By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- It’s a quick turnaround with a full midweek program, as a bouyed Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Wednesday
- Wolves look to end their losing streak at home to Chelsea
- Manchester City take their unbeaten record to Vicarage Road, to face a tricky game at Watford
PREMIER LEAGUE – Gameweek 15 is on us in a flash this midweek, as Arsenal head for Old Trafford to face Manchester United, and old nemesis Jose Mourinho on Wednesday night.
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Game of the week: Manchester United vs. Arsenal (Wednesday, 20:00)
Niall: It is one of the biggest rivalries in the Premier League, and on Wednesday night, Manchester United will face Arsenal in different circumstances than their meetings over a decade ago.
When it was Roy Keane vs. Patrick Vieira both sides were title challengers, but in 2018 they are both fighting for a different prize, a place in next season’s Champions League. The rivalry does not have the spice of previous meetings, but it is still a big fixture nonetheless that will attract the eyes of the world.
It is fair to say the Gunners will come into this match not only the higher placed team, but also the team with the most confidence. After defeating Spurs on derby Sunday 4-2, Arsenal will be riding arguably their biggest high of the season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both found the back of the net in that game and will be a scary proposition for a struggling United defence.
What the hosts have shown is that they have the ability to come back from behind though. They did it against Southampton at the weekend and we have seen them come back against the likes of Chelsea and Juventus too. Despite having a poor season, their ability to salvage something from nothing has boosted their chances of a top four finish, even being eight points behind. A loss against Arsenal will surely put them out of that picture though, so this is a big game in the context of their season as well as the rivalry aspect.
This will be a feisty game and could be fun given how shaky United look at the back this season. The visitors may start strong and take the lead, but it would be foolish to count Man United out from securing something from this game given their recent history. It is hard to call a winner, so a draw may be on the cards.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
Neil: Both these sides were in the goals over the weekend, it two thrilling Premier League games to bring in the festive schedule in the top flight and there could very well be further fireworks here.
Whilst United got out of jail with a decent comeback in Mark Hughes‘ final game as Saints boss before being dismissed on Monday, Unai Emery‘s men recorded their second win against Spurs on the bounce at home, but of greater importance was their dominance for large periods of the north London derby.
Romelu Lukaku ended a long goal drought at St. Mary’s on Saturday which is vital ahead of this game, with the Belgian likely to afforded further chances here against a visiting defence that continues to have its’ malaises.
With the Gunners set to reach 20 games unbeaten by avoiding a loss, Jose Mourinho would love to be spoiler once again, as both he and Emery meet for the first time in England.
That adds its’ very own level of intrigue and unpredictability then, but what is surely likely is goals. For me, United still look toothless, whilst Arsenal now have added a little more bite in midfield. With both their front men firing and on form also, that could just be the deciding factor here. I am tipping a perhaps unlikely away win.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
Niall’s one to watch: Watford vs. Manchester City (Tuesday, 20:00)
It is hard to sell a Manchester City match as interesting given how dominant they have been in the Premier League, but their trip to Watford could be interesting. Many teams like to sit back and hope for the best against the Citizens, despite evidence suggesting that attack is the best form of defence against them – as we saw with Bournemouth brave approach this past weekend. Not every side is capable of the success Lyon found in the Champions League against them, but Watford may prove to be a difficult match similar to Wolves.
Watford’s game is to attack and when spurred on by their own fans at Vicarage Road, they can be a big threat on the ball. They have a good mix of technicality and physicality and if they play their own game then they can get at the City defence. The Citizens do boast the best defence in the league though and have proven to be very difficult to break down so far this season. They have conceded just six goals thus far whilst boasting the best attack in the league with 43 goals.
And it is those facts that make City so difficult to predict against. As much as the neutrals and fans of other teams will want Watford to get a result, the visitors may prove too strong despite getting stung by the Hornets.
Prediction: Watford 1-3 Manchester City
Neil’s one to watch: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea (Wednesday, 19:45)
After a uncertain bedding in period for Wolves, a run of good form saw Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men pick up a good run of form and many expected the hosts to go on long run of form. That has not transpired however, indeed the west Midlanders are now in somewhat of a rut – triggered by a home loss to Watford back in October.
Since then, Wolves have taken just a single point in four league games, but are still well away from being swept into the lower reaches of the bottom half of the Premier League table. The festive period could be crucial for Santo’s men but their task begins with a tall one at home to the Blues.
Bouncing back from a loss to Spurs, Chelsea come out on top in the west London derby versus a game Fulham side on Sunday but still have concerns in defence whilst the form of Eden Hazard has dipped in recent weeks.
I get the feeling this could be the game to buck that trend for the Belgian magician, and Wolves may need to set their stall out slightly more defensively to take anything from this one. As it is, I am not sure Wolves have that approach in their mindset which will likely see the hosts get caught on the counter-attack. I see them causing trouble for the visiting defence and probably scoring as they have done versus City, Arsenal and Spurs this term. but Maurizio Sarri will be seeking a run of form over Christmas and that should continue here.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Chelsea
Premier League Gameweek 15’s game of the week sees Arsenal travel to face Manchester United at Old Trafford, on Wednesday night.
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