It’s another huge week in the Premier League as the race for the title starts to take shape. Arsenal go into a tricky home game off the back of a famous European victory, whilst Manchester’s United and City go head-to-head at Old Trafford. Elsewhere, Chelsea face a London derby and it’s one of their ladies team stars that is up against Mark this week in the shape of Claire Rafferty.
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West Ham United 2-2 Chelsea
The Premier League’s fourth-placed side goes up against a mid-table side at Upton Park on Saturday, but it’s strange that the Hammers are the ones sitting in the top four.
Slaven Bilic’s side have been fantastic this season, but that has mostly been away from home, proven by their 3-1 win at fellow London high-flyers Crystal Palace last weekend.
The options at Bilic’s disposal have all been impressive, but the main success this season has been Dimitri Payet; the Frenchman has been scoring and assisting for fun, including a delightful chip over Wayne Hennessey for the third goal last week.
The Hammers have still only won one game at home this season, so Chelsea will be hoping to pick something up when they come to town.
The Blues won at home to Aston Villa last time out, but this will be more of a test for Jose Mourinho’s troubled side.
A goalless draw in Kiev in the Champions League on Tuesday could be deemed a good result as Eden Hazard looked back to close to his best.
Both sides have been struggling to keep the goals out, so an entertaining draw will probably send both sets of fans home relatively happy.
Claire Rafferty’s Prediction: West Ham United 0-2 Chelsea
Arsenal 1-1 Everton
Arsenal host Everton on Saturday evening off the back of a fantastic mid-week win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
With their backs against the wall, the Gunners needed to win, and they delivered in such high-pressure circumstances.
Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil, both players maligned for different reasons, scored the goals in a 2-0 win that Arsène Wenger and the Emirates crowd will hope continues momentum.
In the league, Arsenal are coming off of two 3-0 wins against Manchester United and Watford, with Alexis Sánchez scoring three goals in those two games, and a hat-trick against Leicester before that.
Everton, meanwhile, come into this fixture a bit battered and bruised after being outplayed by Manchester United at Goodison Park last weekend in an emotional day on Merseyside.
The Toffees have had a week to sort out their problems and will be hoping to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku once again, but will face a tough and solid Arsenal defence.
What may work in Roberto Martínez’s favour this weekend is that the Gunners had to put a huge amount of work in against Bayern and could be tired, meaning Everton could nick a draw.
Claire Rafferty’s Prediction: Arsenal 3-2 Everton
Sunderland 1-2 Newcastle United
Another new manager and another Wear-Tyne derby to contend for Sunderland this Sunday.
Sam Allardyce has been installed as the latest saviour at the Stadium of Light, but things did not get off to a good start as they lost away at fellow strugglers West Brom last weekend.
Allardyce has only been there a couple of weeks, but the new manager ‘bounce’ that the Black Cats seem so reliant on may not be fool proof.
Newcastle managed to pick up their first win of the season last week, as they scored six against Norwich in a 6-2 victory last Sunday.
The win was the confidence boost that both the Magpies and Steve McClaren needed. The side still looked dodgy at the back, but thanks to the budding relationships in the attacking third, Newcastle can come out on top for once at the Stadium of light.
Mitrović, Wijnaldum, and Sissoko all looked dangerous, and they come up against a defence that leak goals. It would be no surprise to see them work well together once again and have Allardyce starting from scratch once again.
Claire Rafferty’s Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle United
Manchester United 3-2 Manchester City
Old Trafford is the venue this weekend for the battle for bragging rights, and, even more importantly, three points in the title race.
City sit two points ahead of United at present with both sides picking up impressive victories last weekend and decent results in mid-week in Europe.
Louis van Gaal’s side bounced back from their 3-0 thrashing at the Emirates before the international break with a 3-0 drubbing of their own away at Everton.
That was followed up by a dominating but not an imaginative performance away at CSKA Moscow; but a 1-1 draw there from 1-0 down is a good result.
City are going into the weekend’s game without David Silva and Sergio Agüero, but a 5-1 win at home against Bournemouth, with Wilfried Bony and Raheem Sterling scoring the goals, and a 2-1 last minute home win against Sevilla on Wednesday, with Kevin De Bruyne running the show, proved that they could live without the two attackers.
Their chances would be made better with those players back, but City can certainly trouble the Red Devils on Sunday.
Both sides have been relatively short in defensive areas in the last couple of weeks despite scoring goals, so a high scoring home win could have the pulses racing on Sunday, especially for the home side, as this crazy season could take another turn.
Claire Rafferty’s Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
Liverpool 1-2 Southampton
The Jürgen Klopp factor saw Liverpool pick up a clean sheet and a point away at Tottenham last weekend.
They will take some heart from that as a building block, and will be spending the next number of weeks learning exactly what the German will want from them, but it will not be an easy transition.
Fitness needs improving from front to back to even start what the former Dortmund coach needs.
A Thursday night Europa League game will not help their chances on Sunday, as Southampton will have had eight days off since their draw at home to Leicester.
The last away game the Saints were involved in was a 3-1 win away at Chelsea, with Sadio Mané and Graziano Pellè stealing the show.
It probably won’t be as convincing this weekend against Liverpool, but it wouldn’t surprise too many if the Saints went marching in to Anfield and came out again with three points.
Claire Rafferty’s Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Southampton
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