By Neil Leverett
- The Britwatch Football Team give their preview and predictions for this weekend’s action
- Follow their progress throughout the season and see which writer takes up the Premier League Prediction cup
- Correct result gets one point, correct result and score gets three points.
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – Top-flight action returns to normalcy this weekend after the chaotic festive schedule, with Liverpool hosting Manchester City in the resounding highlight of the weekend. As usual our writers have had their say on what will happen.
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Chelsea vs. Leicester City (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: Matchweek 23 kicks off with two sides who were both taken to replays in the last weekend’s FA Cup third round. Blues’ striker Alvaro Morata is woefully short of confidence right now for Chelsea, but despite this the hosts have been able to pluck goals from all areas of the field – with Marcos Alonso on hot form as of late.
The Foxes have bit the buffers somewhat of late under Claude Puel, but come into this on the back of a 3-0 win over Huddersfield. If the visitors are to stand any chance of taking anything away from the weekend’s meeting they made need the services of Adrien Silva, who made his first start for Leicester last week and who is capable of lighting up the Premier League. As it is, I do see Chelsea coming out on top here, but only just.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Leicester City
Niall: After the FA Cup break, the Premier League is back with an intriguing contest at Stamford Bridge. The Champions welcome Leicester to their home ground hoping to leapfrog Manchester United into second. The Blues will have to be wary of the counter-attacking game of Leicester, but they should have enough going forward to cancel out any Leicester goals.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Leicester City
Crystal Palace vs. Burnley (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: The Eagles are well on their way to firing themselves away from the danger zone, just a few mere month to having been consigned to relegation to the Championship. Such has been the upturn in fortunes of Crystal Palace, the South London side have lost just once in 11 league games – to Arsenal over Christmas – and were denied taking Manchester City’s unbeaten run courtesy of a Luka Milivojevic missed stoppage-time penalty at Selhurst Park.
Burnley have faded away somewhat over the festive period taking just two points from 12, with hopes of an unlikely top-six finish having now retreated onto the horizon for now at least. The absence of Stephen Ward at full-back has been a huge void for the visitors and despite the return of James Tarkowski from injury and suspension, the Clarets’ solidity has been on the wane. This is tough one to call, but buoyed by the home support once more this Saturday, I can just see Roy Hodgson’s men taking the spoils.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Burnley
Niall: Resurgent Palace welcome one of the Premier League’s best away sides to Selhurst Park on Saturday when they host Burnley. With Burnley being as defensively tight as they are, goals may be at a premium. It will be a close contest that could go either way, so I am splitting the difference and going for a draw.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Burnley
Huddersfield Town vs. West Ham United (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: The Terriers will be looking to re-ignite their domestic fire this weekend at home to West Ham United, having gone winless in their last four. Having been rotated over the festive period front man Laurent Depoitre will be eyeing a return to the goals, with the Belgian likely to be favoured over the shot-shy Steve Mounie.
How big might Andy Carroll’s last-gasp winner against West Brom prove to be a fortnight ago? Having held Tottenham Hotspur at bay at Wembley Stadium last time out, the Hammers almost stole a precious three points via Pedro Obiang’s 30-yard thunderbolt just over a week ago. David Moyes’ men have lost once in just over a month, and that statistic will doubtful be threatened at the John Smiths Stadium. I do however think that both sides will take a point.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 2-2 West Ham United
Niall: West Ham were the first side to inflict defeat on Huddersfield this season, can they repeat it when they meet at the John Smiths Stadium? Home form has been the key to Huddersfield’s success thus far and they have proven very difficult to beat here. I feel the home fans might inspire the Terriers to a narrow win in this one.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 2-1 West Ham United
Newcastle United vs. Swansea City (Saturday, 15:00)
Neil: The Christmas schedule has been a fruitful one for The Magpies having taken eight points from a possible 12, to temporarily allay fears of slipping back down to the top tier of English football. A front man will very much be on the agenda for boss Rafa Benitez however, should Newcastle’s planned takeover come to pass before February 1 arrives.
Swansea have shown signs of marginal improvement under Carlos Carvalhal, but still remain thick in the relegation picture going into the second half of the season. This will be tight affair I fancy, and accordingly I am going to back the draw.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-1 Swansea City
Niall: This is a relegation six-pointer and comes in that ‘must not lose’ category for both sides. Newcastle in particular are in need of a home win to really push themselves away from the relegation zone, and given their rot has stopped in the New Year, I think they will get it done.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-0 Swansea City
Watford vs. Southampton (Saturday, 15.00)
Neil: Two sides struggling to put together anything resembling form meet at Vicarage Road this Saturday. The Hornets have plummeted down the league standings after a scintillating start to the campaign, with Marco Silva’s men now closer to the drop zone than the top six.
The Saints also are scrambling to get a win on the board, having not done so since late November at home to a-then struggling Everton side at St. Marys’. Southampton, without top-scorer Charlie Austin will be looking to Shane Long to score in successive games after breaking his 10-month goal drought, but I rather fancy that neither side will want to lose this one. The score and indeed 90 minutes in Hertfordshire, may well reflect this.
Prediction: Watford 0-0 Southampton
Niall: Speaking of two teams that need a win. Watford face Southampton in a battle of two out of form sides in the Premier League. The Saints have dropped all the way to 17th, and whilst Watford remain in the top half, they are not in good form themselves. However, I do feel the Hornets are the stronger unit overall and will have the edge in this contest.
Prediction: Watford 2-1 Southampton
West Bromwich Albion vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Saturday, 15.00)
Neil: Having recorded their first win under Alan Pardew in the cup last weekend, the Baggies will now look to carry that through back to their plight in staying in the Premier League. There is no question the hosts are exhibiting a greater attacking verve of late – not that that was a difficult feat to manage – but West Brom need some good fortune to come their way.
Brighton still look relatively comfortable in their league perch for the time being, but their sole win against Watford two days before Christmas Day – their first in over a month – still sees Chris Hughton’s men glancing nervously over their shoulder. Glenn Murray is proving to be quite the underrated clinician in front of goal with the veteran striker now on seven goals in all competitions this campaign – a tally which could go a long way to top-flight survival come May. I just get the feeling the hosts will sneak the full points here, but I fully expect the Seagulls to give them a run for their money.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Niall: Joint bottom West Brom are in desperate need of a win when they host Brighton on Saturday. The Baggies appointed Pardew in hope of turning their season around and thus far it has not panned out. I feel with Brighton not being great travelers, West Brom take a narrow victory.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton (Saturday, 17:30)
Neil: Saturday evening sees Tottenham Hotspur host Everton at Wembley. Having been held by the Irons last time out, Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be keen to bounce back after almost falling foul of a Moyes masterplan just over a week ago in North London. After failing to notch in his first two games of 2018, a Harry Kane brace against AFC Wimbledon last weekend put the England man firmly back on the goal hunt and a third successive Golden Boot.
The task in recording a win will not come easy here however, against a Toffees side who could throw £27m singing Cenk Tosun into the mix this weekend, with sources of creativity not lacking in supply on Merseyside. I see both sides scoring here, indeed for the second game running I am tipping a scoring draw.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Everton
Niall: Saturday evening’s offering sees Tottenham host Everton in a top ten showdown at Wembley. Spurs are looking to propel themselves back into the top four, and with Liverpool facing Man City on Sunday, they could go level with the Reds. Everton are a difficult side to beat under Sam Allardyce, and they will set up to frustrate Spurs. However, Pochettino’s side are in fine form and I feel they will extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Everton
AFC Bournemouth vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 13:30)
Neil: The first of a Matchweek 23 double-header on Sunday afternoon sees an uncertain Arsenal side travel to the Vitality Stadium. Five points from four games has seen the Cherries enjoy what would be seen as a merry yuletide period on the south coast ahead of the visit of the Gunners. Bournemouth will surely have enough to stay up this season, but in spite of the return to form of dynamo Ryan Fraser, the lack of goals up front from Callum Wilson – with Jermain Defoe out until March with a broken ankle – could prompt Eddie Howe into the transfer market.
The Alexis Sanchez saga has once again reared its’ ugly head with the re-opening of the transfer window, with the departure of the Chilean more likely than not come the end of the month. The situation continues to be a hugely destabilising factor for the visitors, and I can’t see where the goals are going to flow from with Alexandre Lacazette in the middle of a barren spell up front. I do think Arsenal will just have enough to take the win, but I rather fancy it to be far from a glamourous win for Arsene Wenger’s men.
Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal
Niall: Can Arsenal recover from their shock FA Cup defeat when they travel to Bournemouth on Sunday? They need to for sure, because they could end up losing ground on the top four if not. The Cherries are not an easy match, especially at the Vitality, but Howe’s side can not get a run together. This has a feel that it will be a big test for the Gunners, but I expect them to get through it in a high scoring match.
Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Arsenal
Liverpool vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 16:00)
This one really sticks out as another potential Anfield classic – is there anything else? The words ‘Super Sunday’ does not do this game justice as there is a sense that Liverpool may be one of the only sides left that can inflict a defeat on Pep Guardiola’s men – especially in front of the Kop. Mo Salah is expected to return to the fold having missed the last two games with a groin injury, and the Egyptian’s full bill of health is a timely one, with Philippe Coutinho having finally departed for Spanish shores and FC Barcelona.
Manchester City again came through a rigourous test against Bristol City in the Carabao Cup in midweek, and the Citizens refuse to give up until the final minutes of a game – a sign of champions. Whilst that is now almost assured, there may be a fork or two in the road before them before they lift the Premier League trophy again and Sunday’s meeting is very much in that bracket. With Kevin De Bruyne having made a miraculous recovery from what could have been a broken leg after Jason Puncheon’s reckless challenge against Palace, the Belgian has, if anything, played even better – if that is at all possible. Salah, De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sadio Mane; it all makes for the perfect cocktail of goals aplenty. And you know what, I think the Reds might just have enough to break the streak.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City
Niall: And now it is time for the main event of the weekend. This has potential to be a great match and it is one of the tougher tests Guardiola will face this season. Their meeting at the Etihad was very close until Mane saw red, and Liverpool’s success means they are one of the sides you point to when looking for a team to best Man City. However, there are questions. How will they be without Coutinho? How will their defence cope with the relentless attack of Man City? All I can guarantee is goals, apart from that I have a hard time picking a result. Therefore I am going for a score draw.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City
Manchester United vs. Stoke City (Monday, 20:00)
Neil: Matchweek 23 concludes with a Monday night offering from Old Trafford as Stoke visit Manchester United. Murmurings off the field in the red half of city continue, whilst Jose Mourinho continues his heated and personal battle with Blues boss Chelsea also. At home, Red Devils fans are still not happy with the lack of attacking football on display from the former champions, with Romelu Lukaku coming under growing criticism from growing areas of the fanbase.
Having finally fallen victim to the managerial chop last weekend, the Potters begin the post-Mark Hughes era against United. Quique Sanchez Flores has been whispered as the man to take over in the Potteries, but for now Eddie Niedzwiecki is likely to take the reins for the trip to Manchester on Monday night. It is doubtful any changes will be in force by kick-off and therefore any improvements in Stoke’s play will surely be at a premium. With the form of Jesse Lingard currently the starlet could be in for more fare here.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City
Niall: Stoke begin life without Hughes against Manchester United, who could potentially close the gap between themselves and their neighbours at the top of the table. The Potters are in a big struggle, and I do not see them troubling United. I think it will be a flat contest and one the Red Devils will win.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City
Premier League Matchweek 23 takes place this weekend across the country
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