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.

 

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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.

Premier League Preview: Watford F.C.

TJ Lovenduski

2015/16 Finish: 13

Last season was definitely a success for Watford. They avoided relegation and surprised many by finishing 13th. Their core of Ighalo and Cathcart both played great soccer and were huge reasons for their success. They’ll need to at least match those performances this season.

Transfers In: Isaac Success (RW), Christian Kabasele (CB), Brice Dja Djedje (RB), Jerome Sinclair (CF), Camilo Zuniga (FB)

It’s clear that Watford has looked to add more attacking threats in this window. Isaac Success is just twenty and scored 6 goals in 30 appearances for Granada last season. He should definitely be able to provide Deeney with more support. Sinclair adds another attacking threat and Zuniga brings in some needed experience. Ultimately, Watford has added much needed depth to their squad with some young talent that has potential to do some damage.

Transfers Out: Almen Abdi (AM), Steven Berghuis (RW), Gabriele Angella (CB), Daniel Pudil (LB), Joel Ekstrand (CB), Josh Doherty (FB), George Byers (MF), Jose Manuel Jurado (AM)

Almen Abdi will be the biggest loss felt by Watford this upcoming season. He appeared in 32 Premier League games last season, as an attacking midfielder. Jose Manuel Jurado, is another attacking midfielder that’s left this season after appearing in 27 games last season. It’ll be interesting to see how the loss of two attacking midfielders impacts them this season. It may be something that they look to address before the window closes.

Key Player(s): Troy Deeney and Craig Cathcart

Troy Deeney is without a key figure of this Watford side. He’s a strong striker who netted 13 goals in 38 appearances last season. He’s the captain and needs to lead his side. But, fortunately,  Deeney isn’t alone. Craig Cathcart has also emerged as a leader and a vital member of their defense. Both players will need to have good seasons in 2016/17.

Predicted 2016/17 Finish: 16

Unfortunately for Watford, we see them regressing this season. The league was undoubtedly weak last season and we don’t see them having the same luck this year. Other teams have made better moves and just look to be in a better position to improve. That being said, Watford has the potential to pull out some upsets this season. Ighalo and Deeney are both proven goal scorers and should be able to pounce on mistakes made by other teams, likely stealing them a few points.

Premier League Preview: Hull City A.F.C.

Eric Toth

2015/16 Finish: Promoted via playoffs

Hull are back, but not without their problems… Steve Bruce, the boss that brought the club back into the English top flight, has left the club without a manager just three weeks before the new season kicks off. Rumors are swirling that the Tigers are in for Gianfranco Zola as a replacement for Bruce. Appointing Zola would fit the trend of being woefully disappointing as everything has been at Hull since winning promotion.

 

Transfers In: Will Mannion (Tribunal)

With McGregor, Odubajo, Bruce all out for six months, and Michael Dawson, who is out for three months, you’d expect Hull to look to strengthen, but they’ve not done that…as a matter of fact, they haven’t done much of anything.

The sole signing, Will Mannion, joined the club from AFC Wimbledon and will join up with the youth squad.

Transfers Out: Sone Aluko and Ryan Taylor (Released) 

Aluko made 31 appearences for Hull last campaign, contributing 3 goals. Ryan Taylor rarely featured for the club last year, only managing 12 appearences in all competitions. While the duo weren’t vital in the Championship, they did provide another option off the bench and cover for injuries, something that the club is severely lacking at the moment.

Key Player(s): Andrew Robertson

I had an entire write up of how vital Mo Diame was for the squad and how his ever-so timely goals, one of which won Hull promotion last season, will be crucial to Hull’s success, but it seems he’s off to Newcastle! Now with Diame gone, Andrew Robertson is one of the few shining lights left at Hull and provides the club with a bit of an x-factor. Robertson joined the club in 2014 from Dundee United and since then has been linked an array of big clubs, among them rivals Liverpool and Manchester United. The left back was ever-present in Hull’s squad last season, starting 45 of 46 league matches. In a newly-promoted club that is currently manager-less, depth-less and, at the risk of sounding harsh, hopeless, Robertson provides consistency in his play and will no doubt be key to any success that Hull may find.

Predicted 2016/17 Finish: 19th

After a successful campaign in the English Championship, Hull City AFC are back in the Premier League … for now. Hull will face an uphill battle to stay in the English top flight this year, but thus far, they haven’t shown much in the summer window to prove that they are up for the fight. As things stand, it looks very bleak for Hull, no manager, no additions to the first team, an injury list that keeps growing and the, what seems to be, inevitable loss of their key man, Diame. With the loss of their manager and star man, Hull will almost certainly be relegated.

Premier League Preview: Burnley F.C.

TJ Lovenduski

2015/16 Finish: Promoted via winning Championship

Transfers In: Nick Pope (GK), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (RW)

Burnley added some depth between the sticks by bringing in Nick Pope who has shown potential, continuing to move up the soccer ladder. Gudmundsson is a name people should recognize from the EURO 2016. He started every game for a surprise Iceland squad. He will definitely give Burnley an attacking threat down the right side of the field this season.

Transfers Out: Matt Gilks (GK), Joey Barton (CM), Matthew Taylor (LM), Lloyd Dyer (LM), Michael Duff (CB)

This offseason also saw a number of aging players exit the side on free transfer. The most notable name in this list is Joey Barton. He was named to the Championship PFA Team of the Year last season and has notable experience in the Premier League. His loss will be felt in the middle of the field.

What They Need/How to Improve:

The loss of Joey Barton leaves a hole in the midfield for Burnley. That’s something they’ll definitely need to address if they hope to stay in the Premier League. If they’re unable to find a competent replacement, they’ll likely find themselves back in the Championship come years end.

Key Player(s): Andre Gray (FW)

The big question for Burnley this season is going to be if they’re good enough to break down defenses in the premier league. In the 2014/15 season they had a huge problem scoring goals. It’s likely they could face similar issues this season. If that’s the case Gray is going to have to be on form. He’s going to have to convert his chances when he gets them. That’s going to be vital if they hope to see any success this season.

2016/17 Predicted Finish: 20

Last season saw Burnley return to the Premier League after being relegated the season before. They played great football ending the season with the highest goal differential in the Championship. That gives them a little momentum and confidence moving forward in their efforts to secure another season in England’s top flight.