Single word yields best result

Football News: Premier League Match Previews Saturday 23rd September 2017

Premier League Match Previews Saturday 23rd September 2017
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Saturday 23rd September 2017


West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur 12:30pm kick off

Collins (ankle injury - expected return mid-October) out
Obiang (muscular injury - expected return next weekend) doubt
Fernandes (ankle injury - expected return next weekend) doubt
Lanzini (knee injury - expected return mid-October) out
Henry (ACL injury - expected return ?) out

The Hammers finally seem to be waking up after a poor start to the season once again. While the upturn in form coincided with the return of Andy Carroll from injury, the way Slaven Blilic is playing other players out of position to shoehorn him into the side has to be a concern. Chicarito is a lot of things, but he is not a left winger and it is wasting his talents to play him out there. What happens when Andy Carroll picks up an injury yet again? We all know he is prone to injury, so why build around him? It is a recipe for long term problems when he once again goes out on the pop and falls off a bar stool, doing his cruciate in the process.
Most important player: Cheikhou Kouyate. In the absence of Obiang, Kouyate is the sole player to provide energy and pace in the centre of midfield for West Ham. It is likely he will be partnered with Noble, which is becoming painful to watch as Noble just looks so far off the pace it is frightening. Kouyate has to do most of the running for him.


Wanyama (knee injury - expected return mid-October) out
Rose (MCL injury - expected return late October) out
Lamela (hip injury - expected return November) out


It has been a slow start for Spurs in the Premier League, with the team still looking nowhere near comfortable playing at Wembley. The slightly bigger pitch, crowd being further from the pitch, general unfamiliarity of surroundings and the fact that opponents raise their game, because it is Wembley and they might never get another chance to play there, are all contributing to some poorer results than Pochettino would have expected. I do wonder how much has been caused by the change in pitch dimension Spurs arranged for this season. After all, the team had played there plenty of times in the previous configuration and the players would be familiar with the landmarks around them, in a similar way to a racing driver uses the surroundings to help. While a driver will use those landmarks to tell them when to brake and turn into a corner, players use the surroundings to tell them whereabouts they are, their teammates are and the opposition are. The peripheries of a pitch help a player instinctively know how hard to hit a pass, for instance, a slight change to pitch dimensions changes all that. It may only be a tiny change, but these are the little things that make a difference between home record and away record, the kind of tiny margin that turns a champion into a runner up or a top 4 side into a side having to win the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League the following season.
Most important player: Christian Eriksen. The Dane's creativity is vital to Tottenham's chances for this season. They have the firepower to put the ball into the back of the net, it is Eriksen's job to give the ball to the likes of Kane in dangerous areas of the pitch.


Defining Battle: with Tottenham playing a back 3 with Davinson Sanchez in the centre, who clearly has not adjusted to the pace of the Prem and so continues to dawdle on the ball and take needless risks in possession, I would normally see the key as how well the opposition forward can exploit that and put him under pressure. However Carroll will be the man he is up against and he is not the most mobile, nor one who will harry and chase Sanchez to force those silly errors he is incredibly prone to. Sanchez is very physical and so should be able to deal with Carroll's physical presence. That leaves the key to this game on the flanks, not necessarily either side's wingbacks, but the space in behind them. Which team can best exploit that with their wide forwards or their own wingbacks will have a massive advantage.



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


Burnley v Huddersfield Town 3pm kick off

Walters (knee injury) late fitness test
Heaton (dislocated shoulder - no return date yet) out
Wells (ankle injury - expected return mid-October) out
Marney (ACL injury - expected return November) out

Now Sean Dyche has figured out how to get results away from home as well as at home, Burnley look a much better team. Now he just has to ensure performance levels do not drop, as the players are currently performing at a much higher level than you would expect. That has been the key to Burnley's comparative success, Dyche's ability to get the whole to perform much better than the sum of its parts. He does not manage 11 players on the pitch, he manages 1 team and that is the key to keeping them in the Premier League.
Most important player: Ben Mee. The former left back has shown himself to be more than just a good defender, he is someone who makes those around him better. It is beginning to look almost like he carries his partner to a degree, as former centre back partner Michael Keane struggles badly at Everton and looks anything but the player he was at the Clarets. The way Tarkowski plays alongside Mee is wholly different from the level he performs at without him, as he showed in the EFL Cup defeat against Leeds United in mid-week.


Van La Parra (muscular injury) late fitness test
Quaner (calf strain expected return mid-October) out
Williams (fractured foot no return date yet) out
Depoitre (muscle strain) late fitness test
Mounie (heel injury expected return next weekend) out
Palmer (hamstring injury expected return November) out
Stankovic (ACL injury no return date yet) out

Huddersfield are suddenly finding the Premier League a lot harder than they did initially, they have not won for 3 games now, 4 if you include the EFL Cup. It does feel like the bubble has burst and they are now in for a long, hard season slogging it out in a relegation battle. Wagner needs to arrest the clip before it becomes a plummet down the table like so many other clubs have done in the past.
Most important player: Aaron Mooy. He is the centre of everything the Terriers do, the one who makes them tick. Stop him and you pretty much stop them.


Defining Battle: for me the key to this is how Burnley set their stall out. If they do their usual, sit deep, look for quick attacks launched from deep, then they should have enough to deal with anything the Yorkshire team can throw at them. However, if they decide to be a bit more attacking, as they are at home against a weaker team on paper, then it could be the Lancashire side unhappy, as Huddersfield have the pace to exploit gaps behind the defence.


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


Everton v Bournemouth 3pm kick off

Barkley (hamstring injury expected return November) out
McCarthy (knee injury expected return mid-October) out
Funes Mori (ACL injury expected return April 2018) out
Coleman (broken leg expected return end of November - back in training) out
Bolasie (ACL injury expected return end of November) out

This season was beginning to descend into a complete disaster for the Toffees after a bright opening. Three Premier League defeats in a row, with an increasing margin of defeat each time, going from 2-0 to 3-0 and then a 4-0 defeat last time out. The blue half of Merseyside was in danger of a complete collapse in confidence and, worse still, the fans turning on the manager due to his negative tactics. A win in the EFL Cup against Sunderland has calmed things down for now and brought some perspective back to proceedings. Other than the Atalanta defeat in the Europa League, the defeats have been no surprise and are to teams that would expect to beat Everton. The concern now is the manner of the defeats and the lack of attacking intent shown against a ten man Manchester City side which allowed them back into the game. Koeman just needs to be more positive, to actually go out and look for the win, as the fans do not expect the result in those games, they just expect to see their side attempt to get a good result, rather than just try and sit back and keep the score down. Making comments about a realistic expectation, following a huge summer spending spree, is merely to finish in the same place as the previous season is not helping.
Most important player: Michael Keane. So far this season he has been terrible, as he struggles to build some kind of partnership with either Jagielka or Williams. Unfortunately for him, those two have the pace and mobility of a 3 legged geriatric tortoise which has been rolled onto its back.


Federici (knee injury expected return December) out
Wilson (ACL injury expected return October) out
Wiggins (knee injury) out

After starting the season with 4 Premier League defeats, it was a massive relief for the Cherries to finally get a result with a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend. However that win will mean nothing if they fail to build on it with a result away at Goodison Park. They need to take advantage of Everton's recent Premier League struggles and get themselves out of the relegation zone before they get entrenched down there.
Most important player: Simon Francis. While it does seem almost cruel not to put forward Jordon Ibe after he came on and changed the game last weekend, I still cannot look past Francis as the key. So far this season he has looked completely out of his depth. His tackling has been rash, his positioning has been terrible and he has been no better on the ball either. Howe really needs his captain to step up and refind his form.



Defining Battle: the key to this game will be the set pieces, can Bournemouth avoid giving away too many free kicks in dangerous areas for Sigurdsson to take. They will need to, though Everton do lack a finisher to get on the end of them, so the real danger might be around the edge of the box for a direct shot.


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


Manchester City v Crystal Palace 3pm kick off

Kompany (calf injury) slight doubt
Gundogan (knee injury) doubt

Once more Citeh have started the season off flying, looking like potential champions. However they also did this last season before slumping badly after the first 6 games. Are they the real deal this time around or will their reliance on Kompany once again cost them? You would have to think that spending roughly half a billion pounds, let that sink in for a moment, half a billion, in two seasons under Pep should be able to turn any team into a title winning side. It should not matter what the team was like that he inherited as he has spent enough to buy a title winning squad from scratch. There can be no excuses for him this season.
Most important player: Sergio Aguero. The Argentine striker is on fire right now and Palace are unlikely to give up many chances with Hodgson in charge, so he will need to make the most of any that present themselves.


Zaha (knee injury expected return mid-October) out
Wickham (ACL injury no return date yet) out

After 5 straight defeats, one under new manager Roy Hodgson, the fans will not be expecting much from this game, but they can be sure that Hodgson will have the team better drilled defensively, though they will no more likely to score goals under him. They will defend deep, keep compact and look to snatch goals where they can. Their main aim will be purely to stop the opposition. Right now though anything would be an improvement over what was happening under De Boer.
Most important player: Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The youngster on loan from Chelsea was an integral part of the team under Frank de Boer, but now he has to win over the new coach.


Defining Battle: this could very well end up like a training game, attack against defence and it will be all about how well Palace can defend and hold off City's waves of attacks. Their whole ambition might just be to keep the score as low as possible.


Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 5-0
Ed003 - 4-0
Ed004 - 4-0
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 3-0
Ed025 - 4-0
Ed033 - 2-0


Southampton v Manchester United 3pm kick off

Targett (ankle injury expected back mid-October) out
Austin (knock) slight doubt
Hojbjerg (given leave after the birth of his daughter) doubt

It has been a difficult start for Pellegrino, the team has really struggled to score goals, but they have also managed to keep from conceding too many, so have stayed in the top half. They will certainly have their work cut out against a rampant Man Utd, who are demolishing all before them right now. The only team to give them problems and take points off them were Stoke, who went at them and took the game to the Red Devils. That could be a problem for Saints, as Pellegrino has not so far sent his team out to get at their opponents. Could that cost them badly?
Most important player: Wesley Hoedt. So far the big Dutch defender has been a revelation at Soton, but today will be a big test of his ability to defend.


Pogba (hamstring injury no return date yet) out
Ibrahimovic (ACL injury expected return January 2018) out
Rojo (ACL injury expected return late December) out
Wilson (ACL injury back in training) doubt
Tuanzebe (back injury no return date yet) doubt

With United in such superb form at the moment, all they have to do is keep on doing what they are doing. Even the loss of record signing Paul Pogba to injury has not stopped them. Yet even a 4-0 win was not enough to keep them top. Will the crack before the blue half of the city of Manchester or will it be United who keep going when City wilt? With Jose at the helm, you would expect the Red Devils to continue to grind out results, even when performance levels dip.
Most important player: Romelu Lukaku. Without his best mate Pogba around, United need to be careful he does not retreat back into his shell, as he is known to be a shy lad by nature. The more outgoing Pogba has made him much more outgoing and helped him to fit in quickly at United. Now he just needs to keep on going as he has been, with 5 goals in 5 games.


Decisive Battle: the battle between Lukaku and the Southampton defence is the key to this game. If they can manage to keep him out of the game, the way he was kept out of some games while playing for Everton, United could struggle.


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


Stoke City v Chelsea 3pm kick off

Wimmer (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Diouf (knee injury) late fitness test
Cameron (hamstring injury expected return end September) out
Shawcross (back injury) slight doubt
Ngoy (thigh strain expected return end September) out
Afellay (knee injury no return date yet) out
Ireland (broken leg expected return end October) out
Zouma (loaned from Chelsea so unable to play) out

Another up and down season for the Potters under Hughes, with little sign of the team developing consistency any time soon. Despite all the years Hughes has been in charge, there are still no reasons for believing the club is moving forward under him. This season has to change that or patience might well run out from the fans and owners towards a man who is not the most popular anyway.
Most important player: Jese. The Spaniard on loan from Paris Saint-Germain can make the difference. He has that bit of skill and pace to go with it, that defenders hate. On a good day he can win a game on his own, unfortunately his career has not had enough good days in it so far.


Pedro (ankle injury) slight doubt
Luiz (suspended, also has broken wrist) out
Drinkwater (calf strain expected return mid-October) out

After the initial shock defeat to Burnley, the Chelsea machine has slipped right back into gear, though the draw with Arsenal was a bit of a bump in the road. Chelsea look a lot like they did last season, ready to roll over weaker teams and battle to wins or draws with the bigger ones. The main difference this season is that the team has suffered disruption with injuries. Conte will certainly be glad that the squad was strengthened in the summer.
Most important player: Gary Cahill. Despite him feeling like the weak link at the back for Chelsea, Conte highly values his will to win and desire to throw his body in where it hurts when needed.


Defining Battle: with Chelsea missing the pinpoint passing of Luiz, they are likely to struggle to create as many chances as they normally do, so it is important they can win control of the ball quickly and efficiently in midfield and keep it to allow them to build. The midfield will be key to this game, Stoke need to ensure they give them no time and space to create.


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


Swansea City v Watford 3pm kick off

Bartley (MCL injury expected return mid-November) out
Sung-Yeung (knee injury back in training but lacking fitness) out
Blair (broken foot expected return mid-October) out
Bia Bi (hamstring injury expected return November) out
Dyer (achilles injury) doubt

Clement's time with Swansea, like his time in charge of Derby County, is being hit with accusations over his style of play, which has been called boring and tedious. With less shots in total this season than Romelu Lukaku has had on his own, there are very few arguments to dismiss the accusations. Just 2 goals scored in 5 matches and a style of play that lacks excitement, Clement really needs results to avoid the style of play becoming more of a problem.
Most important player: Renato Sanches. So far the Portugese midfielder has been looking like a complete waste of money paying that huge loan fee. By now he should be nearing full fitness and he needs to improve his contribution.


Zarate (fitness) out
Kaboul (hamstring injury no return date yet) out
Femenia (head injury) slight doubt
Prodl (hamstring injury expected return mid-October) out
Cathcart (knee injury no return date yet) out
Hoban (ACL injury no return date yet) out
Britos (suspended) out

It was all going so well for Marco Silva until last weekend when Man City hit them for 6. With a perfect away record so far, 2 wins, no goals conceded and 4 scored, the Hornets will head to South Wales full of confidence. Especially considering the Swans performances this season.
Most important player: Andre Gray. With Swansea playing so defensively, Gray will need to be at his best if Watford are to win.


Defining Battle: the main battle will be between Richarlison and Naughton. Naughton will need to be on his game to stop the Brazilian from creating chances.


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


Leicester City v Liverpool 5:30pm kick off

Ulloa (head injury) doubt
Vardy (groin injury) slight doubt
Fuchs (eye injury) slight doubt
Huth (ankle injury back in training after a knock suffered in a reserves match while trying to rebuild his fitness) out
James (achilles injury expected return end October) out

It has not been the best of starts for the Foxes in the Premier League and questions have begun to be asked of Craig Shakespeare and whether he is the right man to lead Leicester forward. With just one win, the over newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion, Shakespeare could do with a good home result to lift some of the pressure. Having beaten Liverpool in midweek in an EFL Cup match up, the Foxes will at least have confidence in their ability to handle a Liverpool side missing arguably their most important player.
Most important player: Jamie Vardy. With Liverpool's defence tending towards a high line and lacking pace, Vardy has a chance to exploit the space in behind using his pace.


Can (knock) late fitness test
Matip (knock) late fitness test
Lovren (back strain) late fitness test
Lallana (thigh strain no return date yet) out
Clyne (back injury no return date yet) out
Bogdan (ACL injury no return date yet) out
Mane (suspended) out

It has all gone a bit pear-shaped for Jurgen Klopp's team in recent weeks, since the hammering they handed Arsenal in fact. Performances have gone from breathtaking and fluent to disjointed and disappointing. Now they have the incentive of getting revenge against the Foxes for the midweek defeat in the League Cup to motivate them, they need to respond and silence the critics before it becomes a witch hunt, like the one that the media began against Karius last season.
Most important player: Mohamed Salah. With no Mane for the Reds the onus is on Salah to make the runs and take his chances to add to his 3 goals so far this season.


Defining Battle: the midfield battle will be key as it was midweek. Leicester started that game standing off the Liverpool midfield and allowed it to control the game and create chances. They can not afford to do that with the first choice team out, as Salah is much more of a goal threat than Oxlade-Chamberlain.


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


Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed007 - 15 points
2. Ed002 - 14 points
3. Ed018 - 13 points
4. Ed003 - 10 points
5. Ed025 - 9 points
6= Ed004 - 6 points
6= Ed033 - 6 points

*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 22nd September 2017

Written by Tris Burke September 23 2017 07:34:39