The horrible international break is in the rearview mirror and so we move joyfully towards Gameweek Eight in the Premier League. This week has some crackers, none more historically significant (I can see FPLFly rolling his eyes if he reads that!) than the clash between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield. And its at Anfield where we begin our stat filled preview of this weekend’s games for our friends at Sportito, where you can play Daily Fantasy Football for free and win real money…
By FPLMarple (H/T to Ben Dinnery for the press conference info supplied today which contributed to sections of this piece)
Liverpool v Man United
Liverpool began the season looking very strong at home, winning and keeping clean sheets against first Palace and then a 4-0 trashing of Arsenal… for which they paid £35m for Oxlade Chamberlain as way of compensation. United look fantastic this season, only failing to win once in all competitions, in a 2-2 draw away to Stoke City. Even with midweek Champions League games coming up for both sides, we can expect each manager’s strongest possible side to take the field for this the most keenly anticipated game on the calendar for fans of both clubs.
Player News: Liverpool have lost Sadio Mane to a hamstring injury and will be without the Senegalese international for up to six weeks. With Adam Lallana still sidelined, this is likely the opportunity Oxlade-Chamberlain has been waiting for. Brazilian stars Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino only return from South America on Thursday. Regardless, expect both to start. Dejan Lovren will be fit to play, and expect him to start over Ragnar Klaven. For Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini picked up an injury on international duty for Belgium, and he is expected to miss significant time. Ander Herrera is likely to step into the starting lineup having spent much of the season as a substitute.
Prediction: Liverpool 1 Manchester United 1
Burnley v West Ham
Burnley have one win, one draw and one loss from their opening three home games. That defeat to West Brom is their only defeat on the season and they have beaten Chelsea and Everton, as well as getting a point from their game against Liverpool. In the six games which proceeded that Chelsea game (a 2-3 goalfest anomaly) they have scored only 4 goals, but their defence has been terrific, keeping sheets in 50% of their games and never conceding more than one goal. West Ham have lost three, drawn one of their four away games in the 2017/18 season conceding 10 goals and scoring twice. They will be buoyed by a 1-0 home win against Swansea before the international break but unless their away form improves they are going to be in the bottom half of the table for the remainder of the season. With Andre Ayew, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Chicarito, the Hammers should be well capable of testing Burnley and turning their season’s fortunes around.
Player News: Manuel Lanzini made a 30 minute cameo in the GW7 win and so we can expect to see him in the starting lineup this weekend. Andy Carroll is in full training and come make his comeback up front. Tom Heaton is a longterm miss for Burnley, but his deputy Nick Pope has managed two clean sheets in his three games so there appears to be no dropoff in the Clarets’ defensive solidity.
Prediction: Burnley 1 West Ham 1
Crystal Palace v Chelsea
Chelsea slumped to a disappointing 0-1 defeat to Man City in GW7 which may have implications for the title race this year but they are still a terrific side with a very tasty run of fixtures, starting this week. Palace have lost all seven of their games this season, have conceded 17 and scored none. If Chelsea win this one, it will be 4 wins from 4 games on the road this season, with both their defeats coming at Stamford Bridge.
Player News: Alvaro Morata is out for this weekend, although it is impossible to know exactly how long the Spaniard will miss. Michy Batshuayi offers an intriguing option in attack while he is absent. In the Champions League, he has 2 goals in 2 appearances and if he translates that prolificacy over to the Premier League, Chelsea may not miss Morata as much as they fear. Their problems definitely worsened with the news that N’Golo Kante sustained a hamstring tear on duty with France which looks to keep him out for the next “20 days”. Expect Cesc Fabregas to be a nailed on starter in his absence, and the Spaniard offers obvious threat going forward. Conte confirmed in his press conference – as per Ben Dinnery – that he sees David Luiz as a defender and doesn’t forsee him moving into midfield as he has in the past, to cover for Kante’s absence.
For Palace, Wayne Hennessy will face a late fitness check after getting a knock on international duty for Wales. Wilfried Zaha has been training for the past fortnight and is likely to make his return against Chelsea.
Prediction: Palace 1 Chelsea 3 (Zaha for Palace)
Man City v Stoke City
City have only dropped 2 points this season, at home to Everton in Gameweek 2. They have 4 consecutive Premier League clean sheets and have scored 17 goals in those games. Their opponents Stoke arrested a run of 4 games without a win by beating Southampton 2-1 before the international break. A team which can ordinarily be relied upon to be solid defensively have failed to keep a clean sheet since their home win against Arsenal in Gameweek 2.
Player News: Sergio Aguero will likely miss this weekends game with a rib injury sustained in a car crash in Amsterdam which also kept him out of the win over Chelsea. City have so far escaped the international break without incident, and notably David Silva is suspended for Spain’s final qualifier so will be well rested this weekend. Only Vincent Kompany has been confirmed as out this weekend. Aguero is back training, although Guardiola admits that he is not 100% percent.
Prediction: Man City 4 Stoke City 0
Spurs v Bournemouth
If there was a league table based on only home fixtures, Spurs would be in the relegation zone but for possessing a better goal difference than Watford. Pochettino’s men have only taken 2 points from 3 home games, scoring only twice. Away from home they are the best in the league, with a 100% record and 12 goals scored. The Cherries meanwhile have lost all three away games this season, scoring only once and conceding six. Spurs have been poor at Wembley, but surely will have enough in the tank to beat Bournemouth.
Player news: No major injury news for Spurs from the international break, but managers need to be aware of the looming Champions League game away to Real Madrid midweek. While Dele Alli is safe for Fantasy Managers to pick due to his European suspension, but will Pochettino rest Christian Eriksen or even Harry Kane against Bournemouth with one eye on that visit to the Bernabeu? It is a possibility. It is likely that points magnet Ben Davies will be secure from rotation until Danny Rose builds up his fitness but be mindful that could be any week now.
For Bournemouth, Josh King is out and Ryan Fraser is a doubt.
Prediction: Spurs 2 Bournemouth 1
Swansea v Huddersfield
Swansea have lost their last 3 home league games and have failed to score in 5 of their 7 games so far this season. Huddersfield are winless in five games with their last victory coming in Gameweek 2 against Newcastle, and they have only scored once in that spell.
Player News: Steve Mounie may be available for Huddersfield, but faces a late fitness test having missed the last three games with a calf problem. If he is available, it will add some bite to the lethargic Huddersfield attack.
Prediction: Swansea 0 Huddersfield 0
Watford v Arsenal
This is the Saturday evening kickoff and managers who own Arsenal players will rightly be feeling optimistic, as Watford have conceded 9 goals in their 3 home games this season. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Arsenal have also been very poor on their travels, scoreless and with only one point to show for their 3 trips away from the Etihad.
Player News: Kaboul is out for Watford, and Prodl is a serious doubt. For Arsenal, Shkodran Mustafi sustained a thigh injury on international duty and is out this weekend. While Laurent Koscielny returned to training this week, Wenger may choose to move Kolasinac to centreback for this game and so Rob Holding may provide an interesting option for FPL managers looking for a bargain way into the Arsenal defence. Notably, Mesut Ozil also returned to training today as did Danny Welbeck and Francis Coquelin.
Prediction: Watford 1 Arsenal 1
Brighton v Everton
This is a battle between the 14th and 16th placed teams in the league, and both have identical records in their last three games: Loss-Win-Loss. Everton boss Ronald Koeman needs to take advantage of a relatively favourable fixture list and start putting points on the board or he could be under severe pressure from his board.
Player News: Phil Jagielka is closing on a return to the Everton lineup, but that may have to wait until GW9. Davy Propper has been ruled fit to play for Everton. Tomer Hemed is again suspended so Izzy Brown will again start up front.
Prediction: Brighton 1 Everton 2
Southampton v Newcastle
The Saints have the better of the historical meetings between these two, with 4 wins and 2 draws in their past 6 Premier League encounters. However, the Magpies come into this game in better form with 3 wins in their last 6 games. Southampton will be keen to avoid three straight league defeats. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez managed Southampton boss Mauricio Pelligrino at both Valencia and Liverpool, and this weekend marks their first clash as managers.
Player News: Shane Long picked up an injury on international duty, and so Manolo Gabbiadini is in line for a return to the starting lineup. Rafa Benitez is likely to name an unchanged lineup, although Matt Ritchie, Christian Atsu and Jonjo Shelvey were nursing knocks during the week. They have all traveled to the South coast, so should be counted upon to play.
Prediction: Southampton 2 Newcastle 1
Leicester v West Brom
Leicester find themselves in unusual position on the league table, as they sit just outside the relegation zone after 7 games. They share an identical recent record with their visitors today; loss-draw-loss-draw in their last 4 games. Similarly to Ronald Koeman at Everton, Craig Shakespeare will have reason to fear for his future should his side fail to get a home win over the Baggies.
Player News: Wilfried Ndidi is likely to miss out having injured his hamstring on international duty, and Robert Huth is a longterm absentee, but otherwise Leicester will be at full strength against an WBA side with no injury concerns.
Prediction: Leicester 3 West Brom 1