WE ARE BACK. I don’t know about y’all, but the weekend off of Premier League action felt like an Ice Age to me. But after a few days of international matches, we are officially back. Not only is the action returning, but this weekend’s slate of games is absolutely lovely. All week long I’ve been waking in the morning hoping that I somehow slept until Saturday morning, but as of now, we are only one night’s sleep away. So let’s take a look at a few things, the table, the fixtures, and the betting odds. Table courtesy of ESPN, and betting odds courtesy of Bovada as always.
Everton and Villa remain the only unbeaten sides this far into the season, but that is likely to change following this weekend’s slate of fixtures. Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby. Villa play hosts to Leicester coming off a disappointing result to West Ham. Other notable fixtures include Manchester City hosting Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham in a London Derby, and Leeds and Wolves to cap the weeknd on Monday.
Everton v Liverpool
This match obviously has rather large implications for both sides. Aside from being a same city rivalry match, the champs have had a less than ideal start to the season, especially after the 7-2 thumping they took from Villa nearly two weekends ago. A win would put Liverpool level in points but yet behind Everton on goal difference, unless LFC win by 4 or more. Everton have a fantastic chance to add some breathing room, and instil a genuine belief into the squad that they could contend for not only European football, but the Premier League title itself.
Liverpool have conceded 11 goals in four games; it took them 11 matches last season to allow that many in the net. Obviously this is in part to the wild match they played against Villa. Even without that match they had given up 3 against Leeds a side newly promoted and one to an inferior Arsenal side. Goals have come partially from their high line, partially from insane mistakes from their back four, and keeper. Some of these issues will correct themselves, but it seems as if teams are starting to crack the Liverpool code to get in on goal. Good news for the Reds? Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara are back after positive Covid tests weeks ago.
On the other half of the pitch we will see the highest scoring team so far this season in Everton. James Rodriguez has been delightful for the Toffee’s, as has number 9 Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who would win the Golden Boot if the season ended today.
The value in this match is either in betting Everton to win or betting on a draw. Everton are +280 to win, and the draw is valued at +305. The oddsmakers are essentially predicting a 2-1 Liverpool win. I think this is the most likely outcome as well, but my gut is telling me Everton will get at least a point out of this match, and give every effort to take all the points.
Pick: Everton 3-2 (+280)
Manchester City v Arsenal
City open this match as rather large favorites despite the rocky start to their season. If you take away their first half against Wolves, they would be winless on the season. Of course they’ve only played thrice, but this City side doesn’t feel as potent as recent City squads. Being without both Jesus and Aguero certainly adds to that. But they are also figuring out how to replace David Silva, and have started each Prem match with a different centre back pairing.
Arsenal as we know are a young team, save for 31 year old Aubameyang. Arsenal didn’t look their best against Sheffield two weeks ago, but played Liverpool much closer than the 3-1 scoreline indicates. That makes me think Arsenal actually have a good shot at getting a point against City. The oddsmakers think the most likely scoreline is 2-1 City. I say Arsenal find an equalizer and leave with a draw.
Pick: City 2 Arsenal 2 +400
Tottenham vs West Ham
Tottenham have been a textbook case of Jekyll & Hyde this year. Losing opening day to Everton, then thrashing Southampton, followed by a disappointing 1-1 draw to Newcastle, then back to trashing as they absolutely decimated United in week four. Which Hotspur side will we see is the big question this week. They certainly should take this fixture with West Ham seriously, as the Hammers have won their last two Premier League matches with an aggregate 7-0 scoreline.
Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane have been devastating thus far for Tottenham, with 6 goals and 6 assists respectively in just four played. They are absolutely the key to Spurs success. Son’s incredible pace and composure with the ball makes him devastating for any team trying to initiate a high line. Kane’s ability to find space to receive the ball, and then find Son making a run have been critical. Also of note for the Spurs is the likely return debut of Gareth Bale to fill in on the right side of the pitch. Spurs are favored by a goal. Odds makers predict a 2-1 victory for the North Londoners. I’m with them 100% on this.
Picks: Spurs 3-1(-170), Spurs to cover, Over 3.0
Leicester City v Aston Villa
Want to watch the number two and three teams in the table face off this week? Look no further than Leicester and Villa Sunday afternoon. Both teams are flying high ti start the season, even if West Ham put some holes in Leicester’s wings last time out. Villa of course are fresh off their decimation of the champions.
As I write this I have blankly stared at both the computer screen and my match notes trying to figure out what to write. I’m perplexed because I could really see this match going either way. Obviously the latest Villa result is a bit of a flash in the pan- they aren’t the new Liverpool, they aren’t going to run away with a title in the foreseeable future. In fact, this is relatively the same team that avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth just a few months ago. But something has changed at Villa. Did they add some vitamins to the team water spout? They finished project restart with a 2-4-4 record taking 10 points out of a possible 30. Maybe Jack Grealish deciding to stick around revitalized the team. Whatever it is, you have to love seeing Aston Villa playing good football- and winning.
From Leicester’s point of view, this is a game to take incredibly seriously. Perhaps they took their foot off the gas last time out against West Ham after pouring five in against City. They’ve seen that Villa can score too, so the priority has to be taking care of the ball.
The oddsmakers are predicting a tight game – just a half goal spread in favor of Leicester. However both teams desperately want to carry that winning momentum forward and capture all three points. This is why I’m so dubious to make a pick here. If I am really listening to my gut however, I’ll take Jamie Vardy and the Foxes to get the result.
Pick: 2-1 Leicester City (-120)
Leeds v Wolverhampton
Two of the smaller clubs with European football in their sights face off in what should be one the most exciting matches of the week. Leeds have had a solid start to the season, going 2-1-1, while Wolves are 2-0-2. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side have shown they can hang in the Prem- they played Liverpool incredibly close, in a losing effort, and got a draw against Manchester City. Wolves lost to the same City side in another close match. So from a American’s point of view this should be a fairly close match. The oddsmakers agree. Leeds is +145 to win, Wolves +190, a draw pays out at +230. So what will happen on Monday when the two sides take the pitch? Well expect Leeds to press and counter press for almost the entire duration of the match. Wolves will look to counter. To me, this just comes down to whoever can crack the score sheet first. I have a nagging suspicion that it will be Leeds to take the points.
Pick: 2-1 Leeds
Other Notable Matches
Crystal Palace and Brighton has the potential to be an exciting match on Sunday. The goal spread is exactly zero for both sides, with Palace being slight favorites on the moneyline. West Brom and Burnley have a similar spread and moneyline. For that reason I would caution staying away from betting on those games, unless you want a significant reason to watch.
Also of note is the fact that Chelsea will finally have all of their new signings- save for goalkeeper Mendy- available for the first time this season. Pulisic came off the bench two weekends ago, and Hakeem Ziyech is available for the first time. I’m incredibly excited to see the 11 that manager Frank Lampard decided to go with here. I would love to see Ziyech, Pulisic, Havertz, and Werner all included. Only time will tell ultimately.
Manchester United absolutely have to get back on track against New Castle this weekend. They currently sit at 16th in the table and the fixtures aren’t getting easier. They will see Chelsea, Arsenal, and Everton in their next three Prem fixtures, as well as PSG and RB Leipzig in the Champions League. This run of fixtures will determine the direction they go in, as there has been talk about replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjær if things really start to go awry.
Action starts tomorrow morning at 7:30 am EST with Liverpool and Everton. So get ready for another enthralling weekend of Premier League football. I know I’m ready for it after the seemingly years long International Break.