Match of the Week
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
In Pep Guardiola’s time in England, Manchester City’s performances in the league against Chelsea have defined each of his three seasons. In ‘16/’17, a 3-1 loss at the Etihad sent Chelsea flying into a thirteen game win streak in which they went top of the league and never looked back. Last year, Manchester City became instant title favorites following a 1-0 thumping of Antonio Conte’s men at Stamford Bridge. This season was no different. On December 8th, Chelsea delivered Manchester City their first loss in the form of a 2-0 victory at the bridge. Following that match, Liverpool became the only undefeated side in the league, a reputation they utilized to send them into first place a week later.
When Chelsea take on Manchester City at the Etihad Sunday, the implications will be no less significant.
Manchester City will feel the pressure to pull off a massive result against the Blues from London. With Liverpool playing on Saturday, City is likely to enter the match Sunday back in second place. If their title challenge is to prove successful, Pep’s men must end the 90 minutes victorious.
Though City has won fifteen of their last sixteen matches at the Etihad, in which they have scored an incredible twenty-seven goals, the Champions will be wary of their visitors.
Following a horrifying 4-0 loss to Bournemouth, Chelsea responded, thrashing Huddersfield 5-0. Though Huddersfield resembled a decaying carcass in their defeat, Chelsea looked reinvigorated thanks in large part to their new signing, Gonzalo Higuain. Higuain had two powerful strikes against the Terriers, both of which came from N’golo (he can’t play in that position even though he has more goals and assists than any other Chelsea midfielder) Kante. Following his brace against Huddersfield, Higuaín has now scored an astonishing 38 goals in 37 league appearances under Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea desperately need a result against City as they are unlikely to finish the weekend in the top 4 without a win.
Higuain will likely find the scoresheet yet again, benefitting from the services of a healthy Eden Hazard, whose form has improved since being moved back to the left wing after the Argentine’s arrival.
The Manchester City express will keep rolling this weekend, however, as the red hot Sergio Aguero (absent in City’s December defeat to Chelsea) leads City’s aggressive attack. Though Chelsea got it right against the Champions back in December, their poor form on the road combined with City’s determined pursuit of Liverpool foreshadows a Chelsea defeat this weekend. Manchester City will win perhaps their most challenging test for the rest of the season and pick up a massive three points this Sunday.
Saturday, February 9th
Manchester United 3-1 Fulham
Manchester United head to London tomorrow to take on a Fulham side who desperately need a win, finding themselves currently seven points from safety.
United should enter the match with their heads high after rebounding from a 2-2 draw to Burnley with a decisive 1-0 defeat of Leicester last weekend. Victory for United may see them jump Chelsea to fourth in the table. Though Chelsea will have a game in hand, that game is against Manchester City Sunday, a difficult test for the Blues.
Expect Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to rotate his squad in preparation for their Champions League clash with PSG. This strategy could lead to Martial and Lukaku featuring in the starting lineup.
Fulham present two threats to a shaky United defense that has looked stable and robust under the Norwegian. Schurrle and Mitrovic, who have scored 16 goals together for Fulham, will not allow the Reds to sit back on their heels. For Fulham, however, clean sheets have been rarer than sunshine in Seattle. The London side will be no different tomorrow, conceding many against United.
Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth
Though Klopp and his companions at Anfield have insisted that Liverpool’s title-winning nerves are nonexistent, their recent form suggests otherwise. Recently, Liverpool were as far ahead of Manchester City as seven points. After dropping points to City, Leicester, and West Ham, and conceding three goals at home to Palace, Liverpool have relinquished their spot atop the league to last season’s champions. After a 2-0 win against Everton in midweek, City lead the league on goal difference.
Liverpool must make the most of their game in hand with a win against Bournemouth. Luckily for Liverpool, after Bournemouth’s shock 4-0 trouncing of Chelsea, the Cherries went back to their former selves with a 2-0 defeat to relegation favorite Cardiff City.
Liverpool have only ever lost one of their last 14 meetings with the Cherries in all competitions and should remain confident this weekend, supported by the potential return of right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool should regain their spot atop the Premier League with a convincing performance against a woefully inconsistent, injury-plagued Bournemouth side.
Arsenal 3-1 Huddersfield
Back at home in 6th place in the Premier League, Unai Emery’s men will hope to bounce out of their disappointing league position with a win against Huddersfield and favorable results for their other top four contenders, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Denis Suarez, the new loan signing for Arsenal, is likely to make his debut and will have no more comfortable a place to do it than against a Huddersfield team that have only mustered 11 points all season.
The less than challenging matchup will be welcomed by the Gunners, having lost 3-1 to Manchester City at the Emirates this past weekend.
Arsenal, however, will bounce back with a comfortable win against the Premier League’s resident punching bag.
Watford 2-1 Everton
What may seem like a dull, mid-season, mid-table matchup, Watford against Everton at Vicarage road has the potential for an absolute thriller. The much despised Marco Silva returns to his former club alongside a struggling Everton squad. Silva’s former employers will give him a hostile reception and would love to send Silva’s season into the dumpster.
Adding to Silva’s struggles, Everton will enter the match tomorrow having lost three of their last four league matches with their only win coming in the form of a 1-0 result against Huddersfield.
Though they only vaguely resemble the Watford side that started the season at a scorching pace, Watford have found their rhythm in the league. Scrapping together results where possible, Watford have drawn three of their five league matches since the start of the new year.
Everton’s abysmal away form of three wins, three draws, and six defeats foreshadows a poor performance this weekend. Also, the Toffees have lost twice and drawn once in their last trips to Vicarage Road.
Watford will take this match in a mid-table clash with massive emotions fueling the excitement.
Cardiff City 0-0 Southampton
This match is a relegation bout of with huge implications. While the setup for the game may suggest a thrilling encounter as both sides desperately push for safety, it is more likely to be a cautious affair. With weak attacking threats provided by either party, the match will feature a few risks and even fewer goals.
West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace
Though Crystal Palace displayed their ability to win without Wilfried Zaha against Fulham last Saturday, they desperately need their star man available for this weeks matchup against West Ham. Appealing a suspension received for sarcastically applauding the referee, Wilfried Zaha will most likely feature, however, the circumstances could change at any moment. If Zaha is unavailable, the Palace supporters will direct their prayers to Michy Batshuayi, their new loan signing from Chelsea, who is looking to grab his first goal for the Eagles.
West Ham come into this one in good form having drawn with Liverpool on Monday in a match they deserved to win. Felipe Anderson will be critical for the Hammers as their star man this season will be called upon once again to provide the goods. Anderson will have the support of Marko Arnautovic who returns to the lineup after being sidelined due to a foot issue in recent weeks.
This London derby is a tough prediction given the inconsistencies that have tailed both sides throughout the season. The match has the potential to swing either way, however I’m predicting the score to remain level after 90 minutes.
Burnley 1-1 Brighton
Burnley will have a difficult time this weekend as they come up against a spirited Brighton side that are undefeated in their last six premier league matches. Though the game has severe implications for both sides, the likely result is a woeful 1-1 draw. Inclined to gamble on a surprise Ashley Barnes hat-trick (because why not with a game like this), the damning record of six draws in the last seven matchups between these two sides suggests otherwise.
Sunday, February 10th
Tottenham 1-0 Leicester City
Right Dark horse title candidates Tottenham take on a problematic Leicester side that has beaten Manchester City and Chelsea this season. In recent weeks, Tottenham have played like potential champions, grinding out results in the final minutes against Fulham, Watford, and Newcastle. Their spectacular run has defied critics who suggested Spurs would be a shadow of their healthy selves following the injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Tottenham will require their full spirit against Leicester City. The Foxes will likely sit deep, looking to sting Spurs on the counter – a strategy they used to significant effect against in both of their victories against Chelsea and City.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City
Monday, February 11th
Newcastle 0-2 Wolves
Wolves will continue their fantastic form in league with a comfortable victory against a struggling Newcastle side. Newcastle remain in a relegation battle that looks more and more dooming with each missed opportunity. After pulling off the most unexpected victory against Manchester City, Newcastle suffered a crushing 1-0 defeat at Wembley against Spurs last weekend. Rafa’s men will have to be as stubborn as ever as they try to pull a result out of the hat at Molineux.
With a defense that has more holes than a slice of swiss cheese, however, Newcastle will struggle against Wolves, losing by multiple goals.