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TACKLING THE £1,400,000+ FREEPLAY6
- Updated: September 18, 2016
The Premier League is starting to take shape now and the surprises very definitely come at the bottom of the table with one or two clubs off to horrific starts.
We’ve five fixtures from England’s top flight for you to predict and also one from Serie A which, ominously for most of the league, seems to be taking on a very familiar pattern.
Middlesbrough v Tottenham
It’s not been a baptism of fire back in the top flight for the Wearsiders because they’ve been here before.
Under Chairman Steve Gibson, Boro are a fantastically run club with roots very much in the heart of the working class masses that populate the Riverside on a bi-weekly basis.
A faithful who are proud that their boys are deservedly rubbing shoulders again with the top sides in the country.
No one is really talking Tottenham up in dispatches at this point which is a blessing in one respect for Mauricio Pochettino, for it diverts the pressure and attention elsewhere.
Yet the manner of their recent 4-1 victory over Stoke City shows what they’re all about.
Quality throughout the side, power, pace and top-quality finishing.
I’d be surprised if the hosts can live with that for too long and the 1-3 victory I’m predicting will be as routine as they come for the dark horses for this seasons title.
Bournemouth v Everton
Eddie Howe would’ve learned much from Bournemouth’s hammering at the Etihad last weekend.
For a manager who is as forward-thinking as he, Pep Guardiola completely out-thought him, his players out-fought on the pitch.
In the grand scheme of things, there’s more positives that can be taken out of that defeat than negatives, and Howe’s staff will be looking to put that into practice against a vibrant Everton side at the Vitality Stadium.
At present, the Toffees finally seem to be fulfilling the promise that their talented squad are capable of producing.
They remain in the upper echelons of the table on merit and are playing some sparkling stuff – reminiscent of their glory days under Howard Kendall.
Under Ronald Koeman, the style is similar to the continental flavour that Roberto Martinez brought to the party but with added defensive steel. It’s an intoxicating and enjoyable mix.
A chess match between two of the brightest minds in the game and one with only a single goal, the hosts sneaking it for me, 1-0.
Sunderland v Crystal Palace
Fortunes have turned out very differently David Moyes since he left Goodison Park. Sacked by both Manchester United and Real Sociedad, being employed in the north east was seen as third-time lucky for the Scot.
Unfortunately, it’s been anything but.
As of this moment, he’s been unable to inspire a Sunderland side who’ve been dangling on the precipice of the Premier League for more than two seasons now.
The Black Cats supporters will have looked to him to be some sort of saviour, but an early season comment that they should prepare themselves for another relegation battle sounded completely the wrong tone – even if it turns out to be true.
Furthermore, that impacts on the players who expect to be inspired by their manager.
Alan Pardew is a motivator supreme, but he too has suffered in results terms over the course of this calendar year.
To his credit, he has used available funds wisely and Christian Benteke will surely repay his faith with goals if given the right service.
Palace aren’t ‘too good to go down’ and they’ll need to up their game in due course, but they’ve enough positivity about them in the dressing room to get themselves out of their malaise.
Which is more than can be said for Sunderland.
The Eagles will fly high taking a 0-1 back to south London.
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Arsenal v Chelsea
This fixture is becoming one of the must-see derbies of the calendar with barely a game going by between the pair and there not being a flashpoint for one reason or another.
It’s unlikely that this one will be any different and the Gunners will really be in the mood after a decent win last time out.
Chelsea were surprisingly, but deservedly, beaten by Liverpool and this game is a chance for Antonio Conte to show the rest of the league that he is the real deal.
Along with Guardiola, much is expected of the Italian and a London derby victory against one of the Blues’ fiercest rivals will go a long way to convincing the supporters that they’ve found a man worthy of replacing the Special One.
Only Man City have outscored Arsenal this season and slowly but surely, Arsene Wenger is winning back the boo boys.
Yes it’s still early days in the title race but these are the games where the Frenchman and his charges have got to come up big if they want to be considered as contenders – finally.
ANY OTHER DRAW won’t necessarily suit either team, but nor is it a disaster.
West Ham v Southampton
After such an entertaining 2015/16, Slaven Bilic’s Hammers have dropped like a stone.
They’ve been simply awful and have lost four out of their last five, conceding four in their last two games.
With 13, they are by some distance the team that have let in the most in the league and another home game at a stadium where they’ve yet to settle comes at the wrong time.
Without even the distraction of European football to use as an excuse, the east Londoners look bereft of ideas and creativity.
That a more industrial team such as West Brom, with the greatest respect, were able to put four past them, hints at the depths of their problems right now.
Southampton aren’t going to make it easy for them either, the Saints having a decent enough record in this part of the world.
Although they’ve yet to gel themselves, that’s more to do with getting used to Claude Puel’s tactics and way of doing things. They do at least look a cohesive enough unit.
I expect another shocking atmosphere and a cacophony of boos at full time as the hosts go down 1-2.
Fiorentina v AC Milan
Although form suggests that the visitors can feel confident when arriving in Florence, the history books say otherwise.
Fiorentina continue to be the Rossoneri’s bogey side, no matter how well they’ve been playing.
In the last five years, over the course of 10 fixtures, Milan have won just once and it would be hard to believe that there are any other sides for whom the visitors would have a poorer record against over the same time frame.
Vincenzo Montella’s side don’t have a problem with scoring but their back line are far too accommodating and that’s why they are the only team in the top seven of Serie A with a negative goal difference.
Only three points separate the sides at start of play, but Milan have played two more games than their hosts, so the motivation for the home side is clear.
The better football will be played by those in red and black but the curse is going to strike again. I’m predicting a 2-0 upset here.