Premier League Week 2 Previews and Predictions: The Etihad Takes Centre Stage

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

Premier League Week 2 Previews and Predictions: The Etihad Takes Centre Stage

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    Premier League football, is there anything better?

    In a sporting sense, "very little" is your answer. The league is utterly gripping, captivating and spellbinding. How the world would function without the solace English football provides might be an interesting experiment.

    This week, the football gods have bestowed upon us two terrific clashes of perennial top-seven teams, one matchup—Manchester City vs. Liverpool—featuring the top two from last season. Interwoven is an undercard full of intrigue ready to confound and enrage.

    As most football enthusiasts will tell you, predictions are essentially impossible. If you could predict the future, there seems little point watching the games. That said, we all like to test our knowledge and clairvoyant abilities on occasion, so you have stumbled on the right place should you be into these sort of mental exercises.

    Over the Premier League's 380-game schedule, spanning 38 rounds and 281 days, Bleacher Report is going to be your crystal ball—looking over the sublime landscape of top-flight English football and providing answers, whether win, lose or draw.

Comments Section: Who Ya Got? // Week 1 Recap

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    What fun are predictions if you do them alone?

    Throughout the 2014-15 Premier League season, the comments section will take on the writer.

    Put your picks in the comments, then vote for who you think has the best predictions. The reader with the most upvotes will be pitted against yours truly, and the scores will be calculated into our running table.


    The Week 1 Time Machine


    Prediction Table

    B/R Prediction Table Through Wk 1 Comments Section—8 pts @danieltiluk—6 pts The CS was represented by Alex Spartalis last week.

    — EPL Predictions (@EPLPredictions_) August 24, 2014


    How Does the Scoring Work?

    Wrong prediction: zero points

    Correct prediction: one point

    Correct prediction and exact score: three points


    For Your Copy-and-Pasting Pleasures

    AUG 23 AVL vs. NEW SWA vs. BUR CRY vs. WHU SOU vs. WBA CHE vs. LEI ARS vs. EVE AUG 24 HUL vs. STK TOT vs. QPR SUN vs. MU AUG 25 MC vs. LIV

    — EPL Predictions (@EPLPredictions_) August 18, 2014

Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 12:45 BST (7.45 a.m. EST)

    Where: Villa Park, Birmingham, England

    Newcastle United were dealt an impossible opening match. Alan Pardew debuted six players on Sunday, and while his ambition must be applauded, Manchester City represent the proverbial deep end of the Premier League football. Aston Villa might be considered "manageable waters" for new additions as compared to the defending champions.

    The signature of Remy Cabella looked clever summer business by the Magpies vs. Manchester City, it will be interesting seeing how the Frenchman plays when his competition (and possibly his motivation) is lowered.

    Both Newcastle and Aston Villa have the capacity to fight for a top-half finish—then again, they could both find themselves hovering above the relegation zone. Playing this fixture in Week 2 seems a great barometer for each club.

    An evenly matched, yellow card-fest ending in a draw may be the most likely outcome. However, one moment of magic could see three points found somewhere along the road.


    Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Newcastle

    Players to Watch: Remy Cabella, Gabriel Agbonlahor

    For What It's Worth: Last season's corresponding fixture saw Hatem Ben Arfa open the scoring, but according to the Daily Mail's Simon Jones, the Frenchman has been made to train with the reserves (also known as the "Andre Villas-Boas" treatment) by Alan Pardew.

Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 15:00 BST (10 a.m. EST)

    Where: St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton, England

    Question: Who is the Premier League's Golden Boot leader?

    Answer: In an opening week when Daniel Sturridge, Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney all found the back of the net, West Bromwich Albion's Saido Berahino is the man currently atop the charts, scoring two goals in a 2-2 draw vs. Sunderland.

    Not that the young Englishman will contend for the award, but the Baggies desperately need goals for survival; any hint toward Berahino improving on his performances from last season (five goals in 32 EPL appearances) would be a godsend for Alan Irvine and Company.

    Given Southampton's mass summer exodus, Ronald Koeman's team played well vs. Liverpool and may feel robbed having left Anfield empty handed. Taking a step down in competition should see the Saints be more competitive, even to the point of earning three points at home.

    Keeping the likes of Berahino quiet represents Southampton's first priority.


    Prediction: Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

    Players to Watch: Saido Berahino, Dusan Tadic

    For What It's Worth: The last player to win the EPL's Golden Boot award who did not play for Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United was Kevin Phillips with Sunderland in 1999-2000.

Crystal Palace vs. West Ham United

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 15:00 BST (10 a.m. EST)

    Where: Selhurst Park, London, England

    Tony Pulis' exit from Crystal Palace has temporarily rendered the south London side a headless chicken. Per the Daily Mail's Matt Morlidge, Malky Mackay will not be appointed to replace Pulis, so Keith Millen will continue his caretaking duties throughout the weekend.

    Should there be a rinse-and-repeat theory for the Eagles—where Millen implements the Arsenal game plan that saw Palace lose in cruel fashion—Sam Allardyce and West Ham United should welcome the possession.

    Losing their own crushing opener to Tottenham, this London derby has an air of hope for the Hammers—if only for the apparent dysfunction of their opponents. That may be a perilous thought, however, as teams with nothing to lose are far more unpredictable than measured opponents.

    In either event, West Ham should smell blood in the water at Selhurst Park and, in the Allardyce ethic, win a rather dull and unconvincing football match.


    Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-1 West Ham United

    Players to Watch: Cheikhou Kouyate, Yannick Bolasie

    For What It's Worth: Kevin Millen has managed Crystal Palace in five matches since 23 October 2013— the Eagles have lost three of those games.

Swansea City vs. Burnley

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 15:00 BST (10 a.m. EST)

    Where: Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales

    Manchester United were meant to start off flying under new management, and Louis van Gaal's 3-5-2 was supposed to run roughshod over the Premier League, but that is why the games are played.

    Swansea City beating the Red Devils 2-1 might be the "shock of Week 1," but Garry Monk cannot have dwelt too heavily on the upset, lest he find himself beaten by Burnley and see his club's momentum arrested.

    Taking charge vs. Chelsea, Sean Dyche's side will know what a Premier League feels like. Not every squad has the firepower of Chelsea, so were Burnley to go ahead early, their compiling points is not a foreign notion.

    That said, Burnley scoring often is not a sagacious assumption after just 90 minutes played in the Premier League. Playing a Swansea side high off their Old Trafford triumph, Burnley gaining anything from their Welsh hosts seems extremely unlikely.


    Prediction: Swansea City 2-0 Burnley

    Players to WatchKi Sung-Yueng, Tom Heaton

    For What It's Worth: Swansea City had never beaten Manchester United in the EPL until last Saturday. Too bad beating Burnley and/or Manchester United count for the same amount of points.

Chelsea vs. Leicester City

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 15:00 BST (10 a.m. EST)

    Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England

    Displaying more offensive versatility than last season, Chelsea—after going down early—summarily beat Burnley 3-1. With great performances from Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, Jose Mourinho's title hopes look warranted.

    In all fairness, Chelsea were not exactly playing Manchester City or Real Madrid—they played Burnley. Premier League schedule makers, though, were kind to the west Londoners, as their second fixture is against another promoted side in Leicester City.

    The Foxes snatched parity from the jaws of defeat vs. Everton and should feel a measured confidence being the overwhelming underdogs playing Mourinho's Chelsea; they will have no pressure walking on the Stamford Bridge pitch, as the onus is on Chelsea to control the game.

    Unfortunately for Leicester, the Blues are more than capable and—one might suspect—eager to boss any match at present.

    By Saturday evening, expect Mourinho to have comfortably inaugurated a new Premier League home-unbeaten streak.


    Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Leicester City

    Players to Watch: Nemanja Matic, David Nugent

    Chelsea Bus Watch: Still being serviced from heavy use last season, expect Mourinho's bus to be absent from Stamford Bridge on Saturday—no need for it just yet. That said, the Foxes may ask for a lease.

Everton vs. Arsenal

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    When: Saturday, 23 August, 17:30 BST (12.30 p.m. EST)

    Where: Goodison Park, Liverpool, England

    Supposing Everton start the game, their best bet for an early goal might be catching out Wojciech Szczesny making a sandwich or taking a selfie—as Demba Ba attempted in midweek.

    Demba Ba's attempt straight from the kick off hits the bar!

    — Football Vines (@FootballVines) August 19, 2014

    As that seems unlikely, Roberto Martinez's side must improve on their first showing of the season. The Merseyside Blues had three points in the bag, but Leicester City possessed other ideas—salvaging a point in the 86th minute. Similar to the Foxes, Arsenal needed an Aaron Ramsey 91st-minute winner to take three points from a managerless Crystal Palace.

    Both the Toffees and Gunners underperformed on opening day, and will be keen to ameliorate their performances from last week.

    One might envision a back-and-forth game, as neither side is defensively stout. Look for the Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar connection to be telekinetic, while Olivier Giroud and Romelu Lukaku open their EPL accounts in an entertaining draw.


    Prediction: Everton 2-2 Arsenal

    Players to Watch: Alexis Sanchez, Aiden McGeady

    For What It's Worth: Arsenal have not beaten Everton in the EPL since March 2012.

Hull City vs. Stoke City

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    When: Sunday, 24 August, 13:30 BST (8.30 a.m. EST)

    Where: KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull, England

    Having sold Shane Long to Southampton, Hull City are now £12 million richer. According to BBC Sport, Steve Bruce intends to spend the Irishman's fee on bolstering his squad.

    Playing the occasional Thursday-Sunday schedule due to Europa League responsibilities, the Tigers definitely require reinforcements. Bruce is all but certain to issue his best XI in Europe, which will lead to tiresome bodies on Sunday afternoons.

    Music to Mark Hughes's ears no doubt.

    Stoke City allowed one shot on target during their 1-0 loss to Aston Villa, it just so happened that Asmir Begovic failed to save the attempt. More concerning, however, was Stoke's inability to penetrate Villa's defence; new additions Bojan Krkic and Mame Biram Diouf combined for just three shots with none on target.

    For the Potters to improve their 2013-14 performance, getting points from a weakened Hull City seems ideal and even likely considering.


    Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Hull City

    Players to Watch: Bojan Krkic, Tom Huddlestone

    For What It's Worth: Hull City are unbeaten in pre-season, the Premier League and the Europa League thus far into 2014-15.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Queens Park Rangers

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    When: Sunday, 24 August, 13:30 BST (8.30 a.m. EST)

    Where: White Hart Lane, London, England

    Last week, Tottenham Hotspur held serve with 10 men for 34 minutes until West Ham United were dealt their own red card, making an unwonted 10-a-side game.

    A stoppage-time winner from Eric Dier was a gripping finale to Mauricio Pochettino's first EPL match in charge of the north London club. Dier's dramatic clincher should strengthen Spurs' resolve heading into a hectic week.

    Conversely, Queens Park Rangers failed to start positively on their reintroduction to Premier League football. Employing the en vogue 3-5-2, Harry Redknapp's side were wasteful against Hull City—shooting 19 times, registering no goals. Squandering their best chance to equalise from the penalty spot, QPR travel barren to White Hart Lane.

    Tottenham begin Europa League duties on Thursday, then face an expedient turnaround for Sunday's London derby—no simple task, regardless of the opponents.

    Look for Spurs to boss possession and QPR being content to pounce on hopeful counterattacks.


    Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Queens Park Rangers

    Players to Watch: Hugo Lloris, Loic Remy

    For What It's Worth: Going back to their 2012-13 campaign, Queens Park Rangers have not won a Premier League match in their last 10 attempts.

Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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    When: Sunday, 24 August, 16:00 BST (11.00 a.m. EST)

    Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England

    With Robin van Persie and Company rendered unavailable, Louis van Gaal was unceremoniously welcomed to the Premier League by Swansea City—losing 2-1.

    Manchester United looked non-athletic and slow in their opener. Whether a by-product of physical limitation or mental calculation in a new system, the result was shocking. Injecting Adnan Januzaj and changing from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 looked solutions, but they lasted just 20 minutes.

    Losing, however, may have prompted United to open their chequebook again; adding defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon for £16 million and a Nani loan deal, via BBC Sport.

    Sunderland, it seems, are hosting the English giants at the perfect time.

    Rescuing a point in the 85th minute vs. West Bromwich Albion, the Black Cats may face Van Gaal with confidence after observing the Premier League table, but one's confidence is of little importance when pitted against quality.

    Surely Manchester United cannot lose two straight matches?


    Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United

    Players to Watch: Adnan Januzaj, Jack Rodwell

    For What It's Worth: Manchester United lost two straight games twice last season.

Must-Watch Match of Week 2: Manchester City vs. Liverpool

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    When: Monday 25 August, 20:00 BST (3.00 p.m. EST)

    Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England

    In 2014-15's first heavyweight clash between prospective title contenders, Manchester City and Liverpool take centre stage.

    Both sides taking care of their opening opposition was expected; the Reds had trouble with a physical Southampton side but overcame with a late Daniel Sturridge winner, while the Citizens beat Newcastle United 2-0 with relative ease.

    All leading to Monday's early litmus test.

    Manuel Pellegrini has eased in many players still recuperating from World Cup duty—highlighted by Sergio Aguero playing just seven minutes at St James' Park—but against Liverpool, the Chilean is sure to unleash his chief XI.

    Likewise, Brendan Rodgers has very little to lose in the Reds' second match, as three points in Manchester would set the tone for his side's championship quest.

    Expect the best 22 footballers available, an open spectacle and the home side to face adversity but take three points at their new-age fortress.


    Prediction: Manchester City 3-2 Liverpool

    Players to Watch: David Silva, Dejan Lovren

    For What It's Worth: In the four Liverpool vs. Manchester City games since Brendan Rodgers' Anfield appointment, 16 goals have been scored.