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.
We have have thought the appointment of David Moyes to the helm of Manchester United was a mistake back in May when the decision was announced, but did anyone see this fall from grace coming? United may be only 5 points off the league leaders, but their 4-1 drubbing last weekend at the hands of Manchester City is a cause for alarm. On other fronts, Chelsea look like they might struggle to score goals this season, Ozil has been an immediate success in the Premier League and Sunderland’s season could be determined in the next month, depending on whether a change in management will improve their situation.
With another round of Premier League fixtures ahead of us though, here are our EPL predictions for Gameweek 6 of the 2013/2014 English Premier League season.
(2) Tottenham v Chelsea (4) | White Hart Lane
The master and the apprentice may be facing off for the first time in the Premier League, but the Villas-Boas/Mourinho clash is but a sub-plot in what may emerge as a battle for title contention. In many ways, Tottenham’s activity in the transfer window has ensured these teams have experienced identical starts to the 2013/2014 campaign. Combined, Chelsea (6) and Tottenham (5) have scored just 11 goals this season, the same as Arsenal (11) and inferior to Manchester City (12), yet in defence, they’ve conceded just 3 to rank 1st and 2nd in the league.
Everything points to this being a defensive battle to be determined by a moment of brilliance. Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 should allow Hazard and Schurrle/Mata to find space outside Tottenham’s dominant defensive midfield duo in Paulinho and Dembele, meaning that the Blues’ success is heavily reliant on them. For Tottenham, efficiency in front of goal almost cost them against Cardiff last weekend. Against Chelsea, they won’t be afforded as many chances and need to capitalise. Their current conversion of 1 goal for every 16 shots must improve.
Key Statistic | The last 3 matches between Chelsea and Tottenham have produced a total of 16 goals. At the same time, none of Chelsea’s 3 strikers (Torres, Eto’o and Ba) have scored this EPL season.
Key Matchup | Paulinho v Oscar – These Brazilian teammates may be friends off the field, but this weekend their team’s fortunes rest on their shoulders. The diminutive Oscar has been Chelsea’s most threatening weapon this season whilst Paulinho is the foundation of Villas-Boas’ men conceding just once in their first 5 games. If Oscar can thrive early and establish himself in between Tottenham’s lines, not only will Soldado be isolated from his midfield, but Hazard will find himself in space.
Prediction | Tottenham 0 – 0 Chelsea
(13) Aston Villa v Manchester City (3) | Villa Park
Aston Villa’s fixtures to begin the season has been without doubt the most difficult of any Premier League side. Regardless, they’ve thrived in the face of adversity and sit comfortably mid-table. Injury to Christian Benteke will provide the Villains with their greatest challenge of the season though with their marksman having scored 4 of the club’s 6 goals this campaign.
Manchester City meanwhile were utterly dominant against United last weekend. Villa’s fullbacks were susceptible against Norwich last outing and with David Silva set to return, City have an abundance of options to exploit Villa’s weaknesses. Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero are the form players in the league and their individual ability should be more enough to secure all 3 points.
Key Statistic | Manchester City’s last 2 trips to Villa Park have resulted in just 1-0 victories. In away games this season they’ve been held scoreless at Stoke and been defeated 3-2 at Cardiff.
Key Matchup | Gabriel Agbonlahor v Vincent Kompany – The fact that Villa’s clean sheet against Norwich was their first in some 26 matches means that so long as Manchester City hold their opponents scoreless, they should win. Kompany’s return to the heart of the City defence is key to this. Having conceded just 1 goal in the league outside of their defeat to Cardiff, City’s defence is typically resolute, meaning that Agbonlahor’s role in replacing the injured Benteke will be even more difficult. This of course is assuming that the former England international is deemed fit as expected.
Prediction | Aston Villa 0 – 2 Manchester City
(18) Fulham v Cardiff City (16) | Craven Cottage
In years gone by, Fulham’s record at home alone would have guaranteed them favourite status in this contest. On current form however with the side treading water and sitting in the relegation zone, Cardiff will fancy themselves against a Cottagers outfit which has lost 3 of their last 4 matches.
Fulham’s greatest hope lies in the central third of the field. Scott Parker’s consistency is a given, but aside from him, Fulham’s pressure in midfield has been lacking (3 of their 7 goals conceded have been from outside the box) and their strikers have been isolated. martin Jol’s attacking philosophy means that the likes of Kasami and Duff need to lift substantially. Cardiff similarly are lacking midfield pressure and were lucky to escape with just a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham last time out. This game will be decided in the midfield by which side can impart the most pressure and maintain their structure.
Key Statistic | The last 5 goals Fulham have conceded this season have all come in the second-half of matches. Meanwhile, all of Cardiff’s 4 goals this campaign have been scored in the second-half.
Key Matchup | Fraizer Campbell v Brede Hangeland – Cardiff’s lone striker is the prototype forward to exploit Fulham’s defence. Campbell’s speed and skill will trouble the larger frames of Hangeland and Amorebieta, leading to one of two situations. Either Fulham become pre-occupied with Cardiff’s most prominent goal threat and allow too much space in behind their own midfield, or they allow Campbell to get in behind their lines. Hangeland and company need Fulham’s midfield to increase their pressure, work-rate and occupation of space if they are to keep just their 2nd clean sheet of the season.
Prediction | Fulham 2 – 1 Cardiff City
(11) Hull City v West Ham (15) | KC Stadium
Hull’s performance against Newcastle exceeded even our flattering expectations last weekend. Robbie Brady was as impressive as we touted and whilst their defence wasn’t as resolute as in previous weeks, they showed an attacking potential many thought them incapable of given the absence of a world-class striker. The Hammers meanwhile fell victim to a late capitulation against Everton with Mark Noble the main offender. Expect Tom Huddlestone to control proceedings in midfield whilst Jarvis and Morrison look to exploit a Hull defence that has conceded 5 goals in the last 3 weeks.
This match is even more important for West Ham who face Tottenham and Manchester City over the next two weeks. Unfortunately they’re still without star striker Andy Carroll and as such, they might find it difficult to score.
Key Statistic | West Ham have scored just 4 goals this season. All 4 have been scored and assisted by midfielders. Even Chelsea’s strikers have 2 assists.
Key Matchup | Sone Aluko v Jussi Jaaskelainen – Neither side has scored or conceded goals with any consistency this season. In our key match-up, we’ll isolate one end of the pitch and evaluate how half of the game will play out. Jaaskelainen has been in impervious form. Only two Leighton Baines free kicks and a fearsome Lukaku header have gotten past him in recent weeks. Hull don’t have the execution to beat the Hammers’ stopper on more than one occasion. Aluko might have a difficult time finding space up forward but if he has a sight at goal, he must test the keeper.
Prediction | Hull City 1 – 1 West Ham
(8) Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion (14) | Old Trafford
Manchester United may have defeated Liverpool mid-week, but it will do little to alleviate the pressure on Moyes’ side following their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City. The absence of Robin van Persie was all too evident, the defensive incompetence of Vidic in particular was out of character and Fellaini’s influence was largely stunted.
The coup of Sessegnon has been major for West Bromwich. The departure of Lukaku left a detrimental void in their squad, but the securing of Sunderland’s only player of class has been immediately noticeable. Whilst the Frenchman is unlikely to replicate Lukaku’s hat-trick effort against United, he has the talent to challenge what was an incredibly weak United midfield. If Nasri can terrorise United on the left flank, Sessegnon should have similar influence on this contest.
Key Statistic: Only once last season did Manchester United fail to win in consecutive Premier League matches (1-1 v Arsenal and 0-1 v Chelsea).
Key Matchup: Wayne Rooney v Stephane Sessegnon. Both Rooney and Sessegnon hold the attacking potential of their sides in their hands. With 2 goals and 2 assists, Rooney has been United’s most involved player. His role in linking an underwhelming midfield with van Persie may have him in a role supporting the Dutchman on paper, but places him at the centre of United’s title defence. Sessegnon’s significance meanwhile is that he presents what may be West Bromwich’s only avenue to goal; getting in behind United’s fullbacks.
Prediction: Manchester United 2 – 0 West Bromwich
(7) Southampton v Crystal Palace (19) | Stamford Bridge
Crystal Palace are yet to have been defeated by more than 2 goals this season. Whilst that is impressive for a side may saw as unworthy of promotion, their only result has come against the incredibly woeful Sunderland. Southampton meanwhile have shown serious potential but lack the consistency to make a serious push for anything exceeding mid-table. Boruc was exceptional in-goal last weekend against Liverpool and is deservedly at the centre of the 3rd best defence in the league so far this season.
This match will be largely decided by which side can demonstrate the most competence in attack. Both have the potential to be resolute in defence and both have the potential to score goals. Only one has the ability to do this with any consistency though and as such, we should see a winner in this match.
Key Statistic | Southampton are yet to score more than 1 goal in a match this season. Crystal Palace are yet to keep a clean sheet.
Key Matchup | Rickie Lambert v Mile Jedinak – Lambert has been underwhelming this season, as we predicted he’d be in our Fantasy Preview for this season. His partnership with Osvaldo has the potential to be one of the more lethal in the League, however early signs point towards a serious incompatibility at the head of Southampton. Jedinak meanwhile has been Palace’s most impressive player this season. His work in defensive midfield has protected a back four that leaked too many goals in the Championship to be competitive in the Premier League. He has another big challenge ahead this weekend, particularly in stemming Adam Lallana’s supply to Southampton’s front two.
Prediction | Southampton 1 – 0 Crystal Palace
(9) Swansea City v Arsenal (1) | Liberty Stadium
Despite sitting 9th on the Premier League table, Swansea have had an impressive start to the season. Their difficult set of fixtures only gets harder this weekend though with Michael Laudrup’s men set to face the form side of the competition. Arsenal may be without Theo Walcott but the return of Mikel Arteta should offset the loss of the English winger, especially considering his indifferent start to the campaign. At this stage, their main challenge is overcoming their relatively thin squad. The loss of one more attacking option will be detrimental, but for the time being, they should be able to account for mid-table opponents by virtue of their fluid structure and ability to get in behind defences.
Swansea have improved in recent weeks, mainly through the play of Jonjo Shelvey and the increased prominence of Michu. With 6 goals in the last 3 games, the Swansea side many came to love last season looks to be returning. At the other end of the field though, the Swans haven’t kept a clean sheet against a reputable opponent since May during a 0-0 draw with Manchester City. Whilst he hasn’t played a major role this campaign as yet, Bony should start in order to draw Arsenal’s central defenders up the field. Early last season this move allowed wingers to drift in behind the slow Mertesacker and test the erratic Szczesny.
Key Statistic | Arsenal have been held scoreless just twice in the league this year. Once in January by Manchester City and once by Everton in April. Both fixtures between these two ended 2-0 last season – 1 victory to each side; the away side won both meetings last season.
Key Matchup | Michel Vorm v Mesut Ozil – Arsenal have manufactured 54 shots this season. Whilst that is inferior to many other top sides, their chances have been far more clear cut. Most of this is thanks to the work of their new German midfielder. Of the 6 goals scored by Arsenal since Ozil’s arrival at the Emirates, he has assisted 4. Sunderland’s Kieren Westwood was up to the challenge posed by Arsenal’s strikers for the majority of their clash earlier this month. Vorm will need to perform similarly to keep his side in with a chance of forcing a result.
Prediction | Swansea City 1 – 3 Arsenal
(10) Stoke City v Norwich (17) | Britannia Stadium
Stoke have been impressive under Mark Hughes. In fact, in recent years they’re the only side to improve under the former Manchester City’s guidance. From the incredibly boring structure and brutality of previous seasons, Stoke’s tendency to push forward has been refreshing. Ryan Shawcross is no longer the identity of this side, instead creative midfielders in Charlie Adam and Marc Wilson hold the key to success.
Stoke are still hesitant to fall victim to the counter-attack. Norwich’s lone avenue to goal against Aston Villa came on the break so they will be hard-pressed to score against Stoke’s rigid back four. The fitness of Gary Hooper presents Norwich with the opportunity to move to 4-4-2 for the first time in 2 seasons. Finally we might have the opportunity to see what Chris Hughton had envisaged for this Canaries outfit. Unfortunately it may also be his last game in charge if they can’t get a win.
Key Statistic | In Norwich’s last 21 away games, they have scored more than 1 goal just twice. In the previous 19, they scored more than 1 goal 6 times.
Key Matchup | Charlie Adam v Gary Hooper – Despite being out of favour with Mark Hughes of begin the season, Charlie Adam has become the core of Stoke’s attack. Hooper hasn’t had his chance to prove himself to the Norwich faithful but after a promising cameo from the bench last weekend, he looks to have a bright future with the Canaries.
Prediction | Stoke City 1 – 0 Norwich City
(20) Sunderland v Liverpool (5) | Stadium of Light
Paolo Di Canio became the first managerial casualty of 2013/2014 and unlike many of the coaching dismissals we’ve criticised in recent times, it was thoroughly deserved. Given the license to sign who he wanted, the audacity to criticise the players lack of English-speaking skills and complain about their lack of talent is unacceptable. The potential appointment of Gus Poyet is hardly absent of controversy, but players have a habit of lifting for new leadership – Sunderland have very little to rely on other than a temporary lift in morale.
Liverpool meanwhile will welcome Luis Suarez back to Premier League action this weekend after he finished serving a thoroughly deserved ban for biting. Daniel Sturridge has no doubt benefitted from his fellow striker’s absence, however Liverpool as a side will relish the opportunity to replace the injured Coutinho with a player of Suarez’ potential. Despite Liverpool losing last weekend to a valiant Southampton, it doesn’t seem like they’ve fallen far enough from grace for us to contemplate anything other than a dominant Liverpool performance.
Key Statistic | Since October 2012 (37 matches), Sunderland have scored 39 Premier League goals and conceded 61. This season alone, they’ve scored 3 and conceded 11. Queens Park Rangers relegation-worthy performance last season saw them score 30 goals and concede 60. At this rate, Sunderland will score 23 goals this season and concede 84.
Key Matchup | Kieren Westwood v Luis Suarez – This contest may have no bearing on the result, but the prominence of Suarez in his return from suspension not only has repercussions for this season, but may determine whether the Uruguayan stays at Anfield following this season. Westwood’s role is simply to reduce the damage and ideally prevent Sunderland from going a 4th straight game conceding 3 goals.
Prediction | Sunderland 0 – 2 Liverpool
(6) Everton v Newcastle United (12) | Goodison Park
Following Tottenham v Chelsea, this game undoubtedly presents the highlight of the week. Two sides with world-class squads who are yet to realise their potential. Match-ups all over the park are worthy of our attention, however it is how the midfields stack up that intrigue us the most. Santon nullifies Seamus Coleman, Baines is negated by Hatem Ben Arfa and Barry matches up perfectly with Tiote, leaving Mirallas and Cabaye as our key match-up.
Everton has shown growth under new management, however their front 3 has continued to struggle. With just 3 goals stemming from their midfield and forward line, not enough is being done in the final third of the field. Newcastle meanwhile have manufactured 60 shots in the opening 5 weeks, scoring on just 5 occasions. The arrival of Remy has been as successful as we touted, whoever whilst they could find themselves equal with Chelsea and Liverpool if last weekend’s goal-fest at Hull went their way, they haven’t managed to topple an elite team so far this season.
Key Statistic | Everton are the only undefeated side remaining in the Premier League this season. Their last defeat came in Gameweek 38 last season against Chelsea.
Key Matchup | Kevin Mirallas v Johan Cabaye – We touted Mirallas as a player to watch this season after his terrific finish to 2012/2013. Despite having another impressive match last weekend, he finds himself with just 1 assist and 0 goals in 408 minutes. Cabaye meanwhile has endeared himself slightly following his summer controversy and is key to overpowering what is a thin Everton midfield. The Toffees will look to use the width of the field in order to continue their possession-first football. Newcastle meanwhile will look to the middle third of the field through Cabaye in order to isolate Ben Arfa and therefore Remy in the centre.
Prediction | Everton 2 – 1 Newcastle United
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