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Football News: Premier League Previews 22 September 2018

Premier League Previews 22 September 2018
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Fulham v Watford

Watford's superb start to the Premier League season finally hit a stumbling block last week as they lost for the first time this season at home to Manchester United.
They face a Fulham side who have only won one of their five games on their return to the Premier League, conceding 2+ goals in each match. In fact, at Premier League level, they have conceded two or more in each of their last nine games (23 in total), and have now conceded 97 goals in their 43 games in the Premier League (2.3 per game) when you include their previous campaign in the competition in 2013-14.

But this is their first league game at Craven Cottage since they beat Burnley 4-2 last month, and they have only lost one of their last 14 games there in all competitions, a 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on the opening day. They have scored 31 goals themselves in those 14 matches, so this game has the makings of a good one.
For manager Slavisa Jokanovic, this is a meeting with a club he once managed in Watford, winning them Premier League promotion in 2014-15 before leaving the club. This time, he has remained with Fulham after getting them promoted, and has got them playing attractive, exciting football.

The Cottagers themselves have only won one of their last five home league games against the Hornets, and lost 5-0 in their last such game against them in December 2014. They will certainly be aiming to avoid a repeat of that today.

Key players:
Aleksandar Mitrovic - Four goals in his last four league games, with only Eden Hazard scoring more in this season's Premier League, Mitrovic has begun Premier League life with Fulham just as he finished in the Championship with them. Still the top scorer in the English leagues since his Fulham debut, he is always a real danger man for any opposition.
Troy Deeney - Deeney has scored four times in just two league matches against Fulham, both coming in the 2014-15 Championship season, and scored a hat-trick at Craven Cottage that season. He already has two goals and an assist to his name this season and he'll be eager to help his side bounce back from their first defeat of this campaign.



Burnley v Bournemouth
This game couldn't pit more contrasting sides together based on their early season form. Burnley lie bottom of the table with only one point so far, whilst Bournemouth are fifth having only lost once in their first five matches this season.
Only Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool have scored more times than Bournemouth in the top-flight this term, and only Fulham, Huddersfield and West Ham have conceded more than Burnley so far. In fact, this is Burnley's poorest start to a top-flight season since 1927-28, and a loss here will make it their worst start to a season in the top four tiers of English football ever. So no pressure there.

I have mentioned before how Burnley's record on a Sunday in the Premier League is woeful. Well on a Saturday it is quite the opposite. Unbeaten in seven, winning five of those, with this their first league game on a Saturday in 2018-19. They will be sorely hoping to make that count.
Premier League games between these two teams have often been entertaining. Both teams have scored in all four such encounters, with none ending as a draw (two wins each).
Bournemouth have only won one of their 12 league visits to Burnley - last season's Premier League clash in May. It hasn't been a happy hunting ground for them over the years, and Burnley, now more than ever, could do with that ringing true again today as they search for some much needed points.

Key players:
Chris Wood - Having scored in both games against Bournemouth for Burnley last season, Wood has only scored more Premier League goals against West Ham than the Cherries. Burnley could do with him making it three in a row here today.
Josh King - The Norwegian has scored in each of his last three league games against Burnley, and got a goal and an assist in the Cherries' 4-2 win over Leicester last time out. He is Eddie Howe's side's all-time top Premier League scorer and they will look to him to provide the goods in front of goal once more.



Cardiff City v Manchester City
When you're without a win for the season, a match against the defending champions is never ideal, but that is the task that faces Neil Warnock's Cardiff side here.
They went ahead at Stamford Bridge last week but that only served to anger Chelsea, and Eden Hazard, as they were soundly beaten, and anything other than a win here would mean they have gone seven league matches without victory for the first time since February 2015.

Cardiff's first ever Premier League win came against Manchester City at the Cardiff City Stadium in August 2013 - a season which the Citizens went on to win the Premier League, so perhaps that is a sign that the Bluebirds could upset the odds once more here.
Perhaps surprisingly, Man City have only won one of their last 11 visits to Cardiff in league competition, although they did win there in the FA Cup last season.
And just as Cardiff's opening goal angered Chelsea last week, Pep Guardiola's side will be perhaps even more livid after they lost to Lyon in their Champions League match in midweek - becoming the first English side to lose four consecutive games in the competition in its history. They need a response after what was one of their poorer displays under Guardiola.

Man City will have now faced all three newly promoted sides already in the Premier League this season - they are unbeaten against such opposition under Guardiola, last losing to a promoted side in the league in March 2015, a 1-0 loss at Turf Moor. They will hope that remarkably strong record will see them through here after their disappointment in midweek.

Key players:
Sol Bamba - Bamba had a strange game against Chelsea last week, scoring Cardiff's goal before some questionable defending afterwards. He is their key man here as he needs to be at his best defensively for Warnock's side to have a chance of getting anything, and how he responds from the game against Chelsea will be so crucial.

Leroy Sane - After starting a match for the first time this season last week against Fulham, and returning with a goal, Sane came on from the bench against Lyon to set up their goal, and his re-emergence into the side will be crucial for Pep Guardiola. Sane has had a hand in 12 league goals for City in 2018, scoring five and assisting seven, and will be a massive danger to Cardiff.



Crystal Palace v Newcastle United
Having already played four of last season's top six in the Premier League this season, Newcastle will now feel that they can perhaps kickstart their season here. In fact, if we exclude games against the so-called "Big 6" sides, Newcastle have only lost three of their last 14 Premier League games against "the rest".
They face a Crystal Palace side who got back to winning ways against Huddersfield last week, and could win back-to-back league games without conceding within the same season for the first time since March 2017 under Sam Allardyce.
Palace have actually lost five of their last eight Premier League matches at Selhurst Park, so their form there has perhaps been more indifferent than Hodgson would like. And they have a woeful record against Newcastle, beating them just twice in 14 previous Premier League clashes, and only once in the last 10.

But it also must be said that Newcastle haven't won in the top-flight at Selhurst since December 2013 when Alan Pardew was their manager, beating Tony Pulis' Palace side 3-0. Yohan Cabaye, also formerly of Crystal Palace of course, scored the opener that day.
The managers share contrasting records against their opponents; Rafael Benitez has only ever lost once in five Premier League meetings with Crystal Palace (winning three), Hodgson has won just one of his last six against Newcastle, doing so when he was West Brom boss. So history does bode well for Newcastle here, as they look to earn their first win of the 2018-19 campaign.

Key players:
Wilfried Zaha - The single most important player for a particular club in the Premier League, Palace have lost each of their last 13 top-flight games when he hasn't started. Put simply, they just cannot seem to get the job done without him - his fitness is going to be pivotal with him.

Salomon Rondon - Whilst he's yet to score in the Premier League this season, now would be a perfect time for Newcastle's new striker to do so. He will need to be at his best if Newcastle are to win for the first time this season, holding up the ball with close control and bringing his teammates into the game for them to build sustained attacks for much more than they have managed to so far this season. And he has scored at Selhurst Park in the Premier League before, doing so in August 2016 for West Brom.



Leicester City v Huddersfield Town
After being soundly beaten by Bournemouth last week as well as a narrower defeat to Liverpool before the international break, Leicester are in danger of losing three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since February 2017 (five games).
The good news for them is that whilst they have conceded six times in those last two games, they face a Huddersfield team who just can't buy a goal. Two goals in their opening five league games is dire reading whichever way you look at it. Indeed they have only scored five times in their last 15 such matches, and combine that with the fact that they are without a win in nine league games, it spells trouble.

It gets worse for the Terriers when you add in the fact that they are winless in their last nine league games against the Foxes, losing eight of them since they won 3-1 at home in November 1995. They have conceded 25 goals in those nine matches too, and lost this exact fixture 3-0 at the King Power last season on New Year's Day.
In fact, they have lost each of their last seven league visits to Leicester, conceding 22 goals - which works out at over three per game. That is Leicester's best ever winning streak at home to any side in league football.

Huddersfield need points desperately though, and their fighting spirit saw them do enough to get over the line and avoid relegation with a game to spare last season, and they'll need all of that again and then some this season too. The longer they go without that all-important first win of the season - which they got after the opening day of 2017-18 - the harder it will get for them.

Key players:
Jamie Vardy - Having scored a goal in both of his last two league appearances against Huddersfield, Vardy will be itching to find his scoring form again here. Despite not scoring in his last two league games, he still had four in his last five, and as always will be the Foxes' key man in front of goal.
Steve Mounie - It's hard to choose a key player for Huddersfield because none of them are having a standout start to the season, nor have that good a record to look at. But Mounie is trying. He has created a joint-high four chances for them in 2018-19, and is their only player to have fired in more than one shot on target so far too. Ultimately, he is their pinnacle going forward and if he doesn't cause the opposition defence problems, then Huddersfield likely won't.



Liverpool v Southampton
What a start to the season it has been for Liverpool. They've won their opening six matches to a season in all competitions for the first time since the 1960s, winning their opening five top-flight games for just the third time in their history.
But just how typical of them would it be if they followed up huge wins over Spurs and PSG within a matter of days by slipping up against a side that they are favourites to beat at home. It has been their Achilles Heel under Jurgen Klopp.

They may be unbeaten in 23 at Anfield in the Premier League but they've drawn eight of those games - against Southampton, Burnley, Man Utd, Chelsea, Everton, West Brom, Spurs and Stoke. Too many of that list are teams that they need to start beating to seriously challenge for titles.
They face a somewhat rejuvenated Saints side too, one that has only lost one of their last five away league games, winning two of the last three. And they don't mind facing Liverpool either. They have won three and lost two of the last seven meetings in all competitions, even if both of those defeats came last season.
Indeed, Liverpool have failed to score in four of their last six games against the Saints so they know what it takes to shut the Reds out.

Mark Hughes' record against Liverpool is less than impressive though, losing 10 of his last 12 against them in the league, including all four against Jurgen Klopp. Southampton themselves have only won three times at Anfield in 19 Premier League visits, most recently a 1-0 win in September 2013, when current Liverpool player Dejan Lovren scored the winner.
But the pressure isn't on them here. It's Liverpool who need to maintain form the most. And that makes Southampton a real threat, such is Liverpool's recent history of failing to win games when they start to build up a strong run. Their current winning run is their best under Jurgen Klopp, and they won't want that to end now with Chelsea and Man City their next league opponents after this.

Key players:
Mohamed Salah - Directly involved in four of Liverpool's five goals against the Saints last season (three goals, one assist), many people are claiming that Salah has had a sluggish start to the season. But Klopp won't see it that way, with Salah being the man the opposition are most wary of, leaving space for the likes of Firmino (who has three winning goals in his last three games in all competitions) and Mane (who has four league goals already this season) to operate in.

Charlie Austin - His strike partner Ings can't play this match due to being on loan from Liverpool, so Austin has a big job on his hands. He will have to trouble the Liverpool defence as best he can in order to give his team an out-ball when under pressure. He's yet to score in the league this season (albeit has scored in the EFL Cup), but the Saints would love for him to find the back of the net here.



Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
After a shaky couple of games for Manchester United, they have got themselves on the right track with three consecutive wins in all competitions, albeit all away from home.
Now they're back in front of their home Old Trafford crowd - where they have only lost one of their last 49 Premier League games against newly promoted sides, a 1-2 loss to Norwich in December 2015.
Jose Mourinho too has only ever lost one home Premier League game to a promoted team in 24 previous matches, 0-1 to Bournemouth as Chelsea boss, also in December 2015. A good month from promoted sides!
However, Manchester United have lost back-to-back games against promoted teams, both away from home last season to Newcastle and Brighton. Wolves will be looking to make that three in a row.

This is the first time Wolves will play a Man Utd side not managed by Sir Alex Ferguson in the Premier League. They have lost six of their previous eight such meetings, winning the other two.
Should they win this game, it will be the first time that they've won three straight top-tier matches since March 1980, so a chance for a little bit of history there, not least because it's an game at Old Trafford, where they haven't won in the league since February 1980. They won't be short on confidence and that will give them a chance here.

Key players:
Antonio Valencia - An odd choice on the face of it, but Valencia actually has an incredible record against Wolves. Two goals, five assists in four previous Premier League appearances against them - that's more league goal involvements than he has against any other club for the Red Devils, would you believe. Wolves play a three at the back system that makes it a bit more awkward for a full back, so how Valencia copes with that could be key.
Conor Coady - A massive game for a former Liverpool player away at Old Trafford, Coady will be severely tested in defence against a strong Manchester United attacking side with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba. Coady has the best passing accuracy of all Wolves players to have started each of their matches in the Premier League this season (they so far haven't made a single change to their starting line-up), and he will need to keep mistakes to a minimum here for Wolves to get anything.



Brighton and Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur
Suddenly, after three wins in a row to start the season for Spurs, including a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford, people are asking questions after three consecutive losses to Watford, Liverpool and Inter.
That makes this match a highly important one for them to get back on track, but Brighton will not make that easy, certainly not at the Amex. They have only lost once in their last nine league games at home, winning five of them, including wins over Man Utd (twice) and Arsenal as well as a draw with Spurs back in April.

Chris Hughton's side have only lost one of their last four league games, coming from two-goals down in both of their last two to draw 2-2 against Fulham and Southampton.
A Spurs defeat here would mean they have lost three straight Premier League games for the first time since November 2012 under Andre Villas-Boas. That is something that they surely must avoid here to silence a few doubters at a tough place for any side to visit.
These sides haven't met too often in league competition, with Brighton unbeaten in the last two on home soil, albeit spread between April 1983 and April this year. Spurs last won away at Brighton in the top-flight in March 1982, but that was only three visits ago.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton has only ever beaten Spurs once in the Premier League in six attempts, doing so as Norwich City manager in February 2014 against Tim Sherwood's Spurs side at Carrow Road. But he has never lost to them at home in the competition in three previous such games, and Spurs will do well to end that here today.

Key players:
Glenn Murray - With three goals in two home league games this season, Murray will of course be Spurs' main threat here as he looks to exploit a defence that will be perhaps lacking confidence and belief after the past week or so. Of course he needs quality service from the likes of Pascal Gross and Anthony Knockaert, but he is more than capable of ruffling up some Spurs feathers here today.

Kieran Trippier - Surprisingly omitted from their Champions League squad at Inter in midweek due to "technical reasons" as Pochettino opted to put it, Trippier will surely be back in the line-up fully rested here, which could play a large role in Spurs' performance. Only Eriksen has created more chances than the England right back for Spurs in the league this season, and he already has a goal and an assist to his name in 2018-19.

Written by Reid the Red September 22 2018 09:54:52


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