The return to Premier League action this weekend gets off with a bang as Manchester City entertain Tottenham Hotspur in this round’s first fixture, while inauspicious league starts could again haunt Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton.
Chelsea, on the other hand are scything through opponents game in and game out, and given their lowly opposition this weekend, Crystal Palace, they are poised to continue their run of positive results.
While last season’s top six teams either aim to replicate the previous campaign’s form, or banish memories of it altogether, Newcastle United are hoping to gain a foothold this term as it is only goal difference keeping them off the foot of the table.
Everton are not much better off and are one of only four teams in the English top tier who’ve played more matches than they have points on the board.
Meanwhile fellow Merseysiders, Liverpool, will be out to prove that victory over West Brom last time out was no fluke when they travel to bottom side Queens Park Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Like many of the teams around them, and most of this season’s European hopefuls, Spurs’ bid for a place in Europe so far makes for dismal reading with only three wins from their 7 matches played. Nacer Chadli has performed well as the team’s top scorer with four goals from midfield so far, but the Spurs faithful will want to see more from strikers Harry Kane, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado.
No such problems for Manchester City, it has to be said, as Sergio Aguero and Eden Dzeko have scored seven league goals between them this season already, while the addition of Frank Lampard (albeit temporary) has been a revelation. City boast a team of goal scorers, from defense, through their midfield, and their strikers hardly need a mention – but it’s the link-up play between these different components that’s most impressive.
Prediction: 2-0 to Man City. City boast one of the league’s most miserly defenses, while they seem incapable of not scoring at the other end. Spurs would do well to come away from the Etihad with a point, but I really don’t see that transpiring.
Arsenal vs Hull City
It’s been mentioned before that Arsenal’s season so far has made for rollercoaster reading, something which is at odds with Arsene Wenger’s time in charge of the club till now. They’ve always had a tendency to get out of the blocks well, and given the manner in which the club spent in the off-season, I felt sure that trend would continue, and yet …
Perhaps it is then ironic that this was the one season in which Wenger really dug deep into the club’s coffers, while it’s also the one season in which Arsenal are off to a comparatively poor start.
Nonetheless, I am expecting The Gunners’ class to shine through against Hull on Saturday afternoon, especially as they are at home to a team with only two wins from their seven matches.
Prediction: 3-1 to Arsenal. Hull are likely to struggle at The Emirates under the weight of Arsenal’s star-studded team, and the ongoing dispute over club naming rights and subsequent ownership could yet prove even more disruptive to the team.
Everton vs Aston Villa
As stated, Everton have struggled so far with only one victory celebrated from their seven matches played. And while results have not gone their way, it’s not been for a lack of goal-scoring effort. Indeed, The Toffees have massed 13 goals in the league – a statistic bettered only by Chelsea and Man City at the other end of the log, and matched by Manchester United.
Aston Villa, though appear to be mirroring last season’s rollercoaster form. They did start the season brightly with three wins in their opening four games, but have suffered in terms of results since beating Liverpool at Anfield before the first international break. Having that said, Villa is a team that travels well, so this one really does hang in the balance.
Prediction: 2-1 to Everton. While the Toffees have struggled for form, Aston Villa have struggled more in my opinion with only four goals scored in all league fixtures so far. This means that The Villains have the joint second-worst offensive record in the Premier League so far.
Queens Park Rangers vs Liverpool
Bottom side QPR entertain a struggling Liverpool on Sunday, but with the wily Harry Redknapp at the helm, QPR may not stay rooted to the foot of the table for too long. One gets the sense that while they’ve only won one Premier League match so far in this campaign, Redknapp is an old hand at rescuing teams from the jaws of relegation before season’s end.
Liverpool once again find themselves in transition after having built a team around Luis Suarez, only to have their hand forced into selling their talisman for an offer that would not be refused, coupled with a lengthy ban that would have seen him miss all Liverpool’s matches so far. Brendan Rodgers has tried tinkering with his squad so far this season to make amends for the shortcomings, even playing Jordan Henderson in a less-preferred withdrawn role, but with the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge and with Henderson’s probable return to a more attack-minded position in midfield, Liverpool could well notch up a second successive victory.
Prediction: 2-1 to Liverpool. The Reds’ defense has been the subject of intense scrutiny both last season and this, but they are due a turn-around and the win over West Brom last time out could just prove to be the catalyst for a return to form.
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea
Palace won last season’s corresponding fixture, but then they did have the enigmatic Tony Pulis steering the team. This season, however one gets the sense that most of the confidence enjoyed last term has been lost. And while this should not reflect badly on Neil Warnock as manager, but rather what an extraordinary tactician Pulis is.
While Frazer Campbell looks spritely, and Mile Jedinak along with Jason Puncheon always put in a good shift, I just don’t see a way past a marauding Chelsea at the moment. Diego Costa seems to be the signing Blues fans thought they were getting when Fernando Torres was brought in in 2011. And while Costa has been sublime, the team around him should cause as many concerns.
Prediction: 3-0 to Chelsea. The Blues have simply torn defenses to ribbons this season, and I don’t see the Palace defense offering too much resistance in this London derby.