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Football News: Premier League Previews 9 February 2019

Premier League Previews 9 February 2019
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Fulham v Manchester United


The Burnley result turned out to be a mere blip in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's stunning start to life as Manchester United boss; the Red Devils were back to winning ways at Leicester last week and have now won nine of ten matches under their former player in all competitions, including all five away from home.


Thanks to this resurgence, they enter today's game with the possibility of finishing the day in the top four - who would have thought that so quickly after Mourinho's departure less than two months ago.


To do so, they need to beat Fulham, still second from bottom in the Premier League after a 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace last weekend. But today they are back at Craven Cottage, where they have won 15 of their 17 league points this season. They have only lost two of their last seven home league games, winning two of their last three, in fact.


They begin today seven points adrift of safety in the relegation battle, so they will need to pick up points wherever they can, regardless of opposition. There's no side in better form than Man Utd in the Premier League right now, but Claudio Ranieri's side need to put aside thoughts of that and focus on their own needs.


More worryingly for Fulham is their record against Man Utd. Nine defeats and no wins in their last 11 meetings in all competitions is not a pleasurable record for them to contend with. And their manager Claudio Ranieri himself has also struggled against them in the Premier League, winning just two of 13 encounters in the competition and losing each of his last three.


Fulham will be hoping he can work out how to improve on that record here today.


Key players:


Aleksandar Mitrovic - Put simply, he is crucial to Fulham's survival hopes. Only Aguero, Salah and Aubameyang have more home Premier League goals than the Serbian this season, and his goal scoring ability will be key to Fulham's push to avoid the drop.


Ashley Young - He might come across as an odd choice at first, but Young has been involved in more league goals against Fulham (nine - five goals, four assists) than any other opponent in his professional career, both scoring and assisting against them in the reverse clash in December. He had real joy on the flanks in that match and if he does so again, he could be a strong weapon for Solskjaer.





Crystal Palace v West Ham United


West Ham ended a three-match losing streak with a strong draw against Liverpool last time out, but this is an away match for them today - and it's away from the London Stadium that they have struggled of late, losing four on the bounce on their travels in all competitions, conceding 11 goals while scoring just two in reply.


Their opponents Crystal Palace have hit some home resurgence too, winning five of their last eight at Selhurst Park in all competitions; they had only won five of 18 there before this.


Indeed, Roy Hodgson's side have kept a clean sheet in six of those last eight home fixtures, so they will be a resilient opponent for the Hammers today.


However, West Ham have enjoyed their recent league games against Palace, losing none of the last seven, in fact, including wins in three of their last four league trips to Selhurst Park. Perhaps this is the perfect venue for them to end their poor away form.


Manuel Pellegrini's side have won their last three Premier League London derbies, and could be about to win four on the bounce in the top-flight for the first time since February 1996 should they claim victory today.


Pellegrini himself has also won six of his seven Premier League matches against Crystal Palace; against no opposition has he won more, whilst his opposite number for today Roy Hodgson can't boast such a positive record against the Hammers, winning just two of his last 10 top-flight meetings with them, losing five.


Key players:


Luka Milivojevic - It has become almost normal for him to bag penalties in the Premier League. 15 of his 19 goals in the division have come from the spot; that's one penalty goal every five appearances for him, making him the most frequent penalty scorer in Premier League history. West Ham would be well served treading carefully in their own box.


Michail Antonio - Buoyed by his equalising goal against Liverpool last time out, Antonio will be looking to score in back-to-back league games for the second time this season. He has had a hand in five goals in his five league starts versus Palace, scoring one and assisting four, so he will be hoping that record serves him well today.





Huddersfield Town v Arsenal


Man City, Everton, Chelsea and now Arsenal. It's not been a great start for Huddersfield to life without David Wagner. Unsurprisingly, they have lost all three of those games before today without even scoring a goal - indeed, should they carry on scoring at their current rate (0.52 goals per game), they will have the lowest scoring rate of any club in a season in Football League history. Ouch.


Arsenal, meanwhile, were beaten comfortably by Manchester City last week, and it is crucial for their top four hopes that they avoid losing back-to-back league games for only the second time this season today.


Away from home though, Arsenal have real troubles. They've lost three on the bounce and are winless in six on the road in the league; amazingly, since the start of 2018, only Brighton (14) and Huddersfield (13) have lost more away Premier League games than Arsenal's 12, with the Gunners keeping just one away league clean sheet in this time - it's an issue they simply must address if they are to finish this season in the top four.


But, to be frank, you cannot ask for better opposition to correct a problem than Huddersfield, and Arsenal's record versus the Terriers is superb. They've won 15 and lost just one of their last 18 games against them in all competitions, winning all three of their Premier League encounters by a 7-0 aggregate score. Even their one away clean sheet in the league since the start of 2018 was at the John Smith's Stadium.


Key players:


Christopher Schindler - With Huddersfield's huge goal scoring problems, I can't bring myself to pick an attacking player here. So Schindler it is, who will be key to them defensively if they are to pick up anything today.


Mesut Ozil - These are the types of games, against bottom half opposition, that Emery likes to utilise the German midfielder, having not even brought him on as a sub against Man City last time out. Ozil scored one and assisted two last time he faced Huddersfield, and should he play today, his quality with the final pass could be a killer weapon for Arsenal.





Liverpool v Bournemouth


After Manchester City's win at Everton in midweek, Liverpool will start a Premier League match off the top of the table for the first time since mid-December, having drawn their last two league games themselves.


Perhaps Jurgen Klopp's side will relish now being the chasers, as opposed to leading the way. Either way, performances must improve on those 1-1 draws with Leicester and West Ham. Liverpool may have only lost once in the league so far this season, but such is the standard of this year's title race, every dropped point is blown up in a manner unlike any other season beforehand.


This is a return to Anfield for Liverpool, where they are unbeaten in 33 league games - their best ever Premier League streak on home soil, and their visitors today are Bournemouth who are currently enduring some miserable away from. They have lost seven away league games on the bounce, including a 2-0 defeat at Cardiff last week.


And Bournemouth's record against Liverpool isn't the best either - in all competitions, they've lost nine of their last 11 games against the Reds, including each of the last three by a combined score of 11-0. They have only avoided defeat in this time in a 4-3 win at the Vitality Stadium in December 2016 and a 2-2 draw at Anfield later on that season - results that Eddie Howe will doubtless have looked back on for inspiration as they look to end their poor away run today.


Key players:


Jordan Henderson - I've picked him to emphasise his importance to this Liverpool side. Since his debut for the club, Liverpool have picked up 0.30 more points per game when he plays in the Premier League compared to when he hasn't, and that influence hasn't been diminished under Klopp either, with the Reds earning 0.23 points per game with their captain since the German's arrival. He played at right back against Leicester and not at all against West Ham, with Liverpool drawing both matches. His leadership and control in the midfield is absolutely vital to the club.


Josh King - With three goals in his last three league games, King is the man in form for Eddie Howe's side at the moment, and he will hope to get joy against a Liverpool side that has been conceding goals of late.





Southampton v Cardiff City


Cardiff's 2-0 win over Bournemouth last week was massive for their survival ambitions, especially going into this match against a Southampton side now just two points ahead of the Bluebirds.


The Saints are, however, unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions, albeit this run includes a penalty FA Cup elimination to Derby. In the league, they are undefeated in five, winning two of those - they last went longer without a league defeat in August 2016.


They will be confident going into this match, not least because of Cardiff's dire away record this season. Neil Warnock's side have earned just five points away from home this season, winning just once in 13 matches outside of Wales in all competitions in 2018-19. Correcting that today would be a massive scalp for Cardiff's push to avoid the drop, and would be a big setback for Southampton's newfound resurgence under their new manager.


Cardiff's record away at Southampton is not good, though. They may have won their only Premier League visit in April 2014 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (against Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton side, no less), but that victory represents their only triumph in their last 12 league visits to Southampton, of which they have lost eight.


But Cardiff did win the reverse meeting 1-0 in December, so they have a chance of completing a league double over the Saints for the first time since the 1962-63 second tier campaign. Hasenhuttl's side will be desperate to avoid that in order to remain above Cardiff in the table at the end of play.


Key players:


Nathan Redmond - With three goals and two assists under Ralph Hasenhuttl, including a goal at Burnley last week, the Austrian has clearly gotten the best from the wide man and will no doubt look to him to provide quality today.


Callum Paterson - He scored the winner when these sides last met, and his versatility of being able to play up front or at right back has been very important to Warnock this season.





Watford v Everton


This game is all about Marco Silva's return to his old club Watford, who he left after masses of media reports regarding Everton's approach for him. He's unlikely to be warmly welcomed back to Vicarage Road - a ground where he surprisingly only won three of his 12 matches as Hornets manager.


Overall, Watford's Premier League record against Everton is very poor, having only beaten them twice in 11 clashes. Indeed, only Liverpool and Man Utd (both seven) have won more top-flight matches away at Watford in the club's history than Everton (five).


And Javier Gracia's side have hit a bit of a stumbling block at Vicarage Road of late, winning just two of their last nine league games there, and this would be exactly the fixture they would want to improve upon that against their old manager.


But Marco Silva comes into this match under huge pressure himself - after defeat to Man City in midweek, they come into this game a point below Watford, and have only won three of their last 13 league matches, losing eight of those. Silva needs results, and he needs them sooner rather than later. The fact that he's facing his old club adds extra spice to that need for points, and makes this an intriguing watch.


Key players:


Jose Holebas - This game could well be decided by two of the Premier League's in-form left backs this season. Holebas has three Premier League assists against Everton to his name, and with six this season, finds himself in the top 10 for assists in the competition. The 34-year-old's delivery could be very important for Watford today, with only Leicester's James Maddison creating more chances from set-pieces than the full back - and we all know Everton have had troubles defending these so far this season.


Lucas Digne - Continuing the left back theme, Digne has been very impressive for Everton thus far. He scored his first Premier League goal in fine fashion the last time he played Watford, and having created 42 chances in the Premier League himself this season (that's as many as Christian Eriksen), he can be a strong creative option in the wide areas for Everton.





Brighton and Hove Albion v Burnley


I'll be honest, I wouldn't be expecting goals in this one. This is their fourth Premier League meeting, with the previous three seeing just one goal in total, a James Tarkowski winner in the reverse meeting this season.


Indeed, of the last 12 league meetings between these two sides, there have only been 16 goals - and there has been one or fewer goals in eight of those clashes. You can almost guarantee, if there are any guarantees in football, that this will be a tight one.


Burnley are currently on an impressive run of six unbeaten league games - only Solskjaer's Man Utd side are on a longer run without a Premier League loss, and that means the Clarets start today two points above the relegation places.


Meanwhile, Brighton have managed to win just one of their last 10 league games, beating Everton in December 2018, so they need to regain form - a loss today would mean they are level on points with Burnley, and they are by no means out of the relegation battle right now.


Key players:


Glenn Murray - He's without a goal in five home league games, but he did bag twice in midweek in their FA Cup replay with West Brom, so Murray will be crucial to Brighton's hopes for points today.


Tom Heaton - Burnley are yet to lose a Premier League game since his return to the side. Arguably, in Heaton and Pope, Burnley have both of England's finest shot stopping goalkeepers in their ranks. Poor Joe Hart.

Written by Reid the Red February 09 2019 10:30:09

 

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