As we edge closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the 2022-23 European football season is set to enter an important period as games prepare to come thick and fast across different competitions. I think managers will look to rotate their squads to keep their key players fit and that's always been the case with the so-called bigger teams.
However, the smaller teams could struggle during this period as they don't have big enough squads to rotate players without there being a significant drop-off in quality. We saw our fair share of drama over the weekend as Manchester City overturned a two-goal deficit against Crystal Palace thanks to a hat-trick from Erling Haaland, while Liverpool announced themselves after an underwhelming start with a 9-0 rout of Bournemouth.
On that note, here are my predictions for the first round of mid-week games of the 2022-23 Premier League season.
Crystal Palace vs Brentford
This is an interesting game of football. Palace did so well in the first half against Manchester City and if Wilfried Zaha had played, they could've punished them a lot more and come out with a positive result. However, that wasn't going to be the case as the reigning Premier League champions staged a spirited fightback to win the game 4-2.
This game will largely depend on Zaha's fitness, but I fancy Palace to come out on top. They've shown their quality this season and are a decent team at home, so I think they'll win 2-1.
Zaha has been linked with a move to Chelsea and it remains to be seen if he will secure a transfer before the deadline. I think a lot of people judged him based on his Manchester United stint and I think that's a bit unfair. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah didn't quite make the grade at Chelsea, but look at them now! Zaha has added goals to his game and will be a really good signing for Chelsea, in my opinion.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 2-1 Brentford
Fulham vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Fulham did really well against Arsenal to take an early lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic, but Arsenal fought back through Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Magalhaes to snatch all three points. Brighton, meanwhile, have been outstanding in the Premier League, but I still think they can do a lot better in front of goal.
They create a lot of chances but don't put them away with ease, which could turn out to be a bit of a problem for them. They should've blown Leeds away last weekend, but they only won 1-0, which is conclusive proof that they aren't prolific in front of goal.
I think this is an exciting football match that promises a lot of goals, so I'm going for a 2-2 draw.
Prediction: Fulham 2-2 Brighton
Southampton vs Chelsea
Chelsea will win this game and I say that because I think they did really well to get three points against Leicester City after Conor Gallagher got sent off. They went into that game on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Leeds United, so it was a really good result for them.
Southampton, on the other hand, huffed and puffed against Manchester United but didn't really perform too well as the Red Devils held on for a narrow 1-0 win. I think the home side will have miles too much for Southampton in this one, so I'm going for an easy Chelsea win.
I said it last week and I'll say it again, I don't understand these Anthony Gordon links. The kid's a good player, but the transfer fee mentioned is enormous! If I was in charge of Everton and was offered to take Armando Broja or Conor Gallagher as part of a player-plus-cash deal for Gordon, I'd consider it to be the deal of the century and take it!
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Southampton
Leeds United vs Everton
Jesse Marsch said after the game against Brighton that his players were freestyling on the pitch and sort of deviated from the game plan - which is a worrying sign as a manager. This is a big game for both teams, I fancy Leeds to return to winning ways with a 2-0 win after a disappointing loss last time around.
If Everton lose again and reluctantly agree to sell Anthony Gordon to Chelsea, Frank Lampard and co could be in a lot of trouble this season.
Prediction: Leeds United 2-0 Everton
Bournemouth vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Bournemouth absolutely need to win this football match but I don't know how Scott Parker can get his players up after a 9-0 thrashing. It's not unheard of for a newly-promoted side to be well-beaten by one of the big boys, but you don't lose 9-0 even on a Sunday morning - that was a damaging defeat for the Cherries.
Bournemouth have lost their last three games 3-0, 4-0 and 9-0, which is a horrendous run to start the season. They've faced the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool so one could argue that they can't be judged too harshly thus far, but they need to win this game to get their season back on track.
Wolves are too hit or miss to make a prediction - you don't know what you're going to get with them. I said this before the Manchester United vs Liverpool game that I couldn't see Liverpool winning and I have a similar gut feeling for this one, which is why I'm going for a Bournemouth win. Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-0 Wolves
Manchester City vs Nottingham Forest
Pick a score! I don't know - what score do you wanna go for? I don't think we need to say much about Manchester City and I expect them to win this game comfortably. As for Forest, the worrying thing is that they played quite well against Tottenham but ended up on the losing side.
Dean Henderson has made more saves than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season and if you look at their transfer policy, they're signing every Tom, Dick and Harry. Is it working, though? It's too early in the season for passing judgements, but Steve Cooper will hope his new players settle in quickly as he looks to find his best starting XI.
Erling Haaland has taken to the Premier League like a fish to water and has already notched up six goals, but the funny thing is that he's probably only touched the ball like 35 times! If he doesn't get injured, I'd say he's already won the Premier League Golden Boot - we might as well just give it to him now! He's had an unbelievable start to his Manchester City career, fair play to him.
Prediction: Manchester City 5-0 Nottingham Forest
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
I think Arsenal will win this, but it'll be a slightly harder game than what they would expect. Aston Villa are really struggling at the moment and have Manchester City to come after this one, so Steven Gerrard will definitely be feeling the pressure. There's a lot going wrong with his team at the moment and he doesn't know his best XI, which is a worrying sign if you're a Villa fan.
Martin Odegaard is someone who has impressed me at the start of the season. He's a very good footballer and has got a proper footballing brain - I can't understand how Real Madrid let a player of his caliber go for as little as €30 million! He's led by example so far and looks set to be a key player for the Gunners this season.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa
West Ham United vs Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham got a big result against Aston Villa as they finally got their first point of the season. Tottenham, on the other hand, have got good results, but a deeper dive into their performances will tell you that they haven't played particularly well.
This is a London derby and the fans will be right up for this one, so I expect this to be a cracker of a contest. Tottenham striker Richarlison was in the news recently for being taken out by Brennan Johnson after a bit of showboating in the dying embers of the game against Forest. I don't see the need for players to showboat to be honest - they all try to be Neymar or something and attempt to take the mickey out of opposition players. Fair play to Johnson for taking him out, that's my opinion of the situation.
If Richarlison was playing against the likes of Tony Adams and Martin Keown, I think he'd have suffered a similar fate.
Prediction: West Ham 1-1 Tottenham
Liverpool vs Newcastle United
Newcastle United have started the season well and scored a stunning last-minute winner through Allan Saint-Maximin to salvage a point against Wolves last weekend. Liverpool, on the other hand, finally clicked after a run of three winless games as they absolutely raced off the blocks to demolish Bournemouth 9-0.
It was only a matter of time before Liverpool returned to their best and I expect them to build on it with another win. Eddie Howe is a good tactician and his teams usually don't get blown away, so I'm going for a tight 2-0 win for Liverpool.
Bobby Firmino was the star of the show for Liverpool against Bournemouth and I saw shades of the player who knitted that iconic front three for Liverpool two or three years ago. He enabled the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to get into dangerous positions and score goals, so we all know what a good player he is. It's been a struggle for him over the past 12 months or so, but he could be a key player for Jurgen Klopp if he carries on like this.
Luis Diaz is doing well at the moment and this is a player I really like. That said, I want to see him produce those performances week in and week out and not be a flat track bully, as he's someone who'll have to take more responsibility this season due to Sadio Mane's departure.
With Thiago Alcantara set to return to the squad in the coming weeks and the likes of Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho impressing for Liverpool against Bournemouth, I don't think Liverpool will spend over the odds to bring a midfield player in. Don't get me wrong, they could still sign someone, but they won't do it just for the sake of it.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United
Leicester City vs Manchester United
Manchester United did sort of ride their luck in their 1-0 win against Southampton. They didn't play particularly well, but you could also argue that Southampton didn't really come too close to getting even a point.
Leicester City will be kicking themselves for not getting at least a point against ten-man Chelsea after Gallagher's red card, which was a bad result for them. To make matters worse, Wesley Fofana is leaving for Chelsea and the likes of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison could also move before the transfer window slams shut. Brendan Rodgers is a top-class manager, but this could be a long season for Leicester if they lose key players before the transfer deadline.
People are getting a little carried away with Manchester United because of their result against Liverpool, but you have to keep in mind that their performance against Southampton wasn't great. If that game had ended in a draw, no one would have complained!
I see goals in this one, so I'm going for a 2-2 draw. Cristiano Ronaldo didn't start the last two games and Manchester United have won, so I expect him to be on the bench this time around as well. His future is still not sorted and I'd be shocked if he stays at the club beyond the transfer window.
Prediction: Leicester City 2-2 Manchester United