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Premier League Preview (September 20th and 21st)
It has been quite a while since I last posted anything on any site to do with football. The truth is, as an Englishman, I wasn’t really feeling the World Cup and so that was when my writing stopped. Now the Premiership season has begun and, although we are already four games in, and the first round of Champions League games have been played, I think that it is now or never. You can follow me on Twitter and also on Facebook if you like what you read.
With that said, let’s get started and where better than previewing the weekends Premier League fixtures.
SATURDAY (All Times 3pm BST/ 10am ET unless stated):
QPR v Stoke (12:45 BST/7:45 ET):
Harry Redknapp would probably have expected his side would have made a better start than the current three points from the first four games so far this season. That said, tough games against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and a Manchester United side feeling their own pressure may not be too surprising.
Stoke City have their own issues and a solitary win away to Champions Manchester City being a bright spot.
A win for either side would shoot them into mid table and no doubts both will be going all out for the win but I just think that Harry Redknapp’s side want and need it more.
Aston Villa v Arsenal:
Paul Lambert has signed a new deal with the Villains and all is good for the claret and blue so far. Second in the League with three wins from four and with Chelsea not playing until Sunday the Midlanders could find themselves top of the League, if only for 24 hours.
Arsenal fans seem to be in the same situation as last year. Although this time they have bought a striker in the form of Danny Welbeck, their squad as a whole doesn’t give me confidence that it can sustain a whole season. It will be interesting to see how the Gunners react to the defeat in game one of their Champions League campaign this past Tuesday and especially how Welbeck responds. He was guilty of wasting a few good chances in that game and will be keen to open his account with Arsenal. The Manchester United manager publically said last week that the player was allowed to go because he didn’t score as many as Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie. While this is true, it is also true he didn’t start as many game as either of them as well. That would be an argument in his defense but this season I don’t think he will have that excuse and although I think he will score enough to keep his place it will be important for him to start working on that total. In this game I think he will score, maybe two, but the most important thing will be a win for the team.
Burnley v Sunderland:
Two teams still looking for their first Premiership wins of the season and you really have to give Sunderland the edge on paper. The Black Cats manager I think can avoid a repeat of last season and the relegation battle but these are the games that could trip them up.
If you look at the opposition stats you can draw positives and concerns in equal measure. Yes they have only conceded an average of a goal a game and held Manchester United to a goalless draw. Add to that they have already got United and Chelsea out of the way and suddenly the two points do not look all that bad for Sean Dyche’s side. The only negative would be that so far they have only scored the solitary goal.
As I said earlier, that is not really concerning as yet considering the teams they have played but they will look to their home form to keep them up, if they are to stay up, this season. Games like this one on Saturday will be the ones the fans will be looking at if they are to do that.
Newcastle v Hull:
Crisis at Newcastle with some long suffering fans venting their frustration last weekend towards the Manager Alan Pardew. To be fair I am not entirely sure that this is the guy who really should get the brunt of the criticism but he is and the way things are going his odds on being the next Premiership Management casualty must have tumbled. Rock bottom of the League for the Toon Army going in to the weekend and if Hull were to turn them over in the game Saturday then expect movement in the dugout shortly after.
Across the dugout you have another club in crisis, albeit a different type. Last season there was a debacle about the proposition for the clubs name change and now it has emerged that the owner may look to offload the club as he looks to not have got his way on that subject.
Add to that the fact that Hull manager Steve Bruce has been linked with the (as yet unavailable) Newcastle job and the game may be a second thought with all the off field concerns of both sets of fans.
Swansea v Southampton:
Both sides made good starts to this season and for Southampton I must admit I wasn’t so sure when the season wrapped up in May. Their manager and some key players left but off season moves have seen them hit the ground running. Another win on Saturday will certainly see them into the top three and that will not be bad after only five games.
Swansea are currently in the top three and will enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts. I think the Welsh side will find themselves more near midtable as the fixtures continue but the fans should enjoy this and even a tied game Saturday shouldn’t dampen the spirits too much.
West Ham v Liverpool (5:30 BST/ 12:30 ET):
West Ham were disappointing last season and this season looks to be more of the same if truth be told. Big Sam still needs to address the defensive weakness which still remains from last season or it will be another long, stressful season.
Liverpool barely scrapped a win in their return after five years to Champions League football with a less than convincing display against Ludocrats Razgrad. A late Steven Gerrard penalty gave them the vital three points and in the late game on Saturday I expect them to show the lethal touch they had last season.
SUNDAY (All Kick Off times 4pm BST/11am ET unless stated):
Leicester v Man Utd (1:30 BST/ 8:30 ET):
Having got their first League win of the season last time out, and no European football this season, it would be surprising if United didn’t finish in the top three this season. Certainly it would eclipse the disappointment of last season if they wouldn’t, not to mention the financial ramifications of such a failure.
For Leicester the target is different, but the pressure just as great. I think they will be in a relegation battle come the end of the season but for now, the welcome of Manchester United will be something the fans will certainly enjoy, and so they should, it has been a long time coming.
Tottenham v West Brom (1:30 BST/ 8:30 ET):
Strong performers last season, Tottenham, versus the side battling relegation up until the final matches of the 2013/14 season, West Brom. So far this season things are continuing as they finished last season, Tottenham are in the top six while West Brom are down at the bottom.
It is a new manager in place for both and for Alan Irvine he will hope the former Celtic striker, Georgios Samaras can recreate what he did north of the border. Longer watchers of the Premier League might remember Samaras from his Manchester City days and the struggles he had then and the question will be can he perform against big sides week in and week out? I have my doubts.
Spurs, on the other hand, I see building on the fairly successful past few seasons. With boss Mauricio Pochettino I believe they have a very good manager and I can see another three points today.
Everton v Crystal Palace:
Everton have started this season a little hesitant I feel but things will come good with Martinez and if the fans and board have faith then I think he will guide them to a decent finish. There is too much quality in the side for him to not be in the top half come May and I expect that to be the minimum expectation.
For Crystal Palace it is once again the off field antics which have stolen the headlines. The savior of the side from last season, Tony Pulis, walked out of the club just days before the kick off before the Chairman installed Neil Warnock as Manager, for the second time. Now I like Neil Warnock, he is an honest assessor of his teams performances and I look forward to some good quotes, not Ian Holloway standard, but close. The fear for me is that has the tag of being a relegation expert and I not only expect a defeat against Everton, I worry for the Eagles season.
Man City v Chelsea:
I am not really sure what to say about this fixture. Yes it is the biggest, potentially, of the weekend and both sides go into after disappointing Champions League performances midweek. Chelsea look much improved from last season with real attacking threat once again, their fifteen goals in the first four games backs that up, including the demolition of Everton. That said, they are not as defensively smart as they were last season and again the stats back that up, only one clean sheet so far, and conceding a three goals every two games.
For Manchester City I do not get that same feeling of excitement in their play so far. They beat Newcastle convincingly on the opening day and after a sluggish first half, dispatched Liverpool 3-1. But since then they lost at home to Stoke City, something the haven’t done since 1997. The Arsenal draw was good but Manuel Pellegrini will be looking to get his side back to winning ways on Sunday but a defeat must be avoided at all costs or the gap between the two will increase to eight points.
With that in mind the end of the weekend should see Chelsea, Swansea, Tottenham and Manchester City in the top four with Newcastle still in the bottom three but above Palace and West Brom.
So there you have my predictions for this weekend. Let me know what you think through Twitter or Facebook. More articles will be posted soon talking about all things to do with the English Premiership and the Beautiful game in general.