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Michael Owen vs the £10,000,000 Colossus

EVERTON have been found wanting when they have played the top sides this season – well, they beat Chelsea 3-1 in September but everyone seems to be doing that recently! – but they have successfully dispatched the teams in the bottom half of the table, and you can’t get lower-ranked than Aston Villa at the moment.

I take Everton to win 2-0, 2-1 or 1-0 at Goodison Park.

To be fair to Villa, new manager Remi Garde did look as though he made a difference when his side drew 0-0 with Man City before the international break. And, remarkably, that was their first point since August, which gives you some idea of how far they had fallen since that win on the opening day of the season at Bournemouth.

It could be that they continue to improve as the manager beds in, but I am struggling to see anything other than an Everton win here. It may not be as comprehensive as their 3-0 win in this fixture last season but I think they’ll get the job done.

Newcastle are another side to have steadied the ship after an horrendous run of results that culminated in a 3-0 loss to Sunderland, following up a 0-0 home draw against Stoke with a 1-0 win at Bournemouth.

However, you will rarely, if ever, see a team win a game after being so comprehensively outplayed, as Bournemouth dominated from start to finish, with Newcastle scoring with just about their only chance. If you looked at the stats from that game, you would have expected Bournemouth to have won about 6-0!

Leicester continued their remarkable start to the season with a 2-1 home win over Watford, and are unbeaten in six away games, of which they have won three. And it is pretty astonishing that they have scored in all of their 12 league games.

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They will be praying that their goal machine Jamie Vardy is fit and firing after a recent groin injury but, either way, I fancy a scoring draw here, so I take 1-1 and Any Other Draw (AOD).

MOCOL

I was luckily enough to play in El Clasicos and they are not for the faint-hearted!

Real Madrid have stuttered on occasions this season after a flying start to the campaign, and lost 3-2 at Seville last time. But I think we can rest assured that Ronaldo and co will bring their A-game to the Bernabeu on Saturday night.

Barca are top of the table but, like Real, they have also lost at Seville, and Celta Vigo, and they have recently been without the injured Messi. But apparently he may well be back this weekend, for all their back-up is pretty impressive, too if he isn’t.

As ever, these matches are hard to call and one moment of magic may decide the game but a scoring draw – 1-1 and AOD – is my main fancy. But each side won their home in this fixture last season, so I will add in 2-1 Real, too.

Man City couldn’t find a way past Villa, and you suspect that Liverpool will look to harry, press and frustrate them, too. So this may not be the high-scoring game you normally expect when City play at home, as they have scored 19 goals in six games at the Etihad.

But they have coped well with the loss of Aguero and Silva in recent weeks and I suspect they will have too much firepower for a Liverpool side whose unbeaten run under Klopp came to an abrupt halt in a 2-1 home loss to Palace. My picks are 2-1 and 1-0.

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I don’t have a strong opinion on Juventus v AC Milan, if I’m being honest.

But Juve have only lost once at home this season, while AC have lost three of their six away games, so 2-1 and 1-0 to the home side look sensible enough plays. They did the double over Milan last season.

Tottenham will be hoping that they are not the latest big name scalp on the road for West Ham on Sunday.

And the bookmakers have them as odds-on favourites to win, which isn’t surprising given they are unbeaten at home and have been playing really well of late, most recently in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal where they were the better team for large chunks of the game.

But I wouldn’t be in a rush to back them at odds-on against a dangerous West Ham side, and 1-1 and AOD are included in my perm.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland rounds off the Colossus, and I take the home side to win 2-1.

A common theme of this column this season has been praise for Palace, even in defeat, and they bounced back from a series of poor results when winning at Anfield. They are a young, vibrant side who will continue to trouble the better teams in the league.

Sunderland are certainly not one of those, and I think Big Sam could be headed for a third successive defeat here.

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