Burnley (H) vs. Liverpool (A)
I’ve inadvertently decided to make my first game preview on this site one of the easiest I might do ever, but here goes. We’ll start off with this: Burnley have been horrendous this season. Many predicted a dropoff for them because of their participation in the Europa League, but they were knocked out of that very early on and haven’t looked like the same set of players that played for the club last season. I won’t bother making any stat comparisons to last season here, as that isn’t really important to this game, but I will tell you that there are multiple reasons why Burnley seem destined for relegation, these being two of them:
On quite literally the exact opposite side of the table from Burnley sit Liverpool, who, while struggling somewhat in the Champions League, are still unbeaten in the Premier League and sit in 2nd. Now, for some games, one might want to look deeper into the stats surrounding each side, but since this matchup seems pretty straightforward, I’ll give you this: Liverpool score 1.93 goals/game on average while conceding .36 goals/game.
Score prediction: 3-0 Liverpool
Everton (H) vs. Newcastle (A)
Earlier in the season, ths game probably would have also been a pushover, despite Everton’s struggles at the start of the campaign. I say this mainly because Newcastle were absolutely dreadful towards the beginning of the season, but have since actually been having a decent run of form. Before West Ham embarrassed them Saturday, the Magpies had won three straight Premier League games, and against a couple of decent opponents in Bournemouth and Watford (they also played Burnley in that stretch, but I didn’t mention them because we already know how great Burnley is).
On the other side, it will be interesting to see how Everton bounce back from a heartbreaking 1-0 loss on Sunday to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. On one hand, they could come out uber-motivated and ready to destroy anything in their path in order to get back on track. Or, on the other hand, they could come out flat and be negatively affected by the late drama in the aforementioned derby. This is where I think home-field advantage has some impact. If this game were at St. James’ Park, I would probably say Everton come out flat and narrowly grind out a 1-0 result. However, since the game is at Goodison Park, I think Everton will feed off of their home crowd and put together a good performance for them. Additionally, for the same reasons I just mentioned, I think Newcastle might struggle to get going due to lack of morale. I think Everton largely control this game and the scoreline doesn’t end up quite reflecting how the game looked.
Score prediction: 2-1 Everton
Fulham (H) vs. Leicester City (A)
This matchup seems interesting to me, though I almost feel like it shouldn’t. One of the most bang-average attack in the league vs. the worst defense in the league. That doesn’t sound very appetizing at all, but I feel like Fulham could have a chance is this one. Leicester score 1.43 goals/game on average, but on Saturday, they scored 2 or more goals in a game for the first time since late September. Before Saturday, Leicester had drawn three of their past four, and all of those draws came against sides that were (and still are) lower than them in the table (and one of those was the great Burnley, why do they keep showing up in this preview?). So Leicester hasn’t been on very good form, or really even good form for some time now, which bodes well for Fulham, especially because the worst defense in the league could use an attack that has been struggling. Out of Fulham’s last five games, they have played three of the better attacks in the league (Bournemouth, Liverpool, Chelsea) and two of the worst (Southampton, Huddersfield). They beat Southampton 3-2 and lost narrowly to Huddersfield 1-0, so a struggling attack could mean a surprise victory for Fulham.
However, Leicester’s defense has been ok this season, while Fulham’s attack, despite their playing style, is only marginally better than Burnley’s at 1 goal/game. So despite the possible decent showing for the Fulham defense, I still think Leicester will still manage to get one past.
Then Fulham will get one back and sneak a point out of this match.
Score prediction: 1-1
Wolverhampton Wanderers (H) vs. Chelsea (A)
Based on recent form alone, this matchup should be extremely one-sided. Wolves have not won since the beginning of October while Chelsea have still been finding ways to get results (minus their nightmare against Spurs) despite not playing as well as they were towards the beginning of the season. For Wolves, though, this game is massive. It isn’t a must-win, but they need to be able to take something positive out of this game. Losing to Huddersfield and Cardiff in two consecutive games has to feel extremely bad, and I would not be surprised if many of their players have lost confidence by this point.all this being said, they did play Arsenal to a draw before their last two awful losses, so there might be hope for them yet in this game.
Realistically though, I still see Chelsea having command of this game. They are widely regarded as the only team aside from Manchester City and Liverpool that has a chance at the Premier League title, and that is for good reason. Eden Hazard was possibly the most in-form player in world football for a while this season, and even though he’s come back to Earth recently, I see him picking that form back up in this match. Wolves’ defense hasn’t been awul all year, but after allowing two goals to both Cardiff and Huddersfield, I don’t trust anyone in that back line to be able to contain Hazard. I think Chelsea will have a tight grip on this game but Wolves will find a way to keep it close.
Score prediction: 2-1 Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur (H) vs. Southampton (A)
Despite Burnley looking like a Championship team this season, they have had plenty of competition for the title of “Worst Team in the Premier League”. One of those teams challenging for the title is Southampton, as they have only won once all season in the league. In fact, their goals/game is worse than Burnley’s, as Southampton have only mustered .86 goals/game this season. And, as was mentioned earlier, that’s not good when you’re allowing 1.86 goals/game. However, changes have been made to the club, as manager Mark Hughes was finally sacked after many weeks of fans, pundits, and others calling for it. His replacement is Ralph Hasenhuttl, a 51-year old former Austrian striker perhaps most well-known for his recent work at RB Leipzig, where he led that club to 6th and 2nd place finishes in the Bundesliga. He is also extremely well-known for his work with young players, which is presumably why Southampton looked to him when the vacancy arose. What worries me about him is that his style of play tends to be quite fast and pressing. That isn’t a bad thing to have in a manager, in fact I think it’s a good thing to have in a manager.
For mid-to-top tier clubs.
For a club like Southampton, especially with the state they are in right now, I don’t know if they’ll be able to play a fast-paced press successfully in the Premier League. That issue arose with Fulham early in the season, resulting partially in their record as the worst defense in the Prem, but it also resulted in their manager being sacked just a couple weeks ago. So if Hasenhuttl can’t adjust to his players’ strengths, I fear his term at Southampton could be shorter than he and the club would like.
As for Spurs, they have been hit-or-miss this season. They beat up on Chelsea a couple weeks ago, only to get humiliated in the second half by Arsenal on Sunday in the North London Derby. Do I think they’ll have any troubles with Southampton though? No. Even though Spurs will probably rest a fair few players in an effort to have a full strength lineup for their Champions League match in a week or so, I don’t think Southampton will be playing any better under Hasenhuttl this week than they did under Mark Hughes on Saturday. Hasenhuttl has had about a day or so with these players, so the likelihood of him getting any tactical message across is quite slim. For these reasons, I think Spurs cruise in this one.
Score prediction: 2-0 Spurs
Manchester United (H) vs. Arsenal (A)
Let me start by stating the obvious: Manchester United are not good. This match will probably not be a classic of any sort, and to be honest, I don’t see it as being a very interesting game until Arsenal inevitably score the first goal. This is because if the opponent doesn’t score, often United don’t either. They have made a multitude of comebacks this season, and I must give them props for that, but when you have to come back from 2 goals down against Mark Hughes’ Southampton the match before Hughes gets the sack (and they only managed a draw!) that’s pretty damning. Coming off two draws against two of the early season relegation candidates (Southampton, Crystal Palace), I don’t see United staying in this game for very log, especially with the Arsenal attack firing as it has been all season.
Speaking of Arsenal, I feel they should win the match 100%. If The attack keeps up like it did in the second half of the North London Derby last weekend, this could be a very long evening for United. This problem is compounded when one remembers how the United centre-back situation is going currently. The guys there haven’t been good enough anyways, but against Southampton, Mourinho was forced into playing centre-back positions in a back three because Phil Jones was the only healthy centre-back. If this is the case again against Arsenal, I expect Aubameyang and Lacazette to have a lot of fun, because that back line could barely contain Nathan Redmond, much less two of the best strikers in the world, one of which coming off a North London derby brace (Aubameyang). I think the game might be within reach for United at halftime, as Arsenal are normally very much a second-half team, but Arsenal should put them away in the second half with that lethal attack.
Score prediction: 3-1 Arsenal