Everton vs. Manchester United
On paper this looks like it should be a no brainer. An in form Man Utd with three of the best attacking players in the league, against a struggling Everton who have conceded the most league goals so far this term. But the 3-1 scoreline at Arsenal last week did not tell the whole story, and if Everton can improve again and really raise their game, I can really see Moyes’ men frustrating United and getting something from the game.
Sunderland Athletic vs. Newcastle United
Derby day in the north is always bound to send form out of the window, and I think Newcastle have a chance here. They have looked like an improving side in the last couple of games and were unlucky against City last time out. Sunderland got a handy away draw with Fulham last time out but at home they haven’t been the best. Derby games are always impossible to predict though…
West Bromwich Albion vs. Hull City
Both these teams will be happy with their starts to the season, Hull especially so, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top of this clash of the promoted clubs. On current form, most people would have their money on Hull but to be honest I think West Brom will be able to compete physically and have more about them football wise, and could upset the Tigers European dreams!
Blackburn Rovers vs. Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough will want to put memories of last weeks whitewash behind them and try and get back to reality – after all, a defeat like that from Chelsea could happen to anyone if they are in the mood. But Blackburn will be tough opponents and will give little away at Ewood Park and I don’t see ‘Boro getting the confidence boosting win they will so crave.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool (Sun)
This will prove to be a very telling match in this seasons title race, and may tell us whether Benitez’s side can finally mount a real challenge. I very much expect him to be content with a draw at the Bridge and so would expect a five man midfield especially with Torres half fit and Keane not firing. But I think that to do that would be a mistake and Scolari’s Chelsea, if they repeat their persistent performance from midweek, will eventually break them down. It all depends on whether Rafa is willing to go for the throat, but I don’t think he has it in him.
Manchester City vs. Stoke City (Sun)
City’s side is looking very good going forward, but Mark Hughes may want to strengthen at the back a little bit come January. Stoke will provide a certain sort of test for their defences, and it will mainly be a physical and aerial one. I think City have the personnel to withstand that inevitable barrage though and I would be very surprised if Stoke’s own defence has enough to contain Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Jo… I’ll stop there Stoke fans.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bolton Wanderers (Sun)
There is a lot of pressure on Juande Ramos coming into this game. I see Bolton very much as relegation candidates and Ramos may not have long left in his job, rightly or wrongly, if the results don’t come soon. Having said that, I’m backing Spurs to finally get three points on the board. If they can put away some of the chances that were wasted last week, and the defence can remain solid. These are of course big ‘ifs’ and Bolton fans will be hoping they can take advantage of the current butt of English Football’s jokes.
Wigan Athletic vs. Aston Villa (Sun)
Tough one to call, Wigan so nearly got a great result off Liverpool last week, so their confidence could be high or dented from throwing it away. And Villa got a very good win in midweek against Ajax but that could leave them a bit tired. Expect Villa to soak up the pressure and maybe play mainly on the counter, while Wigan will look for the physical presence of Heskey and Zaki up front. I’m backing Villa to be strong enough at the back, but I don’t think they’ll quite have the firepower to breakthrough at the other end.
West Ham United vs. Arsenal (Sun)
Arsenal showed last week in the second half against Everton that they are unplayable when at their best, and in midweek confirmed that they are hitting top form with a convincing 5-2 win. Though Zola’s West Ham have been a bit hot-cold so far, I expect them to play well and put up a good fight but ultimately lose out to an Arsenal team so full of attacking threat, and most importantly, confidence.
Portsmouth vs. Fulham (Sun)
Both these teams have had reasonable starts to the season, though arguably Pompey have under-performed while Fulham have exceeded expectations. These trends look like they may be returning to normal though and I think that Portsmouth should have enough about them to manage a home win today, and expect to see Defoe on the score sheet again, as I think his pace will be key to unlocking the Fulham defence.