With upsets seemingly the order of this season, we attempt to guide you through the chaos that is the 2014/2015 English Premier League with our weekly EPL Predictions. Since this column began mid-way through the 2012/2013 Premier League season, we’ve tipped 320/556 results correctly for a success rate of 57.56%, with 53 correct score predictions along the way.
Without further ado, lets get into the action for Week 8, headlined by Manchester City v Tottenham, as well as several other fixtures which are bound to be closely contested.
Another International Break Over
Few injury concerns to emerge from this international break is arguably the biggest positive. After a week of watching matches none of us really care about though, we’re back to the big time. Unfortunately, there are few blockbuster matches to keep an eye out for. Several will be tight affairs, even more are vital for the state of the table, however only Manchester City v Tottenham is, on paper, deserving of being a ‘must watch’ clash.
EPL Predictions – Week 8
Manchester City v Tottenham
Venue: Etihad Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: November 24, 2013 (6-0)
Pre-season, this game would have had far more appeal than it does at present. Despite both teams being at the right end of the table, neither have been at their fluent best, and with fatigue from the international break likely to play a part, this match has a good chance at being a disappointment.
Even though Tottenham have a tendency to be blown out by superior opponents, something that started last year but appears to have been carried through under Pochettino, we can’t see too many goals being on offer. Tottenham will look to surrender possession and threaten on the counter. Last season, we’d tip City to break down a compressed defence, however their passing exchanges in tight spaces this year have been substandard. A low scoring game in which the home side gets home with a clean sheet intact.
Key Statistic | Tottenham have scored more than one goal on just one occasion since their 4-0 win over QPR in mid-August. That came against Sunderland. Manchester City meanwhile have scored a combined 6 goals in their past 2 games.
Key Player | Hugo Lloris – The French international has been somewhat under appreciated this season due to Tottenham’s struggles, however in conceding just 7 times, he boasts the 2nd best record in the league. So far this season, Lloris has averaged 3 save per game, but Manchester City’s average of 5.1 shots on target per match mean he’ll probably be called upon more this match.
Prediction | Manchester City 1 – 0 Tottenham
Arsenal v Hull City
Venue: Emirates Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: December 14, 2013 (2-0)
Aside from a 5 minute burst against Aston Villa, Arsenal have looked a far cry from the side their lofty league position suggests they should be. Just 4.3 of their 14.4 shots per game are hitting the target, not really a surprise with Danny Wellbeck as your lone avenue to goal, whilst a lack of depth in defence has the Gunners vulnerable at that end as well.
Injury to Mesut Ozil isn’t a huge loss given his current form, however suspension to Callum Chambers and injury to Koscielny will mean the issues down back are exacerbated. Something has to give in this fixture. Hull cannot keep scoring twice in every fixture, whilst Arsenal must put a poor side to the sword at some stage. Neither trend may break completely this weekend given Arsenal’s defensive woes, but a comfortable win for the home side seems in order.
Key Statistic | Hull have scored twice in each of their last 4 games, whilst conceding an average of 2 per game over the same period.
Key Player | Danny Wellbeck – Having been a fan of Wellbeck for years, he deserves his chance to lead the line on a regular basis. Games like these against lesser opponents should be his fodder, and with Arsenal desperate to climb the ladder in a week where Tottenham travel to City, a win is essential. Whilst he’s under a minor injury cloud, expect him to play. At least one goal for the former United man.
Prediction | Arsenal 3 – 1 Hull City
Burnley v West Ham United
Venue: Turf Moor | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 6, 2010 (2-1)
Burnley’s early-season integrity in defence has been challenged in recent games, as has the patience of their fans, with the side yet to register a win. West Ham represent the stiffest test Burnley have faced in over a month, however they themselves haven’t managed an away win since August.
Sam Allardyce has well and truely abandoned the congested, boring, physical brand of football he prefers out of necessity to keep his job. He has been rewarded with results, results primary earned through the play of his new striker combination. Against Burnley, they will face an imposing physical challenge, something they have thrived against in recent weeks. Against defences of such an ilk, the Hammers have scored two 3-1 victories. We’re tipping against a game with that many goals is unlikely again, given Burnley’s propensity for low scores and Mark Noble’s absence through injury. In saying that we’re prediction a win for the away side.
Key Statistic | Games involving Burnley have witnessed just 13 goals this season, the equal fewest in the league. Eight of them have come in the last two weeks. West Ham games meanwhile have witnessed 22 goals, equal 6th most in the league.
Key Player | Enner Valencia – It may have been a brilliant goal, but Ecuador’s World Cup sensation has netted just once in 361 minutes this season. Given the potency of West Ham’s attack over that period, we’d expect more. In light of that, Valencia to score first in a comfortable win.
Prediction | Burnley 1 – 2 West Ham
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Venue: Selhurst Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 29, 2014 (1-0)
Crystal Palace games have been unusually high-scoring so far this season, with a 0-0 draw against Burnley the only game to have gone according to last year’s script. Chelsea meanwhile have been exactly as good as we expected. Palace should provide no opposition in what should be a high scoring game.
Palace have the players to threaten on the counter, so a clean sheet for the visitors is far from guaranteed, however we’re expecting the Blues to put at least 2, but likely 3 or more past a side that appears to concede in bunches.
In team news, after suffering a head injury against Arsenal, Courtois is tipped to return to what is otherwise a very stable Chelsea XI.
Key Statistic | Chelsea’s 21 goals to this stage of the season is the most by any team in the league by a comfortable distance. Real Madrid (25) and Marseille (23) are the only sides in Europe’s biggest 5 domestic leagues to have scored more.
Key Player | Diego Costa – Unless you’re a Brazilian that feels abandoned by the now-Spanish international, odds are you’re cheering Costa on to beat the current EPL scoring record, set at 31 goals in a 38 game season. He’s on 9 goals through 7 matches and with minimal competition, only injury seems likely to stop him. Add another 2 to the tally this weekend.
Prediction | Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Chelsea
Everton v Aston Villa
Venue: Goodison Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 1, 2014 (2-1)
After showing serious defensive frailties at times against United, Everton were unlucky not to take at least a point from Old Trafford. Their attack has been functional for the most part this season, but their defence has struggled mightily. Add to that a degree of bad luck, and a European-quality side is just outside the relegation zone.
Villa meanwhile have combined good luck with defensive resolve and a haphazard attack to reach mid-table. Three straight losses have seen them fall from their earlier heights, however against City, Arsenal and Chelsea, panic would be an over-reaction.
Expect Everton to continue directing their attack down the flanks and Aston Villa to look dangerous on the counter. Everton have been particularly susceptible to the counter this season, so we’re tipping Villa to break their scoring drought here.
Key Statistic | Aston Villa have failed to score in their last 3 matches, whilst Everton have failed to keep a clean sheet in that time.
Key Player | Leighton Baines – A fairly miserable few months for Baines, with World Cup disaster being followed by Everton’s poor run and then a missed penalty, his first in 15 attempts. His assist for Everton’s goal at United was textbook, vintage Baines. Hopefully the best left-back in England can rediscover some of the form that has made Everton such a threat in recent times.
Prediction | Everton 2 – 1 Aston Villa
Newcastle United v Leicester City
Venue: St James’ Park | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 7, 2004 (3-1)
Despite everyone believing Newcastle would be better off without him, Alan Pardew will remain in his current post for the foreseeable future. Perhaps this misplaced confidence is what the side needs to pull itself together and start playing with some form of cohesion.
Leicester may be the perfect place to start. A team that has drawn with Arsenal and Burnley, beaten Manchester United and lost to Crystal Palace is as erratic as you get. They’ve scored just once in their last 3 games away from home however, and with Newcastle having scored a combined 5 times in their last two trips home, perhaps the duck breaks this weekend.
If it is to break, it will be unconvincing, but we’ll take Newcastle to get all 3 points. The result isn’t anywhere near as clear cut as many bookmakers are suggesting however.
Key Statistic | Newcastle’s last win was in May of this year, a 3-0 victory over the now relegated Cardiff.
Key Player | Leonardo Ulloa – The most efficient striker in the league, every time Ulloa has scored, Leicester has taken at least 1 point from the match. That trend will have to be broken here because whilst it is hard to see Newcastle winning, it is even harder to see them keeping a clean sheet…
Prediction | Newcastle United 2 – 1 Leicester City
Southampton v Sunderland
Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium| Last Corresponding Meeting: August 24, 2013 (1-1)
Of every side in the league, Sunderland are the most nebulous in our opinion. They have drawn against United and Tottenham, yet also drawn with Burnley and West Bromwich. Making matters worse, they managed to lose to QPR. Their latest victory over Stoke has seen them escape the relegation battle for now, but the high-flying Southampton should be able to see them slip down the table once more.
Southampton’s big name departures have done nothing to dampen the form of the side. Pelle has more than replaced Ricky Lambert, whilst the midfield remains highly functional without Lallana. A worryingly narrow victory over QPR signalled form could be on the decline however and after a 1-0 loss to Tottenham, there is every reason to suspect a possible upset.
We expect the home side to return to winning ways after a valiant loss to Tottenham last time out.
Key Statistic | Southampton’s 5.6 shots on target per game is good for 2nd in the league. This is an incredible effort when you consider they’re 11th in the league for total shots (12.3 per game). Sunderland can afford to gift them very few opportunities if they hope to go unpunished.
Key Player | Graziano Pelle – With 4 goals in his last 5 games, Southampton’s new forward has been a revelation. His stunner against QPR was deserving of earning the side all 3 points. With 4 goals (tied for 4th best in the league), Pelle comes up against a team with the equal-2nd best defensive record in the league.
Prediction | Southampton 2 – 0 Sunderland
Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool
Venue: Loftus Road | Last Corresponding Meeting: December 30, 2012 (0-3)
Queens Park Rangers have been responsible for several of the worst performances by any team this season, however even they will fancy their chances of an upset against Liverpool this weekend. Liverpool have lost 3 of their last 6, including embarrassing defeats to Aston Villa and West Ham. They were arguably robbed with a draw against Everton, however their 2-1 win over West Bromwich a week later hardly signified they were returning to top form.
For Rangers, they’ve lost 4 of their last 6, however have only been embarrassed against top sides Tottenham and Manchester United. In a Liverpool side regaining lead striker Sturridge, they face another top side, even if this one is in disputed form. An easy win, but probably not the statement many Liverpool fans are waiting for.
Key Statistic | Last season, Liverpool were on 16 points after 7 games, as were Arsenal. Chelsea were on 14 points and City were on 13. Those sides made up the top 4, something Liverpool are aspiring for, but are currently off the pace of.
Key Player | Daniel Sturridge – An easy one. The man charged with emulating the efforts of Suarez has been injured for the past 6 weeks, and Liverpool have looked fairly static without him. Every player in the Reds’ midfield and forward line operate to support him, and with his return to league action set for this weekend, we can see Liverpool’s campaign for European participation for next season really taking off.
Prediction | Queens Park Rangers 0 – 2 Liverpool
Stoke City v Swansea City
Venue: Britannia Stadium | Last Corresponding Meeting: February 12, 2014 (1-1)
Both sides have experienced mixed for of late, with 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses in each of their past 6 matches. Neither has boasted a particularly difficult schedule, however it is still Swansea that we see as the better side heading into this match.
Swansea’s lone away win this campaign came in the opening match of the season, against Manchester United. Even then, the result can on the back of a very impressive showing from the visitors and a relatively disastrous performance from the hosts. Stoke have the ability to match the physicality of Swansea’s strikers, however we still possess little faith in their ability going forward. This game could be decided early if Swansea net a couple of times in the first half, but more likely it will go the distance.
The toughest match of the round to predict in our opinion, a 1-1 result is possibly over-stating the home ground advantage, however neither side has really demonstrated any sort consistency in recent weeks.
Key Statistic | Swansea conceded 1 goal through their first 3 fixtures (3 wins). Since then, they’ve taken just 2 points from 4 games, conceding 7 times along the way. Their attack has also fallen away, with 2 goals in the last 3 weeks a far cry from the 8 they scored in the first 4 games.
Key Player | Gylfi Sigurdsson – The Iceland international produced one of the more notable displays over the international break, with his brace key in downing the Netherlands 2-0. After a blistering start to the season, he had a few quiet games before returning to his best against Newcastle last time out. With Bony and Gomis both playing well but without reward, the attacking midfielder will continue to carry both his international and club sides in the near future.
Prediction | Stoke City 1 – 1 Swansea City
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United
Venue: The Hawthorns | Last Corresponding Meeting: March 8, 2014 (0-3)
Manchester United may have secured 9 points of a possible 12 in the past month, however they are still far from convincing. West Ham and Everton could have easily spoiled the party, whilst Leicester managed to well and truly derail any momentum from the win over QPR. In all, it seems United are stuck trying to score more goals than their defence inevitably give up.
Expect more or the less the same game to develop here, with United simply trying to run up the score on their opponent. They’ve been poor on the road this year, with all 3 wins coming at home, however even so, West Bromwich are inferior enough to back van Gaal’s men for victory.
Key Statistic | Manchester United games have witnessed 23 goals so far this season, the 3rd most in the league.
Key Player | Angel di Maria – The Argentinian may not have want dot move to England, but he’d be tough to please if he said he wasn’t enjoying his stay. With 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 matches, the former Real midfielder has managed to plaster over the shortcomings of United’s injury-ravaged side. We expect he should be able to do the same again this weekend against a Baggies side that despite keeping 3 clean sheets in 7 matches this season, should be found out against elite opponents.
Prediction | West Bromwich Albion 1 – 3 Manchester United