Man Utd v Man City
The 186th edition of the Manchester derby, one of the world’s biggest football matches, sees Manchester United host reigning Premier League (PL) champions Manchester City with both sides looking to put recent setbacks behind them. For the fourth campaign in a row, Man United have lost three of their opening ten league fixtures (W5, D2) and now trail cross-city rivals City by three points after a recent dip in PL form (W1, D1, L3).One could be forgiven for thinking the gap was larger given the pressure on boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but having suffered a 5-0 humiliation in one derby (vs Liverpool) already this season, he can’t afford another poor showing here. Encouragingly, the ‘Red Devils’ have fared well in the Manchester derby in recent years, losing just one of the last five competitive meetings (W3, D1) and will believe they can deal an early blow to their title-chasing foes.However, as they’ve won just one of the last six PL H2Hs at Old Trafford (D2, L3), that could put a spring in the step of Man City as they look to bounce back from a surprise 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in their last league outing. That saw them slip five points behind leaders Chelsea, although a midweek 4-1 thrashing of Club Brugge will have boosted morale ahead of what could be a defining match in either side’s season.Defeat to Palace was Man City’s first at home this term and interestingly, the last time they lost consecutive league fixtures, the first of those defeats was against none-other than Palace! That might give manager Pep Guardiola some food for thought, particularly as this is now the third straight season that they’ve lost two of their first ten league games (W6, D2).
Players to watch: Gabriel Jesus completed the scoring for Man City against Brugge and the last three of his four competitive club goals this term have now arrived after half-time. The same is true for United’s Bruno Fernandes, who opened the scoring in the last PL derby clash.
Hot stat: Man City have a 100% record (W4) after leading at half-time in the PL this term.
My Pick: Man United To Win 18/5
Brentford v Norwich
With Brentford now looking back on three straight Premier League (PL) defeats, they can consider their honeymoon period following promotion to be well and truly over. It is an alarming turn of fortune, although Thomas Frank’s men haven’t had it easy after facing three of last season’s top-five finishers in as many home games.That said, the ‘Bees’ have thrived on the nectar of strong starts here, scoring inside the opening half-hour in both of their prior home league games to see them avoid defeat. Though Brentford took only a point across last season’s two H2Hs (D1, L1), they should see this as a great opportunity to bounce back against a Norwich side that’s winless in PL away action since November 2019!Norwich have now taken just two points from the first 30 available, and that shameful return makes them only the fourth PL side ever to take less than three points from their opening ten matches. The other three ended up relegated, with the last two finishing rock bottom.Looking further ahead, Norwich need that first win soon if they are to at least avoid becoming the third PL team ever to be officially relegated before April 1st. However, getting that maiden win looks unlikely here, as the Canaries’ ongoing run of 17 PL road trips without victory (D3, L14) contains 13 scoring blanks, and precisely zero points recovered from 11 first-half deficits.
Key battle:Bryan Mbeumo has scored before half-time in Brentford’s last two league wins. Set for a torrid time marking him, Norwich defender Andrew Omobamidele gave his side short-lived parity with an equaliser against Leeds last weekend (L 1-2), in a mad five-minute spell that saw three goals.
Hot stat: On average, Norwich have conceded 2.0 goals per match beyond the hour mark across their four away defeats this term.
My Pick: Brentford To Win 3/5
Chelsea v Burnley
It was a good weekend last time out for Chelsea, who capitalised on their rivals’ misfortunes to steal a march in the title race and followed it up with a 1-0 victory over Malmö in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) in midweek. Back on the domestic trail, Thomas Tuchel’s side play host here to Burnley who they’ve beaten in their last four Premier League (PL) H2Hs, scoring 12 goals in the process.The ‘Blues’ have been free-scoring this campaign, netting 16 goals in their five PL home games, their joint-most at this stage of any PL season alongside 2010/11. Chelsea have also claimed the most home points of any PL side ahead of the round, whilst they’ve followed up their three previous UCL fixtures with a PL victory this season.At the tenth time of asking, Burnley finally registered their first PL win of the season in the last round, convincingly dispatching Brentford 3-1. Victory in that clash marked the first time in 138 PL games that the ‘Clarets’ scored three first-half goals at Turf Moor, but etched in the memory of Sean Dyche’s side will be the fact they achieved that exact feat here at Stamford Bridge in 2017, as Burnley famously won 3-2 back then thanks to three quick-fire first-half strikes.Since that famed victory in West London, it’s been one-way traffic in H2H terms, with Burnley succumbing to six losses from seven prior fixtures with Chelsea (D1). The visitors can take heart, however, from their solid recent record in the capital, with six wins from their last nine competitive visits to London (L3).
Players to watch: César Azpilicueta was on the scoresheet in Tuchel’s first league victory in charge against Burnley and has three goal involvements in his last four H2H appearances (G1, 2A). Matthew Lowton scored only his third-ever Burnley goal against Brentford; only once in his career has he been on the winning side against the ‘Blues’ (W1, D2, L9).
Hot stat: All 14 PL H2Hs have seen at least one first-half goal.
My Pick: First Half Over 1.5 31/20
Crystal Palace v Wolves
Crystal Palace pulled off one of the upsets of the Premier League (PL) season so far by keeping a clean sheet and beating Manchester City 2-0 last time out. That win ended a four-game series of score draws for Palace, having shared the spoils more than any other PL team coming into the weekend. They’ll now look for back-to-back PL wins for the first time since January/February.One of those victories was actually a home game against opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers, whom Palace last secured consecutive league victories over back in January 2013. The Eagles’ confidence will therefore be flying high here, especially given that they’ve lost only two of their first ten PL fixtures this campaign (W2, D6), their fewest at this stage of a top-flight season since 1990/91.Wolves have put together a credible run of form themselves, going unbeaten in their last five in the league (W4, D1). Their main concern here will be the destination, as the capital city hasn’t been welcoming for the men from the West Midlands, with Wolves losing four of their last seven trips to London (W2, D1), failing to find the net in five of those matches.Manager Bruno Lage will believe his team are in great shape to break that duck though, as their away form has been superb since losing their opening away league game on their travels. Wolves have won ten points across their last four PL away fixtures (W3, D1), just one fewer than the 15 road matches prior to this.
Players to watch: Palace’s Wilfried Zaha has scored the match opener in six of his last seven PL goalscoring outings, while Wolves’ Raúl Jiménez has won his side seven points with his goal contributions this season (G2, A2), the third highest such return in the league.
Hot stat: Palace have scored 85% of their PL goals in the second half this season, the highest proportion of all PL teams.
My Pick: Over 1.5 11/25
Brighton v Newcastle
Graham Potter’s Brighton & Hove Albion managed what many teams have failed to do previously as they cut a two-goal deficit to earn a point away to high-flying Liverpool last time out, showcasing their battling qualities. Thanks to that result, the ‘Seagulls’ now have their best ever return of 16 points at this stage of a top-flight season (W4, D4, L2), and they’re hot favourites to win here.It’s easy to make a case for a home win here when you consider that Brighton have never lost a Premier League (PL) H2H versus Newcastle United (W4, D4) whilst they’ve kept four straight clean sheets in this matchup. A win is also of vital importance as Brighton have stagnated in the PL of late, registering four draws across the last five rounds (L1).While the financial takeover of Newcastle United hasn’t given them any immediate results on the pitch, the feeling around Tyneside remains one of hope as the owners look close to appointing their first manager. Never mind their long-term vision, the ‘Toon’ have a relegation battle on their hands this campaign as they still seek their first PL win of the season (D4, L6).Only the bravest or most optimistic fans of some clubs would make an approximate 12 hour round trip for a fixture of this nature, but the ‘Geordies’ will travel in their hordes – some maybe even without their shirts! They could be in for a long journey back north though if their beloved Newcastle can’t improve on their measly return of just one goal from their last 96 goal attempts vs Brighton!
Players to watch: Brighton’s Leandro Trossard contributed to three goals across his two league H2Hs with Newcastle last season (1G, 2A) and hit the equaliser last weekend. Meanwhile, Callum Wilson has scored in three of his last four games, though all three outings saw Newcastle fail to win (D2, L1).
Hot stat: Both Brighton and Newcastle have picked up a joint-league high 26 yellow cards ahead of the round (2.6 per match on average).
My Pick: Brighton To Win 3/5