With yet another International break just around the corner, it is perhaps even more vital for clubs to secure the points this weekend and hope to maintain their momentum through to after the break. We assess each of this weekend’s fixtures including a mouth-watering North London derby between Spurs and Arsenal.
Liverpool and Manchester City will hope to press on given both are afforded home comforts, hosting Watford and Middlesbrough respectively. It’s sure to be another edge of your seat weekend of Premier League football.
Bournemouth v Sunderland | Saturday 15:00 BST | Dean Court
The term ‘a must win game’ is thrown around far too easily these days. However, in Sunderland’s case, this really is. To have only collected two points at this stage of the season is frankly embarrassing. David Moyes will know how vital this game is, if they can get a win here, they can really push on after the International Break. After all, if they can’t win games like this, where will the points come from? Jermain Defoe will be key, and whether or not Lamine Koné decides to put in a shift this week will also be a crucial factor. Junior Stanislas was a big miss for the Cherries last week, they’ll be hoping he’s back fit for this one. Nonetheless, Bournemouth had an off day last weekend, and are a very good footballing side, especially at home with the crowd behind them. I think Bournemouth will have too much for the Black Cats, and Moyes will be gone by Monday – I hope I’m made to eat my words. Yet without skipper John O’Shea I can’t see past a home win.
Prediction – 2-0
Key battle – Steve Cook v Jermain Defoe
Burnley v Crystal Palace | Saturday 15:00 BST | Turf Moor
I’ve been impressed with the resolve Burnley have displayed this season. They’ve got six points from the Merseyside clubs this season and were hugely unfortunate to not go away with anything from the Arsenal game. As for Palace they’ve been there or there about. Defensively though I’ve been disappointed, and Scott Dann and co will need to sort their act out ahead of this one. Turf Moor will be rocking. I feel tactically, if Burnley can stop the crosses coming in, they can shut out the threat Palace hold. Then it’s up to Scott Arfield, Dean Marney, Sam Vokes etc to create something and try and steal all three points for the Clarets.
Prediction – 1-1
Key battle – Micheal Keane v Christian Benteke
Manchester City v Middlesbrough | Saturday 15:00 BST | Etihad Stadium
Dare I say it but I can see a draw here. I know City will be buzzing off the back of beating Barcelona, however, perhaps that could be their Achilles heal. I sense Pep will rest some key players and that they may struggle to break down a Middlesbrough side that have impressed me immensely this season. They shut down Arsenal and perhaps deserved to take all three points back to the Riverside. Alvaro Negredo was a steal, and defensively George Friend leads a strong, organised and technical defensive line which sides struggle to unlock. Of course, I may well be proven entirely wrong as City could easily knock five past them and run riot, but I just have a hunch that Aitor Karanka’s men might snatch a point. Man City will be without Fernandinho, whilst Claudio Bravo should be restored to the starting XI.
Prediction – 1-1
Key battle – Sergio Aguero v Callum Chambers
West Ham United v Stoke City | Saturday 15:00 BST | Olympic Stadium
What a turnaround Stoke have enjoyed! Joe Allen and Wilfried Bony will be key to this game. West Ham have a few players returning from injury this weekend and it will be good to potentially see the likes of Andy Carroll back fit and playing. He makes a big difference to West Ham I think, in that he is an out and out goalscorer as well as providing a target and physical presence. Dimitri Payet will be licking his lips at the prospect. A key battle here could come from Ryan Shawcross, who’s always involved for one reason or another. If he can shut down the creativity and pace of West Ham’s attack then upfront the Potters certainly have the quality to score a goal or two. The Hammers will be hoping the crowd trouble dies down and is transferred into getting behind their side who are struggling to replicate last season’s form and are yet to even show any promise. Expect goals.
Prediction – 2-2
Key battle – Dimitri Payet v Glen Whelan
Chelsea v Everton | Saturday 17:30 BST | Stamford Bridge
If Chelsea can work the ball to Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in dangerous positions, then I’m afraid Everton are helpless. Romelu Lukaku is a class player, but he isn’t to the standards of Costa and Hazard. Both these sides boast impressive defensive records and don’t be too surprised if Ronald Koeman sets up looking for a point. The key factor here could be work rate in that midfield. Can Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante get the better of Gareth Barry and Idrissa Gueye? I’d suggest so in terms of running, I fear Chelsea will overrun the toffees in that department, so it’s something Koeman will look to sure up. Chelsea have the momentum, however, while Everton have been stopping and starting – I foresee a narrow Chelsea triumph in this battle of the blues.
Prediction – 2-1
Key battle – Diego Costa v Ashley Williams
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur | Sunday 12:00 BST | Emirates Stadium **
I’ve starred this as the fixture of the weekend! This derby always provides action, entertainment and hopefully goals. Both sides are strong defensively, but while Arsenal have been freely scoring, Spurs have sorely missed Harry Kane. He’s back for this one, and that will give the whole wide a big boost. This one could be a battle of the full-backs. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal/Kieran Gibbs – depending on if Monreal can prove his fitness, are both tireless runners up the flanks for both sides. Whoever can get the better of their opposite number in that respect could ultimately decide the game. Still, without Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen will have to watch the pace and movement boasts by the Gunners potent strike force, if Mesut Ozil can get into the gaps between defence and midfield then Spurs could be in trouble. I fancy the Gunners edging this one on their home turf, however.
Prediction – 2-1
Key battle – Victor Wanyama v Mesut Ozil
Liverpool v Watford | Sunday 14:15 BST | Anfield
Liverpool should win this. Yet I don’t think they will. Watford have kept three consecutive clean sheets now in the Premier League, in vast contrast to Liverpool’s woeful defensive record. I think the Reds may struggle to break the resolute Hornets backline down, although Sebastien Prodl could prove a big miss for the London club. All will depend on whether the magician that is Phillipe Coutinho can find space in front of their defence, and then have time to play the killer pass. If they can shut out the Brazilian however, the Merseysiders may struggle for the creativity needed in what will inevitably be close, confined spaces. Both clubs are flying, Liverpool are 3rd, Watford are 7th – ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. Whoever gets the better of this one will surely feel like the world is their proverbial oyster.
Prediction – 0-0
Key battle – Phillipe Coutinho v Watford’s defence
Hull City v Southampton | Sunday 14:15 BST | KCOM Stadium
I’ve been impressed with Southampton. Midweek they went and beat Inter Milan 2-1, which is no mean feat even in this era. This game will be a familiar story for Mike Phelan’s men. Sit back, soak up the pressure and try and snatch it at the last. I just don’t feel they have the quality to compete with sides like Southampton. Robert Snodgrass’ injury was a hammer blow and therein lies the issue, they don’t have the depth to ably replace a player of his calibre. The Saints will come flying out the traps, they won’t have travelled from one side of the country to the other without intending to come home with the three points. And I think they will, and I fancy Charlie Austin to keep up his goalscoring form as well.
Prediction – 1-3
Key battle – Curtis Davies v Charlie Austin
Swansea City vs Manchester United | Sunday 15:00 BST | Liberty Stadium
It’s doom and gloom at both clubs at the moment. A 2-1 loss to Fenerbahce in midweek summed up United’s season. As for Swansea they haven’t won in nine matches, an astonishing record. However, I think the Swans have the players to do United some damage. With Fernando Llorente, Borja Baston, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leroy Fer all having the potential to hurt United’s shaky back line that will be without Eric Bailly for the next two months. I expect this to be a cagey affair with both sides starting tentatively. United will be desperate for three points in South Wales, whilst the Swans will be eager to end their barren run.
Prediction – 1-1
Key battle – Leroy Fer v Paul Pogba
Leicester City v West Brom Albion | Sunday 16:30 BST | King Power Stadium
Tony Pulis will come here looking for a point at the Champions. Whilst Leicester will be eager to carry their Champions League form into this competition. Losing Kasper Schmeichel is a big blow for the Foxes, and Salomon Rondon will look to target Ron-Robert Zieler as a potential weak link in the much improved Leicester back line. West Brom will sit 10 men behind the ball and look to fend off the waves of attack. However, the Baggies do have the pace to hit Claudio Ranieri’s men on the counter attack, with the pace and skill of Nacer Chadli. This will be a game of cat and mouse, and tactical nous.
Prediction – 2-0
Key battle – Jamie Vardy v Jonny Evans
This article is written by James Clements, you can follow him on Twitter at @JamesClements55. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.