seems to have placed his faith elsewhere. But surely he could play off the right instead of Walcott who was not at his best against Chelsea to put it kindly. Wenger needs Elneny back and firing too. Elneny, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated players in the Premier league. His range of passing and intelligence on and off the ball makes him perfect for that role in the midfield that Arsenal so desperately needs right now.
God help us all if Arsenal do not win, Arsenal Fan TV will be in a horrific state as per usual and we will be looking to secure that 4th place trophy again. Positive as always from an Arsenal fan…
Manchester United vs Watford
Manchester United have been on one hell of a run, one that I think that we’d be talking a lot more about if they didn’t lie 6th in the Premier League. Mourinho’s men look like a team that will not lose, but they just aren’t winning enough. They have the same amount of draws, 9 in all, with struggling Middlesbrough and three of those draws have come in their last 5 games. I say all this, but they are only 2 points off 4th spot. But I think United fans will demand more, and quite rightly, especially considering the amount of money they spent at the start of the season and stature of the club. But they are not far off. With Arsenal and Liverpool in poor form, there is no better time for the United players to show José that they want to win and want to be in that top 4, especially after he called some of his players out this week.
You would expect United to win this one quite comfortably, being at home and the prospect of being able to get into that top 4, but Watford should not be taken lightly. Watford have not lost in 4 and will take confidence from their 2 back to back wins. New signing M’Baye Niang looks like a handful and Tom Cleverley, returning to play against his former employees, seems to be enjoying his return to Watford forming a good partnership with Étienne Capoue in the middle of the Watford midfield.
But I think Mourinho’s men will take victory here, Ibrahimovic has goal scoring built into his DNA and with a number of creative options around him, United should be able to find a way to win here.
Middlesbrough vs Everton
Middlesbrough need to find some luck and some goals from somewhere; quickly. They will probably feel aggrieved after a narrow loss, although Spurs were in control for most of the game and Middlesbrough failed to have a single shot on target all game, which rather sums up their season so far, not enough goals. I do think that Middlesbrough has some very good, talented players within their ranks such as Traoré and Álvaro Negredo. Considering the attacking option that Middlesbrough have at their disposable it’s difficult to see why they cannot seem to find the back of the net more often. On the other hand, they are not conceding many goals. If you look at Bournemouth who are just 5 points ahead of them in the table Bournemouth have conceded 20 more goals than Middlesbrough but Bournemouth have scored 16 more goals. Worrying times for Aitor Karanka team who lie just a point outside the relegation zone.
Speaking of scoring, my goodness Everton! 11 goals in 3 games is impressive total, even if 6 of them came against a Bournemouth team that can’t seem to stop conceding. But it shows a ruthless streak that Koeman has seemingly instilled into his forwards. Lukaku seems to be back to his old self, scoring goals for fun. The youth that Koeman is putting faith in also seems to be paying off and Lookman, one of their January signings from Charlton, looks like he could have a big future ahead of him.
With this positivity running through the club the next couple of seasons look bright for Everton, but it is looking very good now and they will be dreaming of getting back into Europe. Everton look set to continue this run of form even if their away form is not the best.
Stoke vs Crystal Palace
I often joke with my friends about the sort of football that Stoke like to play, but the fact is they are no longer a team that play sophisticated, Sunday league long ball but a team that actually can play some good stuff. Yet they are probably one of the most inconsistent teams in the Premier League and cannot put a solid run of form together. Going into the match against West Brom, who in fairness have turned it on this season, they hadn’t lost in 4, which included results against Manchester United and Everton and then went and lost 1 – 0. This inconsistency seems to be the case every year with Stoke now that they have established themselves as Premier League team. So Stoke will be looking for some inspiration going into this game and this may come in the form of 6ft 7in figure that is Peter Crouch. I honestly thought he had already retired at the start of the season, now look at him: he’s got himself to the elusive 100 Premier League goals club, which includes some absolute belters may I just add in, another year added on his contract and a starting spot in the Stoke team. If the Stoke’s game plan was up to me, I would be getting it wide and getting some crosses into Crouchy, especially against this Crystal Palace back line.
I thought that Big Sam was meant to sure up teams? So why on earth did he buy Patrick Van Aanholt for a deal worth up to £14m and Jeffrey Schlupp for £12m? Okay yes, they were in need of left-back reinforcements but neither of them are renowned for their defending abilities. They did get Sahko in but will he make a vital difference; I have my doubts. Palace need a win and fast, a well ground out win against Bournemouth was impressive but then their first-half capitulation against fellow strugglers Sunderland was just embarrassing.
Palace will be out to prove something and I’m sure that Big Sam will have had them working on their defending all week, but will they be able to stop Crouchy and his brigade? Possibly. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ended in a scoring draw.
Sunderland vs Southampton
Sunderland have looked good in the last couple of weeks, for the first time in a very long time. They have looked nothing like the relegation candidates that they are. I couldn’t believe the result I was seeing on Saturday when I was skiving out in the stockroom at work. 4 goals and a clean sheet, what have you done with Sunderland David Moyes. Steroids? Or the fact you sold Van Aanholt? But the fact is that keeping a clean sheet means that you will pick up points and if you couple that with a clinical finisher in Jemaine Defoe, you might just have a chance of staying up. Sunderland fans will be asking more of the same please Moyesy!
I called Stoke inconsistent, but Southampton are kings of all inconsistency. After fending off Liverpool in the Micky Mouse trophy that is the EFL cup, over two legs, they have slumped to three defeats in all competitions. The loss of Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin has really halted their progress, however, the signing Manolo Gabbiadini seems to be a good piece of business with a goal on debut and he probably should have had a second too. I hope that Southampton turn it around soon. They are a very likeable team with a lot of young English talent like James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett mixed in with some very good foreign flair like Dušan Tadić and Cédric. They won’t go down but just hope they have a good end to the season and push for the top half.
Southampton are in need of a win but Sunderland need it more. I’m really not sure which way this way will go.
West Ham vs West Brom
Who needs Payet when you have Andy Carroll? I’m glad Payet has left and I don’t even support West Ham. How can you refuse to play for a team when you are on that sort of money? If I did that at work I’d be out the door before I could say could anything. But anyway he’s gone now and West Ham may feel betrayed but they got £25m quid for him so they can’t complain too much. Instead now they have a new hero, well he’s not exactly a new signing, however, Andy Carroll is showing us a glimpse of what he can do. 4 goals in 4 games, including a phenomenal bicycle kick, against Crystal Palace. This was the goal of the month over Giroud’s scorpion kick, that should show you just how good it was. Although he is a doubt for this game with a groin injury. This rather sums up his career, plays well, scores goals, gets injured, repeat. The addition of Robert Snodgrass in January was, well at least in my opinion, a good one. With Payet now gone you’d hope Lanzini can shine and help West Ham restore some pride back into their club. West Ham lie 9th in the league just 5 points off high-flying visitors West Brom.
I have a soft spot for West Brom, although I’ve been questioning that ever since they allowed Hal Robson-Kanu’s to wear the number 4 shirt. A centre-forward in the number 4 shirt, some people just want to watch the world burn. But in all seriousness, West Brom are playing some very good football this year under Tony Pulis and it’s good to see. West Brom have only lost once of their past 6 league games and the confidence within the team is clearly high. They played Stoke off the park in the first half last week and will be hoping they can do the same against West Ham.
It’s going to be a close game this one but the London Stadium is no fortress and I can sense a West Brom win here – probably wrong but hey ho.
Liverpool vs Spurs
Arguably the game of the weekend, well clearly, otherwise BT sport wouldn’t have chosen it. Liverpool come into this game without a win in 2017 and have only scored 6 goals in that time too. To draw up a comparison Harry Kane has scored the same amount of goals on his own in that time. Liverpool are clearly a talented team that Jurgen Klopp is still trying to get the best out of. The likes of Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho have gone missing in recent weeks, which for Liverpool fans must be so frustrating considering how well these two started along with Sadio Mané. The goals have dried up for the first time under Klopp, who by the way has done a good job at Liverpool so far, in my opinion. Probably not the game that you’d want to play if you are a team looking to get back to scoring goals. Spurs’s back-line have the best goals against record in the league, conceding just 16 in 24 games. Although the loss of Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen is a huge blow for Spurs and a huge boost for Liverpool
Right, this is the part where I can’t be biased… god this is going to be difficult. Actually, it’s not. Yes as an Arsenal fan, I would love to see Spurs have a tough time on Saturday and it always gives me a smile when they don’t do well. But I like what Mauricio Pochettino is trying to build over at Spurs and the way he is going about it. Playing football that gets people excited and bringing through British talent from the academy like Harry Winks, who seems to be blossoming under Pochettino reign and of course Dele Ali and Harry Kane. If for nothing else this is good for the future of English football, English players getting regular first team football instead of being a bit part player warming the bench. You can see why there’s a lot to like about them and why the English media love to praise them.
But can Spurs overcome Liverpool? History says it’s unlikely. Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 9 games they have played against Spurs in league and cup. They have also only lost once in 22 meetings against Spurs when playing at home, winning 14 and drawing 7. This has a draw written all over it.
Sunday 12th February
Burnley vs Chelsea
One thing I have learnt this season is that Sean Dyche loves a moan. Every week it seems that he’s got something to have a good old moan about. I get that his club is up against it compared to the other clubs with their moderate wage budget and transfer fund and it may seem like the referees might favour the big teams, but it’s gone, Sean! Let it go! I’m not saying he’s not a good manager, by the way. I think he sets up his teams to get the desired result and each player in his team knows exactly what is demanded of them. I just think that if they ever brought back the TV series Grumpy Old Menhe needs to make a guest appearance. Anyway back to Burnley vs Chelsea. It’s no secret Burnley are very very good at home, all 9 of their wins this season have come at home, they really do have a chance to upturn the apple cart here but it would be like me trying to climb Mount Everest, not impossible just bloody difficult.
Burnley’s opposition, Chelsea, have just been superb. It’s hard as an Arsenal fan to write this, but it is also the easiest thing to write. Since their 3 – 0 humiliation at the Emirates, they have been very nearly perfect and have been winning when other teams around them have dropped points. I think the one thing we can all take from this is 1: Conte is a very good manager and 2: the 3-4-2-1 system that he has reverted back to shows us that if in any doubt stick to what you know and the results will come. Chelsea has such a strong spine running through that team that you can see why they are odds on favourites for the league title. It’s also helped that they have stayed relativity injury-free for most of the season which has been helped due to the lack of midweek fixtures.
You have to fancy Chelsea to continue their dominance of the Premier League and win here but the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City have struggled here so far this season at Burnley. So there is a small glimmer of hope for Burnley – it’s just very small.
Swansea vs Leicester
Hey Derby, do you miss Paul Clement? I’ve always liked Paul Clement and I have no idea why. I’ve never sat down and watched one of his teams play. But from what I can tell is that he knows his stuff and is clearly getting the best out of his players and getting the results Swansea need to beat the drop, the manager of the month award shows you that. Fernando Llorente looks like a classic centre-forward and I can see now why in FIFA 11 he was given the complete forward badge. Gylfi Sigurðsson (yes I had to google how to spell his name) has been their best player all year and the stats do not lie. 8 goals and 7 assists this season as well as his work rate, make him extremely invaluable to a club that’s looking to beat the drop. Swansea will fancy themselves here and will look to make the reigning league champions suffer even more.
Oh dear, Leicester. I get that Champions League football is the pinnacle of the European football but you need to stay in the Premier League first! This slump is as just as remarkable as their form last year, but obviously for all the wrong reasons. They just aren’t as formidable as last season and it is a real possibility now that Leicester could be hosting Championship football next season just a year after winning the Premier League and being in the last 16 of the Champions League. Jamie Vardy is back to looking like a non-league striker and I doubt he’d be starting then. Thank god he didn’t want to join Arsenal. Riyad Mahrez isn’t looking like PFA Player of last season and lacking confidence. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, Demarai Gray. The young man has brought some energy to a team that has looked so slow and laboured this season and scored a superb solo goal against Derby during the week, very nicely done Mr Gray. It’s just a shame he hasn’t had more chance to show his qualities from the start, he’s only started 5 games in the Premier League this season. That might change this weekend though and it might just be the spark that Leicester need to kick start themselves.
So Leicester are in desperate need of a win and a boost for their confidence levels, yes they won during the week, but can you see it coming here away from home against a team that is rejuvenated under a new manager? I can’t personally see it.
Monday 13th February
Bournemouth vs Manchester City
Bournemouth will always hold a special place in my heart after I repeated what Eddie Howe did in the 2014 – 2015 season and guided them to the Championship title and the promised lands of Premier League in Football Manager 2015. But in all seriousness, I admire the way Bournemouth have guided the club from the clutches of administration and have risen up through the leagues to the top of English football. Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job but it’s not like he’s done it through playing negative football. He’s done it by getting his teams to play in accordance with his own philosophy of attacking and controlled football. As much as I admire Bournemouth they need to be careful. Their defence is like a burst pipe and they cannot seem to stop conceding goals, 13 goals conceded in 4 Premier League games is not good reading for anyone associated with Bournemouth. They miss Nathan Ake and will be regretting allowing Chelsea to put a recall clause in the deal. Their leaky defence does not bode well for the arrival of one of the most talented attacking teams in the Premier League. They have some very good players within their squad, like Ryan Fraser, however, they will be looking to Arsenal loanee, Jack Wilshere to help inspire them to victory. Wilshere has been playing well, and has kept the Bournemouth midfield flowing and creating chances. They just need to stop conceding goals first.
Bournemouth’s leaky defence does not bode well for the arrival of one of the most talented attacking teams in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola is another manager I admire highly, what he has achieved in the game already as such a young manager is incredible. Yes, the Premier League has proven more difficult and testing, but that is why he is here isn’t it, to test himself? But Man City are, in my opinion, still finding their feet under Pep and I think that next year we will see, with the addition of new signings, this team flourish. However, this is now and the arrival of Jesus in January seems to be good money spent. He has 3 goals and an assist in just 2 games and is keeping Sergio Agüero out of the team at the moment. To be fueling speculation that Man City would sell Sergio Agüero because you are playing that well, at the age of 19, probably means you are something pretty special.
I can see Manchester City making Bournemouth’s nightmare start to 2017 even worse, but Bournemouth will should not be worried about scoring against another team with a defensive record left to be desired.
If you have read this far – I admire you, I would have probably given up after the first paragraph. But thank you for reading, I have really enjoyed this and I hope it can be the first of many. If you want to share it that would be great or comment your own thoughts please feel free to. If you enjoyed it please let me know, or if you’ve got some advice, throw it my way, I am always looking to improve. Cheers, Skeelsy.