English Premier League: Week 3

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

My predictions last week reeked of early season vulnerability. The tumult of an open transfer window coupled with early season growing pains always makes these first weeks a minefield. Sunday sees two of the most volatile annual encounters packed into one tantalizing afternoon. A seemingly buoyant Liverpool take on a Manchester United side in a deep period of transition. Brendan Rodgers must sense this is an incredible opportunity to turn a promising start to the campaign into a blistering one. Daniel Sturridge will look to continue his promising form while Wayne Rooney continues to ponder the existential quandary that is being a ridiculously well paid Manchester United player. Arsenal and Spurs will attempt to illuminate their Champions League credentials in a match overshadowed by the inevitable transfer of Gareth Bale. Both matches have added significance considering Chelsea are away on European duty. Teams will be looking to instil a platform this weekend with World Cup qualifiers disrupting the league next week, so expect some exciting action.

Manchester City came down to earth with a thud at Cardiff and will be licking their lips at the prospect of hosting newly promoted Hull. City were devastating at home against Newcastle and will look to put down a powerful display. Clearly Joe Hart’s form has depreciated over the last year. It probably would have been wise for Pellegrini to get another decent keeper who could put some positive pressure on the England number one. Steve Bruce’s men have lost the game they should have lost, at Chelsea, and won the one they had to win, at home against Norwich. I don’t expect them to be upsetting the applecart this weekend; Pellegrini will shuffle the deck and we all know that he has a few aces up his sleeve. Negredo will likely start up front and I expect him to be a persistent threat alongside Aguero. They’ll clear the goal handicap at 5/10, and that’s about the best you’ll find.

Norwich have endured a sluggish start to the season and Chris Hughton will be earmarking this as a highly winnable fixture. New signing Van Wolfswinkel has looked dangerous since his arrival and has been something of a lone attacking threat for the Canaries. This game is a stylistic clash, with Snodgrass likely to be Norwich’s biggest threat from set pieces. Southampton are a fluid side, somewhat vulnerable from set pieces, but the intricacy of Rodriguez, Lallana and Puncheon offers a different kind of threat. Southampton seem to be riding a major crest at the moment and will fancy their chances. But a pugnacious Norwich will withstand Southampton’s possession football to force a draw at 23/10.

A good bet at this juncture would be that Alan Pardew is the first manager sacked this season. The signs are not that good. The appointment of ‘Papa Bear’ Joe Kinnear was one thing; the dire performances of Newcastle are something else. The transformation of the club into a Ligue A outfit has just not worked. Cisse looks half the player he was, with some reports suggesting that they could be interested in repurchasing Demba Ba from Chelsea. Whatever they have to do, now is the time, their performance at home last week against West Ham was one step short of zombie football. Fulham are having to deal with trying to integrate Bent, Berbatov and Taarabt into the same team. Their lack of work rate is especially high in away fixtures. I think Newcastle may click in stages, but expect another hugely frustrating draw at 24/10.

West Ham have had a solid start to the season while Stoke’s victory last weekend showed a great degree of character. This match pits two managers well versed in Premier League pragmatism against one another. West Ham seem to have a touch more fluency about them, with Jarvis and Downing offering natural width to the Londoners. Joe Cole has been in good form, working well in conjunction with the industrious Diame. Stoke have benefited from a consistency in selection and have received a boost with Liverpool’s Assaidi joining them on a season long loan. Stoke will offer a stern test for West Ham, but to me it seems that West Ham are just a better version of Stoke City. Kevin Nolan will be a nuisance for a Stoke side who won’t be disgraced by any measure. West Ham at 19/20 is the tip.

Malky Mackay must have been delighted with Cardiff's resilience last weekend in beating the might of Manchester City. His team welcomes an Everton side in desperate need of some positive juju. Martinez has been ultra conservative since his appointment, a surprise considering the gung-ho approach often adopted by Wigan. United’s pursuit of Fellaini and Baines has not been a useful distraction, while Ross Barkley has been surprisingly rewarded for his performances with a call-up to the national squad. Funny how one good performance seems to be enough for England consideration these days? Fraizer Campbell will doubtless be keen to capitalize on the confidence he gained against City, while ex-Liverpool player Bellamy will want to impress against the old enemy. I would go for a very tight Cardiff win at 21/10. It’s clearly not easy travelling to Wales and Everton seem to be lacking conviction at present.

Ian Holloway has endured a fairly poor start to the season with Crystal Palace. Two consecutive defeats were compounded by a humiliating defeat in the Capital One Cup. He was also the first manager to be slapped with a fine by the FA, not really surprising considering the nature of his stint with Blackpool. Sunderland have not been much better. Paolo Di Canio’s team has just not gelled, with various new players failing to make an impact as of yet. Giaccherini scoring last week was a minor plus, but I fear for this club. Sessegnon, Johnson and Fletcher will all need to start firing soon for the team to compete. Having Danny Rose go back to Spus has not only robbed them of an excellent left back, but it has robbed them of one of their best avenues of forward momentum. I really think that Palace, despite their poor form, are going to win. There is something toxic in the air for both Newcastle and Sunderland, a sentiment that will not go down too well on Tyneside. Palace at 29/20 it is.

Liverpool will be commemorating what would have been Bill Shankly’s 100th birthday this week with their marquee game of the season against champions Manchester United. If you remember the fixture from last year, Liverpool were also commemorating those who tragically died at the Hillsborough disaster. Liverpool went on to lose the match 2-1, but will be quietly confident given the transition period at United. Sturridge and Coutinho have been sensational while United were disappointing on Monday against Chelsea. It will be interesting to see what approach United take going into this match. Moyes might turn to Giggs for stability in the starting eleven, but I think that would be erroneous. They will need the pugnacious energy of Tom Cleverley as Liverpool will likely control possession. This should be a mouth-watering affair as Liverpool will sense United are there for the taking. But their lack of conviction in front of goal will hurt them and United will likely sneak a draw at 23/10, possibly through Van Persie.

Nicolas Anelka is allegedly returning to training following a period of compassionate leave where he reportedly considered retirement. He will add some much needed firepower to a West Brom lineup that is yet to register a single goal in this season’s campaign. The likes of Morrison, Mulumbu and Long have toiled hard, but it is clear that they are missing the firepower that they had last season in Lukaku. They may bring in Chris Brunt to add some direction to their attack. Swansea were quite unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Spurs with a contentious penalty conceded by Jonjo Shelvey. Michu has yet to find his groove thus far while Laudrup deals with his own version of second season syndrome at the club. Steve Clarke probably needs this result slightly more and as such I sense a West Brom victory. It would be quite poetic if it were Nicolas Anelka who makes the difference. Back West Brom at 31/20.

This is a North-London derby that sees the most active team in the transfer market take on an Arsenal team desperate for a few major signings. The Gareth Bale saga seems to be reaching its logical conclusion, with Tottenham lining up Roma’s Lamela as the likely replacement at the club. They will be a tad gutted that Chelsea rather fiendishly swept Willian away from them; he had his medical at the club. Really, is there no more decency in this game? Arsenal will also be without Lukas Podolski, who is out for three weeks. So all common sense seems to be pointing towards a Spurs victory. But I’m not quite so sure. Spurs have won their first two games ruggedly, requiring contentious penalty decisions in both games, a fact that Villas-Boas will no doubt valorise as a sign of character. But Arsenal looked impressive at Fulham and will know the value of three points here for an embattled Arsene Wenger. I expect Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud to combine well, while Aaron Ramsay continues to grow in stature alongside Jack Wilshere. I actually foresee a comfortable victory for the Gunners. Grab them at even money.

The man knows his football, but even he gets it wrong from time to time. Feel free to share your EPL tips and multiples below.