Joining the Dots

After an international break which has dragged on for much longer than it was ever welcome to, Joining the Dots is back for an extra enthusiastic look at the Premier League’s upcoming fixtures…


I don’t know what to make of this. Perhaps the schedulers felt so sorry that we have had to put up with England games over the last week, they actually caught me by surprise with a fairly decent fixture up first on Saturday lunchtime. Liverpool will be on a high after their 5-0 trouncing of Watford, with Mo Salah surely itching to get back onto the pitch. Palace will be feeling pretty positive after their recent upturn in form, although their recent 2-0 victory over Huddersfield came with all the pride one should take from defeating a badger at table tennis. Huddersfield haven’t exactly been economic with their chances on goal lately, and Palace will face a much sterner test against Liverpool here.


Back to their old tricks – a fixture at 3pm which would even be too embarrassing to go into the lunchtime slot. Although I give the game stick, it could promise quite a few goals. In Leicester’s last 6 matches, both sides have managed to score at least one goal. That trend could well continue on the south coast here, with Glenn Murray apparently going through a hot streak which in fairness, probably wouldn’t be called so for any other player under 34 years old. For Leicester, Riyad Mahrez has managed two goals and an assist in his last two outings, and will be much fancied to add to that against Chris Hughton’s side here.


United’s stars enjoyed an absolutely wonderful international break: Paul Pogba scored an impressive free kick, Jesse Lingard scored for England and Romelu Lukaku netted twice for Belgium. Jose Mourinho is said to be furious though, he can’t wait to get his hands on them and shake out all of this attacking productivity. How dare they? At least Alexis Sanchez has been obeying orders by continuing to do absolutely nothing for Chile. In an alternate universe, or simply a universe in which Manchester United had a decent manager a couple of year ago, star players Memphis Depay and Radamel Falcao also scored goals for their countries over the internationals. Going back to the game though, United will beat Swansea, probably with a 68th minute goal from a weak Juan Mata cross, untidily poked home by Jesse Lingard.


It’s not often that the sight of a football game actually makes me turn my nose up in disgust, but congratulations to Newcastle and Huddersfield. You achieved that. The Terriers are in woeful attacking form, scoring pretty much -12 goals in their last 3,412 shots. The Magpies are coming off the back of a 3-0 win over Southampton in the previous gameweek, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism for them. Their English-sounding Brazilian Kenedy is hitting form, and Matt Ritchie has decided to start scoring goals again recently. Things could turn ugly for Huddersfield if Newcastle show up again.


I really hope that this is the last fixture like this I have to do. But with teams like Southampton, West Ham and West Brom still yet to feature, I’m rapidly losing hope I must say. Give it a go, I have to though. Bournemouth are a side which can beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, but lose 4-1 away to Huddersfield just a couple of weeks later, so I am going to stand firm and make zero attempt to even predict what they’ll be like. Watford, on the other hand, have an identifiable pattern of being terrible. Having rolled over for Liverpool at Anfield previously, and with one of their only recent wins being against West Brom which, as it goes without saying, doesn’t count, this proves to be a very unpredictable affair.


Burnley, who sound really dull but are actually scientifically better than Arsenal, make the fairly short trip to West Brom. By now, the Baggies’ players and management have long conceded relegation. The only people who haven’t admitted this are the fixture schedulers. Why do they even continue to acknowledge West Brom’s existence as a Premier League side? Just give Burnley the three points so we don’t have to watch them win 1-0 thanks to a Stephen Ward goal, please.


Considering the last game at the London Stadium ended up with Mark Noble slapping the rear end of a fan, and a mass protest against owners, I wouldn’t be completely out of my mind to predict a Manolo Gabbiadini goal in this game. The Hammers are in vital need of something to raise the fans, which is why the owners have installed giant forklifts to get them out of the way during the next protest. Let’s face it – we all know Southampton are going to win this game, and the London Stadium is likely not going to be a happy place.


Pep Guardiola, having recently been named as a ‘pig’ and a ‘zero’ by agent Mino Raiola, now knows how the average Tinder user must feel when they look through their recent replies. City will be raring to go after the international break, and prove themselves the best team in the country once again. With Aguero potentially back from injury, he could help them get the win they need to be able to secure the title with a victory against Man United in the following gameweek. I think Everton will probably just let them win this game, as everyone in the country except United fans would want to see this unfold in front of Mourinho’s eyes.


Arsenal fans are keen to refer to Stoke as their ‘bogey team’. They never seem to do well against them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just refer to Stoke as ‘Stoke’, and West Brom as their twice-yearly comfortable win? In seriousness, Stoke do usually tend to provide problems for Wenger’s men, so a close game is on the cards here. If only the manager had Lacazette to call on if he were in trouble, they would still draw 1-1 anyway. In terms of Stoke, they actually managed to lose a home game against Everton last time out, so maybe Arsenal will have it slightly more comfortable than they imagined.


The whole weekend builds us up to this one match. Pochettino the diplomat against Conte the fiery Italian. Christian Eriksen against Eden Hazard. A lot of money against slightly less money. Without Harry Kane to actually finish off the chances that Spurs are so good at creating, this is one thing which could tip the game in Chelsea’s favour. That is until you recall the existence of Alvaro Morata, and your mind fondly wanders back to the days of when Didier Drogba and Jermain Defoe would have starred in this fixture…