By Ryan Moran
- In form Arsenal take on a Tottenham unbeaten since 8th
- Jose Mourinho to complete stadium ban against Stoke.
- Remi Garde to take charge of Aston Villa for first time against Manchester City.
From a North London derby to a bottom of the table clash, this weekend’s fixtures provide something to play for in all parts of the table. As Remi Garde watches from the Villa Park touchline for the first time, Jose Mourinho will watch his Chelsea side from his hotel room in Stoke as the manager serves his stadium ban.
Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur
With a head to head record that favours Arsenal at home, Tottenham will be hoping to extend their unbeaten record to 11 games with a win or draw at the Emirates Stadium. Mixed results in midweek leave the Gunners relying on their league form to show on the pitch having been beaten 5-1 in Munich on Wednesday. As for Spurs a win over Anderlecht in midweek would have boosted confidence in the side going into Sunday’s encounter in the derby.
Harry Kane has started to produce the goal scoring form many doubted the striker would be able to produce for a second consecutive season, taking his tally to five goals in 11 appearances. As for the home side, Olivier Giroud has become a vital piece of the winning jigsaw, taking his tally to six with his sixth goal coming in last week’s 3-0 victory over Swansea.
Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey remain side lined through injury while the away side are without Clinton Njie. Son Heung-min came on as a substitute against Anderlecht after being out for six weeks, the South Korean could make an appearance in the derby.
AFC Bournemouth vs Newcastle United
Newcastle occupy the first relegation spot with Bournemouth a point above them. Their trip to the Vitality Stadium will either lift the Magpies out of the bottom three or leave them four points adrift of safety. An injury hit Cherries side are feeling the full effect of the crisis with their summer spending watching from the side lines due to injury.
The away side appear to be turning a corner in terms of form but nothing is showing in the league table or in their results. Steve Mclaren felt his side dropped two points, that’s what you get when you don’t find the net. The problem for both sides is who is scoring the goals in the side? Simple answer is no one. Glenn Murray showed signs of producing the form he showed in the Championship with Crystal Palace before picking up an injury while for Mclaren, there is no outright goal scorer in the side.
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool has started the upward spiral with three consecutive wins in all competitions. After three draws from the German’s first three games, the ex-Borussia Dortmund manager hopes to continue his unbeaten run to five games. Alan Pardew’s Palace side sit two places below Liverpool, separated by only a point.
Victory for either side would have a profound difference with Everton playing West Ham and Tottenham playing Arsenal, two sides at least have to drop points in those encounters. Victory for Liverpool would leave the Eagles four points adrift while victory for the away side could propel them three places up the league into seventh depending on results elsewhere, with the same outcome for the home side.
Philippe Coutinho was key in Klopp’s first Premier League win with a brace bringing his side from behind and into the lead in a game Chelsea lead for 41 minutes. The Brazilian’s form has been questioned at times but proved his critics wrong with the midfielder’s performance at Chelsea. In attack, options have been restricted as a result of injury, Roberto Firmino playing in the number nine role at the start against Chelsea before the introduction of Christian Benteke, who scored a late goal to confirm victory against last season’s champions.
Palace’s direct style of play with flair in wide positions has served them well this season with Wilfried Zaha causing problems, running at full backs with tricky footwork and pace on the ball accompanied by Yannick Bolasie causing similar problems on the other side. Yohan Cabaye’s influence has been key in recent times, the playmaker at the heart of midfield, scoring goals as well and not a side to be overlooked on their day, even though form suggests the away side are on a downward spiral.
Leicester City vs Watford
Claudio Ranieri and Quique Sanchez Flores’ relationship goes further than it looks on the surface. The Watford manager succeeded Ranieri at Valencia in 2005. Both manager’s progress in the top flight has been interesting particularly the Italian’s due to the heroics of last season, managing to stay up with unrivalled success in the second half of last season for a new manager to be placed at the helm in the summer. The same goes for the Hornets, making a Premier League return after eight years, only for the manager to leave and be replaced by a manager with no Premier League experience.
The goals of Jamie Vardy for Leicester City and Odion Ighalo for Watford have boosted both sides beyond what was predicted by most. Vardy has launched himself onto the international stage while also chasing down a record, in search of scoring in his ninth consecutive game. The other player of note in the Foxes side is Riyad Mahrez, a player at the peak of his ability under Ranieri and reaping the reward with apparent interest from Manchester United because of his involvement, not only scoring the goals but creating the goals as well.
The away side come into the match on the back of ending West Ham’s impressive away record which included wins against three of the top four of last year. On the contrary, the home side came from two goals behind to win 3-2 against a West Brom side known for being compact in defence, like any Tony Pulis side.
While Watford sit comfortable in mid table, Leicester chase leaders Manchester City and Arsenal who currently remain three points ahead but play on Sunday. The highly inferior goal difference makes it virtually impossible for Ranieri’s side to be top for a day but does put pressure on both sides to pick up points in their ties.
West Ham United vs Everton
With their away record finally broken by Premier League new boys Watford, it’s back to the drawing board for West Ham United who dropped out of the top five as a result of the loss. A four point deficit currently prevents Saturday’s result from allowing the Toffees to overtake but does create a pile up of teams around the 20 point mark if the away side were to be victorious.
The away side have struggled against the bigger sides in the league, suffering consecutive losses first to Manchester United and then Arsenal before their 6-2 thrashing of Sunderland. The victory against the Black Cats could prove to be a telling tale in Saturday’s game, allowing the away side’s attackers to find and build confidence in front of goal.
West Ham pose a counter attacking threat lead by Dimitri Payet. The Hammers looked poor against Watford and were made to pay for their performance. Having only suffered three losses, two of those coming more than nine games ago, there was always going to be a downturn in form and performance, whether this is that moment, only time will tell.
Aston Villa vs Manchester City
If there was ever a team a new manager would not want to face on their entrance to a club, it would be the side at the top of the table. For Garde, this is the position he finds himself in, having inherited a squad from Tim Sherwood, the Frenchman watched from the stands on Monday as Tottenham dismantled Villa in a 3-1 victory where Jordan Ayew looks to be starting to find his feet in the Premier League.
For Manchester City, in midweek they looked a side to be feared. That side did not feature Sergio Aguero or David Silva, two key figures in a City shirt. With this said, Norwich took the leaders to the wire, needing a penalty to claim victory. Those games are the ones managers look back on as important wins, games not deserving of victory but pull through to achieve the win.
The French League influence in the squad is suggested as the reason to bring Garde into Villa, with players such as Ayew and Jordan Amavi making the switch from Ligue 1 to the Premier League. Problems arose early on when Villa fell behind, they get broken down far too easily but have a squad full of potential with the likes of Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards used to the other end of the table.
Stoke City vs Chelsea
Time after time it has been said of Chelsea’s inability to hold a lead once again proven last week against Liverpool, eventually losing 3-1. Dynamo Kiev nearly exploited the same factor, going 1-0 down before drawing level. Chelsea’s star man so far this season, Willian, once again pulled them through in the latter stages of the game with a goal to confirm victory.
Having suffered defeat to Stoke on penalties in the League Cup, own back would be a word befitting the circumstances. Stoke put pressure on Mourinho, even with the manager suggesting it was an improved performance from his side, they still lost out on another trophy. A win however would see the away side leapfrog their opposition and potentially go above West Brom also.
As for the Potters, it’s been a mixed season so far. The return of Bojan Krkic was a turning point in their season, helping his side to pick up points, a major factor in remaining in the division. However, the home side have started to suffer with a loss and a draw, thanks to Jack Butland keeping Newcastle out. For the Blues, it provides an opportune time to play Mark Hughes’ side, needing wins and confidence under their belt if they are to launch an ascent up the table.
Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion
Mike Smalling or Chris Smalling? Take your pick. It really isn’t going Louis Van Gaal’s way at the moment, the goals have dried up in their last two games with his team selections unconvincing with the Dutchman’s biggest problem not knowing how to utilise his attack in the best way. Anthony Martial set the world alight on his arrival in Manchester but has been pushed out wide, to good effect against Everton but now have prevented the Frenchman from playing a major part in recent games.
West Brom were dealt a blow when a 2-0 lead was overturned by a Leicester side now occupying a top four spot above United. A tight Baggies side were undone by the Foxes attack three times, to the disappointment of Pulis. The Baggies are involved in many one goal games and the way these sides are playing, it could be a goal that is enough to take the three points.
In the weekend’s other fixtures:
Norwich City vs Swansea City
Sunderland vs Southampton
AFC Bournemouth welcome Newcastle United to the Vitality Stadium with one point separating the sides for the lunch time kick off on 7th November.
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