The Weekend Preview : Gameweek 5

Welcome to our weekly series where we, the staff at GCR, preview the upcoming football fixtures and discuss the major talking talking points.

What are the must watch games this weekend?

Cyril : Inter Milan might not be the football powerhouse they once were in Italy but against old rivals, you can almost certainly guarantee sparks will fly. Juventus have won the last 2 out of 3 games with Inter walking away 3–0 victors in the last 3 recent meetings between both teams. Smart money is on Juventus to continue their unbeaten start to the season and make it 4 wins out of 4. It won’t be a walk in the park however. After a disappointing 2–0 loss to Chievo in the opening week, de Boer was able to rally his troops to fight back for a 1–1 draw at home to Parlemo. De Boer’s Inter welcomes 
Allegri’s Juventus after finally registering their first win last weekend. On Sunday, the Old Lady lays siege to the San Siro.

Can I just spend a second talking about just how great an idea Friday Night Football is? I might change my tune when it serves boring match-ups but with Chelsea facing Liverpool tomorrow night, we have the League’s joint 2nd best attacking teams (9 goals scored each) meeting. Chelsea have been able to keep 1 clean sheet and have allowed 4 goals. 3 less than their Merseyside opponents who are yet to keep a clean sheet. There will be goals, lots and lots of it. Heart says Liverpool as they have put on some breathtaking attacking displays so far this season, second only to Manchester City. But the mind expects Chelsea to just nick the victory thanks to having better team organisation and a stingy defence. It really is a coin flip either way but what is for certain is that tomorrow night will feature some quality entertainment. Not a bad way to start the weekend eh?

Reginald : Friday night football is back! No better way to spend this Friday than watching a (hopefully) high tempo clash between Liverpool and Chelsea. With both teams having no midweek commitments in Europe, it should be as feisty as last weekend’s Manchester derby. David Luiz is set to be trusted with the role of replacing the stalwart John Terry. It will be a daunting task against this Liverpool team which is the highest scoring team in the premier league in 2016 (50 goals this scored this calendar year). This is a Liverpool side that has put four goals past both Arsenal and the defending league champions, Leicester City. Chelsea also carry significant attacking threat in the form of one of the league’s top scorer Diego Costa and Eden ‘back to his best’ Hazard. Earlier this week, Jurgen Klopp heaped praise on Chelsea’s Diego Costa saying, “He is world class…a real warrior”. Liverpool’s defence has been shaky at best, letting it 7 goals in the four games they’ve played. If not for the early season form of attacking trio of Mane, Firmino and Coutinho, they could easily have been facing a crisis. Klopp has used Matip, Klavan, Lovren, and Lucas in central defence already this campaign, whichever partnership he picks must be ready to handle the presence of Diego Costa.

The Brazilian CB is expected to play this Friday night

Donald : Undoubtedly the pick of the games will be the one at Stamford Bridge. It should be an interesting game of attacking football and masterful strategy from Klopp and Conte. Either one or both of these teams are going to drop points and neither would go down without a fight. Throw Diego Costa into the mix in a game like this and I can’t imagine a better way to spend Friday night

What players should readers keep an eye on?

Donald : David Luiz. Conte has said he’s going to give him his second debut. What are we to expect? A more mature defensively disciplined player or the player we knew before he left for Paris? Another is Lukaku. Off to a flyer on Monday, his goal scoring streak may have started. Finally Defoe. Up against his former club and I just can’t help but feel like he might score against them….just a feeling.

Cyril : This week I have only 1 player on my list and that is Harry Kane. Spurs suffered a 2–1 loss at home to Monaco in their Champions League group game. That they even managed to reduce the goal deficit was thanks to Alderweireld, whose header at least gave Spurs the momentum to chase the game. When a striker is in a bad run of form, the manager faces two options, continue to play him, hoping he finally puts away one of the chances he gets or bench him. Hoping the time away from the spotlight and pressure does him some good. The Spurs manager looks committed to playing his misfiring striker though his bad patch — which extends back to the Euros. For a second, his goal last week against Stoke suggested he might have turned a corner. This was immediately followed by a rather disjointed performance on Wednesday night against Monaco.

Unlike last season, Spurs do have an option on the bench in Dutch forward, Vincent Janssen. I will be looking forward to how last season’s golden boot winner responds to the situation he finds himself. In Sunderland, he faces the 4th worst defence in the league (8 goals conceded & 0 clean sheets). They are letting in 2 goal on average this season and and a young talented, but inexperienced goalie in Jordan Pickford is tasked with keeping opponents out. If Kane is looking to score 20+ goals again for the the third consecutive season, he can’t ask for better opponents to play himself into form. Another lacklustre performance from him and the calls get louder for him to get benched…*oops* I meant rested.

Harry Kane will be hoping he finds his scoring boots against the Black Cats

Reginald : Based his performances for Liverpool during his debut season, Roberto Firmino has established himself as a big game player. The fearless Brazilian has an aura that lifts his performance for the big games. Liverpool fans will hope he can be consistent enough with such performances week in week out. The two goals from last weekend against Leicester should do his confidence some good.

Watford’s attacking duo might keep United’s defense busy down at Vicarage road on Sunday. Following last week's heroic comeback at West Ham, Ighalo and Deeney should be brimming with confidence after registering their first goals of the season.

Any interesting match-ups happening this weekend?

Donald : Klopp vs Conte = attack vs defence. Who comes out on top?

Reginald : Everton host Middlesbrough, and it will be interesting to see how Boro nullify the threat of Romelu Lukaku. Boro are a reasonably well drilled team under Karanka. They’ve shipped in only 4 goals this season, although two came from defending errors.

Daniel Ayala has continued to be an immense player for Boro. From helping them gain promotion to now fighting to ensure they avoid the drop. His next task will be to stop the Toffees main man from breaching their defence and it will be one he’ll be pumped up for.

Middlesbrough the next club to suffer at the hands of the Lukaku?

Cyril : Benteke’s first goal for his new club, Crystal Palace, was a thumping headed goal. This weekend, he will have the unenviable task of keeping the Stoke CBs busy. Stoke are currently the league’s worst defence — 10 goals conceded and no clean sheet. Their #1 GK is out injured and as Spurs proved last weekend, they are not especially fond of defending against skillful midfielders. Palace have that in Puncheon (and to a lesser extent, Flamini) and with Zaha and Townsend, posses pacy wide men adept at sending in crosses which will certainly trouble the Potters’ defence.

Whether Mark Hughes walks away with a point in the bag, or somehow masterminds a plan to get all 3 depends on how his team deals with Palace’s wide-men and their main target man.

Pardiola has his part to play as well. Eagles fans will be hoping his strategy coming into this weekend is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No Butland in goal, Shaqiri a doubt and Afellay definitely ruled out, Stoke aren’t coming into this in the best of shape. Yes, they have Bony but he might still need some games under his belt to get back into the rhythm of playing regularly. Palace have the chance to make it 5 wins in 5 meetings against the Potters and I see no reason why they won’t.

Eyes on the touchline — which manager[s] to watch?

Reginald : Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp have been exchanging niceties all week. Klopp referred to his German counterpart as “The Pep Guardiola of Turin — he created their special kind of play”. Conte returned the favour saying the German was one of the best managers in the world.

This is Conte’s first big game in England, and there would be some pressure on him to live up to the billing. Klopp however has already taken down relatively big giants in Monsieur Wenger and Signore Ranieri. Both Klopp and Conte will be looking for a positive result to cement their status as title contenders.

Following their midweek debut in the champions league, Rainieri would hope his team will bring with them this weekend, the swagger that saw them thump Club Brugge. Sitting in the not so familiar position of two places above the drop, Leicester fans will hope this early season slump is no sign of things to come. No pressure Ranieri.

Donald : Arsene Wenger. Still not sure what the game plan is but doesn’t seem to be settled as to who leads the line this season for Arsenal. Wenger still sees Alex is as a capable striker and after leaving both strikers on the bench in the UCL game in Paris, it would be interesting to see who starts up front. My guess would be Giroud.

There’s been much talk surrounding Tony Pulis and a possible departure. The fans are tired of his defensive approach and want to see their team play some more attacking football. Would he continue as usual or would he change his tactics to appease the fans? Finally It would be interesting to see how Claudio Ranieri rotates his squad after their 1st ever UCL game away from home.

Cyril : I’ve got a 2 person list. José Mourinho and Slaven Bilić. Both managers lost their home games last weekend. The former’s team ceded control early in the first half and by the time they got their act together, it was too late to reign in their cross town rivals whilst the latter’s charges started brightly but faded in the later stages of the game against their city rivals. Manchester United fans will be hoping for a more attacking performance from the get go and less individual errors especially when defending. For West Ham fans, their away game to the Hawthorns is a chance to see if their defensive issues have been properly identified, addressed and sorted out. Concede and capitulate as they did against a Pulis side, not renowned for their attacking prowess and questions will be asked about whether the Hammers are failing to improve upon last season’s performances.

The remedy for back to back defeats is a win, an emphatic one at that and United fans will be hoping for just that on Sunday. José has made cryptic comments about some players letting him down in his last two successive post-match conferences during the last 7 days. Expect some minor shakeup in the United lineup. However, regardless of what tactical decisions or personnel changes both managers make, nothing but a win will prove sufficient for their respective set of supporters.

Are there any changes you would make to EA Sport’s FIFA 17 Top 10 Free Kick Takers?

Donald : It’s a tough one. I can’t argue much in general but the one thing I would change is put Sigurdsson ahead of Memphis.

Reginald : Andrea Pirlo has only scored one free kick during his vacation in New York. I would put the more “in form” kickers like Dimitri Payet and Miralem Pjanić ahead of him. I think Kevin De Bruyne should replace Memphis Depay on the list.

Cyril : I think we all in agreement that Memphis’ position in the list is a head catching decision. Unlike Reginald, I’d suggest Gareth Bale as his replacement. I am also not too sure about Pirlo being #1 overall.

That’s a wrap from us here at the Gold Coast Report. Make sure to check out our After The Whistle series where we will be reviewing this weekend’s round of game!