Amazon’s Premier League coverage on Prime Video received a lot of applause on social media, using a large roster of different pundits, commentators and presenters to cover all of the action. The streaming giant covered all ten midweek matches and they will continue to show a number of matches over the course of the season. It will be interesting to see how future Premier League rights are contested. By the end of the decade, could we be seeing English football spread out across Netflix and Amazon Prime? Who knows.
The coming set of matches revert back to Sky and BT, for the most part, although Amazon do host an attractive looking fixture at St Mary’s. Still, it’s Sky who has the pick of the weekend’s action.
Game of the week
Manchester United vs Leeds United: Old Trafford, Sunday 16.30
What a game this should be. The return of an old rivalry in the modern day!
Manchester United made hard work of their midweek win at Sheffield United. Dean Henderson gifted his old team a goal in the early stages and the Red Devils conceded a sloppy goal near the end to create a grandstand finish. United had stormed into a 3-1 lead, courtesy of a clinical double from Marcus Rashford and a neat finish from Antony Martial.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now achieved six consecutive away victories in the Premier League, despite falling behind in all six of those matches. A new record! However, the narrative is not as bright on home soil with United registering just one league win at Old Trafford, this season.
Leeds United are the entertainers of the division. They don’t have the finances of the big boys but they play like they are one of them. This style is indebted to Marcelo Bielsa and his gung-ho style of football; he doesn’t have an ounce of pragmatism in his body. The reason Bielsa was shortlisted for the FIFA Coach of the Year is because he plays football in such a wonderful way and achieves success by doing it. Finances are not a barrier.
Their 5-2 midweek victory against Newcastle United illustrates their attacking prowess. Patrick Bamford, their marksman, only scored once! Nonetheless, the match also illustrated their paper thin defence and the ease in which opponents can create opportunities. Thankfully, Illan Meslier is a wonderful goalkeeper and his heroics have often bailed out the lack of a defence that he has had in front of him.
United could benefit from the fact that Leeds will want to take the game to them. Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood are all players that thrive against a high-line. But Leeds are capable of coming to Manchester and getting a result. It should be the most exciting game of the weekend.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool: Selhurst Park, 12.30 (BT Sport)
Crystal Palace are rejuvenated. Wilfried Zaha’s return has lessened the creative burden on young Eberechi Eze and, as a result, the summer signing seems to be playing with more freedom. Equally, Christian Benteke has managed to get back amongst the goals and he will be hoping that his goal-scoring drought
Liverpool will be on cloud-nine. They took the game to an excellent Tottenham Hotspur team but looked set to share out the spoils. But the Anfield gods seem to shine down on Jurgen Klopp’s men when they play on home soil in the Premier League. They haven’t lost a league game at home since April 2017! Roberto Firmino’s late header was a sickener for Spurs but Liverpool were the team who were trying to take control of the game and, as a result, you couldn’t argue with them winning the match.
The Reds performed wonderfully well in midweek but they don’t seem to be performing as well on their travels. Liverpool have only won one of six Premier League matches, although four of those matches have been draws. However, this Palace team is starting to get into their groove. They will be without Benteke, who was sent off against West Ham United, but they still have an exciting attack that is starting to sparkle under Roy Hodgson’s pragmatism. A shock on the cards!
Southampton vs Manchester City: St Mary’s Stadium, 15.00 (Prime Video)
Southampton played like the top-six team at Arsenal. They took the game to Arsenal and controlled the match for large periods. The only disappointing thing was that they couldn’t find the win! The red card to Gabriel Mangalhaes actually seemed to benefit the Gunners, who then had an excuse to sit deep and battle for the point. However, the game illustrated just how far Southampton have come under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Manchester City weren’t particularly brilliant against West Bromwich Albion but they should have won the match 2-1 or 3-1. Sam Johnstone made some outstanding saves but Raheem Sterling was culpable at the end. He forced Johnstone into a stunning reflex save but he should have placed his header into either corner; the goal was gaping and he stood, eight-yards out, as free as a bird. People will criticise Pep Guardiola for City’s sloppy results but he cannot put the ball in the net for his wasteful attackers.
The signing of Ruben Dias has massively helped to boost City’s centre-back blues. A piece of the jigsaw solved! However, you get the sense that Guardiola needs a big summer transfer window, similar to that in 2017, in order to push his team forward again. Dias has absolutely improved the team but now the attack is starting to look stale.
It’s very possible to see City racking up a third draw in three matches because Southampton are a very impressive team that show no signs of slowing down.
Everton vs Arsenal: Goodison Park, 17.30 (Sky Sports)
Last week, you feared for Everton when it was announced that James Rodriguez would miss the upcoming matches. The Toffees may welcome back the silky Columbian against Arsenal but Carlo Ancelotti will be in no rush. His team have won back-to-back matches for the first time since the beginning of October, keeping two clean sheets in the process! Everton have had to work hard for their victories but the collective effort and application has been excellent.
Arsenal will take the positives from their draw with Southampton. Bukayo Saka was excellent and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has finally broken his goal-scoring duck. The Gunners also dug deep defensively to ensure that they were able to keep an exciting Southampton team at bay, after going down to ten men. This effort will have pleased Mikel Arteta after many reports were suggesting that the Spaniard had lost sections of the dressing room.
Ancelotti has adjusted his tactics wonderfully in light of Everton’s injury crisis. He will hope to welcome Rodriguez back into the fold but he will also want to see that same level of resilience from his players on the field. Does Rodriguez compromise that resilience? He certainly doesn’t work very hard! One would imagine that Rodriguez’s team-mates will be happy to carry his workload if the former Real Madrid man can deliver the creative goods.
Newcastle United vs Fulham: St James’ Park, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Newcastle may have scored twice against Leeds but they were abject at the back. To be fair, the heroics of goalkeeper Karl Darlow have really helped them over the line in a number of matches. Fan-favourite Martin Dubravka may have to settle for a place on the bench when he eventually returns from his long-term injury. But Darlow’s form highlights a lack of cohesion in Steve Bruce’s defence. They are a team that don’t set up to score a lot of goals so the lack of defensive assurances is particularly worrying.
Fulham are steadily tiptoeing into the land of possibility. They were everybody’s relegation certainty and now they suddenly look capable of staying in the division, but it will be tough. Their outstanding performance against Liverpool only yielded a point and they couldn’t beat a struggling Brighton & Hove Albion team at Craven Cottage. Finding victories is tough in the Premier League but they are playing a good brand of football and, most importantly, they are keeping themselves alive in a lot of matches.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the visitors threw the cat amongst the pigeons and got a victory, here. For my money, Newcastle have been the luckiest team in the division. They have got out of jail on so many occasions. It cannot keep happening. This is partly why fans of the club struggle to get behind Bruce. He plays a pragmatic game but Newcastle still don’t look at all convincing when they try to defend.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Sheffield United: AMEX Stadium, 12.00 (Sky Sports)
Brighton played out an entertaining goalless draw at Fulham. Both teams had chances but neither was quite clinical enough to nudge ahead and take the points. Neal Maupay is Brighton’s best striker and the most likely to score goals but his temperament isn’t great, hence why he is in and out of Graham Potter’s starting eleven.
Sheff United simply can’t buy any luck. They fought hard against their opponents but Aaron Ramsdale didn’t cover himself in glory. He wasn’t overly convincing on Man United’s first two goals but his mistake for Rashford’s second strike was as clear as day. Of course, Chris Wilder’s woes are not solely down to the goalkeeper. It’s a collective capitulation after the heroics of last season. A sad sight.
All things considered, Brighton will be expected to win this but the visitors cannot keep losing indefinitely. The Blades put in a good midweek performance and Wilder will hope to build on that in this match. A good opportunity to put an end to that horrendous losing run.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 14.15 (Sky Sports)
Poor Tottenham! They gave a good account of themselves against Liverpool but it just wasn’t to be. There were clear signs of classic Jose Mourinho teams, sitting very deep and springing the counter-attack in certain moments. The tactics nearly worked but Spurs weren’t clinical enough with their opportunities. Steven Bergwijn missed a very good opportunity but it was Harry Kane who squandered a golden chance, heading into the floor and wide from six-yards. All in all, the Londoners were second best at Anfield but they were a good second best.
Leicester City are more up and down than a hyperactive child who likes chocolate! A resounding 3-0 win against Brighton illustrated the apparent return to form of James Maddison after the midfielder bagged a brace. But no sooner were they tasting defeat to an injury-hit Everton team. Of course, the Europa League has affected their efforts in the league but Brendan Rodgers deserves credit for the way he has managed both competitions; the Foxes are still fifth in the table!
Mourinho will want an instant response and he will hope that he sees the more tired looking Leicester. Kane has a particularly good record against the Foxes and he will be hoping to put his terrible miss against Liverpool behind him.
West Bromwich Albion vs Aston Villa: The Hawthorns, 19.15 (BT Sport)
It’s a fierce Midlands derby but the headlines will surround the West Brom dugout. Slaven Bilic was harshly sacked after his team fought hard to secure a point at the Etihad. Less than 24 hours later, in comes Sam Allardyce. Reaction to this news was mixed and there were many sympathetic voices for Bilic. However, Alladryce’s knowhow when it comes to surviving the drop cannot be understated. He is a specialist.
Quite how Aston Villa didn’t beat Burnley is anybody’s guess. 59% possession. 27 shots. 22 chances created. No goals. Jack Grealish was sensational. He pulled all of the strings for Dean Smith’s team but even he couldn’t apply that final finish. If they played like that every week, they’d win nine games out of ten. Unfortunately for them, they faced an excellent goalkeeper and a defence that was willing to die for the cause.
It’s Allardyce’s first game in his new job and the players will be eager to impress their new manager. However, Villa have an excellent record on their travels and they will be expecting a similar match to the Burnley one.
Burnley vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: Turf Moor, 18.00 (Sky Sports)
Sean Dyche will have been delighted with the defensive resilience that his team showed against Aston Villa, but Burnley’s performance was far from perfect. They gave the ball away cheaply on a number of occasions and the lack of an attacking threat, particularly in the second-half, was a little concerning.
Wolverhampton Wanderers bounced back against Chelsea. They were sliding down the table but that unexpected victory has given them some respite. Nuno Espirito Santo reverted back to the tried and trusted back-three system and the change proved to be decisive. Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto were particularly excellent in the wide-forward roles, causing Chelsea all kinds of problems.
Last season, this match finished 1-1 and Raul Jimenez’s sensational volley was the headline act of a tight affair. The loss of Jimenez will be huge for Wolves but they have to keep faith with Fabio Silva; his physical presence is still important as a point-of-reference for direct balls. A lack of ruthlessness could be costly against a stingy Burnley defence.
Chelsea vs West Ham United: Stamford Bridge, 20.00 (Sky Sports)
Chelsea have faltered in recent matches. Defeats to Everton and Wolves have come in the absence of their creative midfielder, Hakim Ziyech, and, without him, the Blues have been overly reliant on the technical qualities of Reece James. Frank Lampard will also be disappointed with the defensive naivety in the past two matches, particularly from his goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
West Ham are flying. They didn’t win in midweek but what a goal from Sebastian Haller. He has struggled since his move from Eintracht Frankfurt but that was a moment of true quality. David Moyes will be hoping that this gets him going. Haller is a big physical presence and a classic Moyes striker and, with Michail Antonio’s injury worries, it’s important to have options in attack.
Three defeats in three would be disastrous for Lampard. This is a very unusual season and everybody seems to be having difficulties but Chelsea cannot afford to keep slipping up. They need to get back on the horse. Returning to Stamford Bridge after two away defeats might just be the tonic they need; but it won’t be easy!