EPL Predictions – Gameweek 5

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Throughout the 2013/2014 English Premier League season, we’ll embark upon the daunting task of predicting the result of every single game. Putting our credibility on the line, we’ll look to beat the odds and give you the insights that will hopefully guide you through to tipping, fantasy and betting success this coming season

Last weekend’s return to Premier League action was all about how the giant clubs fared and how the league’s elite players performed at the back-end of the campaign’s opening month. We learned a few valuable lessons but several mysteries are still yet to be answered. Here’s hoping that in Gameweek 5, the League table will continue to take shape as the best are separated from the rest.

So without further ado, here are our predictions for Gameweek 5 of the 2013/2014 English Premier League season.

(15) Norwich v Aston Villa (17) | Carrow Road

Despite both sides being defeated last time out, Norwich’s showing against Tottenham and Villa’s respective match against Newcastle showed that both sides will harbor hopes of victory this weekend. Unfortunately, only one manager has a realistic chance at securing all 3 points. After managing just 1 shot last weekend (coming from distance), Norwich’s revitalized attacking threat of van Wolfswinkel and Elmander isn’t working.

Aston Villa on the other hand face their easiest prospect of the season thus far and were arguably unlucky to emerge from last weekend empty-handed. An unstoppable Hatem Ben Arfa was their lone nemesis and with Norwich lacking a player of his class, a Delph-led midfield that has largely neutralized Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool this season should provide enough defensive cover and supply to Benteke for a Villa away victory.

Key Statistic: Aston Villa have experienced the most difficult draw to date this Premier League season having played the sides that currently sit 1st, 2nd, 6th and 8th on the table. Norwich have played sides sitting 3rd, 9th, 11th and 16th.

Key Matchup: Ricky van Wolfswinkel v Christian Benteke. One has struggled to perform in his new surrounds whilst the other continued to thrive in the Premier League. Norwich will need to score twice to salvage a point from this one, meaning that not only does van Wolfswinkel need to find the ball more than he has in the opening weeks. Elmander, Snodgrass and Redmond must avoid isolating their lone-striker like they did against Tottenham.

Prediction: Norwich 0 – 2 Aston Villa

(1) Liverpool v Southampton (11) | Anfield

Southampton have managed to stay in matches so far this season and have a respectable 6 points to show for their efforts, however Liverpool presents a different challenge to the mid-table fodder they’ve faced so far. The first blight on Liverpool’s otherwise impeccable record came on the weekend at Swansea, however the Swans’ midfield was the lone reason for their success. Southampton will need a player to replicate the effort of Jonjo Shelvey (ideally without the defensive mistakes) if they are to challenge the league leaders.

Lambert and Osvaldo may be a new combination, however they’re going to need to fire if they’re to outscore Sturridge. Coutinho’s shoulder injury (6 weeks) would have been a concern but Moses’ arrival means Aspas will simply start in place of the young Brazilian. At the end of the day, Southampton don’t lack attacking flare on paper and whilst they will struggle to combine well for 90 minutes, will show glimpses of potential.

Key Statistic: Southampton have had 17 shots in the past two matches, yet have failed to score in both fixtures. Liverpool have conceded 46 shots this season for just 2 goals. Southampton will need to create better chances if they’re to score this weekend.

Key Matchup: Steven Gerrard v Adam Lallana. Gerrard has been sublime for Liverpool thus far in 2013/2014 and is for arguably for the first time since Fernando Torres’ departure, the unsung hero at Anfield. Lallana has a challenge in trying to neutralise the Reds’ captain, however if he fails, it could be a long day for Boruc and Southampton’s defenders.

Prediction: Liverpool 3 – 1 Southampton

(8) Newcastle United v Hull City (16) | St James’ Park

Hatem Ben Arfa is arguably the form midfielder in the English Premier League and if it weren’t for Ozil’s incredible Arsenal debut, would be lauded for his effort against Aston Villa on the weekend. Newcastle as a whole looked vastly superior than they did against Fulham seven days earlier and should make it a third straight victory with another complete performance.

Hull meanwhile still have the appearance of a team vastly improved from their last Premier League showing. Tom Huddlestone is the key to his side’s chances at taking a point from Tyneside with the former-Spur adopting a pivoting role equivalent to Gerrard at Liverpool, Barry at Everton and Ramires at Chelsea. While he may lack the short-passing skills of the above, his direct play is near unparalleled and has the potential to exploit the likes of Santon as he roams up the flank from his defensive post.

Key Statistic: Newcastle are seeking three consecutive league wins for the first time since April 2012. They strung 6 together on that occasion in a streak that spanned from the 18th of March until the 28th April and included wins over Norwich, West Bromwich, Liverpool, Swansea, Bolton and Stoke. They conceded just 1 goal in that streak and scored 13!

Key Matchup: Hatem Ben Arfa v Robbie Brady. Hull City can’t afford to let Ben Arfa run at their defense like Villa did last weekend. Tom Huddlestone may be the more defensively-inclined of the Tigers’ midfielders, but only Brady has the speed to match the Frenchman and the attacking flare to hurt him running the other way. Another chance for both youngsters to come into their own on the Premier League stage.

Prediction: Newcastle 2 – 1 Hull City

(19) West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland (20) | The Hawthorns

This game has all the ingredients of an incredibly disappointing clash. At the same time, it’s a vital match between an improving West Bromwich side and Sunderland, still arguably the worst team in the league. The Baggies should finally rediscover the goal-scoring form they displayed in the preseason. Sunderland meanwhile were tormented by Ozil last weekend and whilst West Brom lack a player of his class, the Black Cats’ back four need to find some cohesion if they’re to provide a foundation from which their competent midfield and relatively impressive Altidore can mount a challenge.

Key Statistic: Neither side has won a League match since April. It is now September…

Key Matchup: Boaz Myhill v Kieren Westwood. The two may never be closer than 90m from one another, but this match could be decided by a dominant keeping display at either end. Myhill has made 3 saves and conceded 3 goals in the past two matches whilst Westwood has made 12 goals and conceded 7 times in his last 3 outings. Westwood was impressive last weekend, especially in denying Theo Walcott from 1-on-1 situations. West Bromwich won’t break into open space like the Gunners so it may be difficult to get past the Sunderland stopper.

Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 1 – 0 Sunderland

(10) West Ham United v Everton (9) | Boleyn Ground

Two very different philosophies go head-to-head in what promises to be an entertaining, if not high scoring affair. Sam Allardyce’s direct play against the possession-dominant Martinez should play into the hands of the latter. Chelsea tried to break down the Toffees in several ways last weekend, finding most joy when avoiding the flanks. Unfortunately for West Ham, their greatest threats come from out wide in the form of Matthew Jarvis. Without a dominant striker up front, almost every avenue to goal has dried up for the Hammers however and coming off an incredibly disappointing showing against Southampton, they’re primed for a huge loss. If Coleman and Baines can prevent being exploited on the counter, they should thrive against a side that were exploited badly after losing possession far too often last week.

Jussi Jaaskelainen may be called on again to save West Ham. It’s unlikely he can put in a performance equal to his showing against Southampton though. It was simply sensational.

Key Statistic: In the 6 matches these sides have participated in since the opening weekend, just 2 goals have been scored.

Key Matchup: Kevin Nolan v Gareth Barry. The of the more experienced and old-school Premier League footballers. Tough competitors who should face up in the midfield and have the potential to break the game apart should it fall into a stalemate. Barry’s support cast should give him assistance in isolating the Hammers’ most dangerous player.

Prediction: West Ham 1 – 2 Everton

(6) Chelsea v Fulham (14) | Stamford Bridge

Typically, Fulham lift for the West London derby. At this stage of the season though it’s difficult to see any potential to improve. Few chances are being generated, fewer still are being taken and while some bad luck with the offside flag cost the Cottagers all three points against West Bromwich, Martin Jol’s men should be more productive than the ‘3 goals in 4 outings’ side they’ve begun the campaign as.

Chelsea meanwhile are yet to regain the killer instinct that had them so feared under Mourinho in his first spell at the club. More controversy regarding Juan Mata has the club in some form of turmoil, however the class of the players should rise above it. Eto’o looked better than Torres and Ba combined in his club debut, Schurrle created chances and Hazard had moments whilst David Luiz and Terry were largely secure at the back. Chelsea’s two goals this season have been conceded because of Ivanovic who was beaten for speed against Vill and marked horribly against Everton to let Jelavic put Naismith in.

If Berbatov can refrain from sulking around the pastures of Stamford Bridge, Fulham have a chance against Chelsea’s flanks. Both goals conceded against Basel mid-week came from the flanks, as did their goal conceded against Everton.

Key Statistic: 5 of the last 6 matches between these sides have ended in a draw. Fulham haven’t lost at Stamford Bridge since November 2010.

Key Matchup: Ramires v Scott Parker. Ramires is one of the most under-rated players in not only the Premier League, but the world. He’s sublime at his trade and is rarely rivaled. Scott Parker has been Fulham’s lone positive thus far in 2013/2014 and is, somehow, one of the form players in the league. Both are terrific short-passers but how Parker’s ball control fares against Ramires’ tackling (4th most tackles last season) could decide this midfield battle.

Prediction: Chelsea 3 – 0 Fulham

(2) Arsenal v Stoke City (7) | Emirates Stadium

For the criticism we regularly direct the way of Stoke, their performance against Manchester City last weekend is worthy of praise. Not only did they take a point from the Citizens, but Hughes’ men were unlucky not to secure all three. Arsenal meanwhile have recovered from an opening week loss to Villa in emphatic fashion. A mid-week victory against Marseilles following a dominant display agains Sunderland means that Wenger’s only issue is the fitness of his relatively thin squad.

Stoke’s size intimidated City last week with Aguero in particular struggling to find space when he entered the fray. Arsenal’s slight frames will pose a similar issue, however the combination of Ozil, Walcott and Ramsey and undoutbedly more dangerous and skillful than Rodwell, Milner and Nasri, the latter of whom had a horror outing last week.

Wenger won’t make the same mistake as his City counterpart in resting several starters, despite having played 3 games in 7 days.

Key Statistic: In 2013 (23 games), Arsenal have been held scoreless just twice in the League (v Manchester City in January, Everton in April). Only Everton have a longer clean-sheet streak than Stoke (251 minutes).

Key Matchup: Charlie Adam v Mesut Ozil. Charlie Adam was spectacular against City and really looks to have rediscovered his pre-Liverpool form. His preference for being a ‘big fish in a small pond’ may not lend itself to greatness on the European stage, but he is without a doubt crucial to Stoke’s Premier League campaign. Stoke are unlikely to keep another clean sheet, but if he can create more opportunities than his German counter-part, Stoke are in the running for a second straight upset.

Prediction: Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City

(18) Crystal Palace v Swansea (13) | Selhurst Park

Whether Crystal Palace’s resolute performance against Manchester United was a product of talent of United’s inability to score from general play remains to be seen, but so far this season, the relegation favourites have shown glimpses of Premier League quality. Palace’s recruit of Chamakh from Arsenal seems a master-stroke early with a combination noticeably developing quickly with Gayle.

Swansea meanwhile hadn’t flaunted their attacking potential until the final 20 minutes against Liverpool last week. Whilst their two goals came from relatively scrappy situations, chances created late through Michu and Shelvey were of a class reminiscient of last season’s campaign.

Key Statistic: For all of their success last season, Swansea secured just 7 of a possible 18 points against promoted opposition.

Key Matchup: Mile Jedinak v Jonjo Shelvey. The Swansea midfielder was the source of everything good and bad from Swansea against Liverpool. Whilst not a midfield anchor, his performance will be key to Swansea’s attacking potential. Jedinak meanwhile has been Palace’s unsung hero this season. His work on the defensive side of midfield has been exceptional and his passing has improved notably since last season.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1 – 1 Swansea

(12) Cardiff v Tottenham (3) | Cardiff City Stadium

Tottenham have moved into 3rd on the League table by virtue of getting the job done – nothing more, nothing less. At home this season, Cardiff have secured 4 points from fixtures against Manchester City and Everton. If these trends are to continue, Tottenham will have to put in a season-best showing. Eriksen was Spurs’ hero against Norwich, even if Sigurdsson was the player to get their name on the scoresheet. The first player this season to provide an effective link between Soldado and the formerly defensively-inclined midfield, Cardiff should struggle with his play between the lines.

Whilst their play in the final third improved significantly last weekend, Tottenham’s combinations still need improving. Of Tottenham’s starting midfielders and strikers last weekend, only Sigurdsson and Dembele were in the squad last season.

Key Statistic: Cardiff’s record at home last season saw them secure 51 of a possible 69 points and score 37 goals whilst conceding just 15.

Key Matchup: Danny Rose and Roberto Soldado. In no way, shape or form is this a matchup in itself. Rose and Soldado have had two incredibly different seasons to date however and whilst the former is an image of consistency, the latter needs to provide strike power if Spurs are to avoid what could easily become an inconvenient draw. Rose has been Tottenham’s best player this season and has gone without recognition. Entering the season as a defensive liability, the wing-back has proven himself to be worthy of a starting spot in this dangerous Spurs side.

Prediction: Cardiff 0 – 1 Tottenham

(4) Manchester City v Manchester United (5) | Etihad Stadium

The most anticipated game of the season thus far would have been better if both sides were in fine form. City, after looking average for the best part of a month, stumbled to a draw against Stoke last weekend whilst United have failed to score from general play in the league for 3 matches.

Ashley Young should be the first name on the team sheet for Moyes and is poised to give City’s depleted defensive four headaches. Rooney should occupy Toure in the middle of the park and drag the Ivorian into his preferred defensive midfield role. In turn, city will give up room in the middle to the likes of Michael Carrick who was United’s best last weekend. Expect spaces to emerge on the wings in particular as Navas, Milner and even Silva if named look to drift in-field to stifle United’s midfield.

For Manchester City, speed around the box is imperative with Rio Ferdinand looking the most vulnerable of the Red Devils in defense. Nasri won’t be afforded a start following his dismal showing against Stoke, however that paves the way for Pellegrini to return to the combinations of Negredo, Aguero, Navas, Fernandinho, Toure and Milner.

Typically we’d predict a Manchester City victory, on current form we’d predict a draw and in analysing the match-up we’d go with Manchester United. With so many forces pulling in different directions, there is only one real conclusion – an underwhelming draw.

Key Statistic: City have scored in their last 52 home matches, however 6 of the last 7 between these two sides at the Etihad have witnessed 1 goal or less.

Key Matchup: Sergio Aguero v Robin van Persie. Both are world-class players, however neither have realised their potential this season. More alarmingly is that Aguero hasn’t fired in almost 18 months now since his incredible debut season in England. Van Persie should receive more supply this weekend than in the last few combined as Garcia will struggle to read the Dutchman’s runs and Nastasic is drawn wider to account for the overwhelming space granted to a United midfield which now boasts Fellaini.

Prediction: Manchester City 1 – 1 Manchester United

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On twitter @rombarbera. Australian sports by day, international sports by night. Co-founder of Blindside Sport. Fantasy sport addict.

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