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THE EPL IS BACK! – ROUND 9 PREVIEWS, PICKS AND ADVICE

Pep v Jose; Ole’s job on the line; Can Liverpool’s makeshift defence cope with Jamie Vardy?

PHOTO COURTESY OF AFP

After another meaningless international break, the real deal – the English Premier League – is back.

And there are a couple of big games to focus on.

Top of the list is Spurs v Man City – Pep v Jose … we are giving the edge to … PEP – only because we are no fans of Jose here!

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to play Russian Roulette with his job – a defeat at home to WBA would surely seal his fate.

The other big question ahead of the weekend is: can Liverpool’s injury-hit, makeshift defence handle Jamie Vardy and Leicester?

For LongBallers (www.thelongball.net) we are sticking with our away win double-point strategy for now with fans still not allowed back yet, although with no obvious bankers this could easily be a 3-draw round (2.5 bonus points). Picking our 3 bankers this week is very tough … but we are going with Chelsea, Man United and Everton.

Mark Lawrenson from BBC Football always does a nice summary – even though we don’t always agree with his picks – so here it is along with betting odds.

Newcastle v Chelsea
Newcastle will be awkward, perhaps even more so than usual, after their non-performance in their defeat at Southampton last time out. Magpies boss Steve Bruce will try to make them much tighter, and they will have to be to keep Chelsea out.
Frank Lampard’s side were just hitting their stride before the international break, especially in attack – they created so many chances in their win over Sheffield United.
Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz are out of this game but that would still allow the Blues to name pretty much the same team that beat the Blades. At the back, Thiago Silva is a doubt because he has only just got back from international duty, but I’d still expect Chelsea to win comfortably.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
MyTwoCents prediction: 1-4
Betting odds:
 Newcastle 6.00, Draw 4.60, Chelsea 1.50

Aston Villa v Brighton
I really like the way Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley link up for Aston Villa and Ollie Watkins is doing well in his first season in the Premier League.
When everything clicks, Villa look very good. They completely outplayed Arsenal at the start of this month and had that extraordinary win over Liverpool in October.
But they have also lost at home to Leeds and Southampton in the past couple of weeks, so it is not easy to predict what they will do next.
I am also not sure what to expect from Brighton. At the start of the season, in games against Chelsea, Newcastle and Manchester United, they looked very dangerous going forward.
That hasn’t been the case recently against West Brom and Burnley, though. The Seagulls have drawn a lot of games in the past few weeks, and I think they could end up sharing the points again.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
MyTwoCents prediction: 2-0
Betting odds:
 Villa 2.15, Draw 3.60, Brighton 3.25

Spurs v Man City
Both of these teams are on a really good run so this will be a really good yardstick for where they are at.
We know the kind of form Harry Kane is in at the moment for Spurs but City are looking a lot more solid defensively, and they will have a fit Gabriel Jesus to lead their attack.
It is going to be close, but I would go with Pep Guardiola to get one over Jose Mourinho.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
MyTwoCents prediction: 1-2
Betting odds:
 Spurs 4.10, Draw 3.80, Man City 1.83

Man United v WBA
Manchester United have not won at home in the Premier League this season but that really has to change on Saturday.
United had a very good win at Everton last time out but, on top of their collapse against Spurs, they have struggled to break teams down at Old Trafford, notably when they lost to Crystal Palace on the opening weekend of the season.
I think this is just the way United are at the moment, and the lack of a crowd certainly doesn’t help, but I still expect them to find a way past the Baggies.
If they don’t, they have got big problems.

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0
MyTwoCents prediction: 4-1
Betting odds:
 Man United 1.30, Draw 5.50, WBA 9.75

Fulham v Everton
Fulham will feel they should have got something from
their visit to West Ham and, if they get a penalty in this game, it’s safe to say that Ademola Lookman will not be taking it.
Everton haven’t won for a while now – after drawing the Merseyside derby they have lost their past three league games.
So, this has become a big game for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. They began the season in excellent form but they are on a poor run and they really need to kickstart their campaign with a win at Craven Cottage.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
MyTwoCents prediction: 0-2
Betting odds:
 Fulham 4.00, Draw 3.80, Everton 1.85

Sheff United v West Ham
It’s surprising to see Sheffield United struggling so badly. The worrying thing for them last time out was not that they lost to Chelsea, but that they had such a soft centre.
That is unusual for Chris Wilder’s team so the alarm bells will be ringing. I am backing them to turn the corner this weekend, though.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
MyTwoCents prediction: 0-1
Betting odds:
 Sheff United 3.00, Draw 3.30, West Ham 2.40

Leeds v Arsenal
There’s surely got to be a reaction from Arsenal, after such a poor performance in their defeat by Aston Villa.
But I am going to go with Leeds here. They had a heavy defeat of their own, against Crystal Palace, but that game might have been a very different story if Patrick Bamford’s equaliser had not been ruled out by a ridiculous offside decision.
I really do think this game is especially hard to call, but that is Leeds at the moment – they will go for it, but give the opposition chances.
With the Gunners, the question is more about whether they turn up as a team – a case of ‘same old Arsenal’ if you like. They had just started to improve and had looked as if they were about to kick on under Mikel Arteta but instead they have been very inconsistent.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
MyTwoCents prediction: 1-2
Betting odds:
 Leeds 3.10, Draw 3.75, Arsenal 2.15

Liverpool v Leicester
Liverpool are short of fit centre-halves and they also need to find a way of dealing with Jamie Vardy’s pace.
It may well be that they use Fabinho alongside Joel Matip at the back, if the Brazilian midfielder is fit after his hamstring injury, or ask Jordan Henderson to drop back into defence if Fabinho is not ready yet.
Nat Phillips is a natural centre-half of course, but his real strength is heading and Leicester never really load the box and send in a lot of crosses.
Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is out too and whether it is Neco Williams or James Milner who replaces him on Sunday, it will be as part of a back four that have never played a competitive game together as a unit before.
Vardy is probably scenting blood. They will do very well to keep him quiet.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
MyTwoCents prediction: 2-1
Betting odds:
 Liverpool 1.95, Draw 3.70, Leicester 3.75


Burnley v Crystal Palace
Like Sheffield United, Burnley have made an awful start to the season. Again, I don’t think they are as bad as their results suggest and a first league victory of the campaign is not far away.
Palace carry more of an attacking threat but this is unlikely to be an open game, full of free-flowing football. It will be a battle, and it is one that the Clarets can win.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

MyTwoCents prediction: 0-1
Betting odds:
 Burnley 2.75, Draw 3.10, Palace 2.75

Wolves v Southampton
Southampton showed they could cope without Danny Ings when they brushed Newcastle aside before the international break. This is a much sterner test, however.
Saints are not just well-organised, they are forward-thinking. I really like the way they look to move the ball forward, get people in wide areas and stretch the opposition.
But they are up against Wolves, who are really canny team and have got a bit of class too.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side very rarely have off nights. Yes, they keep things very tight but they are what I would call a probing team. Once they find a weakness, they are in.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
MyTwoCents prediction: 2-0
Betting odds:
 Wolves 2.30, Draw 3.25, Saints 3.20

Written by johnnyrocket

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