EPL Week 9 Preview: Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge 

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Jose Mourinho is most likely to err on the side of caution like he did at Anfield when he returns to Stamford Bridge with Manchester United. Apart from the points at stake, so equally is Mourinho’s pride after his sack at Chelsea 10 months ago. If there is one match Mourinho wouldn’t wanna lose more than any other, it’s this one on Sunday. 

Manchester United fans applauded the resilient display at Anfield but would a third consecutive Premier League draw on Sunday  be viewed so positively? Most especially with the top teams having rather winnable games of their own. 

Antonio Conte can’t afford another defeat to a top side after losing to Liverpool and Arsenal. A defeat would disrupt the good form they are currently building with two wins and two cleansheets.

Pep Guardiola will not change his style. That much will know but does he have the intelligent defenders to get the ball out from the back? It’s okay playing from the back against Sunderland, Bournemouth and the likes but against the top teams, City defenders have looked average. And Bravo isn’t helping the situation with his indecisiveness at times. 

Manchester City are without a win in four games and it’s probably too early to call a crisis but Guardiola needs a win on Saturday to stem the side. The defeat in Spain wouldn’t have helped squad confidence and Southampton wouldn’t be obliging opponents on Sunday. The Saints are in good form, in fact they are unbeaten in the league in four games and will cause the home side some problems but with Aguero restored to the starting line up, Manchester City should edge this one but it won’t be a blowout. 

Bournemouth beat a poor Hull City team last weekend and they were brilliant. They are improving each week since beating Everton at home. They are undefeated in three games but they have got nothing on Tottenham who are still unbeaten. 

Spurs were not at their fluid best away at West Brom last week and also had a European fixture in midweek. It’s a tough schedule but if Pochettino has got one of the deepest squads on the league.
Tottenham beat the home side 5-1 in the corresponding fixture last season but Bournemouth have confidence on their side this time around. It will be close this time and a draw won’t surprise me. 

Aitor Karanka must pick up a bruised and battered Middlesbrough side, sore from a pitiful 1-0 defeat against Watford. An away trip to Arsenal is definitely not what you’d choose next but the fact of the matter is that Boro will be — and should be — scrapping and battling for every last point in the Premier League. No matter who the opponent, what counts is that the team spirit is there and that there is at least some energy and purpose to the performance.

Boro’s number one challenge at Arsenal will be to see if they can go for it; be a bit daring, break free of their self-imposed shackles and try to have a go. On paper it’s certainly a game that nobody expects them to win, so why not try something different instead of playing for a last cause? If they are planning to defend their way through Saturday’s game then it will surely come at a cost, plunging them into the relegation places and six games without a victory.

Arsenal are irresistible at the moment. And Middlesbrough would do well to keep the scoreline respectable. This one could be a blowout for them. 

Bob Bradley acquitted himself well in his first test as a Premier League manager during last Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Arsenal. Bradley ought to tighten up Swansea’s defence and few sides will match Arsenal’s talent, but the five goal splurge suggests that matches involving Swansea are about to become a lot more entertaining.  

Watford grounded out perhaps the dullest 1-0 win of the season so far against Middlesbrough last Sunday, while Swansea’s play this season had been characterised by too much caution and too little invention. Both of last season’s matches between the sides ended 1-0 with a victory apiece. 
Whichever side wins on Saturday will likely need to score more than once to do so. 
 
What a difference a game makes.
Before last week’s trip to Selhurst Park to play a confident Crystal Palace, some respected West Ham United watchers were insisting another loss and Slaven Bilic’s position would be untenable. After the game however, opinions have shifted wildly.

So assured had been the Hammers defence in their solid 1-0 win — even when the team went down to 10 men following Aaron Creswell’s ridiculous sending off — the general feeling was a tough corner had been turned.
David Moyes is similarly desperate to halt the slide of his Sunderland side. The former Everton boss brings his Black Cat’s side to Stratford at the weekend hoping to drag his new side away from the bottom of the table. Taking over from Sam Allardyce was never going to be easy, but it has become even harder since the former Hammers’ boss was shown the England door after only one game. Big Sam wouldn’t have left the Stadium of Light if it wasn’t for the call of the English FA and he’ll surely be top of the Sunderland board’s list should Moyes fail to quickly improve the fortunes of his side soon.

Liverpool fans should not feel disappointed or too frustrated. Far from it.

After eight games they sit just two points off the leaders having already faced five of the seven teams who finished above them last season. They did not lose to any of those sides, winning three and drawing two of those fixtures.

Significantly, they were the better side in all five games and it’s surely a sign of respect for their progress this year that Mourinho showed such little attacking ambition at Anfield.  

Liverpool’s next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, are as good as anybody when it comes to defending in numbers and being difficult to break down. It represents another challenge that the Reds need to overcome.

On the bright side, at least they’ve had ninety minutes against Mourinho to prepare for whatever fellow spoiler Tony Pulis comes up with.

Of course Leicester are keeping themselves for the Champions League – that much is confirmed now, no matter how much the coach and players deny it. 
They have been found out in the league this season expectedly but they need to get back to winning ways in the league quickly. 

Crystal Palace were on a good form and then go onto lose at home to West Ham. It’s difficult to know which Palace will turn up but at their best, they would give Leicester a good run for their money. 

Hull City were abysmal last week in their game against Bournemouth. The early season optimism has fizzled out and realisation is setting it now – it’s going to be a long hard season. At home to Stoke City, they would get their chances and they must take them. 

Burnley are an hardworking side but they lack the extra quality to take them over the line. At home to Everton, a tough fixture giving the gulf in quality but they have got to have a go. If you can’t win away games then you’ve to compete at home. 

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