Chelsea v Liverpool, Stamford Bridge, Sat 31, 12:45
What a huge, interesting top six clash this is for all those exterior plotlines it crosses into.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will be praying to the heavens for a victory on home soil. He badly needs it. The 2-1 loss to West Ham a week ago crushed talks of a mini-revival that people thought might be building its foundations so now Chelsea have to start again and a Liverpool win would set them up perfectly. Lose however and Mourinho’s seemingly untouchable position at the start of the season now becomes severely under threat.
In the other dugout, Jurgen Klopp too is in need of a morale boosting three points with just the two draws in the league thus far. It’s fair to say he’s been plagued with injuries, particularly down the centre, with injuries to Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke and Danny Ings forcing him to deploy Divock Origi in that position recently. It’s hard for the German because the general consensus is that his team lack pace and lacks in quality but certainly all eleven players on the pitch will be fighting for him in order to get a decent result.
Contrary to what others may think, I don’t see this clash having many goals. Mourinho has to get a win here and while he’ll know Liverpool aren’t at their most threatening offensively, he’ll still stick to caution and look to see them off by the odd goal. Equally, Klopp will be aware of his lack of attacking threat and will be looking perhaps just for the one goal to cling onto in this one. Stalemate possibly? It could well be.
Round up of the rest
Crystal Palace v Manchester United, Selhurst Park, Sat 31, 15:00
Following on from the challenge of City last week comes another difficult opponent as they make the journey to the capital to face Alan Pardew’s ambitious Palace. The Eagles will be disappointed with back-to-back defeats against West Ham and Leicester and will want to respond as soon as possible. Yet against a resilient United team, they should come just short in a game with few goals.
Manchester City v Norwich, Etihad Stadium, Sat 31, 15:00
The Premier League has made fools of all of us for its unpredictability but despite that you can’t help but feel this one will be a formality. Norwich have lost their last three – including that 6-2 thumping away to Newcastle – and haven’t won in five matches while City continue to march on despite their injuries to big players. Comfortable home victory on the cards here.
Steve McClaren’s side have been the very definition of a yoyo team this season, particularly of late. They had been hammered 6-1 away at the Etihad, responding by hitting Norwich for six the week after, before being in the wrong-end of a 3-0 score line in the Tyne-Wear derby. Stoke had won three before a dreadful performance and result against Watford. A score-draw looks likely.
Swansea v Arsenal, Liberty Stadium, Sat 31, 15:00
The Swans are a very good outfit that had suffered a blip in form until that late win at Villa. Rumours that Gary Monk may be axed if that form continued were ludicrous to say the least but he’ll be pleased regardless that they’re back on track. Arsenal are in imperious form (minus their antics in the Cup) but they rarely take all three points in South Wales. Expect an entertaining point apiece.
Watford v West Ham, Vicorage Rd, Sat 31, 15:00
After their excellent performance and victory away at Stoke, Watford will be full of confidence ahead of their home tie with West Ham. The Hammers of course have been one of this seasons big ‘over-achievers’ with their away form a prime protagonist for their rise up the table. As a reult they’ll probably be expected to win this so I’d make a claim for a banana skin from the Hornets.
West Brom v Leicester, The Hawthorns, Sat 31, 15:00
Leicester are in dreamland at the moment but that narrow victory against Leicester last week was testament to the fact that lady luck has also been on their side. Their only true opportunity was gifted to them by Brede Hangeland and they scored while Palace could have had three penalties! West Brom will be tight at the back and tough to beat so I’d be looking towards a stalemate here.
Everton v Sunderland, Goodison Park, Sun 1 Nov, 13:30
This might not be a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination with Sunderland’s tails now well and truly up following their bizarre 3-0 win over rivals Newcastle. Everton themselves are coming into this off the back of two straight defeats which have entailed some questionable antics at the back. I think Sunderland will score here but Everton should turn it round and win this tie.
Southampton v Bournemouth, St Mary’s, Sun 1, 16:00
You have to feel for Eddie Howe and Bournemouth. All was looking so promising after this first month or so but injuries have ravaged through the squad and taken many key players such as Max Gradel and Callum Wilson. They have shipped 11 goals in their last two matches and Southampton forwards will be licking their lips. Comfortable home win here but they shouldn’t hit them five or six.
Tottenham v Aston Villa, White Hart Lane, Sun 1, 16:00
Villa are in a terrible position at the moment in the league and without Tim Sherwood there to try and reinvigorate his troops, it looks like they’ll be there for the taking. Tottenham are in decent form and recently smashed five past a frail Bournemouth team. They’ll see this as an opportunity to record back-to-back victories and they should do that without too much difficulty.
Team of the week
GK: Tim Howard (Everton): The Toffee’s stopper is at that stage of his career where people are starting to point the finger. He’s been largely fantastic for Everton over the years but an indifferent campaign last season has been followed by a relatively poor one thus far this season; only last weekend he was culpable for both Arsenal goals. He will be looking to shut his critics up with a calm, assured display and a clean sheet against the Black Cats.
RB: Bacary Sagna (Manchester City): Deputising for the injured Pablo Zabaleta since the start of the season, the French right back has performed excellently, so much so he actually retained his place in favour of Zabaleta for the Manchester derby. With Zabaleta now suffering a further injury, Sagna can rest a little easier in the knowledge his place will remain safe at this moment in time.
CB: Per Mertesacker (Arsenal): One of the senior players that kept his place in the team for the Sheffield Wednesday match but the big German had a shocker all night. He will be looking to restore some calm to the defence with his regular companions at the back set to return.
CB: Micah Richards (Aston Villa): It all started so promisingly for the Villa skipper but now Richards looks like a nervous wreck at the back – like his teammates. It’s highly unlikely that now manageress, they’ll be able to rally and put in an inspired performance to keep out Spurs. But it will be interesting to see how they play.
LB: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool): Scored his first Liverpool goal on Tuesday night to see off Bournemouth in the Cup and will be looking to provide similar offensive threats against Chelsea on Saturday.
CDM: Nemanja Matic (Chelsea): If Chelsea are to take anything from the Liverpool game, their 6’ 4’’ Serbian needs to rediscover his A-game. Matic was never particularly flashy or pleasing on the eye but knew his position on the field incredibly well and was comparable to a brick wall at time for his protection of the back four. Chelsea need that man back rather than the pale imitation they have been seeing recently.
RM: Adam Johnson (Sunderland): He’s on top of his game for the Black Cats at the moment and they need him to be.
CAM: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): He’s been called to be dropped by some quarters of the United faithful but it appears Louis Van Gaal’s faith in his skipper is strong and that he will be in the starting eleven once again for the Palace match. The manager however will want to see an upturn in Rooney’s sluggish season where he has only scored a mere two goals in the league.
LM: Andre Ayew (Swansea): He’s been amongst the goals all season for the Swans and after seeing off his brother’s team last week, he’ll want to get stuck into the tough challenge that awaits in Arsenal. Feeling still might be a little raw after their midweek cup collapse and Ayew – like his team mates – will be hoping for a fast start in front of the home faithful.
ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham): Hat-trick hero last weekend and now Spurs’ talented forward will be looking to kick-start his season. He hit 30 goals in all competitions last season but has struggled this time around though many believe he only needs a few and he’ll be banging them back in on a regular basis. Let’s see if that hypothesis is the case.
ST: Graziano Pelle (Southampton): The Italian hasn’t scored since before the international break but he will be relishing this challenge against a struggling Aston Villa side that struggle to defend. Pelle has carved out a reputation in England as a predatory target that is as good as it gets really for teams outside the generic top six. He’ll be hungry to add to his goal tally on Sunday.
Manager: Jose Mourinho (Chelsea): It’s a huge match for Mourinho against Liverpool. If he wins, confidence will momentarily be back as Liverpool are a half decent team but if they lose, the pressure will crank up to the max and his job will be on the line, or already gone as some newspapers have suggested.