It’s EPL time again Guys and Gals and as always we have another action packed round of games with Everton hosting Arsenal on Saturday , Tottenham and QPR squaring off in a London derby on Sunday, before Man City and Liverpool bring the curtain down on week 2 on Monday. So buckle up and sit tight as GotSoccer takes you through some of the News, Predictions and Previews for Week 2.
Liverpool close in on Balotelli deal
Liverpool is close to completing the signing of AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli for a fee of $26.5m.
The Reds want the Italian international to help strengthen their attack following the sale of last season’s top score Luis Suarez to Barcelona.
The move could be completed as early as Friday afternoon with Liverpool ready to offer the forward a five year deal worth almost $200k a week, though talks continue with Liverpool reportedly placing behavioral conduct clauses into Balotelli’s contract.
However, it is unlikely that the deal will be completed in time for Balotelli to face former club Manchester City in the EPL on Monday.
The 24-year-old played for Manchester City for three seasons from 2010-2013, scoring 20 goals. However, Balotelli’s tenure at City was plagued with off-field incidents, including a punch-up with former boss Roberto Mancini.
Nevertheless, Balotelli was a big hit and remains a popular figure with the City fans, especially as he provided the assist that helped the club win their first league title since 1968.
Wenger has no regrets over Fabregas
Arsene Wenger says he has no regret about not re-signing Cesc Fabregas over the summer.
The Spanish international made an impressive debut for Chelsea in the EPL assisting two goals in the Blues 3-1 win over Burnley.
Arsenal had first choice on Fabregas, who signed for Barcelona from the Gunners in 2011, but decided against the buy-back option.
“I have no regret about that at all. My regret is that he left,” said Wenger, whose side play Everton this weekend.
“It was difficult for him to leave us, but after that you accept he can move to some different clubs,” he added.
Wenger believes Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey has more than filled the void left by Fabregas.
“What is good in life is that someone moves out and someone else takes over and he has developed,” he said. “He is younger than Cesc and the potential is there to get more out of him.”
Nevertheless, Wenger could be back in the market for a midfielder following the injury of Mikel Arteta, who injured his ankle during Arsenal’s 0-0 Champions League qualify game at Besiktas.
“If it is a long-term injury, that puts us in a position where we have to be creative.
“We are open as well to any opportunity, until the end of the transfer window, who can strengthen our defensive department in quality and number.”
|Man Utd v Swansea||1-2||4-1|
|Leicester v Everton||2-2||1-2|
|QPR v Hull||0-1||2-2|
|Stoke v Aston Villa||0-1||2-1|
|West Brom v Sunderland||2-2||1-1|
|West Ham v Tottenham||0-1||1-1|
|Arsenal v Crystal Palace||2-1||3-0|
|Liverpool v Southampton||2-1||2-0|
|Newcastle v Man City||0-2||0-2|
|Burnley v Chelsea||1-3||0-1|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. Getting the exact score correct earns THREE points.
Last week I got FOUR correct results, including ONE perfect score, to give me a modest total of SEVEN-points. However, with one week under my belt I’m feeling confident of upping my tally and hope to reach double figures.
Anyone who thinks they can do better is free to leave their predictions below. So good luck to all and get predicting!
|Aston Villa v Newcastle||1-0|
|Chelsea v Leicester||4-0|
|Crystal Palace v West Ham||1-1|
|Southampton v West Brom||3-1|
|Swansea v Burnley||2-1|
|Everton v Arsenal||2-2|
|Hull v Stoke||1-0|
|Tottenham v QPR||2-0|
|Sunderland v Man Utd||0-1|
|Man City v Liverpool||3-1|
Chelsea v Leicester City
Chelsea got a good win away to Burnley last week and look like they could be a formidable force this season. The Blues came from a goal behind to eventually win 3-1.
Summer signing Diego Costa got his EPL career of to a great start with a goal and looks like he will strike fear into defenses up and down the country. Cesc Fabregas also impressed on his return to English football and appears to be an even better player than when he left.
The Blues face another newly promoted side this week in the form of Leicester City. The Foxes put in a tremendous performance last week by twice coming from a goal down to draw against Everton at home. However, they face a severe test on Saturday and will need to be at their best if they are to leave with a result.
Chelsea has a full squad to choose from and could field the same side that beat Burnley last week.
Leicester, however, will be without central midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Matty James, who have respective hamstring and shin injuries. Defender Mathew Upson is also missing with a foot problem, though striker Jamie Vardy and winger Marc Albrighton should be available after injury.
Chelsea has a good recent record against Leicester winning the last six meetings between the two sides, scoring 20 goals. In fact, the Blues have only lost four of their 45 meetings against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, so on paper they should easily win this one, but then again crazier things have happened in soccer.
Nevertheless, I predict a comfortable win for Chelsea.
Everton v Arsenal
Arsenal clinched their 100th win at the Emirates Stadium last week with a last-gasp winner against Crystal Palace, and has the chance to reach another milestone— 100 wins against Everton in all the games they’ve played since first meeting in 1905.
However, the Gunners face a tough task against an Everton side that many pundits predict as dark horses for a Champions League spot. The Toffees drew 2-2 away to Leicester last week, but were unlucky not to leave to with all three-points after going ahead twice.
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson is nearing a return from an ACL injury and could be available, but Ross Barkley, Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo are absent through injury.
Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta joins Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
But Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski could all return after extended post-World Cup breaks, while Yaya Sanogo may be fit after a hamstring injury.
Arsenal have failed to win their last four EPL games against Everton (D3, L1), and lost last season’s game 3-0 at Goodison Park. However, the Gunners have won six successive EPL games since that defeat and would rack up their seventh with a win on Saturday.
This will be a tough game for both sides and Everton could edge with the home fans behind them, but I think this will be a draw.
Tottenham v QPR
This London derby will have some added spice as former boss Harry Redknapp returns to White Hart Lane with QPR.
Tottenham have gotten rid of two managers since Redknapp left last summer, with Mauricio Pochettino the latest man to take the job. The Argentinean got off to a good start last week with a win, though Spurs did leave it late with 20-year-old defender Eric Dier scoring the winner in the 90th minute.
QPR, meanwhile, dominated most of their opening game against Hull, but lost 1-0 with James Chester heading in the winner early in the second half. Boss Harry Redknapp was positive despite the defeat and will be hoping for a response when his side meets Spurs on Sunday.
Tottenham will be without Kyle Naughton who serves a suspension after picking up a red card last week, but otherwise they have a full squad to choose from.
QPR new signings Leroy Fer and Mauricio Isla could make their debuts on Sunday, but Chilean compatriot Eduardo Vargas is not in contention as he still requires a work permit.
Tottenham has a great record against QPR at home losing only 3 in 26 games against at White Hart Lane in all competitions, with their last defeat coming back in May 1994. Ironically, Tottenham’s only defeat in their last six Premier League games against QPR came when current Rangers boss Harry Redknapp was in charge.
QPR should put up a decent fight, but I expect them to lose this one.
Sunderland v Man Utd
Sunderland scored a late goal last weekend to secure a 2-2 away to West Brom. The Black Cats actually took an early lead through Lee Cattermole’s fine long-range effort, but conceded twice before Sebastian Larsson leveled things with five minutes to go.
Meanwhile, Manchester United picked up where they left off last season, losing 2-1 at home to Swansea. The Red Devils had impressed during pre-season winning all their games, but they weren’t playing a friendly last weekend and looked like a nervous and vulnerable side.
Sunderland may recall defenders Billy Jones and Santiago Vergini who have both recovered from injury. However, Italian midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini is expected to be out for another three weeks with a groin problem.
Manchester United could hand new signing Marcos Rojo his debut, while Robin van Persie could also return.
Manchester United are a side that are still in transition and looked low on confidence last week, however, they are unbeaten in 12 league games at Sunderland (W9, D3) since a 2-1 defeat in March 1997, and I expect them to continue that streak on Sunday.
Man City v Liverpool
Week 2 ends with a blockbuster of a game as EPL champions Man City take on last year’s almost men Liverpool.
Manchester City did not put in a vintage performance last week but still managed to beat Newcastle 2-0 and will be the team to beat this season. The Sky Blues have not spent the vast amount of money they have in previous seasons, but they have strengthened their defense with the signing of French international Eliaquim Mangala.
Liverpool beat Southampton 2-1 to get their campaign off to the right start last week. Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for the Reds, before Nathaniel Clyne equalized for the visitors. However, Daniel Sturridge spared Liverpool’s blushes by netting a winner 11 minutes from time.
Man City won this fixture last season 2-1, but did lose the return fixture at Anfield 3-2. Liverpool have spent a lot of money during the summer strengthening their squad, but whether or not they are a better team without Luis Suarez remains to be seen.
On paper this game suits Liverpool, as they can sit back and hit on the counter. Games between big sides tend to be cagey affairs, but as this game is so early in the season I think we could be in for an open game. Nevertheless, I think City will win this one.