Welcome back – do you feel refreshed? I’d like to say I do, but given the state of things in the world at large, I’ll settle for anything short of absolute exhaustion. Matchweek 9 kicks off what will be a long slog for many teams and players, but an utter delight for the avid fan. We’re not far off from the “Festive Period” in the Premier League, and there isn’t another international break on the horizon until next March. So, buckle up and prepare for a LOT of soccer in the coming weeks (assuming that the current trend of the COVID pandemic doesn’t throw a wrench into the schedule). Now, let’s get down to brass tacks for Matchweek 9 in the Premier League.
Saturday, November 21st:
Newcastle v. Chelsea
The Magpies are nothing if not consistent. Their season thus far has been a repeated pattern of W, L, D. If they follow suit, they’ll manage a draw against Chelsea to open the weekend at St. James’ Park. They’ve performed as expected for the most part this season, and currently sit 13th in the table. They’ll have a tall task against Frank Lampard’s men as they look to gain ground on the leaders above them.
The Blues come back from the break looking to pick up right where they left off in the league. They’ve been on a goal-scoring tear all season, leading the league with 20 goals in total. In 6 of their 8 games thus far, they’ve managed to score at least three goals. When you have the weapons that Frank Lampard has at his disposal, the odds are good that the trend will continue, even against a Steve Bruce squad that tends to defend first and look to score on the counter. They may not get to 3 in this, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chelsea prevail here.
Aston Villa v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Their piping hot start to the 2020-2021 culminated with a 7-2 drubbing of Liverpool, but things cooled off considerably after that. The 1-0 victory over Leicester was followed by losses to Leeds and Southampton. They righted the ship with a 3-9 win against Arsenal before the break, and will look to carry that momentum into this weekend’s clash with Brighton. They’ve never lost to Brighton, and there’s no reason to think they won’t prevail here.
The Seagulls’ early promise this season is starting to fade. While they’ve had many good showings, they simply haven’t had the results. If they hope to stick in the top flight, they’ll need to get over the hump and notch some wins. Entertaining football is great, but if the results don’t start to go in their favor, they’ll find themselves playing that football in the Championship next season.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester City
If not the match of the weekend, this should prove to be the best fixture of the day at least. Spurs sit second in the table and will look to hold off a City side looking to improve upon their current 10th place standing. They’ll be without Erik Lamela, who is currently in a boot, as well as Matt Doherty, who has tested positive for COVID-19. They’ll be looking to improve upon a rather lackluster performance against West Brom before the break where an 88th minute goal from Kane salvaged the points.
City come back from the break with some good news, as it’s possible they’ll have some of their missing players back from injury. Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho may be available to Pep Guardiola ahead of this crucial match, and Raheem Sterling’s knock that caused him to miss international duty appears to not be that serious, making him a potential factor as well. Pep’s men are still looking to find their form and string together some victories. A result here would go a long way toward getting back into contention for a spot in Europe. As a neutral, I hope this match delivers all of the excitement it promises.
Manchester United v. West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies have a tall task ahead of them in this fixture, at least on paper. They are one of three teams who’ve yet to notch a win this season, and this match could extend that streak by another week. Of course, given the way the season has been going for the Red Devils, there may be a sliver of hope yet.
This is a game that United MUST win. On paper, it should be a no-brainer. The Red Devils are welcoming a newly promoted, winless side to Old Trafford. All the ingredients are there for a victory. There is some reason for concern, however. United have yet to win at home this season, and they’ve conceded more home goals than any other side in the league so far. That having been said, they should have enough weapons and depth to take maximum points in this one.
Sunday, November 22nd:
Fulham v. Everton
This should prove to be a more intriguing, harder fought match than many might have expected. Fulham finally found the win column recently, beating West Brom 2-0 in Matchweek 7. They nearly shared points with West Ham in their last fixture before a stoppage time strike from Tomas Soucek left them on the short side of the result. Recent form for the visitors will leave Fulham with hope as they take the field at Craven Cottage.
Everton need to stop the bleeding. They came out blazing, winning their first 4 fixtures of the season against Spurs, West Brom, Crystal Palace, and Brighton. They managed a 2-2 draw with the defending champions, but since then, they seem to have lost their way. Consecutive defeats to Southampton, Newcastle, and Manchester United have left them 7th in the table. This fixture offers them a chance to turn things around as they prepare for some tough matchups in the coming weeks. If they hope to stay in the mix for Europe, they need to take all three points here.
Sheffield United v. West Ham United
What happened to the Blades? They took the league by storm last season, finishing 9th in their return to the top tier. Things have come crashing down on them so far this year, as they currently find themselves at the bottom of the table, looking up at everyone else. They’ve secured only one point – from a 1-1 draw with Fulham a month ago. Recent history against West Ham is favorable for Sheffield, but they’ll need to play better than they have if they hope to finally notch a win.
The Hammers have run the gauntlet in the league recently, but have held their own. They posted a victory over Leicester and followed that with draws against Spurs and Man City. If not for a late Diogo Jota goal, they may well have shared points with Liverpool before the break. Sheffield should be a welcome change from the level of competition they’ve faced of late, but they’ll still have to be on their game to avoid a shock result against the Blades.
Leeds United v. Arsenal
This match has a fair bit of promise, and could prove to be an exciting contest. Both clubs are coming off defeats and will be looking to take points at the expense of their opponent.
Leeds have conceded more goals than any other club in the league (except West Brom – they’re tied at 17 goals allowed). Their last two fixtures have seen them on the losing end of 4-1 scorelines, against Leicester and Crystal Palace. They’ll welcome Arsenal to Elland Road hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss, which would be a first under Marcelo Bielsa. Their recent form against Arsenal will need to change if they want to get back in the win column.
Arsenal have had their own struggles of late, losing 3 of their last 4 matches. The lone win came against an inconsistent Manchester United team. In each of those losses, the Gunners have failed to score. They’ll be looking for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to find his scoring boots in this one to help them secure all three points.
Liverpool v. Leicester City
The defending Champions will welcome the current league leaders to Anfield in another match filled with potential at the top of the table.
Liverpool have had a rough go of it lately, dealing with a rash of injuries in recent weeks. They saw Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson pick up knocks while on international duty, which adds to an already long list of players dealing with injuries. Their back line has been decimated, and dealing with the speed of Jamie Vardy could be tricky. As if that wasn’t enough of a headache, striker Mo Salah has tested positive for COVID. Klopp will have to work some of his managerial magic if he’s going to keep Liverpool in the mix to defend their crown.
The Foxes make the trip to Anfield riding a three game winning streak. They’ve bested Arsenal, Leeds, and Wolves in their journey back to the top of the table. Vardy and company will be chomping at the bit and hungry for all the points against a depleted Liverpool side. There was some concern for their keeper over the break, as Kasper Schmeichel was involved in a gnarly collision while playing against Iceland on international duty. Since then, all indications are that it wasn’t as serious as it could’ve been and he’ll likely be able to man the goal for Leicester. A victory will help put some distance between them and their competition at the top as the fixture list gets more congested.
Monday, November 23rd:
Burnley v. Crystal Palace
Turf Moor hasn’t been very kind to Burnley this season. They have failed to find the back of the net in any of their home fixtures, and have only scored three goals all season. That, as well as their 19 shots on target, is good for last in the Premier League. That is a big reason that they have failed to win a game so far this campaign.
Palace come into this match off a 4-1 victory over Leeds their last time out. They prevailed in a wide open affair, and will look to take all three points from Sean Dyche’s side in this one. Wilf Zaha has been in fine form all season. He is likely to play a part in this fixture, which should see the Eagles come away with the points.
Wolves v. Southampton
Matchweek 9 concludes with a clash between two sides in the top half of the table.
Southampton have rounded into form of late and become a force to reckon with. They’re unbeaten in their last five matches with wins over West Brom, Everton, Aston Villa, and Newcastle. They also drew with Chelsea in what was a statement match for the Saints. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the international break will have on the momentum they were riding.
Wolves have had a rather quiet campaign thus far, flying under the radar, but taking care of business for the most part. After a run of 4 games unbeaten (3 wins, 1 draw), they stumbled against league leaders Leicester City their last time out. Points are there for the taking in this one, but they’ll definitely have to put in a shift if they want to claim them.