Football News: Premier League Match Preview Saturday 21st October 2017


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Premier League Match Preview Saturday 21st October 2017
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Saturday 21st October 2017

Chelsea v Watford 12:30pm kick off

Luiz (calf injury) slight doubt
Bakayoko (groin injury) slight doubt
Moses (hamstring injury no return date yet) major doubt
Kante (hamstring injury expected return 5th November) out
Drinkwater (calf strain expected return 25th October) major doubt

Chelsea are in a worrying run of form, it is not just that they have not won in 3, losing 2 of those 3, but the way they played in those games. They were second best in all 3 of the games, which is excusable and understandable against Man City, but worrying against Palace. With Kante out they look open defensively and almost half the team. That will bother Antonio Conte as he looks to find a way to cope in the Frenchman's absence.

There are worries over the front line as well, though Morata has been a success, the switch to a front 2 from a front 3 has left the team more reliant on the midfield and allowed the opposition to push onto that midfield. The opposition fullbacks are able to get forward more and that pushes the Chelsea wingbacks back, putting more pressure on the midfield. Conte will have to find a way to make it work quickly, before they get too far behind.

b>Most important player: Alvaro Morata. There is a lot of weight on his shoulders in this system. It is up to him to push back the opposition to give Hazard space between the lines to operate in.

Success (knee injury expected return 9th December) out
Chalobah (knee injury no return date yet) out
Kaboul (hamstring injury expected return 5th November) out
Prodl (hamstring injury expected return 5th November) out
Cathcart (knee injury no return date yet) out
Hoban (ACL injury no return date yet) out

Watford are currently 4th, 2 points ahead of 5th placed Chelsea. While it is still early in the season, that is still some feat for the Hertfordshire-based side. Away from home their form is excellent with 3 wins out of 4 games and they have yet to be beaten on their travels. The Hornets really do have a sting in their tail at the moment. However once you stop looking at the bare stats and examine things closely, it is not quite so rosy for Marco Silva's men. They have yet to be truly tested away, as they have not faced any of the teams expected to finish in the top 6. Though, to be fair to them, they also have a decent record at home, where they have had to face a number of the expected top 6. This will be the acid test for their away form, they have to make the most of Chelsea's indifferent form, if they truly have ambitions to break open the top 6.
Most important player: Abdoulaye Doucoure. The French midfielder has been extremely impressive this season, he looks like a real find. His performances have been effective and he is a big part of the reason they are currently sat in a top 4 place.

Defining Battle: the midfield area is the key as Chelsea look really stretched in there and Watford could well take advantage. If they can take control in there, then it will force Hazard to drop back in to help out, which makes it easier for the defence. This is a genuine chance for Watford to take the game to Chelsea and beat them, while they are rocking through injuries and poor form. I doubt they will get a better chance at Stamford Bridge.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 3-1
Ed003 - 3-2
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 3-1
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Manchester United 3pm kick off

Billing (ankle injury no return date yet) out
Hefele (achilles injury expected return 18th November) out
Quaner (calf strain) major doubt
Mounie (heel injury) doubt
Palmer (hamstring injury expected return 18th November) out
Stankovic (ACL injury no return date yet) out

The Terriers form has dipped and it is now 6 matches since they won a game and they have lost their last 2. Defensively they have done well, in the main, but they are starting to lose the cohesion that helped them early on. Now they look like a team resigned to losing and have nothing to offer once they concede. Right now they have the look of a team heading down to the Championship, as the loss of Mounie has left them with no goal threat at all.
Most important player: Steve Mounie. If he is fit to play, then they at least carry a goal threat. Without him, it is just a case of them hanging on and hoping to get a draw or, at the very least, keep the score down.

Rashford (knee injury) slight doubt
Fellaini (MCL injury expected return 28th October) out
Bailly (groin strain no return date yet) major doubt
Carrick (calf strain no return date yet) out
Pogba (hamstring injury expected return 24th October) out
Ibrahimovic (ACL injury expected return 16th December) out
Rojo (ACL injury expected return 5th November) out
Jones (knock) slight doubt

This should be back to business as usual with the bus firmly left in the car park this weekend. With local rivals City having a 2 point lead plus a large goal difference advantage, United will need to push for a win to avoid slipping behind them. While it is still early in the season and Pep coached teams have a history of fading as the season goes on, Mourinho will not want to let them build up a safety margin. In fact, the signs are so far that it is the Red Devils that are losing form at this point, despite the 21 goals in 8 league matches. They just look a little less fluent in the midfield without Pogba and, surprisingly, Fellaini.
Most important player: Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian has not impressed yet this season, in fact he has been fairly disappointing overall since joining. It is about time he showed why he was so highly rated in Germany.

Defining Battle: Huddersfield's chance is to really push onto the United midfield, with United being weakened by injuries and the potential of tiredness due to their midweek European game. Normally Man Utd would expect to dominate the central midfield and Huddersfield will need to wrest some kind of control back to stand a chance.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-2
Ed003 - 1-1
Ed004 - 1-2
Ed007 - 0-3
Ed018 - 0-2
Ed025 - 0-3
Ed033 - 0-2

Manchester City v Burnley 3pm kick off

Mendy (ACL injury expected return 18th April 2018) out
Kompany (calf muscle strain no return date yet) out

Their form is absolutely stunning right now and they look unstoppable, with just one game that they failed to win all season. How much longer can they keep this form up? There were signs of the old frailties in defence against Stoke, but their attack was able to steamroll over the Potters and swamp any threat coming in. The only real worry is tiredness catching up with them due to the midweek exertions as they beat an excellent Napoli side.
Most important player: Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is starting to take over the mantle from David Silva of being the creative hub of the City team.

Marney (fitness) major doubt
Walters (knee injury no return date yet) out
Heaton (dislocated shoulder no return date yet) out

Burnley have added steel away from home to their armoury for this season. After last season's struggles on the road nearly cost them a place in the Premier League, this season they have been much better and are still unbeaten away. Their record away from home is much better than their home record, despite facing much tougher opponents. This will be the 5th of last season's top 7 that they have had to go to already. It will also be the toughest test yet, but it comes on the back of a run of 6 unbeaten, so confidence will be high in the Burnley camp too.
Most important player: Jeff Hendrick. The former Derby County man is the midfielder that has the most freedom to get forward. His role in the team has been key, though he could do with picking up a few more goals.

Defining Battle: Burnley have allowed the opposition teams more shots than anyone else in the Prem, but they have conceded very few by virtue of getting bodies in the way to block shots. Against Citeh that will probably not be enough and the key is for them to force the opponents into having to play out wide while they sit narrow and defend deep. Anything else is probably suicide with their lack of pace at the back.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 4-0
Ed003 - 5-1
Ed004 - 4-0
Ed007 - 4-0
Ed018 - 4-1
Ed025 - 4-1
Ed033 - 2-0

Newcastle United v Crystal Palace 3pm kick off

Gayle (calf strain expected return 30th October) doubt
Dummett (hamstring injury expected return 25th November) out
Haidara (knee injury expected return 30th October) major doubt

Following a good run of three wins in a row, it has now been three games since the Toon Army saw their team win a match. They lack a genuine goalscorer, with Joselu showing himself to be a very good, neat footballer until he gets within site of the goalposts, when he goes to pieces. While they are currently safely ensconced in mid-table, Newcastle need to pick up a win soon to stay there and this is the kind of match Toon gaffer Rafa Benitez will target. His main efforts will be ensuring his players stay focused on what happens on the pitch and putting all the takeover talk out of their mind once they cross the white line.
Most important player: Isaac Hayden. Shelvey's passes are catching the eye, as well as his boot catching other things, but Hayden has been the driving force in midfield for Newcastle.

Hennessey (calf strain) slight doubt
Loftus-Cheek (thigh strain) slight doubt
Benteke (MCL injury expected return 18th November) out
Wickham (ACL injury no return date yet) out

Christmas came early for Roy Hodgson, with Palace managing to break their duck and score a goal, they then went and scored a second to pick up their first points of the season as well. Against the reigning champions Chelsea, no less. Suddenly they are in touch with the teams above them, though still bottom. Hodgson already had the Eagles' faithful onside, purely because he once was one of them, and now he will have got the players to buy into his methods. You know what they say, the only way is up. Though it is not quite true, as they could get relegated, which would be down, but still, it sounds good.
Most important player: Wilfried Zaha. Zaha is the player that is most likely to do something special, though he is extremely inconsistent. If Hodgson can get a few more performances out of him like last weekend, then Palace have a slim hope.

Defining Battle: two teams run by managers that like to defend deep and hit on the counter. This could be quite a long slow slog to watch and the winner is likely to be the team which has the most success drawing the opposition out to leave gaps.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 2-1
Ed003 - 3-0
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 2-0
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 1-2
Ed033 - 1-3

Stoke City v Bournemouth 3pm kick off

Shaqiri (ankle injury) late fitness test
Crouch (back injury) late fitness test
Edwards (ankle injury expected return 28th October) doubt]
Martins Indi (groin strain no return date yet) out
Allen (concussion) slight doubt
Shawcross (back injury) late fitness test
Ireland (broken leg expected return 20th November) out

The Potters are slowly slipping down the table, struggling to find consistent form and pick up results, but last weekend's defeat was something else. Losing to Man City is no disagrace, but 7-2 is embarrassing, no matter how you look at it. Mark Hughes has to find his way to pick his players up after a defeat that demoralising. The problem is that it is already their second big defeat of the season and they are struggling to score themselves. Something needs to change quickly there or their constant flirting with relegation early on will catch them out.
Most important player: Mame Biram Diouf. So far this season Diouf has been the only player in a Stoke shirt that can hold his head up high after each game. I am not referring to the quality of his play, though he is having a decent season, despite being asked to play right wing back for a large portion of it, instead I am talking about effort. He gives his all every time I see them play, something that at least half the rest of the team on each day are not doing. Too many players have been brought to Stoke because they were not living up to their undoubted ability, mainly because they were coasting through their career not putting the effort in. So far Hughes has been unable to lift any of them out of that attitude and make them realise that hard work is as important as talent.

B Smith (hip injury no return date yet) out
Fraser (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Wilson (fitness expected return 24th October) major doubt
Mings (back injury expected return 18th November) out
Federici (knee injury expected return 16th December) out

Losing 6 out of 8, scoring just 4 goals in the process, is definite relegation form. The worst thing is that there is not one of those games that you could argue the Cherries were hard done by. If anything they have got lucky with their one win, after being dominated by Brighton for most of the match before a late comeback. Eddie Howe shows no sign of knowing how to change things to improve matters. They spent most of last season struggling against relegation and it is difficult to see anything different about this season for the better. On paper they have bought well, but that was the case last season as well and the club was not improved by any of the players brought in then and it is once again the case. Whatever happens this season, the club needs to look hard at its recruitment for next summer.
Most important player: Lewis Cook. It is time, actually way past time, that Howe trusted the youngster. After a summer where he captained an England youth team to a tournament victory, he came into the season bursting with confidence, only to be left watching games. Cook is the one central midfielder at Bournemouth with genuine quality, they need to take the chance on him and bear with him when the youngster makes inevitable errors.

Defining Battle: the central midfield is key, Stoke have been playing a very narrow system to allow extra bodies to play in there, Bournemouth love to get on the ball and play in the centre. If Stoke can outnumber them and shut them out, Bournemouth have little else to offer.

Editors Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 2-1
Ed004 - 2-1
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 1-1
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-2

Swansea City v Leicester City 3pm kick off

Sanches (thigh strain) doubt
Bony (hamstring injury expected return 28th October) major doubt
Bartley (MCL injury expected return 12th December) out
Fer (suspended) out

Finally the Swans show a bit of ambition again under Clement and are rewarded with a win. Last season they looked a much better side under him when they had to win and played for the win. This season they have been focused on not losing and, as a result, their football has been slow and stale. Boring in fact. They had barely created a chance from open play bafore last weekend. If Clement can continue to be a bit braver, in looking for the win, better results will come.
Most important player: Tammy Abraham. The youngster, on loan from Chelsea, is not going to create something on his own, he needs the ball fed to him in dangerous areas, but if the Swans do so then he is a penalty box predator. In the position they are in, finding a goalscorer and giving them the chances to score, is a major advantage in the fight against relegation.

Huth (foot injury no return date yet) out
James (achilles injury 29th October) out

With a caretaker manager and relegation battle looming, this season does seem very similar to last year. This time around things are much worse, as the quality just does not seem to be there to do any better. If they do not get a new man in place quickly, who can get more out of the team than Craig Shakespeare was doing, a lot more, they are in severe danger of staying in the drop zone. This is still the nucleus of the title-winning team, but none of them are performing to anything like the level they were then. Is there anything other than overblown egos in this squad now? It does feel like a mistake now to not move on a few more in the summer transfer window to allow a proper rebuild. There are too many passengers in the squad, too many new signings not being given a chance and no team cohesion left.
Most important player: Kasper Schmeichel. He is having a particularly poor season, making silly errors and not making saves he should. It is time he sorted his head out and got back to the form he showed in the title-winning season.

Defining Battle: this is a difficult one to call, the Foxes have made themselves into an unknown quantity with the chop for Shakespeare. Their first task has to be to stop Swansea settling on the ball and getting into a passing rhythm. If they can get close in there, then the Swans are prone to turning the ball over, as they are not the best at playing under pressure. There are a lot of players in this current Swansea team that want to play a slow, short passing game where they have time and space to just roll it around. If they are allowed to do that, then Leicester are in trouble.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 0-0
Ed004 - 1-1
Ed007 - 1-1
Ed018 - 2-2
Ed025 - 2-1
Ed033 - 1-0

Southampton v West Bromwich Albion 5:30pm kick off

Pied (knock expected return 28th October) out

Saints are on a run of three games without a win, but are still sat safely in midtable. However midtable mediocrity is no longer good enough for the club, with their sights being raised by the recent Chinese takeover. With a lack of attacking intent, which has seen them score just 7 goals in 8 games, Mauricio Pellegrino is hampering his own chances of building something for the long term. This is no longer a club whose ambitions are to be safely clear of relegation troubles, now they are looking upward at the European places as a regular target. Can Pellegrino be the man to achieve that success with Saints?
Most important player: Virgil van Dijk. The big Dutch defender is back to fitness and back in the team, but he needs to do more than he did last weekend. It is all very well strolling through a game without breaking sweat as a defender if you are keeping clean sheets. When you concede two goals and you walk off the pitch with a bone dry top on then you have to question your own attitude as a centre back.

Myhill (hamstring injury) late fitness test
Foster (knee injury) late fitness test
Burke (hamstring injury) slight doubt
Robson-Kanu (muscle strain) slight doubt
Morrison (calf strain) slight doubt

With no win in 6 and fitness doubts around both keepers, this is a difficult time for Tony Pulis in charge of the Baggies. The Welshman has never been one to shy away from a challenge and always seems to find a way to pick up the results needed to keep his teams safe from relegation though. His main challenge is to find a way to turn some of the draws into wins, a problem that has plagued his career to be honest. His teams always seem happy to settle for a draw, even when a win is there for the taking, something which has held him back from getting the recognition his achievements deserve. Well that and his teams overly physical approach, which tends to focus on overpowering opponents rather than any kind of quality attacking play.
Most important player: Grzegorz Krychowiak. The Polish midfielder is on a season long loan from PSG and has shown some moments of genuine class in his play. Is it unkind to wonder how he has ended up playing for West Brom this season, when he is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the players?

Defining Battle: both teams have been cautious in their approaches so far this season, the key to this one will be showing some ambition. I really feel that both teams are capable of much more than they have been able to show so far this season and just need the leash loosening a little to allow them to get at their opponent. I think the braver team here is the one with the best chance of winning.

Editors' Predictions:
Ed002 - 1-1
Ed003 - 2-2
Ed004 - 2-2
Ed007 - 2-1
Ed018 - 2-1
Ed025 - 1-1
Ed033 - 1-2

Editor's Predictions Table
1. Ed018 - 48 points
2. Ed025 - 43 points
3= Ed003 - 40 points
3= Ed007 - 40 points
5. Ed002 - 37 points
6= Ed004 - 35 points
6= Ed033 - 35 points

*1 point is awarded for the correct result, 3 points for the correct score.
**updated 19th October 2017

Written by Tris Burke

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