Memorable season for the Premier League’s top 10

This year turned out to be quite a memorable season for the Premier League; from historic to disappointing finishes, the season was filled with drama. Nonetheless, it was one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory outside of Leicester’s magical 2016 run. Let’s make a magical run ourselves down memory lane for the top 10 from the 2017-18 EPL season:

Manchester City first ever to reach 100 points

Pep Guardiola has brought an exciting brand of football to England and doesn’t look to be slowing down.

Manchester City are historic champions; the only to finish with 100 points in a 38 game season. While they were the best, they still need better defenders to contend for a UCL title; Kompany is old, Otamendi doesn’t fit into Pep’s system and Stones hasn’t developed yet. The left-back position needs the most depth with Mendy out most of the year and Delph having to shoulder the majority of the load. And with Agüero expected to leave this summer, it couldn’t hurt to sign a striker to back up Gabriel Jesus. Pep Guardiola recently signed a contract extension through 2021. With that extension, a new dynasty in Manchester could be on the rise with the hope that European success comes with it.

Jose Mourinho guides the Red Devils to 2nd place

Manchester United finished as runner-up unspectacularly. The Red Devils got off to a hot start this season but fizzled out by Christmas. Man United had to resort to grinding out results and one goal wins. The Manchester side was unable to grab any trophies this season having lost in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea. Mourinho has been at odds with his stars and their instincts; Mourinho appears to want his players to be defense oriented, despite the attacking prowess his team possesses. And yet, Manchester need a better defense. This team needs to buy-in to what the coach’s system or the coach needs to allow his attacking players to let their instincts take over; some sort of balance between the two. If they’re able to find that balance, this could be the challenger to Man City’s dominance over the league.

Another season without a trophy for Spurs

Tottenham edge out Liverpool for 3rd and a few questions pose Spurs fans. Will Pochettino stay? Will Real Madrid come calling for Harry Kane? Assuming both stay, what needs to change to put some silverware on the shelf? They need a better midfield outside Eriksen. Or at least better than what Dembélé and Wanyama can offer. While these players have done well in Pochettino’s system, they haven’t produced trophies throughout his tenure as manager; something has to change to pull this team out of limbo. An FA Cup semi-final appearance and a round of 16 appearance in the UCL hasn’t made this season feel any better for Spurs. At this rate, they are the next Arsenal; always finishing in a top spot, but not a trophy to show for it.

Reds reach UCL qualification for 2nd straight year with Klopp

Liverpool land into the final UCL qualifying spot. Mohamed Salah wins the golden boot with a record-breaking 32 goals this season. The 2018 UCL finalists have a couple glaring needs behind their lethal attack that need to be addressed to contend for a domestic title next season; Goalkeeper, defense and midfield. Dejan Lovren‘s days in that backline should be numbered; van Dijk can only influence him so much to sure up the back. The Reds need a better goalkeeper to continue to compete with Europe’s elite; this would solidify their defenses and get them through their defensive woes. And after letting Coutinho go to Barcelona, Emre Can leaving for Juventus, and Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain battling injury, the midfield could use some depth that Klopp can depend on. If they’re able to address all of these needs, Anfield can start expecting titles to come; Liverpool was one of the few teams that beat Manchester City over the course of the season. Imagine how unstoppable and entertaining Liverpool would be without the defensive woes.

Liverpool boast one of the most entertaining brands of football the world is currently witnessing

Underwhelming title defense for Chelsea

Chelsea go from EPL Champions and UCL qualification to Europa League. Despite winning the FA Cup, Antonio Conte could be leaving (or be told to leave) the club after a disappointing season following his successful 2016-17 campaign. Chelsea is hoping to extend Eden Hazard’s contract or else succumb to his desires to leave for Real Madrid. Whether Conte leaves or not, Chelsea will need to recruit a more able forward than the seemingly mentally fragile Alvaro Morata; the departure of Diego Costa in January decimated the depth at the position. While Olivier Giroud seems to have taken away appearances from Morata, Chelsea would relish the chance to sign a better striker. And with John Terry and Nemanja Matic gone, a gaping hole was left in the Blues defense; a hole that will have to be filled to contend with the top 4.

The end of Wenger means a new Arsenal

Arsenal look to replace Arsene Wenger before the next transfer window (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

The Gunners barely squeeze into the Europa League at 6. Arsenal are looking for a new manager for the first time in 22 years. Whoever replaces Arsene Wenger, will have to rebuild the entire team with exception of about a handful of players. The defense is the portion of the team that requires the most attention. Cech, Mustafi, Koscienly and Mertesacker have all seen better seasons; Gunner fans would love to see some competition to get them into gear or be shown the door. A new mentality is what this team needs and the next manager needs to embody that.

A good season by Burnley standards

Burnley overachieved this season and almost unseated Arsenal completely in European competition at 6; the team, unfortunately, slipped up towards the end. A scrappy and fundamentally sound side; Certainly manager of the year considerations go to Sean Dyche for his work with what would be considered a cheap team by the standards of the “big 6” mentioned above. No one is sure how they’ll be able to financially compete with those 6 next season, but that’s why we play the games.

Investments don’t pay off for Everton

Everton end the season in the top 10, which I would say that was their goal this season. However, given how much they spent in the last two transfer windows, they are probably disappointed with how they played. Sam Allardyce recently has been sacked, so the first order of business would be a new manager. Whoever that ends up being will have to find a replacement for Wayne Rooney as the Englishman is leaving for MLS. Striker and midfield would be the areas most in need of improvement for the Toffees; their goal difference of -14 was the worst of any top 10 team.

Foxes return to the top 10

Leicester City finish top 10. Despite some January drama with Riyad Mahrez wanting a transfer, the Foxes were able to stay out of the relegation battle this season. The club expect Mahrez to leave this summer; the club hopes to invest in more talent with his transfer. Defense will have to be addressed as the Foxes were in the negative on goal difference.

Leicester City return to the top 10 for the first time since winning the title in 2016

Benitez has brought Newcastle back to EPL relevance

From relegation a couple seasons ago and back to the top flight, Newcastle United round out the top 10. Rafa Benitez ought to be satisfied with his job thus far in restoring the historic club. Benitez will have to look for better attackers in the coming transfer window; Newcastle struggled to find the back of the net this season averaging about one goal per game.

 

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Premier League

The relegation zone: What’s next for the Premier League’s losers

The 2017/18 Premier League season wrapped up this past Sunday with as much fanfare here in the States as NBC/Universal could muster. Manchester City ran away with the league title, rampaging through the fixture list practically unopposed to finish with 100 points, 18 ahead of Man United. Most of the other drama had played out in the weeks beforehand, with only Chelsea’s spot in the top four (a spot that the Blues fumbled in spectacular fashion with a 3-0 loss to Newcastle,) and Swansea’s last desperate chance to catch Southampton at stake. Still, NBC pulled out all the stops, blanketing the cable dial with live coverage of every match to celebrate another season of the most popular league in the world.

Man City’s domination of the top of the table certainly drained some luster from the season, but there were still some great stories. Liverpool introduced the world to the Egyptian whirlwind Mohamed Salah, who led the league with 32 goals and will get one more chance to shine in the Champions League final against Real Madrid next Saturday.

The FA Cup saw a quarterfinal match between almost relegated Southampton and giant killer Wigan Athletic FC. In only their third ever Premier League season Burnley will be heading to Europe, their 7th place finish qualifying the Clarets for next year’s Europa League. And for the first time since 2012 all three of last year’s promoted teams, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton Hove Albion hung on to top-flight status. Good news for them, bad news for three storied franchises who will compete next year for the Championship instead of the fancy Barclays trophy.

Swansea takes a dive

The Swans had a slim lifeline going into the weekend, needing to beat Stoke City by many goals whilst Southampton lost and surrendered many goals to Man City. Neither of those things happened, so the first Welsh team to compete in the Premier League will trade places with the second, Cardiff City. This ended a six-year run in the top flight for the Swans. Never really threatening to crack the top half of the table, the Swans limped to the finish with five straight losses. The high point of the season was a 3-1 February upset of Arsenal, then a 4-1 thrashing of West Ham in front of the home fans to begin March got hopes up. But the victory over the Hammers was the last time they would smell success.

Swansea heads into next year without their longest serving veteran, as Leon Britten hangs up his cleats after 16 seasons and 537 appearances for the club. Korean international Ki Sung-Yueng’s contract has expired and he has already announced his intention to move on. That still leaves exciting young forwards in Jordan and Andre Ayew, plus Tammy Abraham to build around. Keep two of those three and add some better recruiting and the Swans could get back to getting pummelled by Liverpool fairly quickly.

Stoke City Collapses

Premier League

Peter Crouch is tall/ Swansea City.com

Stoke City is in trouble. They have been in the Premier League since 2008, never finishing higher than ninth but acquitting themselves honorably for a mid-table team. This year the bottom fell out.

The Potters tied with West Ham for the most goals conceded despite keeper Jack Butland leading the league in saves. Butland and their best player, attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaquiri are too good to be playing in the Championship and are already drawing feelers from teams with bigger checkbooks. The best of the rest of the team is either on the wrong side of 30 like Mame Diouf or Big Bird impersonator Peter Crouch or are young and unproven like Spaniard Jese Rodriguez.

This team could have its entire identity stripped away when the transfer window opens this Thursday.

West Brom, too little too late

Premier League

Darren Moore/ BeIn Sports

The hottest team in the Premier League for the last 6 weeks of the year wasn’t inevitable champion Man City or Champions League contender Liverpool, it was the cellar-dwelling West Bromwich Albion Baggies. They finished on a tear, picking up 11 points in the standings over the last six matches after Darren Moore was tabbed to bring an end to the disastrous tenure of Alan Pardew, who was brought in after Tony Pulis was sacked in November.

Neither Pulis nor Pardew appeared to inspire the squad, and both were stultifyingly conservative. Forwards Solomon Rondon and Jay Rodriguez often found themselves with no support after chasing down long passes. Moore tightened up the passing game, getting wide midfielders James McClean and Matt Phillips more involved downfield and keeping everyone focused, avoiding late concessions that had plagued them in the winter.

Like both of their fellow relegated teams, the Baggies stand to lose some of there top talent next season. Rondon and Rodriguez are going to be too expensive for a rebuilding team to keep. But I’m more optimistic about their chances of bouncing back quickly. A lot of the changes we’ll be seeing at the Hawthorns were likely to happen even if the Baggies had clawed their way out of the zone. Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak never fit in, and January transfer addition Daniel Sturridge failed to impact the lineup. But replacements lurk in Oliver Burke and Sam Field and if they retain Moore there’s reason to believe that the true talent level of the team is closer to the side that beat Spurs and Man U in the last month than the side that slogged through Pardew’s tenure.

They are also my adopted team so I’m not completely objective.

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Season Begins Today, Here are bold predictions

 

The season starts later today at 2:45 pm when Leicester City visit the Emirates to face Arsenal. So with the season just around the corner here are predictions for the English Premier League season coming up.

Arsenal will gamble with Ozil and Sanchez and win.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who both could leave for free next summer (image: Getty Images)

Arsenal’s two top players are in the last year of their contracts, which lead many to believe they were for sale since the players might leave on a free transfer next summer. Both players are unwilling to sign extensions after Arsenal didn’t earn a place in the Champions League this season. The Gunners as of now have said they will not sell both players and will let them run out their contracts, with the belief that if they get champions league for next season they will resign with the club.

This is a huge gamble because if the team loses both players next summer they will face a huge hole in the squad with no money to try to replace them. If Sanchez and Ozil both leave then Arsenal will probably fall from the level of the teams trying to win titles, a level that will be very hard to achieve without receiving money for selling them. World class players are hard to come by and losing two for free can be detrimental.

Yet, if Arsenal do finish in the top four this season than the move will be seen as brilliant. As Arsenal got to keep their best players and never take a step back and can continue building a squad around them. This year will be a make or break season for Arsenal, it will set up the years to come. If they reach top four then Arsenal will continue to be the Gunners of recent years but if they don’t they will probably take a huge step back that will take years to recover. This is all a gamble Arsene Wenger is doing but it is not the first time the club just put all its faith in the manager.

Ultimately Arsenal does look in a prime position to get back into the top four since they have added to the squad and been able to keep their best players. Something not all clubs in England have been able to do.

Liverpool have a drop-off

Phillipe Coutinho’s future still up in the air (Images:Getty Images)

Liverpool is in the middle of the biggest transfer sagas of the summer with Barcelona after Phillipe Coutinho. Yet, while many are clambering for the player to stay it won’t make a difference. Liverpool’s problem last year was the depth of the squad, they went undefeated against the other teams in the top six but still managed to finish fourth. This shows that Liverpool’s problem is beating the teams they are supposed to beat not the top class opponents.

Many expected Liverpool to bring in many players to set up the squad with a bigger depth and as of now, they have only three additions with the potential of losing their best player. The problem will also be highlighted by the fact that Liverpool are in the Champions League and that brings more fixtures into the schedule. So if the squad remains the same it is easy to predict that the team will produce similar results. If they struggled last season this year will bring even more matches for the team to juggle. The second issue is the top teams they have had success against have gotten better and it would be hard to assume they will find the same success against the top side as they did last season.

This season will show if Jurgen Klopp can manage a full premier league season and build a squad that can be consistent day in and day out. Liverpool will have to be more consistent and step up the level of play of the team if they want to find the same success they had last season. There are still three weeks left in the transfer window so the depth issue might be resolved a couple fixtures into the season.

Spurs and Man City will pass Chelsea

Kane was leading scorer last season and will look to improve this year (images: Getty Images )

Chelsea this summer has looked like they have taken a step back which is in direct opposite of Man City and Tottenham. Man City has spent over 200 million and finally look to have a squad more built with Pep Guardiola’s style. Tottenham have been able to keep their great young core that keeps improving year by year.

Spurs last year already scored more and allowed fewer goals than Chelsea and with three weeks left you’d expect the team to add a little bit more to the squad. Man city will come back with a healthy Gabriel Jesus plus a complete overhaul of the defence that allowed 39 goals last season. On the other hand, Chelsea is losing players and not really gaining much. While their defense is still intact and the addition of Antonio Rudiger will help, the problem this year will be the goals. Since Diego Costa is out the door Chelsea doesn’t really have a striker that can net 20 goals in a season. Spurs have Kane, City have Aguero and Chelsea doesn’t have a player that can counter them.

Unless they add another forward player in the three weeks left in the window, Chelsea will have a tough time being able to score goals at the level needed to win the championship. So while Chelsea is trending downward, Man City and Spurs have looked amazing in the preseason and are the two clubs who have seemed to separate themselves from the rest. It goes to show how Chelsea has suffered this transfer window where they needed the year as favorites and are now falling behind Spurs and City.

United will contend but will ultimately fall short

If United want to win it all Rashford has to become a proven scorer (image: Getty Images )

Manchester United has done a lot this summer to improve the squad with many believing that it will be enough to win the title. The red devils fixed a lot of the problems in their squad they brought in Victor Lindelof to fix their issue of not having a good centre back in the air. They got Lukaku to get a world class striker that can score goals and move defenders since Zlatan Ibrahimovic was let go. Their latest move might have been the most important, Matic brings a good defensive midfield that can win the ball back and give Pogba and Mata space in front to be able to create plays.

United are starting to look like an elite team again like it used to be during the Ferguson years. Yet, the talent gap may still be too big for them to catch up in just one summer. While so much talent has been added at United, they will still be needing goals and unless the wingers they have (Rashford, Lingard) break out and start scoring like they never had.

Every single one of the top teams last year had two guys that could score more than 15. Costa and Hazard for Chelsea, Kane and Ali in Spurs, Aguero and Jesus at Man City. That is something United are still missing and if they don’t find that second scorer alongside Lukaku it will be difficult for them to have the fire power to win the title. Manchester United only scored 54 goals last season, which is 31 fewer goals than the champions Chelsea. Adding to the fact is that of those 54 goals 17 were from Zlatan who will not be there next season. So while adding Lukaku gives the side goals they will need someone to step up along side him if United want to win it all.

Burnley will struggle

Burnley sold their second leading scorer Andre Grey to Watford (Image: Getty Images )

Burnley finished 16th last year summing up the magical number of 40 points to stay in the league. They played fantastic at home, winning 10 games and drawing there while only losing six matches. This is an incredible home record for a team in the relegation battle. In direct contrast, they were one of the worst teams in the road gaining points only five matches and losing 14. They collected 33 of their 40 points at home something that will be very difficult for them to repeat this season.

What will add difficulty to Burnley aspiration of staying up is the transfer window they are having. They have sold their best defender in Micheal Keane to Everton, gotten rid of one of their minute’s leader George Boyd and on Saturday they sold their second leading scorer from last year in Andre Gray to the only team they finished above in the table. Burnley scored 39 goals last year, that is the worst mark among all the teams returning from last year.

On the other end, Burnley hasn’t really added to the squad. They brought in a Jonathan Walters from Stoke who only score 4 goals last year and Jack Cork who will come in to fill in the role Boyd left. If Burnley wants to stay up they will have to find a goalscorer in the three weeks left in the transfer window. They can’t expect their home form from last year to show up again so unless they improve at scoring away from Turf Moor they are bound to end up relegated.

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EPL: What Next Season’s Contenders Need to Do to Improve in the Summer (Part 1)

With Chelsea having one hand on the Premier League trophy, those who fell short are already looking to new hope next season. A highly anticipated transfer window awaits in the summer, and there are improvements to be made for all the top clubs.

Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku is seen as a potential replacement for Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Goal.com)

For presumed champions, Chelsea faces quite a bit of uncertainty heading into next season. Rifts between manager Antonio Conte and striker Diego Costa have caused the latter to be linked with a move to China. Real Madrid is also reportedly interested in superstar Eden Hazard.

 

It is paramount that the Blues hang on to Hazard and find an adequate replacement for Costa if he leaves. Two options are Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. Both are quick, strong and left-footed handfuls for defenders. Lukaku once played with Chelsea and a deal featuring Hazard for Morata and money has been rumored as a possibility.

Chelsea will also want to make sure they hang onto goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is seemingly always linked to leaving Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino will be searching for the final piece to his Spurs title puzzle. After likely coming up short back to back seasons, the Spurs need to sign players to upgrade the wing and midfield positions.

Despite a great second half to the season, Son Heung-Min is not a true winger, and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has been linked to Tottenham, would be a great fit. He would add a pacy threat and could cross the ball into Harry Kane.

In the midfield, Moussa Dembele will turn 30 this summer. A young, dominant midfield presence alongside Dele Alli would boost the Spurs. The Monaco duo of Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko are options, as well as Nice’s Wylan Cyprien.

As far as departures, Kyle Walker has been linked to a move to Man City. While his departure would be a blow, the Spurs should be fine as long as they retain Kane, Alli, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has continued to deliver results despite what many consider to be an underwhelming squad. Liverpool can perhaps improve more than any of their competitors with a good transfer window this summer.

Signing Virgil Van Dijk would sure up Liverpool’s woes at the back. (Photo by Sports Mole)

Klopp’s most glaring issue is at the back where Liverpool was repeatedly vulnerable. Alberto Moreno is not a true left back, and the Reds could use a solid center-back to pair with Joel Matip. Klopp is looking at Southampton duo Ryan Bertrand and Virgil van Dijk to fill the void. He also has his eyes on Burnley center-back Michael Keane.

Liverpool could also target a true striker this summer. While Roberto Firmino is great, he is not a true striker. Daniel Sturridge can’t stay healthy, and Divock Origi has been inconsistent. Romelu Lukaku or Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette could work in Klopp’s system.

The good news for Liverpool is that they aren’t expected to lose anyone major in the summer. If Klopp can be smart with his buying, the Reds could be really improved ahead of a likely Champions League campaign.

 

(Featured Image by Sportskeeda.com)

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Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

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Preview and Predictions: Matchweek 28

Due to midweek Champions League ties and FA Cup fixtures, many of this week’s fixtures were rescheduled. However, the four matches on the slate are all very important. With top four contenders and relegation candidates in action, this weekend will still have plenty of fire power in the Prem.

Everton vs West Brom

Everton have been very formidable at home (Photo courtesy of Sky Sports).

A showdown between the two best sides this season outside of the big six clubs. Both teams feel that they can challenge for European spots and have shown why in their recent form.

Last weekends’ hard fought defeat to Tottenham was their first loss in the league in 2017. Striker Romelu Lukaku is in stunning goal-scoring form. His 18 league goals are only one shy of tops in the league.

The Toffees will certainly use the home field to their advantage, having lost just once at Goodison Park. Ross Barkley and Idrissa Gueye will look to control the tempo in the midfield and feed Lukaku. Everton averages over two goals per game at home, so look for them to find the net on Saturday.

West Brom have somewhat been the “surprise” of the league this season. Often boring and unexciting, Tony Pulis’ men have combined their usually gritty defense with a surprisingly good attack that has seen unlikely goalscoring heroes.

37-year-old center back Gareth McAuley is the oldest outfield player in the league and has six goals. Tottenham outcast Nacer Chadli and Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon have also contributed to the attack. West Brom will meet their match against Everton and Pulis would surely take a draw.

Everton 2 West Brom 1

 

Liverpool vs Burnley

Coming off a 3-1 triumph against Arsenal, Jurgen Klopp and Co. will be looking to further secure their top-four spot against Burnley. The Reds were stunned 2-0 on the second weekend of the season in August against the newly promoted Clarets.

Fortunately for Klopp, Burnley is a very different team when not playing in the confines of their own stadium. All but two of the Clarets’ 31 points have been earned at home. With such a dismal away record, it would be a surprise if Burnley can get anything from this game. Liverpool’s attacking trident of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane will be a handful for the Burnley back four and goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Liverpool needs to be wary of its history of underperforming against lesser sides. The defense is suspect as always. Outside of striker Andre Gray, Burnley lacks the attacking talent to exploit the Reds’ defensive deficiencies. Expect Liverpool’s attack and the Anfield atmosphere to guide them to three points.

Liverpool 3 Burnley 1

Other Predictions (Home Team in Bold):

Swansea 2 Hull 0

Bournemouth 1 West Ham 1

 

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Preview and Predictions: Matchweek 27

Solid recent play has maintained helped Chelsea maintain a double digit lead in the Prem as we round into March. While the Blues have excelled, other top teams have struggled, which has lead to a tight race for the top four.

Two of the teams firmly entrenched in the top four race are Arsenal and Liverpool, who meet this weekend in a critical match-up between two sides who have had less than encouraging starts to 2017. This match-up headlines a weekend full of potential traps for teams toward the top of the table to trip on.

Liverpool vs Arsenal

 A rematch of Liverpool’s victory at the Emirates on the opening weekend of the season, both sides could desperately use three points to jump-start their respective starts to the new year.

Liverpool are coming off an embarrassing defeat to Leicester on Monday, in which their defense crumbled as Jamie Vardy had a field day retrieving long balls. Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane headline an always dangerous attack, but Liverpool’s defense is always a concern. Alberto Moreno is not a true full back and there is a lack of depth at the center back position behind starters Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren. If Liverpool’s defense can bend and not break against the Gunners, then Jurgen Klopp’s men will have a good chance Saturday.

For Arsenal, it appears to be another season where they are simply fighting for the top four. Uncertainty over the futures of manager Arsene Wenger and stars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil has put a damper on the Gunners’ season. Arsenal’s defense will be severely tested by Liverpool’s attack at Anfield on Saturday and Arsenal will need to take advantage of the hosts’ shaky defense.

Liverpool 2 Arsenal 1

 

Tottenham vs Everton

 Both sides are in stunning form domestically at the moment. Everton are yet to lose in the new year and Tottenham are coming off a 4-0 thrashing of Stoke City. Spurs’ faint title hopes are on the line every week now as they must get three points every fixture.

The hosts are very tough to handle this season when playing in the confines of White Hart Lane. Star striker Harry Kane is coming off a hat trick and midfielders Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have had masterful seasons. Spurs must be consistent for all ninety minutes and not let discipline cause dangerous set piece situations against a team that excels in scoring off of them.

Everton are nipping at the heels of Manchester United at the bottom of the “top six”. Romelul Lukaku shares the title of leading goalscorer this season. Ross Barkley brings creativity to the midfield and Joel Robles has been somewhat of a revelation in goal this season. Ronald Koeman is very good at getting his players prepared for big games like this one and these are the types of games that the Toffee’s will need to perform in if they want to be viewed as a top English side.

Tottenham 3 Everton 2

 

Other Predictions: (Home in Bold)

Manchester United 2 Bournemouth 0

Stoke City 1 Middlesbrough 0

Leicester 1 Hull 0

Swansea 2 Burnley 1

Watford 2 Southampton 2

West Brom 1 Crystal Palace 1

Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1

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Preview & Predictions: Matchweek 25

Following a dominating 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Saturday, Chelsea still enjoy that comfortable nine point cushion at the top of the table. The only side showing any signs of catching them this season is Tottenham, who face a very real test against an albeit struggling, but desperate and dangerous Liverpool at Anfield. The relegation battle is very exciting however, as five team including Leicester could be in safe or in last at the end of fixtures this weekend.

Jurgen Klopp has been under fire as Liverpool have endured a brutal start to 2017

Liverpool vs Tottenham:

The weekends’ marquee match-up takes place at the home of the desperate Reds. Jurgen Klopp & Co. haven’t won in five matches and will not have it easy against a Tottenham side that is oozing confidence as they have jumped to second in the table.

Liverpool have dominated most if not all of their recent defeats. Their failure to convert chances has been their downfall. Now, against the best defense in the league, Sadio Mane and Co. will need to be sharp in the final third. For Spurs, they also could improve their finishing as they have been reliant on penalties to get them three points this season. Dele Alli is the highest scoring midfielder in the league.

Liverpool are known to play well against big competition, expect them to give Spurs a tough test on Saturday.

Liverpool 1 Tottenham 1

Leicester’s star striker Jamie Vardy has been mostly quiet this season and will look to score against Swansea.

Swansea City vs Leicester City

A surprisingly big matchup this weekend in Wales. Leicester, following an embarrassing display against Manchester United, will likely be in the relegation zone if they lose this one. The same can be said for Swansea, who know what its like to be threatened by relegation this season. A recent spike in form under new manager Paul Clement has the Swans temporarily safe.

Leicester have the talent to succeed in this league, as they proved last season. Their stars have been quiet the entire year and that will need to change if the Foxes hope to avoid the drop. Jamie Vardy will look to end a seven game dry run against a team that has allowed the most goals at home this season in the Premier League.

For Swansea, they need to lean on their veterans to save them from relegation. Striker Fernando Lllorente is a proper threat in the air and midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson plays at a Champions League level. If the Swans sure up at the back, they have the firepower up front to make Leicester trouble.

Swansea 1 Leicester 2

Other Matches

Arsenal 1 Hull 1: Hull in improved form and Gunners have been shaky without Wenger on the touchline.

West Ham 1 West Brom 1: Two sides in good form, expecting a hard fought draw here.

Man United 2 Watford 1: Watford are dangerous but United have confidence after thrashing Leicester

Middlesborough 0 Everton 1: Everton are very underrated and have enough to win at pesky ‘Borough.

Stoke 2 Crystal Palace 1: Palace will look to regroup after embarrassing outing vs Sunderland. Wont happen at stingy Stoke.

Sunderland 1 Southampton 1: Sunderland gained confidence last weekend. Lets see what they can do with it.

Burnley 1 Chelsea 1: Burnley one of the best home sides in the league will steal a point against league leaders Chelsea.

Bournemouth 1 Man City 2: City’s youth revival will continue at Bournemouth.

 

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Premier League Matchweek 23 Preview and Predictions

A rare midweek slate for the Prem offers some enticing match-ups this week. Headlined by Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield, Arsenal and Manchester City also have tough games.

Something to watch for will be if some managers opt to rest a few starters in preparation for another slate of games this weekend. However teams like Chelsea, with matches against Liverpool and Arsenal are likely to play their full lineup in both matches.

Liverpool vs Chelsea:

Jurgen Klopp’s men have endured a horrible recent run of form. Three consecutive home defeats in the last nine days has seen the Reds exit both domestic cups as well as falling back in the Prem table.

However, Liverpool have a reputation for performing very well against good sides while underperforming against lesser teams. The team has suffered from the absence of dynamic wimger Sadio Mane who was representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations. It doesn’t look like he will be able to start as he missed training due to travel problems.

The good news for Klopp and Co. is that they will have Roberto Firmino, who managed to get a drunken driving court date pushed back 24 hours. At home, Liverpool will not make it easy on the league leaders.

Chelsea sit eight points clear of second at the moment and have recovered nicely since losing at Tottenham a few weeks back. The Blues have arguably their most important two game stretch of the season this week (@ Liverpool, vs Arsenal). If they can manage four points from these games, Conte would be satisfied and it would make it unlikely for Chelsea to fall back.

Leading goalscorer Diego Costa and the talented Eden Hazard will look to have a field day against an underwhelming Liverpool defense. But can Chelsea’s own defense hold against Liverpool’s dynamic and versatile attack?

Liverpool 2 Chelsea 2

 

West Ham United vs Manchester City:

Brazilian starlet Gabriel Jesus is expected to feature against West Ham.

The post-Dimitri Payet era begins at West Ham with a brutal matchup against a desperate Manchester City. Despite Payet causing distractions for much of the past month, West Ham have actually been in a good run of form. Slaven Bilic has guided the Hammers to 10th after flirting with relegation early in the season.

Even sans Payet, West Ham is not short on talent. Michail Antonio can defend while being a threat going forward from the midfield and Andy Carroll is a threat in the air and has been in a good run of form.

For the visitors, three points are paramount if City want to get back on track as they battle for a top four spot. Guardiola and Co. thrashed West Ham 5-0 here a few weeks ago in a cup tie and will look to build on that performance. West Ham’s struggles defending on the wing means that young wingers such as Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and the new kid in town Gabriel Jesus could be in for big games.

West Ham 1 Manchester City 2

 

Arsenal vs Watford

Arsene Wenger is suspended for the Gunners’ match against Watford following his altercation with an assistant official vs Burnley

The second place Gunners will be doing a bit of scoreboard watching on Tuesday as a home victory and a Chelsea loss at Anfield would move Arsenal to within five points of the leaders. Such a result would reignite the title race for the Gunners. Arsene Wenger will have to watch the match from the stands as he is suspended from the touchline for his antics during last week’s match against Burnley.

The Gunners will be expected to win as they have arguably the league’s best player the season in Alexis Sanchez (20 goals and 7 assists in all competitions). Combine that with Mesut Ozil, who just oozes class and it isn’t hard to see why the Gunners are expected to win this match.

Watford have been miserable recently, but possess the players and they ability to play ninety tough minutes against anyone. Troy Deeney is Mr. Watford and the captain enters the match coming off a good performance against Watford. If Deeney finds the net and Etienne Capoue can navigate the midfield easily, Arsenal will have a game on their hands.

Arsenal 2 Watford 1

 

Other Matchups:

Manchester United 3 Hull City 0: Hull’s miserable defense will be exploited by Zlatan, Pogba and Co.

Sunderland 0 Tottenham 2: Sunderland have not improved in January window while Tottenham remain in good form. Dele Alli to score.

Bournemouth 3 Crystal Palace 2: Youth trumps experience as Eddie Howe’s Cherries edge out Sam Allardyce’s Palace in an exciting one.

Burnley 1 Leicester City 1: Burnley are really good at home but Leicester have to turn it around at some point.

Middlesborough 0 West Brom 1: Low scoring affair predicted here as ‘Borough park the bus. Im thinking ninth-place West Brom eek it out.

Swansea 1 Southampton 1: The Saints are the better side but home field and improvements under a new manager earn Swansea a point.

Stoke City 1 Everton 1: Another big game as two of the best sides outside of the top six duke it out. Everton to steal a draw late.

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Weekend Preview and Predictions: Matchweek 22

Another weekend of important matches is nearly upon us in the Premier League. This slate of games has potential to shake up the table quite a bit. The marquee matchup of the weekend is between a red hot Tottenham Hotspur side and desperate Pep Guardiola-led Manchester City. Manchester United faces a test to stay relevant. Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all face manageable games, which they must take advantage of.

 

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur

Man City Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been heavily criticized in recent days. He will need to be stellar in between the sticks on Sunday against Tottenham.

The difference in current form between the two sides could not be larger. Tottenham are winners of seven straight in the league dating back to last month. They are also enjoying second spot in the table on goal differential over Liverpool. As for City, they have lost two of their last three including an embarrassing performance last weekend at Everton. City’s slim title hopes and fading Champions League aspirations are on the line this weekend.

The key player in this match will be City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Bravo was brought in from Barcelona to replaced the out of favor Joe Hart. His play has been heavily scrutinized as he owns the worst save percentage in the league this year. Tottenham is playing too well to not get their chances, but can Bravo make enough saves to keep City in it? Man City’s attack has also stalled recently and must get back on track. Although it won’t be easy against league-best defense. Can City break through? Maybe, but it won’t be enough for three points at home.

Manchester City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

 

 

Stoke City vs Manchester United

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will look to get on the score sheet against Stoke City.

 

The Red Devils travel to Stoke this weekend in what is always a tricky match to get three points from. Stoke have long prided themselves on tripping up title contenders late in the season and derailing their hopes. If Mourinho wants to keep any chance of a title this year, United must get three points from this match.

One thing to watch for will be who controls the aerial game. This match features the top two aerial sides in the Prem according to WhoScored.com. It is not hard to see why, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Stoke’s 6’7 striker Peter Crouch featuring in the game. In the end, it will come down to what it always has this season for United, finishing chances. Mourinho’s men will dominate possession, but can they score enough?

Stoke City 1 Manchester United 2

 

 

 

Chelsea vs Hull City

 

Chelsea will reportedly welcome back star striker Diego Costa to the lineup.

 

The Blues have built a seven point lead for themselves already in their first year under the guidance of Antonio Conte. They managed to win last week despite the absence of Diego Costa and the drama surrounding his situation. Costa will reportedly be back on the pitch at Stamford Bridge this weekend against Hull City. The Blues will be heavy favorites to continue to build on their impressive point total.

Unfortunately for Hull, a David and Goliath story doesn’t seem to be in the cards this weekend. The Tigers have only taken four points away from home all season and Chelsea have taken 29 of a possible 33 at Stamford Bridge. Look for Chelsea’s attacking trident of Costa, Eden Hazard, and Willian/Pedro to feast on one of the worst defenses in the league. Unless Conte’s men show up horribly under-prepared, I would expect no problems for the hosts here.

Chelsea 4 Hull City 0

 

Other Matches: 

Arsenal 2 Burnley 0: Burnley is worst in the league away from home, and Arsenal don’t seem in the mood to drop points at the Emirates.

Liverpool 4 Swansea 1: League-worst Swans are badly undermanned defensively to deal with Liverpool’s attack.

Middlesborough 0 West Ham 0: Two stingy, conservative defenses play to a stale mate with no Dimitri Payet to guide the Hammers.

Bournemouth 1 Watford 1: Interesting match up, thinking Watford sneaks one in here to salvage an away point.

Crystal Palace 1 Everton 2: Everton look good were very impressive last week, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them lay an egg here.

West Brom 1 Sunderland 0: West Brom are very sound defensively and aren’t in eighth for no reason.

Southampton 1 Leicester 1: Maybe a bit optimistic for Foxes to get an away point sans Mahrez and Slimani.