First the good news. The next International break that will affect matches in the English Premier League is between 22 and 30 March next year. That means we can now get into the hurly burly of the league, without having to worry about players getting injured on International duty, or managers complaining about minimal rest for their millionaires in the dressing room, writes Gary Lemke.
Now for the bad news. Historically, following these International breaks – and we’re coming off the latest one this week – the first round of EPL matches is a minefield. This week will be no different.
So, let me try help you navigate through the round with the minimum of damage. By all means agree with me, or disagree. You might be one of those who reckon their best way of getting green arrows is to go against what I’m suggesting. If that’s the case, I’m happy to be of help! My picks will definitely be in the minority this week and some might think their’s an air of desperation about some of them.
However, I am now on exactly 50% as a winning ratio, with 39 correct forecasts out of the 78 matches. My downfall is that I’ve only got three exact scorelines, so that’s an area I’ll be working hard on for the next stretch of fixtures.
I did say that if you can reach 55% in terms of correct forecasts over a season you will pick up a couple of yellow caps along the way and likely be in the top 1% or 2% globally. That’s definitely my personal aim again, although there are 363 of you in this pool who have had a better season than me so far. But, I’m coming for you!
These are my forecasts for this round. Good luck with yours, as I think we’re going to need a bit of luck this weekend.
Newcastle 1 Chelsea 2: Here we go again with Newcastle. Their first eight matches have a sequence of WLDWLDWL … which means that the “D” is again due. You know what? I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised. I’m only going for a Chelsea win here because I’m a biased Chelsea supporter. The visitors won’t have Pulisic or Havertz this weekend and Newcastle are statistically Chelsea’s bogey team over the recent past.
Aston Villa 2 Brighton 1: Villa went four wins from four, scoring 12 and conceding two. They then scored three and leaked seven in losing their next two before beating Arsenal 3-0 away last time. With Grealish one of the form players in the league, they’re getting a lot of chances created. Brighton have played a whole lot better than their 16th position suggests, but I think Villa might overrun them here.
Tottenham 1 Man City 2: Second takes on 10th, so I’m probably going with what would be an upset and thinking that at some stage Pep’s men are going to start finding form. But, Spurs have only taken five points from their four home games and lost to Everton, while drawing with Newcastle and West Ham at home.
Man United 2 West Brom 0: The visitors have only scored in three of tehir first eight matches and will again struggle at Old Trafford. You don’t really know what you’re going to get with United, and in their seven matches they have not had back-to-back of the same results. They would have to break that trend here to take maximum points.
Fulham 1 Everton 2: The home side’s recent form has improved since their shocking start back in the top flight. They’ve got four points from their last four games and their two defeats were narrow ones – against West Ham and Crystal Palace. Everton’s graph has gone in the wrong direction, losing their last three. Losing four in a row is relegation material and Everton won’t be relegated, so I’m expected them to turn things around here.
Sheffield United 1 West Ham 2: Despite Sheffield United being bottom, they have lost their last three matches to high quality opponents in Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. This is a match in which I can see them getting a point and I may yet change my Superbru call to a draw depending on how I’ve fared up to this Sunday match.
Leeds 1 Arsenal 1: Leeds always seem to be involved in high-scoring games, with two 4-3s, two 4-1s and a 3-0. Arsenal will fancy their chances but followed up a win at Old Trafford with defeat against Villa. This is a tough one to call, but the hosts have the energy to play for the full 90 minutes and could get a surprise point.
Liverpool 2 Leicester 2: Champions against current leaders … Liverpool with an injury crisis and no Mo Salah. This has the ingredients for being the best match of the round between two free-flowing teams. I’m expecting goals here.
Burnley 1 Crystal Palace 1: Suddenly, I’m going for a few draws. Burnley only have two points from seven games – and both their draws were 0-0. They’re second from bottom and have to start finding the net otherwise they could well be relegation-bound. Palace will be fancied here and come off the back of a 4-1 thumping of Leeds last time. But, I’m banking on the Sean Dyche dressingroom talk to earn the hosts a scrappy point.
Wolves 2 Southampton 1: Ninth takes on fourth and the Saints will be licking their lips at visiting a Wolves team struggling to find their form of last season. Southampton lost their first two games but are since unbeaten in six, picking up 16 points along the way. Late Monday night kick-off though … the upset is on!