B/R Experts' Predictions for Premier League Matches, August 19-21

BR-UK StaffFeatured Columnist IVAugust 18, 2017

B/R Experts' Predictions for Premier League Matches, August 19-21

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    All eyes will be on Wembley Stadium on Sunday, as the top two from last season face off in the biggest game of the campaign so far.

    Tottenham Hotspur will take to the field at their temporary home for the first time in the Premier League, with champions Chelsea being their opponents.

    There are other notable games taking place, with Manchester United and Arsenal on their travels, while Liverpool and Manchester City will be on home turf.

    Read on for our experts' views on the weekend's key games.

Swansea City vs. Manchester United

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    Dave Thompson/Associated Press

    Dean Jones

    After the hysteria over their opening-day win against West Ham United, Jose Mourinho's men travel to Wales on Saturday looking to deliver another statement of intent.

    Romelu Lukaku scored twice on his league debut for Manchester United, and while the Belgium international is looking this sharp and confident, it is impossible not to tip United for a win.

    United have an obvious swagger about them, but they also have the power to compete when games become a real battle.

    Swansea City are known for playing attractive football rather than bullying teams, though, and they are adapting to life without Gylfi Sigurdsson, which won't be easy.

    Prediction: Swansea 0-2 Manchester United

    First goalscorer: Romelu Lukaku

                    

    Karl Matchett

    Swansea might have battled their way to a draw on the opening weekend, but that was far more to do with Southampton’s profligacy in front of goal than their own strong showing.

    One week on, they face the best performers from the opening games, and they're a man down after selling Sigurdsson to Everton.

    Quite simply, there appears little probability that the Swans will have anything to trouble United with in the final third. The Red Devils' solid midfield base with Nemanja Matic as the patroller now looks near-impenetrable, and United showed a clinical edge against West Ham that was missing too often last season.

    This bottom-half type of opponent shouldn't present much of a threat to United this season, and it won't do so on Saturday at the Liberty Stadium.

    Prediction: Swansea 0-2 Manchester United

    First goalscorer: Romelu Lukaku

                               

    Sam Tighe

    Swansea and Manchester United put in two very different performances on the opening weekend.

    Paul Clement's men were lucky to escape St Mary's Stadium with a 0-0 draw having been dominated for long spells and offering almost nothing in attack, while Mourinho's crew ran riot against West Ham, netting four.

    That makes it easy to back the form team here, and given the Swans still don't have Fernando Llorente back and have now sold Sigurdsson, it's hard to see their goalscoring threat improving for now.

    Prediction: Swansea 0-2 Manchester United

    First goalscorer: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

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    Alex Broadway/Getty Images

    Dean Jones

    Liverpool fans need cheering up and this could be the perfect fixture for that.

    All week they have been wondering whether Philippe Coutinho is going on strike over a proposed move to Barcelona, so they would welcome the chance to see their available players put on a real masterclass on Saturday.

    Crystal Palace's defending against Huddersfield Town last weekend was little short of shocking as they attempted to adapt to a three-man back line.

    The Reds will stretch them with every attack, and you wonder just how many they will end up winning by if there is an early goal.

    Palace have to shut up shop in the first half and play on the break. Wilfried Zaha is missing, though, so you have to hold doubts over their creativity.

    Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane should have a field day—and it could be a good day to squeeze all three into your fantasy team.

    Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace

    First goalscorer: Sadio Mane

                 

    Karl Matchett

    This could be a magnificent game to watch, unless the viewer happens to be a fan of organised, methodical play. Liverpool and Palace are woeful in defence at present, yet both have a lot of pace going forward.

    Jurgen Klopp will quickly have to appreciate his team must be rotated more often this year, or else lose the explosive nature of his front line. Right now, though, the Reds should be confident and energetic—and that should give them enough of an edge over Palace, who are shorn of Zaha.

    The set-piece threat is there for the away team, but their back three does not yet look sure of itself and Liverpool’s attack can exploit that relentlessly.

    Prediction: Liverpool 4-1 Crystal Palace

    First goalscorer: Mohamed Salah

               

    Sam Tighe

    This is traditionally a tricky fixture for Liverpool, and you'll often find their fans being cautious about what they say ahead of a game against Crystal Palace. However, this should be a relatively simple home win.

    The Reds may have some problems, but the Eagles' issues are far bigger. Frank de Boer is trying to implement a style which doesn't feel like it suits Palace's squad, and the 3-0 defeat at home to Huddersfield last Saturday tells you how far they have to go.

    Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Crystal Palace

    First goalscorer: Roberto Firmino

Stoke City vs. Arsenal

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Dean Jones

    Arsenal have rarely enjoyed travelling to Stoke City, and at this early stage of the season it could prove dangerous again.

    The 4-3 win over Leicester City summed up all that is good and bad about the Gunners in the modern era. They can be naive and flaky at the back while showing dynamism and unpredictability in their finishing at the other end.

    Alexandre Lacazette is going to prove to be a great buy, but it would be nice to see Olivier Giroud given a longer run-out too. He certainly deserves it.

    Stoke have suddenly become more interesting after Jese Rodriguez was signed from Paris Saint-Germain on loan. The Potters matched Everton in their last outing but lacked a game-changer, so perhaps this addition will be significant.

    Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Arsenal

    First goalscorer: Mesut Ozil

                

    Karl Matchett

    Stoke can boast that they are the English side with the most Champions League winners in their squad, but it doesn't count for as much when they are largely players who failed at the elite level.

    Arsenal look exciting in their aggressive, forward stance, but there remain issues for Arsene Wenger to sort—most notably at the centre of the three-man defence.

    Even so, they should have more than enough to break down the Potters across the course of 90 minutes on Saturday, so even the odd slip can be forgiven with enough offensive threat—as it was against Leicester on the opening night of the season.

    The Gunners are some way from perfecting their changed system, which should make for plenty of goals at both ends.

    Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Arsenal

    First goalscorer: Alexandre Lacazette

                      

    Sam Tighe

    For now at least, Stoke's goalscoring threat looks at best sporadic, and at worst non-existent.

    Saido Berahino hasn't scored in aeons, while Xherdan Shaqiri, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Jese and Bojan Krkic are all cut from the same inconsistent cloth.

    Until they prove they're a regular threat on goal, you won't see many people predicting them to beat a team such as Arsenal.

    The Gunners may have wobbled a bit against Leicester on the opening night, but there's no Jamie Vardy to try to contain this weekend.

    Prediction: Stoke 0-2 Arsenal

    First goalscorer: Alexandre Lacazette

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Dean Jones

    This is the most anticipated game of the weekend following Chelsea's first-day disaster.

    It has been a bad summer for the Blues, and Harry Kane and Dele Alli will have been licking their lips after watching the way Burnley carved their defence open so easily.

    Kane did not get on the scoresheet last weekend, but he did come close and is still always in the right place at the right time. You would imagine he will find the net in this one.

    There are questions being asked about how Tottenham will cope with playing home games at Wembley. There is no doubt it will make things tougher—but they beat Juventus there a couple of weeks ago so will fancy their chances of rubbing salt in Chelsea wounds.

    Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea

    First goalscorer: Harry Kane

                    

    Karl Matchett

    The game of the weekend as far as the Premier League is concerned.

    The Spurs squad hasn't been hugely altered over the summer, but they have most players available, while Chelsea's mini overhaul, a spate of suspensions and, well, other absences in the case of Diego Costa, leave them short for a critical match.

    Antonio Conte may have a choice to make. Does he sacrifice his favoured 3-4-3 system to play senior players in their most natural roles, or opt for at least one unproven, younger midfielder to seamlessly slot in and cope with Tottenham, who have a strong centre.

    Then there's the Wembley factor to consider. Spurs have to get to grips with playing there, and what better match to do so than against a local title rival?

    Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea

    First goalscorer: Dele Alli

                   

    Sam Tighe

    Spurs come into this game off the back of an impressive 2-0 victory at Newcastle United, while Chelsea were turned over 3-2 by Burnley on their own patch. The Blues have few players to pick from due to suspensions and injuries to a rash of first-teamers.

    Victor Moses' return will give Chelsea thrust on both flanks, and perhaps Alvaro Morata will be given the starting nod, but it won't be enough to outgun a Spurs side who are already purring.

    Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea

    First goalscorer: Christian Eriksen

Manchester City vs. Everton

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Dean Jones

    Everton emerged as many people's second-favourite side over the summer as they went on an impressive spending spree, but no game will test the new boys quite like this one.

    Wayne Rooney's goal against Stoke was a huge boost, but there are still limitations in Everton's play at the moment, which means we won't see them fulfilling potential for at least a few weeks.

    City are the Premier League title favourites for a reason—they have more attacking options than almost any other side in Europe, and all of them are great.

    The toughest task for Pep Guardiola is rotating the front men while managing to keep them all happy. City enjoyed 78 per cent possession at Brighton & Hove Albion last week, and that dominance will no doubt be on display here too.

    Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Everton

    First goalscorer: Kevin De Bruyne

                     

    Karl Matchett

    Everton's rebuild continues apace with club-record signing Sigurdsson joining Ronald Koeman and Co. this week, but Manchester City's regeneration hasn't exactly been quiet this summer either.

    They were formidable on the opening day, dominant and assured, and that's how they will try to play on home soil even against a much better opponent on Monday night.

    Everton will offer more confidence on the ball and perhaps more aggression in chasing it than Brighton managed, but can they get numbers forward after keeping City at bay? And do they genuinely have a front line that can take one of the few chances they might create?

    This is an early test, and one the Toffees might fail—and realise how far they still have to go.

    Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Everton

    First goalscorer: Gabriel Jesus

                  

    Sam Tighe

    The first litmus test of Everton's fancy new squad has arrived, but judging by their performance against Stoke on the opening weekend, they've not yet jelled or truly learnt to play with one another.

    City, on the other hand, looked to be a slick footballing machine on Saturday against Brighton, hogging the ball and creating four or five brilliant chances—two of which were converted.

    The Toffees will provide a sterner test, but they won't be able to withstand the might of Pep Guardiola's side playing in their own stadium.

    Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Everton

    First goalscorer: Gabriel Jesus