Week eight of the Premier League season features big clashes and raises big questions wherever you look. Can Everton topple struggling Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby, can Arsenal halt Manchester United's stay at the summit and is Jose Mourinho able to turn around Chelsea's poor start to the campaign at home to Southampton.
As ever Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front beIN Sports’ EPL coverage, discuss these games, the weekend’s other clashes and give their match predictions.
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Everton v Liverpool
AG: Ten days ago I would be confident of tipping my team but with Daniel Sturridge back in the Liverpool they have a real goal threat. That will worry Everton but they have a good mindset at the moment and with Romelu Lukaku’s power up front they can win this as long as they don’t default back to the passing game they sometimes play.
If they stay direct, play with pace and get the ball into Lukaku I think Liverpool will struggle to cope. 2-1.
RK: Liverpool’s draw with Sion on Thursday in the Europa Cup just about sums up how bad they are and I don’t agree with Andy
on Sturridge. There are too many times when he doesn’t turn up. 2-0.
Man Utd v Arsenal
AG: I would like to see Wayne Rooney up top a bit more because he needs goals and this is an important time in his career. He is still a fine footballer with an awful lot to offer but he should be the Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, dominating games, That just isn’t happening for him at the moment so I really hope he can start putting the ball in the net again. He might get one today but I reckon Arsenal will win this simply because they are the better team. 3-1.
RK: I think Van Gaal has stumbled across a decent starting eleven but I agree with Andy on Rooney. He used to dominate games like this but we haven’t seen that for far too long. He is being overshadowed by Martial who has had a brilliant start to his EPL career and looks a top drawer player but for me there’s no legs in midfield and that is where Arsenal can get control of this game.
Wenger has been criticised this week for not playing Petr Cech against Olympiakos and he will know, if the player is not
injured, that he made a mistake because that was a must-win game as is this. Arsenal will bring United back down to earth by winning this one. 2-1.
Man City v Newcastle
AG: Forget about the defeat to Spurs, City will be far to strong for Newcastle. I would say they have the strongest front four in the Premier League with Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva and they will dismantle
Newcastle with ease. A very comfortable 2-0.
RK: City were dreadful against Spur last week but Newcastle’s draw with Chelsea was a freak result and if that game had gone on for another five minutes they would have lost. 3-0.
Chelsea v Southampton
AG: I thought Chelsea did ok against Porto who are a very good side and rarely get beaten at home.It was a bad result and there is no doubt Chelsea need to start playing well but it’s not all doom and gloom as some are trying to portray. Southampton are a good side and they might score but I think Jose Mourinho’s side will win his 2-1.
RK: I am fascinated by what’s happening at Stamford Bridge and I just feel something’s not right. I have no idea why Mourinho didn’t play John Terry against Porto so there is obviously an issue. Costa is still not right and I think Mourinho is scratching his head and saying ‘what’s happened?’ In the circumstances I think Southampton can get a draw. 1-1.
Crystal Palace v West Brom
AG: Palace are up against their old manager Tony Pulis who is organised, disciplined, tough to beat. However, West Brom still look a bit unsettled to me and Palace will have too much pace for them. 2-0.
RK: Nope, can’t see that because Pulis knows Palace inside out and that will worry Alan Pardew which, psychologically, puts him at a disadvantage. This could be a battle of set pieces. 0-1.
Norwich v Leicester
AG: It will be interesting to see how Leicester react after being thrashed by Arsenal last week. Norwich will fancy this but I have
learned never to write off Leicester. 2-2.
RK: Norwich have been playing well and they have home advantage. If they can get a bit of momentum going they can deliver
another blow to Leicester. 2-1.
Sunderland v West Ham
AG: West Ham are a very difficult team to predict but they have had some terrific results away from home and Sunderland are struggling. 0-1.
RK: I am still not convinced by the Hammers and Sunderland are desperate for points. 1-1.
Swansea v Tottenham
AG: Swansea have faded while Tottenham are going the other way and if they don’t get a performance on the back of beating Man City last week then they never will. 1-2.
RK: I don’t know where Swansea’s next goal is coming from and they are up against a side that has had three clean sheets in the last four games. 0-2.
Aston Villa v Stoke City
AG: Based on nothing more than the fact that Aston Villa are desperate for a win I’m going for 1-0.
RK: This is a serious test for Tim Sherwood against a Stoke side that will only get better after starting slowly. If Villa lose this they will be in real trouble. 1-1.
Bournemouth v Watford
AG: Bournemouth have lost their best player Callum Wilson to injury and Watford are well organised so I can see them getting a result here. 1-2.
RK: Can’t agree. Bournemouth will be hard to beat on home turf and even without Wilson they are a better side than Watford. 2-1.
Manchester United, currently riding high at the top of the EPL travel to Arsenal tomorrow to take on the Gunner who were one of the pre-season title favourites.
Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front beInSports’ EPL coverage, discuss whether Louis van Gaal’s team can consolidate their place at the summit.
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Andy Gray: In big games like this the home team very rarely loses. United are good enough to go to the Emirates and win because at the top end of the pitch they have plenty of pace with Memphis Depay, Antony Martial, Wayne Rooney if he can find his form, and Juan Mata, all players who can hurt Arsenal.
But if the Gunners are firing on all cylinders I think they just have the edge, although I have some concerns about the centre of defence where they look vulnerable and we don’t know how that midweek result against Olympiakos has affected them. They will be gutted after losing that and you have to hope their players will respond positively.
As for United, I am concerned about Wayne Rooney and as a former player I know what he is going through because I went 12 to 13 games without scoring and it was horrendous. My team was winning but I went home at night wondering when I was going to start contributing with goals.
It doesn’t matter how good you are, you begin to doubt yourself and in Wayne’s case where he drops into midfield looking for the ball there is a danger that he could find himself drifting further and further away from the sharp end, still contributing but not scoring goals like he used to. I would like to see him up top a bit more because he needs goals and this is an important time in his career.
He is still a fine footballer with an awful lot to offer but he should be the Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, dominating games, That just isn’t happening for him at the moment so I really hope he can start putting the ball in the net again. He might get one today but I reckon Arsenal will win this 3-1 simply because they are the better team.
Richard Keys: United can win the title but I don’t think they will. This is probably their first serious test of the season and I think they will fall short. The Gunners have more quality than Manchester United, if they play to their full potential. I know they have not been playing that well but I tipped them to win the title before the season started and I am sticking to that.
United are at the top at the moment because they have managed to grind out some good results but it has been against teams which, frankly, you would expect them to beat. This game will be a different story. I hope Arsenal get wired into United straight away, move the ball about quickly and start asking questions from the off. What I don’t want to see is a pass-fest, one of those games that descends into 750 passes each and no goals.
Walcott has scored 12 goals in 13 starts in the Premier League, Aaaron Ramsey is due a goal, and Alexis Sanchez is finding his feet so there is no shortage of goal scoring potential.
Mesut Ozil needs to start performing because at the moment I have no idea what he does, apart from draw a fat salary, so maybe this will be the game when he finally delivers.
I think Van Gaal has stumbled across a decent starting eleven but I agree with Andy on Rooney. He used to dominate games like this but we haven’t seen that for far too long. He is being overshadowed by Martial who has had a brilliant start to his EPL career and looks a top drawer player but for me there’s no legs in midfield and that is where Arsenal can get control of this game.
Wenger has been criticised this week for not playing Petr Cech against Olympiakos and he will know, if the player is not injured, that he made a mistake because that was a must-win game as is this. Arsenal will bring United back down to earth by winning 2-1.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits Daniel Sturridge has to be handled carefully to ensure they do not “break” him again.
The England international missed six months of last season with a number of injuries, resulting in him undergoing a hip operation in May.
He has made his comeback in Liverpool’s last two matches, showing a familiar sharpness in scoring twice in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa. However, with the Merseyside derby at Everton on Sunday he will not be involved in tonight’s Europa League tie at home to Sion.
“Daniel has worked very hard and has come back ahead of schedule but we just have to make sure we don’t break him at this stage,” Rodgers said.
Meanwhile, Spanish side Villarreal are at an all-time high heading into tonight’s home game against Viktoria Plzen because for the first time in club history, they lead the La Liga standings.
Celtic will look to build on their 2-2 draw at Ajax when they host Fenerbahce in a Group A game. Borussia Dortmund square off against PAOK in Greece looking to clinch their second straight Group C win.