NCAAF picks — Week 3 (September 15)

These are the condensed versions of picks for the following September 15 college football games for Winners and Whiners. Links to the full previews are below and all times listed are Eastern:

No. 21 Miami (Fla) at Toledo, Noon
Texas-El Paso at Tennessee, Noon
Ball State at Indiana, Noon
Duke at Baylor, 3:30 p.m.
Colorado State at Florida, 4 p.m.
North Texas at Arkansas, 4 p.m.
Houston at Texas Tech, 4:15 p.m.
Arkansas State at Tulsa, 7 p.m.
Massachusetts at Florida International, 7:30 p.m.
No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 15 TCU, 8 p.m. (at Dallas)
No. 9 Washington at Utah, 10 p.m.

Confidence rating is in parentheses. Also note, given the volume of college football games (and picks), a “5” rating does not imply the best pick of the day’s games, simply the best pick of that individual game.

Game 1: No. 21 Miami at Toledo:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Miami -9.5 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 56.5 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Toledo Under 23.5 (5/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Miami -6.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 29.5 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: No to score in first 5:30 (3/5)

Game 2: Texas-El Paso at Tennessee:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Tennessee -29.5 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 49 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: Tennessee -18.5 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 26 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 3: Ball State at Indiana:

Side Prediction/Full Game:  Ball State +14 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 57.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: Indiana -7.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 30.5 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 4: Duke at Baylor:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Baylor -6 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 50.5 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Duke Under 21.5 (4/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Baylor -3.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 24.5 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Under 45.5 yards for longest TD (4/5)

Game 5: Colorado State at Florida:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Colorado State +19 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 58 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: Colorado State +11.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 30.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 6: North Texas at Arkansas:

Side Prediction/Full Game: North Texas +7 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 70.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: North Texas +4 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 35 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 7: Houston at Texas Tech:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Houston +2.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 69 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Over 63.5 yards for longest TD (3/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Texas Tech +0.5 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 35 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Yes to score in first 5:00 (3/5)

Game 8: Arkansas State at Tulsa:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Tulsa +2 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 72 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: Arkansas State Pick’em (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 36.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 9: Massachusetts at Florida International:

Side Prediction/Full Game: FIU -4 (4/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 59.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game:
Side Prediction/Half Time: FIU -3 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 32 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time:

Game 10: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 15 TCU:

Side Prediction/Full Game: TCU +13 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 58 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Ohio State Under 36.5 (3/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Ohio State -7 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 30 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: No to score in first 5:30 (3/5)

Game 11: No. 10 Washington at Utah:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Washington -6 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 47.5 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Under 44.5 yards for longest TD (3/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Washington -3 (5/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 23.5 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Washington scores 1st (3/5)

Previous Week’s Record: 25-18 (.581)
Season Record: 44-35 (.557)

1-star play record: (0-0, .000)           Season: (0-0, .000)
2-star play record: (0-0, .000)           Season: (0-0, .000)
3-star play record: (16-12, .571)       Season: (30-19, .612)
4-star play record: (4-3, .571)           Season: (6-11, .353)
5-star play record: (5-3, .625)           Season: (8-5, .613)

MLB Picks — Sept. 14 (Minnesota @ Kansas City; Seattle @ Los Angeles Angels)

These are the condensed versions of picks for Friday’s MLB games between the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, and Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels for Winners and Whiners.

Links to the full previews are below, and confidence rating is in parentheses. Note: The 5/5 does not represent the best overall pick of the day’s games, simply the best pick of each individual game.

Game 1: Minnesota at Kansas City:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Royals +121 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Under 8.5 runs -115 (4/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Under 27.5 runs+hits+errors -125 (3/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Royals +120 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Under 4.5 runs -110 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: No to 1st-inning run -120 (4/5)

Game 2: Seattle at Los Angeles Angels:

Side Prediction/Full Game: Angels -120 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Full Game: Over 9 runs -105 (3/5)
Prop Prediction/Full Game: Over 27.5 runs+hits+errors -115 (4/5)
Side Prediction/Half Time: Angels -145 (3/5)
Total Prediction/Half Time: Over 5 runs -110 (5/5)
Prop Prediction/Half Time: Yes to 1st-inning run -115 (3/5)

Previous Day’s Record: 6-0 (1.000)
September Record: 68-76 (.472)
Season Record: 145-161 (.474)

1-Star Pick Record: 0-0 (.000)          (0-0 (.000) in September)
2-Star Pick Record: 1-1 (.500)          (1-0 (1.000) in September)
3-Star Pick Record: 85-100 (.459)     (41-44 (.482) in September)
4-Star Pick Record: 37-41 (.474)    (15-21 (.417) in September)
5-Star Pick Record: 22-19 (.537)     (11-11 (.500) in September)

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Everton (1-3-0) vs. West Ham United (0-0-4)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

The arrival of Manuel Pellegrini was supposed to usher in a new era at West Ham United, one where the east London side would finally realise their potential as a leviathan and begin climbing the ranks of the Premier League.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

Coming out of the international break and into Sunday’s match at Goodison Park versus Everton, however, it has been more of the same old, same old as poor play and off-the-pitch dysfunction have ruled the day.

The Irons (0-0-4) are the only team in the top flight without a point, having shipped 10 goals in their defeats. With Pellegrini came an aggressive spending spree in the summer transfer window as 11 new players arrived with a cumulative cost of nearly £100 million. The results, though, have been uneven at best as Pellegrini has struggled to find his best four at the back and the midfield of newcomer Jack Wilshire and holdover Mark Noble have failed to influence matches offensively.

West Ham went into the break on a 1-0 loss to new boys Wolverhampton, and the hope is the time off has cleared everyone’s heads and the Irons can reboot themselves for this stretch of games to get off the foot of the table.

“Everyone was disappointed after the Wolves game,” fullback Ryan Fredericks admitted to the club’s official website. “We’ve been working hard over the international break and we’re confident of a much better performance and hopefully a better result on Sunday.

“There is no thought of letting things go. Some hard truths were spoken after the Wolves game and everyone wants to do the best for the club and the best for themselves. The plans the club had at the start of the season, we expected things to go better than this and for us to be higher up the table, so it’s up to us all to work hard and put things right on the pitch.”

That means finding a secondary scoring source beyond Mark Arnautovic, who has scored both of West Ham’s league goals and only one in the run of play through 360 minutes. Who lines up with Arnautovic in that starting XI has become a puzzling source of frustration to the Chilean as The Times reported Thursday a Twitter account with the handle ExWHUemployee has been posting the lineups publicly before Pellegrini has told the players.

Pellegrini’s usual M.O. is to tell the players four hours before kickoff, but the only people he talks to before meeting the players regarding the lineup are team owners David Sullivan and David Gold. It’s another headache for a team that spent most of the international break fighting a public battle with the landlords of London Stadium over things from putting a claret-coloured surround on the track around the pitch to the naming rights for the stadium since there is still no rights partner.

Everton (1-3-0) are not without their troubles both on and off the pitch, but the bigger worry for gaffer Marco Silva heading into this contest is the staggering amount of first-team players unavailable for this contest. At the top of the list is star winger Richarlison, who will complete his three-match ban for a red card following his headbutt of Bournemouth’s Adam Smith on Aug. 25. Defender Michael Keane is sidelined with a small fracture of his skull suffered in that 2-2 draw, and right back Seamus Coleman is out indefinitely after breaking his right foot while on international duty with Ireland.

Centre back Phil Jagielka and midfielder Andre Gomes are also not expected to be available due to injuries and holding midfielder Idrissa Gueye is likely a match-time decision due to a knee injury. Winger Dominic Calvert-Lewin also picked up an ankle injury with England’s Under-21 side and could miss out on this match as well.

One of the players who has been pressed into duties with all of these injuries, defender Mason Holgate, has made the most of his increased playing time, something likely to continue with Everton’s spate of injuries and Carabao Cup commitments in addition to league play.

“You see a lot of new signings come in but when the club comes out and say they see a future for you here, it gave me a lot of confidence,” said the 21-year-old Holgate to Everton’s official website. “They believe I can come in and do the job – and hopefully that’s what I’ve been doing so far.

“Despite the players that are out, we are still going to field a good team and I feel we are going to still do well,” the centre back added. “In every position, we have two or three players who can play there comfortably. On our day, we can beat anybody.”

The off-the-pitch problems continue to swirl around Everton’s full-court press to prise Silva from Watford after they fired Ronald Koeman last term, with an independent inquiry to determine if Everton were “tapping up” Silva now underway. The two clubs have been embroiled in a bitter dispute for nearly a year when Everton made repeated offers to give him the job last November, with Watford’s ire rising with each offer they had to spurn.

There was a thought the teams settled the issue when Richarlison moved from Vicarage Road to Goodison Park for £40 million to be reunited with Silva – a figure many believed to be well above market value for the Brasil international – but Watford filed a formal complaint and escalated the affair.

Everton could face anything from a hefty fine to a potential points deduction depending on what the inquiry fines, which includes obtaining any contact from Everton owner Farhad Moshiri through the club’s front office with Silva. It is the first case in which talk of points being deducted has arisen since Chelsea made an illegal approach for Ashley Cole in 2005 and had a suspended three-point deduction in addition to a £300,000 fine.

The home team won both matches last term, with Everton smashing four without reply by West Ham as Wayne Rooney recorded a hat trick. The Irons have just three wins in 23 matches (3-4-16) in the blue section of Merseyside in the Premier League era and one league win in the last 11 visits (1-3-7).

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Everton are solid favourites with 21/20 odds, while the odds of West Ham either winning or notching their first point of the season are both 5/2.

The Toffees get 2/1 odds for a win and more than 2.5 goals, while a draw under 2.5 goals returns 17/4. An Everton win under 2.5 goals checks in at 4/1, just ahead of a 0-0 or 1-1 draw (15/4).

Tosun is the front-runner for the first goal of the match at 4/1, followed by Oumar Niasse (9/2) and Arnautovic (11/2). Despite his illness, Chicharito is still on the board at 11/2, while Calvert-Lewin and Wolcott are just behind the Mexico international at 13/2.

Tosun is listed at 7/5 odds to score over the 90 minutes, while Niasse (8/5) and Arnautovic (9/5) lurk in the top three. Walcott is getting 21/10 odds, and Lookman offers an intriguing 5/2 odds to open his scoring account on the season after just 33 minutes of action versus Huddersfield Town in his league debut.

PREDICTION

“This charming man” has a lot of problems in east London. The humour of the club’s former employee putting out accurate lineups before Pellegrini tells his players who is in the starting XI has the feel of “That’s so West Ham.” It is the kind of culture Pellegrini has been fighting since his arrival, and the fact this story has gained traction shows just how much of a fight there still is for him to wage.

A lot of this, though, could be solved with the salve that cures all ills — winning. West Ham appear to have the same disconnect Arsenal have, a leaky back line and a promising attack with a midfield that is hit or miss. The fact West Ham have a former Arsenal player as part of that existing problem only adds to the parallels. The Irons need Anderson to take a game by the throat, and they need Yarmolenko to start proving his worth on the pitch.

Everton are going to be a patchwork lineup for this week and likely next week as Silva may have to change over half his preferred outfield. Kenny will be tested severely at right back as he will likely get first crack at filling Coleman’s spot, and Lookman will finally get his chance to show Silva he is deserving of more time with Richarlison out along with Andre Gomes.

It was not a good sign there were stories floating around about Pellegrini being bought out after four matches and no points, and even with Everton short-handed, the empty run could continue at Goodison Park. Tosun is due to score a goal, and that may be enough for Everton to secure at least one point. The bigger issue is this may be the game where Pickford steals the other two for the Toffees.

Predicted Final Score: EVERTON 1, West Ham United 0.

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Manchester City vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Watford vs. Manchester United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Watford (4-0-0) vs. Manchester United (2-0-2)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

The surprise package of the first four matches, Watford put their 100 percent record on the line Saturday at Vicarage Road as they try to move nine points clear of Manchester United.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Hornets (4-0-0) are enjoying the high life at the moment, trailing only evergreens Liverpool and Chelsea in the table with the maximum 12 points. Manager Javi Gracia has gotten his team to buy into his 4-2-2-2 formation, with Roberto Pereyra a revelation on the left wing replacing the departed Richarlison and keeper Ben Foster making the most of his second go-round with Watford.

One of the underrated parts to Watford’s success is their ability to build a deep squad that is able to run a two-track course with league and cup responsibilities. Watford have won all five of their matches overall and overturned their entire XI in their Carabao Cup win at Reading.

Gracia was named Premier League Manager of the Month, and the Spaniard has instilled confidence his team can claim another high-profile pelt after rallying to defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 before the international break on goals by Troy Deeney and Craig Cathcart set up by Jose Holebas seven minutes apart in the second half.

“In this moment the results help us to feel we can do it, but it’s only a feeling because you have to do many things to win,” Gracia told Watford’s official website as they seek a club-record fifth consecutive home win in the top flight. “We need to manage situations, we need to play well, run a lot and fight a lot. After that we can have some options to win. We try to prepare as good as possible.”

Pereyra has a team-high three goals and Holebas leads the way with four assists. The Hornets have scored at least two goals in all five of their victories. Gracia is expected to stick with the same XI he has used in all four of his league matches, with Deeney and Andre Gray leading the line ahead of wingers Pereyra and Will Hughes.

“We are in a good moment, we are enjoying it, we know in the future things may change but this is a good moment for us,” Gracia added. “I prefer not to speak about if it’s the fifth game in a row, the sixth or the fourth – it’s the next one, the new one and the chance to get three points. The past is the past. I prefer to focus on the next game and the next three points.”

Getting three points has been challenging at times for Manchester United (2-0-2), who have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries at various positions across the pitch. They avoided a third consecutive loss before the international break with a comprehensive 2-0 victory at Burnley that relieved some of the crisis mode surrounding Jose Mourinho and the side, but the truth remains United have much heavy lifting to do to get back into the Premier League race.

The next challenge for Mourinho comes at left back, where Luke Shaw is not likely to play after suffering a concussion playing for England in their Nations League opener versus Spain. Shaw, who had been a whipping boy for Mourinho since his arrival from Southampton, had gotten into the manager’s good graces with a roaring start in being named the club’s player of the month.

United do have options if Shaw is not cleared to play, with one possibility being teenager and summer signing Diogo Dalot making his league debut. Dalot, a £19 million transfer from Porto, had his first action of the season with United’s Under-23 side earlier this week after recovering from an injury suffered last season.

“It was nice, the atmosphere was good, I can imagine if the stadium is full and I am very happy to come back,” Dalot told United’s official website. “It feels good to be back. It was a special night, getting my first minutes after four long months and I am really happy. It is a really special moment for me. I just want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing medical department and the coach, who has believed in me since day one.”

If Mourinho wants a veteran presence, he could opt for Marcos Rojo as the Argentina international has worked his way back into match shape recovering from injuries.

Marouane Fellaini is questionable for the match with a back injury that forced him to withdraw from Belgium’s Nations League matches. The towering midfielder was an influential figure in the win over Burnley in his first start of the season.

One player who will not be available is attacking winger Marcus Rashford, who will serve the first of his three-match ban for his headbutt of Phil Bardsley in the win over Burnley. His absence could be filled by Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata or Anthony Martial as Mourinho prepares for a busy stretch of schedule in which United play five matches across three competitions.

Rashford, though, will be available for United’s Champions League opener against Swiss side Young Boys on Wednesday.

United did the double over Watford last season, including a 4-2 victory in the corresponding fixture. Ashley Young scored twice in a six-minute span of the first half, and Martial made it 3-0 just after the half-hour. Manchester United are 9-0-1 in league matches against the Hornets, with the lone loss a 3-1 defeat at Vicarage Road in 2016.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Manchester United are solid favourites with 10/11 odds, and Watford will give a 3/1 return if they continue their 100 percent start. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 12/5.

United get a 21/10 return to win with more than 2.5 goals and 16/5 odds to win by a 1-0 or 2-0 count. There are also 13/4 odds of a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, while Watford have 6/1 odds to win with more than 2.5 goals and 7/1 under 2.5.

Lukaku is the favourite to make it 1-0 at 4/1 odds, with Sanchez hot on his heels at 5/1. Martial is third at 13/2, with Lingard close behind at 7/1. Deeney is the top Watford option at 15/2, followed by Gray at 8/1. Despite his three goals, Pereyra is listed at 11/1 to open the scoring.

Pereyra’s odds for a goal at any time in the match improve to 7/2, while Lukaku nets a 6/4 return. Sanchez has 9/2 odds to bag his first goal of the season for United, with Paul Pogba and Juan Mata receiving 13/5 odds. Deeney is also listed at 13/5 to beat David De Gea at some point.

PREDICTION

Do you know how I know it was a good week of practice for Manchester United? Mourinho was railing about all the questions surrounding Rashford, who isn’t even playing as he serves the first of this three-match ban for his red card against Burnley. In some ways, that win came at the worst time for United since it was clearly their better victory of the two they have.

Replacing Shaw — provided he is not cleared to play — will provide some obvious talking points, more so if Dalot does not make his debut after playing for the Under-23 side, but this is where United must kick on and get on with their season. They cannot afford to lose this game and be nine points behind Liverpool and seven points behind their eternal rivals across town (note: this space is not entirely sold on Chelsea, but a nine-point deficit would be inconvenient) given how the league is again quickly turning into a top 7/bottom 13 league once more.

And all this is not designed to give short shrift to Watford. The Hornets deserve their status as flavour of the month given their start, with Gracia doing excellent work. Watford have a track record of starting fast before fading in recent seasons, and either avoiding or enduring through that difficult stretch is Gracia’s biggest challenge.

Despite their maximum record, the break after rallying past Spurs may have come at the perfect time for Watford because it allowed Gracia to teach as opposed to simply ride the momentum of a big win into the next match. Those lessons will be learned, and while a fifth league win on the trot may be too big an ask, a hard-earned draw feels like the most likely outcome.

Predicted Final Score: Watford 1, Manchester United 1.

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Manchester City vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Everton vs. West Ham United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Newcastle United (0-1-3) vs. Arsenal (2-0-2)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

Looking for both a third consecutive victory in league play and improvement defensively, Arsenal also hope to extend the struggles of Newcastle United on Saturday when the teams collide at St James’ Park.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The transition from Arsene Wenger to Unai Emery at Arsenal (2-0-2) has had its ups and downs. Emery has held fast to a 4-2-3-1 formation to make the most of his impressive array of attacking options, but the back six when including holding midfielders Granit Xhaka and teenager Matteo Guendouzi have been at times inconsistent, insipid and ineffective.

The Gunners have yet to record a clean sheet, some of which can also be attributed to veteran keeper Petr Cech learning how to play out of the back on the fly, but there have been too many breakdowns to believe Arsenal are going to find a route to the Champions League through domestic play and a top-four finish.

Emery’s faith in Xhaka over summer signing Lucas Torreira continues to be questioned, with the Switzerland international racking up three yellow cards in the four league matches. The push and pull of the two players will continue to be scrutinised as Arsenal embark on their Europa League adventures for a second straight season next week, facing Ukraine side Vorskla in their group opener at home Thursday.

“I appreciate people that want to try and help Arsenal achieve more because I know Arsenal is a team that has to be playing in the Champions League and is a team that has to fight for trophies in England. What we’re trying to do is to bring the Arsenal level back,” winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan said to Arsenal Player.

Emery’s other notable decision before the international break was starting strikers Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang together for the first time, and both players scored in their 3-2 victory at Cardiff City. Lacazette bagged the winner nine minutes from time with a sharp turn in the penalty area before lashing a shot inside the upper near post on the right side.

While he is still at least six weeks away from returning, there was some good news during the international break as defender Laurent Koscielny has resumed practising. The France international ruptured his Achilles in last spring’s Europa League semifinal versus Atletico Madrid, costing him the chance to be on Les Bleus’ World Cup-winning side.

The international break split up a murderous three-match run for Newcastle United (0-1-3), who enter this match looking for a route out of the bottom three. The Magpies took on a defensive shell with five at the back as they tried to nick points from both Chelsea and champions Manchester City in the previous two matches, and while they were level at points in both matches, they failed to secure those draws in back-to-back 2-1 defeats.

Now facing an Arsenal side that has shown to be fragile at the back, the hedge is Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is going to play positive football and hunt out goals going forward as opposed to solely on the counter. Much of that belief, though, hinges on the availability of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey.

Shelvey missed the matches against Chelsea and City due to a thigh problem, and the international break came at an opportune time as Benitez forced the England international to take a break from footballing to get near 100 percent health.

“Jonjo is the kind of player who wants to play in every game and he has been training, but at the same time there is a problem,” Benitez explained to the Chronicle Live. “We don’t talk about his quality, we talk about his fitness. He has the quality to do it, but he has to be fit because we play against another top side who moves the ball very quickly.”

Benitez is not expecting attacking midfielder Matt Ritchie to be available, with veteran Sung-Yueng Ki likely to fill in that spot as the Spaniard vacillates between using a 4-2-3-1 formation and 4-4-1-1 set-up. That “one” in both options would normally have been Salomon Rondon, but with the Venezuela international not expected back to Tyneside until Thursday following his brace in a win over Panama, Joselu could be in the first XI with Rondon among the substitutes.

That also holds true for right back DeAndre Yedlin after he made a late appearance for the United States in their 1-0 victory over Mexico on Tuesday night.

“This period is quite difficult,” Benitez said. “(Christian) Atsu is back now and was training on Tuesday and then on Wednesday we have a couple more problems but DeAndre and Rondon will come late. It will be difficult for us because sometimes they come to us and they say ‘I’m fine’. But they can be tired.”

Newcastle snapped a 10-match losing streak in league play with a 2-1 victory in April in last season’s corresponding fixture as Lacazette and Ayoze Perez traded goals in the first half-hour before Ritchie scored the match-winner on 68 minutes. Arsenal had been unbeaten in their previous 10 visits (6-4-0) to Tyneside in all competitions and 12 matches (10-2-0) overall in the rivalry.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Arsenal are solid favourites at 20/23 odds, and Newcastle are listed at 29/10 to take all three points for the first time this season. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 27/10.

Oddsmakers are sensing Newcastle are vulnerable at the back, evidenced by the 17/10 odds on Arsenal winning with more than 2.5 goals. There are also 4/1 odds for both an Arsenal win under 2.5 goals and a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.

Aubameyang is the frontrunner for first-goal honours at 7/2, followed by Lacazette (9/2). Unsurprisingly, Joselu and Rondon share joint-favourite status for the host Magpies to make it 1-0 at 13/2. Aubamyeang is close to even money for a goal over the course of 90 minutes at 11/10, with Lacazette close behind at 6/4. Joselu and Rondon are listed at 21/10 odds to find the back of the net at some point for Newcastle.

PREDICTION

Does he unleash Newcastle? That is the £64,000 question around Tyneside as people posit theories on whether Benitez will let the Magpies venture forward against an Arsenal defence that has had their problems over the first four matches.

One of the issues within Newcastle’s issues is the late return of Rondon from international duty with Venezuela. Play him for only the final half-hour and if Newcastle does not win, the second-guessing for holding him out will be equal or exceed the second-guessing for starting him and he’s ineffective for the first hour or 75 minutes.

Having Shelvey back, though, will be a huge plus for Newcastle. His vision for long diagonal passes could prove vital to stretch Arsenal’s back line or find the gaps between the midfield paring of Xhaka and Guendozui and the back four.

Arsenal’s advantage is that there is nothing about Newcastle’s defence that strikes fear in an opponent. Lascelles is good, yes, but one would expect Aubameyang to give Yedlin a torrid time on the left flank while forming triangles with Ramsey and Lacazette. It may be a case for the third straight match where Newcastle put themselves in position to claim a point but fail to do so late.

Predicted Final Score: Newcastle United 1, ARSENAL 2.

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Manchester City vs. Fulham
Watford vs. Manchester United
Everton vs. West Ham United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Manchester City (3-1-0) vs. Fulham (1-1-2)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

As group play in the Champions League beckons, Pep Guardiola and reigning champions Manchester City come out of the international break looking to finalise their rotations for league and continental play starting with Saturday’s match versus Fulham at the Etihad.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

City (3-1-0) were given a fairly easy draw to begin their bid for European glory, which starts Wednesday at home versus French side Lyon. In domestic play, the reigning Premier League champions enter the fifth match day in fourth place – two points off the 100 percent pace set by Liverpool, resurgent Chelsea and upstart Watford – but save injured star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, everyone is healthy as the chase resumes.

“I’m not sure if this is the best start of a season for me, but it’s the best I’ve felt in years,” said striker Sergio Aguero, who underwent knee surgery late last season, to the club’s official website. “It shows in my game. The challenge now is keeping up this level, and I’ll be working nonstop to maintain it.”

Aguero, already City’s all-time leading scorer with 204 goals, followed up his brace in the Community Shield win over Chelsea by scoring three goals in the team’s first four league matches. The Argentina international enjoyed plenty of success when Fulham were in the top flight previously, totaling four goals and one assist in four matches from 2011-13.

“Here’s hoping my good run continues against them – but I remember them all being tough matches,” Aguero noted. “They impressed me last season and went on a long unbeaten run and have started this season well. We’ll keep focused, we’ll stay true to our game, and we’ll aim for the win as we always do.”

Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will likely lead the line for City considering they have been on the field together for seven of the team’s 11 goals. The team’s Brasilian contingent of players – Jesus, keeper Ederson, out-of-favour holding midfielder Fernandinho and fullback Danilo – were all left off the national team’s roster for friendlies against the United States and El Salvador and should be fully rested.

Danilo has yet to feature for City this season after being sidelined with a foot injury in training with the Selecao ahead of the World Cup. He has been practising with the first team this week, giving Guardiola depth behind Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker on either flank.

Raheem Sterling is in contention to start after his early withdrawal from the England national team during the break due to a back injury. Sterling, who has two goals in three matches for City, pulled out of the matches against Spain and Switzerland as a precautionary measure.

Fulham (1-1-2) are one of three teams on four points, trailing Southampton on goal difference for 12th place. The Cottagers are unbeaten in their last three matches across all competitions but threw away a two-goal lead before the international break as they were pegged back in a 2-2 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Cottagers had five players on international duty during the break, with central striker Aleksander Mitrovic continuing his blistering form with a brace for Serbia in their 2-2 draw against Romania in UEFA Nations League play Monday night.

Mitrovic shares the Premier League scoring lead with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane on four goals, bagging all of them in Fulham’s last three league contests. Since his arrival on loan from Newcastle in January to help the Cottagers win promotion – a deal made permanent ahead of this term – Mitrovic has 16 goals in 22 league matches.

At the other end of the pitch, keeper Marcus Bettinelli appears to have claimed Fulham’s No. 1 shirt and is coming off his first international call-up with England. Bettinelli missed the start of the season due to injury, and while he has allowed four goals in his two starts, Fulham have claimed four points.

Coach Slavisa Jokanovic had the team train in Spain during the international break, and the biggest takeaway is he appears to have settled on a back four. Summer signings Alfie Mawson and Maxime Le Marchand are expected to be the pairing in central defence, with Joe Bryan at left back and Timothy Fosu-Mensah on the right as Fulham look to tighten up a leaky defence that shipped nine goals in league play.

While Mitrovic has been enjoying a purple patch, the same cannot be said of Ryan Sessegnon, who has had trouble adjusting to the Premier League after exceling in the Championship. The 18-year-old played for England’s Under-21 side during the international break, and there is talk Fulham are set to give him a new contract to fend off bigger teams – most notably Tottenham Hotspur – from poaching him.

City have won five on the trot over Fulham – all in league play – and are unbeaten in 11 (8-3-0) across all competitions since a 3-1 loss at home April 12, 2009. Fulham have been outscored 16-3 in those five most recent defeats, including 10-0 in their last three trips to the Eithad.

PUNTERS’ NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, City are heavy 1/8 favourites, while Fulham have 25/1 odds of pulling off a shock scoreline to grab all three points. A draw also has substantially long odds at 8/1.

Oddsmakers are also expecting the Citizens to rack up goals as there are 4/11 odds for a win by the hosts with more than 2.5 goals. There are 17/4 odds on a City win of either 1-0 or 2-0, while the next-shortest odds are a draw under 2.5 goals at 12/1.

Befitting his track record against Fulham, Aguero is the odds-on favourite to score the first goal of the match at 9/4, with Jesus 16/5 and Sterling at 9/2. All told, there are nine City players thought to be more likely to make it 1-0 for the hosts than Mitrovic, the top Fulham option at 11/1.

Aguero and Jesus are better than even-money odds to score in this game at 4/11 and 4/6, respectively. Despite the fact City have not posted a clean sheet in their last three league matches, Mitrovic getting 13/5 any-time goal-scoring odds feels like a play to take advantage of.

PREDICTION

Though he may not admit it publicly, there may be a tiny part of Guardiola happy he is riding just behind Liverpool (and to a lesser extent, Chelsea and Watford) at the moment. That allows City to fly just under the radar — as much as reigning Premier League champions conceivably could — and be the ones who apply the pressure.

This is a match tailor-made for them since Fulham will stay true to their identity playing their 4-3-3 and getting after it. The Cottagers can take solace in knowing fellow new boys Wolverhampton nicked a point off the champs, however it is a much different proposition getting said point at the Etihad.

It would not be surprising to see Sterling held out ahead of the Champions League opener or make a late runout if the match is well in hand. It also is why Kompany is listed over Stones for this match to keep the England international fresh for their midweek match versus Lyon.

Fulham’s midfield pairing of Seri and Anguissa are going to have to do yeoman’s work to keep the Cottagers competitive. Jankovic may have found his back four while in Spain during the international break, but the rubber will meet the road quickly in determining this to be true.

Predicted Final Score: MANCHESTER CITY 3, Fulham 1

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Watford vs. Manchester United
Everton vs. West Ham United

2018-19 EPL Match Day 5 Preview — Tottenham Hotspur (3-0-1) vs. Liverpool (4-0-0)

(Writer’s Note: This preview can be seen in a text-only format at the STATS Hosted Solutions site. I am adding edits, projected starting lineups, odds-related picks and a final score prediction for the match for this website.)

They are sides cut from different clothes seeking a similar end game: A Premier League title and with a little bit of luck, Champions League glory.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur kick off the fifth match day Saturday at Wembley Stadium in a mouth-watering clash of top-five sides set to embark on their respective European adventures.

POTENTIAL STARTING XIs

The Reds (4-0-0) are atop the table on the maximum 12 points, ahead of resurgent Chelsea and surprise package Watford on goal difference. Their run to the Champions League final last spring emboldened the franchise to end a silverware drought now in its seventh season since winning the 2012 League Cup as they spent the summer spending the kitty from Philippe Coutinho’s sale to Barcelona.

The primary goal was to find a goalkeeper with the mental fortitude to go with the elite physical shot-stopping skills needed to challenge the league and continent’s best clubs. The other was finding players to fit Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing style.

Both have meshed well as Liverpool have conceded once thus far, and that goal was a howler by their £65 million man between the sticks – Alisson. The Brasil international may be too confident with the ball at his feet, as he was caught out trying to dribble around Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who dispossessed him and set up the goal that made that 2-1 victory a fortnight ago more nerve-wracking than needed.

It may be the only blemish for a Liverpool team which boasts a lethal attack in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The trio have accounted for seven of the team’s nine goals, and Mane is joint-leader in the Premier League on four with Fulham’s Aleksander Mitrovic.

Heading into a Champions League group that has a staggering amount of firepower in France’s Paris-Saint Germain, paced by Alisson’s compatriot Neymar and France starlet Kylian Mbappe, and Italy’s Napoli boasting scorers and playmakers in Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insgine and Marek Hamsik, both attack and defence – along with depth – are going to be needed for the Reds to have the kind of season they envisioned with their aggressive summer spending spree.

“I’m looking forward to the game against Tottenham, especially now because in the next few weeks we have a lot of games, a lot of good games, difficult games,” forward Xherdan Shaqiri told Sky Sports, fully expecting to see more playing time than the 27 minutes he has logged thus far as Liverpool begin chasing titles on three fronts when including the Carabao Cup. “But we will try to keep our good performances and I hope we can win a lot of games.

“We train hard every day. You can see that there is a lot of quality in our team and we are hard-working every day. And competition in football is also good for the players.”

Klopp made only one change to his XI over the last four games, and that was introducing Jordan Henderson into the midfield after 2017 signing and newcomer Naby Keita started the first three matches while the England international rested following World Cup duties. The biggest outfield signing Liverpool made this summer – midfielder Fabinho at a £39 million price tag – has yet to play a single minute, but that is expected to change in either this game or Wednesday’s Champions League opener versus PSG.

“My start has been good and the adaptation good. The pre-season was very good, we had nine friendlies and I played nine,” Fabinho told Globo Esporte.

“It was good to play against English teams to see what the rhythm, the intensity and the physique is like. I am adapting to the team’s style of play. The more experienced players have helped me, the technical team as well.”

Dejan Lovren remains the lone injury absence as Liverpool are not rushing the Croatia international to return from an abdominal injury. Joe Gomez is expected to continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk in central defence, with Joel Matip also available.

Tottenham (3-0-1) have taken a pair of large injury hits which again calls their decision not to reinforce the squad during the summer window into question. While Liverpool spent, Spurs scrimped – they were the first side in Premier League history not to spend money in the summer window since it came to be.

As they impatiently wait to move into their new version of White Hart Lane – this was supposed to be the first match in their new digs — Tottenham believe their core is enough to bring them to new heights in Europe in a demanding group with perennials Barcelona, Italian side Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands and challenge at home for their first league title since 1961.

Striker and World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane netted two goals and an assist in the first four matches, and Lucas Moura has made a full adjustment to life with the Spurs after his January arrival and paces the side with three goals. Kane and England compatriot Kieran Trippier were also shortlisted for the FIFA FIFpro World XI.

Spurs had their 100 percent start end in surprising fashion at Watford before the international break. The upstart Hornets, who are third in the table with the maximum 12 points, rallied and struck twice in a seven-minute span against backup keeper Michael Vorm as he deputised for injured No. 1 Hugo Lloris.

Vorm is going to be between the sticks for the foreseeable future, as Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino announced Thursday that Lloris would miss “several weeks” with a thigh injury suffered in their win over Manchester United on Aug. 27 that also caused the World Cup winner to miss France’s first two Nations League matches.

Spurs will also be without attacking midfielder Dele Alli due to a hamstring injury suffered while with England on international duty. It is also likely to sideline him for Tottenham’s Champions League opener at Inter Milan on Tuesday. Pochettino will likely choose between Erik Lamela and Harry Winks to fill that spot.

They do get back forward Heung-Min Son, who missed the previous three matches helping South Korea win the gold medal in the Asian Games. The title also earned Son, who assisted on both goals in the 2-1 win over Japan in extra time, an exemption from the 21-month compulsory military service all South Korean males must do before the age of 28.

The Lilywhites ended a 10-match winless spell (0-3-7) to Liverpool in all competitions with an emphatic 4-1 thrashing in last season’s corresponding fixture. Kane and Son scored in the first 12 minutes, and after Salah pulled one back before the half-hour, Alli restored the two-goal lead in first-half stoppage time before Kane completed a brace on 56 minutes.

Kane, who also had a match-tying penalty in the 2-2 draw at Anfield in February, has five goals and two assists in seven league matches versus Liverpool. Salah accounted for all three goals for the Reds against the north London side last term.

PUNTER’S NOTES

Per Ladbrokes, Liverpool are slight 5/4 favourites, while Tottenham check in at 19/10. The odds of the teams splitting the points are 5/2. In terms of the 2.5 goals over/under benchmark, Liverpool are 9/4 favourites with the over, and Spurs are 13/4. The intrigue also comes for those who believe this will be a goal-fest, as a Liverpool win and over 3.5 goals gets a 9/2 return, while a Spurs win over 3.5 goals is listed at 13/2 odds. The odds of a 2-2 draw is 8/1 for both 2.5 and 3.5 goals.

For first goal-scorers, Kane and Salah are joint leaders, as expected, with 7/2 odds. Despite his recent form, Moura is 15/2, behind the Liverpool tandem of Firmino and Mane, who are both 13/2. One of the more intriguing “GetAPrice” picks is Salah at 6/1 odds to get a goal and an assist in this match.

PREDICTION

Though Liverpool have not shown the rampant form of their lid-lifting 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in their other three victories, they have gotten the job done as evidenced by their 100 percent record. Everything has gone status quo for Klopp, and with both Lloris and Alli absent for Spurs, there is a better-than-average chance it will continue at Wembley.

It will be interesting to see who replaces Alli, with the most likely option Winks with a lesser likelihood of Son, who played eight games in 26 days for South Korea. Son feels like a more likely option for the final half-hour than the first hour. This will be a big game for Moussa Dembele, who gets the unenviable task of trying to stop Liverpool’s build-up through the midfield and the linkup from Milner and company to the Salah-Firmino-Mane strike force.

The “Kane is tired” trope has been trotted out ahead of this match, which seems counterintuititve since the Spurs striker did end his August goal-scoring blues in league play already and also was held out of England’s friendly versus Switzerland. But it is another chance for Gomez to shine in Liverpool’s defence. In the end, this will be another match Liverpool grind more than glide through, and a late second when Spurs hunt for an equaliser would not be surprising.

Predicted Final Score: Tottenham Hotspur 0, LIVERPOOL 2

OTHER MATCH DAY 5 PREVIEWS:

Manchester City vs. Fulham
Newcastle United vs. Arsenal
Watford vs. Manchester United
Everton vs. West Ham United