We’ve decided to hold off the “Point of Difference” article and put some thoughts together on what to expect in the upcoming 6 game weeks. As you’ve seen so far this season there have been some very surprising results so I’m not even going to bother making any bold predictions! I’ve included where all the cup games fit in and who against as well, these are really important because some of the smaller squads could start to struggle after too many games in a row while the larger squads pose rotation risks. Do they put their best team out for the Champions League chasing qualification to the next stage, or are they struggling in the league and need to make up ground?
Part 1. In no particular order…
West Brom (a), Norwich (h), Champions League – Dortmund (h), Palace (a), League Cup – Chelsea (h), Liverpool (h), Champions League – Dortmund (a), Man Utd (a)
Arsenal’s recent record in the EPL has shown that they are very capable of conceding goals with their only clean sheet being in the 1-0 win over Tottenham at home. They have the chance to increase that number in the next few rounds but it really depends on how Champions League commitments affect the energy levels of their relatively small squad. West Brom put a couple past Man Utd at Old Trafford and they could very well do it again here but Norwich at home and Palace away should provide solid wins with potential clean sheets. After that however they do have a tough couple of weeks against Liverpool and Man Utd split by a trip over to Germany. So far this season, games between the bigger clubs have been very low scoring (if you take out Man City v Man Utd) so don’t be surprised to see a 1-0 or 1-1 score line in those games. Interesting stat; 5 of the 7 goals they’ve conceded have been by an opposition defender, and 4 of those by a full back. Are their wingers not tracking back enough?
Norwich (a), Cardiff (h), Champs League – Schalke (a), Man City (h), League Cup – Arsenal (a), Newcastle (a), Champs League – Schalke (h), West Brom (h), West Ham (a)
Looking at the entire next 6 round block, Chelsea seem like they have a pretty good run of games with only Man City jumping out as a tough one. Similar to Arsenal, their EPL form will depend heavily on the Champions League games as well as the added burden of the League Cup. The Norwich game is no certainty for a win but Cardiff and the run after the Man City game look straight forward. They’ve been very good defensively with 3 clean sheets from 6 and I can see that continuing. You could do worse than invest in some Chelsea defenders like a Terry or Ash Cole. It will be interesting to see if Mata has convinced Jose that he will do what he’s told and whether Eto’o or Ba get some more game time and more importantly goals?
Man City (a), Hull (h), Villa (a), Tottenham (h), Palace (a), Liverpool (h)
This is a tough run for Everton. Although they do have a great record against them, Man City are an outstanding outfit when they want to be and it will be a good test to see how far Everton have come under Martinez. The Hull and Palace games look like wins with the others being 50/50s, the reasoning being largely on where they are being played. They have the benefit over some other teams in that they aren’t going to be playing any extra cup games so could be a little fresher than some of the opposition. If Lukaku keeps getting starts I can see him monstering some of these defences and could easily continue his run of goals. The flip side is that they have Jelavic and Kone waiting in the wings, they need to be kept happy. Everton have been another team that have been good defensively so far with 3 clean sheets from 6 games but their last two games have both been 3-2 wins so it’s hard to judge what’s going on there.
Palace (h), Newcastle (a) West Brom (h), Arsenal (a), Fulham (h), Everton (a)
Liverpool has a very nice run of games up until to the Arsenal clash and should continue their good form. They could score a heap of goals with Suarez and Sturridge getting amongst them. In all honesty, they should really be looking at winning 4 of the next 6 with maybe 3 clean sheets. Fulham aren’t going too well and have never been great away and the Merseyside derby could go either way. Like Everton, they aren’t concerned with any cup runs right now so can devote all their attention to the league. All of us Addicts who own Liverpool defenders can hold onto to them with a degree of confidence and if you don’t maybe put them on the shopping list. Hopefully Rodgers doesn’t pull out any more surprises like the Southampton game though…
Everton (h), West Ham (a), Champs League – CSKA (a), Chelsea (a), League Cup – Newcastle (a), Norwich (h), Champs League – CSKA (h), Sunderland (a), Tottenham (a)
This run will really test Man City, they’ve been up and down so far this season and need to start getting some consistent results. They have more than enough quality to win most of the next 6 with the Chelsea and Spurs games being the major worries. The amount of emphasis they put on Champions League glory over the EPL will be what potentially makes this a tricky run. Everton have the wood over them in recent years, West Ham away is never pleasant and Norwich’s pressing style of play could prove tricky. They should then beat Sunderland, everyone will beat Sunderland this season. Man City can’t afford to drop any of these games but if they are able to switch on for them then there could be goals galore. As is always going to be the case, we aren’t 100% certain which attacking players are going to play so predicting any goal scoring trends is difficult. There should be a few clean sheets throughout but I’m not as confident as I am with Chelsea or Liverpool.
Sunderland (a), Southampton (h), Champs League – Real Sociedad (h), Stoke (h), League Cup – Norwich (h), Fulham (a), Champs League – Real Sociedad (a), Arsenal (h), Cardiff (a)
Man Utd have the chance over the next 6 game weeks to get back on track. Only the Arsenal game provides any real test. Having “enjoyed” watching a David Moyes led team for over a decade, I have a suspicion he’s going to revert back to type and just make sure that they win. There’ll be no extravagant score lines, they’ll tighten up at the back and just make sure they get the result. Expect some 1-0, 2-0 wins and clean sheets galore. Invest in a Man Utd defender, just not Ferdinand. Like some other teams, they do have some Cup commitments but I reckon they’ll be concentrating on getting the EPL points on the board first and foremost. If they don’t get their act together very soon, the #moyesout calls will become deafening. And mildly amusing.
Hull (a), Tottenham (h), Everton (h), West Ham (a), Cardiff (h), West Brom (a)
No idea. It’s really hard to see where Villa is at right now. They haven’t been great at home but have played some handy teams so can be excused. But then they go out and beat Man City last week! Benteke being out of the team is a huge loss but it gives some opportunities to others including Weimann. They probably should get a point or 3 against Hull and Cardiff but the other games are not easy to pick and there’s no evidence to suggest they can keep it clean down back. So yeah… Good luck.
Cardiff (a), Liverpool (h), Sunderland (a), League Cup – Man City (h), Chelsea (h), Tottenham (a), Norwich (h)
Newcastle’s game at Everton was a perfect example of what’s going on over there. The first half their defence was diabolical and attack non-existent, after the break they looked like a completely different team and could have easily gone home with at least a point. If they don’t get it together soon and put together a whole game, this will be a horrific run of games. The only time Cardiff have lost at home so far was against Spurs (and that was from a goal in the 94th minute), Sunderland love Tyne-Wear derbies as much as Gazza likes a drink (too soon?) and Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs anywhere this season are going to be tough games. They’ll definitely score goals, but will concede as well so stay away from their defence. Remy. That is all.
Chelsea (h), Arsenal (a), Cardiff (h), League Cup – Man Utd (a), Man City (a), West Ham (h), Newcastle (a)
Ouch! This is nearly as tough as it comes and might be the reason why Norwich was so happy to beat Stoke last weekend. They might struggle for points for a while! They did look really good last week but it’s hard to know how much Stoke took part in that performance. If they are able to reproduce that pressure around the pitch then they may just snag one of these big games or at least get a point. Cardiff and West Ham provide good opportunities and the Newcastle game might go their way, but I wouldn’t suggest any of them are sure things. I’d expect a draw or two amongst those games. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Fer and RvW to score a few?
So that will do or today, come back tomorrow and we’ll go through the rest of the teams!