Stock the fridge, it’s ‘Derby Day’
Stock the fridge, clear your schedule and get set to hunker down this weekend; no this is not a hurricane warning, week 14 of the Premier League looks set to be a cracker with three bona fide local derbies promising to actually live up the “Super Sunday” hype for a change!
“Derby Day” as it is now christened (originally ground-breaking, I know) is certain to get pulses racing among football fans. Over in West London, Chelsea will be looking to get back on track, hosting neighbours Fulham in a battle of contrasting ends of the table, before across the English capital, Unai Emery faces a real test at Arsenal with the visit of Tottenham Hotspur and up in Merseyside, Liverpool will be looking to get one over old rivals Everton.
Before all the excitement of Sunday, this afternoon will see Wolverhampton Wanderers make the trip across the border to Wales to face Cardiff City, while tomorrow's standout match will pit strugglers Crystal Palace and Burnley meet in South London, with both aiming to pull away from the relegation zone, where they sit locked on nine points, just one above Southampton in eighteenth.
Cardiff City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
While Bonfire Night is always scheduled for the beginning of November, you cannot rule out fireworks in South Wales today despite Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo insisting there will be no repeat of his touchline row with Cardiff manager Neil Warnock last season.
When Wolves beat Cardiff 1-0 in the Sky Bet Championship in April, Warnock reacted furiously to Nuno running onto the pitch at the end of the match and an enraged Warnock rejected the Portuguese's attempts to shake hands.
Nuno has presided over four wins, four draws and five defeats this season, which leaves Wolves in eleventh place, while Cardiff are nineteenth, only above bottom side Fulham on goal difference.
Wins against the likes of West Ham, Burnley and Southampton saw Wolves flying high in the top half of the league but they make the trip to the Welsh capital on the back of some less impressive form with Nuno's men winless in their last five in the Premier League.
While Cardiff sit in nineteenth place in the table the bottom six are separated by just two points as things stand giving Warnock's men a glimmer of hope. Prediction 0-1
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Crystal Palace come into this game on the back of an eight-game winless streak in all competitions and still searching their first home win of the campaign, although the fixtures have not been kind to them at Selhurst Park so far.
Burnley sit one place behind Crystal Palace on goal difference and have not won in their last six, going down in disappointing defeats to the likes of West Ham United and Newcastle United of late.
A positive point away at Old Trafford, which Palace were unlucky not to win, will give Roy Hodgson's men renewed belief and a performance anywhere near that level tomorrow should see them break their home hoodoo. Prediction 2-1
Huddersfield Town v Brighton & Hove Albion
Huddersfield Town have started to show some of their renowned spirit in recent weeks.
A first win of the campaign, at home to Fulham, has since been followed up with a draw versus West Ham United and a rare away victory over Wolves last weekend.
Brighton sit three places and five points clear of their opponents as things stand, but they have been stronger at home than away. Prediction 1-1
Leicester City v Watford
Leicester are unbeaten in five games in all competitions and are fighting hard to remain in the top half of the Premier League table. Claude Puel was among the favourites to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked this term but he is favouring a more attractive style and winning some sections of the King Power Stadium faithful around.
Watford's early season shine has started to fade, including a 0-3 thumping at home to Liverpool last weekend. Draws have been the order of the day for Leicester of late and I cannot see that changing this weekend. Prediction 2-2
Manchester City v AFC Bournemouth
Home games have seen goals for Pep Guardiola's side of late as they racked up six in the victories over Southampton and Shakhtar Donetsk, five against Burnley and even eased to a 3-1 win in the Manchester derby against José Mourinho's Manchester United side.
They eased to a 4-0 victory over West Ham United last time out as City keep going from strength to strength to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.
A run of three consecutive defeats to Manchester United, Newcastle United and Arsenal has seen Bournemouth slip to eighth place and with confidence likely to be dented by that trio of defeats, it looks likely that they will succumb to the irresistible City attack. Prediction 3-0
Newcastle United v West Ham United
Three successive victories against Watford, Bournemouth and most recently Burnley have seen Newcastle find themselves four points clear of the relegation zone.
Last weekend saw West Ham unsurprisingly beaten at the hands of Manchester City, meaning that the Hammers have now won just one of their last six Premier League games. To make matters worse for the visiting side, West Ham's record against Newcastle is very poor. They have won just a single time in their last 14 Premier League visits to St James' Park. Prediction 2-1
Southampton v Manchester United
Southampton head into this encounter without a win from their last six. Despite that though a win's a must for any side at the wrong end of the table and a failure to pick up three points recently has seen Mark Hughes's men drop into the relegation zone.
Pressure also continues to mount on Manchester United and they travel to St Mary's Stadium on the back of a hugely disappointing 0-0 draw last weekend against Crystal Palace. Prediction 0-2
Chelsea v Fulham
“Derby Day” at the start of December begins with a West London showdown at Stamford Bridge in which Claudio Ranieri returns to the club he managed between 2000 and 2004.
Nine more bosses, including Mourinho twice, have come and gone from Chelsea between Ranieri and his Italian compatriot Maurizio Sarri, who is in charge ast present.
Ranieri made the ideal start after replacing Slavisa Jokanovic last weekend with a 3-2 home win over Southampton. The worry is that Fulham are still leaking goals, but at least they have rediscovered how to score them with Aleksandar Mitrovic bagging a double against Southampton to put him on seven for the campaign. Last weekend saw Chelsea lose their unbeaten record after going down 3-1 away to Tottenham.
Fulham's most recent victory away to Chelsea was in 1979 and I cannot see beyond that statistic still being intact by the end of the game. Prediction 0-3
Arsenal v Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur have won their last six matches and that excellent run of form gives them a strong chance of improving a disappointing recent record away to their biggest rivals, which has seen them fail to win on any of their latest eight league and cup visits to Arsenal.
London derbies have been dominated by whoever was playing at home of late, none of the last eight North London derbies in the Premier League has resulted in an away win and in particular at the Emirates where Spurs have not won in the league since 2010.
However, an impressive 3-1 win over Chelsea last time out and a midweek victory over Inter Milan keeping their wafer-thin Champions League hopes alive, confidence should rightly be sky high among Mauricio Pochettino's men.
Despite the fact Arsenal's 18-match unbeaten run in all competitions heading into Sunday's encounter has been diluted somewhat by four draws out of six, there is no doubt Unai Emery has got Arsenal firing again this season as they sit fifth just three points behind their North London rivals in third.
Liverpool v Everton
Everton have not won at Anfield this century and face a daunting task to rectify that depressing statistic when they face Merseyside rivals with a fantastic home record this season.
This will be Everton manager Marco Silva's first taste of this emotive fixture and he has quietly got Everton up to sixth position after a 1-0 win over Cardiff City last time out.
The biggest problem they have now is that Liverpool are also a winning machine on their own pitch and in the Premier League their only dropped points at Anfield this term were in a 0-0 draw with Manchester City while the solitary goal they conceded was in a 4-1 victory over Cardiff. They beat Watford away 3-0 last weekend meaning, alongside Manchester City, Liverpool remain the only other unbeaten side in the league.
They will be favourites to keep that stat intact this weekend; however, eight of the last 13 matches between these clubs have ended as draws. Prediction 2-1