Friday, October 22, 2021

Premier League Preview Match Week 9: High Flying Liverpool Visits Old Trafford; Top Meets Bottom; Seagulls Stalk Citizens; Hammers and Spurs in London Derby; Foxes Trot to Brentford; Saints Pray For Win

All eyes will be on the proceedings at Old Trafford this weekend when Liverpool visits Manchester United. Jurgen Klopp’s side is the only unbeaten team in the Premier League this season, 18 matches unbeaten extending to last season, as the club is a point off the pace of league leading Chelsea. The high scoring Reds have 22 goals on the season, six more than any other league club, and are led by Mohamed Salah’s joint league leading seven goals. Salah has scored in each of his last six league matches.

Manchester United has lost two of its last three in the league, sinking to sixth in the table on goal differential, sharing the same point total as West Ham and Everton. The Red Devils have allowed a score in each of their last twelve matches across all competitions at Old Trafford. They have not conceded in 13 consecutive home matches since 1964.

Top meets bottom when league leading Chelsea squares off versus cellar dweller Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Winless Norwich has scored only two league goals and has not led a match at any point this season as the Canaries have returned this season to torture Premier League fans yet again before they fly back to the Championship. While the outcome should not be in doubt, a rout may not be in the cards Saturday as Norwich has improved on defense with two recent goalless draws and Chelsea will be missing both Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, both injured during the week versus Malmo. Chelsea have not lost to Norwich in 17 matches dating to 1974.

Brighton will get the opportunity to show whether they are a Top Four or, more likely, Top Six, contender when they play host to Manchester City on the south shore.

The Seagulls are currently fourth in the table, trailing the Citizens by only two points. Only their Saturday opponent and table leading Chelsea have allowed fewer goals than the Seagulls this season. Unfortunately, Brighton’s own scoring difficulties has led to drawing its last three matches where the club has scored but once. Manchester City is undefeated since their surprising opening match defeat at Spurs, winning five of their last seven matches.

West Ham host a London derby, hoping to overtake fifth place Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs have won their last two matches to lift them one point ahead of their east London rivals. The Hammers want to crash back into the top six and played well in a win at Everton last week and in their mid-week Europa League win. After fielding a makeshift squad in their Europa Conference league this week, Spurs will revert to the strong line-up which has delivered two consecutive league wins. Harry Kane, scoring for a first time this season last week, has scored more Premier League goals against West Ham than any other club but Leicester.

Everton is hopeful of having Richarlison back in its lineup for this weekend’s match versus Watford. The absence of both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has muted the firepower of the Toffees in recent weeks. Unfortunately, Abdoulaye Doucoure, with a fractured foot, now joins Calvert-Lewin on the sidelines. Watford manager Claudio Ranieri, in his second match in charge at Watford, is winless in his last 23 away matches as a Premier League manager. Everton are unbeaten in 15 home matches against Watford in all competitions.

Ninth place Brentford are home to Leicester, hoping to increase their current one-point advantage in the table over the Foxes. Brentford Community Stadium has not been a safe haven for the Bees as both their losses this season have come at home and five of the seven goals the team has conceded have been scored in front of their home fans. Leicester is hoping to build on victories over Manchester United in the league last weekend and over Spartak Moscow in Europa League during the week.

Wolves will look to extend their winning streak to four matches with a fifth win in their last six league outings when they travel to Leeds. Manager Bruno Lage should have both Raul Jimenez and Francisco Trincao back to put further teeth in a Wolves attack which has improved greatly after failing to score in the season’s opening three matches. Leeds needs to kick into gear lest it be drawn into a relegation battle just one year after an impressive return to the league. The Whites look to again be without Kalvin Philips and Patrick Bamford but should be bolstered by having Rafinha back in the line-up.

Arsenal has a quick turnaround in league play when they face Aston Villa Friday after this past Monday’s draw with Crystal Palace. Villa will look forward to their London visit as only Manchester City and Chelsea have notched more road victories at the Emirates. A fifth 2021 home defeat by Arsenal would be the highest number of losses in a calendar year by the Gunners in 24 years. 12th place Arsenal, however, is unbeaten in its last five league matches and is currently a point above an Aston Villa side which has lost its last two matches, including a crushing late game collapse against Wolves last weekend.

Crystal Palace hosts Newcastle and interim Magpies’ manager Graeme Jones. Steve Bruce was sacked earlier this week by the northeast club’s new Saudi owners. Winless Newcastle is at dire relegation risk as only Norwich has fewer points in the table. Crystal Palace has been playing well but has squandered opportunities for wins versus Brighton and Arsenal in recent weeks by conceding late goals. The Eagles will be anxious to deliver a second win of the season in front of their home fans and should have Wilfried Zaha back from a recent illness.

Burnley travels to Southampton for a painful matchup between two of the three clubs yet to win in the league this season. Both clubs have struggled for goals with Southampton having difficulty in replacing departed striker Danny Ings and Burnley being Burnley. Separated by just a point in the table, the future would seem more promising for the youthful Saints whose roster reflects the third youngest average age in the league. Next to bottom Burnley has the league’s oldest roster as the sun may be setting on the Clarets’ current six-year Premier League run.

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