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BPL Preview – Week 6

The 2015/16 Barclays Premier League is certainly heating up. The first five rounds have proven that nothing can be taken for granted in the world’s most entertaining league. Week 6 kicks off with a cracker between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Bridge. TheYellowCap writer Aziz Jacobs takes a look at the key fixtures.

Chelsea v Arsenal

Where: Stamford Bridge, London

When: Saturday, 13:45

Form: Chelsea DLWLL; Arsenal LWDWW

Bookies: Chelsea 29/20; Draw 5/2; Arsenal 2/1

What a difference a day makes. If looks could kill, Jose Mourinho’s pre-Champions League press conference on Tuesday would have been a massacre. The Chelsea boss was in the prickliest of moods, firing out barbed, petulant responses to the “crisis” questions  thrown at him from the assembled members of the media.

Jose Mourinho was in fiery mood on Tuesday

Cut to Wednesday evening, as Chelsea recorded English football’s only positive Champions League result. The smiling, charismatic Mourinho we all know was back. A 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv brought the buzz back to Stamford Bridge, providing the Blues with a much needed boost ahead of the visit of Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime.

Over in Zagreb, Arsenal were falling to pieces. A limp 2-1 defeat means it’s back to the drawing board for the Gunners, and it already looks likes another roller coaster season is in store for the Gooner faithful.

Olivier Giroud, the scape goat for much of the Arsenal fans’ frustrations in recent months, didn’t help his case when he was sent off in the Croatian capital. It hasn’t been an easy last few months for the big Frenchman. He was labelled not good enough to win Arsenal the league by Thierry Henry (someone who knows all about what it takes to do just that), and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Gunners then very publicly pursued alternative forwards in the recent transfer window.

Olivier Giroud trudges off after being shown a red card against Dinamo Zagreb

Olivier Giroud trudges off after being shown a red card against Dinamo Zagreb

Theo Walcott came off the bench to score Arsenal’s consolation in midweek, and is pushing for a more regular starting berth as the main man in the Gunners attack. If I were Arsene Wenger, I’d pull Giroud out of the firing line for his own good, and let Walcott loose on John Terry and co. But Le Prof is notoriously stubborn, and will do the exact opposite of what the rest of the world is begging him to do. Expect Giroud to start, be completely ineffectual, and then for Walcott to come on and score a late consolation for Arsenal yet again.

Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal

Manchester City v West Ham

Where: Etihad St:adium, Manchester

When: Saturday, 18:30

Form: Manchester City WWWWW; West Ham WLLWW

Bookies: City 4/15; Draw 11/2; West Ham 10/1

On paper, based on Premier League form alone, there should only be one winner. City will seek to preserve their 100% record when the Hammers come to town on Saturday evening, with Manuel Pellegrini’s men having won each of their opening five fixtures in the top flight.

They’ve yet to even concede a goal in the league, but the caveat to all of their domestic dominance is that they slipped to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Alvaro Morata celebrates his winning goal for Juventus against Manchester City

Alvaro Morata celebrates his winning goal for Juventus against Manchester City

What effect will that defeat have on the psyche of the Citizens? A tricky test against a confident Hammers side isn’t the most ideal fixture they would have wanted to face off the back of their first defeat of the season. Slaven Bilic’s side will be in confident mood, having already beaten Arsenal and Liverpool on their travels this term.

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But City boast an embarrassment of riches in their attack, and you can bet they’ll come flying out of the blocks to ensure they return to winning ways. I’m backing the Blues to win, and win well.

Southampton v Manchester United

Where: St Mary’s, Southampton

When: Sunday, 17:00

Form: Southampton DLDWD; United WWDLW

Bookies: Southampton 41/20; Draw 9/4; United 6/4

It’s been a rather strange start to the season for Manchester United, who have managed to win three of their opening five games without ever really playing well.

Regardless of results, question marks remain over the style of football on display, with Louis van Gaal’s preoccupation with possession often making United look pedestrian and ponderous, lacking the speed and spark associated with the club in recent years.

A glum-looking Manchester United bench during the 2-1 defeat to PSV Eindhoven

A glum-looking Manchester United bench during the 2-1 defeat to PSV Eindhoven

On the flip side, it can be argued that the Red Devils have done well to grind out results in the early stages of the campaign before performances inevitably improve as time goes on and the squad gains cohesion.

Southampton fans will also have mixed feelings about the way their team has begun 2015/16. Failing to qualify for the Europa League group stage feels like a missed opportunity for a club who have not competed in Europe for 12 years, while Ronald Koeman’s side have been a little blunt at times in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, the Saints have only lost once in the top flight so far and, although three of their five matches have ended with the scores level, they have generally looked hard to beat – with the notable exception of the 3-0 reverse to Everton.

Koeman has spent lengthy spells as Van Gaal's assistant in the past

Koeman has spent lengthy spells as Van Gaal’s assistant in the past

The slight concern for Koeman will be that the fixture list handed Southampton a relatively easy start; with clashes against Swansea, Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool to follow after the visit of United on Sunday, Southampton will need to step up a level if they are to keep in touch with the top eight in the coming weeks.

Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Manchester United

Liverpool v Norwich City

Where: Anfield, Liverpool

When: Sunday, 17:00

Form: Liverpool WWDLL; Norwich LWDLW

Bookies: Liverpool 3/5; Draw 3/1; Norwich 19/4

Norwich represent the first of four consecutive home games for Liverpool that will be as much a test of Anfield’s support for Brendan Rodgers as his ability to produce a winning, cohesive team. Liverpool have been prolific in this fixture in recent years, scoring five goals in three of the past four meetings, but that was when Luis Suárez was running amok for Reds.

Alex Neil’s team may also be a different proposition now. Defeat at Southampton last month was Norwich’s first in 15 away games under the Scot.

The Canaries play with a fast tempo, and they have to stick with that at Anfield, but even so I still think Liverpool will have too much for them, especially because Philippe Coutinho is back from suspension.

Philippe Coutinho returns for Liverpool after serving a suspension

Philippe Coutinho returns for Liverpool after serving a suspension

If Brendan Rodgers picks a balanced team with players in their correct positions, and gets the ball up to Christian Benteke a little bit quicker, then this is a game Liverpool should win.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Norwich

Full Fixtures

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