Previews and predictions for this weekend’s action
Let’s be honest, in soccer (as in all sports, really), we like to think that we can predict the scores and outcomes of the biggest games, and take unrivaled joy in doing so. That certainly holds true for the soccer writers here at SQ, so we’ve decided to put our claims to the test with a little weekly competition.
The rules are simple:
Zero points for failing to guess the correct result. (Example, you pick Chelsea to win against Aston Villa, but the match ends in a draw or a win for Aston Villa. Likewise, if you picked a draw but one of the sides wins)
One point for correctly guessing the result without the score line. (Example, you pick Chelsea to win 3-0 but they win 4-0 instead, or you pick a 2-2 draw but it finishes 1-1 instead)
Three points for correctly guessing the result and score line. (Example, you pick Chelsea to win 3-0, and they win 3-0)
New ‘Banker’ Feature
Ahead of the 2015-16 season, we’ve decided to give all our predictors the chance to earn even more points. Whichever pick a predictor designates their ‘banker’ pick counts as double points if correct. The following image will indicate which game each player has chosen as their banker:
Game of the Week
Stadium: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Kick-Off: Sunday 4pm (GMT), 12pm (ET)
Last Season: Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City (Aug. 16, 2014)
Swansea City 2-1 Manchester United (Feb. 21, 2015)
Form: Swansea: DWD - 5 Points Man Utd: WWD - 7 Points
Preview: This week’s must-watch game takes us all the way to Wales where Garry Monk’s impressive Swansea squad hosts Louis Van Gaal’s underwhelming Red Devils at the Liberty, with both sides putting their unbeaten starts on the line.
The away side comes into the match on the heels of qualifying for the Champions League group stages, which adds to a decent, if uninspiring, beginning to their campaign. They have yet to lose a game or even concede a goal in the Premier League, stats which shouldn’t be overlooked. But their performances in all three matches so far have been below par, and big money signings Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger have yet to show why they commanded such extravagant fees.
Captain Wayne Rooney has also received some flak from the media after Van Gaal’s decision to play the England international in a single striker role. He has failed to find the net in league play so far but did manage to smash a hat-trick in the Champions League qualifier against Brugge during midweek. That will hopefully change his fortunes and silence his critics ahead of the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers.
As for the hosts, they have been in terrific form so far and are seemingly set to continue their steady year-to-year progression in the Premier League. After finishing in their highest ever position (8th) and amassing a team record number of points (56), the Swans’ defender-turned-manager Monk has strengthened his squad with the arrivals of Franck Tabanou, Eder and Andre Ayew, amongst others.
The latter has proved a particularly shrewd addition so far, notching two goals and improving the Swans’ attack all-around. His energy down the right flank helped nullify any support for Eden Hazard on opening day at Chelsea, and a willingness to get himself into the box is providing more targets for Jefferson Montero and shifting attention away from Bafetimbi Gomis. It’s the linkup between these three players that will be crucial again on Sunday as the Welsh club sets about repeating the double over United for a second successive season.
Garry Monk has no injury concerns or suspensions to deal with, so he will have the whole squad to choose from come Sunday. It’s likely that he will name an unchanged side, although the return of Ki Sung-Yeung could persuade him to make a change in midfield.
United are boosted by the return from suspension of Marouane Fellaini and the big Belgian may well make a start at the Liberty. Phil Jones is the only absentee after a blood clot was found in his leg and he is set to miss the next month.
My Prediction: My heart says Swansea will edge this, but my head tells me that Louis Van Gaal will provide a tactical master-stroke to nullify the threat of Montero, Ayew and Gomis on their way to securing another win. The Dutch boss seems to have a knack for getting the best out of his team at tricky junctures (see Spurs and Liverpool last year) and I can foresee another narrow victory on Sunday. In reality this could go either way, but I’m going to predict that Rooney will break his duck and the hardworking new signings such as Schneiderlin, Darmain and Schweinsteiger (if he plays) will help keep their unbeaten start going.
Swansea City 1-2 Manchester United
Other Game to Watch
Stadium: White Hart Lane, Tottenham.
Kick-Off: Saturday 5.30pm (GMT), 1:30pm (ET)
Last Season: Tottenham 2-1 Everton (Nov. 30, 2014)
Everton 0-1 Tottenham (May 24, 2015)
Form: Tottenham: LDD - 2 Points Everton: DWL - 4 Points
Preview: Perennial top six contenders Tottenham and Everton meet on Saturday night at White Hart Lane in what should prove to be a tight contest.
Both sides are evenly matched in talent and stature, as well as both having less than stellar starts to the new campaign. The hosts have been particularly slow out of the blocks by registering just two points from their three games so far, although they only have themselves to blame. A Kyle Walker own-goal against Man Utd was enough to see them defeated on opening day, before they threw away a two goal lead at home to Stoke and another advantage away a Leicester last week.
A major problem for Mauricio Pochettino’s men is the lack of attacking options to back up Harry Kane, who is cutting an isolated figure up front right now. The young striker has barely had a chance so far this season as the likes of Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and Christian Eriksen have struggled to create any meaningful openings. Spurs’ style of play has been too patient at times and is contributing to the lack of clear-cut chances as opposition sides have time to set themselves in their formation and cut off any space around the box.
But it’s a different story for Roberto Martinez’s side. After salvaging a 2-2 draw in a stuttering performance in their season opener against Watford, the Toffees hit three past Southampton and five in the midweek Capital One Cup clash away at Barnsley. Only Manchester City have managed to nullify the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley so far, but the more pressing issue for Martinez is on the defensive side. The Merseyside club has shipped seven in all competitions so far and speculation over John Stones will likely continue.
Chelsea have been very vocal over their desire to capture the 21-year-old center back and have had three bids, the highest of which was £30 million, rejected. Everton are already thin in that area after releasing Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz during the summer and, despite the huge offers, it will be hard to find decent replacements with such little time left.
Spurs have also played a huge part in the transfer market this week after being linked with Vincent Wanyama, Saido Berahino and Heung-Min Son. The latter appears to have reached an agreement with the London club, and is close to singing a deal reportedly worth up to £21 million. All this after West Brom publicly declared that they had rejected two offers for Berahino. If any of these deals are to be completed then it will be too late for any potential debut this weekend, which isn’t good news for Pochettino.
Tottenham have been dealt a major blow with the news that Christian Eriksen will miss another week due to a knee injury, which only adds to their struggles. Andros Townsend is also out, but Alex Pritchard and Dele Alli may well make their full debuts after impressing during the offseason.
Brendan Galloway was taken off last week with a knee injury and is set to miss the trip to Spurs. Leighton Baines, Tony Hibbert, Darron Gibson and Steven Pienaar are also not in the squad for the trip to London as they remain sidelined with injuries.
My Prediction: Both sides are so evenly matched that it really is a tough call to predict this one. Spurs look predictable in possession and blunt in front of goal which makes a comfortable win out of the question. Everton on the other hand are a bit Jekyll and Hyde in terms of their own displays and it all depends on whether or not their creative talents can get into the space between midfield and defense. One positive is that matches between these two are generally entertaining affairs, if not high-scoring ones, which will hopefully translate to a great match come Saturday. I really can’t lean either way on this one and I’m going to sit on the fence and say that both sides will cancel each other’s efforts out.
Tottenham 1-1 Everton
Winner: Sam Barclay - 13 Points
Sam picked up the highest total of the season so far after correctly predicting three scores and using his banker pick to good effect by earning double on one of those. That game was Norwich v Stoke, where his 1-1 prediction and banker gave him the maximum score of six points. He also correctly guessed Leicester and Tottenham’s 1-1 draw and Crystal Palace’s narrow 2-1 win over Aston Villa. Predicting a win for Chelsea at West Brom added to his tally of 13 as he saw off Orion in second. Congratulations Sam!
Sam’s week-winning haul moves him back into the top three after dropping down to tenth in the previous week. But it is Mark who still holds the advantage with his nine points helping him to take sole control of top spot. Brian’s ten points lift him into second. John and Riley’s first attempts see them occupy the bottom spots while last year’s winner, Noah, is still towards the bottom of the table.
Think you can do better?
We here at SQ want to know what you think. Send us your predictions for all 10 Premier League games in the comments section below, and we will add your name to the rankings table and weekly scores. Go head-to-head with our writers to earn the title of “SQ Predictor Champion.”
The person in first place at the end of the season will win a Premier League jersey of their choice! Send us your predictions each week to be in with a shout!
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