Harry’s Picks: Week 159 min read
Toffees to taste first away win?
Everton were delighted to grab an injury-time goal to salvage a point from a tough home game with Tottenham last Sunday. That was overshadowed by the loss to serious injury of midfielder Andre Gomes who thankfully came through a midweek operation and is now comfortable.
These are testing times for supporters in the blue half of Merseyside and a trip to Southampton now becomes a relegation battle. Everton sit just the one place above Saints outside of the drop zone but a win would suddenly move them six points clear.
The fixture list hasn’t been too kind to the hosts who suffered a record-breaking 9-0 defeat against Leicester at St Mary’s before suffering further losses twice at Manchester City in the League Cup and PL. Arguably they did regain some pride, having been competitive in both fixtures but with confidence low, it’s difficult to envisage them ending a poor run of form here.
The Toffees had a strong bench against Tottenham and have more flexibility to change formation and I expect them to take the opportunity to put daylight between themselves and the bottom three.
United should bounce back at Old Trafford
The euphoria of a 2-1 League cup win at Stamford Bridge quickly evaporated for Manchester United when they were defeated 1-0 at Bournemouth in the Premier League last Saturday.
The Red Devils are enduring a frustrating campaign littered with inconsistency that is preventing them from making a strong challenge for the top four.
On their day however they still remain a match for most and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping he can find the magic formula to produce a winning run that can start to lift them towards the summit and away from mid-table.
Incredibly, the opposition at Old Trafford this weekend, Brighton, are now two points better off than their illustrious hosts after a tremendous run which has seen three PL victories from their last four outings. However, they may very well need those points as the Seagulls face a tough month which will see them face Leicester, Liverpool and Arsenal following their long trip north.
All too often Brighton have been over-reliant on Glenn Murray for goals but he has found himself on the bench recently with the emergence of Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly.
Maupay joined in the summer after impressing in the Championship with Brentford, whilst youngster Connolly looks a star in the making and this nineteen-year-old from Ireland has really caught the eye this term after going from the academy to representing the Republic of Ireland at international level.
United have only played one of their last seven matches on home soil and will be relishing a return to their home base. They were unlucky not to become the first team to beat Liverpool this season in their last PL game at Old Trafford and can put Brighton to the sword on their way to better things.
Crucial Midlands derby at Molineux
Wolves against Aston Villa is always a hotly contested and eagerly awaited midlands derby and Molineux will be packed to the rafters for this weekend’s clash.
Both clubs are in the wrong half of the table with Wolves just two points better off than their rivals. Seven draws have hurt the Black and Golds and turning draws into wins is the main target for manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
Villa were gutted to see leaders Liverpool leave Villa Park last Saturday with all three points, after a winner deep into stoppage time, after seemingly doing enough to share the spoils. They will get a chance of revenge in the League Cup quarter-final but before then need top-flight points to keep afloat.
They did beat Wolves 2-1 in the League Cup recently but have not shown the consistency away to make an impact so far. Wolves are finding goals their main issue as defensively they are pretty resolute but hopefully a big crowd can inspire them to finally convert chances and celebrate derby success.
Preston to extend unbeaten home record
Preston moved to the top of the Championship after a 1-0 away win at Charlton on Sunday although they dropped back into second after West Brom won at Stoke the following day.
These are exciting times for the Lilywhites, especially as in-demand manager Alex Neil has pledged himself to the club and rebuked Stoke City’s advances.
With 28 goals, they are the section’s joint top scorers with WBA and they are certainly entertaining their fans. There should be a large crowd at Deepdale when Preston host Huddersfield with the West Yorkshire outfit beginning to turn the corner and backed by a large away support.
Town look to be putting early relegation fears behind them with improvement under Danny Cowley at the helm and the Terriers still believe a playoff berth is within their grasp.
They arrive in Lancashire on an unbeaten run of seven games so confidence will be high although they will feel performances still need to be sharper, especially when facing the top teams such as Preston.
North End will relish this challenge and can confirm they are the real deal with victory to keep the momentum and pressure on the clubs around them.
Whites should secure another routine home win
Leeds remain market leaders in the Championship albeit they are in third place and involved in a tight title battle.
A cosy 2-0 win over QPR at Elland Road keeps them well in the hunt and they will look to follow that up when Blackburn are the visitors to Leeds this weekend.
With just a miserly eight goals conceded, United have the meanest defense in the section but frustratingly have struggled for goals with only seventeen banked. There is enough firepower in the squad but trying to find the right balance has been difficult.
United have won their last three on home soil without conceding and with a reasonable run of fixtures in the next month, can confirm their position as the team the bookies fear the most at this level.
Blackburn managed two late goals to defeat Sheffield Wednesday last time out but you have to go back nine games to find the last time they kept a clean sheet and they will surely struggle to keep the Whites out now.
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