Football News: Premier League Match Preview Saturday 3rd March 2018


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Premier League Match Preview Saturday 3rd March 2018
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Saturday 3rd March 2018

Burnley v Everton 12:30pm kick off

Arfield (calf strain) late fitness test
Tarkowski (groin strain) late fitness test
Defour (knee injury) out
Walters (knee injury expected return 31st March) out
Brady (knee injury) out
Heaton (dislocated shoulder) doubt

The run without a win has now stretched to 11 games, though the Clarets have somehow managed to hold on to 7th place despite it. I am not sure what that tells us about the Premier League and its competitiveness that a team can stay in the top 7 even without a win in 11 games. It is not like Burnley were right near the top before they went on this run, they were sat in 6th and now are 7th. Does it just tell us how much of a gap there is between the top 6 (or should it be 5 now Arsenal seem to have dropped away?) and all the rest?
Most important player: Nick Pope. With number one keeper Tom Heaton close to a return, Pope will want to keep performing at the outstanding level he has been at so far this season in order to keep his place.

Mangala (knee injury) out
Coleman (thigh strain) doubt
Funes Mori (fitness) slight doubt
Jagielka (knock) slight doubt
McCarthy (broken leg) out
Stekelenburg (groin injury expected return 10th March) out

So far this season the Toffees have struggled away from home, to put it kindly, with Sam Allardyce seemingly unable (some would say unwilling to even try) to fix the problems on the road. Just one away win all season and 8 losses tells the story of Everton's travails on their travels. Just 9 goals scored as they conceded 29 is a terrible record, one which the arrival of Allardyce has not improved at all. Instead he seems to just accept that the team are incapable of doing anything on the road, preferring to accept defeat before kick off, even leaving out his main creative influences for no discernable reason. Surely, with Burnley in such terrible form, even Allardyce will see this as points to be taken, rather than a point to defend?
Most important player: Wayne Rooney. He has yet to live up to the hype around his return.

Defining Battle: the big key to this game will be Allardyce. We all know how Burnley will approach the game, they will be organised and put bodies on the line, giving 100% effort for 90 minutes. However, who knows what Everton will turn up? Will he send out the team to go for a win or will he send them out to go for a draw and hope to snatch a win? That is what this match hinges on.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 1-2
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 1-2
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 1-0
Ed033 - 2-1

Leicester City v Bournemouth 3pm kick off

Okazaki (knee injury) late fitness test

It has gone a little pear shaped for Claude Puel at the Foxes lately. They have now gone four matches without a win, losing two of them, as they seem to have missed their opportunity to challenge for 6th. Defensively they are wide open and their attack is not working as well as it was prior to the Mahrez debacle at the end of the January window. It is time for the team to focus back on their football and for Puel to find a way to protect the defensively inadequate centre backs that are not helping his cause.
Most important player: Matty James. Having watched him a fair bit since he returned to fitness, I am struggling to see what he brings to the team. He is not particularly mobile, creative, does not protect the defence or score goals, he really needs to up his game to deserve a slot in the midfield.

Mings (back injury) out

The Cherries good run seems to have ended now, with a heavy defeat and draw in their last two games, but it did almost put them safe for this season. Now the job of Eddie Howe carries much less pressure, as they are on the verge of survival with ten games left to secure it. It would take a collapse of major proportions for them to drop out of the Prem now. So long as they do not relax and assume they have done enough now, they should be able to start preparing their summer plans for another season in the Premier League.
Most important player: Steve Cook. His lack of pace will be really tested up against Jamie Vardy.

Defining Battle: the Leicester defence have been surprisingly poor of late, a real surprise under Puel, and they will be tested severely by a Bournemouth side that possesses a lot of pace in attacking areas. If Leicester do not protect those sluggish centre backs, they could be in real trouble.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 2-2
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 1-0
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 1-1

Southampton v Stoke City 3pm kick off

Yoshida (knee injury expected return 31st March) out
Davis (knock) slight doubt
Long (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Austin (hamstring injury expected return 31st March) out

Sitting outside the drop zone on goal difference, Saints are teetering and show little sign of having the attacking intent needed to do more than merely struggle. It often feels like there is no real desire to take a game by the scruff of the neck and go and take a game over until they go behind. They play like a team that is happy to accept a point, rather than go out and try to win.
Most important player: Dusan Tadic. He is given most of the responsibility for creating chances in this team.

Grant (wrist injury) out
Shawcross (ankle injury) slight doubt
Crouch (ankle injury) slight doubt
Ireland (calf strain) late fitness test

Stoke have struggled particularly badly away from home, with just one win and nine losses in fourteen games on the road. Defensively they have been little short of shambolic on their travels, but that is something Paul Lambert has been working on and they are defending better under him. With little attacking talent or fluidity, the defence needs to be solid to give them any chance of saving themselves from the drop.
Most important player: Jack Butland. They cannot afford any more own goals or to lose the England keeper to injury right now.

Defining Battle: keep Shaqiri quiet and the Potters have little else to offer. That is the job for Saints.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 0-0
Ed004 - 2-0
Ed007 - 1-0
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-0

Swansea City v West Ham United 3pm kick off

Fer (achilles injury) out
Bony (ACL injury) out
Rangel (groin injury expected return 31st March) out
Sanches (hamstring injury expected return 17th March) out

After doing all the hard work to get themselves out of the drop zone, they went and got themselves stuffed by Brighton and dropped straight back in. Can they do it all over again? 10 games left to save themselves, it is now or never for the Swans.
Most important player: Martin Olsson. The only genuine left back in the squad, his pace is vital to them on that flank.

Evra (shin injury) slight doubt
Obiang (MCL injury expected return 2nd July) out
Carroll (fractured foot expected return 21st April) out
Fernandes (ankle injury) out
Masuaka (suspended) out

Despite a couple of recent losses, the Hammers have still got a little bit of breathing room, though they can ill afford to slip up against the Swans. That would be enough to have Swansea breathing down their neck and almost certainly put them right in the middle of the relegation dog fight they have worked so hard to put themselves on the fringes of. This match is a chance to show that it was not just a new manager bounce that pulled them clear, but instead it is that they were better than they showed in the early part of the season.
Most important player: Manuel Lanzini. His return to fitness could not have come at a better time for West Ham. Lanzini gives them that little bit more quality on the ball which has been sorely missed while he was out injured.

Defining Battle: Swans need to stop the ball going to Arnautovic, if they can. He has become the focal point of all the good things the Hammers do, shutting him out of the game will make a huge difference.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-2
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 1-2
Ed025 - 1-2
Ed033 - 1-2

Tottenham Hotspur v Huddersfield Town 3pm kick off

Vertonghen (ankle injury) slight doubt
Alderweireld (hamstring injury expected return 11th March) out

Even with their best defender out injured, Spurs have been in excellent form, grinding out results when needed and pushing themselves back into the top 4 and in with a shout of chasing down second place. It has now been ten games since they lost and they have shown some real resilience in that run too. They still have the Champions League and FA Cup to go for as well, could this be the year Mauricio Pochettino finally gets the trophy he needs to prove he is a winner?
Most important player: Mousa Dembele. His return to form has lifted the whole team and provided the protection to the defence needed while Alderweireld is out.

Billing (illness) slight doubt
Scannell (shoulder injury expected return 31st March) out
Mooy (knee injury expected return 10th March) doubt
Lowe (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Kachunga (MCL injury expected return 10th March) out
Stankovic (ACL injury expected return 31st March) out

A couple of wins has turned things around for the Terriers, after they struggled badly, slipping into the bottom three. Now they are up to 14th and have a real shot at surviving. Once this game against Spurs is out of the way, they have a run of games facing teams in and around them, which gives them a good chance of reaching safety before their run in over the last few games hits them with a real sledgehammer run of Chelsea, Everton, Man City and Arsenal to finish with.
Most important player: Steve Mounie. On his day he can score goals against anyone.

Defining Battle: the best way to stifle Spurs is to smother Christian Eriksen. If he is given time and space he can destroy opponents, without it and he struggles. Without his creativity and Tottenham look half the team going forward.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-0
Ed003 - 4-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 3-1
Ed018 - 3-1
Ed025 - 4-1
Ed033 - 2-0

Watford v West Bromwich Albion 3pm kick off

Deulofeu (fractured foot) out
Sinclair (muscle injury) out
Kabasele (hamstring injury) out
Cleverley (hamstring injury) out
Wague (hamstring injury) out
Hughes (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Kaboul (fractured metatarsal) out
Chalobah (knee injury) out
Cathcart (knee injury expected return 17th March) out
Hoban (ACL injury) out

Two wins in their last three matches has put Watford back in the top half and with a good platform to push on and challenge for 7th. One thing they really need to sort out is their injury problems, which have once again threatened to derail their season. While the blame was heaped on the managers (or interest in the manager), the big problem is the lack of fitness of the players which has led to so many being struck by soft tissue injuries. If they are ever going to be a side that is relevant in the top half, they really need to work on keeping a core team fit.
Most important player: Etienne Capoue. His return to form has been a huge boost to the team at a time when he was much needed.

Sturridge (hamstring injury expected return 17th March) out
Chadli (thigh strain expected return 7th April) out
Morrison (Achilles injury expected return 31st March) out

Rooted to the bottom of the table, six points behind the rest of the Prem and still stuck with Alan 'The Chocolate Man' Pardew as manager. Not sure there can be many worse positions for a team in the Premier League to be in. From the moment they reached 40 points last season, the Baggies have offered nothing as a team and, if anything, look to be getting worse. Makes you wonder how bad things would have been if they had failed to win the first two.
Most important player: Grzegorz Krychowiak. Not sure there is a single player in the West Brom squad that deserves his place in the team, but the on-loan PSG midfielder is probably the best they have right now.

Defining Battle: Watford just need to ensure they do not allow themselves to get caught up in putting crosses into the box and instead look to run at WBA. They are lumbering in midfield and defence, Watford can take advantage of that by attacking them with pace.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-0
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 1-1

Liverpool v Newcastle United 5:30pm kick off

Clyne (fitness) out
Milner (knock) slight doubt
Wijnaldum (illness) slight doubt
Ings (illness) slight doubt
Woodburn (illness) doubt

It has been a strange season, derision aimed at the defence has given way to what could be termed admiration at their attack. With Sadio Mane refinding his form, the entire front three has become a real danger just as the final stretch arrives in the Prem. Almost certainly too late to stop Man City, but in time to give the Reds a real chance of second place and put them in a position of almost certain progression into the last 8 in the Champions League. It is about maintaining their form in each game, not letting their standards slip like so often happens, to keep the pressure on at the top.
Most important player: Loris Karius. The German has looked a real upgrade over his rival for the spot between the sticks, Simon Mignolet.

Gayle (tight hamstring) slight doubt
Shelvey (knee injury) major doubt
Ritchie (knock) slight doubt
Slimani (thigh strain expected return 31st March) out
Gamez (ankle injury) out

Newcastle are still far too close to the relegation places for comfort, despite not having lost in four games. A lack of wins has seen them struggle to make the progress up the league that Rafael Benitez would have hoped for with their recent performances. They have already beaten Man Utd in the last four matches, now they look to add the scalp of Liverpool too. One thing is for sure, this is unlikely to be another 4-3!
Most important player: Martin Dubravka. The on loan Slovakian keeper has been in excellent form since joining in the January window.

Defining Battle: Benitez has an excellent record against Liverpool, but he has never led a side that is likely to be this weak in attack against them before. With new signing Islam Slimani still unavailable and Dwight Gayle a doubt, he will be heavily reliant on the defence and keeping it tight to earn a good result at Anfield. The key is to shut Roberto Firmino down, he is the fulcrum of the attack for Liverpool.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 3-0
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 4-1
Ed025 - 2-0
Ed033 - 2-0

Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed002 - 180 points
2. Ed025 - 177 points
3. Ed018 - 173 points
4. Ed007 - 171 points
5. Ed004 - 168 points
6. Ed033 - 167 points
7. Ed003 - 159 points

*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 2nd March 2018 (not including results for that day)

Written by Tris Burke

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