The first week of the Premier League has come and gone, and the excuses of teams stumbling out of the blocks are no more. This weekend, football fans are in for some interesting encounters that will showcase a little more of what the big guns and giant-killers have to offer this season.
Swansea v Manchester United
Swansea is a side that has struggled in the English top flight and has flirted with relegation for the past two seasons, managing to achieve a position of safety rather narrowly. To make matters worse, Everton have just signed their most influential attacker, Gylfi Sigurdsson, as well. Unfortunately for them, they face a United side that placed a marker down last week with their 4-0 victory over West Ham and will be looking to continue that level of performance. Swansea was a bit of a bogey team for United during the Moyes and van Gaal era, though, so United will need to remain focused in their first away game of the season.
Prediction: 2-0 to Manchester United. Place your bets on Swansea v Manchester United.
Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Liverpool suffered a disappointing draw last time out, due to uncertain defending on their part but also a narrow call by the official that in hindsight should have disallowed an equalizing goal. Their games don’t get much easier as they host Crystal Palace, a team that has managed to get the better of the Reds on multiple occasions in recent seasons. Due to the lack of physicality in Liverpool’s defence and midfield they struggle with more physical sides that are dominant at set pieces. Crystal Palace won’t feel extremely confident since they got a 3-0 hiding off newly promoted Huddersfield last week, so they’ve got defensive frailties of their own. Liverpool’s menacing attack should manage to bail them out against this Crystal Palace side, but they need to avoid conceding set pieces at all cost.
Prediction: 3-1 to Liverpool. Place your bets on Liverpool v Crystal Palace.
Stoke City v Arsenal
Much like Liverpool’s struggles against more physical Premier League teams, Arsenal also seem to stumble against similar teams, and Stoke has managed to bloody the Gunners’ noses on more than one occasion in the past. While Arsenal have managed to reinforce their defence with a physical signing in Kolasinac and added to their attacking threat with Lacazette, they’ll need to concentrate more winning the physical battle against Stoke. Mark Hughes has set his team up to be resilient and extremely physical in their approach, which is a little bit of an achilles heel for Arsene Wenger, who prefers to outplay his opposition, but that isn’t always possible.
Prediction: 2-1 to Arsenal. Place your bets on Stoke City v Arsenal.
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
Although they’re current champions, Chelsea are somewhat in disarray at the moment after suffering a shock defeat on the opening weekend to Burnley, while Spurs notched their first win in what ended up being a comfortable game against Newcastle. Chelsea had a much better second-half in their loss, so they’re not in free-fall quite yet, but Spurs will likely smell blood and go all out to kick the Blues while they’re down. Pochettino will probably field a similar team to what he did last weekend, but Antonio Conte needs to adjust his starting XI to include the players that impressed in their second-half against Burnley, most notably Alvaro Morata. While Michy Batshuayi is quicker than Morata, his ability to bring other forwards into the game isn’t quite as good, and after scoring on his Premier League debut, Morata might deserve a start against Spurs, although it will be a tough learning curve for him.
Prediction: 2-2 draw. Place your bets on Tottenham v Chelsea.
Manchester City v Everton
City managed a pedestrian 2-0 win over Brighton last weekend, but face a much tougher opponent when they host a much-improved Everton side. Everton wasted no time in reinforcing their team after their lucrative sale of Romelu Lukaku, as they’ve added to their options in defence, midfield, and attack – but such wholesale changes come at a price; it takes a while for a squad to settle. Everton will have a difficult time containing City’s dangerous attack, especially at home, but City’s much-changed defence will also need to develop an understanding to perform adequately against a better team than Brighton.
Prediction: 3-1 to Manchester City. Place your bets on Manchester City v Everton.
With the rest of their competitors playing in tougher games Manchester United have an opportunity to potentially put some early daylight between themselves and their fellow title aspirants. Many eyes will be on the London derby between Spurs and Chelsea though, as the Blues will need to put in a solid performance to arrest what looks like a potentially deteriorating situation at Stamford Bridge. Can they manage to come together and mount a defense of their title?
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