The conclusion of the international break is usually a blessing – even if the England of 2018 have done rather more than previous iterations to offer a modicum of hope – and the weekend’s opener is almost always hotly anticipated. This weekend is no different.
Any Tottenham v Liverpool fixture is always guaranteed to whet the appetite, but this season’s was planned to be even bigger and better in that it was planned to coincide with the opening of Spurs’ new stadium. Except it hasn’t. Daniel Levy’s best made plans haven’t worked out and now the smart money is on Spurs finally moving in early in 2019.
So, Wembley it is. And for the Spurs faithful, patience remains a virtue. Especially so after a flying start to the Premier League season that came to an abrupt halt at Watford – just before the international break – when the Hornets came from behind to beat Pochettino’s men 2-1. The Spurs manager was far from happy and, while most of his squad went away on international duty straight after that match, he’ll still be demanding a response against Liverpool.
All of which makes for an intriguing afternoon in north-west London, especially with Spurs’ defeat at Watford coming just six days after their thrilling 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Clearly, Pochettino has to contend with a squad that had nine players involved in the latter stages of the World Cup, and a few are unquestionably showing signs of fatigue.
It is a squad that saw literally no new faces arrive in the summer and so it will take great skill from the Argentinian to juggle his squad and maximise the resources available. And Liverpool, who have conceded only one in the league so far this season, will offer them their sternest test so far. The likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli will need to find performance levels that have so far eluded them; Kane, in particular, looking to shake off a World Cup hangover that has so far shown few signs of abating.
Liverpool meanwhile are in fine fettle, and after kicking off their league campaign with an emphatic 4-0 home win against West Ham, have managed to acquire maximum points since but without reaching the same level of performance. The old adage of ‘top sides still picking up points even while they’re not at their best’ – a trait of the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s – has been trotted out by several experts.
The Reds’ attacking triumvirate of Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino have hit the ground running after a thrilling finish to last season and already have seven goals between them. And in addition to their existing threat, they now have Naby Keïta behind them in the engine room, who has adapted seamlessly into Premier League life.
At the back they are governed and organised by the imperious figure of Virgil van Dijk and behind them a new superstar keeper in the form of Alisson who, despite a few early season jitters, looks a significant upgrade on their goalkeeping options of previous seasons.
This weekend’s game represents the first of the seven matches for Liverpool in the space of less than a month – PSG (Champions League), Southampton (PL), Chelsea (Caribou Cup), Chelsea (PL), Napoli (Champions League) and Man City (PL) – and Jurgen Klopp will be keen to start this crucial spell with a win.
Given that home advantage is somewhat lost for Spurs while they still ‘lodge’ at Wembley, this, to us, is a game that has ‘draw’ written all over it, although the Lillywhites will look to their 4-1 win in the equivalent fixture last season. Liverpool though are an extremely hard side to beat right now, but this needs to be weighed up against their 100 per cent record being smashed at some stage and the fact that Spurs are their toughest opponents so far.
Of more relevance is the 2-2 at Anfield last season, and we can see this one being very tight indeed, with the 1-1 ( +640 with 188bet) looking particularly enticing with two well-drilled defences who specialise in keeping it tight.
In their head-to-heads, it’s very much advantage Liverpool with the Reds having won 80 times compared to Spurs’ 48 wins.
We’re suckers for a first goalscorer bet, and in this one we have an inkling that Liverpool will use their momentum to edge themselves ahead – possibly through Roberto Firmino who at +650 with 888sports looks pretty good value.
Tottenham and Liverpool to draw 1-1
Saturday 15, September. 12:30 GMT
Roberto Firmino to be first goalscorer
Saturday 15, September. 12:30 GMT
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After a disappointing start to the season, in which they suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal now find themselves seeking a third straight Premier League win – Newcastle United standing in their way.
Since their torrid opening to the season, Unai Emery’s team have since enjoyed wins against West Ham and Cardiff and as a result have climbed to ninth in the table. Also as a result, the Arsenal ship feels like it has been steadied,
Newcastle, on the other hand, currently reside in 18th after three consecutive defeats and are without a win so far this season. The black and white ship feels anything but steady, but having beaten Arsenal at home last season, Rafa Benitez will be looking to utilise last season’s surprise 2-1 win to inspire his ailing troops. He’ll be hoping to engineer another win which will in turn kickstart his team’s campaign.
Rafa will also be hoping that the continued venom that is constantly directed at owner Mike Ashley will not feed through to his players and create a negative atmosphere in St James’ Park. At its raucous, pulsating best, it’s a stadium that can be worth a goal start to the Magpies.
In terms of head-to-heads, the two sides have met 46 times in the Premier League alone with Newcastle winning 10 times – six of those victories coming at home – while the Gunners have won on 26 occasions, with nine of the victories coming in Newcastle.
For Emery there is only one serious injury doubt and that is around Uruguayan international Lucas Torreira, who returned home from international duty with a calf injury. His problem will be assessed before the Gunners make the trip north. Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles remain sidelined through their ongoing injuries, while Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson are both not expected to resume full training until October.
Newcastle will definitely be without long-term absentee Florian Lejeune, but will be hoping that Jonjo Shelvey, Javi Manquillo and Matt Ritchie will all be available for selection at the weekend.
Arsenal are unsurprisingly viewed by the bookies as odds on for the win (10/11) but, despite them going for three wins in a row, we’re unconvinced that Emery has yet to get his message fully across and there looks to be a vulnerability and uncertainty about the Gunners’ defence – in particular their desire to play the ball out from the back at all costs. Benitez is a canny operator and will be looking to exploit this. He’ll also be looking for some tempo to the Magpies’ play that will get the locals on board.
So, for that reason, and because we expect Benitez to persevere also with keeping things very tight at the back, we can see a narrow surprise win for Newcastle – one that is bound to produce a good return. So, at an incredible +1300 (with BetVictor) we consider a bet on 1-0 well worthy of a shot.
And while we’re on the theme of a 1-0 home win, give some thought to Salamon Rondon being the one to nab the goal. In midweek he netted a brace for Venezuela in their friendly win over Panama and will be bursting full of confidence. At +800 with Betway, we consider that decent value.
Newcastle to win 1-0
Saturday 15, September. 15:00 GMT
Salamon Rondon – First goalscorer
Saturday 15, September. 15:00 GMT
As Premier League season openings go, West Ham’s is up there with the worst of them. The ‘start from hell’ has been used several times to describe their four opening games, with Hammers’ fans clinging on to a solitary win away at Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup as a reason to be cheerful. In truth, they’re kidding themselves.
Manuel Pellegrini’s start to his managerial career in the East End has gone just about as badly as it could have, and despite being among the Premier League’s biggest spenders over the summer months, little has happened on the pitch to offer too much hope. Away defeats at Arsenal and Liverpool were always going to be tricky games in fairness, but it’s the home defeats to Bournemouth and Wolves that have filled the column inches and webpages.
Already questions are being asked over the Chilean’s suitability for the job although, in truth, their travails are as much down to a large group of new players struggling to come to terms with the tempo and intensity of the Premier League.
And things don’t get any easier for them this weekend with a trip to Marco Silva’s Everton, who themselves will be desperate to get back to winning ways after dropping points at home to Huddersfield just before the international break.
But still, the Toffees remain unbeaten under Silva and in their two previous home matches, prior to the Huddersfield game, they beat Southampton in the league and Rotherham in the Carabao Cup. What they have failed to achieve so far – and is something that will offer the Hammer some hope – is a clean sheet, and so Pellegrini will be emphasising the importance of ‘getting at’ the Everton defence, and not letting them settle.
What Pellegrini also needs is for his big, expensive names to start delivering, with only Felipe Anderson and Lukasz Fabianski, of the new boys, showing anything like the form West Ham fans were expecting. Of equal concern is how the central midfield combination of Jack Wilshere and either Mark Noble or Carlos Sanchez has failed to dominate possession at any stage in the way that Pellegrini wants.
Everton fans have had rather more to cheer with regard to summer signings – which was admittedly on a much smaller scale than West Ham’s – with Richarlison, in particular, hitting the ground running in the way that Silva had hoped. That he’s unavailable at the weekend is good news for West Ham.
But it’s not just the news signings who have excited the Goodison faithful. Experienced players are fitting nicely into Silva’s set-up, especially Theo Walcott, who is showing signs of the exhilarating form that made him such a favourite at the Emirates in his younger days. The Allardyce era and its football of attrition has made way for a more exciting, entertaining brand of football.
Worryingly for West Ham, if they are unable to pick up a point or three at Goodison, they then have an extremely tricky run of fixtures; namely Chelsea (H), Man Utd (H), Brighton (A), Spurs (H) and Leicester (A).
All of which makes for a particularly tricky and nervy afternoon for West Ham fans who are travelling up to Merseyside or those who will be watching on TV. Everton’s attractive, attacking style is such that they always look as if they have a goal in them and with West Ham’s confidence at a horribly low ebb, an early goal for the home side could spell disaster.
We think this is a distinct possibility, even without Richarlison, and if it happens it’s possible that West Ham heads could drop with a collective feeling of ‘here we go again’. More Everton goals could be there for the taking and so we think that 2-0 to the Toffees ( +1050 with BetVictor) looks a value bet.
In addition, the aforementioned Theo Walcott is looking sharp and eager, and we fancy him for a goal. With Betway offering more than double-your-money at +230 , we consider this well worth a wager.
Everton to beat West Ham 2-0
Sunday, 16 September. 16:00 GMT
Theo Walcott – Anytime goalscorer
Sunday, 16 September. 16:00 GMT