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Barclays Premier League Preview – Week 10

This weekend sees the completion of the first quarter of the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League, and I think it’s safe to say that the league is anyone’s for the taking at the moment. Defending champions Chelsea are faltering, City have injury problems, Arsenal struggle for consistency and United have revealed themselves to be nowhere near as good as they thought they were. Week 10 should shed further light on the title credentials of the big guns, and TheYellowCap writer Aziz Jacobs takes a look at the key fixtures.

West Ham v Chelsea (Saturday, 16:00: Upton Park)

A proper London derby kicks off a thrilling weekend of action. These are two clubs that despise one another, and Chelsea can expect a hostile reception at the Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers are flying, coming into the weekend 4th on the table. Slaven Bilic’s team employ a dazzling balance of pace, power and skill that has already seen them pick up wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. In Dimitri Payet, West Ham possess arguably the signing of the summer. The Frenchman has lit up the league since his arrival from Marseille, laying goals on a plate for his teammates and chipping in with a few of his own.

West Ham attacker Dimitri Payet

West Ham attacker Dimitri Payet

The situation isn’t as rosy across London at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, emphatic winners of the league in 2014/15, look a shadow of their former selves. John Terry is no longer the immovable force he once was in defence. Nemanja Matic has struggled to get his season going, while his midfield partner Cesc Fabregas has been nothing short of diabolical. Perhaps most worryingly for the Blues, Jose Mourinho is visibly struggling to cope with the pressure of it all.

mourinho

But a 2-0 win over Aston Villa last time out has lifted the mood somewhat at Chelsea. Particularly pleasing was the fact that Diego Costa – another who has struggled to replicate the highs of last season – managed to get himself on the scoresheet. The victory lifted the Blues up to 12th, but I can’t see them rising any higher this weekend.

Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Chelsea

Arsenal v Everton (Saturday, 18:30 – Emirates Stadium)

Staying in London, the Gunners welcome Everton to an Emirates Stadium that will still be buzzing after the win over Bayern Munich in the week.

Arsenal are the league’s most infuriating side. One week they can turn up as meek as a lamb, and crash to defeat against one of the league’s lesser lights. On another day, they can blitz Manchester United with 3 goals in 20 minutes, or gun down the best team in Europe at the moment, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. It all depends on which Arsenal rock up on the day.

Mesut Ozil celebrates after scoring against Bayern Munich

Mesut Ozil celebrates after scoring against Bayern Munich

There could be a bit of a hangover from the high of beating Bayern, and if Arsenal aren’t careful, Everton could make them pay. The Toffees are coming off a 3-0 defeat to United, and coach Roberto Martinez will be seeking a response. In players like Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley, Everton possess the pace and power to test Arsenal’s high defensive line, and in Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, they have the necessary steel in midfield to try to shake Arsenal’s creative wizards out of their rhythm.

romelu-lukaku

Alot could depend on whether Arsene Wenger rests Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has had a busy few weeks banging in the goals for club and country, and looked a little leggy against Bayern. He is Arsenal’s most potent attacking weapon, and is arguably the best player in the English league at the moment. If he plays, Arsenal win, and win comfortably. If he doesn’t, I think they’ll find the going tough.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Everton

Manchester United v Manchester City (Sunday, 16:05 – Old Trafford)

Game of the weekend by a country mile, and what a cracker it is shaping up to be. United have faltered in recent weeks. They were lucky to only lose 3-0 against Arsenal, as the Gunners could feasibly have put 5 or 6 past David de Gea. City meanwhile have lost the league’s deadliest striker Sergio Aguero to injury, and could also be missing the influential presence of David Silva on Sunday. As the match is taking place at Old Trafford, United will start as the slight favourites. But City will definitely fancy their chances.

AgueroCelebrates1

Sergio Aguero has been ruled out for a month

City will look to mimic Arsenal’s performance against United; namely, to deliver the knockout blow before the end of the first round. United were completely overwhelmed by Arsenal’s direct and pacey approach, conceding three game-deciding goals in the first 20 minutes.

In Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, Pellegrini’s men have the pace to emulate Arsenal’s achievement. De Bruyne has truly hit the ground running since his move to England late in the transfer window, creating and scoring goals for fun. Sterling has shown glimpses of class; a big performance at Old Trafford will immediately place him in the fans’ hearts.

sterling

The midfield, specifically the gap between the defence and deep-sitting midfielder, will be a crucial area that City can exploit. David Silva, provided he’s fit, will aim to occupy this insecure space, looking to thread balls through to the striker or stretch the play by bringing in the wide players.

A further aspect that plays into City’s advantage is the often unpredictable United team selection. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have both played out of position in recent weeks. While Marcus Rojo’s return to fitness should resolve some of the issues, United will most likely continue to play Daley Blind, who is traditionally a midfielder, in defence. He is a solid player but the likes of De Bruyne and Silva could easily expose him. Ultimately, Louis Van Gaal is yet to decide on his favoured starting team, and this uncertainty is something City could look to exploit.

Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

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