The Britwatch Football Team give their preview and predictions for the midweek action
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PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – After the FA Cup fourth round over the weekend, league action resumes with Matchweek 25, as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United and former Gunner Alexis Sanchez on Wednesday evening at Wembley Stadium. As usual our writers have had their say on what will happen.
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Neil: Matchweek 25 kicks off as the Swans look to back up last Monday night’s surprise win against Liverpool, as Arsenal roll into South Wales. In what was a gritty display from Carlos Carvalhal’s men, Swansea dug in to keep the Reds out and although the visitors were visibly off-kilter, it was their first loss in over two months and a huge scalp for the Welsh side.
They will need to be in similarly scrooge-like mood on Tuesday for the visit of the Gunners buoyed from booking their place in the Carabao Cup final and fresh from six days rest. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to make his debut for Arsene Wenger and will form a key part of the North Londoner’s attack until the end of the campaign, but whether the Armenian can stamp his mark here remains to be seen. It is rare for the Swans to record back-to-back wins and with a fresh Arsenal side making the trip, the visitors should just have enough to sneak the win.
Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Arsenal
Niall: Swansea have looked a much better team under Carvalhal and can actually escape relegation if they continue in the same vein. However, Arsenal is another difficult task they need to pass and after their 4-1 win against Crystal Palace, they showed they can cope without Alexis Sanchez. I think we are looking at another win for the Gunners with this one.
Neil: Remaining unbeaten in their closely-fought draw with AFC Bournemouth last weekend, West Ham United now host an Eagles side reeling from a thumping against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Wigan Athletic to boot. The hosts are hamstrung – literally in some aspects – by injuries to key players, and will be reliant on goals and effort from elsewhere, if Palace are to be kept at bay here.
Roy Hodgson’s men were defensively a shambles last time out, but at 4-0 down, statistically won the second period 1-0 courtesy of Luka Milivojevic’s smart volleyed finish in North London. It’s hard to see the visitors playing as bad again, and with West Ham struggling with injuries this could be the perfect opportunity to bounce back. I do however, see this ending in a draw.
Prediction: West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace
Niall: A big question mark with this match is how these sides will respond after disappointing defeats. Palace were battered by Arsenal in the league last time out whilst West Ham were knocked out of the FA Cup by League One leaders Wigan. Both the Hammers and the Eagles have undergone big transformations under their new managers, so I expect a tight affair that will likely split the points.
Neil: The away form of the Terriers is beginning to look a source of anxiety for the hosts, which makes their remaining home games the more vital for David Wagner’s men. The visit of Liverpool then, may not make happy viewing for the home fans. It’s just three goals from their last six games, with the back line also having lost a its solidity from earlier this season.
After beating the champions elect Manchester City a fortnight ago, the customary mid-season uncertainty has hit the Reds after defeat to Swansea and over the weekend to West Brom in the Cup. The big issue for Jurgen Klopp’s men continues to be in defence – despite the arrival of £75m man Virgil van Dijk. After successive losses, I do think though the visitors will get their campaign back on the rails here.
Prediction: Huddersfield 1-3 Liverpool
Niall: The life of a Liverpool can be summed up with their last two Premier League games. They beat Man City impressively one week then lose to bottom club Swansea the next. This time they travel to Huddersfield who have given some of the big teams tough matches at the John Smith’s Stadium. Which Liverpool will show up? The answer to that question will likely decide the match.
Neil: After a wobbly few games in terms of scoring goals, Chelsea have netted seven in their last two domestic games in league and most recently cup competition – even without Alvaro Morata. The Blues are likely to be doing late business even as this game goes on before the transfer window closes just hours after the conclusion.
The Cherries are in decent form still and have a equally smart record at Stamford Bridge in past campaigns – including a win two seasons ago. Bournemouth’s unbeaten run now stretches to five league games, but that may come to an end here, although Eddie Howe’s men will not make it easy.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Bournemouth
Niall: Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last five, but their biggest test of this run comes in the form of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The Blues are entering a real rough period where they have to face Barcelona twice and some top six Premier League teams, so a win here is vital. Bournemouth can be a troublesome side, but I do not see Chelsea having too much bother beating them.
Neil:Everton are beginning to slide back down the league table once more, with the Toffees unable to get any semblance of form to stick right now. The addition of Theo Walcott is a welcome bonus of pace in the host’s attack, but goals are still a little hard to come by for the moment for Sam Allardyce – as are clean sheets.
The Foxes have not conceded in their last two games, and were in imperious form at Peterborough on Saturday lunchtime. Claude Puel is really molding his own brand of play at then King Power Stadium now, with not just goals but also real stability in the midfield. With Leicester’s respective form, I am just tipping the visitors for an away win.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Leicester
Niall: This match is a mid table game without much consequence at the moment, but the difference in form is quite contrasting. Leicester are unbeaten in three whilst Everton are winless in their last five. That may carry the game towards the Foxes who look good going forward with Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in good form.
Neil: Two sides in need of a shot in the arm meet at St. James’ Park on Wednesday night. The Magpies are desperate for a first home win in over three months but with finding the back of the net still a very real issue, there is no evidence that that might come here, with Newcastle’s defence looking rather creaky and in need of an oil.
Burnley are also scratching for a win having not picked up maximum points since before the festive period – having lost their last three league outings. After such a sterling start to the term, the Clarets appear to be leveling out as a mid-table side this season, still quite a way from any relegation trouble. In terms of this contest thought, a share of the spoils is on the cards.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Burnley
Niall: Burnley have hit a bit of skid in recent weeks, and all of a sudden the dreams of a European place finish are not looking so realistic. They have a good chance of getting back to winning ways against Newcastle who sit just above the relegation zone. It will not be a pretty footballing contest, but I think the Clarets edge it.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-1 Burnley
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Wednesday, 19:45)
Neil: Both of these south coast sides look to be heading for a relegation dogfight come May, which make this clash rather intriguing to say the very least. Having drawn the last two outings, most notably against Tottenham Hotspur last time out, Southampton will be in a more positive frame of mind ahead of this geographical derby.
The Seagulls, having shipped four at home to Chelsea ten days ago, will be looking for a far more ship-shape display in the famous port town. Their threat in terms of goals however is looking more dry than a cask of sailor’s rum – aside from the growing exploits of striker Glenn Murray. Jurgen Locadia has been brought in from Dutch side Feyenoord but is still some way off fitness however, which leaves the responsibility down to Murray as he himself faces his own issues off the field. I just fancy the hosts here. But only just, in a tight game.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Brighton
Niall: This is a big match at the bottom of the table as both sides are staring at a relegation battle for the rest of the season. Southampton’s league form has been far from good, but their cup win against Watford may be a booster. Brighton also struggle away from home so I am tipping the Saints to earn a narrow win in this one.
Neil: The Citizens appear to be back on track after losing their unbeaten league streak a few weeks back, however the loss of Leroy Sane to injury is likely to leave a large void in Pep Guardiola’s plans – at least temporarily. The hosts have ample options as back-up but few are likely to replace the speed and underrated power of the German.
West Brom are really picking up under Alan Pardew having cast the shackles of a defensive philosophy off of their play, but are still some way to looking guaranteed survivors in the top-flight this season. Unbeaten in their last four with three wins – knocking Liverpool out at Anfield in the FA Cup – the Baggies will be looking more positively at their plight to stay up this term, even if this game is beyond them. Whilst I do think that is the case here, the visitors might surprise a few once more.
Prediction: Man City 3-1 West Brom
Niall: Just as the Baggies find new life under Pardew they have to go to Manchester City. It is tough luck when you go unbeaten in three in all competitions, but if they do get a result it will be big for their season. Unfortunately for them, I can not see them keeping City out nor scoring enough to counter their goals. I predict a comfortable win for the league leaders.
Neil: The undoubted highlight of Matchweek 25 sees Spurs host Manchester United at Wembley. After dodging the banana skin of Newport County on Saturday evening, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are in the rare position of coming into such a big game having drawn their last two. Harry Kane however, is still in inspired form with six goals in his last four outings.
Manchester United will get their first taste of league life with Alexis Sanchez in tow, as the former Gunner is unlikely to receive a warm reception against former fierce rivals in North London. With a plethora of big names on show here, this should be an absorbing contest despite a number of drawn-out goalless draws in Jose Mourinho’s history. With the Chilean in tow, the Red Devils could win, by will stick to the common result in United’s away games with a draw – albeit it a high-scoring one.
Niall: Now we reach the main event of the mid-week matches. Spurs host Manchester United in a big match in the fight for the top four. These two sides are better known for solid defence than attacks, but that is not to say they do not have attacking power at all.Kane vsSanchez may be a key match to see which one will be the most influential. Both may grab a goal, but will there be anything to separate these sides? Home advantage is with Tottenham but their form against top six opposition is worrying, so I think a draw is on the cards.
Neil: Matchweek 25 concludes at the Bet365 Stadium, as Stoke City look to back up their win against Huddersfield again struggling Watford. In Paul Lambert’s first win as Potters boss the hosts also kept a rare shut-out which, aside from their two goals, would be a hugely promising sign of a return to defensively stability.
The Hornets meanwhile, also under new stewardship in Javi Gracia got off to an uncertain start in their all-Premier League cup clash with Southampton at the weekend. As a side with little time to now get back early season form, if Watford continue to struggle for points, they could become embroiled in the picture to beat the drop to the Championship. And I do think, the hosts will get the job done here to make things tougher.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Watford
Niall: It is the clash of the two newly managed teams as Stoke face Watford. The Potters began life under Lambert with a win against Huddersfield, so he will be aiming to make it two out of two when they face a Watford side who lost their first game under Gracia. The Hornets are in poor form and we do not know what affect the new boss will have just yet, so I will stick with a Stoke win.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Watford
Premier League Matchweek 25 takes place on the 30th and 31st of January
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