Matchweek #11 Preview

Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski

West Ham v. Stoke City

We begin Gameweek 11 with two underperforming sides facing off. West Ham and Stoke have both disappointed and underachieved so far, while Stoke look to be getting back to winning ways, West Ham continue to struggle.

Matchup to Watch:  Wilfried Bony v. West Ham’s Back Three

Bilic has recently switched to a back three in hopes that the switch would bring with it results for West Ham. With any switch in systems, especially as major as switching to three at the back, there’s going to be a bedding in period. West Ham need this process to happen quickly as they are struggling at the moment. The Hammers’ usual pairing, Reid and Ogbonna, are joined by Kouyate, who’s favored position is defensive mid. These three have the tools to form a decent defense, but need to gain some chemistry in order to make it work. They’ll have to gel quickly as they face Wilfried Bony who just last week got off the mark for Stoke with a brace.

Eric: West Ham 2-2 Stoke

West Ham didn’t show much promise against Everton last weekend and it seems Stoke is getting back to good. With West Ham’s struggles at the Olympic Stadium, I think it’ll take some brilliance from Payet to steal a point against Stoke.

TJ: West Ham 1-2 Stoke

Stoke has looked better and West Ham has just looked bad. Stoke gets three points.

Bournemouth v. Sunderland

Bournemouth currently sit 10th while Sunderland are rock bottom with just 2 points. The Black Cats will be without their manager on the touchline this week as he sits out a one match ban for swearing at the 4th official. The Black Cats are known for their great escapes in the last few weeks of the season, but if they want to have any hope of staying up, they’ll need to start getting results sooner than later.

Matchup to Watch: Artur Boruc v. Jermaine Defoe v. Lack of Opportunities

If Sunderland are to pull out a win at the Vitality Stadium, Defoe will have to be as clinical as ever. Bournemouth have shown that they can play with the best of them in recent weeks. Defoe will likely not get many chances to score, but when he is through on net, Artur Boruc will have to come up big against the English striker. Defoe may not be a complete forward, but the man can find the back of the net and with Boruc never really looking convincing, he’ll have to be at his best against Sunderland.

Eric: Bournemouth 2-1 Sunderland

Bournemouth have looked decent, despite their loss away at ‘Boro last weekend. Sunderland still haven’t registered their first victory this year and I think the wait will continue.

TJ: Bournemouth 1-0 Sunderland

Bournemouth will score an early goal and Sunderland will still be looking for that first victory.

Burnley v. Crystal Palace

Burnely have earned themselves a few surprise results, drawing Manchester United and beating Everton. Crystal Palace currently sit one place about Burnley in 13th place. The London side have a bunch of great pieces, but Pardew hasn’t been able to figure out the puzzle yet this season. It will be interesting to see how Burnley deal with Christian Benteke’s size and power and the pace of Palace’s wingers when they host them this weekend.

Matchup to Watch: Steven Defour v. Yohan Cabaye

These two midfielders are the heart of their team. Cabaye’s talent is well-known after displaying what he can do for France and Paris Saint-Germain alike. Defour, a Belgian international, may not be as well-known. The Belgian midfielder was a hot prospect in his younger years, but untimely injuries hindered his development. However, Defour has been great for Burnley since joining Sean Dyche’s side. He’s added creativity and intelligence to the squad. It will be a battle between the two to see who can create and spur their club on to victory.

Eric: Burnley 1-1 Palace

Burnley have been impressive lately, defeating Everton and drawing United in successive weeks. They’ll have their work cut out for them against this Palace attack on Saturday. Organization and precise counter-attacking will be crucial to their success.

TJ: Burnley 2-1 Palace

This Burnley side has impressed this season, and should be heading into this week with some confidence. I think they’ll be able to steal three points from Palace.

Manchester City v. Middlesbrough

City come into this weekend on a high note after defeating Barcelona in the Champions’ League on Tuesday. ‘Boro are coming off a solid win themselves, managing to down Bournemouth 2-0. ‘Boro will sit back and look to score a scrappy goal through ex-Citizen Alvaro Negredo. Middlesbrough can set up very well defensively and be tough to breakdown as they have shown on many occasions, but those occasions haven’t been against squads led by Pep Guardiola that boast the attacking threats that this City side does.

Matchup to Watch: City v. Themselves

If City are to lose or even draw against Middlesbrough, they’ll only have themselves to blame. The Citizens defeated Barcelona on Tuesday by a score of 3-1. Despite the impressive result, they need to ensure they’re focused on the game at the weekend and not still hungover from a great upset!

Eric: City 4-0 Boro

City at home against ‘Boro. There’s only one way I can see this going.

TJ: City 4-0 Boro

Eric, summed this one up pretty well.

Chelsea v. Everton

After switching to a 3-man defense, Conte has his Chelsea side flying. The Blues currently sit fourth and have some serious momentum behind them. Everton beat West Ham last week after slipping up against Burnley the week before. Chelsea have made some interesting selections with their team, namely the likes of Moses starting at RWB. It seems Conte has found a team that he likes and one that fits his system well, Chelsea will be tough to stop if they keep up their current form.

Matchup to Watch: Ramiro Funes-Mori v. Diego Costa

If Funes-Mori gets the nod from his boss to start this game, these two fiery players should clash and provide neutrals with some entartainment. Everyone knows that Diego Costa can get a bit worked up on the pitch, but the same goes for Everton’s Argentinian center back. Costa surprisingly has never received a red card in the Premier League, but has 20 yellows in the past three years. Meanwhile Funes-Mori has racked up 4 yellows and a red in his 27 appearences for Everton in the league. The two will undoubtedly get locked and I think whoever keeps a cooler head will come out on top in this battle.

Eric: Chelsea 2-1 Everton

It’s hard to bet against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, especially in the form they’ve been in.

TJ: Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Chelsea has been in good form and Eden Hazard has been playing well. Everton doens’t have a player that can stop him.

Arsenal v. Tottenham

This is the game to watch this week, one of the best rivalries in football. Both sides are strong, but Spurs are definitely feeling the loss of Harry Kane. They’ve been struggling to net goals. In fact, they haven’t scored from open play in five games. Arsenal, however, has been getting it done in all aspects of the game. They have the second best goal differential in the league. More importantly, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil has been in great form recently. One of the world’s best players, he’ll be tough for Spurs to stop. You’re not going to want to miss this game.

Matchup to Watch: Tottenham Attack v. Themselves

Basically, if Spurs can’t figure out their offense nothing else matters. They’re a team with some promising talent. Kane may be back this week, but still other guys need to step up. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen need to do more. That will be vital if they hope to have any chance against this Arsenal side.

Eric: Arsenal 2-2 Spurs

The North London Derby is always a great matchup. Spurs remain unbeaten, but have struggled to score lately. Kane is likely due back, but they may be missing Alderweireld. Without Toby, Spurs will struggle to contain Arsenal’s attack. Both clubs will obviously be up for this one. Expect a hard fought score draw.

TJ: Arsenal 2-0 Spurs

I see Arsenal coming out on top against Spurs. You know, the usual.

Hull City v. Southampton

Hull City started off the season looking pretty good. They weren’t setting the league on fire, but they looked like they would be able to stay out of the relegation zone. Now, I’m not so sure. They currently sit in 18th and are running into a strong Southampton squad. Soton is coming off a loss to Chelsea, but they should rebound this week. They still have on of the better defenses in the league. Hull City will have to take advantage of any chance they get, because there won’t be many of them.

Matchup to Watch: Michael Dawson v. Nathan Redmond

Nathan Redmond has turned out to be a great transfer for Southampton. He’s a dangerous threat going forward, and has made a successful transition from a wide player to a striker. Michael Dawson will have to be mindful of Redmond. It’ll be fun to watch the experience of Dawson against the youthful Redmond.

Eric: Hull 0-2 Southampton

The Chelsea match aside, Southampton have been good as of late. With Boufal getting fit and the weapons the Saints have going forward, I don’t think Hull can handle them.

TJ: Hull 0-3 Southampton

Hull has just struggled too much recently to convince that they’ll be able to mount any real threat against Southampton.

Liverpool v. Watford

This game is going to have some offense. Both Liverpool and Watford rely on their offense to win games. Liverpool can score out of a nowhere, moving from defense to offense in the blink of an eye. Watford has a powerful attack force, that could prove to be a nightmare for Liverpool’s shaky defense.

Matchup to Watch: Philippe Coutinho v. Watford’s Defense

Coutinho has finally shown the consistency to be considered one of the best players in the Premier League. He’s a threat to shoot from distance, but he is also a talented playmaker. He’s a player that gives other teams headaches. Watford is going to have to subdue Coutinho. They need to disrupt him and keep him from playing his game.

Eric: Liverpool 4-3 Watford

Neither team can defend, but both can surely attack. Liverpool’s simply more talented and I expect them to have another big day in front of the net.

TJ: Liverpool 3-2 Watford

Both sides will score their goals this week, but I think Liverpool just has too strong of an attack for Watford to deal with.

Swansea v. Manchester United

Swansea has looked…well, terrible, this season. They only have five points in nine games. Now, Bradley has to figure out how to get his team on the right track, after they’ve seemingly given up already. But they play a United side that has looked anything but strong this season. They sit 8th in the table, and their transfers that looked promising early on have failed to meet expectations. It’s possible that this is a win that the Swans could steal, helping the squad regain some confidence.

Matchup to Watch: Bob Bradley v. His Team

Bradley has to figure out a way to reach his team. He needs to boost morale and get his players some confidence back. A confident team is a strong team. It won’t be easy, but if the Swans want to stay in the Prem, they’re going to need to figure it out.

Eric: Swansea 1-1 United

Both teams desperately need to get back to winning, but I think Swansea will do enough to hold on to a point against United.

TJ: Swansea 2-1 United

This is my bold prediction of the week. But I think that Swansea could pull out an upset here, or I hope that they do.

Leicester City v. West Bromwich Albion

This is going to be an interesting game of contrasting styles. Leicester’s counter against a defensive side like West Brom. I’m not exactly sure what this will look, but maybe it will be exciting. I’m not holding my breath though.

Matchup to Watch: Riyad Mahrez v. Allan Nyom

If there’s a player on the Leicester squad that has the ability to break through a defensive wall, it’s Riyad Mahrez. He’s a skilled, technical player that can take guys on. Nyom will have to win those one-on-one battles to keep Leicester from scoring.

Eric: Leicester 2-1 West Brom

Leicester has been much better at home than they’ve been away. They should squeak by West Brom at the KP Stadium.

TJ: Leicester 0-0 West Brom

This is going to be a boring game.

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Matchweek #9 Preview

Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski

Bournemouth v. Spurs

Bournemouth are in fine form under Eddie Howe, with the latest of their matches ending 6-1 in their favor. Spurs are no Hull City, but without Alderweireld, Bournemouth could hurt them. Tottenham are coming off of a draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions’ League, in which Hugo Lloris’ heroics saved them a point. It is likely that Heung-Min Son will get the start again with a midweek cup clash against Liverpool on the horizon, a game in which I expect to see Spurs’ youngsters get a chance. Son has been dangerous in the Premier League and was named the PL Player of the Month for September, becoming the first Asian player to do so. Spurs surely go into this game as favorites, but don’t rule out a Bournemouth upset.

Matchup to Watch: Alderweireld’s Replacement v. Bournemouth’s Attack

The loss to injury of Toby Alderweireld is as big a blow to Spurs’ defense as the loss of Kane is to their attack. Alderweireld has been immense since joining the North London side, he commands the back line, scores timely goals and makes few mistakes. Tottenham will surely miss his presence when facing Bournemouth’s attack. It seems likely that Eric Dier will drop back into defense to deputize for the missing Belgian. Dier can certainly do a job at CB, but the young Englishman has mistakes in him. He’ll have to be on top of his game if he is to keep Bournemouth out after their 6-1 routing against Hull last week.

Eric: Bournemouth 1-3 Spurs

After two consecutive draws for Spurs, they’ll be looking to get back to winning. Despite missing two key players, the Lilywhites should see off the Cherries convincingly.

TJ: Bournemouth 0-2 Spurs

I think Spurs will get back on the right track, winning easily against Bournemouth.

Burnley v. Everton

Everton held on to a 1-1 draw against Manchester City last weekend through two huge penalty saves from Maarten Stekelenberg. The Dutch ‘keeper stood on his head to keep the Citizens out and preserve a draw for Everton. He won’t face players of the quality of City’s team, but he may be called upon to come up big if Everton defend as they did against City. Burnley recently lost 3-1 to Southampton and will also need to be more solid defensively if they want to get anything from this match.

Matchup to Watch: Ronald Koeman v. Sean Dyche

No offense to Burnley, but they don’t have the most talented squad. Sean Dyche will have to organize his side to defend against the attack of Everton. This means it’s going to be a battle of the opposing managers. Dyche is capable of setting up his team to defend well and counter, as displayed in their match v. Arsenal. Koeman will have to find a way to breakdown this Burnley team to give his side a chance at all three points.

Eric: Burnley 0-1 Everton

This one will very much be Burnley sitting back while Everton try to break them down. I think Everton will eventually find a way through and win this one.

TJ: Burnley 0-2 Everton

Burnley struggled defensively last week and I think Everton has too many weapons. Burnley will break down.

Hull City v. Stoke City

Hull suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Bournemouth last weekend at the Vitality Stadium by a final score of 6-1. The Tigers were picked apart by a decent Bournemouth attack. If Hull expect to get anything out of this game, they’re going to have to be much more resolute defensively against an even more talented (on paper, at least) Stoke team. Stoke finally won their first match of the season after an abysmal start. Joe Allen led the Potters to a 2-0 victory over fellow relegation candidate, Sunderland, with 2 goals. Stoke may have found an XI that works for them, but it will be put to the test against a scrappy Hull team this weekend.

Matchup to Watch: Joe Allen v. Hull’s Midfield Trio

Joe Allen has matched his career-high goal record for a single season in just 8 weeks, with 4 goals. Allen has proved to be a good addition to Mark Hughes’ team of misfits and outcasts. Joe Allen, dubbed the ‘Welsh Pirlo’ by some, adds something this Stoke side was missing, a deep-lying creative midfielder who can control the tempo of a game. Hull’s midfield three will have to pressure and hurry Allen consistenly or he has the ability to pick them apart. This responsibility will fall on Mason, Clucas and Livermore’s shoulders.

Eric: Hull 2-1 Stoke

I’m not yet convinced by Stoke. Yes, they finally won, but it was against the only team below them in the table. Hull has enough threats to hurt them and I can see them taking this one at home.

TJ: Hull 1-2 Stoke

I think Stoke will begin to show improvements. They’ll get their second win against Hull.

Swansea v. Watford

With Bob Bradley taking over, the Swansea players will be looking to impress their new manager. The Swans looked decent against Arsenal, but they were unable to get anything out of the match. The American will need to get his players behind him in order to compete with a Watford team that have been scoring for fun this season. Neither team has defended well thus far, so I’m expecting this to be an exciting match for neutrals with a fair few goals.

Matchup to Watch: Bob Bradley v. Time

Bob Bradley hasn’t had much time with his new club. The American was appointed the manager of Swansea two weeks ago. There were a few positives from the teams’ display against Arsenal in his first game in charge, but many of the same issues persisted, as to be expected in the first few matches under a new coach. Bradley will need time to implement his tactics with his new team, but he needs immediate results. It will be interesting to see how the Swans cope with the change against a Watford team who has been impressive this season, despite conceding often.

Eric: Swansea 2-2 Watford

The combination of the “new manager boost” for Swansea and the lack of defensive stability for Watford leads me to believe this one will be a score draw.

TJ: Swansea 1-1 Watford

I agree with Eric about the draw, but see a bit more of a defensive battle.

Arsenal v. Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough visit Arsenal in hopes of pulling an upset over the Gunners. ‘Boro has been slipping down the table and I don’t think a trip to North London will help their efforts to steady the ship. Alvaro Negredo needs to dig up his shooting boots to give his club a fighting chance. Arsenal are always susceptible to an upset, but if they can continue the form their in currently, they should be able to fight off the resilient newly promoted club.

Matchup to Watch: Arsenal v. Well Drilled ‘Boro defense

Middlesbrough finished second in the Championship last season due to their defending. They conceded only 31 goals in 46 matches. Yes, the Premier League is an entirely different level, but ‘Boro still have the ability to organize their defense and keep teams out. They will have to be very well disciplined to keep out this Arsenal side, who is joint top for most goals for this season.

Eric: Arsenal 2-1 Boro

Arsenal are simply the better side, but they’ve struggled of late to really put their opponents away in the Premier League. I think they’ll win this, but not without a scare.

TJ: Arsenal 2-0 Boro

Arsenal will show more defensive discipline keeping a clean sheet against this Boro side.

Leicester City v. Crystal Palace

Both teams are coming off loses this week. Leicester was dominated by Chelsea and has yet to regain the form that won them the title last season. Palace on the other hand is coming off of 1-0 defeat to West Ham. They currently sit eighth in the table and have been one of the bigger surprises this season, but have struggled as of late. I’d expect a hard fought battle between two sides that want to get back on the right foot.

Matchup to Watch: Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani v. Cystal Palace CB’s

Although they haven’t been in the best form this season, Leicester still has a strike that can score at any moment. Vardy showed an ability to be clinical last season and Slimani has scored 2 goals in 3 appearances this season. Crystal Palace should have Scott Dann back this week. He’s their captain and a key player at the back. Dann and whoever is playing next to him will likely have their hands full Vardy and Slimani. This is the battle to watch.

Eric: Leicester 1-1 Crystal Palace

Neither team has been overly impressive, but I think Palace have enough to hang on for a draw away at Leicester.

TJ: Leicester 2-1 Crystal Palace

I think Leicester regains some confidence and Vardy nets a goal. In the end I think that their attack is too much for Palace to handle.

West Ham v. Sunderland

West Ham eked out a victory of Crystal Palace last week, and it’s possible that it was just the boost they needed. West Ham always has an ability to attack, but their defense has looked shaky. Things seemed to improve last week, keeping a clean sheet. That did take a hit when Aaron Cresswell received two questionable yellows. Regardless, they’ll be without him against Sunderland. Fortunately, Sunderland sits last in the table and have side that truly seems to lack viable attacking threats.

Matchup to Watch: West Ham attackers v. Jordan Pickford

It’s no secret that Sunderland isn’t a particularly good squad. And West Ham has some very dangerous attackers. I expect West Ham to threaten a lot and it will down to keeper Jordan Pickford to keep the ball out of the net. He will definitely have his work cut out for him.

Eric: West Ham 2-1 Sunderland

To be blunt, West Ham are bad. Lucky for them, Sunderland is worse. West Ham will take this one.

TJ: West Ham 2-0 Sunderland

West Ham will go on a winning streak and keep another clean streak. Sunderland just isn’t good enough to compete with even a struggling West Ham side.

Liverpool v. West Bromwich Albion

Liverpool is going to press and West Brom is going to pack in the defense. West Brom will have their work cut out for them to avoid that Liverpool press. They’ll need to work quickly out of the back in an effort to catch Liverpool out. Liverpool on the other hand will need to work hard to break that West Brom back line. They’ll need to be patient and avoid getting frustrated.

Matchup to Watch: Jordan Henderson v. Nacer Chadli

If there’s a player that’s going to hurt Liverpool it’s Nacer Chadli. Chadli has demonstrated his ability as an attacking threat. He has the quality to break through Liverpool’s press. Henderson controls the midfield for Liverpool. It’ll be his responsibility to shield the defense and help contain Chadli.

Eric: Liverpool 1-1 West Brom

If there’s anything Pulis knows how to do, it’s to set his team up defensively. Liverpool will need some incisiveness to cut through the “anti-football” tactics of Pulis’ WBA and I think they’ll be able to nick one at home.

TJ: Liverpool 1-0 West Brom

Liverpool will earn a needed victory to stay up in the table. I expect Mane to score.

Manchester City v. Southampton

Manchester City is coming off a total dismantling by Barcelona in the Champions League. They’ll want to avenge that loss and Southampton stands in the way. Southampton is a strong side, but they’re going to need to hold off the onslaught, and we all know that Pep’s side is going to dominate the ball. It’ll be a test of willpower for the Saints.

Matchup to Watch: City Attack v. Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk

As stated, City is going to dominate the ball and their going to be coming at Southampton full force. Fonte and van Dijk are going to be under attack and will need to do their best to keep City from scoring. But even more so, they’ll need to be key players out of the back. They’ll be pressured when they’re on the ball so picking the right passes will be key to relieving some of the pressure.

Eric: City 2-0 Southampton

After a drubbing at the hands of Barcelona, Pep will have his team ready to get back on the right path. They’ll take this one easily.

TJ: City 3-1 Southampton

City is going to score this game. Southampton won’t be able to stop it. But they will be able to net a goal of their own thanks to the play of Dusan Tadic.

Chelsea v. Manchester United

Neither of these sides have performed to expectations this season. They aren’t playing bad, but they aren’t as good as advertised. That being said Chelsea has one of the world’s best players in the Eden Hazard. He definitely has the ability to disappoint United fans across the world. United on the other hand will turn to Ibrahimovic to get them a victory. They’re also still hoping for Pogba to become the player that was the most expensive transfer in history.

Matchup to Watch: Eden Hazard v. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

This game is going to come down to the attacker that can create the most. Hazard vs. Zlatan, two of the world’s best. This has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the season.

Eric: Chelsea 2-1 United

Neither of these two teams are living up to their expectations, but I think Chelsea can really take this one to United’s defense. I think Hazard will have a big day against United’s RB and lead his team to a victory at the Bridge.

TJ: Chelsea 2-1 United

I have to agree with Eric on this one. United still hasn’t come together completely this season. As a result, I think Chelsea is able to get a hard fought victory.

Matchweek #8 Preview

Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski

Chelsea v. Leicester City

The previous two Premier League winners clash at Stamford Bridge to kick off the return of Premier League football after a long international break. After dropping Ivanovic against Hull, Conte will be hoping that he found the formula for success. Azpilicueta has moved back to his natural position of RB with Marcos Alonso, Chelsea’s new summer signing, slotting in at LB. I expect more of the same from Chelsea against Leicester, as they proved to be more solid in defense with the absence of Ivanovic. Leicester will aim to get back to winning after a loss and a draw in their last two matches.

Matchup to Watch: Islam Slimani and Jamie Vardy v. Chelsea’s Defense

There is no doubt that Chelsea can score with the best of them, the issue lies with their defense. Rumors have it that John Terry will return from injury to face Leicester City, but whether it’s Terry or Luiz partnering Cahill, the Chelsea defense will have to be at their best to stop Vardy and Slimani from scoring. The two attackers have formed a formidable partnership up to for the defending champions, now they face a suspect defense with mistakes in them. If Chelsea want to win this one, Conte will have to find a way to stop Slimani and Vardy from finding the back of the net.

Eric: Chelsea 2-1 Leicester

This one could go either way depending which Chelsea show up, but I think Chelsea’s defense will do just enough to see Leicester off at Stamford Bridge.

TJ: Chelsea 2-1 Leicester

Chelsea’s home and I think they’ll be able to get a victory. I wouldn’t be surprised if Leicester stole some points though.

Arsenal v. Swansea City

Swansea have only managed one win and one draw, causing them to switch managers after just 7 games. Bob Bradley, the former U.S. Men’s National Team coach, will come in with hopes of turning around the fortune of the Welsh side, but with his first match being away to Arsenal, he’ll have to come prepared. Arsenal currently sits 3rd with 16 points. Their statement win came against London rivals Chelsea, defeating the Blues 3-0. Arsenal were by far the better team from the off, but what’s more worrying for Bradley and his new team is that the Gunners have found a way to win even when playing poorly, as they displayed against Burnley, where they earned a 0-1 win in stoppage time.

Matchup to Watch: Alexis Sanchez’s Movement v. Swansea’s Center Backs

The Chilean has been sensational since his move from Barcelona to North London. Normally a winger, Sanchez has been deployed as the front man for Wenger this season, where his quickness and intelligent movement has been causing issues for opposing defenses. The Arsenal star has already scored 4 goals and assisted twice in 7 Premier League matches. Swansea have conceded 12 goals already this year, a tally that Sanchez will look to add to at the weekend.

Eric: Arsenal 2-0 Swansea

In their last match, Arsenal proved they can get results despite not playing well. They scraped a win against Burnley, but I think they’ll take this one a little more comfortably.

TJ: Arsenal 1-1 Swansea

I think Swansea will come out firing, looking for points in Bradley’s debut as manager.

Bournemouth v. Hull City

Eddie Howe has got the Cherries playing their best, while Hull are sliding back to reality after a few poor results the past two weeks.

Matchup to Watch: Jake Livermore v. Bournemouth’s Attack

Jake Livermore has been deputizing as a central defender for Hull this season with a number of injuries plauging the team. Livermore is not a natural center half, spending the majority of his career in the center of the park. With the threats that Bournemouth boast in attack, Livermore and his Hull teammates could have a long day.

Eric: Bournemouth 2-0 Hull City

Bournemouth have been in good form the past few weeks with some impressive results against Everton and Watford and I expect that to continue that run at home this weekend.

TJ: Bournemouth 2-1 Hull City

I think Bournemouth does enough to win, but Hull will make it a game.

Manchester City v. Everton

After a rough week with a draw against Celtic and their first loss under Pep to Tottenham, City look to bounce back as they host Everton. Everton has looked poor in recent weeks and I don’t think that a matchup against the Manchester giants could have come at a worse time.

Matchup to Watch: Yannick Bolasie v. City’s Uncovincing Full Backs

If Manchester City have one weakness, it’s at the full back position. Kolarov in particular has looked suspect and capped off a string of questionable performances with an own goal last week against Tottenham. Everton have just the player to exploit that weakness in Yannick Bolasie. Koeman will certainly instruct his winger to look to run at the City full backs, Kolarov especially, in an attempt to get at the City defense. It will be interesting to see how Pep sets his side up to protect his wide defenders.

Eric: Manchester City 3-1 Everton

They may have stumbled last week, but I expect Pep to have City back to their best against Everton. They should handle the Merseyside club in convincing fashion.

TJ: Manchester City 1-1 Everton

I think the Citizens show that they still don’t have all the answers yet. Koeman’s side will make things difficult for City’s attackers.

Stoke City v. Sunderland

It’s a fight between the last two clubs without wins this season. Sunderland and Stoke have both been having similar struggles. Neither team is creating chances, despite having quality strikers, nor are they able to keep their opposition out. Stoke may just have solved their ‘keeper issue after dropping Given and bringing in ex-Derby goalkeeper, Grant. Grant had a man of the match performance in a draw against Manchester United and will be hoping to keep that up this weekend v. Sunderland.

Matchup to Watch: Wilfried Bony v. Jermaine Defoe

Stoke and Sunderland have created 44 and 43 chances respectively. Stoke is 17th in the league for chances created, while Sunderland are 19th. This doesn’t bode well for their strikers. Wilfried Bony hasn’t been able to get going with a distinct lack of support from his squad, while Defoe would’ve entered this season knowing that the Black Cats wouldn’t provide many opportunites for him to score. This one’s going to come down to which striker can convert their chances, provided they get one.

Eric: Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland

Stoke are too talented to be still without a win. It seems they’ve found their keeper in Grant, who put in a great performance against United in the last matchweek. Stoke should be able to build off of that result and get their first win of the season at home.

TJ: Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland

I want to agree with Eric and say that this is the week for Stoke. They’re going to get their first win, looking like a different side.

West Bromwich Albion v. Tottenham

With Harry Kane out many weren’t expect Tottenham to beat Manchester City, but that’s exactly what they did. They scored a decisive victory, which helps cement their place as one of the league’s top teams. I’d expect more of the same against West Brom. West Brom has played well this season, but it remains to be seen if they have the quality to deal with the Spurs pressing.

Matchup to Watch: West Brom CB’s v. Son Heung-min

Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans will have their hands full with the Son this week. He’s been one of Europe’s top players this season and has dampened the blow suffered from losing striker, Harry Kane. But he is definitely a big threat that West Brom will have to be concerned with.

Eric: West Brom 0-1 Tottenham

This is the typical “Spursy” game for Tottenham, but I think they’ll be able to grind out a win against a tough West Brom side.

TJ: West Brom 0-2 Tottenham

Tottenham should win this one comfortably, with Son Heung-min continuing his fine form.

Crystal Palace v. West Ham

These are two teams heading in different directions this season. Crystal Palace has looked solid. They’re playing good football and currently sit 8th in the table. West Ham has looked anything but solid. They have struggled the entire season, showing little resemblance to the team that finished 7th just a season ago. The team just isn’t clicking. Bilic will need to figure something out, as these games are quickly become must wins.

Matchup to Watch: Slaven Bilic v. West Ham

At some point Bilic is going to have to fix the problems, or find himself out of a job. He needs to get his team organized. They’ve struggled defensively all season. It’s difficult to understand exactly what happened to this team, but it’s up to Bilic to figure it out, putting his squad back on the right track.

Eric: Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham

West Ham has been struggling as of late, while Palace are hitting their relative stride. Benteke’s rediscovered his shooting boots and I think he gives Palace the edge at home.

TJ: Crystal Palace 2-1 West Ham

West Ham has given zero reason to make me think that they’re going to get back on track. They’ll get a goal, thanks to Dimitri Payet.

Middlesbrough v. Watford

This should be an interesting game. Middlesbrough has looked decent so far this season, but have failed to get wins, instead settling for draws. They possess well and that will be the biggest difficulty for Watford. The Watford offense may not have the ball that often if Boro is able to to hold possession, so they’ll need to make their chances count. But, they do have quality in the attack.

Matchup to Watch: Stewart Downing v. Valon Behrami

If Middlesbrough wants to win it will come down to holding possession. That’s the job of Stewart Downing. Downing has recently moved into the attacking midfielder role, serving as the catalyst for the offense. If he can control the ball Boro will have a chance. He’ll likely be going against Behrami, a hard-nosed Swiss midfielder. If Behrami wins that battle, Watford win the game.

Eric: Middlesbrough 0-2 Watford

Watford just has too much in attack for Middlesbrough to handle. Ighalo hasn’t gotten going just yet, but they have plenty of weapons to hurt the newly promoted side.

TJ: Middlesbrough 1-2 Watford

I don’t think Middlesbrough will be able to stop the Watford attack. They simply pack too strong of a punch.

Southampton v. Burnley

Southampton currently sit at 10th in the table and have shown that they have the quality to make it into Europe again this season. Playmaker Dusan Tadic has been in impressive form for his country, as well as for the Saints. He has truly shown that he’s one of the Premier League’s most dangerous players, even if he doesn’t always seem to get the credit that he deserves. Burnley looked good against Arsenal in their last game. They created chances and were, in the end, a little unlucky.

Matchup to Watch: Dusan Tadic v. Dean Marney

As mentioned, Tadic is one of the best #10s in the Premier League. He has great vision and is a capable scoring threat, too. Marney has a reputation for being an aggressive player. He plays hard and won’t shy away from a tackle. He’ll likely be one of the players that finds himself dealing with Tadic in a battle for the midfield. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

Eric: Southampton 2-1 Burnley

Southampton simply have a more talented team and it’s hard to vote against them at home against a side like Burnley.

TJ: Southampton 2-0 Burnley

Burnley has looked good in recent games, but I don’t think Burnley has much of a chance.

Liverpool v. Manchester United

If you only get to watch one game this week, this should be the one. I know I’m excited. We’ll get to see two of the best managers in the game go at it. Klopp’s Liverpool will employ their high energy press. Mourinho’s team should employ a defensive first style, but with Zlatan up front, they can strike at any time. Again, it’ll be interesting to see if Rooney play. Liverpool’s press would likely make it difficult for him to operate in the midfield.

Matchup to Watch: Klopp v. Mourinho

I don’t want to make this about the managers, but when you have two of the world’s best it happens. I think the tactical battle will be the most interesting part of this match. It’ll especially be interesting to see who Mourinho elects to combat the high press that will undoubtedly come from the Liverpool side.

Eric: Liverpool 2-3 Manchester United

Manchester United are stuttering at the moment, but I think they rise to the occasion of this big matchup. Ibrahimovic could have a field day against this Liverpool backline, and he sure loves a big match.

TJ: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester United

I think Liverpool’s pressing is too much for United to handle. The Liverpool defense will look shaky again though.

 

What Should we Expect from Bob Bradley at Swansea?

TJ Lovenduski

Bob Bradley has recently been named the new manager of Swansea City. He comes over from Le Havre AC, who currently play in the French Ligue 2. While he is now the first American to coach in the Premier League, his signing wasn’t met with overwhelming acclaim. The Swansea supporters trust was upset that Bradley was hired without their approval, and there were others hoping for a Ryan Giggs appointment.

That being said, as an American, I’m happy to see this hiring. Bradley has shown that he’s able to coach at a high level. He has had decent success with both the United States and Egypt national teams.

So now the question is, what should we expect to see from Bob Bradley’s Swansea in the Premier League?

Bradley comes in with no rigid play style. He has always been a coach that is willingly to adjust his tactics to his team. I expect him to do the same with the Swans. It’s likely that Bradley will utilize Leroy Fer and Gylfi Sigurdsson to be the channels for the attack, but anything else is unclear.

But more so than any specific tactics, expect Bradley to coach a team that plays hard. They’ll be fighters, playing until the last whistle. This was a trademark of both his United States and Egypt squads, so I’d expect no different for the Welsh side.

In the end, I think Bradley will be a good fit for Swansea. After their poor start the players will need to show a little heart to their supporters as they move forward. I definitely expect them to improve in the coming weeks.

Matchweek 7 Preview

Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski

Everton v. Crystal Palace

After flying out of the gates, Everton fell to Bournemouth last week. They’ll be looking to get back to winning ways at home against a Palace side that’s scored 9 in their last 3. Everton clearly has the better team on paper, but have yet to be tested. Palace could offer that test, given their run of form as of late.

Matchup to Watch: Romelu Lukaku v. Dann and Tomkins

In order to extend their winning streak to four, Palace is going to need Scott Dann and James Tomkins to nullify Everton’s striker Romelu Lukaku. Palace have yet to record a clean sheet this season and with the firepower on offer from the Merseyside club, it would be a safe bet that it won’t happen this week. If Dann and Tomkins can keep Lukaku’s impact on the game to a minimum, then they have a chance of stealing a point, maybe even all three.

Eric: Everton 2-2 Palace

Everton struggled last week, while it looks like Benteke is fitting in nicely with the pace and directness offered by the Palace wingers. This one could be a bit of a surprise result as I think Palace will manage to take a point home from Goodison Park.

TJ: Everton 3-1 Palace

I think Everton will regain their form and show their stellar offense. They have a scary front when things are clicking. Palace has played well and have some offensive threats of their own, but I see Everton winning this one comfortably.

Swansea v. Liverpool

Swansea haven’t found much joy this season after losing two of their key men in the summer. They’ve found a bit of a bright light in Leroy Fer, but his goals seemed to have dried up in the last few weeks. The goals just keep on coming for Liverpool, though. I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but Mane, Firmino and Coutinho form one of the most clincal attacks in the league, add in an in-form Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge and they’ll nearly impossible to stop. After scoring 5 against Hull, they’ll be looking to keep hitting the back of the net in Wales this Saturday.

Matchup to Watch: Fernando Llorente v. Lovren and Matip

Llorente managed to get off the mark for Swansea against Manchester City and I expect his size and movement to cause problems for the Liverpool defense. Llorente is a big striker who has scored goals wherever he has gone, if he can get the service from Sigurdsson and Fer, he could have a big game against a disappointing Liverpool back four. Matip and Lovren are still getting familiar with each other, but their communication will have to be on point if they are going to stop Llorente from having a big day.

Eric: Swans 1-3 Liverpool

Liverpool just have too much going forward for this mediocore Swansea defense. However, Liverpool still haven’t shown me enough defensively, I think Llorente will bag his second for Swansea, but it won’t be enough.

TJ: Swans 0-2 Liverpool

While Liverpool hasn’t put it together defensively, I think they’ll be able to do enough to keep a clean sheet this week. Swansea shouldn’t be too much of a test.

Hull City v. Chelsea

Conte has his work cut out for him after a poor showing against Arsenal last week. Chelsea looked helpless as they watched the Gunners bang in 3 goals. I’m sure the fiery Italian manager will have the Chelsea side amped up and ready to redeem themselves this weekend against newly promoted side, Hull City. Hull started well, but only tallied one point from their last four matches. With Chelsea coming off the back of an embarrassing loss, they could be in for yet another big defeat.

Matchup to Watch: Diego Costa v. Himself

There’s no doubt that Diego Costa is one of the best strikers in world football, but his toughest opponent is often himself. Costa is easily wound up and get himself into trouble. He’s usually sly with his digs at his opponents, but if they get under his skin, he can easilly make a silly mistake and be sent off. The Spanish striker will have to keep his cool against Hull this weekend and if he manages to do that, he could grab himself a couple of goals.

Eric: Hull 0-2 Chelsea

The Tigers have lost their last two games by a collective score of 9-2 and I think Chelsea can and will add to that.

TJ: Hull 0-3 Chelsea

Chelsea is just too good for Hull.

Sunderland v. West Bromwich Albion

Same old story for these two. A struggling Sunderland hosts a resolute West Brom. Jermaine Defoe will have to carry the load if Sunderland hope to get their first win of the season against WBA. The tough Pulis defense will not give anything away easily, especially against a Sunderland side that has failed to create many chances. West Brom just managed to pull out a draw in the 91st minute last weekend against Stoke City.

Matchup to Watch: Nacer Chadli v. Jan Kirchoff

As important as Defoe is to their attack, Jan Kirchoff is equally important to the Black Cats defense. Kirchoff made himself undroppable as soon as he arrived at the Stadium of Light from Bayern Munich. The big German offers a cushion in front of the defense that was desperately needed. Kirchoff will have to cut out passes and keep Nacer Chadli from getting into the game to give his team a chance.

Eric: Sunderland 1-1 West Brom

Defoe will score a half-chance and Chadli will create something out of nothing in what will likely be a bore at the Stadium of Light.

TJ: Sunderland 1-1 West Brom

As Eric predicts this game will probably be boring. Both sides will score, but it will still lack excitement.

Watford v. Bournemouth

Bournemouth are coming off of a great victory against a previously unbeaten Everton team. The Cherries managed to keep Everton off the scoresheet, an impressive feat in itself and a fantastic strike from Stanislas propelled them to a 1-0 win. Watford will be looking to continue their good start offensively and try to record their first clean sheet of the season. The defense of Watford will be tested against Callum Wilson, Jordan Ibe and Josh King with Jack Wilshere creating behind them.

Matchup to Watch: Harry Arter v. Watford’s Attack

Harry Arter has been the unsung hero at Bournemouth for the past two seasons and he’ll have an important role to play as the club travel to Watford. Arter will be tasked with keeping the fierce Watford attack at bay. Troy Deeny, Odion Ighalo, Roberto Pereyra and Etienne Capoue have all been playing exceptionally well for Watford. The four will have to get past Harry Arter, however, if they plan to put the Bournemouth centerbacks under any duress this weekend, which is not an easy task. The Bournemouth man has been great at breaking up play this season and gives the Bournemouth defense some added protection from midfield.

Eric: Watford 1-1 Bournemouth

After an impressive win against Everton, I believe Bournemouth will keep up their form and hold Watford to a 1-1 draw.

TJ: Watford 2-1 Bournemouth

Bournemouth will play well, but I don’t think they’ll be able to fully contain Watford’s attack.

West Ham v. Middlesbrough

West Ham has continued to struggle this season. Last week they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Southampton. And a lot of that has to do with West Ham’s inability to defend. At the beginning of the season I would have never considered that Middlesbrough would be able to beat West Ham, but with how West Ham has been playing I’d consider it a possibility.

Matchup to Watch: West Ham v. Themselves

There is still time for West Ham to recover this season. But they’re going to need to start soon. They need to identify what’s happening and fix it. It’s themselves that are holding them back. If they do their part, they can certainly get some wins.

Eric: West Ham 1-0 Boro

West Ham has too many talented players to continue to play as poorly as they have been. They should be able to defeat ‘Boro this weekend.

TJ: West 1-1 Boro

West Ham will hold a lead for most of the match, but will once again show defensive issues when Middlesbrough gets a late equalizer.

Manchester United v. Stoke City

Stoke City has struggled to do much of anything this season. I’m expecting more of the same against a United side that looked much stronger last game. Mourinho finally elected to leave Rooney on the bench and they looked much better. Rooney is not a midfielder and he’s not better than Ibrahimovic. If they continue to leave Rooney on the sidelines they should win comfortably.

Matchup to Watch: Mourinho v. Rooney

This comes down to Mourinho haven’t the guts to truly relegate Wayne Rooney to the bench. It’s clear that United is a much better side without Rooney on the field. But he’s also been such a staple for the Red Devils that it could be difficult to keep him out permanently. We’ll have to see what Mourinho decides to do this weekend.

Eric: Man U 3-0 Stoke

Stoke have been dire so far and after dropping Rooney, United may have found the formula for success. The Manchester side will take this one easily.

TJ: Man U 3-0 Stoke

The way Stoke has been playing, they don’t stand a chance. United could start Rooney and still get a win.

Tottenham v. Manchester City

City has simply been on another level since the arrival of Pep. They’ve lost Kevin de Bruyne for the next few weeks, but still have the strongest squad in the league. Tottenham definitely has a formidable side though. They may be able to surprise Manchester City, but it’ll be more difficult without star striker, Harry Kane.

Matchup to Watch: Sergio Aguero v. Spurs Centerbacks

Aguero is one of the best strikers in the EPL, so Tottenham will have their hands full. Fortunately they have possibly the best center back pairing in the league. Toby Alderwierld and Jan Vertonghen will have to be on their game to keep Aguero from finding the back of the net.

Eric: Spurs 1-2 Man City

This should be a great match. Spurs managed to take all 6 points from their fixtures last season, but under Pep, City is a completely different side. Both teams have key players out, but I think City will scrape out a victory at White Hart Lane.

TJ: Spurs 1-2 Man City

This will be a tough test for City, but I think they win comfortably. The only reason I think that Spurs get on the board is due to the stellar play of Son Heung-min.

Leicester City v. Southampton

I expect this game to be tight. Leicester looked bad last week against United, but recovered in time for their Champions League game. I expect Leicester to come out firing. Southampton will have to be organized defensively to stop a side with that many offensive weapons. But Leicester will also have their hands full in stopping an in form Charlie Austin.

Matchup to Watch: Riyad Mahrez v. Ryan Bertrand

It’s no secret that Mahrez is the creative force for the Foxes. Bertrand will be tasked with keeping him in check. It’s going to be a tough battle and a necessary one for Bertrand if the Saints hope to come out with a victory.

Eric: Leicester 2-0 Southampton

It’ll be interesting to see who Ranieri puts out against Southampton. If Vardy and Mahrez wake up after a thrashing at the hands of Manchester United, the Foxes should take this one.

TJ: Leicester 2-1 Southampton

I think Leicester will have just enough to earn three points against Southampton.

Burnley v. Arsenal

I just want to say that I don’t think Burnley has much of a chance against the Gunners. Arsenal just has too much quality in too many positions. That being said, it should be a fun game to watch. Expect some quality attacking football from Arsenal.

Matchup to Watch: Arsenal attack v. Tom Heaton

I’m expecting Arsenal to dominate this game. They possess very well and will dominate the ball. I’d expect to see a lot of shots. Burnley’s keeper, Tom Heaton, will be getting plenty of work in this weekend.

Eric: Burnely 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal return to action after beating their London rivals, Chelsea, convincingly by a score of 3-0. The Gunners should find it relatively easy keep on winning this weekend against Burnley.

TJ: Burnley 0-3 Arsenal

Arsenal will handle Burnley with ease.

Matchweek 6 Preview

Eric Toth & TJ Lovenduski

Match of the Week: Arsenal (4th) v. Chelsea (5th)

Arsenal comes into this game after a 4-1 victory over Hull City, their third win in a row. Their offense has looked good. They have pace and creativity. Mesut Ozil is one of the best playmakers in the world. And Alex Iwobi is showing his potential. Granit Xhaka also seems to score one highlight reel goal after another. This is probably the most exciting Arsenal squad in recent memory.

But the Gunners have a very strong opponent in Chelsea. Conte hasn’t worked out all the kinks defensively. They struggled against Klopp’s Liverpool last week. They looked unorganized, and made poor decisions. That can’t happen against top sides. Luckily Chelsea has Eden Hazard on their team. Hazard has looked much better this season and can take over a game by himself. If Conte can get his defense organized, Chelsea will have a real chance to win this game.

Matchup to Watch: Arsenal’s Defense v. Chelsea’s Defense

This game is going to come down to which defensive unit can stay more organized. Both have struggled at times this season, but if either team wants to contend for the title they’ll need to figure it out.

Expected Lineups:

Arsenal:

Cech

Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal

Coquelin – Cazorla

Walcott – Ozil – Iwobi

Sanchez

Chelsea:

Courtois

Ivanovic – Luiz – Cahill – Azpilicueta

Matic – Kante

Willian – Oscar – Hazard

Costa

Eric: Arsenal 2-3 Chelsea

Two teams with similar strengths and weaknesses, strong attack, not so strong defense. I expect Costa to be too much for Arsenal’s back line and without a clinical center forward, Arsenal will likely fall short in this contest.

TJ: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

I haven’t seen enough from Chelsea’s defense to show me that they can withstand Arsenal’s attack. I also like Arsenals defense a bit more with Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech controlling the back.

 

Manchester United (7th) v. Leicester City (11th)

Coming off the back of three consecutive defeats, the latest being a shock 3-1 loss at home to Watford, Manchester United desperately need to get back to winning ways against Leicester. This may be a difficult ask with the recent emergence of a fierce striking partnership of Vardy and new summer signing Islam Slimani.

Matchup to Watch: Vardy and Slimani v. Bailly and Smalling

This newfound duo between the Englishman, Vardy, and the Algerian, Slimani, is the classic combination of the big man-little man strikeforce. Slimani is a great header of the ball, combining accuracy and good movement, he always seems to find a way to get on the end of crosses. Vardy is utilizes his pace to get in behind the opposition and create space or get in on goal. The two centerbacks for the Red Devils will have a difficult time to keep these two from scoring this weekend.

Eric: Man U. 1-1 Leicester

After a relatively easy opening three fixtures, United have been put to the test with some more difficult matchups and this weekend is more of the same. The two squads are both good going forward and defensively sound, I think they’ll cancel each other out and share the spoils.

TJ: Man U. 1-2 Leicester

My prediction is based on the assumption that Wayne Rooney will play. I think Rooney’s inclusion in the squad is hurting United and with him, I don’t see them winning this game.

Liverpool (6th) v. Hull City (12th)

Liverpool surprised me by beating Chelsea 2-1 last weekend, I didn’t think they had the spine to stand up to the Chelsea attack. They proved me wrong, however and got their most impressive result of the season so far. Liverpool come up against a Hull side who will look to rebound from a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal. Hull City started well out of the gate, but it seems as though they are crashing back to reality now with two losses and a draw in their last three premier league fixtures.

Matchup to Watch: Abel Hernandez v. Liverpool’s leaky backline

Hull will need Abel Hernandez to step up against a shaky Liverpool back four if they are going to get anything out of this match. Liverpool has one of the deadliest attacking groups in the league and to keep up, Hernandez will need to unlock Liverpool’s defense, a  task that hasn’t been too difficult this season.  Hull will look to exploit the back four on the counter-attack through Hernandez and the Uruguayan will have to be up to the challenge.

Eric: Liverpool 3-1 Hull

Liverpool just have too much going forward for Hull to handle. I believe the Reds will overwhelm the Hull defense and manage another victory, but will likely fail to record the clean sheet.

TJ: Liverpool 3-0 Hull

Yes, this is the week that I think Liverpool will show a more solid defensive effort. I think they’ll capture their first clean sheet of their campaign.

Stoke City (20th) v. West Bromwich Albion (10th)

Stoke have been appalling and are dead last in just about every team statistic at this point. The squad that Mark Hughes has assembled at the club has the quality to be challenging for a Europa league spot, but instead they find themselves last after five matches. The additions of Allen, Bony and Martins-Indi should propel Stoke out of the relegation zone and into a respectable midtable finish, but Hughes needs to get his men into shape and do it quickly if they are going to turn around this abysmal start.

Everyone knows what to expect out of West Brom, tough to breakdown in defense and direct in attack. With the addition of Nacer Chadli, West Brom have bagged themselves a winger who can score and create for others, giving themselves another option up front and some much needed help for Salomon Rondon.

Matchup to Watch: Stoke’s impotency v. West Brom’s solid defense

With the likes of Bojan, Arnautovic, Shaqiri, and Bony, you’d expect goals from Stoke City, but they’ve only managed to find the back of the net 3 times in their opening 5 matches. The Potters will have to break down a Tony Pulis side that is renowned for their defensive ability if they hope to improve their miserable record on Saturday.

Eric: Stoke 1-1 West Brom

In what I think will be the least exciting matchup this weekend, I can only envision a scrappy 1-1 draw for these two sides.

TJ: Stoke 1-1 West Brom

Stoke will score as a result of some independent brilliance from Arnautovic or Bojan. But other than that West Brom will play a tight game defensively.

Swansea City (15th) v. Manchester City (1st)

Manchester City will look to extend their winning streak to 6 in the league this weekend as the travel to Wales to play Swansea City. Manchester City have looked far and away the best side and seem to be revitilized under their new coach. With the likes of Sane and Gundogan returning from injury, City should be able to make quick work of a poor swansea team.

Swansea have relied on Leroy Fer to come up with goals this season to save their skins on a few occasions. The Dutch international is an unlikely goalscorer, but has picked up the slack after the departure of key man Andre Ayew to West Ham. Fer will have to continue his fine form if Swansea are to come out of this matchup with a result.

Matchup to Watch:  Raheem Sterling v. Kyle Naughton

Sterling has looked like a new man in Pep Guardiola’s system. The English winger is on a tear, shredding defenses like he did in his breakout season at Liverpool. Sterling has recorded an impressive 3 goals and two assists in his 5 Premier League games so far this season. Kyle Naughton will have to face up to Sterling as Swansea host Manchester City and if he can keep the winger in check, Swansea just may have a chance to pull off an upset against the Citizens.

Eric: Swansea 0-3 Man. City

City have the momentum of 5 straight PL wins and I can’t see that being ended against the Welsh side. City should take this one easily.

TJ: Swansea 0-4 Man. City

I think City is going to thrash the Welsh side. City simply has too many weapons for Swansea to possibly contain them.

Bournemouth (17th) v. Everton (2nd)

Everton have had an impressive start, but context must be applied. Apart from Spurs on opening day, Everton have faced WBA, Stoke, Sunderland and Middlesborough, 4 sides that are 10th or lower and two of which haven’t managed a win yet. So with that, it is tough to really measure just how good Everton is, they’ve certainly looked good. They’ve been more sound defensively with the addition of Williams and return of Coleman and Baines from injury. Going forward, Bolasie and Lukaku seem to complement each other quite well and have looked good so far. As the old football cliche goes, “you can only beat what’s in front of you” and they’ve done that. Bournemouth may not be a good measuring stick to find out how far Koeman has brought this Everton side, but we’ll soon see as they come up against more competitive sides.

Bournemouth have made some good additions to their squad, but have lacked goals. Callum Wilson hasn’t found his form yet, but the English striker is definitely capable of producing the goods, he just needs the service from the rest of the sqaud. Wilshere, if he can stay fit, should be able to provide the type of service Wilson will thrive on and if Ibe can find his feet at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth could force some upsets this season.

Matchup to Watch: A tricky Bolasie v. Bournemouth’s fullbacks

Yannick Bolasie has proven to be a coup for new boss Ronald Koeman, even for the rumored fee of £25 million. The trickster has taken his flashy style with him to Goodison Park and has continued to strike fear into the opposition defense. He is difficult to defend because there’s no telling what he is going to pull to get out of a tough situation. With the talent around him, Bolasie has the chance to add more goals and assists to his game. The DR Congo international has played his way into the starting eleven for Everton and it will be up to Bournemouth’s fullbacks to keep him in check in this upcoming match. Smith and Daniels will have their hands full, but they will have to put in a great performance to keep Bolasie and Everton out.

Eric: Bournemouth 1-3 Everton

The linkup that Bolasie and Lukaku formed going forward for Everton will prove to be too much for Bournemouth.

TJ: Bournemouth 0-2 Everton

Everton has looked good this season, although they haven’t truly been tested. And that test isn’t likely to come from Bournemouth. Everton should win this one easily.

Middlesbrough (13th) v. Tottenham (3rd)

Tottenham is going to be without their star striker, Harry Kane. I guess we’re going to see what Vincent Janssen can do in his place. He has plenty of offensive help around him though with the like of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. On the other side, Middlesbrough has impressed so far this season, but they’re coming off a 3-1 defeat to Everton where they struggled offensively. Bro needs to figure out a way to open up opposing defenses. They hold the ball well, but struggle to turn it into anything. They’ll have to figure it out soon, or else they could find themselves back in the Championship.

Matchup to Watch: Antonio Barragan v. Kyle Walker

Barragan is going to have his hands full dealing with the runs of Kyle Walker. Walker employs his speed on the flank sending balls into the box. It’s one of the things that makes Tottenham a dangerous side. Barragan is going to need to shut that down to keep Tottenham off the board.

Eric: Boro 0-2 Spurs

Spurs have remained unbeaten through their first 5 matches in the league and I see no reason for that run to end against ‘Boro. With or without Kane, I think Spurs will take this one comfortably.

TJ: Boro 0-2 Spurs

I think Tottenham has too much pace and quality for Boro to contest with. I don’t think the loss of Harry Kane will have too much of an impact on this game.

Sunderland (19th) v. Crystal Palace (8th)

Sunderland struggled last game, despite only losing 1-0 to Tottenham. Their defense was ripped apart and they showed little promise moving forward. And now they’re without Adnan Januzaj after he received two yellows. He has shown promise this season, and is one of the few players capable of creating something by himself. Crystal Palace, though, is currently firing on all cylinders. They’ll be coming in confident after a 4-1 thrashing of Stoke. Andros Townsend has the hot hand, and I expect him to have an impact on this game.

Matchup to Watch: Sunderland’s Right Back v. Andros Townsend

After last week’s right back situation in which David Moyes made a change 15 minutes before game time, I’m not sure who will be playing back there. That being said, they’re going to need to shut down Andros Townsend. Townsend has shown throughout his career an ability to make something happen offensively. He’s going to be a key player to shut down for Sunderland.

Eric: Sunderland 1-2 Crystal Palace

Sunderland have been dire so far and with Palace seemingly hitting their stride, this one seems pretty straight forward. I expect Palace to take the early lead and Sunderland to draw one back through a late Defoe goal.

TJ: Sunderland 0-2 Crystal Palace

Palace should continue their good form against a Sunderland squad lacking certain pieces, especially offensive threats. Expect Palace to wreak havoc down the sidelines.

West Ham (18th) v. Southampton (14th)

West Ham has been disappointing this season. They currently sit at 18th with a -6 goal differential. Not what anyone was expecting after the previous season. Last game, they surrendered 4 goals to West Brom. Yes, West Brom, you read that right. That’s not a good sign for a team that was hoping to contend for Europe. Fortunately they still have Dimitri Payet who has proved he is more than capable of carrying this team to victory. But against them we have Southampton who finally got their first win of the season against Swansea last weekend. Now we’ll have to wait and see if Puel elects to start Charlie Austin. The striker is making a strong case with 3 goals in his last two appearances.

Matchup to Watch: Dimitri Payet v. Dusan Tadic

I think this game is going to come down to who can control the midfield. And while these two players won’t necessarily be going head to head, they are each team’s respective creator. It’ll come down to these two guys in my opinion.

Eric: West Ham 1-1 Southampton

After disappointing starts for two clubs with big ambitions this season, West Ham and Southampton find themselves wallowing in the depths of the Premier League table. I expect their struggles to continue and both teams to go home with a point.

TJ: West Ham 1-2 Southampton

Neither team has looked on par with last season so far, but West Ham has looked worse. They’ve had some problems at the back and I think Southampton will be able to exploit that, picking up the victory.

Burnley (16th) v. Watford (9th)

Watford is coming off a 3-1 victory against Manchester United. That’s a huge win for them and I expect that will give them a bit of momentum coming into this game against Burnley. They have a potent strike force. They currently have 10 goals this season, tied for fourth most in the Premier League. Meanwhile Burnley is sitting at 16th in the table with a -5 goal differential. They’ll have to play great defense if they hope to keep Watford at bay.

Matchup to Watch: Michael Keane and Ben Mee v. Tory Deeney and Odin Igahlo

Keane and Mee were on a side that conceded 3 goals to Leicester last week. Well they definitely don’t get a break this week. They’ll need to be on their game if they hope to stop Deeney and Igahlo.

Eric: Burnley 1-3 Watford

Watford have scored and conceded in every one of their matches thus far and I believe that trend will continue against Burnley. Watford’s attack will overpower this Burnley defense and they’ll come away with the victory.

TJ: Burnley 0-3 Watford

I just don’t think Burnley has the means to stop the Watford attack. Deeney and Igahlo up top, but also Capoue has been in excellent form as of late. Burnley simply won’t match up.

Matchweek 5 Preview

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.

Expected Lineups:

Chelsea:   

Courtois

Ivanovic – Luiz – Cahill – Azpilicueta

Matic – Kante

Willian – Oscar – Hazard

Costa

Liverpool:

Mignolet

Clyne – Klavan – Matip – Milner

Henderson – Wijnaldum

Mane – Firmino – Coutinho

Sturridge

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