Sunderland v West Ham – Saturday October 3rd
A defeat here and Sunderland go into panic mode. Dick Advocaat’s side have conceded sixteen, they’re rock bottom, and have just two points. In contrast, West Ham are third, and have looked consistently impressive, especially performances from keeper Adrian. Jermain Defoe goes up against the club which launched his career on Saturday, and has called for his teammates to start getting points on the board now, calling it “a massive game and it is a game we need to win”.
Sunderland have been adopting a 4-3-3 system this season with either Borini, or Defoe, in the lone striker role which neither have seemed to enjoy too much. It is expected that something new could be tried against West Ham, when questioned Advocaat said: “We definitely have to look at a change of formation. Now we have to ask do we go on with 4-3-3 or do we have to find another solution?”
Slaven Bilic and his West Ham side have found it tougher going when teams set up defensively this season, as they are dangerous on the counter attack. With a somewhat embarrassing defensive record, it is expected that any change of formation for Sunderland would be a more defensive one. Another factor is that West Ham risk overconfidence going into such a game, and the draw is priced too high at 3.5 in the Spiffindex. This should fall to 3.2 by Saturday.
The fact that this game falls before the international break means it increases in importance as a morale booster, a win will give the Black Cats something positive to build on, whereas a loss will cause fans to further question both manager and players. Sunderland could very well sneak a win in what should be a hard fought game, especially if M’Vila can get the better of Kouyate. Sunderland’s odds to get their first win of the season to drop to 3.1.
Prediction: An expected change in formation for the Black Cats could make life difficult for West Ham on Saturday afternoon. Buy Draw Under.
Everton v Liverpool – Sunday October 4th
The Merseyside derby comes just three days after Liverpool’s Europa League clash against Sion. Whilst Rodgers is expected to rest some key players, this is naturally a game they’d rather not have to play imminently before their first local derby of the season.
News that Roy Hodgson is apparently considering leaving Daniel Sturridge out of the England squad could work hugely in Liverpool’s favour. Sturridge has had to prove himself in the past after disappointing spells at Man City and Chelsea, and with Rodgers expected to rest him against Sion, he’ll be raring to do so again in a game Hodgson will surely be watching. If Sturridge is rested against Sion, expect Liverpool’s odds to win to drop to 2.85.
Last weekend Everton came back from 2-0 down to beat West Brom 3-2 in what will have been a very important victory for the team mentally. Martinez and his side are now 5th in the table, above their rivals, and this confidence will be an important factor for the fans as well as the players. The first derby in a long while without Steven Gerrard at the club could also play a part; Liverpool lack a leader on the pitch right now, especially one who knows what this game means to the fans. This looks likely to be the first Merseyside derby since 1986 in which not a single local player has featured for the Reds. Jordan Rossiter could play, but he is not yet ready to fill the boots of Gerrard. Everton meanwhile have Ross Barkley, a player who could easily be a match winner here. Everton’s odds to win to fall to 2.58 in the Spiffindex.
Recent history tells us that an Everton victory is unlikely; they’ve won just one of the previous eight clashes at home whilst five of the previous six meetings at any ground have ended in a draw. Odds for the draw are too generous right now at 3.4, this should fall to around 3.1 by kick-off.
Prediction: Can Ross Barkley continue his journey in becoming a club legend by winning this one? If Sturridge is ready to prove a point to Roy Hodgson then Liverpool will have a dangerous upper hand; the draw looks most likely and will fall below 3.4. Again buy Draw Under.
Arsenal v Man Utd – Sunday October 4th
Man Utd were heavy favourites prior to the midweek game against Wolfsburg; they’d scored nine goals in three games, winning all three whilst Wolfsburg battled problems off the pitch. As it happened, Louis Van Gaal admitted his side were fortunate to win and looked nervy as they held on in the latter moments of the second half. Juan Mata, the star performer on the night, admitted the players were tired, whilst it is evidently on the manager’s mind too; Van Gaal stated: “We have to recover, recover and recover because Sunday is Arsenal and they played yesterday, so they have one more day of recovery.”
United fans will be hoping Carrick and Herrera can return in time for the game; if they’re ruled out expect United’s odds to win to climb slightly to 3.82. Whilst Arsenal have an extra day’s rest, they go into this one off the back of a 3-2 defeat to Olympiakos, making it two for two defeats in the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger reportedly accused his players of ‘lacking belief and desire’ during the debrief, and conceding three against Olympiakos is not something he should find acceptable with the talent at Arsenal. News that Koscielny is injured for the clash on Sunday is a huge blow for their chances, and mentally for Gabriel too, with whom Koscielny has been building an impressive understanding. Mertesacker should deputise, whilst Cech should return in goal after Ospina was to blame for one Olympiakos goal. The constant switching between Ospina and Cech is unlikely to be something the Czech keeper expected, and something he is equally unlikely to enjoy.
Prediction: Juan Mata himself has said the players are tired; United will find a full 90 away at the Emirates tough going, and although Arsenal will be more vulnerable with the loss of Koscielny, it is only a week since they scored 5 at in form Leicester. Buy Arsenal Over.