EPL Preview: Week Five

Rivalries are set to be renewed this weekend in the Barclays English Premier League. Riley Beveridge looks at what’s in store.

(Kickoff times are in relation to AEST)

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Swansea v Everton

 Kickoff: 9.45pm Saturday September 22ndat the Liberty Stadium

A rampant Aston Villa side ended Swansea’s fantastic start to the season on the weekend. The Welsh side had begun their campaign under Michael Laudrup brilliantly, winning their first two games comprehensively, however they’ve hit a stumbling block in recent weeks. They were played off the park last weekend, and will have to bounce back at home this time around.

Everton, meanwhile, was very unlucky against Newcastle. They had two goals incorrectly ruled out (one for offside and one was adjudged to have not crossed the goal line) and all but outplayed a decent Newcastle side. They have only had the one blip in their season when they lost to West Bromwich Albion, but apart from that they’ve been magnificent.

Based purely on form, I think the Toffees are just ahead of their Welsh rivals, however the trip across the border should be enough to balance out this match.

Swansea 1-1 Everton

Chelsea v Stoke

Kickoff: 12.00am Sunday September 23rd at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea’s scoreless draw with QPR was the only real slip-up in an impressive start to the Premier League season. Belgian international Eden Hazard looks a superb acquisition, and he continues to impress with his pace and strength in midfield. The Blues were forced to endure a tough Champions League encounter with Juventus on Wednesday night, however they should have enough time to adequately prepare for this clash.

Stoke were their stubborn, resilient selves against the champions Manchester City last weekend. Peter Crouch’s “basketball goal”, as Roberto Mancini labeled it, was enough to get them a point in a typically scrappy contest. However their away form remains a constant problem for Tony Pulis’ men.

Chelsea should prove too good for a gritty Stoke side.

Chelsea 2-0 Stoke

Southampton v Aston Villa

Kickoff: 12.00am Sunday September 23rd at St Mary’s Stadium

Southampton’s difficult start to life in the Premier League continued last weekend when they were outclassed by a brutal Arsenal side. Their 1-6 thrashing at the Emirates wouldn’t have done their confidence any good, especially after conceding late goals to lose to Manchester City and Manchester United to start the season.

Aston Villa, on the other hand, is on the right track. They started the season with consecutive losses, however have backed it up with a hard-fought draw away to Newcastle and a crucial win against Swansea. Their new signings, Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke, both scored on the weekend and will look to continue on their brilliant starts.

Southampton deserve something for their start to the season, and Aston Villa are incredibly inconsistent, so I’m sure they will share the points.

Southampton 2-2 Aston Villa

West Bromwich Albion v Reading

Kickoff: 12.00am Sunday September 23rd at the Hawthorns

West Bromwich Albion suffered their first loss of the season last weekend when they were thrashed by Fulham. Top scorer Peter Odemwingie was sent off in the disastrous result, and will subsequently miss the clash with Reading this weekend. It was Steve Clarke’s first poor result in charge of Albion, so he will be looking for a positive response when Reading come to the Black Country on Saturday.

The Royals weren’t great at home against Tottenham on the weekend. Their defending looked suspect for large periods of the match, and it never really clicked for them. Their manager, Brian McDermott, didn’t mince his words when he was speaking of axed Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici, saying he was dropped due to ‘poor form’. The Aussie shot-stopper will be looking to work his way back into the side for this match.

Albion’s display against Fulham will prove to be a one-off as they seek to rebuild under Steve Clarke. Even without Odemwingie, they should be too good for Reading.

West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Reading

West Ham v Sunderland

Kickoff: 12.00am Sunday September 23rd at Upton Park

West Ham’s problem at the moment is scoring goals. Andy Carroll came straight into their side and immediately offered a target up front, however without him they have only scored one goal in three matches. The problem was evident again on the weekend when they drew 0-0 with Norwich, despite creating a host of decent chances.

Sunderland doesn’t have that problem, because Steven Fletcher has been exceptional since he joined from Wolves.  He’s netted three times in his first two matches,  including another goal on the weekend against Liverpool. The problem for Martin O’Neill is that they’re still yet to register a win from their opening three games.

Sunderland looks the form team, however it’s a long road trip from the North East to London, so a draw looks the most likely result.

West Ham 1-1 Sunderland

Wigan v Fulham

Kickoff: 12.00am Sunday September 23rd and the DW Stadium

I thought Wigan had made an alright start to the season, considering their tough draw, however they were very poor last weekend. Their 0-4 loss to Manchester United wouldn’t have been what Roberto Martinez was hoping for, and he’ll be looking for them to rebound at home to Fulham this week.

The Cottagers are coming off a superb 3-0 home win against an in-form West Bromwich Albion. Their new signing Dimitar Berbatov was clinical in the victory, scoring twice in the first half to all but seal the three points before the break. Martin Jol will be hoping his side can build on that impressive result.

Fulham might have been good last week, but a tough trip north to Wigan could prove too difficult to gain another three points.

Wigan 2-2 Fulham

Liverpool v Manchester United

Kickoff: 10.30pm Sunday September 23rd at Anfield

Liverpool v Manchester United are always special occasions, and it’s set to lift another gear this Sunday when the two sides take part in an emotional pre-game tribute to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.

Liverpool will be buoyed by a positive performance away to Sunderland last weekend, where Luis Suarez got on the scoresheet and 17-year-old Raheem Sterling continued to shine. However goal scoring remains their only problem, as without Suarez they don’t really have a target man. They did travel to Switzerland midweek for a Europa League tie, however rested most of their first team regulars so they should be refreshed for the clash.

Manchester United have recovered well from an opening day loss to Everton, wining three consecutive league fixtures. Their 4-0 win over Wigan last weekend saw them finally click into gear, and would have been exactly what Alex Ferguson would have wanted to see. They grinded their way to a tough victory over Galatasaray in the Champions League midweek, and could welcome back Wayne Rooney for the derby match.

Despite Liverpool’s poor start to the season, I’m expecting Sunday’s match to be an encounter where form is thrown out the window and emotion takes charge. A win would be a fitting way to remember the 96 lives lost in 1989.

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

Newcastle v Norwich

Kickoff: 12.00am Monday September 24th at St James’ Park

Newcastle’s week was thrown into disarray when top scorer Demba Ba admitted he was disillusioned with life at the Toon. It came on the back of him scoring two goals in Newcastle’s dramatic 2-2 draw with Everton last week. Alan Pardew conceded that he is likely to lose Ba in the January transfer window, but will be hoping to put the tough week behind him when they welcome Norwich on Sunday.

Norwich played out a goalless draw with West Ham on the weekend, meaning they had recovered from their 0-5 opening day hammering with three consecutive draws. Chris Houghton is still searching for that elusive first win, however a tough trip to Newcastle won’t make it any easier to come by.

Newcastle, with or without Demba Ba, should be too strong for the Canaries.

Newcastle 2-0 Norwich

Manchester City v Arsenal

Kickoff: 1.00am Monday September 24th at the Etihad Stadium

The reigning champions Manchester City remain undefeated to start their Premier League defence, however their poor showing in a 1-1 draw with Stoke, coupled with a last-minute loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League midweek, wouldn’t have been what Roberto Mancini had in mind. They should welcome back Sergio Aguero from a knee injury, however they’re still looking to gel as a squad this season.

City will face an in-form Arsenal side who are rampant at the moment. They thrashed Southampton 6-1 last weekend, and backed it up with a come-from-behind victory over Montpellier in the Champions League. Lukas Podolski looks to be a wonderful signing, while Santi Cazorla has fitted in seamlessly since his arrival in the summer.

City are extremely tough to beat at home, although they will face an Arsenal side looking to continue their fine start to the season. Still, I think the reigning champions should prove too good.

Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal

Tottenham v QPR

Kickoff: 1.00am Monday September 24th at White Hart Lane

Tottenham got their first win of the season last week against a hapless Reading side, with Jermain Defoe proving why he is one of the most lethal finishers in the Premier League. Defoe’s double may have inspired Tottenham, however their remains a fraction of discontent within White Hart Lane since Andre Villas Boas’ arrival.

Meanwhile QPR are still looking to gel as a side following a host of summer arrivals, however took their first step when they managed a goalless draw with Chelsea last weekend. Julio Cesar was fantastic between the sticks, and they finally looked stable defensively after conceding nine goals in their opening three Premier League matches.

QPR look to finally be hitting some form, and I think they’ll do enough to secure a point against Tottenham in a fierce London derby.

Tottenham 1-1 QPR

Riley Beveridge is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe. You can follow his fanatical Premier League thoughts at his Twitter account: @RileyBev.

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