Arsenal’s Nigerian striker Alex Iwobi (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK /
The Chelsea juggernaut is still rolling on and crushing every team in sight. Last weekend it was the turn of West Brom to feel the force of the Blues and despite a very disciplined and commendable performance by the Baggies, it only took one lapse of concentration by an Irishman and one moment of sheer brilliance by a certain Spaniard. Diego Costa’s persistence led to him robbing Gareth McCauley of the ball and he finished superbly to give Chelsea their ninth consecutive win in the league.
It’s the season of giving and as usual, the EPL is offering lots of football action to appreciative fans like us. Match-week sixteen of the league will be played between today and tomorrow, this means that we will have ten matches to enjoy this midweek. What a time to be a fan of the EPL! Two matches will be played tonight, while eight will be take place tomorrow.
Arsenal will get the chance once again to go top of the table when they take on Everton at Goodson Park tonight. The Gunners currently enjoy the longest unbeaten run in the league and will fancy their chances of getting all three points against the Toffees. They showed some resilience against Stoke last weekend as they came from a goal down to win 3-1. Ronald Koeman must be a worried man as Everton have only been able to pick up just one win from their last ten league matches and this run of form has banished every memory of their early season form, when they won four and drew one of their first five matches. Despite the poor form, the Toffees still remain a difficult team to beat at Goodison Park. They are one of the three unbeaten teams at home in the Premier League this season, with three wins and four draws from their seven home matches so far. However, their recent home record against the Gunners has been terrible with one win, three draws and five losses in their last nine matches against Arsenal. Alex Iwobi finally broke his goal duck last weekend and will be hoping to add to his tally.
Tonight’s other match will be between Bournemouth and Leicester City. The Champions looked like the team that won the hearts of every neutral fan last season on their way to an unprecedented league triumph when they took apart Manchester City 4-2 last weekend. Jamie Vardy, who scored in ten consecutive league games last season and was on a ten game goal drought in the league this season, found his goal scoring form with a hat-trick against the Citizens. It seemed that the rest they had before the game was really needed as they destabilized City. The Foxes have not been able to get a win away from home this season and tonight’s game against a Bournemouth side that blows hot and cold is another opportunity for them to try once more. The Cherries lost to Burnley last weekend after beating Liverpool the previous weekend and Eddie Howe must be wondering what to do to get this team performing at their optimum capacity consistently.
Leicester City are unbeaten in the four previous meetings against Burnley. The two Premier League clashes of last season were draws; 1-1 at the Vitality Stadium and 0-0 at King Power Stadium. While Leicester won the two previous meetings during the 2013/14 Championship season. Bournemouth haven’t scored in their two home matches against Leicester. Danny Drinkwater returns from suspension but is a doubt with a knee knock for the Champions, while Kasper Schmeichel will face a late fitness test, though Claudio Ranieri may persist with Ron-Robert Zieler in goal. Eddie Howe will be without Lewis Cook, Andrew Surman and Junior Stanislas through injury, while Jack Wilshere and Marc Pugh may both come back into the side after sitting out last week. Leicester will need to repeat Saturday’s performance, if they aim to get their first away win of the season.
Chelsea will travel to the Stadium of light tomorrow to face bottom team Sunderland. Looking at the table, you will be tempted to wrap up the three points in a shiny pack and hand it over to Chelsea. However, it might not be that easy for the Blues in reality as this Sunderland team had won three of their last four matches before last week’s 3-0 loss to Swansea and the Black Cats beat Chelsea 3-2, the last time these teams met at the Stadium of Light. Unbelievably, Sunderland have been the better side in their last six meetings against each other in all competitions with three wins, two losses and a draw. Chelsea showed last weekend, that they have the patience to break down teams that defend resolutely against them and to defeat this Sunderland side, they will have to once again show supreme patience and take their chances when they come. This doesn’t mean that I’m writing off Sunderland’s chances of getting something from this game, but for them to do so, they will have to put up their best performance of the season.
Pep Guardiola was left defending his tactics after last weekend’s thrashing by Leicester made it back to back losses for the Citizens in the league. If the Catalan thought he was going to have it his way in England, his team’s performances in the last couple of weeks must have snapped him back to reality. They haven’t won at home in the league since the 17th of September and up next for them at the Etihad will be a Watford side that defeated Everton 3-2 at home last weekend to bounce back from consecutive league defeats. The Hornets are currently seventh on the log, a position they have attained on the back of their home form. They have struggled away from home with just two wins, two draws and three losses from seven away games played this season. Manchester City should be able to take all three points from this fixture, however, Watford would have seen teams like Middlesbrough and Celtic get draws at the Etihad and would believe they could too.
Liverpool have been winless in their last two games after their brilliant start to the season. Jurgen Klopp’s men will be looking to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Middlesbrough tomorrow night at the Riverside. The German, who had some tasteful remarks for Gary Neville after the former Valencia coach criticized his goalkeeper Loris Karius, will need to show that his team is not heavily reliant on Phillipe Coutinho and find a way to beat Boro without the Brazilian whose absence has coincided with Liverpool’s dip in form. Middlesbrough haven’t lost to Liverpool in their last seven home matches winning three and drawing four although the last of these games was played in 2009. They have been good against top sides this season, drawing with Arsenal and Manchester city away from home and will be hoping to get all three points against Liverpool tomorrow night.
Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side were finally able to get their first home win since September when they defeated Tottenham 1-0 last weekend and would like to build on that with another win tomorrow night when they take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, a ground which has been very favourable for the Red Devils in recent years. They have won their last four matches at that venue and a fifth consecutive one isn’t beyond this Manchester United team. They will be without their in-form Armenian schemer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was injured against Spurs after getting the winning goal and will be out until Boxing day. There is some good news for United as Ivorien defender Eric Bailly is back after recovering from a knee injury. Crystal Palace have been able to avoid defeat in their last two matches after a six match losing streak. The Eagles are currently in fifteenth place on the log and a defeat to Manchester United will push them closer to the relegation battle. Wilfried Zaha will want to get one over his former side after a largely forgetful time with the Manchester based team.
The other games that will be played tomorrow night will see West Ham, unlucky not to leave Anfield with all three points in their last league game, host a Burnley side that was able to win last weekend after three straight losses. Tottenham will hope to forget their loss to Manchester United with a big win over Hull City, while Swansea will be hoping to build on last weekend’s win over Sunderland with another victory when they travel to the Hawthorns to face West Brom and Southampton will be looking to make it two wins in a row when they meet Stoke City at the Britannia.
Only one of the thirty six goals scored last weekend in the EPL was scored by a Nigerian(although some might argue and say Okaka is Nigerian, well, his passport says he’s Italian) and we will be hoping that more Nigerians will get into the scorers list for this match week. Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa and Victor Anichebe should be able to fulfill that wish for their teeming fans.