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Barclays Premier League Preview – Round 5

With the dreaded International break finally out of the way, it’s time to get back down to the real business at hand. The Barclays Premier League returns this weekend, and TheYellowCap writer Aziz Jacobs takes a look at the key fixtures.

Everton v Chelsea

When: Saturday, 13:45

Where: Goodison Park, Merseyside

Form: Everton DWLD; Chelsea DLWL

Bookies: Everton 3/1; Draw 12/5; Chelsea EVS

What is going on with Chelsea? The Blues have had a wretched start to the season, and look the furthest thing from champions. Jose Mourinho needs to stop the rot, but a trip to Merseyside to take on the Toffees is not the assignment he would have hoped to face with his team so low on confidence. Everton have won four of their last six home games against Chelsea, however the Blues have won the last three Premier League meetings between the sides.

Cortouis after Palace

It’s a big match for Cesc Fabregas. This time last year, fans and pundits alike were prematurely handing the Spaniard the Player of the Season award after a string of beautifully crafted assists. This season though, the former Arsenal and Barcelona man has struggled and is in danger of being dropped from the starting XI. Mourinho should give him another chance to play himself into form, but his patience must surely be wearing thin with the creative lynchpin.

If Fabregas steps up and runs the Chelsea midfield as he did for large swathes of 2014, I can see them coming away with all the points. If he doesn’t, I think the Blues will still have enough about them to take a point.  Prediction: Everton 1-1 Chelsea Arsenal v Stoke City When: Saturday, 16:00 Where: Emirates Stadium, London Form: Arsenal LWDW; Stoke LDDL Bookies: Arsenal 5/18; Draw 5/1; Stoke 11/1 The Arsenal Twitter meltdown occurred as expected when the transfer window slammed shut, and the Gunners remained as the only club in Europe’s top 5 leagues not to sign an outfield player. Goalkeeper Petr Cech was their only addition to the squad. Quite how Arsene Wenger thinks that a keeper not good enough for the champions will suddenly make his side BETTER than the champions is beyond me.  But, what’s done is done, and it is time for the fans to get behind the players at the club. Olivier Giroud is not the striker to fire the Gunners to Premier League titles or Champions League glory – he’s too busy keeping his hair perfect to worry about such trivial things as scoring goals – but he remains a vital member of the team (if nothing but for lack of viable alternatives). Theo Walcott has consistently proven incapable of playing the lone striker role in Arsenal’s fluid system, and Danny Welbeck is out until Christmas at the earliest, so Giroud is the only realistic option as it stands.   

With the squad composition settled, on to the game. Stoke is always a potential banana skin for Arsenal. Wenger’s squad is packed full of bite sized, technically magnificent players, who have a reputation for despising the rougher elements of the game (try to imagine Santi Cazorla flying in for a crunching slide tackle ala Patrick Vieira). 

Stoke manager Mark Hughes has changed the playing style at the Britannia but old habits die hard. The worst of Tony Pulis’ reign in charge comes out whenever these two sides meet, and the orcs from Stoke-on-Trent try to bulldoze Arsenal into submission. It usually works on the narrow pitch at the Britannia, with the vile and vulgar Stoke crowd baying for Arsenal blood to be shed or for more legs to be broken. But on the expansive Emirates pitch, and with no-one booing Aaron Ramsey for having his leg broken, the Gunners usually prevail. 

Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Stoke City

Crystal Palace v Manchester City

When: Saturday, 16:00

Where: Selhurst Park, London

Form: City WWWW; Palace WLWW

Bookies: City 17/4; Draw 100/30; Palace 8/13

This would usually appear to be a pretty straightforward result to predict, but the nature of the two teams’ start to the season means this could be an absolute cracker.

City are already looking like the champions elect, with four wins from four. David Silva looks to be in the form of his life, pulling the strings in between the lines for City and unlocking even the tightest of defences. Sergio Aguero is looking razor sharp, Yaya Toure appears to have found his mojo again and is seemingly back to his best. The real Vincent Kompany is back marshaling the defence, and Raheem Sterling has offered the Citizens a new outlet on the flanks. City already looked almost impossible to stop, and then they only went and added the mega money signing of Kevin de Bruyne into the mix.

PAY-Kevin-De-Bruyne-signs-for-Manchester-City

Tasked with trying to stop the Sky Blue Machine on Saturday will be Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace. The Eagles are flying high in second place on the table, three points off their opponents at the top. A stunning victory over Chelsea in their last outing will have them arriving at Selhurst confident of securing a result, and why wouldnt they be?

Yohann Cabaye has proved a revelation in midfield since his record signing from PSG, with the Frenchman controlling a dictating play. His pinpoint passes have unlocked the true potential of the likes of Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie on the wings, with their devastating pace and trickery proving too hot to handle for even the fabled Chelsea defence. 

palace

Their squad makeup means they are perfectly set up to play on the counter, something they will almost certainly be doing against the might of Manuel Pellegrini’s men. If they can get it right, they can spring a surprise. But I just feel that City will be far too strong.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace

Manchester United v Liverpool

When: Saturday, 18:30

Where: Old Trafford, Manchester

Form: United WWDL; Liverpool WWDL

Bookies: United 10/11; Draw 5/2; Liverpool 100/30

Saturday’s full day of action rounds off with the big one at Old Trafford. Forget the Manchester, Merseyside or North London derbies. THIS is the one. Manchester United against Liverpool, the two most successful clubs in English football going toe to toe.

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The transfer window has closed and somehow David De Gea is still a Manchester United player. After sitting out United’s first four fixtures of this Premier League campaign, the Spaniard is likely to return for the visit of Liverpool and not a moment too soon. His stand-in Sergio Romero did not cover himself in glory against Swansea City, failing to keep out Bafetembi Gomis’ winner with a tame left hand. With De Gea’s agent Jorge Mendes in town for contract renewal talks, it appears the Spanish keeper is happy to remain at Old Trafford.

De Gea

Both sides are coming into the match off the back of humbling defeats in their previous outings. United had laid a solid if unspectacular foundation with seven points from their first three games, but then slumped to defeat against Swansea City with as limp a second half performance as you are likely to see from the Red Devils.

Liverpool meanwhile were absolutely embarrassed at home by West Ham. A 3-0 defeat, coupled with Philippe Coutinho’s red card that sees him suspended for Saturday’s game, brought the Reds crashing back down to earth after they too had made a solid start.

liv-0-3-whu-8-2015

Both sides have identical records in the form department, and neither has looked overly convincing in their performances so far. We will wait and see whether Louis van Gaal unleashes the WMD strike force of Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay. Much has been made of the exorbitant transfer fee United shelled out for the young Martial, so many will be hoping to get their first look at the man dubbed the next Thierry Henry.

Martial

Both teams will know that they can ill afford to suffer a defeat and it could make for a cagey encounter. Liverpool could well approach the match in similar fashion to their most impressive performance so far this season, when they sat back and countered Arsenal to good effect at the Emirates Stadium. But, under Van Gaal, United are far more cautious going forward than Arsenal, which should limit Liverpool’s effectiveness on the break. Despite United being far from scintillating going forward, Liverpool’s defense is vulnerable and Van Gaal had the better of Rodgers in both matchups last season.

Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool

Full Fixtures:

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