Our resident football writer Ed Acteson is delighted to see the back of the international break and the return of the Premier League. He’s previewed the five games in the £5,000 1X2 Premier League Pick 5 on Saturday with a view to taking down the jackpot. If you agree with his Premier League betting tips, join his Syndicate.
West Ham vs. Tottenham
Saturday, 12:30 (BT Sport 1)
All eyes will be on the London Stadium for the debut of Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho. It’s going to take a while to get used to saying that.
Twitter erupted when Mourinho was appointed on Wednesday morning and many Tottenham fans were unhappy with the departure of Mauricio Pochettino. However, a win in the London derby will go a long way to silencing them.
Jose couldn’t have asked for a friendlier start than against a West Ham side who are winless in six league games, losing four of them. That run of six fixtures came against Bournemouth, Palace, Everton, Sheff United, Newcastle and Burnley, so was hardly a nightmare run and demonstrated the extent of West Ham’s struggles this season.
Tottenham’s form hasn’t been much better, they are winless in five league games and haven’t kept a clean sheet in seven. That is unacceptable for a side who were consistently among the meanest defences in the league for much of Pochettino’s reign.
I would expect an immediate defensive improvement under Mourinho and believe we will see a big reaction against West Ham.
Arsenal vs. Southampton
Don’t let anybody spin you the narrative that this is a clash between two struggling sides. Whilst things may not be completely peachy at the the Emirates at the moment, the reality is that this is the side in sixth against the side in 19th.
Arsenal are winless in four league games and have developed a nasty habit of letting leads slip, but they certainly wouldn’t swap places with Southampton who haven’t won in six, losing five of them and shipping nine against Leicester last month.
The reality is that the Saints are in freefall and are extremely unlikely to remedy that away to Arsenal on Saturday. If anybody was capable of ballsing up a fixture that is seemingly impossible to balls up, it is Arsenal, but on this occasion I don’t see it happening.
Brighton vs. Leicester
Finally a couple of sides in slightly better nick. Brighton have fought back from a questionable start to the season to go above bitter rivals Crystal Palace into 11th place, whereas Leicester fans will be dreaming of a repeat of their 2015/16 title heroics, as The Foxes currently sit in second.
Leicester responded to defeat at Anfield with four consecutive victories and they comfortably outplayed Arsenal in a 2-0 win in their last outing. In my opinion they are actually a better side now than they were in their title-winning season and that is saying something.
Unfortunately for The Foxes though, the standard of opposition is also markedly better this year and they trail Liverpool by eight points despite just losing two and drawing two. That three of those results, including both losses, came away from home, shows that Leicester aren’t quite as effective on the road as they are at the King Power stadium and I think Brighton could get something from this game.
I’m going to take the draw, although will include Leicester in my perm.
Bournemouth vs. Wolves
Looking at Wolves in eight place, it’s easy to forget that they didn’t win their opening five matches of the season and were sitting in the relegation zone.
It’s been a bizarre season in which they have only won three games, the fewest in the top 13 and more than only three bottom three. However, they have also lost just two games, as few as Leicester and Chelsea and more only than Liverpool.
The seven draws they have managed are two more than anyone else and three more than Bournemouth, who have actually tied three of their last six games. See where I’m going with this?
Were this fixture at Molineux I would definitely take the Wolves win but, considering Bournemouth have home advantage and both sides have a propensity to draw games, I’ll back the stalemate.
Man City vs. Chelsea
Saturday, 17:30 (Sky Sports Main Event)
A huge game in the context of the title race on Saturday evening.
Liverpool travel to Palace at 15:00 missing key duo Andrew Robertson and Mo Salah in addition to injury doubts over several other players. Should Palace capitalise and cause an upset, a huge opportunity would be presented to Man City and Chelsea to close ground on the leaders. So who will take it?
Having largely written Chelsea off before the season began, I’ve been mightily surprised and impressed with the work Frank Lampard has done and, were Sheffield United not currently in fifth place, I would have him as my manager of the year so far.
Guardiola, on the other hand, deserves severe scrutiny for his failure to replace Vincent Kompany in the summer. With Aymeric Laporte injured, City have been a shadow of their former selves defensively and it has massively cost them in the league so far.
They were comprehensively outplayed in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool before the international break and will have been licking their wounds for the last two weeks.
City haven’t lost two consecutive league games since last December though and not since December 2016 before that, so it doesn’t happen often. With six consecutive wins in the league though, Chelsea are unquestionably the form team in the division right now.
My opinion is that City will probably win this one but, because of the respect I have for Chelsea, I’ll back the draw in my perm as well.
Verdict: Man City