Sportscasting Big 6 Picks: Premier League Matchday 10
With Matchday 10 in the Premier League, it means we are a quarter of the way through the English domestic soccer season. Looking at the Big 6 thus far, first-place Arsenal has been a pleasant surprise, second-place Manchester City and third-place Tottenham Hotspur have lived up to expectations, fifth-place Chelsea and ninth-place Liverpool have disappointed, and sixth-place Manchester United have been all over the map.
Heading into Matchday 10 — which will be the eighth or ninth match for teams, due to schedules and the Queen’s death — here are the players (and one manager) to watch this weekend.
Manchester United vs. Everton
Joe Kozlowski: Cristiano Ronaldo – In fairness, this is less about Ronaldo himself and more about how Erik ten Hag handles the Portuguese star. After claiming he couldn’t bring CR7 on during the Manchester Derby out of respect for him, will the manager get him onto the pitch? Or will we have even more drama after the match?
Mike Calendrillo: Marcus Rashford – United got steamrolled by City in their last league match and needed to come from behind in the Europa League to beat Omonia, 3-2 following manager Erik Ten Haag’s second-half changes. Squaring up against a somewhat reinvigorated Everton side, I fully expect Marcus Rashford to start from the opening whistle, where he should capitalize on the momentum of his two-goal UEL effort.
Tim Crean: Marcus Rashford – The United forward just scored a brace in the Europa League to save his side from an embarrassing defeat by the tiny Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia. Everton isn’t exactly Omonia, but they are a bottom-of-the-table club working its way up, and United needs Rashford to score in order to get the W this weekend.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Joe: Virgil van Djik – When Liverpool looked like one of the best teams in the world, VVD was the one holding everything together at the back. More recently, though, the Dutch defender has looked incredibly human. Arsenal will try to monopolize the ball, stretch the defensive line, and run at Liverpool. Can van Djik pass the examination?
Mike: Roberto Firmino – It certainly looks like the Brazilian is motivated on two fronts – carving out a spot in the highly-competitive Brazilian front line – and staving off Darwin Nunez from stealing his starting spot at Liverpool. And so, Firmino has five goals in six Premier League games this season, which is the same amount he netted in 20 league appearances last term. He’ll need to stay hot in order to keep the hounds at bay.
Tim: Trent Alexander-Arnold -This is a tough match for Liverpool, especially since the club is mired in 9th place with a 2-4-1 Premier League record. TAA is dealing with personal disappointment as it seems like he’s going to be the odd man out with the English National team for the World Cup. However, he scored a banger of a free kick against Rangers in Champions League, and Liverpool needs him to keep that focus and intensity up vs. first-place Arsenal.
Arsenal vs. Liverpool
Joe: Gabriel Martinelli – The Brazilian attacker can torment even the most sturdy defenders, and he’ll be going up against the out-of-form Trent Alexander-Arnold. Look for Arsenal to exploit that space and for Martinelli to have a field day going forward.
Mike: Gabriel Jesus – Much like his countryman, Roberto Firmino, Jesus has used the opening slate to rightly stake claim to his country’s No. 9 spot come World Cup time. Having already found the back of the net five times in eight matches thus far, Jesus enjoys tormenting Liverpool – as he’s been involved in six goals in eight EPL games vs. the Reds (4 goals, 2 assists), with each of those goals coming at The Emirates. This is another gigantic early-season test for the Gunners, and Jesus will need to play an important role to secure all three points.
Tim: William Saliba – After shutting down Harry Kane in last week’s North London derby, William Saliba needs to keep up his central defense dominance without a premier striker to guard 1-v-1. Against Liverpool, the attack will be coming from the wings, not through a point man like Kane. Can Saliba still be a dominant presence when not manned up vs. the other team’s best player? We’ll see on Sunday.
Chelsea vs. Wolves
Joe: Kepa Arrizabalaga – Assuming the Spaniard starts, it will be interesting to see how fares with a bit of a run in the side. While confidence and comfort matter at every position, they’re especially important for a goalkeeper. Can Kepa look a bit more like the player who inspired Chelsea to pay an eye-popping transfer fee?
Mike: Raheem Sterling – Although Chelsea is winless in their last four matches versus Wolves (3 draws, 1 loss), the Blules are catching them at the perfect time. Wolves manager Bruno Lage was recently sacked before Chelsea went out and put in a complete Champions League shift versus AC Milan – 3-0 to the home side. Under the guidance of Graham Potter, in this, his first league game for the Blues, I expect Raheem Sterling to continue his ownership of Wolverhampton. The England International has been involved in six goals in his last five Premier League contests against Wolves (4 goals, 2 assists).
Tim: Christian Pulisic – Leading up to the 2022 World Cup, is Christian Pulisic the only Chelsea player I care about because of the USMNT? Yes. However, he’s also a truly interesting Chelsea figure because Graham Potter is also keeping him on the bench just like Thomas Tuchel did. If Pulisic can’t get some run vs. Wolves, he’ll almost certainly be leaving in January.
Manchester City vs. Southampton
Joe: Erling Haaland – While this isn’t a creative pick, I can’t fight it anymore. Just watch Haaland play. He’ll score goals. It will be exciting. You will have fun. End of story. (Unless you’re a Southampton fan, that is.)
Mike: Kevin De Bryune – The Belgian magician already has eight assists in eight Premier League games this campaign – the same amount he had in 30 appearances last season. With two assists in each of his previous two league matches, should De Bryune notch another brace of assists, he’d become the first player in league history to achieve the feat in three consecutive games. Against a lowly Southampton side, it should happen – and early.
Tim: Jack Grealish – This game against the 16th-place team in the table should be a City walk. Therefore, let’s hope that Pep Guardiola uses this as an exercise to get scuffling players like jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez going for the stretch run before the World Cup break.
Tottenham vs. Brighton
Joe: Ivan Perisic – Similar to my Ronaldo pick, this is less about Perisic himself and more about how Antonio Conte handles Emerson’s red card suspension. Will the Croatian shift to the right and allow Ryan Sessegnon to come into the lineup, even if that’s not ideal for the 33-year-old’s legs? Will Matt Doherty be fit enough to play a full 90 minutes? Is Djed Spece even alive? We’ll get answers to some of these questions when Spurs face Brighton.
Mike: Richarlison – Spurs will undoubtedly be motivated for the Seagulls following the passing of coach Gian Piero Ventrone. One of the players GPV had an instant and enormous effect on was Richarlison, who took to social media to express his love for Gian. Richarlison is always an emotional player, therefore, if he can harness it the right way, it could propel him to a magisterial showing.
Tim: Antonio Conte – This week, it’s not a player on Tottenham to watch, it’s manager Antonio Conte. The club had tragedy strike this week as assistant coach Gian Piero Ventrone died at age 61 after a battle with leukemia. There are bigger things in life than Premier League matches, but the Spurs’ schedule marches on. Conte will have to muster all his motivational skills to get his team to focus for 90 minutes with their beloved late assistant on their minds.
Joe (2-4 record): Gabriel Jesus – I’ve gotten a bit cute in the past, as indicated by my record, so I’m going for the win here. Liverpool has been shaky defensively, and Arsenal will do their best to monopolize the ball and stretch the Reds’ back line. With his scrappiness, footwork, and ability to rotate out to the left (where Trent Alexander-Arnold usually leaves space), look for Gabriel Jesus to find the back of the net.
Mike: (5-1): Harry Kane – Since my comrades are going with “surefire” picks to score, I’ll go with my main man, Harry Kane, who has scored five goals in his last seven Premier League games against Brighton, including three in four at the Amex.
Tim: (5-1): Erling Haaland – The incredible Erling Haaland train keeps on rolling, so I’m going to keep on picking him until he fails to score a goal in a Premier League game. Right now, he’s on pace to double the EPL single-season goals record (34) and is already a quarter of the way to Lionel Messi’s all competitions single-season record of 73.