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Premier League Predictions Matchday 28

With the final stretch of fixtures getting ready to kick in, the title race has narrowed following last weekend’s results with Liverpool and Manchester City having the best chances to win the Premier League. Fulham and Huddersfield Town look like two sides who will likely drop down to the Championship as they languish several points from safety, and needing wins, not draws in order to survive. This midweek slate of fixtures proceeds some big name clashes this weekend, and comes a week before European competitions resume their knockout phases.

Tuesday February 26, 2019

Cardiff City vs. Everton

Cardiff were thrashed by Watford 5-1 in their last home match, and Neil Warnock’s men will hope to turn things around in this match. However, Cardiff have had some recent success in the league with a couple of wins in their last five, but they have historically struggled against Everton. Everton have by-and-large disappointed once again this season which can be attributed to the carousel at their manager post since the team sacked Roberto Martinez. Everton have only won one of their last four and in those they have scored five goals while allowing nine. Both of these sides don’t typically draw, and I think Everton will have enough to see this one out.

Prediction: Cardiff City 1-3 Everton

Huddersfield Town vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Huddersfield haven’t won a match since November 25 when they beat Wolves in the reverse fixture, and since then, they have only secured one point in their last fourteen matches since November 25. Huddersfield may feel like they can get a win in this match as they have fared well against Wolverhampton in the past. Wolverhampton are flying high in the table as they currently sit eighth in the league, and have been one of the best success stories for a newly promoted team in recent memory, at least in terms of performance. They will likely bring their fluid attacking play to this match, and hope that their defense can keep Huddersfield from scoring. I think Huddersfield will manage to nick Wolverhampton in what could be a surprising result.

Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-0 Wolverhampton

Leicester City vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Leicester City have had their fair share of problems over the last year which culminated with the sacking of manager Claude Puel following a 4-1 defeat by Crystal Palace. Still, Leicester are a quality side, and last weekend’s scoreline is not indicative of the team that is clearly still trying to find its identity following the departures of N’Golo Kanté and Riyad Mahrez. Brighton have been another fantastic story of a resolute team that continues to scrap its way to positive results. Chris Hughton has created a team that is defensively stable, and has plenty of quality to stay in the Premier League. I think a draw is on the cards here as I don’t see either team with a clear advantage, and Brighton should be the happier of the two sides on the day.

Prediction: Leicester City 1-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Newcastle United vs. Burnley

Newcastle United uncharacteristically spent big in the winter window, but it has not done enough to alleviate the questions surrounding Newcastle and the relegation battle. Rafa Benitez has done a remarkable job with this side, and they have become one of my favorite sides to watch led by their captain Jamaal Lascelles. Burnley are another one of my favorites with their defensive solidarity and team pressing. Recently, they have rediscovered the form that catapulted them to seventh last term, and that was on full display against Tottenham over the weekend. I think this could be a very entertaining match with both sides have plenty of attacking quality to produce goals, but it will ultimately be won by the high pressing of Burnley.

Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Burnley

Wednesday February 27, 2019

Arsenal vs. AFC Bournemouth

Arsenal come into this match having kept two consecutive clean sheets, a welcome sight for a club that has conceded some really poor goals this season. They easily dispatched of Southampton 2-0 this past weekend, but they did give Southampton a few chances to get back in the game, both at the start and for parts of the second half. Bournemouth will feel aggrieved following their controversial 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton this past weekend, but Eddie Howe’s men have found the second half of the Premier League season quite tough. They are also suffering from a mounting injury crisis, but possess enough attacking prowess to potentially grab a goal. I think the gulf in quality will be too much for Bournemouth, and Arsenal will win comfortably at home.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 AFC Bournemouth

Southampton vs. Fulham

This match will be one that Southampton will have to win if they hope to clear the relegation battle. They have played better lately, but they have still looked disjointed in a season that has seen them change managers and rotate defenders. Fulham possess the worst defensive record in Europe, and things are starting to look dire for newly promoted Londoners. They suffered a humbling defeat last time out against West Ham, and the losing ways could continue in this away match. I think Southampton will have enough to get things done at home against relegation rivals.

Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Fulham

Liverpool vs. Watford

Liverpool have found goals hard to come by recently in a rut of form that has seen them let Manchester City back into the hunt for the Premier League title. They had a disappointing 0-0 draw with Manchester United last time out that saw their vaunted attack scuffle for most of the match as Roberto Firmino (injury) and Mo Salah (tactical) were both subbed off. Watford hammered Cardiff City 5-1 last time out, and they will feel confident in their ability to score a goal in this match. They have been a solid, if unspectacular, team this term and are in the hunt for potential Europa League qualification. Liverpool simply have too much quality for Watford in this one.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Watford

Manchester City vs. West Ham United

Manchester City have clawed their way back into the title hunt and are beginning to look like the reigning champions once again. They won the Carabao Cup final on penalties in their match on Sunday in a match that was overshadowed by Kepa’s demonstration against Mauricio Sarri. West Ham United have been a mixed bag this season, but hover around the middle of the pack which should be considered a solid showing for Mauricio Pellegrini’s men. They dispatched of Fulham 3-1 at home last time out in a match that they were never in question of losing. I think the reigning champions have sufficient quality to win this match, but that doesn’t mean that West Ham won’t provide a scare to City in the match.

Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 West Ham United

Chelsea vs. Tottenham

Chelsea are currently a club in turmoil despite being in the hunt for a Champions League place and in the Round of 16 in the Europa League. They lost to Manchester City on penalties last time out, but their embattled manager, Mauricio Sarri, looks like a coach whose system has not worked, and whose time may be coming to a close at Stamford Bridge. Tottenham will almost certainly be looking forward to the North London Derby this Saturday, and they currently sit third in the Premier League. They lost last time out to Burnley, 2-1, and will be hoping to consolidate their hold on third ahead of Saturday’s big match. I think the competing narratives for each side, Tottenham’s lack of a trophy-winning mentality, and Sarri’s benching of Kepa will overshadow what could have been an interesting match.

Prediction: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United

Crystal Palace beat Leicester City 4-1 in their last match, but the scoreline is a bit flattering for today’s hosts. Roy Hodgson has done a solid job with his team this term, but they still find themselves in the relegation scrap, in large part due to their defensive frailties. Manchester United have been a revolution under Ole Gunnar Skolsjaer as they have yet to lose since his appointment as interim manager. They did draw last time out against Liverpool, and will need a win if they hope to stay in the hunt for a Champions League place. I think the attacking injuries will be too much for Manchester United to overcome away from home, and the match will end in a draw.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Manchester United

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Premier League Predictions Matchday 25

Liverpool sit five points clear of reigning champions Manchester City following an interesting set of results in the middle of the week as Tottenham and Arsenal round out the top four. Huddersfield appear to be in dire straights as they look listless at the bottom of the table along with Fulham and Cardiff who also find themselves in relegation trouble.

February 2, 2019

Tottenham vs. Newcastle United

Prediction: Tottenham 1-0 Newcastle United

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Watford

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Watford

Everton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Prediction: Everton 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Crystal Palace vs. Fulham

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-0 Fulham

Chelsea vs. Huddersfield Town

Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Huddersfield Town

Burnley vs. Southampton

Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Southampton

Cardiff City vs. Bournemouth

Prediction: Cardiff City 2-3 Bournemouth

February 3, 2019

Leicester CIty vs. Manchester United

Prediction: Leicester City 1-1 Manchester United

Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal

February 4, 2019

West Ham United vs. Liverpool

Prediction: West Ham United 0-3 Liverpool

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Premier League Predictions and Breakdown Matchday 23

Following a short layoff, I am back with my Premier League picks for an interesting weekend of matches.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City

This is an interesting matchup for Wolverhampton as it pits them against a very similar opponent in Leicester both in terms of performances and positioning in the league table. Wolverhampton surprised Liverpool with an upset victory in the FA Cup before they were thoroughly outclassed by Manchester City a week later despite being reduced to 10 men. Leicester had a less desirable outcome as they were bounced from the FA Cup by Newport County. They also lost to Southampton last weekend in a match I believed that they could win going into that match. I really have a tough time picking this match as both teams have been inconsistent, but they have a propensity for scoring.

Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Wolverhampton

AFC Bournemouth vs. West Ham United

Bournemouth enter this match in absolutely terrible form as they have been unable to muster a solid defense for the past two months. This has been compounded by a slip back into the bottom half of the table, and a re-emergence of questions surrounding their squad. Meanwhile, West Ham look like a side who have finally assembled their pieces together properly only for questions to be asked about the long-term future of Marko Arnautovic at the club. They have been better lately and have managed to climb into a more desirable mid-table place in the league as they look to regain a spot in the European places. I see a West Ham victory in this match as Bournemouth’s suffering will likely continue.

Prediction: West Ham United 2-0 Bournemouth

Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

Liverpool enter this match following a rebound against Brighton that followed up their previous league match which ended in defeat to the defending champions Manchester City, Liverpool’s first of the season. They have put together one of the best seasons in Premier League history and have been borderline unstoppable for most of the season. Palace come into this fixture having inflicted some surprise results including a 3-2 victory over Manchester City earlier this season. However, they still only sit four points clear of safety, and have been uninspiring in their last five matches. I see a comfortable Liverpool victory over Palace.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Manchester United look like a side that finally solved the puzzle that was so difficult for former manager, José Mourinho: play attacking football. Since they made the change in management, United have not dropped a single point and look like the high-flying sides of the Sir Alex Ferguson years. Brighton have been a pleasant surprise once again this season as they find themselves in 13th place comfortably outside the relegation zone. Despite some recent draws, Brighton remain one of the most resolute sides in the Premier League. I think this is a nut that Manchester United can easily crack, and will do so again at home.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Newcastle United vs. Cardiff City

Newcastle come into this match fresh off of a win a week ago, but they have been playing more negative football lately which hasn’t yielded kind results. Newcastle will hope that points from this match helps them on their march to safety as this is a crucial fixture for both sides. Cardiff have seen a series of mixed results that has seen small streaks of brilliance compounded by an inability to secure valuable points in the quest for survival. Their recent form that is filled with losses and draws does not forecast well across the final months of the season. I see a narrow Newcastle victory in what is likely to be a scrappy affair.

Prediction: Newcastle United 1-0 Cardiff City

Southampton vs. Everton

Southampton initially experienced a positive start to life under their new manager, but that quickly faded following a series of disappointing results. It seems like they may be on the right track, and this is an opportune fixture against an Everton side that has rebounded, but has previously looked vulnerable. Everton appear to be enjoying the new year much more than 2018, but they have still been fairly inconsistent. Despite this, they still find themselves in the middle of the table and in a stable state following an adjustment period to their new manager at the start of the season. I see a draw between these two sides as nothing immediately jumps out at me as something to separate them.

Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Everton

Watford vs. Burnley

Watford have rebounded from a slight dip at the new year, but still find themselves nine points outside the European places. They have managed to win their last two matches, but their leaky defense will be of some concern against a Burnley side which appears to have regained its spirit following a series of good results. Burnley are looking more like the side from a year ago as they have now won four straight and have crawled out of the relegation places into safety. They still only sit three points clear, but a massive road result could do wonders for their confidence. I see a surprise Burnley victory as they look to build on their last results.

Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Watford

Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Arsenal enter this match a far cry from the high-flying side that was challenging for a Champions League place at this time a month ago. Several missed opportunities in front of goal and a large number of injuries has left the squad pretty depleted. Chelsea have continued to make strides under their new manager and appear to be clicking at an opportune time as they look to sneak into the Champions League places themselves. Their recent form shouldn’t fool you as this is a side who are clicking on many levels right now. I see a Chelsea win in this one (it hurts to say), but they are currently the better side with Arsenal unable to sort out its defensive woes.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal

Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City

Huddersfield face a stern test under their new manager as they welcome the defending champions to their home. Huddersfield remain rooted to the bottom of the league, and their leaky defense could be problematic throughout the day. Manchester City appear to be the dominant force that they were for most of last season following a victory over title rivals Liverpool. City have picked up their form at the best time, and should relish their opportunity to keep the pressure on Liverpool at the top of the table. I see a comprehensive victory for City in this match.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Huddersfield Town

Fulham vs. Tottenham

Fulham have continued to disappoint despite a change in management due to their frail defense. That defense has cost them points this season, and they are in serious trouble if they are unable to rectify the situation. Tottenham have their own crisis as Harry Kane picked up a serious injury in their last match and will be unavailable until March. They still sit in third place, and will hope to find a makeshift option until their goal-scoring talisman returns to the side. I see a draw in this match as I am unconvinced of Tottenham’s ability to score goals at the moment.

Prediction: Fulham 1-1 Tottenham

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Premier League Recap Matchday 21

This is the final set of matches for the hectic festive season of the Premier League, and as it closes out, I feel a sense of relief much like the managers and players. As a football fan, I enjoy blocking out mornings and afternoons to watch elite English clubs duke it out, but I am gradually running out of time to enjoy them before reality sets back in. While I will miss the hectic four fixtures in two weeks, it is nice to see that this is its final rendition. Today’s football requires so much, and a winter break is what these players deserve because they are human just like you or I and they need breaks too.

With all the pleasantries out of the way, let’s explore the interesting slate of matches that saw Everton booed off at Goodison Park, Chelsea look stagnant, and a thrilling matchup of two Premier League titans.

January 1, 2019

Everton 0-1 Leicester City
This match culminated with Everton being booed of their home pitch after what can only be characterized as another dismal match for the Merseyside outfit. Everton have seen the misery piled on as Leicester were clinical once again when their chance game, and it is really a tale of two sides who are trending in opposite directions. Everton had started off well, but they have continued to falter over the last two months, and they were poor for the entirety of the match. Leicester continued a fine run of form and keep themselves in contention for a European place as they pick up another win. It cements their place in the top half of the table as they continue to enjoy their football as underdogs against some of the bigger names in English football.

Arsenal 4-1 Fulham
As an Arsenal fan, I rejoice that they were able to bounce back after a 5-1 defeat to first-place Liverpool. However, do not let the scoreline fool you about the state of this match. Arsenal looked tepid at the back, even with a changed back four, and were extremely vulnerable against Fulham on the counterattack where Fulham exposed Arsenal’s lack of pace. The only thing Arsenal did better was take their chances as they converted them with aplomb while Fulham squandered numerous opportunities. For most of the match, Fulham was resilient on defense, but the quality of Arsenal finally broke them down and exposed an improved defense under new manager Claudio Ranieri.

Cardiff City 0-3 Tottenham
Tottenham were in full control of the match, and the only thing that they didn’t have to show for it was a second half goal. Cardiff never really looked like mustering much in attack, and Tottenham took chances that they wasted earlier in the week against Wolverhampton. The win will keep Tottenham in the hunt for the title race, but they will need to maintain the consistency that they found in this match if they truly want to trouble the two sides that currently sit ahead of them.

January 2, 2019

Bournemouth 3-3 Watford
Defense was not really a factor in the first half of this match, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. This was a classic match for the neutral as there was an end-to-end nature to the match that persisted for the duration of the 90 minutes, and brought six goals. There was better defense in the second half after the first half drew to a close with four goals in six minutes. Both sides should be happy with a point given their recent form, but both sides were routinely exposed and their defensive frailties were at the forefront once more.

Chelsea 0-0 Southampton
This match was a dud for about 70 or so minutes before Cesc Fabregas was introduced into what could be his final Premier League match. He provided a much needed spark into the Chelsea attack, and there was a goal from Álvaro Morata that was wrongfully disallowed for offsides, but that was the best chance of the match. Southampton offered very little going forward, but they did manage to carve out a few half-chances that kept the match from being a completely one-sided affair.

Huddersfield Town 1-2 Burnley
This match was a bit of a scrum from the outset as there was very physical play from both sides throughout the match. Burnley managed to claw back from a goal down in order to secure the victory, but received a significant boost after Christopher Schindler was booked for a second time and sent off reducing Huddersfield to 10 men. The second half was dominated by Burnley who bagged a deserved winning goal, but will be frustrated that substitute Robert Brady received a straight red card in the 90th minute.

West Ham United 2-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton continue to compile impressive results as they managed to score twice in as many minutes to secure a lead before West Ham equalized with two Marko Arnautovic strikes in another two minute span. Both sides had great quality throughout the match, but West Ham should feel hard done after an obvious penalty claim was waved off by referee Chris Kavanaugh incorrectly. The result does move West Ham back into the top half of the table, and they should feel good about their match, even if they didn’t have the killer instinct to grab a winning third goal.

Wolverhampton 0-2 Crystal Palace
This result should trouble fans of Wolverhampton following their previous 3-1 win over Tottenham earlier in the week. Wolverhampton never seemed to get out of first gear throughout the match, and were dutifully punished by Jordan Ayew in the 83rd minute. Luka Milivojevic netted a penalty to clinch a win for Palace in the 94th minute, and Palace have pulled away from the relegation pack with a comprehensive win of a team that has been inconsistent as of late.

Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United
Manchester United struggled for most of the match to break down Newcastle, and the inability of Newcastle to capitalize on some earlier chances will surely haunt them after this result. Manchester United were able to net two second half goals to secure their victory in a result they always looked likely to take. Unfortunately for Newcastle, the lack of positive football was once again present even at home as they looked incoherent when they did send men forward. Surely, both sides will take positives from this game, but this could a result Newcastle look back upon an rue should they be relegated.

January 3, 2019

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
This match was an instant classic with neither side looking content to settle for a point. City got on the board first half when Sergio Agüero found the back of the net from a tight angle before Roberto Firmino equalized for Liverpool in the 64th minute. The deadlock was broken again by Leroy Sane in the 72nd minute, and City held their lead against a late onslaught from Liverpool. The result means that Liverpool are no longer the only unbeaten side, but they were beaten by a Manchester City side that found a gear that had been missing for most of the season. The best news, the title race is back on as only four points separate these two sides.

The Premier League will return after a FA Cup weekend on January 12. Here is a look at the current table after the festive fixture season.

Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic Secures Dream Move to the Premier League

Christian Pulisic secured a dream move to the Premier League as Chelsea splashed £60 million to secure the American playmaker’s services from German side Borussia Dortmund. Pulisic will remain on loan with his former club until the end of the year, but he is expected to join Maurizio Sarri‘s men over the summer and challenge for a starting spot then.

This move is both good and bad for Pulisic as he will be leaving a Dortmund side that he has found it harder to break into due to the emergence of Jadon Sancho and the health of Marco Reus, but there are serious concerns about the game time he may receive under Sarri as his pricetag is no assurance of featuring regularly at Chelsea. There is also a positive for a Dortmund side that has been shaken by transfer sagas that have included now former players who would show up late or not at all for training sessions and would refuse to play. For them to be able to move Pulisic will bode well for both the player and the club in the end.

His move also raises concerns for his career that seemed to be heading down a path that would make him one of the best American talents to grace the world footballing stage. That has largely petered out following a dismal World Cup Qualifying campaign that saw teams gameplan against him and has been followed up with fewer and fewer minutes at the Signal Igunda Park under new Dortmund boss Lucien Favre. By no means does that mean that Pulisic is already a bust for Chelsea, but his big money move to his dream league will carry additional burdens.

The financial tag of his transfer will bring with it high expectations, and the unrelenting nature of the Premier League could take its toll. There’s also the physicality of the Premier League which has seen Pulisic nullified in the international stage before. Granted, Chelsea has a greater collective talent than the U.S. Men’s National Team, but many players have struggled to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League.

Pulisic is also not the first big money transfer to Chelsea, and greater players have failed to live up to the billing at Chelsea in the past. Currently, the squad has Pedro and Álvaro Morata who have largely under-performed following big money transfers, and Pulisic will have to force his way into the side either over the likes of Pedro, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Willian. The closest comparison I see is Loftus-Cheek who has had trouble breaking into the squad, but Willian limped off after 36 minutes against Southampton yesterday which could allow Loftus-Cheek to may a greater case for a position in Sarri’s Starting XI. Since Pulisic won’t arrive until the summer, competition for places in the squad could increase meaning that he will receive less playing time, not more.

The piece that this doesn’t account for is the national team. Unlike many of the major powers in international football, the U.S. Men’s National Team does not currently have the luxury of being selective on the basis of regular football compared to a country like Spain. This is especially true with Pulisic who has solidified himself as the top talent in the side despite not yet being 20-years-old. At this point, Pulisic and his country need him seeing regular football so that he can grow into the player he has shown flashes of becoming.

I hope that his dream move to the Premier League pays off, and he is able to live up to the price Chelsea paid for him. This move will hopefully secure him more regular football and a chance to really grow into the future of American soccer and pave the way for other American youngsters to ply their trade in the elite leagues of Europe.

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Premier League Predictions Matchday 21

Finally! The teams will have made it beyond the festive fixture period, and will be rewarded with FA Cup ties over the weekend with league action resuming a week later. Last week, I may have gotten some results right, but my predictions for the scores were largely off the mark. Let’s try and get better this time around.

January 1, 2019

Everton vs. Leicester City
Everton are coming off a dismal month of form and a bad away defeat to a Brighton side that is proving that they can be a Premier League mainstay in the lower half of the table. Everton have looked resurgent at times under new boss Marco Silva, but have still looked like a side that still lacks something in matches. Leicester also come in on the heels of a less than ideal defeat to relegation candidates Cardiff, but that came after two impressive victories over Chelsea and Manchester City. Leicester find themselves in contention for a European place this season, and will be looking to add to their points tally when they visit Goodison Park. I see this result as a must-win for both sides, but more so for the home team. As such, I see Everton fighting hard for a win, and finding a way to pick up a positive result following a negative month.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Leicester City

Arsenal vs. Fulham
Arsenal come back to the friendly confines of the Emirates Stadium after enduring two torrid matches on the road that they and I alike would prefer to forget. Arsenal have been able to score plenty of goals this term, and that should bode well against a Fulham team who has had very little in terms of defensive solidarity. Fulham enter the match on the heels of two positive results including a win over bottom side Huddersfield Town. Although they will be without Callum Chambers who is unable to feature against his parent club, they will still fancy their shot at a point against injury-ravaged and defensive error-prone Arsenal. Arsenal will ahve the higher quality, but they will be unable to find the elusive clean sheet.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Fulham

Cardiff City vs. Tottenham
This match wraps up the slate on New Year’s Day and Tottenham will want to get back on track following a poor second half display against Wolverhampton. Cardiff City are flying high after their wonderstrike sealed victory against Leicester City. In a home match against a top side, Neil Warnock’s men will be hoping to steal a point in an effort to boost their survival hopes. This is a game Tottenham will be keen to in, and should very comfortably given Cardiff’s usual negative football.
Prediction: Cardiff City 0-2 Tottenham

January 2, 2019

Bournemouth vs. Watford
If this fixture had come two months earlier, Bournemouth would probably fancy their chance of victory far more than they do now. Lately, their defensive record has been poor, and they have only gotten three points in all matches since December 8. Watford’s recent form has been more encouraging, but they did lose the reverse fixture at home 4-0. Watford also rotated their squad with their eyes on this match seeing an opportunity to secure three crucial points on the road. However, Bournemouth will turn it around, but there will be plenty of goals for the neutral fan.
Prediction: Bournemouth 3-2 Watford

Chelsea vs. Southampton
Chelsea were far from their peak form over the weekend, and will be keen to earn a dominant victory over a Southampton side who will be without their captain due to his red card over the weekend. Chelsea have been playing well, and this is normally a fixture I would view as tricky for them, but they have shown a new attacking prowess under the guidance of Mauricio Sarri. Southampton finally look to have a recipe that could work for them going forward, but they have yet to remedy the defensive fragility that has them in the relegation scrap. They should take pride for most of the football they played against Manchester City, but will have to avoid switching off at the back if they hope to contain Chelsea. I still think a draw against the cards will happen as Southampton will attempt to control the damage against the attacking threat of Chelsea who have had trouble breaking sides down this season.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton

Huddersfield Town vs. Burnley
Huddersfield come into the match without talisman Aaron Mooy, and have not really looked like a side that could survive the drop this season. They may show a greater attacking impetus at home, but they lack the quality to beat many of the teams above them. Burnley found a second gear last weekend at home, but have had a very Jekyll/Hyde season thus far. They have struggled to keep goals out, but still don’t possess the consistency in attacking power that allowed their approach of defensive pragmatism to work last season. I really don’t know how this one could end because I see a few different scorelines that are possible, but I will stick with my gut.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 0-0 Burnley

West Ham United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
West Ham come into the match off the back of a shocking away defeat after looking like a side that had finally found its identity. They will most likely attempt to assert their control over a weaker Brighton side, but they will most likely have to muster moments of quality at both ends of the pitch. Brighton are soaring after getting an unlucky point against Arsenal (they should have won, take it from an Arsenal supporter) and they controlled proceedings against a lackluster Everton. Chris Hughton has his men playing with better defensive solidarity which should give them hope in this match. I see a West Ham victory, but Brighton will give it all they have.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Wolverhampton Wolves vs. Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton come into this match off the back of a brilliant second half performance where they had their way with Tottenham. There is no doubt that they will try and jump Palace from the opening whistle as they love to show their attacking potential in front of the home supporters at the Molineux. Palace enter the match looking far cries from the team that took down the reigning champions, Manchester City, and have played negative football recently. They will hope for a point against Wolverhampton, but could find tough sledding if they decide to let Wolverhampton attack at will. I see an entertaining match in this one, and Wolverhampton will have the better of the goal scoring action.
Prediction: Wolverhampton 2-0

Newcastle Untied vs. Manchester United
Newcastle enter the match having picked up an average result against Watford, but they will get burned if they approach this match with negative football. Rafa Benitez has instilled defensive quality into this side, but Liverpool demonstrated just how easily they can be broken down. Manchester United are flying high after a managerial change that has breathed an attacking impetus into the side that Mourinho tried to kill off. Manchester United have found goalscoring easy to come by as they have scored twelve times in their last three matches. If this was played before Mourinho got sacked, this is a draw, but right now Manchester United will pile the suffering on Rafa Benitez’s men.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-4 Manchester United

January 3, 2019

Manchester City vs. Liverpool
This is the best match of the lot, and it is fitting that it closes out the festive fixture period. Manchester City got back to winning ways agaisnt Southampton, but they will face a more resilient Liverpool defense. The reigning champions need all three points here if they want to apply more pressure to Liverpool in the title chase. This is the toughest fixture Jurgen Klopp has this year, and he brings his unbeaten side into the match in fine form. Liverpool will feel like they can score against anyone as they have bagged nine goals from their last two matches. Both sides will want all three points. However, it will be Manchester City who bring an end to the undefeated run of Liverpool, and reverses the deed from a year ago.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool

Logo for the English Premier League

Premier League Breakdown at the Halfway Point

It occurred to me this morning that the Premier League was the only league that I had not done a breakdown for. First, there is no convenient winter break as the Premier League ramps up around Christmas. Second, there has not really been a convenient point to write this because of all the other leagues going on their winter break at the same time. However, I will do my best to give a comparable effort on a halfway point breakdown, and then react to the weekend’s matches.

Liverpool are yet to lose in the league this season, and top the table with a seven point cushion over reigning champions Manchester City. The biggest upcoming fixture in the league is the second round between those two clubs, and it could be decisive in the title race for either side as it would allow either side to either extend the lead or claw back in the chase for the title. The top 4 is rounded out by Tottenham and Chelsea with Arsenal lurking in fifth and still within striking distance for a Champions League place.

The biggest surprise of the year might be Burnley who made it into the qualifying stages for the Europa League after finishing seventh in the league a year ago. They currently languish in eighteenth and occupy the final relegation place in the league. At this point, you may be wondering why Manchester United didn’t make the cut for biggest surprise. That’s because three seems to be a magic number for José Mourinho. He has won three Premier League titles and has also not made it more than three years at any club. This was his third year, and Manchester United are playing much better under their caretaker manager. They are currently in sixth trailing Arsenal by three points.

Here’s a look at the previous matchday and a breakdown of the matches.

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Everton
Breakdown: Brighton had a resurgent second half performance that paid off with a one-goal win. It also means that Everton continue to slide in the table after some early positive performances. However, Brighton walked out deserved winners and pull farther away from the relegation pack currently sitting 13 points above safety.
Fulham 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Breakdown: Fulham needed some injury time heroics to secure their winning goal, but it helps them pull back into the fight to avoid relegation. Huddersfield Town may feel a bit hard-done by the result as they were solid for most of the game, but they switched off at the end and were made to pay the price as they remain in the bottom spot.
Leicester City 0-1 Cardiff City
Breakdown: Cardiff managed to sneak a victory against Leicester who had recently felled Man City and Chelsea, but were jubilant after a wonderstrike by Victor Camarasa (watch here). Leicester missed a penalty late on, but were held in check by a resolute display from the Cardiff defense and didn’t do enough to deserve a point.
Tottenham 1-3 Wolverhampton
Breakdown: This match is beginning to look like a classic every time it occurs. Tottenham controlled proceedings for the first half, but it was the away side who would rule the second 45. Wolverhampton clawed three goals out in a fantastic second half showing, and deservedly won the match after Tottenham failed to give an adequate display.
Watford 1-1 Newcastle
Breakdown: It was a vitnage Newcastle display as the ever pragmatic Rafa Benitez had his men stoutly defending their prized goal. However, the resistance was broken with an 82nd minute equalizer from Watford who finally found the killer ball to make their statistical dominance in the match count. Benitez will rue the poor defending of his side, but a draw was a fair result for both sides.
Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Breakdown (the word that also describes my state after watching the match): This was a real tough one for me to watch. Would you believe me if I told you that Arsenal led in this match? It’s true, but they were thoroughly and comprehensively defeated by a far superior side at Anfield. Arsenal’s defensive fragility reared its ugly head once again, and Unai Emery will have some serious thinking to do when it comes to starting the likes of Mustafi and Lichtsteiner again. If it were up to me, both men would be sold in January for whatever we could get.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Breakdown: Chelsea picked up a one goal advantage shortly after halftime and never really looked in danger of surrendering their advantage. Palace did saunter forward in numbers and created a late chance, but like most of the day, they could not muster the quality to nick a goal back and steal a point at Selhurst Park.
Burnley 2-0 West Ham United
Breakdown: This fixture gave us the reverse side of two teams that had been polar opposites coming into the match. West Ham looked like an unstoppable force after only suffering defeat in one of their previous six league matches, but were deserved losers to a superior Burnley side who frustrated their every move. Burnley picked up a much needed win, and this could be the igniting spark to propel them to safety.
Southampton 1-3 Manchester City
Breakdown: Southampton looked like a team who could have stolen a point as they neared the 45th minute, but they quickly broke down on defense and shipped two goals in three minutes. The reduction to ten men was an insult to injury as Manchester City coasted in a second half where Southampton committed themselves to damage control.
Manchester United 4-1 Bournemouth
Breakdown: Manchester United continued their dominance under their caretaker manager as they once again showed the world that attacking football is possible in the red side of Manchester. They easily beat a shambolic Bournemouth team whose defense has been left on the team bus the past two matches.

Current table

The relegation scrap looks like it will continue into the final month of the season with every team having a chance to secure a Premier League stay for next season. However, the omen for Huddersfield Town will be bad as they sit bottom and face the worst chances for Premier League Survival. Fellow bottom dwellers Fulham and Burnley will be disappointed with their league positions, but they have recently won matches that boost their chances of surviving the drop at the end of the year. Southampton have turned things around of late, but should still be in danger of relegation unless they can sort out their defensive frailties. Another side hovering near the bottom is newly-promoted Cardiff City who are far from out of the woods, and a squad that looks likely for relegation.

Predictions

Player of the Year: Eden Hazard
Top Goalscorer: Harry Kane
Most Clean Sheets: (anyone but Arsenal) Alisson

Final Table

Liverpool (champion and Champions League qualification)
Manchester City (Champions League qualification)
Chelsea (Champions League qualification)
Tottenham (Champions League qualification)
Arsenal (Europa League qualification)
Manchester United (Europa League qualification because one of the Top 4 sides will win the FA Cup)
Leicester City (Europa League Final Qualifying Round qualification due to FA Cup result)
Wolverhampton Wolves
Watford
West Ham United
Everton
Brighton & Hove Albion
Crystal Palace
Newcastle United
Southampton
Burnley
Cardiff City (relegated)
Fulham (relegated)
Huddersfield Town (relegated)