Charlie Nicholas returns with his Premier League predictions ahead of this weekend’s action, a full card of top-flight fixtures.
Norwich vs Southampton, Friday – 6pm, live on Sky Sports and Sky Pick
I was trying to see where Aston Villa and Sheffield United would go. I was not expecting a dramatic game in terms of football but I was expecting Villa to go for it. This is the same scenario. If I was being brutally frank, why were we waiting 100 days for that opener? It was not good.
Manchester City played brilliantly, so that was decent. It will take the teams two or three games until we see a bit of rhythm. These two teams are not of the Man City stature, where they can get going after just 15 minutes or so.
Norwich have to go for it. It was not a bad point for Villa but Norwich need home wins and they need points, sitting six points adrift with nine to go. For that reason, I think Southampton can and will hit them on the counter-attack.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-2 (8/1 with Sky Bet)
Tottenham vs Manchester United, Friday – 8:15pm, live on Sky Sports
It is a cracker. This always falls into the category of a big game, especially with Jose Mourinho facing his old club once again. Everybody is jumping on the Manchester United bandwagon with the potential link-up of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. They are waiting for United to come to life.
I think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done a great job considering the pressure he was under, but they are no closer to the top two, and I don’t see them making the top four.
Tottenham needed a rest as they were in meltdown. I look at Harry Kane who will be back for them, and that is a huge boost. That being said, Jose will not know what his best defence is but I imagine he will have been working hard on it – there is no Dele Alli for Tottenham too.
A lack of fans will take an edge off it for the players. It will be 30 minutes or so that is needed to get going for these two, but I cannot separate them.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Watford vs Leicester, Saturday – 12:30pm
This is a good test for both of these sides, who are facing differing scenarios. Leicester are trying to hold on to a top-four place and they have some big games left.
Leicester were tiring but this break will have done them some good. Watford are level with Bournemouth and West Ham, hanging just a point above Villa. The teams in the bottom six, aside from Norwich, who are essentially down in my opinion, will be fighting tooth and nail.
With the home games for Watford, it will feel as though they are must-win scenarios to give them some breathing space. Watford are physically competent – I am not sure how fit Troy Deeney will be, but they have pace in those attacking areas.
Leicester are a silky side. Brendan Rodgers will have them playing and ready, but sometimes it takes you time to get into the swing of things and this will be one of those games for Leicester. This will be an important win for Watford.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-0 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Brighton vs Arsenal, Saturday – 3pm
Wednesday was what I expected. The one scenario I did not expect was the team which Mikel Arteta picked. Mesut Ozil was dropped – he has been dropped before in these types of games. He went for youth and he can see where the future is.
I do not see it as a massive debate or crisis for Arsenal. They are ninth for a reason. There is a reason behind just the nine wins from 29. Over the last five or six years, Arsenal’s defence has been poor, not average, but poor. How a team can let this go on for so long is mind-blowing.
Because they have a game under their belt, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang must be fresh as anything as he looked disinterested. Eddie Nketiah looked sharp but then could not get the service. I would not have any hesitation about him starting against Brighton. He has put muscle on, and his link-up play was not bad for all he got.
Aubameyang has to shake a leg. He either wants to stay or he does not. Why not go and win the Golden Boot for yourself? David Luiz is suspended, Pablo Mari will be out, Granit Xhaka is not a big miss in my opinion, so Brighton will give them issues in attack. Arsenal did look sharp and fit but made bad mistakes, and for having that game under their belt, I think Arsenal will have the edge.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-3 (28/1 with Sky Bet)
Super 6: Back with a bang?
Domestic Super 6 returns this weekend, with £250,000 to be won. Despite Arsenal’s heavy defeat at Manchester City on Wednesday, over 80 per cent of Super 6 players are backing Arsenal to bounce back, with 34 per cent of players hoping for a 2-0 victory for Mikel Arteta’s men. Play for free, entries by 12:30pm.
West Ham vs Wolves, Saturday – 5:30pm, live on Sky Sports
This is a great game. I am keen to watch this, as Wolves have been my dark horse for the top four in the way that their fixtures will run. West Ham will be awkward, but the freshness will suit both of them. David Moyes will be working hard, getting them physical and wound up for the restart.
West Ham are one of the teams where they may benefit from the fans not being there. They are among the best in the country but that stadium has not given them a chance to bond with it and share that same feeling of Upton Park. It has not often gone well at the London Stadium, but it could work in their favour here.
They will be pushing back and worried about the counter-attack. You would be with the likes of Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Adama Traore – I would not be surprised if they were to go with a back five. With no home advantage, it could suit them and the fans will not be on their case, so it could help them. This would be a very good point for West Ham.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace, Saturday – 7:45pm
This is not one that is jumping out at me. Bournemouth are sitting third bottom and desperate for any points they can get. To pick up a loss when you are in these positions with the first game back, it would be a massive disappointment. Villa took the point and moved on. Crystal Palace are a well-drilled side and a handful in attack.
Bournemouth will be fit and fighting. David Brooks should be back, which will be a big boost for Eddie Howe’s men.
I have a feeling with Bournemouth that they have enough about them. When I have looked at who could fall into it, they seem to be the team that could get out to me. They need to score more goals as they have the capacity to do so.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (9/1 with Sky Bet)
Newcastle vs Sheffield United, Sunday – 2pm, live on Sky Sports, and Sky Pick
Sheffield United should have got the three points. Whatever happened with the technology, it was a shambles. Thank goodness it happened though, as it was the only talking point from the game. I went for Villa to win but I expected Sheffield United to graft, and they did just that. Oli McBurnie grafted and Billy Sharp worked his socks off, as did the whole of Chris Wilder’s side. Jack O’Connell was missing at the back and John Fleck was absent – you could tell that it was not quite the same.
Steve Bruce will be trying to prove a point, and Newcastle will be sold, but whoever buys the club, Bruce needs a chance and he will be wanting to show that he can match it. Newcastle are sitting in 13th, and they should be all but over the line, but they can be awkward.
Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin are the ones to look out for. They are talented players, but not the greatest in front of goal. Joelinton is anything but confident at the minute, but they are a handful. You break up Sheffield United by two or three players and suddenly the system gets disrupted. I will go for a Newcastle win here.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Aston Villa vs Chelsea, Sunday – 4:15pm, live on Sky Sports
All of a sudden the relegation picture can change massively at the weekend. If Bournemouth win and West Ham earn a point Villa will have to take a bit more of a risk. Jack Grealish played well against Sheffield United, while John McGinn got 60-65 minutes under his belt.
There is absolutely nothing inspiring either up front or on the wings. Grealish can pick a pass, but you need people to work and run in behind.
McGinn can do that, and so can Conor Hourihane. He works well with Grealish. Get them two to make the runs in behind and it will give them a chance.
Chelsea are not the greatest at defending that scenario but they can counter-attack. Villa need to gamble. Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour could stay in the team, Tammy Abraham will be fit and fresh, and Olivier Giroud will want to do something, but there is nothing at the end of the summer to play for, so it is a sprint finish. I can see Chelsea picking Villa off.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-3 (11/1 with Sky Bet)
Everton vs Liverpool, Sunday – 7:00pm, live on Sky Sports and Sky Pick
You want fans every time in this, but there is no way Everton will be happy with this scenario. They were humiliated by a young Liverpool side in the FA Cup.
Everton probably should have won that game but they didn’t, and the Evertonians were disgraced and embarrassed. There is no way that even without fans, players will not be aware of what is going on and what is at stake here. They will be up for it.
With Man City, you saw it took them a bit of time to get going, against an Arsenal side with the strength of plasticine. Liverpool will get into gear, but referees in the Bundesliga have been giving cards out more frequently, as they are not under pressure from fans. Everton will get at them and get in their face.
They need to stop the balls through to front three and into Roberto Firmino. I could see it being riddled with mistakes with the combination of some quality. How high will Everton allow Liverpool’s full-backs to play? That is the key for Liverpool. Will Richarlison work back and will Carlo Ancelotti have blockers in place for both of those? Everton will play a cautious and physical game. They both need a game in their system but I am expecting a thrill of a Sunday night match.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-2 (14/1 with Sky Bet)
Manchester City vs Burnley, Monday – 8pm, live on Sky Sports and Sky Pick
Arsenal were atrocious but my goodness, Kevin De Bruyne was unbelievable. Appreciation of other people’s qualities is key. Raheem Sterling could have scored three or four, but De Bruyne was on a different planet. His timing and weight of pass, running with the ball, awareness of positions was all second-to-none. Arsenal were dreadful in defence but he can take advantage in a second.
I was embarrassed when he was sat in the stand after he was substituted, and I thought I saw a bead of sweat on his head! He did not need to break sweat, he was brilliant.
Burnley will be far more physical than what Arsenal were. Any silly free-kicks, the referee will be on top of them immediately. He is not under scrutiny to protect anybody, but he will be booking them and letting them know who the boss is. It will play a pivotal part in the Merseyside derby and here, too.
The likes of Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero looked hungry when they came on. It was great fitness for them without any real trouble. The pace and fluency was back quickly and I am expecting that to continue against Burnley.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0 (13/2 with Sky Bet)