EPL Predictions: Picks, Top Players for Week 8 Premier League Fixtures

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2017

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho (L) vies with Manchester United's Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 17, 2016. / AFP / Paul ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Liverpool hosting Manchester United at Anfield, Chelsea's trip to Crystal Palace and Arsenal visiting eighth-placed Watford are the standout fixtures from the eighth week of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

All three matches can be decided by flair players, with some of South America's best talent set to be involved. For Liverpool, Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho needs to thrive to help unlock what's sure to be a stubborn United defence.

Meanwhile, Arsenal will once again look to Chile international Alexis Sanchez for inspiration. However, the versatile forward may find himself upstaged by Hornets attacking midfielder Richarlison.

Nobody is going to to upstage Eden Hazard for Chelsea, but the Belgian's role will take on greater significance with centre-forward Alvaro Morata perhaps missing the trip to Selhurst Park due to injury.

Here are the week's full fixtures, along with picks:

Saturday, October 14

  • Liverpool vs. Manchester United, 12:45 p.m. BST/7:45 a.m. ET: Draw
  • Burnley vs. West Ham United, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET: Burnley
  • Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET: Chelsea
  • Manchester City vs. Stoke City, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET: Manchester City
  • Swansea City vs. Huddersfield Town, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET: Swansea
  • Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bournemouth, 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET: Spurs
  • Watford vs. Arsenal, 5:30 p.m. BST/12:30 p.m. ET: Arsenal

Sunday, October 15

  • Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Everton, 1:30 p.m. BST/8:30 a.m. ET: Draw
  • Southampton vs. Newcastle United, 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET: Draw

Monday, October 16

  • Leicester City vs. West Bromwich Albion, 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET: Draw

           

Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool

He reportedly wanted to leave the club during the summer, but there's no doubt Coutinho has been exceptional since being forced to stay on Merseyside. The gifted No. 10 has been gliding effortlessly between the lines, linking Liverpool's attacking moves together with deft touches, intelligent movement and quick thinking.

Coutinho has also reminded everyone of his considerable shooting power from distance. After striking a superb free-kick to help beat Leicester City 3-2, the Brazilian again proved lethal from long range to earn a point against Newcastle United.

His goal against the Magpies earned Coutinho a distinction among players in England's top flight, per Sky Sports Statto:

Coutinho's shooting power will play a vital role in breaking down a likely deep-sitting United rearguard. The Red Devils earned a point from this fixture last season after a dour goalless draw. United very very defensive to stymie Liverpool then, but Coutinho's movement and quick-strike capability will ensure goals this time.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea

A hamstring injury for Morata was just one of the issues Chelsea had to deal with after losing 1-0 to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge last time out. The striker has since taken to Instagram to show himself back in training, and he is "hopeful of being fit" for the game against Palace, per Metro's Tom Olver.

Whether Morata is ready or not, Chelsea will rely on Hazard to be the creative fulcrum in attack. The mercurial Belgian winger is playing further forward and more central on manager Antonio Conte's watch.

Conte's faith in Hazard is justified. The 26-year-old has been in electric form since returning from injury recently. Hazard couldn't undermine City, but he was the inspiration behind an impressive 2-1 win away to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League days earlier.

Squawka Football detailed how much influence Hazard exerted in the final third:

Palace won't be able to keep the outstanding No. 10 quiet for long, even as they inch closer to improvement under new manager Roy Hodgson.

          

Richarlison, Watford

Watford's strong start to the new season owes a lot to their underrated creative acumen in attacking areas. The key player has been former Fluminense ace Richarlison.

Still just 20, the versatile forward has proved decisive in Watford's last two matches. He scored a late winner in a 2-1 win away to Swansea City, before netting the equaliser in injury time to force a 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion.

The division's official Twitter account outlined the impact of Richarlison's goals:

This attack-minded maestro already has three goals and an assist to his credit through seven league appearances, per WhoScored.com. He's already looking more than worth the £11.5 million the Hornets paid this summer.

Richarlison's ability to operate between the midfield and forward lines will test the discipline of Arsenal's defensive structures. Specifically, his position just off the striker will require the Gunners' two-man central midfield shield of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey not to venture too far forward and expose the back three, something both players have been guilty of this season.

If Richarlison is given too much freedom, he will punish a suspect Arsenal defence, even if Sanchez and Co. should do enough to still get the win.

Any dropped points by United and Chelsea will be punished by City in the title race. Meanwhile, the battle for top-four places will heat up as both Arsenal and north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur should see out narrow but vital wins.