Premier League October 18th, 19th and 20th
The English Premiership returns this weekend after the International break. For England fans the break was, once again, disappointing. Yes England won both their games, but the performance was below par against opposition who shouldn’t cause such problems.
It is funny that all these players ply their trade in the Premiership, which always has many great displays throughout the weekend, and yet, at National, level the players seem mediocre at best. I do have my own theories about this and no doubt will pen something in the near future, but for now lets focus on those matches coming up this weekend.
SATURDAY (All Kick Offs 3pm GMT/10am ET unless stated):
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur (12:45/7:45 ET):
A win for the visitors in this game could see them leapfrog their hosts and also put them in second position, at least for and hour or so. Under Pochettino, Spurs had a slow start to the season with a defeat at home to West Brom a week after twice having the lead against Sunderland before settling on a draw.
In recent games though they have found some sort of positive consistency. A draw away to Arsenal was a good result sandwiched between positive European and League Cup results. Last time out, Spurs defeated Pochettinos old club by a single goal and that will give them confidence as they visit Manchester.
For Manchester City, although they are currently second, I do not see the same excitement as I did last season. In Europe they have again, so far, failed to dominate and the League form has question marks too. Results, rather than performance, is the most important though and they have been positive in that aspect. A 2-0 win last time away to Villa was looking unlikely heading into the last ten minutes before Toure and Aguero stepped up within six minutes of each other to score. Before that was a visit to Hull and, after racing to a 2-0 lead, City saw Hull claw back level almost just as quick. The end result would be a 4-2 City victory.
Over the last few seasons the Etihad has been a fortress for Manchester City in the League, this season, not so much. So far, after three home games, the defending Champions have picked up just four points. If they want to make a statement of their title credentials then the opening game of the weekend would be a good time.
Arsenal v Hull:
Arsenal, like Manchester City, are another side with the great promise of pre season in danger of fizzling out before we even get to Christmas. Arsene Wenger is again starting to pick up criticism from some sections of the Arsenal crowd and I think maybe winning the FA Cup would have been a good point at which to sign off. As it is he is still the Arsenal Manager and with only two wins from the opening seven games it will be vitally important that no further ground is lost this early in the season.
Only a point below their hosts going into this game, Steve Bruce would no doubt take a point from this game and move along. The way they came back against Manchester City a few weeks ago though would suggest that they are, like last season, not going to be a team to roll over and play dead for the bigger sides.
Burnley v West Ham:
It was predicted before the start of the season that Burnley would be nothing more than the Leagues whipping boys, and that is what has been confirmed by the opening seven games. Four points, no wins and only three goals scored wouldn’t fill me full of confidence for the season but if things are to change, then why not at home to West Ham?
Yes West Ham do find themselves in 7th position currently and above the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, but they have lost as many as they have won and, as a result, have only scored two more goals than they have conceded.
Will Big Sam go defensive for this game or will he attack from the off? I think that it could be one very boring but hard fought draw, and I wouldn’t expect a ton of goals either.
Crystal P v Chelsea:
Neil Warnock is back in the Premier League, and for the sake of honest reflection, I am glad. In the opposite dugout you have the polar opposite, but both equally entertaining. At the end of the game, no matter what the result I am sure you will hear Warnock talk of the quality of the Chelsea side while Mourinho will no doubt have questions about an officials decision.
There is no doubt that Chelsea are the team to beat this season, already on nineteen points they are five above second place.
Like last season the Palace home form will be key to their fortunes. A win at home against Leicester means they haven’t lost in the League at home since the second game of the season and a win away to Everton shows that they do not go into these games with fear.
Still, with an average of three goals a game, Chelsea will be a tough prospect and a draw a fantastic result. Anything more than that and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Warnock doing cartwheels to the post game interview.
Everton v Aston Villa:
The pressure is on Roberto Martinez to produce a win at home. So far Everton have just the one win from their opening seven games, and to be honest, you would expect more. The Toffees showed so much promise last season but as yet have failed to kick on.
Fourth from bottom currently I do not expect them to be in a relegation battle but the longer the slump continues the less the reality of a top six, or better, finish becomes. A loss to Aston Villa might see the tide of opinion turn on Martinez but Villa are fighting their own slump.
Villa raced off to a fantastic start, Pal Lambert signed a new contract and the very next match they started their descent. To be fair it was a part of the schedule that most sides would struggle with, Arsenal, Chelsea and then Manchester City, 0 goals, 0 points but they had previously beaten Liverpool at Anfield.
If Aston Villa have targeted European football for next season then three points at Goodison Park (In the City of their last League victory) could certainly propel them back up the table into that kind of position.
Newcastle v Leicester:
Can Newcastle finally get that first win under their belts at home to the newly promoted Leicester City side? Before the season started I would have said ‘absolutely’, but now, not so sure.
A 2-2 draw away to Swansea the last time out was a good result, as was the draw against Hull two games before. On a positive note, 75% of their points this season have come at home.
For the visitors a win, as for Aston Villa in the previous section, would see the side rocket back up the table and closer to where they would like to be. Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, Leicester have only lost one game all season. The optimistic supporters would see that as good time to change that statistic, the pessimistic may just focus on their own failings. Unfortunately the game is at home and therefore I think a fair few fans will be more focused on the man in the dugout than the eleven on the pitch. However, supporters are a fickle lot, and maybe a good performance, or better still, a few Newcastle goals will change all that.
Southampton v Sunderland:
I am sure I, along with many Southampton fans, were a little bit apprehensive going into this season. The best season the club had enjoyed had just finished and the Manager, along with key players, had left. You cannot argue with third in the league though and that is where, despite the defeat against their old manager last time out, they find themselves.
Sunderland will visit the south coast with only on defeat this season. Unfortunately, they also have just the one victory also and have drawn all the other games. Last seasons Capital One Cup finalists enjoyed a mini revival after Christmas last season but to do that a second time might be asking too much.
That said, we are only seven games in and it isn’t like Halloween and Black Cats don’t go together well. I think I am favoring the home side here still though but a draw would certainly not be a bad result for either side.
QPR v Liverpool (1:30/8:30 ET):
I didn’t think that QPR would be relegated from the Premiership two seasons ago with all the players they had bought and with Harry Redknapp at the helm, but they did. I thought they would storm to automatic promotion last season, but in the end is was the playoff route which was needed. Now this season I expected the side to push on but instead they are bottom with a single win, have conceded the second most amount of goals, scored the second least and as a result have the worst goal difference in the League. Reminders this month of Harry Redknapps previous side, Portsmouth, now recovering in the depths of the football league is a reminder of the danger QPR could be in if they fail to stay up again this season. Now I am not suggesting that Redknapp was to blame for that mishap, but that danger exists I feel.
Against Liverpool it may be tough to see QPR improving any of the stats I have laid out but to be honest these are not the games needed to concentrate on. A point here would be good and all three, fantastic. However the real test will come against the Burnleys, Newcastles and Palaces of this world. Those are the sides Harry will be targeting to secure the Premiership status of Rangers.
For Liverpool the problems are different, but just as vital to the club. After last season and just missing out on the title the red half of Merseyside find themselves a mid table team. Won three, lost three and conceded as many as they have scored it is difficult to see the Liverpool of last season. That said, like a lot of sides, a win today could see them up the table and into a more comfortable position and, with QPR’s record, who would bet against it?
Stoke v Swansea (4pm/11am ET):
Fifth from top play fifth from bottom in Sundays second game. Stoke City beat Manchester City in what was a shock result, but have only taken all points in one other game this season. Mark Hughes will be hoping his side can do the business against the Swans and lift his side further away from the bottom three.
To be fair, Stoke City are closer to their opponents than they are the bottom three going into the weekend, and aesthetically their position looks worse than it is.
If Swansea can come away from this game with a point I think the fans will take it, anything more would be great but a draw will no doubt be the best I think they will get.
West Brom v Manchester United (8pm/3pm ET):
I had to laugh after the fixtures two weeks ago when the Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal said that the best was yet to come from his side and that they would be title contenders this season. Absolutely, they should. Two seasons ago they were Champions, last season they were ‘terrible’ and finished seventh. This season they have (so far) spent over $230 million on players, not including the loan deal for Radamel Falcao, are already out of the League Cup and have no European football to clog up their midweek schedule, so yes, title contender is a minimum requirement.
Defeating West Brom will not be easy though and the old saying that there are no easy games is almost certainly true when it comes to the Premier League. I am actually thinking that this game may just be a stumbling block for Van Gaal and, despite being able to give his International players 52 hours more rest than say Chelsea and even more in the case of Manchester City.
So with those results put into the table as it currently is we see Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton continue to be in the top three while United drop down to sixth and Liverpool and Arsenal move up.
At the bottom, QPR continue to be at the bottom, but now they are there on their own, not level on points with anyone else. Burnley are still second from bottom and Newcastle rounds off the relegation three. Although the win for Newcastle now brings them level on points with Everton and within touching distance of quite a few others.
The biggest mover was Stoke, climbing a whole six places to tenth while the biggest fall, while not as dramatic, was their opponents, Swansea.