Joint leaders, Middlesbrough go into this clash with the best defensive record in the Championship so far having conceded just 2 goals in their opening 4 games, and they have a very good recent record at the Riverside where only Fulham, Wolves, and Villa – in the play-off semi-final – have won league games there in 2018. However, although they have won their first two home games to nil this season,they are winless in 8 games against the Baggies in all competitions and will face Darren Moore’s side who recently hit a woeful QPR for seven. The last time the teams met in a game outwith the Premier League was back in the 2009-10 season when West Brom thrashed the ‘Boro 5 nil. I don’t think that there will be that many goals scored in this one, and my preference is for the home side not to lose.
The second of the Friday night games comes from France with hosts Lyon keen to erase the memories of last weekends surprising away defeat at Reims. Bruno Genesio’s side started the new campaign with a comfortable home win over Amiens, as they extended their form at the Stade de Gerland to just one Ligue 1 defeat in their last 8 home games. Lyon ended last season in fine form as they collected 27 points from a possible 30 with their only defeat coming away at…..Strasbourg!! when the hosts scored twice in the last 2 minutes to secure a 3-2 win. Strasbourg are unbeaten in their opening two games so far, but they lost this fixture 4-0 last season, and having dented Lyon’s winning run at the end of last season, they will probably have to do more defending than they would like. A close game that Lyon should just edge.
Two games played by both of these teams and no points collected between them would suggest that a tight game is in prospect, but my feeling here is that Arsenal will claim their first win of the season as they slowly start to adjust to life without Arsene Wenger. There were signs in the defeat at Chelsea that an understanding of Unai Emery’s method of play was beginning to show, and better finishing – especially in the first half – could and should have put the Gunners out of sight. There are still plenty of defensive frailties to be sorted out, but visitors to the Emirates West Ham, are possibly the ideal opponents at this stage for Arsenal. Arsenal were unbeaten against the Hammers last season, and won this fixture by a comfortable 4-1 last season – with all 5 goals being scored in the second half – and West Ham’s only victory over Arsenal in the last 23 meetings came back in November 2006, I don’t expect that statistic to change.
These sides have made decent starts to the new Premier League campaign as they are both unbeaten so far, but it is the Cherries who are two points better off as they are just one of six teams who have made 100% winning starts. This fixture is one that has hardly ever been played and is in fact only the 11th meeting between the teams with the advantage being very much with Everton who have managed 7 wins across all competitions. There have been 6 games between the teams since Bournemouth joined the Premier League, and during those games, neither team has lost their home game, – 2 wins and a draw for Bournemouth, and 3 wins for Everton and on that basis I will go for that sequence to continue and take Bournemouth not to lose.
This for me is the game that should go down as an away win. Having been slightly unlucky to leave Old Trafford with nothing but a Jamie Vardy goal in the opening game of the season, Leicester got their first win against newly promoted Wolves last time out although the win came at some cost as striker Vardy now faces suspension. When the teams first met in the Premier League back in 2014-15, both teams won the respective fixture 2-nil. Two seasons ago Southampton had the advantage by taking 4 points from the 2 games, and last season it was Leicester’s turn as they took 4 out of 6 points. The visitors have now lost their last four away Premier League games, and without Vardy might find it tough going although they do have other players who can find the net. The home team picked up their first point of the season with an opening day nil-nil draw at home to Burnley, and they now have a record of just 1 home Premier League win from their last 14 attempts at St. Mary’s, it’s a very poor record and I think Leicester can add to their problems.
Leeds have got off to a flying start and are already being tipped by many to finally make a return to the Premier League.Having won their three opening league games in some style, Leeds had to dig deep to preserve their unbeaten run at Swansea in midweek as they came from behind on two occasions to grab a share of the points. Having already scored 11 goals, Leeds look to have plenty of attacking options and the hosts will be hard pressed to stop Bielsa’s side from scoring. By contrast Norwich have started slowly and have just 4 points from their first 4 games and have already suffered 2 defeats, but they managed to claim their first league win in midweek when 2 goals in the final 10 minutes saw them break down a stubborn Preston defence, managed by former Norwich manager, Alex Neil. The last 6 meetings between the teams at Carrow Road have been better for the home team who have won 3 of those games, and the last home game of last season saw goals from Hoolahan, and Murphy, turn the game around for Norwich. Having said that, I don’t see Leeds losing this game.
Forest are one of 8 Championship teams who are still unbeaten, although they have only won one game so far, a single goal victory thanks to Hillal Soudani’s strike against Reading. Last season Forest won the corresponding fixture 2-1, whilst Birmingham got the win at St. Andrews. Gary Monk’s Birmingham team have had a mixed start to the campaign and are so far without a win, drawing twice and losing twice, most recently the midweek defeat at Bolton which leaves them along with 4 other teams still looking for their first league win of the season. The early form would suggest a Forest win here, and that would be my preference.
The final game this weekend is an opening day clash in the German Bundesliga which as it is the first game of the season, could literally have any outcome. The home side continued their preparations for the new season by thrashing BSC Hastedt 11-1 in the German Cup last weekend, a game that saw 3 players,Hazard, Plea, and Raffael, all scoring hat-tricks. The teams met three times last season with Leverkusen winning all three games, and included in those games was a thumping 5-1 win in this corresponding fixture even though they trailed at the break. Leverkusen will probably start as favourites but opening day fixtures are very hard to predict so I will cover all results.