Premier League statistical preview.
Stoke vs Chelsea
Jose Mourinho may have bought himself a little more time at Chelsea if the rumours are to be believed following a late win in the Champions League in midweek, but must now pick up points in the league. His side travel to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday looking to get revenge following their penalty shootout heartache in the cup against Stoke just over a week ago and need a win to arrest a run that has seen them pick up just 4 points from 5 games.
Stoke, meanwhile, sit one place and two points above the Blues in the league and will be aiming to keep it that way at the very least. However, after a run of 3 successive wins Mark Hughes’ side have disappointed in their last two league outings, failing to score and having Jack Butland to thank for yet another heroic performance against Newcastle last time out.
The most worrying feature of the Potters’ season so far has been an uncharacteristic one. Stoke have won just one of their 5 league games thus far, with only bottom club Aston Villa picking up fewer points at home. As a result Chelsea will certainly be aiming to pick up all three points at the Britannia this weekend, coming out on top against their opponents in each of the last 4 league meetings between the sides.
They still need more from their star players of last season in order to start moving in the right direction though, and none more so than Eden Hazard. The Belgian was benched again in midweek having seen his rating from WhoScored.com drop from a league high of 7.96 last season to just 6.93 this. Stoke, meanwhile, need to find some goals from somewhere and could welcome Mame Biram Diouf back into the side with the striker having sat out of action in recent weeks due to personal reasons. He remains Stoke’s top scorer, having netted 3 times from just 6 league starts and should be back in the fold sooner rather than later as a result.
Given both side’s recent performances in the league it’s hard to see this game being a classic, or indeed separated by more than a single goal. Chelsea, nevertheless, should be regarded as favourites to win back-to-back matches in all competitions for the first time in 10.
Aston Villa vs Manchester City
Having parted ways with Tom Sherwood a fortnight ago Aston Villa finally announced the appointment of Remi Garde ahead of their game at Tottenham on Monday, with the Frenchman in the stands to run the rule over his new team. It was the perfect example of the task at hand for the former Lyon boss, with Villa – under the tutelage of Kevin MacDonald – taking well over an hour to realise that they could salvage something from a game in which Tottenham had become complacent following an early onslaught.
A home match against league leaders Manchester City will be a real baptism of fire for the new Villa boss, though with nothing expected of the hosts Garde can at least focus on a positive performance without being all too concerned with the result. That said, having lost 7 successive league matches the new man doesn’t have long to arrest the Villans’ slump to the foot of the table, and keeping the likes of Sterling, De Bruyne and Toure at bay would be no mean feat.
The return of captain Micah Richards is not only a boost for the home side but will see the defender make his first appearance against his former club, with the likes of Lescott and Sinclair also in contention to prove their worth having been let go by the visitors. It’s City’s stars, however, that will rightly be expected to run the show.
Yaya Toure was on the scoresheet in this fixture last season, as well as netting the winner from the spot against Norwich last weekend. The Ivorian, in fact, has scored in 3 of his last 4 appearances against Aston Villa, likely to to be deployed in an attacking role once more. Elsewhere for the visitors Kevin De Bruyne will hope to keep his place as Manchester City’s highest rated player (7.68 league rating) of those to feature more than 5 times thus far. The Belgian has 3 goals and 4 assists to his name already for the club in England’s top-flight and, having been rested in midweek, should pick up where he left off.
Villa will hope that their own attacking players can pose a threat at the other end, particularly through Gestede and Ayew – who has scored in back-to-back league games after a slow start – but City will be strong favourites, and understandably so. With Garde’s credentials not being measured in such games the home side just need to show some spirit and signs of improvement against Pellegrini’s men to encourage the fans.
Arsenal vs Tottenham
It’s a fitting end to this week’s action in the Premier League and indeed the last before the upcoming international break as Arsenal host Spurs in the second North London derby of the campaign. It was the Gunners that came out on top when the sides met in the cup in September, with Mathieu Flamini the unlikely hero for Arsene Wenger’s men, though the hosts enter this game in worrying shape despite their superb league form.
With Hector Bellerin missing out once more and Laurent Koscielny a doubt, Arsenal have problems at the back, while the absence of Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott – joining Wilshere and Welbeck in the treatment room – brings back familiar concerns. Local rivals Spurs, meanwhile, welcome back Heung Min-Son to the fold and boast the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League (10), whilst securing a victory in Europe in midweek where Arsenal collapsed.
The Gunners’ 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich bought them back down to earth with a bump and they will need to pick their morale from the floor quickly ahead of such a big league game. Unbeaten in their last 5 meetings at home with Spurs, the visitors will certainly feel they owe the fans some away day glory at the Emirates.
While Olivier Giroud has 7 goals in his last 7 appearances for club and country and Mesut Ozil extended his lead atop the assist charts (with 9) last weekend, Arsenal will need Alexis Sanchez to return to the fore this time around. After a run of 7 goals in 4 games the Chilean has failed to score in the same number of appearances since and will be aiming to break his North London derby duck. On the opposing side Harry Kane will hope to prove to be Spurs’ hero once more having netted both goals as Pochettino’s men came from behind to win the last league fixture between the sides. The striker has come through a tough patch of form to score in his last 3 appearances too, with his rating rising to 7.34 as a result.
The visitors will certainly view this as a strong chance to get one over on their rivals given Arsenal’s injury problems and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Spurs stretch their unbeaten run as a result. Whether or not they can keep the likes of Ozil and Sanchez at bay will be pivotal in what should be an end to end game.