One full round of fixtures down, nine to go. That is the first weekend of the Premier League’s Project Restart done and the sprint finish to see the 92 games remaining done within a month continues with another round of fixtures in midweek.
Questions have been raised about David De Gea after his error in Manchester United’s draw at Spurs; the injuries mounted up at Arsenal as Brighton secured their first win of 2020. Other teams in and around them at the bottom of the table struggled. Liverpool have to wait a bit for the title after their goalless draw at Everton and Manchester City’s emphatic win against Burnley [Image above from Bleacher Report].
All clubs too part in taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign though it is a shame that the final game was overshadowed by a helicopter stunt by some Burnley fans.
The action continues with a full round of fixtures in midweek. I am back with a full round of predictions and will be comparing them with those made by BBC Sport’s Mark Lawrenson, Sky Sports Charlie Nicholas and the infamous BT Script.
Wednesday sees the most games with some interesting encounters including some of the teams in the mix at the wrong end of the table, Bournemouth travel to Wolves, Aston Villa visit Newcastle. The action concludes on Thursday with the mouthwatering encounter between Chelsea and Manchester City, a game that could theoretically give Liverpool the title if they the away side fail to win. Liverpool, of course, have to do the business themselves against Crystal Palace on Wednesday but before all that, there is a London derby on Tuesday preceded by the game at the King Power Stadium…
Leicester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Brendan Rodgers felt his side were deserving of the win on Saturday. Why shouldn’t he be? They had almost double the chances Watford had and while Ben Chilwell’s goal was fantastically hit, they were also sloppy on the ball at times gifting Watford chances. A draw as probably a fair result but that said, going into injury time with the lead you would expect to see it out so it is something for Rodgers to work on. It was a fantastic result for Brighton on Saturday against Arsenal, especially having not won in 2020 beforehand and after going one down. They have a five-point cushion to the relegation zone and at this stage of the season, it is always better to have the points on the board than it is to be chasing them. Brighton will be buoyed on by their win at the weekend and will have a real go at Leicester but the foxes have won 4 of the 5 Premier League meetings between the sides, including both at the King Power and I think they’ll just have enough to get the three points.
Predictions: Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 3-1, BT Script 2-1, Michael 2-1
Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United
This will be interesting after the spat between Paul Merson and Jose Mourinho. Harry Kane was having his first game back from 6 months and Mourinho is right that he did well to play the full 90. As for their performance on Friday, it was sluggish but then so have a lot of teams but it did have the feel of a Mourinho type game, parking the bus after they take the lead but once Man United equalised they came back to life a bit. West Ham meanwhile had chances against Wolves but they never really looked like threatening too much so just where their goals are going to come from will be an issue and in the second half they were undone by a pacey player in Adama Traore. Mourinho has Delle Alli and Lucas Moura back available and while they may take time to get back up to speed but with Stephen Birgwijn as well they may have too much going forward for West Ham to cope with. He also likes facing David Moyes; he is unbeaten in 13 meetings winning 8 and I think he’ll keep that run going.
Predictions: Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 1-1, BT Script 2-1, Michael 3-1
Manchester United vs Sheffield United
There are two or three teams I think lockdown has had an adverse impact on and one of them is Sheffield United. Momentum seemed to be on their side and it looked like a challenge for a European spot was beckoning but after the restart, it has not gone to plan for them. Chris Wilder’s side are yet to score which for a big game in that European battle, struggling for goals is not what you want. They were unlucky at Villa but at Newcastle, they did not seem menacing enough. Josh Eagan should’ve known better for pulling on Joletinton’s shirt having already been on a yellow and the error for Endo Stevens was painful to see as it gifted the lead. They won’t have Dean Henderson in goal either so the odds are stacked against Sheffield United and that’s before you look at Man United. Ole Gunnar Solsjekar’s side for much of t looked the better side at Spurs and with Pual Pogba back to fitness alongside Bruno Fernandes, those two could be explosive for the red devils. A lot of attention will be on David De Gea after his error on Friday. It has jot been so stellar from the goalkeeper this season but if anyone will be disappointed with it, it will be the man himself. He should be keeping them sort of shots, close to the body out and he knows it. Man United have not lost at home to the Blades in all competitions since 1973 and have won all three Premier League meetings, I can only see that continuing.
Predictions: Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-0, BT Script 3-1, Michael 2-0
Newcastle United vs Aston Villa
Newcastle surprised me on Sunday. I thought it was going to be goalless but then they come out with their biggest win of the season and ironically there were no fans present. Joelinton’s confidence didn’t seem there judging by his scoffed chance in the first half but he got his first goal at St James’ in the end after a thoroughly efficient performance. It didn’t look in danger much and now Newcastle are 13th, 11 points clear of the relegation places. They look safe but Steve Bruce will be determined to exact revenge for the 2-0 defeat at Villa Park in December. Aston Villa did ok against Chelsea. They took the game to them but they were undone by a quick turnaround by Chelsea in the second half. It is the fifth time this season Dean Smith’s side have lost after scoring the first goal. Keinan Davis has been a handful for defences but other than that they haven’t looked that deadly in front of goal since the restart. He’ll be a handful for the Newcastle defence and even if Villa can open the scoring, I don’t see them hanging on for three points. They have some hard fixtures coming up after this so they will need the points but they have not won since January and that is a run I can only see continuing.
Predictions: Lawro 1-1, Nicholas 2-1, BT Script 0-4, Michael 2-1
Norwich City vs Everton
Norwich was one of the teams that I was more disappointed in at the restart of the premier league. They came into it 6 points adrift with nine to play, they needed to start with a positive result against Southampton, they didn’t and while those immediately around them did not pick up results either, they now have one less game to make up the points. I think it’s an inevitability Norwich will be relegated now. Everton meanwhile played very well against Liverpool. They were organised, made it difficult for the champions-elect and they could have nicked the win at the end. Still, it was a good point and Carlo Ancelotti will be sure to build on that. Norwich did win the reverse fixture back in December but that was before Ancelotti’s arrival. Norwich have defenders missing but if they are still as open at the back as they were against Southampton then I can see only one winner here and it will be three points to the Toffees.
Predictions: Lawro 0-1, Nicholas 1-3, BT Script 2-1, Michael 0-2
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs AFC Bournemouth
If these two teams play as they did on the weekend then there really is only one winner. Bournemouth were dire on Saturday against Palace. Eddie Howe must be thinking it cannot get much worse. They were swept away in the opening 25 minutes by Crystal Palace but after that, they looked toothless really, they didn’t offer much going forward. Something didn’t look right and for a team that is in the relegation zone, they did not seem to have that urgency about them. That will really worry Eddie Howe and coming to face Wolves will be a daunting task. It was typical of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to score both goals in the final 20 minutes at West Ham but the quality that Adama Traore brought to the fold changed the match and what a strike that was from Neto. Wolves won this fixture 2-0 last season and I might just go for a repeat of that scoreline as I just cannot see the Cherries scoring.
Predictions: Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-0, BT Script 3-0, Michael 2-0
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
This could have been Liverpool’s title-winning match had they won the derby with Everton on Sunday but I suspect we won’t see such a sluggish performance from Liverpool at Anfield against Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace was brilliant on Saturday. They came out the blocks firing and were 2-0 up within the first 25 minutes. They looked comfortable defensively as they recorded their fourth successive clean sheet in the league. It will be difficult for Liverpool to break down their defence and palace have been a bit of a bogey team for them in recent years, even coming close to nicking a point off them in the reverse fixture. With what’s at stake for Liverpool though, I would expect the reds to edge past them. Mohamed Salah will surely play having missed out on the derby and that will surely make for a more potent attack for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Predictions: Lawro 2-0, Nicholas 2-0, BT Script 4-2, Michael 2-0
Burnley vs Watford
Being the last team to play after the return of the premier league is one thing, having a couple of key squad players missing due to contractual issues is another, add in their first game back was Manchester City away, it was a recipe for disaster for Burnley. The Clarets are 11th and 12 points above the bottom three and a European charge seems unlikely meaning they only really have their pride to play for whereas Watford, are still fighting for their lives. It was a determined performance from Nigel Pearson’s side. The quality of the chances they made out of Leciester’s errors in possession were good chances. They would have felt hard done by to lose so it was a fantastic response to going behind on the brink of injury time and well taken by finish by Andy Dawson. The Hornets won 3-1 at Turf Moor last season and if the level of performances from these two sides is the same, if the Burnley defence just sits back instead of going to the ball in defence, then I could see Watford getting a big result.
Predictions: Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 1-2, BT Script 2-2, Michael 1-2
Southampton vs Arsenal
Like Sheffield United, the return of Premier League football has not been kind to Arsenal. They had been on some form before the break but upon returning, they’ve had injuries, David Luiz will still be missing as part of his suspension and now they have doubts surrounding Bernd Leno, plus they’ve lost both of their games. It had been a nightmare scenario for Mikel Arteta. Losing at Brighton right at the end will hurt Arsenal and they’re travelling again. Southampton were fantastic on their return to action against Norwich and in fairness, they could have scored even more than the three that they did. They were ruthless in attack and a similar display from the likes of Danny Ings and co against a relatively weak Arsenal defence, I could see the saints picking up another three points. The saints have won only 7 out of 41 Premier League meetings with the Gunners and they’ve all come at home, I could see them making it 8.
Predictions: Lawro 2-1, Nicholas 2-2, BT Script 2-4, Michael 3-2
Chelsea vs Manchester City
This will be an interesting game because if Liverpool win against Palace, Man City would need to win this game to delay the coronation on Merseyside. Will that even be on Pep Guardiola’s sides mind, I’m not sure. It will be a big test for Frank Lampard’s side. They had a quick turnaround against Villa in the second half after being stunned by the home side. I was surprised not to see Tammy Abraham start but Olivier Giroud more than justified his selection. Man City have been irresistible since the return to action scoring 8 goals in two games. Phil Foden has been getting his chance and he is taking it well but the loss of Sergio Aguero will be a concern. The quality they have going forward in midfield should cause Chelsea a host of problems. It was a fairly open game when they met earlier in the season and if that is repeated the way Man City have impressively returned from lockdown I could see a City win.
Predictions: Lawro 1-2, Nicholas 1-2, BT Script 1-1, Michael 1-2
Before you go…
How does the prediction scoreboard look like after the full first weekend of Premier League Project restart?
- I regained the lead after scoring 14 points (two correct scores and two correct results) and have 371 points.
- Mark Lawrenson collected only 9 points after predicting one correct score and two other results; he has 369 points and sits 2nd.
- Charlie Nicolas retained third spot on the scoreboard after predicting one correct score and five results for 15 points, he has 261 points.
- The BT Script won the first round over the weekend with 16 points; two correct scores and three correct results and has 328 points.
How will it look heading into the weekend, there is only one place to find out…