It’s rare when the majority of fixtures in the Premier League kick-off at the traditional time of 3pm on Saturday. There were no Europa League matches involving English clubs on Thursday night which causes matches to be put back and the Cardiff against Burnley meeting is the only live match on Sunday. Its more about quality than quantity with one of the blockbuster fixtures of the season when Liverpool play Chelsea at Anfield in the second live match on Saturday.
The teams met in the third round of the EFL Cup at the same ground on Wednesday night. The managers may play the second strings because picking up three points is much more important than progressing to the next round of the League Cup. Ahead of the Cup game Chelsea had scored exactly one goal in the last nine meetings with Liverpool. Both sides won their first five matches in the Premier League but Chelsea have now dropped points and Liverpool have not.
This is a fixture that doesn’t often involve many goals. Before Wednesday night’s match only two of the last nine meetings produced three goals or more. However, under the current managers both sides are more attack minded and both teams should score on Saturday. The match truly is a six-pointer and the gap between the teams at the end of 90 minutes could be between five points in Liverpool’s favour or one point in favour of Chelsea. A home win is the most likely outcome.
The days of Anfield being a fortress are back and Liverpool are tough to beat at home. Last season they won 12 and drew 7 of 19 home EFL matches so went unbeaten, scoring 45 goals and conceding 10. Only Manchester United let in fewer goals at home and only Manchester City had a better positive home goal difference. Chelsea lost six league matches on the road last season. Liverpool were the biggest spenders over the summer and the outlay can be justified with three points from this match.
The early match sees Manchester United meet West Ham at the London Stadium. The deal to play where the Olympics took place was attractive but its debatable whether the positives outweigh the negatives. The advantage of playing at Upton Park may be more urban myth than a reality and United have a good recent record when they visit the East End. West Ham looked a decent outfit in beating Everton on the road and then took a point from Chelsea at home but United should win this one.
At the start of the season Cardiff were most people’s pick for relegation and an immediate return to the Championship. There has been some huffing and puffing but a 5-0 home defeat to Manchester City says it all. A few teams will be soundly beaten by the champions this season but the manner of the defeat suggests Cardiff are out of their depth. Burnley are free of the distraction of the Europa League and beat Bournemouth 4-0 at home last weekend. The good form can be maintained with an away victory in South Wales on Sunday.
Bournemouth will be looking to get their season back on track the following night when Crystal Palace visit their south coast. Palace lost three on the bounce but have since picked up four points from two matches. However, the opposition was not strong and the manager of Bournemouth knows if they stop Wilfried Zaha they stop Palace. The players can achieve that objective and earn three points against Palace.