Another five EPL fixtures supplemented by a clash of Serie A’s finest for your Pick 6 Millionaire this week. Some surprising results in last week’s set of fixtures will have foxed even the best punter, and things don’t get any easier this week.
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Tottenham v Leicester
It was the Foxes who ultimately deserved last season’s English Premier League title but there won’t be too many arguments against those who suggested that it was Tottenham who actually played the best football.
The Lilywhites have carried on where they left off whilst their visitors have tailed off – in their domestic league at any rate. Unbeaten and unbowed in Europe, Leicester need one more win to be mathematically certain to reach the knock out stages of the Champions League at their first attempt.
Clearly this isn’t going to be all plain sailing for the hosts, but at home, Spurs are fearsome going forward and solid in defence.
In short, they’re already bearing the hallmarks again of a side that is more than capable of challenging for the title at the tail end of the campaign.
If they’re to win here however, Riyad Mahrez has to be marked out of the game from the first whistle.
Allow the mercurial midfielder to get into the game and he will, as he has done many times before, cause havoc.
I’m tipping Leicester to make life difficult but Tottenham to shade it in a 2-1 home victory.
Middlesbrough v Bournemouth
Both teams pulled off surprising but well deserved draws against their north London opponents last week, draws that will give them confidence ahead of this one.
We’re almost certain to see a much more attacking game given than each side likes to express themselves in the same way.
Aitor Karanka has a kindred spirit in opposite number Eddie Howe and although points mean prizes, if there’s an improvement from their staff, each manager will be happy.
Likewise, the fans pay to be entertained and this is a game where they’ll get their money’s worth.
If there’s one issue that Karanka needs to address it’s Boro’s lack of goals.
Penetration in the right areas doesn’t seem to be a problem but finishing off attacks definitely is.
Bournemouth will at least afford them chances to add to their meagre tally but ultimately neither side have enough about them to take all three points.
An entertaining 1-1 at the Riverside.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool
All of the focus pre-match will be on Christian Benteke and whether he can derail his old side’s terrific start to the season.
The Belgian has his critics but given the right service, he is a beast of a centre-forward. Unfortunately, his style was one that didn’t fit into the manner of play which manager Jurgen Klopp desired – which is the German’s prerogative.
You can’t really argue with him given how well the Reds have done to this point.
Although Benteke will be the danger man, Klopp is likely to have his players concentrate on stifling the creativity of Palace’s wingers, such as Andros Townsend. Stop the crosses, you stop the goals.
Palace meanwhile, face a team that are quick on the counter and decisive when necessary. Play them at their own game and there’s only one winner. However, Alan Pardew won’t set up defensively because it’s not in his nature to do so.
It’s laudable from the Eagles to come out fighting but they should really be taking a leaf out of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. OK, it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
I just can’t see that happening so Palace will pay the penalty, Benteke’s late consolation will be little consolation as Liverpool head back to Anfield with a 1-3 away win.
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Juventus v Napoli
Who’d have thought it – Juve knocked back at a resurgent AC Milan to see the latter pull to within two points of the leaders – who were running away with Serie A at one stage, even so early on.
It’s a real wake up call for Max Allegri’s side and they need to get straight back to winning ways against Napoli.
And what an atmosphere we are in for! Gonzalo Higuain against his old side. The sub-text is wonderful and if the Bianconeri turn up to this one with the same attitude as against Milan, they could find themselves undone again.
They are formidable at home though, Sevilla coming closest to a win this season at Juventus Stadium.
Clearly, Napoli have to be at it straight away and press high, hard and fast, whilst also ensuring defensive solidity.
They are capable of a result but can they fulfil their promise? On this occasion I’m saying no.
It will go to the wire though, a late winner for the hosts meaning a 1-0 home win.
Everton v West Ham
West Ham got out of jail at the London Stadium last weekend with their winner against Sunderland coming in the last 10 seconds.
Although the Hammers were dominant for long periods, they’re not clicking in anything like the same way as they were last season. Against Everton, they will be ripped apart. The Toffees are the east Londoners bogey team, and at Goodison Park the visitors have a wretched record. The last thing that Slaven Bilic’s side would need after a morale-boosting victory – however it came – is to be up against Ronald Koeman’s swashbucklers.
Although they found Burnley a tough nut to crack, as did neighbours Liverpool, against a team like West Ham, that will come to play football, the hosts will showcase their full repertoire and the match could be over before half time.
There’s no doubt that when they’re on their game, the Hammers can be a match for anyone but they just can’t get going. It’s far too early to suggest that Bilic could be on his way but clearly he needs to provide something extra at this point.
Perhaps he can take a leaf out of Koeman’s book. Man against boy here with an easy 3-0 home victory.
Southampton v Chelsea
The Blues are beginning to find their rhythm under Antonio Conte now and are one of the best teams to watch in the division.
Diego Costa is thriving again in a side that has exorcised the demons of Jose Mourinho and reinvented itself as a contender once more.
Southampton will be a positive opponent for the west Londoners, the Saints always a team who like to play the right way, getting the ball down and their wide men funnelling the channels.
The width could cause problems for Conte’s own attacking intent given that his wing-backs may have to sit a little narrower than they have been used to at this point.
A fiercely contested midfield battle is where this will be won or lost, with Costa the outlet and, most-likely, the match winner.
It won’t be a walk in the park but Chelsea to show their title credentials with an important 0-2 away victory.