This weekend the Premiership serves up 4 games on television, with 2 big clashes on Saturday, 1 game on Sunday, and the return of Monday Night Football. The weekend begins with the defending champions taking on a team struggling for form at the moment
Saturday-Manchester United vs Leicester City 11:30am on Sky Sports 1 (KO 12:30pm)
For Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, the relief was palpable upon getting a win the EFL Cup on Wednesday against Northampton, their first in 3 attempts. However this is a side that United would’ve been expected to beat, and there were nerves felt when the game went into half-time at 1-1. But the real test for United comes in the form of a home visit from the champions, Leicester City.
For Mourinho he’ll be looking to avoid 3 league defeats in a row for only the second time in his career. While Leicester will be looking for their first victory at Old Trafford since January 1998.
This is a very different United that triumphed over Leicester in the Community Shield, just 6 weeks ago. Confidence is short, and the form of world record signing Paul Pogba is not at its best. There is a lack of balance throughout the side, which was exposed badly at Watford, and many would argue that Mourinho still doesn’t know his best XI.
The big question for Mourinho will be whether to drop Captain, Wayne Rooney. Rooney started the game on Wednesday, up front for United. But missed a few chances and did himself no favours amongst the United fans. Rooney, who has become a scapegoat for United’s dip in form, finds himself struggling to fit into the team. Mourinho had been rumoured to be dropping Rooney for the game on Saturday, and even Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said Rooney wouldn’t make his team
“He is an amazing player. He’s a champion. But I love my players – and I wouldn’t change my players with anybody else.”
Far from the scathing remarks that the press would have you believe, but the fact is the current form of the United captain should result him in being benched.
Complicating matters even further for Mourinho is the form of world record signing Paul Pogba. It has been suggested that Pogba cannot flourish in a team with Rooney in it, that Rooney is occupying the space Pogba would normally operate in. The introduction of Michael Carrick, and Ander Herrera into the United midfield on Wednesday, added discipline and control that the United midfield have been lacking in the last 3 games, and you would expect that 1 if not both will start against Leicester.
United will give a fitness test to Luke Shaw, but he is likely to miss out, alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, and Phil Jones.
Leicester find themselves 11th in the league, and won comfortably against Burnley 3-0 last weekend. But had to play 120 minutes in an EFL Cup exit to Chelsea. A number of first team players were in the team on Tuesday, and you imagine they will be feeling this on Saturday. Many people predicted this is where Leicester would struggle this season, with the extra commitments to the Champions League and the size of their squad.
Ranieri seemed confident in the pre-match press conference
“We are fearless. Why are we scared to go there? More than lose, what can we do there?
But it is likely he’ll be without goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, alongside Matty James, Nampalys Mendy, and the suspended Marcin Wasilewski, who saw red midweek in the EFL Cup defeat to Chelsea.
If Leicester are to get anything from this game, they will want to take advantage of the fact that United have started slowly in almost all of the first halves they’ve played in this season. United have not been pressing teams, and with Leicester’s aggressive style, as well as the lighting pace of Jamie Vardy, United may once again find themselves struggling in the first half.
Saturday-Arsenal vs Chelsea 5pm on BT Sport (KO 5:30pm)
A mouth-watering encounter takes place this Saturday afternoon in what is always one of the standout games in any Premier League season. Arsenal, in a recent resurgence in form, take on a Chelsea side who have looked a little suspect at the back in the last couple of games.
Both teams go into this game on 10 points having exactly the same form guide over the first 5 games. Somewhat worrying for Chelsea however, is their reverse image of Arsenal’s form which has seen them in a recent slump. Arsenal started the season with a defeat and a draw but have since won the last 3 games in a row. Chelsea on the other hand started with 3 wins, followed by a draw and a loss to Liverpool last week.
Looking at Arsenals form, as well as the great start to life at the Emirates by Arsenals new signings, the Gunners probably go into this game as favourites. However Arsenals record against Chelsea has been dire in the last few years.
Arsenal haven’t beaten Chelsea in the league in their last nine meetings since a 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge in October 2011. In actual fact Chelsea haven’t lost any of their last five league visits to the Emirates (W2 D3) since December 2010, conceding only 1 goal in that time. Arsenal have even failed to score against Chelsea in the last 6 Premier League games
Chelsea will be looking to Diego Costa to stop Conte losing 2 league games in a row since December 2009 whilst at Atlanta; Costa himself is in a rich vein of form, scoring 5 in 5 so far this season.
Arsenal will be looking to exploit Chelsea’s shaky looking defence, without John Terry and will be sure to apply pressure on David Luiz, who could be in for an uncomfortable afternoon.
Arsenal go into this game with 3 key injuries to Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson, and Danny Welbeck but there is hope for a return to action for Olivier Giroud, and Aaron Ramsay who could add some depth to the bench.
For Chelsea, Kurt Zouma will remain out until at least the end of October but there is slight hope that Captain John Terry will be back. With Conte desperate not to lose 2 in a row in the league, it might be a risk worth taking.
This will undoubtedly be the best chance Arsenal have to beat Chelsea in recent years and will surely be an explosive encounter, but really a 50:50 in terms of who will come out on top makes it all the more intriguing.
Sunday-West Ham United vs Southampton 3:30pm on Sky Sports 1 (4pm KO)
Sunday’s only game of the day, sees 2 sides who impressed so much last season, but have started poorly this season take on each other, as West Ham entertain Southampton at the London Stadium.
West Ham, so renowned for their defensive stability last season, have conceded 4 goals in both of their last 2 league games. Slaven Bilic was blunt in his assessment of his team after the West Brom loss last weekend:
“We are weak and we have a problem. I don’t want us to react, I want us to act. It is no time to panic but we have to act.
However the reaction from the players did not come during Wednesday EFL Cup victory over as they laboured to a 1-0 win over League 2 Accrington Stanley, relying on a late freekick (96th minute) from Dimitri Payet to stop the game from going to extra time. As well as shipping in goals, West Ham also have to deal with the fact that only Michail Antonio has scored from open play this season.
One of the big issues for West Ham this season has been their injury list, this increased on Wednesday as Arthur Masuaka was carried off. Although Bilic would’ve been pleased with the debut of Alvaro Arbeloa on Wednesday, who will likely continue on the right hand side of defence. Quite who will partner the Spanish World Cup winner on the left side is difficult to fathom. Bilic is going to have to come up with a square peg to fit a round hole.
Despite Southampton’s poor early league form, 1 win in 5, they come into this game on a run of 3 wins in all competitions. The new manager Claude Puel has started to find his feet, following the excellent reign of Ronald Koeman, and in Charlie Austin has a striker in form. Austin has 3 goals in his last 3 games, and came off the bench to secure Southampton’s first league win of the season against Swansea last Sunday. Austin would be expected to start, and in his rich run of form, a goal seems likely.
Southampton will also be looking to captain Jose Fonte to keep West Ham’s top scorer Michail Antonio quiet. Antonio has scored all 5 of his goals this season with his head, and Fonte’s job as the aerial chief and defensive organiser is to make sure Antonio is met with equal relish by a Southampton player at every headed contest.
As things stand, any team can genuinely hope to profit against West Ham’s defence. The Hammers have one clean sheet in their last eight league fixtures, and unless a violent turnaround is executed, Southampton won’t expect to be shut out. West Ham’s attack, however, is certainly capable and, with Payet, anything can happen.
Monday-Burnley vs Watford 7pm on Sky Sports 1 (8pm KO)
Watford take on Burnley on Monday Night which will be the first ever top-flight meeting between the two sides. Watford will go into this game in high spirits after a couple of great back to back wins. After a shaky start that saw an opening game draw followed by 2 defeats, Watford have won the last 2 games moving them up to a reasonable 9th position in the league.
Last time out, Watford impressively dispatched a disjointed Manchester United side in a well-deserved 3-1 victory, a great scalp for Watford. The match prior saw them come from 2 nil down against West Ham to run out 4-2 winners. Watford have the luxury of some quality forwards in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. 4 goals between them this season is more than the entire Burnley side has managed thus far. In fact, Watford have scored more than 3 times as many goals as Burnley in the league this season with 10 to Burnley’s 3.
It’s a game that I can only see going one way which is a third straight league victory for Watford.
Burnley, who’s only highlight so far this season was a 2-0 victory over Liverpool, have been very inconsistent, losing 3 of their first 5 games with only 1 win, and their lack of goals could be a major problem this season.
Watford on the other hand have scored 3+ goals in consecutive games for the first time in the league since January 2011.
Sean Dyche is a proud man and there is no shame in losing 3-0 against Premier League champions Leicester last week. But he will demand a response at home with his side having conceded just 5 goals in their last 16 home league games.
Dyche will hope that Watford suffer from a bit of complacency following their last 2 big wins. But this may be clutching at straws, as Walter Mazzarri expect a high level of professionalism in any side he fields.
Younes Kaboul may be back in time for Watford, who still have the talented Daryl Janmaat on the treatment table following a shoulder injury.
Burnley only have 1 injury going into round 6 of the Premier League with long term absentee Ashley Barnes out with a hamstring injury.
I see Burnley putting up a stern test against Watford, but overall Watford will have too much quality for Burnley to deal with, in the end a comfortable win for the hornets should be on the cards.
Michael Thatcher and Rich Lee @RichLee2202
Next Bet Wins TV Accumulator
If you fancy a 4 fold accumulator across this weekends televised games, the boys at Nexbetwins.co.uk have come up with a little something. Remember these prices come from Bet365
Both teams to score during the Manchester United vs Leicester game Derby 4/5
Over 1.5 goals in the Arsenal vs Chelsea game 2/9
Over 2.5 goals in the West Ham vs Southampton game 19/20
Troy Deeney to score anytime for Watford against Burnley 13/10
All adding up to a tidy 12/1. Certainly worth a punt.