Manchester United face derby reality check

Premier League action is back this weekend and we’re predicting wins for Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester at the top end of the table.

SATURDAY

Everton vs. Chelsea – Local time: 7:30am

If Everton coach Marco Silva still has a job by the time this column comes out, it will be a shock.

A 5-2 defeat at arch rivals Liverpool leaves his expensively assembled squad in the relegation zone. Better managers have lost their jobs for much less.

Pick: Everton 1 Chelsea 3

Bournemouth vs. Liverpool – Local time: 10am

Jurgen Klopp took the surprise decision to drop Mo Salah, officially the fifth-best player in the world according to FIFA, on Wednesday. It paid off as the Reds, who have wobbled to a handful of nervy wins recently, broke the shackles to trounce Everton. Salah is too good a player to leave out for long, though, and he will surely be back, rested and refreshed, to terrorise Bournemouth this weekend.

Pick: Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 3

Spurs vs. Burnley – Local time: 10am

Jose Mourinho tasted defeat for the first time as Spurs manager on Wednesday in the bitterest fashion possible – at the club where he was fired a year ago. The former Manchester United manager still has a lot of work to do at his new club, but the revival of Dele Alli shows there is potential for progress.

Pick: Spurs 2 Burnley 0

Watford vs. Crystal Palace – Local time: 10am

We don’t get every prediction right in this column, but one forecast that was right on the money is that Watford’s coach Quique Sanchez Flores wouldn’t last the season. Sure enough Flores was sacked for the second time by the club last weekend less than three months after taking over from Javi Gracia. There are more managerial casualties, it seems, at Vicarage Road than in a ‘Game of Thrones’ finale. What are the odds that whomever they hire to replace Flores in the hot seat lasts till May?

Pick: Watford 0 Palace 1

Man City vs. Man United – Local time: 12:30pm

After a morale boosting win over Spurs midweek, Manchester United will surely be brought back down to earth against their local rivals Saturday evening.

Though this will be billed as a challenging game for City in their pursuit of leaders Liverpool, the reality is that the gulf between these sides is now so wide that anything short of a comprehensive win for Guardiola’s men would be considered a failure.

Pick: Man City 4 Man Utd 1

SUNDAY

Aston Villa vs. Leicester – Local time: 9am

The most surprising thing about Leicester’s surge to second place is that it doesn’t have the look or feel of a temporary fluke. They seem like they belong at the top. No wonder Brendan Rodgers was able to laugh off suggestions that he might take the Arsenal job. His current squad is better and is surely now headed for the Champions League.

Pick: Villa 1 Leicester 2

Newcastle vs. Southampton – Local time: 9am

Credit to Southampton for keeping its head while those around are losing theirs. Less certain clubs would have sacked Ralph Hasenhüttl by now, but the Saints persisted with the energetic Austrian and it is starting to pay off. Two wins in a week lifted them out of the bottom three and things can only get better from here.

Pick: Newcastle 1 Southampton 1

Norwich vs. Sheffield United – Local time: 9am

Finnish finisher Teemu Pukki, perhaps buoyed by helping his country reach the European Championships for the first time in its history, has rediscovered his touch in front of goal. But the Canaries are too reliant on their star striker to expect to stay up.

Pick: Norwich 1 Sheff Utd 2

Brighton vs. Wolves – Local time: 11:30am

Ruthless Wolves made it 10 consecutive games without defeat with a midweek win over West Ham. This time Patrick Cutrone, who sounds like a mafia hit-man and is apparently just as deadly from close range, was the match winner. We’re backing him to be on target again on Sunday.

Pick: Brighton 1 Wolves 2

MONDAY

West Ham vs. Arsenal – Local time: 3pm

Amid a run of poor form in the years following the end of the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal have groped around for a solution. Somehow they seem to have arrived at the conclusion that it would be a smart move to follow the Manchester United playbook and opt for a Scandinavian super sub from their most successful era. Like Solskjaer at United, Freddie Ljungberg arrives at Arsenal with plenty of goodwill from supporters but with almost zero managerial experience.

Pick: West Ham 2 Arsenal 0

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