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30 Jan

The Analyst's Notepad - Premier Predictor Gameweek 25

FA Cup, League Cup - it’s all a bit rubbish, isn’t it?

Sure, Aston Villa fans will get a day out that might soften the blow of relegation and Jack Grealish will get the chance to put himself in the third-grade domestic shop window, possibly enhancing his chances of a Euro 2020 spot but it’s only the League Cup.

City took it seriously though, showing how far United have come by fielding a full-strength side to get to Wembley.

As for the FA Cup, scrap the replays and send all lower-level clubs bust, I say - after all, everybody knows that football only properly began in 1992.

The real competition is back and these are my true thoughts on how this weekend is likely to play out.

Leicester vs Chelsea (click to find pubs)

Even if I have just poo-pooed the EFL Cup, I would imagine Brentan’s not unsizeable ego took a bit of a dent losing to the Villa on Tuesday night. Rodgers would have fancied getting a new suit for Wembley and a League Cup under his belt would have been a decent return for a strong first season in charge - especially when you couple it with near-certain Champions League football next season.

But, is there a chink of light for others wanting to get Leicester out of the top four? Their recent form has been sketchy, mainly due to the Wilfred Ndidi shaped hole in midfield, proven by their three game winless streak (including two league defeats) while the Nigerian international was sidelined. Jamie Vardy has also had some issues, and not just keeping the missus out of the papers.

![](/imagenes/userfiles/images/Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 14_17_11.png) Chelsea need to go on a consistent run from here, and given their lack of movement in the transfer window it is down to the current lot to find that spark they had before December.

Tammy Abraham and Reece James are doubtful, which is good news for a Leicester defence looking to become solid once again. The Foxes have no injury worries at this stage which should see Rodgers bin off the diamond and go back to a 4-3-3. If he does, Ndidi, James Maddison and either one of Dennis Praet or Youri Tielemens will be a match for Chelsea’s likely three of Jorginho, Ngolo Kante and Mateo Kovacic - in fact, you could argue Leicester’s movement in there will give them the upper hand.

Frank Lampard’s side have lacked the creative spark in the final third consistently in recent outings and that could well be what means they leave the King Power with a point, maximum. Leicester will look to expose Emerson at left-back - Ayoze Perez will, no doubt, look to move the Chelsea defender out of position and give Vardy plenty of space to peel away into. This will bring more joy than trying it on Azpilicueta on the right.

Leicester will look to play quick vertical passes through the Chelsea midfield and reduce the amount of chances Kante gets to do what Kante does and then will hassle the life out of Jorginho every time he gets on the ball. James Maddison will probably stay so close to the Italian when out of possession that the shirt swap might happen before the final whistle.

I can only see Leicester winning this if they set up with a 4-3-3. Their game is more fluid, they are higher in the table for a reason and they do appear to hit back pretty well after a disappointing result. Leicester to win 2-1 and at least one of the goals will have fingers pointing at Kepa...

Man United vs Wolves

Oh, it makes perfect sense having this one on TV given how entertaining the two FA Cup matches were, right?

Man United fans will be hoping that Bruno Fernandes is allowed to go straight into the team against the team of his birth, Portugal Wolves. At the time of writing, that gag is valid as United haven’t screwed the deal up yet so it might just happen. Whether that is down to Mr Ed being too scared to come out of the house or not is unconfirmed.

These two sides head to Old Trafford on the same points, though United have a superior goal difference by four meaning they sit in 5th. I know, hardly a disaster given that Phil Jones still gets a game and all that.

Wolves actually have the ropier Premier League form but that’s probably not going to matter too much - it is unlikely we are going to see anything other than what we observed in the FA ‘battles’ where the main battle was for the viewer to stay awake.

United will try and play on the front foot and fail, miserably - then sit back and wait for Wolves to attack. They will have a long wait.

If any match this weekend is going to be 0-0 it is most likely this one. Unless, of course, Fernandes does sign, does start and does curl free-kick top bins on debut just like Rooney did all those years ago. Yeah, 0-0.

Burnley vs Arsenal

I do wish the chaps on TV would remember it’s not 2012 and Burnley don’t strike the fear into Arsenal in the same way they used to. It’s an old narrative, so can we please get this match off the TV? It really won’t be that good.

Arsenal have hope of winning at Turf Moor, mainly because they’ve won their last four league matches at Burnley. If you then add in that Mustafi is unavailable, then surely Arteta’s men are odds on to take all three points?

Granted, David Luiz’s return does balance that out a little bit but Arsenal are starting to feel like they have some kind of positive direction even if the stats, results and everything else we like to look at suggest not much has changed since they got shot of Unai.

Burnley will probably pick the same side that beat United at Old Trafford and we know what they will do. Chris Wood will hang around Luiz for 90 minutes waiting for him to make the likely mistake and Dwight McNeil will be deadly from set-pieces.

Does all this a good game maketh? No. Not even a little bit. It’ll be a drab 1-1.

Spurs vs Man City

What a welcome to the Premier League this will be for all the Spurs new boys they’ll have picked up by the time the window shuts.

What better way to sell the vision of the new Tottenham than seeing Jose send out five at the back, three sitting deep in the midfield and looking to smack it to Sonny on the counter.

Tactically, that’s pretty much all I have got for you from the Mourinho perspective - am I being lazy? I don’t think so - Spurs did nullify Liverpool for the first 70 minutes when they played this way and probably did enough for a draw on balance. There is no reason to believe they won’t try it again, the main difference being that it is harder to leave Lo Celso out this time around.

City were all too aware that United might hit them on the break in the League Cup match on Wednesday, leading to Pep going with a three-at-the-back-including-two-full-backs approach. There’s every chance we’ll see that again given City did dominate the game and really should have won.

Although they are not going to win the title, City are just that little bit better than Tottenham right now and we should see that in a 3-1 win. Players will be keen to impress, after all there are League Cup final shirts up for grabs now.

Chris Darwen
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All images - PA. Numbers and stats via WhoScored.

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