Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski
Sunderland v. Arsenal
Things look awfully grim for Sunderland. The Black Cats seem to be in the same position every year, it makes me wonder who their savior is going to be this time. For this week though, they face Arsenal. I’m not too sure any chopping and changing can give them much of a chance in this one. Arsenal have been flying, but only managed a scoreless draw last week against Middlesbrough. The Gunners have had an “easy” schedule the past few weeks and they need to take advantage of that and continue winning these matches.
Matchup to Watch: Jan Kirchoff v. Arsenal’s Creativity
Jan Kirchoff will be pivotal if Sunderland want to have a chance this game. The big German midfielder will have to shut Arsenal’s creative players down and hassle them when they are on the ball. If given time, the likes of Ozil, Sanchez, and Cazorla can pick apart this Sunderland team with their eyes closed.
Eric: Sunderland 1-4 Arsenal
The Gunners simply have too much going forward for Sunderland to handle. Expect Defoe to nick a scrappy goal though.
TJ: Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal
Arsenal plays a different class of soccer than Sunderland. It’s as simply as that.
Manchester United v. Burnley
It’s been a week of mixed emotions and results for United. Last Sunday, they fell to Chelsea in an embarrassing 4-0 defeat, but won their midweek Manchester Derby in the EFL Cup 1-0. For United supporters, there is hope that they can continue winning against Burnley this weekend after defeating their bitter rivals. Though United is favorites, Burnley are no slouches. Burnley defeated Everton, surprising most and in doing so, proved that they won’t go down easily. Sean Dyche has this team set up well and Manchester United won’t be able to take their foot off the pedal if they want anything out of this match.
Matchup to Watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic v. Burnley’s Defense
Zlatan’s rare combination of size, intelligence and technical ability makes him a handful to defend. Burnley’s center halves will have a fight from the first minute as the Swede looks to get back to scoring for the Red Devils. Keane and Ben Mee, the latter of whom is more comfortable in his favored left back position, have formed a decent partnership, but they’ll have to be in top form to keep out Ibrahimovic.
Eric: United 2-0 Burnley
United have been inconsistent to say the least, but I think they’re superstars will make the difference against a resilient Burnley side.
TJ: United 2-0 Burnley
Burnley has played better than expected this season, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do much against United.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Leicester City
It’s been a tough 3 matches for Spurs, scraping three draws against West Brom, Leverkusen and Bournemouth. The loss of Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane has proven to hinder Spurs in a major way. Despite two of their key players being out, they’ve still managed to go unbeaten thus far in the league, but they’ll need to be more clinical in front of goal if they want to turn their draws into wins.
Leicester currently sit 12th and despite their impressive play in the Champions’ League have looked like half the team they were last season. The absence of N’Golo Kante has proved to be an issue as many have expected. Leicester will have to rely on the brilliance of their attack to control a game and against Spurs, that will be a concern.
Matchup to Watch: Victor Wanyama v. Leicester’s Counter Attacks
Leicester were so effective last season because of how they were setup to play. Ranieri had them defend first and hit teams with a lightning quick counter attack. Spurs’ new defensive mid, Victor Wanyama, has been a sensation. His performances have earned him many plaudits in recent weeks, namely against Man City where he led Spurs to a commanding 2-0 victory. Wanyama will be tasked with cutting the passing lanes and stopping Leicester’s attacks before they start. If Vardy, Mahrez, or Slimani are able to get on the ball, they have the ability to hurt this Spurs team in their current state.
Eric: Spurs 2-1 Leicester
With or without Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham have been great in defense. Leicester’s firepower will be nullified and Spurs will take this one at the Lane.
TJ: Spurs 1-2 Leicester
Spurs will have another spursy game, resulting in Leiceseter giving them their first loss of the season.
Watford v. Hull City
Both Watford and Hull failed to score last week against rather poor defenses. Watford drew in Wales to a revitalized Swansea team, while Hull fell at home to two Joe Allen goals against Stoke. Over the course of the last nine weeks, Watford have looked the far better side. I expect this game will be no different with Watford dominating and Hull trying to hang on.
Matchup to Watch: The Midfield Battle
The battle to control the middle of the park will likely decent this meeting. Watford’s midfield has been impressive with the likes of Ettiene Capoue and Roberto Pererya scoring timely goals to help their forwards. Capoue, Pererya and Behrami will come up against Mason, Livermore and Clucas this weekend.
Eric: Watford 2-0 Hull
Hull disappointed me against Stoke and I think they’re regressing after their great start. I think Watford will be on the front foot from the off and win this one.
TJ: Watford 1-1 Hull
I think this is going to be a hard fought battle with both sides earning a point.
Middlesbrough v. Bournemouth
In my mind, this is a matchup between two different mentalities of owners. Bournemouth, in their first season in the Premier League, made two additions to their first team while ‘Boro changed over half of their starting XI from the previous year! Bournemouth like to press and play on the front foot, a tactic that most newly promoted teams aren’t brave (or stupid) enough to try. On the other hand, Middlesbrough relied on a defense-first strategy and it has served them well.
Matchup to Watch: Alvaro Negredo v. Bournemouth’s Defense
Negredo was dubbed “the beast” during his time at Manchester City and in my opinion, it’s an appropriate nickname. Bournemouth’s defenders will have to be up for a physical battle with the Spaniard if they want to keep him at bay. Negredo proved he can score goals when he was at City, even in his small amount of gametime. He doesn’t have the same service at ‘Boro, but he can still score when given the opportunity.
Eric: Boro 0-1 Bournemouth
Bournemouth have impressed me and I think they’ll continue their rich vein of form with a 0-1 win over ‘Boro.
TJ: Boro 2-1 Bournemouth
Boro will steal three points for Bournemouth, scoring a late goal.
West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester City
Manchester City has a rough patch as of late. They haven’t won a match in over a month, that includes both the Premier League and Champions League. Pep’s side has simply not been playing well and it’s unclear why. This week won’t be any easier with West Brom’s stingy defense. They’re going to pack the defenders in, and City is going to have to find a way through if they hope to win.
Matchup to Watch: West Brom’s Defense v. Manchester City’s Possession
West Brom is going to be playing the majority of this game in their half. They’re not going to be on the ball. That means if they have a chance they’ll have to take it. City are going to make sure their possession has a purpose. West Brom can play strong defense and won’t let City slip through easily.
Eric: WBA 0-2 City
West Brom at home v. City. You know what to expect. 80% possession in City’s favor, and wave after wave of attack. City should nick a goal or two from a bit of inventiveness, but I can’t see WBA scoring.
TJ: WBA 0-1 City
City will get through this game with a narrow victory.
Crystal Palace v. Liverpool
While they impressed early in the season, Crystal Palace has struggled more in recent weeks. They’re coming off a 3-1 defeat against Leicester, a game that they basically controlled. Palace’s attackers are having trouble converting their chances. Liverpool, however, has not had that issue. They’re tied for the league lead in goals for. Their problem, rather, is stopping other teams from scoring.
Matchup to Watch: Joe Ledley and James McArthur v. Phillipe Coutinho
Ledley and McArthur play in front of the defense for Palace. That means they’re going to shield the defense from Liverpool’s Phillipe Coutinho. Coutinho is a creative force, capable of breaking down opposing squads. If Ledley and McArthur aren’t able to contain him, it will be a long day for Palace.
Eric: Palace 2-2 Liverpool
This could be a tricky one for Liverpool away to Palace. Benteke could haunt them with their lackluster defense. I think this one will end in a score draw with both teams having the ability to hurt the other.
TJ: Palace 1-3 Liverpool
Liverpool have an explosive side that not many teams are capable of dealing with. Their counter attack will do damage against Palace.
Everton v. West Ham
After losing to Burnley, Everton will look to rebound this week. I expect Koeman to tweak some things in his side, in an effort to find the winning formula. Most of that effort is going to be geared towards containing the dangerous Dimitri Payet. Payet is a major attacking threat. But West Ham has yet to look truly dangerous this season. They are still trying to regain the form they had just a season ago.
Matchup to Watch: Everton’s CBs v. Dimitri Payet
As mentioned, Dimitri Payet is currently one of the best attackers in the world. That leaves Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams to deal with the threat. They’ll need to organize their defense and deal with Payet’s numerous skills. He can score, but his playmaking is also going to be a concern.
Eric: Everton 2-1 West Ham
West Ham have been poor. I expect Everton to take advantage of their poor defensive unit and put a few in the back of the net.
TJ: Everton 2-1 West Ham
Eric is spot on. Everton has just looked better this season.
Southampton v. Chelsea
Southampton has looked good recently, but they haven’t had the toughest schedule. This week will be a real test against a strong Chelsea side. Just last week Chelsea thrashed Manchester United. If that side, lead by Eden Hazard, shows up, Southampton don’t stand a chance.
Matchup to Watch: Southampton Defenders v. Eden Hazard
Hazard is one of the best players in the world when he’s in form. He also has freedom to move around the field. That means Southampton defenders are going to need to be aware of him at all times.
Eric: Soton 1-2 Chelsea
After embarrassing United at the weekend, I think Chelsea will keep up their league form.
TJ: Soton 2-2 Chelsea
I think Southampton will squeeze out a draw here, but Chelsea’s Eden Hazard will impress.
Stoke v. Swansea
This is a battle of two underperforming squads. They are two sides currently at the bottom of the table, when they shouldn’t be. Stoke has quality players, but have struggled to put it together. Swansea has undergone a managerial change and look to still be searching for their footing. Both teams need points, so expect a hard fought battle.
Matchup to Watch: Both Battling Time
At some point these two teams will need to start getting points. It’s still early, but urgency has to become a factor at some point. These are two sides that are definitely underperforming this season. Things need to change.
Eric: Stoke 0-1 Swansea
Can Bob Bradley do it on a wet Monday night in Stoke? I think so. Stoke have been overreliant on Joe Allen to score and I don’t think he can keep it up. I can see Swansea stealing a close one at the Britannia.
TJ: Stoke 2-1 Swansea
I think Stoke is going to start regaining their form. If that’s the case, I think they have the edge against the Swans.