Weekend focus: Arsenal, Hull & Spurs – what to expect

We’re closing in on another action packed round of Premier League fixtures. The ‘weekend focus’ series picks three games and looks at what to expect. This time around we’re looking at Arsenal‘s trip to Watford, whether Hull City can keep their run going and if Tottenham Hotspur can overturn Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

Pressure on Arsene Wenger: 

Arsenal have picked up just one point from a possible six so far and their trip to Watford on Saturday afternoon isn’t going to be an easy one.

The Gunners have drawn their last four away games in the Premier League.

Arsenal managed just four shots on target in their game against Leicester last time out, their defensive performance was much better than their opener but they looked sluggish and out of ideas in the final third.

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Verdict: The pressure will pile on Wenger if they fail to win again. He will have just under five days left to make any signings by the time they have played on Saturday.

Can Hull remain 100%?

Hull City have stunned pundits and fans alike with their opening two performances of the season, winning both games. They’re one of only four clubs to have a 100% record in the league so far.

The Tigers haven’t beaten United in eight attempts in the Premier League, losing seven and drawing one, so this is going to be a big ask.

The last meeting between these two was a 0-0 draw, a result Hull would settle for in this one. However this tie ends up they’ve had a great start to the season and they’ll be full of confidence.

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Verdict: Hull to find this a very difficult tie against a United side who will be expecting to take all three points. 100% record to come to an end.

Will Spurs put an end to their winless run against Liverpool?

Tottenham Hotspur haven’t beaten Liverpool in the last seven meetings between the sides in the Premier League, conceding 19 goals along the way.

Harry Kane has never scored a Premier League goal in August in nine games but he’ll be feeling confident of facing Simon Mignolet – the Liverpool ‘keeper has conceded the last five shots he has faced.

Spurs have lost just one of their last nine home games in the league, picking up 20 points along the way, they’ll be itching to bring that winless run to an end.

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Verdict: Spurs have lacked cutting edge in the final third in their opening two games, while Liverpool have been conceding goals they have also scored nine in all competitions. Draw.

What do you think will happen in these three games?

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Liverpool vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – Liverpool vs. Manchester United

Venue: Anfield – Sunday, March 22 – 13:30 GMT (09:30 ET)

Match Odds: Liverpool 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Manchester Utd 12/5

Match Preview

Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield in what is undoubtedly the game of the weekend in the Premier League as two fierce rivals go head-to-head, separated by just two points in the race for a Champions League finish.

Liverpool come into the game as the league’s form side, having not lost a game since a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in December. Brendan Rodgers has seen his side go on an unbeaten run of 13 games since that loss and will be looking for revenge in this one.

The Reds are just two points behind United with nine games to go and know a win in this one will give them a great chance of finishing in the top four.

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United come into the game in fine spirits after a crucial 3-0 win against Tottenham at Old Trafford last weekend and will be looking to make it four league wins on the bounce in this one.

Louis Van Gaal’s side seem to have picked up at the right time and have only lost one of their last eight in the Premier League.

They can go to Anfield knowing that they can remain in fourth so long as they avoid defeat but will be hoping for a victory to distance themselves from their rivals.

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As well as looking behind them, the Red Devils are also looking up as they are just two points behind Manchester City in second place.

Liverpool have won five on the bounce in the league now and look unstoppable, especially at home, where they haven’t lost since early November so this should be a really entertaining clash.

Team News

Liverpool will be without Brad Jones (thigh), John Flanagan and Jordan Ibe (both knee), while Lucas Leiva (thigh) and Mario Balotelli (illness) are doubts for the game. Steven Gerrard returned at Swansea last time out and he will be pushing for a start in this one.

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Manchester United are still without strikers James Wilson (hamstring) and Robin Van Persie (ankle), while Jonny Evans will continue to miss out as he serves the second game of his lengthy suspension. Marcos Rojo (groin) is a doubt but should be fit to start the match in defence. Angel Di Maria returns from suspension but might have to settle for a place on the bench as Van Gaal is likely to remain unchanged from the team that beat Spurs.

Key Points

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Manchester United’s last five: W/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: It has been 22 games in all competitions since these two last drew 0-0 (September 2005) so we should see some goals.

Key Player: Simon Mignolet – Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine in the league and Mignolet has been in fine form. He will be busy on Sunday and will need to be at his best if Liverpool are to win this one.

Score Prediction

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United – This should be a tight game but Liverpool are on an impressive run at the moment and will be out for revenge after that 3-0 loss at Old Trafford in their last meeting. Expect goals in this one but home advantage should see Liverpool leapfrog United into fourth place.

Stats: Is Simon Mignolet the best goalkeeper in the Premier League?

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet continued his fine form last night as he kept his 11th clean sheet of the season in the 1-0 away win at Swansea City in the Premier League and many fans believe that the Belgian stopper is the best goalkeeper in the league at the moment, but what do the statistics say?

Well before we look at the comparisons between Mignolet and some of the league’s finest shot-stoppers, it’s worth noting that Mignolet and his Liverpool teammates kept their sixth straight clean sheet away from home in the league, equalling a record going back 43 years to Bill Shankly’s side of 1971/72.

That impressive run of form has seen Liverpool fly up the table and they are currently just two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, who they face in a key clash on Sunday.

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The Reds have not lost in the league since mid-December, when they were defeated 3-0 by United and Brendan Rodgers’ side boast the best recent form in the league.

Confidence is clearly flowing through the team and that has led to improved performances. Simon Mignolet is evidence of that as he looked out of sorts and out of favour when Rodgers said he had dropped the Belgian “indefinitely” back in December.

But he has turned things around and looks back to his best. Some are now suggesting that Mignolet is the Premier League’s best goalkeeper at the moment but how does he compare to some of the league’s finest ‘keepers?

Simon Mignolet stats compared to Premier League's best goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois, Joe Hart, David de Gea, Hugo Lloris and Fraser Forster

Simon Mignolet stats compared to Premier League’s best goalkeepers (Stats via Opta)

Mignolet has kept an impressive 11 clean sheets so far this season, a number only bettered by Southampton’s Fraser Forster.

Forster has been in fine form throughout the season as he and his Saints teammates have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League, and Forster is averaging almost three saves per every goal conceded – the best record in the top flight.

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Mignolet is averaging just 1.9 saves per goal, which is the same number as Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, but less than David De Gea, Joe Hart and Thibaut Courtois.

Lloris is averaging more than three saves per game, more than any of the other five ‘keepers looked at above, and has also made more saves inside the penalty area with 67 this season.

So although his performances of late have been mighty impressive, Liverpool’s Mignolet is not statistically the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

He will go up against David De Gea on Sunday as two of the league’s top stoppers do battle at Anfield with both looking to keep another clean sheet in the race for Champions League football.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Swansea vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Swansea City vs Liverpool

Venue: The Liberty Stadium – Monday, March 16 – 20:00 GMT (16:00 ET)

Match Odds: Swansea 3/1 – Draw 12/5 – Liverpool 10/11

Match Preview

Swansea City battle Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium on Monday night, looking to leapfrog Stoke and be on course for their best ever finish in the Premier League whereas Liverpool head to Wales in search of three more points to carry on their rich vein of form as the race for the top four heats up.

Brendan Rodgers returns to the club with which he won promotion to the Premier League but he left after one season in the top flight to take over the hot seat at Anfield, where he has done excellently so far.

Garry Monk’s men have performed well this season and have already completed a double over Manchester United and also beat Arsenal at home. They have struggled since losing Wilfried Bony in January and the powerful Ivorian has left a huge hole in the striking position since leaving for Manchester City.

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Liverpool are in a great mood and are blitzing opponents away left right and centre. The Reds are coming off a disappointing 0-0 draw in the FA Cup to Blackburn Rovers, but that shouldn’t be a concern as Liverpool have scored in 11 of their last 13 games. Plus, Brendan Rodgers has not lost to Swansea City as Liverpool manager.

The reverse fixture saw Liverpool crush Swansea 4-1 at Anfield with five different goalscorers, including an own goal from former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey.

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There have been 24 goals between the sides in the last five meetings in all competitions so this should be another entertaining affair.

Team News

Swansea are almost at full strength with French forward Bafetimbi Gomis expected to be back after collapsing at White Hart Lane in the loss to Spurs last time out. Kyle Bartley will miss out through injury.

Liverpool could welcome back Martin Skrtel, while Joe Allen, who has recently struggled with hip and thigh issues, and skipper Steven Gerrard could also return to the squad. But Jordan Ibe continues to be sidelined with a knee ligament injury while Lucas Leiva and Jose Enrique will definitely miss out.

Key Points

Swansea City’s last five in the Premier League: D/L/W/W/D

Liverpool’s last five in the Premier League: D/W/W/W/W

Key stat: Since Swansea City’s promotion to the Premier League, Liverpool have failed to win at the Liberty Stadium (P3 D2 L1).

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Key Player: Simon Mignolet – The Liverpool goalkeeper has been in absolutely fantastic form since he was dropped and he has got back to his best between the sticks. He’ll need another solid performance away from home in this one.

Score Prediction

Swansea 1-3 Liverpool – Liverpool will cruise to victory ahead of next week’s game against Manchester United. Swansea City don’t have much to play for and will remain in 9th place by suffering their fourth loss at home in the Premier League this season.

Liverpool agree £3m deal for Malaga goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa – report

Liverpool are reportedly set to replace Simon Mignolet with Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in January, and have already agreed a £3 million deal, according to the Daily Express.

The 29-year-old has already started following the Reds on Twitter and is ready to leave Malaga after just four months as he has been unable to replace Carlos Kameni in goal.

Simon Mignolet has struggled at Liverpool this season and Brendan Rodgers dropped him for Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, claiming he was dropped indefinitely.

Ochoa was a star for Mexico at the World Cup in the summer and was being targeted by Arsenal before the Gunners signed David Ospina instead.

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But it’s Liverpool who are now ready to bring Ochoa to England in deal that Rodgers will hope can shore up a leaky defence that has kept just four clean sheets in 16 games.

It would mean that Mignolet would likely be out the door at Anfield as he will want to be playing first-team football on a regular basis.

Would Guillermo Ochoa be a good signing for Liverpool?