Premier League previews 2019-20

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v. Liverpool

Leave a comment
  • Liverpool lead title race by 6 points
  • Villa sit 15th in PL table, on 11 points
  • LFC won 6-0 last trip to Villa Park, in 2016

Liverpool’s 100-percent Premier League record may have ended two weeks ago with a 1-1 draw away to rivals Manchester United, but the Reds continue to pace the PL title race ahead of Saturday’s trip to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold).

In theory, facing a recently promoted side like Villa should be the most straightforward challenge in a week that saw Liverpool take on, and beat, both north London sides — first, Tottenham Hotspur in PL action on Sunday, followed by Arsenal in a 5-5 thriller in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. It’s been a taxing period for Jurgen Klopp‘s men, though, as they came back from 1-0 down to Tottenham inside the game’s first minute and erased a pair of two-goal deficits to the Gunners before triumphing in a penalty shootout. Coincidentally, Liverpool and Villa were then drawn against one another in the quarterfinals of the EFL Cup, tentatively scheduled to be played in mid-December. Before that was a trip to Belgium in the Champions League and another fight-back from a goal down against Man United.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Virgil Van Dijk were all spared from further action midweek, their first period of inaction in over a month, including the recent international break. Klopp is plenty wary about the demands of the modern game. The EFL Cup presents the ideal opportunity to rest first-team stars, but he needs them to return at the peak of their abilities once it’s back to PL action if Liverpool are to hold of Manchester City and win their first English league title since 1990.

Villa won’t be a pushover, however, as Dean Smith‘s side has won three of its last four games in all competitions, including back-to-back games against fellow relegation battlers in PL action and an EFL Cup round of 16 triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers. The lone blemish came in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat away to Man City, a game they kept scoreless for the entire first half before Raheem Sterling opened the floodgates in the first minute of the second half.

Injuries/suspensions

Aston Villa: OUT – Jota (hernia); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Grealish (calf)

Liverpool: OUT – Joel Matip (knee), Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Naby Keita (groin), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)


Projected lineups

Aston Villa: Heaton – Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett – Nakamba – Trezeguet, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish – Wesley

Liverpool: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane


What they’re saying

Bjorn Engels, on bragging rights: “My girlfriend is from Liverpool. Her whole family is. And they are all Reds, too. We have been joking about things in the build-up. I think Aston Villa is the only team who can beat Liverpool and they won’t be too upset. If we win, I think there will be no problem. They love Liverpool. Of course, when you are born with a team, that is who you support. But I think they will be happy for me if we get a good result.”

Klopp, on Georginio Wijnaldum’s importance: “Gini speaks on the pitch for the way he plays. It’s just so obvious his importance. And it is in both directions — in attack and defence, small spaces, big spaces, it is hard challenges, fine football, pretty much all of that. Is he the perfect midfielder? Yes, from the skill set, 100 percent. He has all that you need.”


Prediction

Liverpool haven’t been at their very best in recent weeks, but they’ve managed to pick up positive results against some tough sides. Having the luxury of resting the big names this week should do them a world of good and bring about a swift response, at Villa’s expense. Aston Villa 0-3 Liverpool.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Leicester City

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • PL leaders Liverpool host 3rd-place Leicester
  • Rodgers makes managerial return to Anfield
  • Reds can go 8 points clear of Man City (for a day) with a win

The clash of Matchweek 8 will see Premier League leaders Liverpool host Leicester City, the two-month-old season’s surprise performers, at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

The Reds haven’t so much as dropped a point this season and have only trailed one opponent, 19th-place Newcastle United for a grand total of 21 minutes. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has won 16 straight PL games dating back to last season and has conceded just five goals in seven games this term. The Reds were far from their best, at least defensively, when they beat Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday. After going 3-0 up in 36 minutes, Klopp’s men gave all three goals back in a 21-minute period before Mohamed Salah grabbed a late winner. Back in England, though, Liverpool are yet to conceded multiple goals in a PL game this season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

On the other side, Leicester have the look a side set to challenge for a top-four place all season. After suffering their only loss, to Manchester United, three weeks ago, the Foxes have responded with a 2-1 comeback victory over Tottenham Hotspur and a 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United. Brendan Rodgers is set to return to Anfield as the opposing manager for the first time since departing as Liverpool boss in 2015. Rodgers knows all too well the enormity of the task ahead of Klopp — chasing Liverpool’s first-ever Premier League-era title and the club’s first top-division title since 1990 — after coming oh so close in the 2013-14 season.

Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT – Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Joel Matip (knock), Alisson (calf)

Leicester: OUT – Matty James (achilles); RETURNING – James Maddison (ankle)


Projected lineups

Liverpool: Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane

Leicester: Schmeichel – Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell – Ndidi, Perez, Praet, Tielemans, Barnes – Vardy


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp, on the near-disaster against Salzburg: “How do I explain that? I think it was obvious: we left the very successful path of the first 30 minutes. That was some of the best football we played so far, against how we all saw a little bit later a very well organized team with a clear idea and identity. We did everything they don’t like, on a high speed, scored the three goals, could have scored more. They changed the system – that’s allowed and is not really a problem usually, but tonight it was for us because we changed the approach a little bit for some reason.”

Brendan Rodgers, on returning to Anfield: “I’m really looking forward to going back. I had the real privilege of managing there. So much learning took place for me at Liverpool. I always take the positives when I analyze my time there. The first couple of seasons went well and we went close to the title. The third year was more difficult but there was great learning for me as a coach. The fourth season didn’t last so long. There were so many highs as a young manager and I’ll always be grateful for that.”


Prediction

Leicester will give Liverpool everything they can handle, and more, but the Anfield effect will certainly be felt when the Reds are forced to dig deep in the final 30 minutes. In the end, Liverpool will have too much possession and force the Foxes to work a little too hard just to stay in it. Liverpool 2-1 Leicester.

Premier League Preview: Brighton v. Tottenham

Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • 6th-place Spurs visit 16th-place Brighton
  • BHAFC winless since the opening day of the season
  • Spurs fresh off a 7-2 embarrassment by Bayern

Saturday’s trip to England’s south coast to take on Brighton & Hove Albion (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) begins what feels like a real crossroads moment for Tottenham Hotspur — not only for the 2019-20 Premier League season, but also the tenure of manager Mauricio Pochettino. After conceding seven goals to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, Tottenham have lost their foremost identity under Pochettino: that of a tough, strong defensive unit.

Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, unquestionably one of the world’s premier center back duos not so long ago, look to have aged five years over the summer, before taking into account that the former wanted to leave the club and the latter was benched for the first month of the season over a minor falling-out with Pochettino. Letting Kieran Trippier leave for Atletico Madrid in the summer, without replacing their starting right back, has proven a disastrous decision. Hugo Lloris‘ propensity for mind-melting howlers hasn’t gone anywhere and in fact gains steam as he approaches his mid-30s.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Spurs have just three wins from their first seven PL games. If not for similar early-season struggles from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, the whispers of a full-on crisis would sound a lot more like a full-throated shout.

Perhaps Brighton’s recent scoring record — just two goals from their last six games — makes Graham Potter‘s side the ideal tonic for what ails Spurs. After beating Watford 3-0 on opening day, the Seagulls have been hammered to the tune of 10-2 while drawing and losing three games each.

Injuries/suspensions

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Shane Duffy (calf), Bernardo (knee), Jose Izquierdo (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Davy Propper (hamstring)

Spurs: OUT – Giovani Lo Celso (groin), Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring), Serge Aurier (suspension)


Projected lineups

Brighton: Ryan – Webster, Dunk, Burn – Montoya, Gross, Stephens, Mooy, Alzate – Bissouma, Maupay

Spurs: Lloris – Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Vertonghen – Winks, Ndombele, Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen – Son, Kane


What they’re saying

Pascal Gross, on facing Spurs after the Bayern defeat: “This game has nothing to do with what will happen on Saturday. They were playing in the Champions League against a very good team, and it will be a completely different game against us compared to Bayern Munich. It can go one of two ways after a result like that. Your confidence may be low if you’ve been punished in such a way, or you may want the next game to come straight away and forget about the last one. It was a very bad night for them, but they will learn from it.”

Mauricio Pochettino, on whether is his players are still playing for him: “Yes, I really believe. I have no doubt the players always want to do their best to win. They play for themselves, their families, then the for the club and the coaching staff. I have no doubt, they have commitment, with four years or one in their contract, that is no doubt. The negative result like the other day was three days after beating Southampton with 10 men, it cannot change completely, the ideas or perception.”


Prediction

Not a ton of scoring chances for either side, as Spurs will surely look to shore things up defensively and get back to the foundation that made them one of the PL’s best sides the last few seasons. Brighton will feel this one is there to be had, and they’ll get something from this game. It’s a 1-1 draw leaning ever so slightly toward the Seagulls.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Bournemouth

Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Early-season mid-table clash on the south coast
  • 10th-place Saints host 9th-place Cherries
  • 0-0, 3-3 draws in PL meetings last season

Matchweek 6 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is upon us, and the proceedings are set to kick off on Friday when a pair of south coast clubs, Southampton and Bournemouth, do battle (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Both sides enter the clash at St. Mary’s Stadium on the back of a victory last weekend in PL action. It’s Bournemouth whose triumph last time out was wildly impressive, though, as Eddie Howe’s side cruise to a 3-1 win over top-six hopefuls Everton at Vitality Stadium. However, Saints have proven a real nightmare of an away day for the Cherries as they’re in search of their first-ever win away to Southampton (15 previous tries, beginning in 1953 – all competitions).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Southampton secured their most recent victory when they traveled to newly promoted, 10-man Sheffield United. Home form has been a bit worrying for Saints early this season, until you consider they’ve hosted none other than Liverpool and Manchester United at St. Mary’s… until you look back to last season and realize they have won just five of their last 21 at home. On the plus side, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side has been much improved since conceding five goals in the first two games of the season. Since then, just one goal which came in a 1-1 draw with Man United.

Injuries/suspensions

Southampton: OUT – Kevin Danso (suspension); QUESTIONABLE – Nathan Redmond (ankle), Michael Obafemi (hamstring); PROBABLE – Ryan Bertrand (ankle)

Bournemouth: OUT – Charlie Daniels (knee), Lloyd Kelly (ankle), Dan Gosling (hip), David Brooks (ankle), Junior Stanislas (knee), Simon Francis (fitness); QUESTIONABLE – Chris Mepham (undisclosed), Arnaut Danjuma (foot)


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn – Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard – Soares, Romeu, Hojberg – Ward-Prowse, Boufal – Adams, Ings

Bournemouth: Ramsdale – Stacey, Cook, Ake, Rico – Wilson, Billing, Cook, King – Solanke, Wilson


What they’re saying

Ralph Hasenhuttl, on Southampton’s defensive improvement: “This season it’s not the case that we don’t give them any chances, they still have chances because it’s very difficult in the Premier League to not give them a chance. Also the goalkeepers Angus (Gunn) and Alex (McCarthy) make a good development this season and the back five were very concentrated. It is good to see things develop that you have been working on. This can hopefully continue.”

Eddie Howe, on the budding south coast rivalry: “It should be a really feisty game, a really good atmosphere and an entertaining match. Southampton have started very well, too. It’s gaining in everybody’s focus. The more games we have, the more the rivalry will intensify I think. We’ve enjoyed the games against Southampton which have been tight and tough, from both clubs’ perspectives. We’re looking forward to another entertaining match.”


Prediction

Southampton have been far more convincing in their defending than Bournemouth on the attack. It’ll likely be a game of precious few high-value chances. In the end, neither Saints get the elusive home win nor the Cherries get the first victory at Southampton. Final score: 1-1.