Welcome back to Joining the Dots!
After I’ve remained quiet during the FA Cup – distracted by VAR controversies and West Brom’s kind visit to my hometown Barcelona – the Premier League is back and so am I. Join me in my effort to try and make fixtures like Burnley v Southampton appealing.
LEICESTER V STOKE
Two teams who we don’t really expect any entertainment from, attempt to entertain us on Saturday lunchtime. There’s nothing better to whet your appetite for the amazing 3pm fixtures such as the astounding ‘West Brom v Huddersfield’, and perennial classic ‘Brighton v Swansea’. We will watch Leicester break Stoke down in a rather underwhelming way, until Vardy eventually decides the game from the penalty spot as usual. Four of Vardy’s 13 goals in the Premier League have been scored this way, and with Stoke’s calamitous defending the next to face him, he may well score another.
WEST BROM V HUDDERSFIELD
A rather quiet week for these two clubs, who will definitely play out an uneventful game at the Hawthorns. Who am I kidding? West Brom were at the centre of a scandal in Spain, and Huddersfield were on the positive end of a VAR disaster. In the case of the Baggies, Gareth Barry, a consummate professional footballer turned joyrider, was found to have stolen a taxi in Barcelona along with fellow pensioners Boaz Myhill, Jonny Evans and Jake Livermore. What kind of response will we see from them in this game? Hopefully their lawyers won’t construct it, or we could be in for a dull spectacle.
BOURNEMOUTH V NEWCASTLE
This really is a boring game between two clubs who couldn’t hit the headlines if they tried. Bournemouth are famous for beating Liverpool on occasion, but being very average for the rest of the season. Newcastle are famous for impersonating a big club. I just checked, and the teams lie 10th and 13th respectively, so there’s hardly anything for them to play for either. I’m really struggling here. What may happen? If Newcastle live up to way they performed in their 1-0 win over Manchester United last time out, they may still scrape a draw here.
LIVERPOOL V WEST HAM
Mo Salah is to be released on the Hammers. If he scores again, we may see increased footfall in mosques across Liverpool according to his latest fan chant. Liverpool come off the back of a thumping 5-0 win against Porto in the Champions League, and West Ham arrive at Anfield fresh from a victory against Watford 11 days ago. Both teams will be high on confidence, and plenty of goals wouldn’t be a surprise here. It would just be a surprise if they were scored by Angelo Ogbonna, for example.
BRIGHTON V SWANSEA
Must I do this? Just imagining the slow pace of this match in my head infuriates me. Both sides will struggle to pass the ball to players in the same colour shirt, throw-ins will be aplenty, and some of those will probably be foul throws. Especially as the 0-0 comes to a boil in the 75th minute and both teams are rushing to score the winning tap in.
BURNLEY V SOUTHAMPTON
This is an example of a game which falls under the category of ‘defence vs defence’ – one you instinctively don’t want to watch. If you watch it, you are burdened with the terrible play in front of you. If you don’t, you miss Southampton’s most exciting game of the season as Shane Long curls in a 94th minute strike to make it 3-4. Burnley are 7th while the Saints are struggling in 18th place. Something tells me that Southampton may be slightly hungrier for this one.
WATFORD V EVERTON
The reverse fixture earlier in the season finished 3-2 to Everton, and marked the start of Watford’s downturn in form, which still doesn’t appear to be over. I’m not sure Richarlison has even thought about scoring a goal since that game. Hopefully we get more of the same, but with the Premier League’s insistence on irrelevant fixtures this week (11th vs 9th), who knows.
CRYSTAL PALACE V SPURS
The two games on Sunday will bring more entertainment than Saturday’s games ever would, even if they were played a hundred times. A feisty London derby, which is great, except for the fact that both of the teams in a derby usually have a chance of winning – Palace will likely have their work cut out here as their opponents chase a top 4 spot. Spurs would have been on a high after their 2-2 draw in Turin, but rather underwhelmed after their 2-2 draw in… Rochdale. They should have enough to get past Crystal Palace here, though.
MANCHESTER UNITED V CHELSEA
Some strange happenings at these two teams as of late. Relationships are deteriorating left, right and centre. Pogba is reportedly unhappy with Mourinho, Conte can’t stand the directors, and Morata just has a bad relationship with goalscoring. It’s like a bad episode of Love Island. A game which used to promise goals, excitement and Fergie Time, now will definitely include lots of diving, arguing and defensive tactics. With any luck, Pogba will throw a tantrum on the substitutes’ bench to keep things interesting.
ARSENAL V MANCHESTER CITY
Manchester City, still pouring cold water over their Will Grigg-induced burns, will be up for the challenge here at Arsenal. An angry team with the likes of De Bruyne and Aguero will only result in some magnificent passes, ferocious shots and punches thrown. Arsenal however, may still be recovering from the amount of effort they had to put in against Ostersund. If they lose, Wenger will be complaining that their trip to freezing cold Norway was much more energy-sapping than City’s potentially tricky Champions League tie in Basel.