The last echoes from the spine-tingling athems of the Champions and Europa Leagues have barely faded from memory and we're back into the equally thrilling world of the Premier League. West Ham host Chelsea in the early kick-off, which is sure to be a mild-manered affair between two of the friendliest neighbours...! Irony aside, there's a super seven games to get our teeth into this Saturday, and with such a sweet selection, let's crack on!
The first match kicks off at 12.30pm, so make sure you get your scores in before then as we cover all SEVEN of Saturday's matches for Week 16 of the FREE-TO-ENTER StanJames Predictor Competition.
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WEST HAM 1 V 2 CHELSEA
Chelsea arrive on the back of a tough Champions League match against Atletico Madrid, who held their hosts to a 1-1 draw. That stalemate means that Conte’s men finished runners-up in a competitive group, and whilst they will be happy to have qualified the reigning Premier League champions know they face an equally tough opponent in the round of sixteen.
However, before all that they travel across London for what will surely be a tough derby against West Ham, a team they have only lost against twice in their last 22 PL games. That said, the Hammers have won in two of their last three home games against the Blues in all competitions and Chelsea face a side improving under the stewardship of David Moyes, who has won four of his last five PL matches against the reigning champions (and all against Italian managers!) Conte has the luxury of welcoming Hazard back, the brilliant Belgian adding two more to his season’s goal tally during the impressive comeback against Newcastle last week.
West Ham lost their ninth PL game of the season in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to champions-elect Manchester City. However, there were plenty of positives in that narrow defeat, not least a newly-found defensive resilience. If the Scot can get them firing at the other end – they have only scored seven times in their six home matches – then he just might yet salvage something from their season.
Moyes has a massive call to make here. Both Hart and Adrian are available for selection, but given the latter’s performance against Man City the England number one could be relegated to the bench for this one. Like their hosts, Chelsea do not have any injury concerns, so the only dilemma for both managers will be how to deploy the personnel a hand.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Christensen, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Kante, Moses; Hazard; Morata
What We Sayin'?
BURNLEY 1 V 2 WATFORD
Both ‘unfashionable’ clubs are giving the ‘big boys’ bloody noses as they punch above their supposed weight this term. The truth is they are both good value for their position in the league and their results have been borne out of hard work, skill, and application.
Sean Dyche’s team were bought back to earth a little after their 1-0 defeat to Leicester last time out. Previously just three points adrift from the top four after their 2-1 win away at Bournemouth, their fourth win in five, they couldn’t find a response to Demari Gray’s early opener. They’ll want to return with a win against the team lying in eighth in the league, directly below the Clarets!
Watford are winless in nine league visits to Turf Moor (D4 L5) since a 3-2 win in April 2004, a match in which Sean Dyche actually played for the Hornets! That record could be about to change though, as the Hornets are absolutely buzzing right now. They drew 1-1 with Spurs las time out and many thought they were unlucky to share the spoils. Summer signing Richarlison, himself a target for Spurs, has been in scintillating form, involved in seven goals in seven Premier League away appearances for Watford this season (four goals, three assists). He’ll have his work cut out breaching the Burnley defence, the Clarets have kept four clean sheets at home in the PL this season, conceding only three goals and never more than once in a match.
Burnley suffered a huge loss in the defeat against Leicester as in-form Irish winger Robbie Bradly is sidelined for the foreseeable future after undergoing surgery on a damaged tendon in his knee. Heaton and Walters remain long-term absentees. For Watford, Marco Silva will have to make-do without Will Hughes, who is hamstrung. Younes Kaboul and Craig Cathcart are not yet match fit.
What We Sayin'?
We're kinda getting bored saying it ourselves, but in a league universally recognised as being one of the hardest on the planet to win, this is another tough game to call. Both teams are plaing well and both are capable of taking something from this. A draw may suit those of a cautious nature, but we were impressed with Watford last week. As tough an ask as it is to win at Turf Moor, we'll plump for the Hornets to nick this one. Andre Gray, facing his former employers, is our pick for 1st GS at 19/4. BTTS, Watford win is 6/1. Watford to win 1-2: 10/1. And yes, we're well aware that come tea-time Saturday the exact oposite could be flashing across the videprinter (ask your parents, kids!)
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 V 1 BOURNEMOUTH
It’s safe to say that Roy Hodgson is having the desired effect at Crystal Palace. In the short time he has been there not only have the Eagles found heir shooting boots, but defensively they’re far tighter as well. In their last four home games they’ve scored twice, beating Chelsea and Stoke and drawing with West Ham and Everton. They’ve enjoyed 0-0 draws away at Brighton and West Brom and it’s 217 minutes since the Eagles last conceded. They’re away from the bottom of the table and looking up. How high can they soar? Time will tell!
Bournemouth have picked up quite a few admirers during their time in the PL. Eddie Howe’s progressive side play pleasing, creative football. However, the Cherries are without a win in their last three outings: a 0-0 draw at Swansea, a 2-1 home defeat to Burnley, and a 1-1 home draw vs Southampton and they currently lie in 14th place, just five points above Palace. They struggle a little on the road, with just three wins in their last 15 PL trips, though that stat includes recent victories a Stoke and Newcastle. If Bournemouth are to get anything from Saturday’s game they will have to fight fire with fire: make no mistake, Palace will come out with all guns blazing!
Hodgson has four players out with long-term injuries, Connor Wickham, Chung-Yong Lee, Damien Delaney and James Tomkin, whilst Wayne Hennesy, injured during the warm-up last week, remains a doubt. Bournemouth’s Adam Smith is suspended for a fifth yellow of the season, whilst Smith and Mings are sidelined through injury.
What We Sayin'?
Eddie Howe has won one of his last seven league encounters with Palace (D3 L3), a 2-1 win back in February 2016. As much as we admire his work, we can't see him improving on those figures this time round. In Zaha and Townsend Palace have the pace to trouble any team, and Benteke is the ideal frontma for the pair. We'll take the big Belgian to net first at 14/5. BTTS and Palace win is 100/30. Lastly, Palace to win 2-1 and Loftus-Cheek to score last is 55/1.*
HUDDERSFIELD 1 V 1 BRIGHTON
Huddersfield started the season well, but their light squad are starting to feel the demands of the Premier League. An absolute pasting by Arsenal was followed-up by last week’s 2-0 defeat to Everton. That’s four defeats on the trot for the Terriers, and boss David Wagner must find a way to halt the slide, and soon. His charges lie in 16th, dangerously close to the relegation zone. With just one goal in their last four games – we discussed their paucity up front last week (here) – they need to find their scoring boots, and soon. Only Burnley and Swansea have scored fewer home goals this season than Huddersfield’s total of six. A game against fellow promoted side Brighton would be a good place to start!
Brighton, who have been defensively sound all season, arrive on the back of a 5-1 hammering. Liverpool, Coutinho et al, ran riot and boss Chris Hughton will need to shake his troops from the stupor that result might have induced. To be fair, many a side will be bamboozled by Klopp’s expensive-ensemble; the red ‘galaticos’, if you will, there’s no shame in that. What Brighton must focus on is getting points on the board against teams who could potentially be relegation rivals at the business end of the season. Murray, who netted in that defeat to Liverpool, is in fine form, and Brighton are finding the net with regularity: they’ve scored in seven of their last eight games, the only negative a tight 1-0 loss away to Manchester United.
Rajiv van La Parra continues his suspension for the Terriers, who remain without Michael Hefele and Jon Stankovic. These absentees have upset the balance of the Terriers, so expect Wagner to keep to is rotation policy as he looks to redress the issue. There must be something in the south coast fresh air, a Victorian cure for all ailments, as Chris Hughton has a fully-fit squad to choose from, Steve Sidwell being his only long-term absentee.
What We Sayin'?
Neither side are known for their abundance of goals, and this could be an equally low-scoring affair. We almost went with this weekend's trend (1-2 pays 11/1) but we smply can't see three goals in this match. BTTS and under 2.5 goals is 8/11. With that in mind, 1-1 returns 19/4. Finally, Glenn Murray to score a anytime, 9/5, appeals.*
SWANSEA 1 V 2 WEST BROM
Two out-of-form sides struggling to turn their seasons around. No team has picked up fewer points at home than bottom-of-the-table Swansea this season, who are in the middle of a EIGHT game winless streak, with just one draw in that run. Paul Clement knows that the Swans need to start getting points on the clock, and fast! A crumb of comfort for the Swans is the fact that they have won five of their six home Premier League matches against West Bromwich Albion and have won each of the last three. They have also won five of their last six Premier League matches when they have started that day bottom of the table. Clement, for one, will surely be hoping that history repeats!
West Brom arrive in Wales with new boss Alan Pardew at the helm. He drew his opening match against his old club Crystal palace 0-0 last weekend and will be hoping to use that result as a springboard. T be fair to the Baggies, they are unbeaten in three, though they are yet to record a win in their last FOURTEEN games and sit just one place and three points above the relegation zone. West Brom striker Salomon Rondon has scored four goals in three PL meetings with Swansea and Pardew will be looking at the Venezuelan international to provide the spark his team need.
Frederico Fernandez, who has missed Swansea’s last two games due being on compassionate leave following the death of his father is expected to be recalled to shore up Swansea’s porous defence. Clement may gamble on Kyle Bartley, who is fit but rusty following his lay-off. The Baggies’ Gareth Barry remains sidelined after injuring his hamstring, whilst James Morrison, Nacer Chadli and Craig Dawson remain long-term absentees. On a brighter note, Matty Phillips and Chris Brunt could be set for a recall.
What We Sayin'?
This won't be one for the purists, though both teams prefer to play stylish, attractive football. They are both in a scrap, and their managers know it. A 1-1 draw, which favours neither side appeals at 9/2, but we think Pardew may just have enough to get bthe upper hand over Clement this tme. We'll take West Brom to win 1-2 (11/1) with Rondon scoring the last goal (17/4).
TOTTENHAM 4 V 0 STOKE
Burnley, Swansea and West Brom have all visited Wembley and returned with a share of the spoils and Mark Hughes will note how they frustrated Spurs, sitting deep and hitting on the counter. In Xherdan Shaqiri they have a maverick who can win games on his own and the maestro has been directly involved in nine goals in his last 11 PL appearances (four goals, five assists). If Stoke can get him firing then they may be able to polish the stat that says have lost only one of their last seven home matches against Stoke City.
What We Sayin'?
With the lure of the Champions League now fading we expect Spurs to be fully-focused for this one. Mark Hughes went on record and admitted that Stoke suffer psychologically against Spurs and if the home side can get an early goal then they could make history: Spurs have won each of their last three PL matches against Stoke City all by a 4-0 scoreline, no side in top-flight history has won four consecutive matches by four or more goals...
NEWCASTLE 1 V 2 LEICESTER
The lack of summer investment is coming back to haunt Rafa Benitiez as his side, who started the season brightly, struggle with the demands of a PL season. They are without a win in six, with five of those ending in defeat. Captain Jamaal Lascelles’ injury is a huge blow as they struggle at the back, conceding 12 in their last four games, though to be fair that run of games has included United and Chelsea, both of whom they took the lead against.
Leicester arrive in fine form, thriving under new manager Claude Puel. They are seeking a third consecutive league win, with wins over Tottenham and Burnley giving their fans cause for optimism. Demarai Gray’s inclusion in the side has coincided with this upturn in fortunes, and Newcastle will need to find a way of coping with the speedy winger’s trickery if they are to get anything from this game.
As mentioned, Lascelles remains injured, whilst Christian Atsu faces a late fitness check. Paul Dummett is still struggling with his hamstring and is not likely to feature. German defender Robert Huth remains out for the Foxes, and Matty James joins him watching from the stands.
What We Sayin'?
Newcastle are united under Rafa. They're battling tooth and nail for a talented boss who was crimminally undermined during the summer. Unfortunately, their short-comings are there for all to see. Leicester, for the first half at least against Tottenham, looked like the team who won the league and we think their pace on the counter may be too much for the Magpies. We'll take Newcastle to score 1st: EVS. Vardy to score last, 7/2, and Leicester to win 1-2 (9/1).*
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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