EPL Matchweek 13: Insights and Predictions
I don’t know about you, but I wish we had real football on Thanksgiving. Sure, watching the Vikings win again was fun, I guess, but not nearly as fun as watching Man City score for what seems like the 100th time this season, or de Bruyne make passes you didn’t even know were physically possible, or Liverpool concede again. American football just lacks the elegance and finesse that soccer has. Soccer is just such a unique sport, and there is no substitute. So, bask in the glory this weekend, enjoy the beautiful game, enjoy your food coma, and as always, enjoy this EPL Preview brought to you by The Great Zamboni.
West Ham vs. Leicester City
Leicester City travel to the London Stadium to take on West Ham on Friday in a 12th vs 18th battle. Both teams are coming off losses in the last matchweek, and David Moyes is not off to a good start with the Hammers. The fact that he criticized his players in a press conference after his first game since becoming manager, a 2–0 loss against Watford, instead of in the locker room is sure to put his relationship with the players on the rocks, and it just might play with their heads for the game against Leicester. On top of that, West Ham are missing two members of their strike force, Chicharito and Michail Antonio, as well as defender James Collins through injury. Luckily, forwards Ayew and Arnautovic look to be fit for the match, and they will be needed if the Hammers want to take points from Leicester. Leicester come off a 1–3 loss to Man City, but look like they will pull this one off. Victory for Moyes’ West Ham will have to wait, as Leicester will see this one through, 1–2, courtesy of a Vardy brace and a late consolation goal from Ayew.
Man United vs. Brighton
Brighton travel to Old Trafford to face off against the Red Devils, and they’ll be looking to steal a point off of United to keep their club mid table, along with the other two newly promoted sides. All three promoted sides have looked good, but Brighton is the best of the three at the moment, sitting in 9th place. They drew 2–2 against Stoke City last week, but that won’t faze them. They’ll come into this game looking for a fight. Only Steve Sidwell, who played a vital role in central midfield in the Seagulls’ promotion campaign, is out injured. However, they really don’t seem to be struggling without him. United have Marcos Rojo, Ibrahimovic, and Pogba back from injury and are ready to get the wheels rolling again and catch up to rivals Manchester City. Both sides will be determined to get a result to help their cause, but I think the red side of Manchester will have this one in the bag. Man United will take three points home in a 3–1 win, with Ibrahimovic scoring his first goal back from an ACL injury and proving that lions heal better than humans.
Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City
Mark Hughes’ Stoke City line up at Selhurst park to face off against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal palace. Honestly, Crystal Palace should just give up now. They sit in last place and there really isn’t much hope for them to avoid relegation come the end of the season unless they do a complete 180, which I find incredibly unlikely. They’ve shown brief glimpses that they can perform, but those glimpses are few and far between, and consistency is critical for a Premier League club. Stoke are sitting in 15th place and if results go their way they could jump as high as 10th. Stoke would struggle to keep goals out during the absence of shotstopper Jack Butland, who broke his finger on internation duty with England, but that would require Crystal Palace to have a half decent attack. Nonetheless, Stoke will head home with a 0–2 win and 3 points further away from the bottom of the table off of goals from Crouchinho and Shaqiri.
Tottenham vs. West Brom
4th place Spurs take on 17th place West Brom at Wembley on Saturday, and they’ll be looking for 3 points to leapfrog reigning champions Chelsea, who sit 3rd in the table. Chelsea play Liverpool, so this is one of the best shots Tottenham have at going up the table, given the state of their opposition. West Brom will be looking to bolster their spirits following the sacking of Tony Pulis, however they would be in better spirits if they were able to find a manager. The hunt is going poorly; after a failed attempt to lure previous West Ham boss Slaven Bilic back to the Premier League they have set their sights on Alan Pardew. Whatever poor man ends up with this job will have to turn something around quick, because West Brom are this close to the bottom three, and a one-way trip down to the Championship. Though Tottenham are missing three key plays in defender Toby Alderweireld, defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama, and attacking midfielder Erik Lamela, who looks like he could make a return this weekend, Spurs have enough reserves to cover the three holes created by their respective absences. West Brom are missing midfielder James Morrison, who is absolutely crucial to the Baggies, and I can’t see them picking up a good result without his help keeping possession. 3–0 will be the score in Tottenham’s favor, with Harry Kane and Son contributing to the goal tally.
Swansea City vs. Bournemouth
19th place Swansea face off at home against 13th place Bournemouth at the Liberty Stadium in Wales. Swansea are desperately missing Icelandic playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, who transferred to Everton this summer (and hasn’t done much for them). He was instrumental in their battle to avoid relegation last season, and without him they may not be successful this time around. The team just doesn’t look the same without him. Meanwhile at Bournemouth, Callum Wilson marked his return from a long injury stint with a hat trick against Huddersfield last week. The striker has returned and he is unfazed and ready for the challenge of the premier league after a long and grueling series of injuries that kept him away from the pitch for too long. Bournemouth will leave Wales with a 1–2 victory over Swansea, with a goal from Callum Wilson, continuing to show his stuff.
Newcastle vs. Watford
Marco Silva leads his side to St James’ Park to play Newcastle United. Watford are one of the many teams this season that have no trouble scoring but plenty defending. Nonetheless, I’ve been impressed with their results so far, managing to steal points off multiple clubs that many consider to be above them. Their tenacity, as well as their leaky defense, will show in this game vs Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’ Magpies are one of three newly promoted sides, and are making a strong showing in their return to the premier league, sitting at 11th place in the table. They’ve really hit the ground running, showing they really want to be here in the Premier League, unlike some teams, cough Crystal Palace cough. Newcastle will show their stuff against a side that consistently gets results, and the game will end in a 2–2 draw, with Watford’s loose defense unable to keep out Newcastle.
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Liverpool host Chelsea in a top six battle this week. Chelsea sit 3rd in the table and their season has gone well so far, though not as well as last year’s title winning season. They haven’t lost a league game since Crystal Palace, and are only 1 point behind Manchester United. Chelsea’s defense looks solid this season, only conceding 10 goals thus far, the second lowest of the top six. Liverpool, on the other hand, have conceded the most of the top six, at 17, while only scoring one more goal than Chelsea. Chelsea will look to capitalize on Liverpool’s unstable defense and bag a crucial goal, since both teams need these points to continue chasing first placed Man City, and it will be a close call to see who gets them. I think Chelsea will come away with it. A 0–1 victory for Chelsea from a Morata goal will seal the deal.
Southampton vs. Everton
Southampton and Everton sit on the wrong half of the table and are playing for 3 points to inch away from the relegation zone. Southampton sit in 14th, and while they hoped to do better this isn’t the end of the world. Everton, on the other hand, must be seriously wondering what happened to lead to their 16th place position after so much investment in the summer. Their hopes of finishing in a European spot again and going deep into a Europa League campaign are now overshadowed by concerns over a possible battle with relegation.
The season is still young but something has to change, and fast, if this club wants to get back to where it has aspirations to be. Southampton will walk out victorious with a 2–1 win, owing to two Gabbiadini goals to cancel out one Rooney goal.
Burnley FC vs. Arsenal
Burnley are hot on Arsenal’s heels for a top six spot right now, and this game is an opportunity for them to overtake the Gunners. If you would have asked me who the “best of the rest” would be before this season started, I would never have said Burnley. Everton, West Ham, Leicester even, would have been my predictions, but Burnley have been electric. Their defense has looked rock solid this season, making up for their below average attack. Arsenal, on the other hand, have no trouble scoring, but plenty of trouble keeping the ball out of their own net. They come into this game after a disappointing 1–0 loss to Cologne in the Europa League, even though they did clinch the top spot in their group. I think Burnley have a real chance to steal 3 points and a European spot off an underachieving Arsenal, and they’ll do it in a 1–0 win for Burnley, with a goal from Chris Wood in the first half and a staunch defensive performance in the second half sealing 3 points for the Clarets.
Huddersfield vs. Man City
Huddersfield Town hosts Manchester City this Sunday. Huddersfield took down giants Manchester United last month in a shock 2–1 win, but have only 3 points from 9 since then. They sit right in the middle of the table at 10th currently and are looking likely candidates to avoid relegation, which is very impressive for a newly promoted side. City, on the other hand, sit top of the table, still yet to lose a game this season. Huddersfield will be rejuvenated for this match, with Christopher Schindler and Jonathan Hogg back from injury, and Aaron Mooy in good spirits after Australia’s World Cup qualification. Mooy is easily the most important player on the field for Huddersfield, with the most goals and assists, chances created, and successful passes, among other statistics. All in all, the Australian is the mastermind behind this Huddersfield Town side, and will be instrumental in getting any points from City. His counterpart on the blue side of Manchester is Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian has a total of 9 goals and assists, the 3rd most chances created in the Premier League at 33, and the 2nd most passes in the opposition half, at 655. Statistics don’t paint the whole picture, but Kevin de Bruyne is one of the best playmakers in the Premier League. Regardless, the way forward for each team will be shutting down the opposition’s playmaker. If either team can do that, the game will certainly go in their favor. Unsurprisingly, I think Man City will be the ones to do that, limiting Mooy to 1 goal, and leading to a 1–4 win for Man City with help from an Aguero brace, with Mooy putting one lonely goal in for Huddersfield.