Premier League Preview: Gameweek #12

Bournemouth vs Newcastle

Both teams are having an awful season so far. Both are playing counter-productive brand of football and are well-nailed for a relegation dogfight. And even though the Cherries can make excuses by pointing out the unfortunate injury of their main man Callum Wilson: in a grand scheme of things, that lad alone still wasn’t enough for them not to fear for their Premier League status. One thing is certain: if Eddie Howe can’t find a way to beat an abysmal team like Newcastle, his novice squad will feel even more doomed than they were before the start of the season. Four defeats and 15 goals conceded in the last five matches seem disheartening enough already, but bottom line is: either Howe wins, or his team is done.

As for Newcastle, they’ve somewhat managed to stop the bleeding by drawing Stoke 0-0. On the other hand: Magpies were clearly better in that duel and still couldn’t bag a goal – just like it was in an infamous derby against Sunderland. So, the challenge for them here is not to win a game: it’s more to score a goal, as neither Wijnaldum nor Mitrović have managed to repeat the Norwich performance yet. Steve McClaren commands one of the most defensively useless teams in the league, but with Bournemouth, the game was always bound to feature a lot of goals anyway – most likely for both sides. All in all, my money is on NUFC here – though, to be fair, I would bet more than a nickel on these useless cunts.

Prediction: 1-2, Ritchie, Wijnaldum and Pérez to score.


Leicester vs Watford

The two fairly big overachievers are clashing at the King Power Stadium – and what a clash of styles it is. Since the appointment of Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes have played easily the most entertaining football in the entire league, scoring three or four goals every other game as well as completing couple of the most miraculous comeback (for the most outstanding one, see: Villa vs Leicester). The team has an insanely weak defence that got mercilessly exposed by Arsenal, but against opponents outside of the top four, they make up for it very well with the most in-form attacking duo one can think of right now: Riyad Mahrez + Jamie Vardy. Today, the latter will be looking to score in a ninth Premier League game in a row!

Alas, the Hornets are doing pretty well too. Following an ambitious summer transfer window, Quique Sánchez Flores has presented us a team that hardly ever concedes a goal and is able to snatch wins from equally unpleasant enemies like West Ham or Stoke. Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo has turned out to be the real deal this season, scoring 7 goals and forming a truly great partnership with the fans’ favourite, Troy Deeney. Those strikers, along with the ex-Spurs lads (goalie Heurelho Gomes and defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue) are the key to Watford’s moderate success. But against Leicester playing this well? I don’t think we can expect Flores to beat the man, whom he once replaced as Valencia’s manager.

Prediciton: 3-1, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy and Deeney to score.


Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion

One couldn’t think of a more boring clash than the game of those two teams at the moment. United have scored just one goal in the last four games and look clueless on how two proceed in the middle of van Gaal’s experiments. The Dutchman played Anthony Martial down the left, Wayne Rooney upfront and Ander Herrera as a number ten. One day, this system might start working, potentially even today – but so far, it’s been far from perfect. In fact, anything other than a convincing victory over the Baggies will be just another brick in the wall with a graffiti saying “poor philosophy” sprayed all over it. The team was begging for some more confidence going forward for many weeks – this is some chance to gain it.

As of West Brom, they’ll be coming to Old Trafford with absolutely no pressure. Tony Pulis’ tedious approach has been bringing them satisfactory results so far and the game against MU will most likely feature even more dedicated, more obnoxious defensive play from a squad that so far had their goalkeeper Boaz Myhill as a main stand-out. One thing to note, though is the good form of WBA’s target man and record signing Salomón Rondón. The Venezuelan, who scored twice in the last two game, will have a chance to test the backline stripped of suspended Matteo Darmian. Still, I can see only two outcomes here: either Devils will comfortably run away with the game or the visitors will scrape an uninspiring 0-0 draw.

Prediction: 2-0, Mata and Rooney to score.


Norwich vs Swansea

This one is really a pain in the ass to predict. Swans are in a quite serious crisis at the moment, winning just once in the last eight matches. On the other hand, Norwich aren’t much better – also one win in eight games! The Canaries fought bravely at Etihad but eventually fell, only proving further that they’re not necessarily the team that feels comfortable spending the whole 90 minutes defending. Today, they will be without their main centre-back Russell Martin and probably without decent goalscorer Dieumerci Mbokani either. So if Nathan Redmond (0 goals in the last 259 minutes in Premier League) or Wes Hoolahan (0 assists in the last 203 minutes) can’t do anything here – things will look grim.

The visitors from Wales have their own problems. After a roaring start to the season, Bafétimbi Gomis’ form dipped like Arjen Robben’s body in a penalty area. With the French striker failing to score even from the best positions (he missed a sitter against Arsenal), the rest of the team has failed to step up and make up for it. At the moment, Garry Monk’s best bets to score are André Ayew and Gylfi Sigurðsson (the latter most definitely can slot it from a free-kick). Even though that sounds underwhelming, to me, the trail of a terrible form ends today for Swansea, as they’ll jump in and use Norwich’s leaky backline to their advantage. Expect a lot of defensive mistakes from the both sides.

Prediction: 1-2, Jerome, Ayew and Sigurðsson to score.


Sunderland vs Southampton

Black Cats are the worst team in the league, period. How on Earth they were able to beat Newcastle, we will never know – but at Goodison Park, everything went back to normal and they embarrassed themselves again. Shocking passing, shocking tackling, shocking lack of pace or creativity, nothing. Big Sam isn’t helping much either – so far, his team has been unable to dig in defensively and owes their only clean sheet to Costel Pantilimon, who had a masterclass performance in derby. Other than him, occasionally doing his job well – nothing is working for the Mackems – and, to make things worse, today, they’ll be facing Southampton without their injured defensive midfielder, Lee Cattermole.

The Saints on the other hand seem like a real deal recently. Unbeaten in five league games, they were in a firm control against Bournemouth and an away win at Stamford Bridge five weeks ago was just another, bonus boost to their growing confidence. Graziano Pellè and Sadio Mané are flying high this season and with Ryan Bertrand back from the injury, the team has earner just one more dimension down the left wing. The only downside to this otherwise comfortable state of affairs is their fairly poor record against Sunderland only one win in the last 6 matches. However, since that win was actually a famous 8-0 spanking and the Mackems are looking like the worst team of all times recently – it’s hard to imagine anything other than a very easy, very smooth win for Ronald Koeman’s boys.

Prediction: 0-3, Pellè (2) and Tadić to score.


West Ham vs Everton

This game will have goals. In a strangest season possible, Hammers are one of the most offensively gifted (!) teams, but their defending ain’t good – as it was recently demonstrated by a collaborative effort of Watford and Aaron Cresswell. Slaven Bilić has seen his team flying high and taking out Arsenal, Liverpool, City and Chelsea – but against slightly less reputable Everton, things don’t necessarily have to be so rosy. If the pace of Chelsea’s loanee Victor Moses works, if Andy Carroll replaces injured Diafra Sakho well and, above everything else, if Dimitri Payet has his day again – West Ham could easily destroy the weakened Everton’s defences – particularly with some of their trademark, blistering counterattacks.

If that doesn’t happen, though, The Toffees have more than enough strengths themselves to run away with 3 points. By dismantling Sunderland, the team has gained a lot of momentum and the attacking trident of Arouna Koné, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu has finally found their mojo. Should Ross Barkley step up and join them – there might be blood. At the same time, bunch of injuries featuring Phil Jagielka, Bryan Oviedo and Leighton Baines have hampered Roberto Martínez backline designs. I can’t see Everton keeping a clean sheet at Upton Park but I can’t see them losing this game either. This shall be easily the most exciting clash of the weekend – and a crazy, hockey-like draw isn’t out of question.

Prediction: 2-2, Payet, Moses, Barkley and Lukaku to score.


Stoke vs Chelsea

On the other hand, this match really does seem like a borefest. Stoke are in a close contest with West Bromwich for a Wooden Boot Award, belonging to the team that puts the biggest number of their fans in coma. If they’re winning any points recently, it’s because Jack Butland is having the best days of his goalkeeping career. One-goal margin wins over Bournemouth, Villa and Swansea, 0-0 in Newcastle, 0-2 to Watford… This really needs matches put in one’s eyes to stop them from closing by themselves. The only thing going well for Mark Hughes upfront is that apparently, right-back Glen Johnson can sometimes cross the ball well and Jonathan Walters can replace injured Mame Biram Diouf as a goalscorer. But that’s it.

Against them: Chelsea. Or, to be more specific: the worst Chelsea team since God-knows-when. After six league defeats in eleven games, José Mourinho’s lads will be at Britannia Stadium without Thibaut Courtois, Falcao and… their manager, who got suspended for more moronic comments after the previous defeat. A narrow win in Kiev and the League Cup exit (at… Stoke) aren’t improving the landscape much. If it wasn’t for Willian’s impressive form, The Blues would literally have nothing to be happy about. At Stoke, I’m expecting even more misery for them, but this time, a misery with a little bit of happy ending: after all, Butland’s lucky trail of saves and clean sheets must come to an end one day.

Prediction: 0-1, Costa to score.


Aston Villa vs Manchester City

Villains’ freefall continues. Beaten 1-3 at White Hart Lane after a vastly inferior performance, they’ve lost six games in a row and dropped to the 20th place. The chance players got to show off their skills in front of Rémi Garde didn’t matter: it was all the same, awful stuff with right-back Alan Hutton not being of Premier League standard and Gabby Agbonlahor remaining anonymous as the team’s lone striker. Without the impact sub Jordan Ayew, Clarets wouldn’t even manage to reach Hugo Lloris’ goal once, let alone score a goal past him. The Ghanian striker used a lucky deflection to make AVL’s defeat less painful, but the truth is: without Benteke, Villa have no guns – and they’re not likely to have any – at least until January.

To host top-of-the-table Manchester City in such circumstances can only mean one thing: a wipe-out. Manuel Pellegrini has led his lads to a narrow win against Norwich, but an away, Champions League triumph over Sevilla must’ve improved his team’s confidence. In the absence of both David Silva and Sergio Agüero, Citizens are now being led to bigger and better things by Kevin De Bruyne. Despite playing out wide, ex-Wolfsburg star has scored 5 goals and provided 4 assists in 12 matches for City this season. If he’s playing the right-winger position against Hutton today – God, have mercy upon Villa’s fans. The visitors can, should and will win this game. The only question is: by how many goals?

Prediction: 0-3, De Bruyne, Bony and Sterling to score.


Arsenal vs Tottenham

The North London derby sees both teams flying higher than they’ve been in the last couple of seasons. Despite cringeworthy results in Champions League, Arsenal have been fantastic in a domestic competition and remain toe-to-toe with Manchester City in a title race. With Petr Čech bossing the backline, Frenchmen Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin both getting in a great shape, Gunners look surpirsingly great at the back – while, upfront, Mesut Özil runs riot, providing one assist per every 92.5 minutes he plays in the Premier League. Although Wenger’s lads were a bit lucky against Swansea and received a proper spanking from Bayern this week – they still shall be seen as the favourites here.

And Spurs? Their backline is arguably even better than Arsenal’s; their midfield contains now a coming-of-age Dele Alli and freshly recovered Christian Eriksen, whose comeback has visibly reinvigorated Harry Kane’s abilities. Those players, alongside with Moussa Dembélé (3 goals in the last 3 games) are the reason Tottenham haven’t lost a BPL game since it’s opening match against Manchester United. Mauricio Pochettino must be pleased how even the supposedly weakest links in his team – Kyle Walker and Danny Rose – are performing these days. However, three goals conceded in two games against Anderlecht mean that Spurs, as strong as they may seem, are still beatable – and the Sunday game might as well prove it.

Prediction: 2-1, Cazorla, Sánchez and Kane to score.


Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

Jürgen Klopp is on fire. Not only he didn’t lose a single game since taking over the Liverpool team – his lads actually managed to transform in a sort of Borussia Dormund team already, pressing the opposition all across the pitch and attacking fiercely, with pace and creativity. 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and 1-0 in Kazan are very good victories that simply force anyone with a brain to see Liverpool as the main favourites against Palace. Who would’ve thought that just couple of weeks can change LFC’s situation so much? So far, Klopp has been bringing the best out of his players, including previously useless Coutinho and Brendan Rodgers’ outcast, Lucas Leiva. Those two Brazilians should be the main characters of the Sunday’s spectacle – again.

Compared to The Reds, Crystal Palace have been struggling recently. After a great run of fixtures in September and October, Alan Pardew’s squad stumbled against West Ham, lost narrowly to Leicester, got humped by City in League Cup and drew with Manchester United in a game the Eagles probably should’ve won. Couple of poor performances by Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha, combined with the lack of Connor Wickham upfront explained the lack of cutting edge upfront. On Sunday, Wickham shall return – but the team will have a mountain to climb anyway, should they ever aim to take 3 points at Anfield Road. Can’t imagine anything but a comfortable Liverpool win, to be honest.

Prediction: 2-0, Benteke and Firmino to score.


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