Welcome back readers - if you want to know what pre-match predictions should be you need to be making you are completely in the right place, honest. This weekend is full of absolute stonkers.
Of course, the one most of us are looking forward to will, no doubt, give us a much clearer idea of the outcome at the end of the season. The loser will lose everything, the winner might just end up taking all. I am talking about the battle for bottom - Norwich vs Watford, but you knew that, right?
I’ve said it many times and I will say it again - beating Man City was the worst thing that could have happened to Norwich and Daniel Farke. A bit like when England beat the All Blacks in the rugby, where do you go from there? I might not be 100% accurate on this next sweeping statement, but I don’t think they have won a game of football since and as for Teemu Pukki - well, that party has ended. Or so you might think.
As for Watford, they’ve not beaten Man City or won a game of football since either. Quique Sanchez Flores’ beard is getting more grey by the hour being back at Vicarage Road and he has an injury list that is almost as long as the list of players who couldn’t give a hoot about Watford’s current predicament.
There will be no change to the Norwich shape or style this Friday night in a must-not-even-come-close-to-losing fixture. Pukki will hope that the Poundland Griezmann, Todd Cantwell, sees enough ball and that Buendia has, er, a good day. For all the chat of their attacking intent, a failure to create has been a key part of their downfall – just three teams have managed fewer efforts on goal than the Canaries thus far this term. If those stars happen to align, Teemu might get put through should finally make a positive impression on the old xG chart.
Watford have been trying to tighten up in defence by playing a back five under Sanchez Flores, which is really a back six when Chalobah sits so deep he’s in danger of contracting the bends. That’s great for trying not to concede, but they are somewhat lacking in attacking ideas under the Spaniard. Unless, of course, Deulofeu gets close enough to the box to take a little tumble.
This will be the nerviest, error-strewn game of the season as both teams desperate not to lose. That said, I back the Anglians to be braver in the key moments and reckon they’ll steal all three points. Pukki to pokey one in for a 1-0 win.
Call me mad, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Uncle Roy may set Palace up to be a little tighter at the back than Ajax were on Tuesday night. I can’t really see Hodgson’s lot letting in four, and I definitely cannot see them being 4-1 up before doing so.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea’s biggest challenge will be what on earth they will do without suspended midfield lynchpin Jorginho. We’ll probably see Ngolo Kante back on the pitch alongside Kovacic, but Chelsea will miss their little midfield metronome. Teacher’s pet Mason Mount is also a doubt meaning Lampard could shift Willian central behind Tammy and start Hudson-Odoi from the right.
When you look at the two teams on paper, there is only one real way you can see Palace getting something from the game. Wilf Zaha, linked once again to Stamford Bridge if that pesky transfer ban goes away, up against either of the Chelsea full-backs. If Lamps starts Alonso, Zaha may as well just go and stand in the big hole he will leave and wait for someone to launch it his way as the Spaniard loafs back from a forward raid. If Emerson starts instead, then Wilf wants to go and pick on Azpi who, frankly, has Reece James breathing so far down his neck that the kid is in his training shirt.
Realistically though, Gary Cahill (who is a doubt) might be able to stop Abraham but he can’t simultaneously shut down CHO, Pulisic and Willian as well.
Chelsea to see off Palace 3-0, goals coming late in the first half and early in the second half - Pulisic to continue his cheeky little scoring run.
Rumour has it that if/when Leicester beat Arsenal on Saturday evening, Arsenal will be punished by appointing Jose Mourinho to replace Unai Emery. Genuine threat or bold motivational strategy designed to scare a performance out of Arsenal’s youngsters safe in the knowledge that anyone in the squad under the age of 32 will never see the pitch again under Jose?
And I know I sound crazy, but I think Arsenal can get something here - not because of any grand tactical plan Emery might come up with, he’s totally and utterly shot. Not even because Arsenal players are desperate to keep him in a job. No, none of those reasons - the thing that makes me feel Arsenal might surprise a few people this weekend is that feeling of smugness that is emanating from the King Power.
Look, I really like how Brentan’s teams play football - I always have and I always will. But it comes with a smugness not seen on British TV since the days of The Office and it doesn’t do Rodgers or Leicester any favours at all. At some point soon, they are going to try and prove themselves to be just a little bit too good or too clever, and there will be a crash. And I think it could be against Arsenal.
How can Arsenal get something out of this? By playing like they did for the first-half up at Anfield. Sit deep, concentrate as best they can and then look to counter fast - be brave enough to leave two strikers high and have Ozil floating around when Leicester have the ball. If Emery does that, you just never know.
Arsenal to steal this 2-1, Emery to stay another week and Auba’s brace to only fuel those Real Madrid rumours further.
In the absence of the two BIG Birmingham derbies (the so called Second City Derby and Black Country Derby), this one will have to do.
Whilst Sky will no doubt do their very best hype job on it, the game shouldn’t need it with two teams more than able and willing to locate the onion bag going at it.
Wolves have turned the start to their season around and are now ticking over quite nicely. Their ability to get themselves back into football matches when behind should be a worry for Dean Smith whos Villa side a becoming quite the experts in botching things despite taking the lead.
If Villa do find themselves ahead, it will most likely come from something created in the wide areas. When they concede, you can bet your bottom dollar it will come from some shoddy set-piece work – they’ve shipped more from dead balls (6) than anyone in the entire ruddy league this term.
A lot will depend on which game Nuno is more interested in - Europa League or this one. Local loyalty suggests this, but you never know in this new game of rotation roulette Wolves are having to partake in.
Wolves 1 - 1 Aston Villa, but has it kicked off at Anfield yet?
This game has been built up and built up and then built up some more. Pep’s called Sadio a diver, then retracted it whilst Jurgy has accused the bald one of being obsessed by Liverpool. The marketing bods at Sky, in a burst of particularly bonged out 2am thinking, have decided to pitch this match as being like Star Wars which is odd. Not as weird as hyping the new Star Wars film as like a game of footy mind but still odd.
One thing we do know is that mirth-merchant supreme, Kyle Walker, is unlikely to still be wearing the gloves come Sunday, unless it is very cold. Ederson is doubtful, but when your other option is Claudio Bravo you tell Ederson to grow a pair and send him on the hallowed Anfield turf on crutches if needs be.
City will also be without David Silva, meaning Mahrez probably keeps his place out wide and Bernie shifts into the midfield whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain or Henderson is Liverpool’s only selection conundrum.
Mohamed Salah has got to fancy his chances up against Mendy and Fernandinho on the left of City’s defence and Sergio Aguero might just go and hang around Dejan Lovren for 90 minutes, you know - just in case Lovren Lovrens.
As I said, the game is being built-up to being the blockbuster to beat all blockbusters and when that happens we usually get a bit of a damp squib. Whilst the onus is on City to claw back the 6 points deficit, a draw at Anfield is not to be sniffed and they are still to welcome them to the Etihad.
I imagine you’ll see an early blitz from both teams before the game slows, eventually becoming more cagey than Nicolas Cage reading his autobiography “Caged” out loud in an actual cage.
If either team scores, the other one will look to respond and probably will do before settling for that point which means the next time these two meet in the League it will be really, really big.
Liverpool 1 - 1 Man City and part of me really wants to see Mane fall over to win a penalty just for Pep’s reaction...
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