Harry’s Picks: Week Nine8 min read
Chelsea a bridge too far for Brighton
This always looked like a year of transition for Chelsea under new manager Frank Lampard and a 2-1 home loss against Liverpool last weekend confirmed the Blues are still some way short of challenging for the title and perhaps even a top four finish.
However, they have still recorded some excellent results; notably, an eye-catching 5-2 victory over Wolves at Molineux and with a kind-looking set of fixtures ahead, can begin climbing the table. The Pensioners host Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon and this looks an ideal opportunity to bounce back and gain three points.
Albion started their season with a bang but have failed to follow up an opening day 3-0 win at Watford and find themselves hovering just above the relegation zone. A 1-3 home defeat against Aston Villa on Wednesday in the League Cup did little for confidence and manager Graham Potter has a mounting injury list to contend with now.
The Seagulls continue to find scoring goals a problem and will find defending against a potent Chelsea attack, who netted seven times in a midweek cup success over Grimsby, even more difficult and I fully expect a comfortable win for the Londoners.
Spurs can steady the ship against Saints
Tottenham were on the end of a cup shock in midweek when League two Colchester followed up a victory over Crystal Palace with a second Premier League scalp of the season in the League Cup.
The lack of extra time, of course, gives the minnows a better chance of qualifying but Spurs were poor in regulation time and no one could begrudge the ‘U’s their dramatic penalty shootout success.
Tottenham are experiencing a frustrating period and let slip a two-goal advantage in Greece, settling for a draw at Olympiakos in their opening champions League contest recently. They followed that with a surprise 2-1 reverse against Leicester and the loss at Colchester leaves manager Mauricio Pochettino with a big task in lifting morale amongst the players. They now face Southampton on home soil, looking to close the gap on the top four and I expect Spurs to bounce back with a more positive approach.
Saints will arrive happy following a 4-0 success on Tuesday at rivals Portsmouth in the cup but this may mask the fact that their form in the top flight has been rather indifferent. They were poor when defeated 3-1 at home against Bournemouth previously and still look short of quality to compete with the bigger teams in the section.
Leeds to stay perfect on the road
Leeds were left frustrated and baffled as they inexplicably allowed Derby to leave Elland Road last weekend with a point after totally dominating proceedings. A missed penalty and countless wasted opportunities came back to haunt them and this was certainly two points dropped.
However, results elsewhere ensured they still retained their position at the Championship summit, and they remain the title favourites and the side to beat. They make a long trip south to face Charlton who, after a brilliant start to life following promotion, have lost their last two games and face a big task in keeping the leaders at bay.
Following key departures in the summer on the playing side, manager Lee Bowyer gave the club a huge boost by staying on at the Valley and has reportedly rebuked further clubs seeking managerial change. The squad depth is small and back to back defeats will certainly test their resolve. Leeds represent a huge test and will be keen to return to winning ways.
United often play better away from home where their quick counter-attacking game plan often works a treat. I expect further road success in South London.
Swans strong enough to see off Royals
Swansea find themselves in second position and the only club to have beaten Leeds, and the Welsh club will feel confident of maintaining their promotion challenge. They were unlucky not to force penalties at Watford in the League Cup and despite picking up just a point from the previous two league games, had been red hot and scoring for fun during their earlier matches. They will hope a home match with lowly Reading gives them a great opportunity to return to winning ways, especially as the Royals are currently on a three-match losing run in the league.
After spending the last two seasons battling against the drop, fans had hoped for a change in fortunes but once again the Berkshire club find themselves at the wrong end of the table facing yet another relegation battle. There appears little to suggest they can turn the corner in the near future and Swansea should have little difficulty condemning them to a fourth straight loss whilst keeping themselves in the top two this weekend.
Tractor Boys to stay top
Ipswich continue to defy those who felt following relegation the club would need time to adjust, especially as recruitment was kept fairly low key in the summer. However, they find themselves two points clear at the top after another solid performance gave them a narrow but thoroughly deserved 1-0 win at Gillingham last time out.
Four goals conceded reconfirmed what a well-organised outfit Town are and they seem happy to build a strong rearguard to hopefully bring them a quick return to the Championship.
The Tractor Boys welcome Tranmere to Portman Road next with striker James Norwood facing his former club for the first time since a summer transfer to East Suffolk. Without him, Rovers have found life tough following promotion, and avoiding a quick return to League Two is undoubtedly their ultimate ambition this campaign. They will be encouraged by a dramatic win over Burton last week with both goals coming extremely late on, but performances away from Merseyside have been disappointing and they look likely to face further pain on their travels again.
With pre-season promotion rivals faltering, Ipswich have a great chance of maintaining their super early season form and making themselves the team other clubs will have to catch.
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