Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski
Match of the Week:
Chelsea (2nd) v. Liverpool (6th)
Now this is the Chelsea that we know and lo…well this is the Chelsea we know at least. It’s back to winning and dominating for the Blues, who look threatening on the ball and solid off of it. It may be a different shade of blue for N’Golo Kante, but it’s the same fine form from the Frenchman. Kante has slotted into the Chelsea side seamlessly next to Matic and is thriving under Conte. From a new signing, to what feels like one, Eden Hazard has regained his form and confidence, scoring two in his first four matches. These two key men will lineup against Liverpool this Friday and look to get back to winning ways after a poor performance against Swansea resulting in a draw last weekend.
Liverpool have looked a much better side with a full preseason under the German, Jurgen Klopp under their belt. The famous “gegenpress” style has been aiding with the additions of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum this offseason. Mane has been as threatening as ever, lively on the ball while roaming freely and interchanging with Firmino and Coutinho. The Brazilian pair of attackers, Sturridge and Mane have all gelled well, forming an attack that will scare the boots off any defense in the league, but they may meet their match this weekend as they travel to Stamford Bridge.
Matchup to Watch: N’Golo Kante vs. Liverpool’s Attack
With John Terry out injured, it looks like David Luiz will take his place next to Gary Cahill this weekend; against an attack as potent as Liverpool, that is a terrifying thought if you’re a Chelsea supporter. Luiz is a defensive liability and will need as much cover as he can get, that is where Kante comes in. A lot will be asked of Kante this weekend, he is crucial in breaking up the play and sparking a quick attack to get after the questionable Liverpool defense. The defensive midfielder will have a tall task on Friday to stop the four-pronged Liverpool attack.
Ivanovic – Luiz – Cahill – Azpilicueta
Matic – Kante
Willian – Oscar – Hazard
Clyne – Klavan – Matip – Milner
Henderson – Wijnaldum
Mane – Firmino – Coutinho
Eric: Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool
TJ: Chelsea 2-3 Liverpool
Hull (8th) v. Arsenal (7th)
Hull host Arsenal after both scored late last gameweek to earn a draw and a win respectively.
Hull’s start to the season defied all odds as they came firing out of the gate, despite their squad being riddled with injuries and a lack of inspiring business in the transfer window.
Arsenal have been plagued with fitness concerns in defense leading to a shakey start for the club. The Gunners’ new signings Mustafi and Xhaka will look to add solidity and guile to a side that has been regarded as “soft” more often than not. Arsenal will aim to get back to their best against Hull this week.
Matchup to Watch: Santi Cazorla v. Curtis Davies
Wenger has reintroduced Santi Cazorla into the side and he has been crucial in pulling the strings going forward. I expect Cazorla will be instrumental again in this upcoming match.
Curtis Davies has marshalled the Hull backline, leading the defense to only conceding 3 goals in their opening 4 fixtures.
Eric: Hull 0-2 Arsenal
TJ: Hull 0-3 Arsenal
Leicester (16th) v. Burnley (15th)
Leicester hasn’t looked like the same title winning side thus far in the Premier League, but an impressive showing in the Champions’ League should have the Foxes confident again. A home match against a newly promoted club may be just what the doctor ordered for Leicester as they look to continue their winning ways this weekend.
Burnley must have known they had their work cut out for them this season. All the clubs around them have spent freely, but they’ve stuck to their ways and haven’t splashed the cash. One of their few new signings however, Steven Defour, has impressed early on in the campaign for his new team. The Belgian will need to be at his best if Burnley hope to have any success against the reigning champions of England.
Matchup to Watch: Riyad Mahrez v Steven Ward
Mahrez has been a sensation for the past 12 months and after scoring a brace on Wednesday in the Champions’ League, the Algerian will be looking to keep the goals rolling in. Mahrez is a dynamic winger who loves to take players on and that can be difficult for fullbacks to handle. There’s no doubt that Ward will have a tough day at the office trying to keep the tricky winger at bay.
Eric: Leicester 2-0 Burnley
TJ: Leicester 2-0
Manchester City (1st) v. Bournemouth (14th)
What a transformation. Manchester City have looked like a brand new team under Pep Guardiola when compared to the end of last season. The new manager has the team firing on all cylinders as they remain unbeaten in his first four league games in charge including a derby win over heated rivals Manchester United. It was star man Kevin de Bruyne who shined for the Citizens, notching a goal and an assist to give the club a 2-1 victory. They continued their winning ways by beating German opposition Borussia Mochengladbach 4-0 in their group stage opener of this year’s Champions’ League. The club will however be without their prolific goalscorer, Sergio Aguero as he is suspended for two more matches for an elbow on Winston Reid.
Bournemouth have made some great additions to their side this offseason, but it seems they are taking some time to settle under boss, Eddie Howe. Howe will be ecstatic that his main striker Callum Wilson has finally opened his 16/17 Premier League account with a sublime backheel finish last week against West Brom to give the Cherries their first win of the season. The addition of Wilshere to the midfield will add a bit of creativity and hopefully provide Wilson with more chances to score.
Matchup to Watch: Kevin de Bruyne v Harry Arter
With too many injuries to list last season, Harry Arter was the man who stepped up and helped Bournemouth remain in the top division against all odds. Arter stopped opposition in their tracks, transitioned play and was all around the engine in midfield. His abilities will be put to the test this weekend as he looks to keep de Bruyne off the scoresheet. The Belgian has been fantastic since his arrival at the Etihad, he will surely give Arter a tough time in the middle of the park.
Eric: City 4-0 Bournemouth
TJ : City 3-1 Bournemouth
West Brom (12th) v. West Ham (17th)
I always dread writing about West Brom because it’s always the same story. Pulis ball, 10 men sitting deep, looking to play route one football and grind out a result. West Brom went out and got Nacer Chadli, a player who I think fits the bill quite well as a West Brom winger. The Belgian international is 6’2”, good technically with an eye for goal I expect good things from the ex-Spurs player, but unfortunately, I don’t see him making them any more of an attractive prospect to watch play.
West Ham have been very poor after having such a great season last year. The obvious lack of Dimitri Payet has left them faltering and looking poor. They have had some tough fixtures to begin the season, already playing Manchester City an Chelsea, but just last week they blew a 2-0 lead against Watford, with the match finishing 2-4 in Watford’s favor. Bilic will hope that by having Payet back in and settled in the starting lineup, the results will begin to come.
Matchup to Watch: Dimitri Payet v Pulis’ Center Halves
Rejoice fantasy PL players, Payet is back! Dimitri Payet has been the center of attention at West Ham since his arrival last summer and this weekend at West Brom will be no different. Pulis’ defense will watch the Frenchman closely and mark him tight, but I think Payet may have one too many tricks up his sleeves for them. The talented attacker can score a variety of goals, or assists, as he showed in his first start of the season through a rabona assist for Antonio to tuck away in last weekend’s loss to Watford.
Eric: West Brom 0-1 West Ham
TJ: West Brom 0-2 West Ham
Everton (3rd) v. Middlesbrough (9th)
Everton currently sits third in the Premier League. And new manager Ronald Koeman’s impact is clearly evident. Everton has only given up two goals so far this season. And that’s a good sign. The side already has plenty of firepower and if they’re playing good defense, they could be a dark horse contender for the top four. And while we like Middlesbrough’s squad, we just don’t think they’ll be able to win this game.
Matchup to Watch: Ross Barkley v. Himself
After being snubbed by England, Ross Barkley has struggled this season. If Everton truly want to have a chance against the top sides, they’re going to need the talented midfielder in good form. Barkley must regain confidence in himself, and become to the focal point of Everton’s attack.
Eric: Everton 0-0 Middlesbrough
TJ: Everton 2-1 Middlesbrough
Watford (10th) v. Manchester United (4th)
Manchester United will look to redeem a loss to town rivals Manchester City. The world’s most expensive player, Paul Pogba had a notably poor game and I expect that he’ll be looking to redeem himself. Sorry Watford. That being said Watford definitely has the potential for another upset with a competent strike force in Troy Deeney and Odin Ighalo. United’s center backs will have to be careful.
Matchup to Watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic v. Younes Kaboul
Kaboul plays at the center of Watford’s five man defense. That means he’ll be responsible for keeping the side organized and will likely deal with the imposing force that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Eric: Watford 1-2 Manchester United
TJ: Watford 0-2 Manchester United
Crystal Palace (11th) v. Stoke City (20th)
Crystal Palace is coming off a 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough, in which new signee, Christian Benteke netted his first goal. Stoke is coming off a 4-0 loss to Tottenham. They’re also still searching for that first one. I’m expecting Stoke to improve this week.
Matchup to Watch: Wilfried Zaha v. Erik Pieters
Zaha is coming off a Man of the Match performance and the ability is there. He has the potential to wreak havoc down the flank. Pieters will have to slow down Zaha, if Stoke hopes to notch their first win of the campaign.
Eric: Crystal Palace 1-1 Stoke City
TJ: Crystal Palace 1-2 Stoke City
Southampton (18th) v. Swansea City (13th)
Southampton is another team still looking for their first win. Last week they were just outplayed by Arsenal. They need someone to step up if they hope to repeat the success of last season. Swansea on the other hand was able to earn a draw against Chelsea, in a game where they played reasonably well. We expect this to be a tight game, likely coming down to some individual brilliance to separate the two.
Matchup to Watch: Gylfi Sigurdsson v. Oriol Romeu
Sigurdsson is the key to the Swansea attack and stopping him must be a priority. That means Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu will have his hands full. But if he can stop Sigurdsson, the Saints have a good change of notching their first victory.
Eric: Southampton 2-2 Swansea
TJ: Southampton 1-0 Swansea
Tottenham (5th) v. Sunderland (19th)
Tottenham just completed an onslaught of Stoke City and we don’t see Sunderland having much a chance. Kane scored his first goal of the season and will be eager for more. Sunderland also doesn’t really have an answer for Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. These three players make up a potent offense. We just don’t see Sunderland being able to have much of a chance against this Tottenham side.
Matchup to Watch: Harry Kane v. Lamine Kone
Kane is one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League and Kone will need to prove his value as he attempts to shut him down.
Eric: Tottenham 3-1 Sunderland
TJ: Tottenham 3-0 Sunderland