After Manchester United came from behind to beat Sheffield United 3-2 in midweek, the likes of Paul Scholes and Michael Owen started talking them up as potential winners of the League this season. Talk about an over-reaction, writes Gary Lemke.
I suppose, to use that shopworn expression, “at the end of the day”, United are up to sixth and only five points behind champions and leaders Liverpool, with a game in hand. Win that game in hand and United are actually second. That, as Rodriguez might sing, is “Cold Fact”.
But, here are some other facts. United have won three of their last four games against Southampton, West Ham and now Sheffield United by coming from behind. They’ve won all six away League games but have only won one of their six at Old Trafford – 1-0 against West Brom.
At home they’ve lost to Crystal Palace, Tottenham (6-1), Arsenal and drawn with Man City and Chelsea (both 0-0). Perhaps United are lucky that their visitors this weekend are Leeds. Only West Brom have conceded more goals than Leeds so far. But, they’ve also scored 22 – the same as United.
For the neutral, this game should be enjoyable, probably end to end action. I’m going for a United win, only because they’re enjoy the way Leeds attack them, so they can counter-attack, like Chelsea did in winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge against Leeds.
Here’s the updated results trend and predictions for this weekend.
1-0: 24 times
2-1: 18 times
1-1: 16 times
2-0: 14 times
3-0: 11 times
3-1: 8 times
0-0: 8 times
Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2: Jurgen Klopp’s men have gone WDWDWDW in their last 7 so some might say a “D” is due again. It’s not impossible, but probably unlikely against a team that has been better away from home than at Selhurst Park (2 wins from 6) this season. The visitors were the big winners of the midweek round, where Tottenham Chelsea and Leicester all lost.
Southampton 1 Man City 1: City are strong favourites but perhaps we’re placing too much on reputation and not form. They beat Burnley and Fulham but then drew with Man United and West Brom. In their last 10 games they’ve only scored two of more goals twice. Southampton meanwhile continue to impress and are up to fourth on the table.
Everton 1 Arsenal 1: Everton seem to have put their stumble behind them and have won their last 2, against Chelsea and Leicester. They’ll be full of confidence against the visitors who have taken 2 points from a possible last 18. They’re already 14 points off the top of the table and 10 points off the Champions League spots. Only Brighton, Burnley, Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United are below them, so they’ll be desperate for something here to stop the rot.
Newcastle 1 Fulham 0: Newcastle’s inconsistent form continued with a 5-2 defeat at Leeds in midweek, after beating West Brom and Crystal Palace before that. With the weather setting in at this time of year, this looks a scrappy contest that could be 0-0 or decided by one goal. Fulham’s only win this season came away from home – at Leicester.
Brighton 2 Sheffield United 1: The Blades will be bottom at Christmas and therefore face the relegation hoodoo as well. They went ahead against Man United in midweek and thereafter showed some fight, but ultimately still lost – making it 12 out of 13 defeats. Had they been at home for this game I’d have fancied them to break the “L” streak, but for now I’m going with Brighton to pick up the points.
Tottenham 2 Leicester 1: Spurs were denied a share of the points at Liverpool in the week by Bobby Firmino’s late header, but at home they’ll have worked on the set pieces and will look to bully Leicester physically, a typical Jose Mourinho trait. Leicester have won 5 of 6 away games and with Jamie Vardy lurking on the counter, they have goals in them.
Man United 3 Leeds 1: This could go all 3 ways. I can see United breaking their Old Trafford run of poor form but they seem certain to conceded as well. They’ve both scored 22 goals this season, while they’ve conceded plenty too, although only West Brom have conceded more than Leeds. This should be thrilling to watch. It could easily end 3-3 but I’ll go for the hosts to win – and David De Gea to have a blinder.
West Brom 1 Aston Villa 1: The hosts have got Big Sam in the dugout and his task is to avoid relegation. He’s likely to start by working on a porous defence before working forward. All his teams have an immediate reaction when he comes in as Fireman Sam and West Brom will start to show improvement against a visiting side that has won their last 2 away games, against Wolves and Arsenal.
Burnley 0 Wolves 1: Wolves came from behind to beat Chelsea during the week, while Burnley continued their recent upturn in form with a draw at Villa. Burnley have 8 points from their last 5 games to climb out of the bottom 3. I think though this will be a dreary affair, where like the Newcastle vs Fulham match, one goal could take all the points.
Chelsea 2 West Ham 1: After Chelsea’s defensive holes seemed to have been plugged, they’ve conceded 2 goals to both Everton and Wolves in their last 2 games, losing both. The Hammers have only failed to score once in their 13 games so far and that was in their opening game in September against Newcastle. If any match has a 2-1 written over it, it’s this one.