John Dykes’ Premier League Preview

Round 13 of the Premier League season and AFC Bournemouth will be hoping luck, or rather bad luck, has no part to play this weekend. Eddie Howe’s men have already hit the woodwork 13 times: that’s six more than the next unluckiest team and five more times than they hit the frame of the goal in the whole of last season!

But as mind-boggling as that stat is, the really big story this week sees Spurs expose their unbeaten league record to the intense scrutiny of the league’s form side and at a ground where they have never won in this competition.

Chelsea have won six straight, keeping clean sheets all the way. It’s their best run since 2010 and while much has been made of the attacking prowess of Costa and Hazard, the defence has allowed just nine shots on target in six games. So, just how good are David Luiz and the back three? What will happen when they face a team that seeks to stretch them as Middlesbrough did early on last week?

But are Spurs that team? Morale is low right now and Pochettino’s midweek assertion that he needs better players will not have helped. Yes, the two Harrys (Winks and Kane) have supplied highlights lately and London Derby specialist Kane will look to improve on his scoring run of three goals in four games against Chelsea. He grabbed a brace in the 5-3 win on New Year’s Day 2015 and scored the first in last season’s title-deciding Battle of the Bridge when Kane’s teammates went into meltdown. Can they keep their heads and their unbeaten record this time?

Liverpool may be back on top by the time it kicks off at Stamford Bridge. A fortnight ago you’d have given Sunderland absolutely no chance in this one and it could yet turn out to be another Anfield stroll now the Brazilians have shaken off their jetlag and if the Reds can work around the likely absence of Adam Lallana. However, Sunderland have finally started winning, Victor Anichebe is back on Merseyside, looking for a fourth goal in three games and you cannot ignore the prolific Jermain Defoe.

Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane

A bit like Liverpool, Arsenal will be heavily backed to win at home on Sunday against woodwork-rattlers Bournemouth but should be wary of a team that has worked its way into the top half of the table. The Gunners have the luxury of being able to turn to the league’s most effective bench option in the shape of Olivier Giroud.

Elsewhere, Pep Guardiola’s squad rotation skills will be tested again at Turf Moor after a quick turnaround, but who better to turn to than Yaya Toure? Manchester United need to recapture the quality of last week’s performance and combine it with the right result when West Ham come to Old Trafford.

Hull and Leicester could do with a result and Ronald Koeman will come under unforgiving scrutiny when he takes inconsistent Everton to Southampton but the managers under most pressure this weekend meet at the Liberty when bottom club Swansea face freefalling Crystal Palace. Press reports here in England suggest Alan Pardew or even Bob Bradley might not survive if they’re defeated.

John Dykes