By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
After a midweek stumble against Barnsley, in which Stoke City shared the points after picking up a red card on the pitch and two off the pitch for the technical staff, Michael O'Neill’s side looked to regain their winning form away to Derby on Saturday.
Stoke City lined up with three changes at Pride Park, with new Brighton loanee Abdallah Sima coming in upfront to replace Jacob Brown, Tom Ince coming in on the right-hand side for the suspended Tommy Smith, and Sam Clucas taking the place of Joe Allen in the centre of the field after the Welsh man picked up a toe injury during the midweek game against Barnsley.
Wayne Rooney’s Derby was looking to take away the focus from the off the pitch noise surrounding the team’s twelve-point deduction due to entering administration and a previously agreed nine-point deduction for misdemeanours in their accounting.
The game began evenly with few chances at either end until a miss cleared ball from the Stoke defence found its way to Max Bird who rifled home a screamer from well outside the 18-yard line. Joe Bursik in the Stoke net barely moved as the shot flew past him into the top left corner. This was the youngster’s first goal for Derby County which put his side ahead in the 31st minute.
Three minutes later Romaine Sawyers gave away a freekick as Derby looked to break on the counter-attack, tripping Louie SIbly, and the ball was floated into the box by Graeme Shinnie. Joe Bursik came flying out of the Stoke net to catch the ball but was left stranded as Curtis Davies headed the ball from the edge of the 18-yard line into the net with no keeper.
Derby continued with pressure, with Joe Bursik again coming out and letting Ravel Morrison in behind to slot it into an open net, only for the Derby forward to hit the side netting/
The Potter’s managed to pull a goal back in the 58th minute as Mario Vrancic set up former Derby County man Tom Ince to finish the ball into the bottom left corner at Kelle Roos’ near post. This was Ince’s first league goal since July 2020.
Stoke continued to apply pressure throughout the second half, with two penalty claims going unheeded by the referee as the game ended with a Derby win. Michael O’Neill’s side looked unprofessional in defence during the first half, allowing a galvanised Derby side to take advantage of a shaky start in nets for Joe Bursik against his run of form recently.
By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer
Despite a strong showing in Devon from Sutton, a second half double from Exeter City’s Sam Nombe downed the Ambers, sending them back to London with zero points, when they really deserved more from the encounter, especially after a very encouraging first half.
Matt Gray decided to stay unchanged from the 1-0 win over Hartlepool in midweek, keeping faith in the eleven that earned Sutton their second win from their last two games. His namesake, Matt Taylor also decided to keep his Exeter side unchanged too for this matchup on a sunny Saturday in Devon.
David Ajiboye had the first main chance of the game, 17 minutes in. He was found by a brilliant ball over the top of the Exeter defence, the winger plucked the ball out the air superbly and fired an effort towards goal, but it was superbly kept out by Cameron Dawson. Sutton were then forced to make an enforced change, with former Exeter man Donovan Wilson replacing Tobi Sho-Silva. Enzio Boldewijn then skied an effort, before Joe Kizzi’s header hit the woodwork after another Sutton corner caused havoc for the Grecians. Ajiboye was causing trouble yet again on the counter, with Richie Bennett heading over from the winger’s cross.
Timothee Dieng had Exeter’s first chance of the afternoon, nicking the ball off Kizzi, nutmegging a defender but then fired over from range. Somehow on the very next attack, the ball didn’t go in the net. Harry Kite’s initial shot was blocked, and the ball found its way to Matt Jay, but a combination of Dean Bouzanis and Ben Goodliffe somehow cleared the ball away and set Sutton on another counter, this time the ball found Donovan Wilson who smashed the ball off the underside of the crossbar. Somehow after two guilt edge chances for either side, the score remained 0-0 heading into the break.
Louis John had the first chance of the second half for Sutton, he directed another corner wide for the hosts. Sam Nombe who was quiet in the first half for the hosts, but he was called upon at the other end, to clear a Sutton effort off the line as the visitors edged ever closer to the breakthrough. Richie Bennett then arguably had Sutton’s biggest chance, with the ball bobbling around, he had the goal at his mercy as it fell to him, but somehow George Ray got a touch to divert the ball away from the net and this was to prove costly for the visitors.
Nombe, who had advanced down the wing was found by Jay, Nombe displayed superb trickery to get away from his marker and fired a fierce shot which took a heavy deflection off Ben Goodliffe and beat Bouzanis, to send the Exeter fans jubilant and put them ahead. The Grecians started to dominate proceedings heading into the last part of the game, with Jevani Browns deflected effort being held by Bouzanis, who then had to keep out Matt Jay too. The points were then made safe for the hosts, Louis John lost his footing just over halfway and the ball was threaded through to Nombe, who rounded Bouzanis to send the Big Bank behind the goal into raptures and seal the win for The Grecians.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Spurs writer
Spurs have had a very tough week. A 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, followed by a tough 2-2 draw with Rennes mid-week all done with a depleted squad, this therefore is not the perfect time to play Chelsea, who currently are in scintillating form.
Tottenham are potentially without Lucas, Bergwijn, Tangana, Lo Celso, Romero, Sanchez, Dier and Son, all key first team players. An injury crisis would inevitably happen at some point during the season but so early is difficult to manage, especially after Tottenham started so well, winning their first three games.
I have to be realistic in my prediction for this game, with a Spurs victory seeming unlikely all I can really ask for is a performance where the players give everyone and make it difficult for Chelsea to take home the three points.
Whatever defence Nuno choses to field must be disciplined against Lukaku and at the other end of the field there must be players trying to support Kane. Hopefully Ndombele retains his starting place after a wonderful display against Rennes and I would also like to see Gil feature as he has looked lively this season.
This will be the first time this season where I will be predicting Tottenham to lose. I just hope Spurs put in a worthy performance. Too many times last season we rolled over to teams when players were injured, fringe players must step up and perform. I see Chelsea being too much for Tottenham so my prediction is 3-1 to Chelsea which will gain me 130 points. Footrace is offering 7 points for a Chelsea win, 28 for a draw and a 40 for firm underdogs Tottenham.
By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer
Allan Saint-Maximin came to Newcastle and his manager Steve Bruce’s rescue as his powerful strike earned his side a point against Leeds United at St James Park. The Frenchman weaved around the edge of the Leeds penalty area before firing in low across compatriot Illan Meslier to cancel out Raphinha’s early cross which had sailed all the way into the Newcastle goal.
These were somehow the only goals in a breathless encounter where both sides will feel aggrieved to have not added to their tallies, particularly the visitors in the first half prior to Saint-Maximin’s equaliser where Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich all went close from range. Full debutant Dan James, in for the Covid forced absentee Jack Harrison, will also point towards a clumsy challenge on him inside the area by Joe Willock which remained unpunished by both referee Mike Dean and the VAR officials at Stockley Park. Raphinha and Junior Firpo were also guilty of missing glorious chances just before the half time whistle, the former taking far too long to get the shot away on a well worked counter and the latter blazing wildly over bar after the ball fell to him at the far post.
Leeds failed to take advantage of this dominance and could’ve even conceded prior to the equaliser, Matt Ritchie striking the inside of the post after more good work from a sparkling Saint-Maximin. And in the early stages of the second half it was the hosts firmly in the ascendency as Saint-Maximin teased and tormented a makeshift Leeds backline throughout, forcing Meslier into multiple good saves, most notably a rock solid hand to a near post piledriver.
Both sides understandably began to tire as a frenetic contest entered its final stages but the visitors still could’ve snagged all three points late on, first when Karl Darlow responded magnificently to tip teammate Jamaal Lascelles’ header over the crossbar and then when Patrick Bamford could only fire straight at the returning Newcastle keeper when played through by Rodrigo.
Despite this both sides will look to moments which may have seen them win the contest but equally take satisfaction from a point in an encounter which could’ve easily tipped either way if finishing had been of a more ruthless nature. It does however mean both sides remain with the concern of being winless after 5 games, with their next chances to rectify that coming next Saturday as Newcastle travel down to fellow strugglers Watford whilst Leeds face a tough proposition as they host West Ham at Elland Road.
By Jordan Hailey, Aston Villa writer
Aston Villa will be back in action this Saturday evening as they look to set the record straight as they host Everton.
After facing a difficult contest against Chelsea last time out, Villa need to desperately find their footing and get onto a good run. The Villains were beaten 3-0 by Chelsea and Dean Smith’s men made some errors that allowed the score line to be more generous to the Blues, so there is hope that this action-packed match will see Villa get a positive result.
In the other camp, Everton will be looking to keep their great form intact after back-to-back wins against Brighton and Burnley.
Everton are boasting a strong run this season as they are currently one of four sides that have got into a double figure goal tally so far this season and, as it stands, they are also unbeaten in the league.
Demari Gray and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are the two men to look out for, they each have 3 goals this season respectively. New gaffer Rafa Benitez has also only lost one in seventeen against Villa, so he will be hoping he can best Villa with his new side.
However, there is still hope for Villa due to the fact that they are currently unbeaten against Everton in their last 4 meetings, winning two and drawing two in those games and so there is a good chance to motivate players there to keep this run going as Everton are very strong away from home after only losing two of their last seventeen.
All in all, this is certainly going to be a strong test for Villa but one they can definitely overcome if everybody shows up on the day.
Come on you Villains.
By Fletcher Smith, Bradford City writer
Bradford City will be encouraged to get their season back on track following a disappointing 1-0 loss against Gary Bowyer’s Salford City. With the Bantams only claiming 1 point in their last three Derek Adam’s squad will be motivated to restart their promotion push.
The Bluebirds also suffered defeat in matchday 7 after a 3-2 loss to 10th place Colchester United. The stand-out player for Mark Cooper this campaign has to be Oliver Banks, the versatile midfielder sits on 3 goals and the top scorer for the visitors.
The player to watch for this fixture is Bradford’s Callum Cooke, after impressing this season with his ability to pass a ball brilliantly has him placed third based on pass accuracy ratings. he’s definitely a threat for the visitors tomorrow. In City’s recent clash against Barrow Cooke bagged the winner after a close-range strike into the bottom right corner.
The Bantams currently have 3 first-team candidates injured, Lee Angol, Niall Canavan and Abo Eisa are unavailable for this clash due to injuries and are expected to be back in 4-6 weeks.
A home win for Bradford gives you 10 points and an away win for Barrow claims 30 points.
By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer
Blades To Take On Hull After Late Preston Equaliser Costs Them All Three Points
A 95th minute mistake from the Blades backline forfeited the three points as the ball was bundled over the line by North End striker Emil Riis Jakobson. In a fairly even game, the Blades may have slightly edged it but a failure to clear the ball meant that it wasn’t to be. After Sander Berge’s 84th minute goal looking like it would be the winner and the jubilant scenes within Bramall Lane up until the final minute the goal came as a painful sucker punch for the United team and fanbase.
The Blades took the lead through Morgan Gibbs-White, his second goal in as many matches, with a half volley on the stretch nestling into the top corner, following a flicked header from Iliman Ndiaye. It didn’t take long for the Lilywhites to hit back with Daniel Johnson latching onto a lofted through ball to bring it down on his chest and round Olsen to pass it into the vacated goal.
Throughout the second half United pressed to go ahead, the best chance falling to John Fleck. After some good football, the ball came to Fleck on the edge of the centre circle, a turn of pace allowed the midfielder to break free of the Preston defence. Despite the support from Rhian Brewster Fleck decided to go alone and a good save from Daniel Iverson prevented the Scotsman a wonderful goal.
United would go ahead again with just 6 minutes left on the clock. The ball broke to substitute Sander Berge who fired his effort hard through the legs of the Preston stopper. The goal sparked scenes of celebration as the fans believed they had just witnessed the winner. But in true Sheffield United fashion, they would be wrong. In the 5th minute of the five added on skipper Sharp dived in late on the Preston defender giving away a free kick, this allowed the big lads to venture forward from the back in an attempt to win the long ball pumped into the area. A misjudgement from Jack Robinson allowed Jordan Storey to hook it into the area where Riis Jakobsen was waiting. Riis would bring it down and smash it into the bottom corner costing the Blades three points.
The Blades have shown more quality in the attacking areas in the last two games and will be hoping to continue this as they travel to Hull this weekend. The Blades manager confirmed he will have Ben Osborn available for selection after illness and Enda Stevens was back in training so should be available to play, however, it is looking unlikely Ben Davies will be in United’s matchday squad. New midfield signing Adlene Guediora is also available should the manager call upon him.
As for opponents Hull they come into the game without defender Alfie Jones who has a thigh injury and George Honeyman is also out with an ankle injury.
United will be looking to bury the memory of the Preston draw and will be looking to show more defensive maturity in pressured situations, however, with the newfound goals and flair within the attack they will be looking to put space between themselves and 21st placed Hull and I predict a 2-1 win for the Blades.
By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer
Wigan Athletic travel to the Wham stadium this weekend to take on Accrington Stanley in the latest round of League One fixtures.
Both teams have impressed in the opening stages of the season with the home side sitting in sixth place, while the visitors are second in the table.
Accrington have played one game more than the Latics so far this season and come into the game with four wins and three losses.
Most recently Stanley lost to Sunderland in the same fashion Wigan did on the opening day of the season, by two goals to one.
Wigan on the other hand have not lost in the league since their opening day defeat at the start of August and have won each of their last three league games.
Harry Pell is suspended for Accrington this weekend after picking up five yellow cards already this season, but manager John Coleman has a few players coming back from different injuries so his ban could open the door for one of his returning teammates.
In terms of team news for Wigan, Leam Richardson may look to keep things unchanged after their recent victory over Doncaster last time out.
Jason Kerr and Joe Bennett are both eager to make their Latics debut after signing for the club on deadline day but neither are completely match fit at the moment, while Curtis Tilt played over 60 minutes in midweek for the under 23s to improve his chances of featuring at the weekend.
Wigan will be spurred on by 2,500 traveling Latics supporters and will be desperate to keep their winning run alive, there are 15 footrace points available for a Wigan win and 20 on offer if you back Accrington to get the three points.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
Thanks to an own goal and a late Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg strike, Spurs scraped their way through to a 2-2 draw with Rennes on Thursday night. It was another poor performance by Tottenham who were largely outclassed by a side currently sitting 11th in Ligue 1. More worryingly, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn limped off the field during the second half putting them on the ever-growing injury list and making them major doubts for the Chelsea game on Sunday.
One shining light for Spurs was the returning Tanguy Ndombele who although put in a far from perfect performance, produced moments of sublime skill alongside streaks of creativity and directness that no other player in this Spurs squad can provide. His backheel that led to the first goal was outrageous, showcasing his ability to produce moments of magic that can unlock a game for Tottenham. If the Frenchman can improve his fitness and perform at a consistent level over the whole season, he may be the answer to Nunos creativity problems in midfield. Ndombele has certainly put himself in contention for the Chelsea game and I will be excited to watch him if he starts.
There is no getting away from the fact that Tottenham have become a predictable team in recent years, for some reason Rennes showed us far too much respect during the opening exchanges, however, after going behind to a deflected own goal they realised Spurs are far from the side they were under Pochettino, and ferociously took the game to the Lilywhites, equalising 23 minutes in after some sloppy defending. In the second-half Laborde's goal was cancelled out by Hojbergs cute finish 15 minutes from time.
The result was far from a disaster but the danger of playing in a midweek European competition was made abundantly clear after players were unnecessarily injured before a massive derby at the weekend. In his post match press conference Nuno called the injury crisis a terrible situation, with Chelsea and Arsenal up next he now has to work with the players left available. Under Mourinho, Spurs crumbled once they had a few key injuries, it will be interesting to see how Nuno navigates the next month, hopefully, he doesn't hide behind excuses and gets the players performing.
By Tom Parker, Wolves writer
Wolves are back at Molineux this weekend as they take on Premier League newcomers Brentford. They come into the game off the back of their first win of the season away to Watford to help build on their good start to the campaign.
Brentford have made a better start points-wise, and are proving themselves to be a decent outfit in the division who can compete well. The two sides last met in 2018 in the championship where Wolves demolished them by three goals to nil, with Ruben Neves scoring one of his trademark free-kicks.
Bruno Lage has the joyful headache of an almost fully fit squad, with only Pedro Neto now out with injury due to the returns of Willy Boly and Yerson Mosquera. The bench at Watford last week had a surprising amount of depth, with senior players completely filling in for the first time in what seems like a year.
New signing Hwang Hee-Chan made a bright start to life at Wolves, tapping home the second in the 2-0 win last weekend and his inclusion in the squad seems to have added the extra bit of pace and power needed to take the load off Adama Traore. Training clips have shown promising signs so it wouldn’t be a surprise to maybe see him start. Despite this I expect the same line-up that Lage chose last week and has done since late pre-season. The front three of Traore, Jimenez and Trincao has caused havoc so far with Jimenez having the most shots without scoring (13) in the league and Trincao having the most shots on target (7) without hitting the back of the net. Whilst you could suggest this lack of clinical finishing could arise again, you have to feel the goals will come after the side broke their duck last time out.
Brentford have simmered down slightly since their blistering start against Arsenal and have managed to score only one goal in their three matches since. Ivan Toney got off the mark against Aston Villa but there still does seems to be questions about how good they will really be this season. With Wolves having the 5th best defence in the league in terms of xGA, you could see Wolves potentially keep another clean sheet, although expect Brentford to carve out some decent chances.
Whilst not conceding many goals, Wolves have looked shaky at times at the back, with plenty of last minute tackles or blocks contributing to the low amount of goals conceded. Brentford have been similarly impressive at the back, being 2nd in the league for best xGA. That will be tested with Wolves 6th for xG, but this could turn into a very close contest with two well drilled sides facing up against each other.
I certainly back Wolves’ attacking threat to cause serious issues, as they looked fantastic in what has been a tough start, but this could easily end in a draw with both sides cancelling each other out. Bryan Mbeumo is an obvious candidate for danger, but Rico Henry and Vitaly Janelt have had decent starts in creating shots from open play (9 and 10 Shot creating Actions respectively). Nelson Semedo will provide a very stern test for Henry and I expect this to be the side where Wolves benefit most. Kristoffer Ajer could have a lot of issues against Traore too, which is the reasoning for my confidence in our attack. Whilst Ethan Pinnock has looked impressive, Trincao and Semedo have been excellent and shown superb synergy – this proved by the chance created for Semedo by Trincao in the first half at Watford.
Midfield will be an intriguing contest with Neves and Joao Moutinho coming up against a strong midfield three including Norgaard, Baptiste and Janelt. Brentford boast pace, power and tenacity in the middle of the park, not to mention Janelt’s ability to create chances. Shandon Baptiste is a really exciting prospect and does well in breaking down play, something that could limit Wolves’ pair.
Overall, I believe this will be a tightly contested game, with it likely being decided by a goal. I think the home side’s attacking prowess and experience will show in this one and so I would be hoping for a 2-1 win to Wolves.
The points for this game are: 8 for a Wolves win, 27 for a draw and 35 for a Brentford win.