Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard is back at Anfield on Saturday, but can the Aston Villa boss mastermind an upset against his old side?
“Stevie will get a fabulous reception,” said BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson. “The best I can remember for a former Liverpool player is when Ray Clemence came back with Tottenham in 1982, but this is going to be up there.”
“As good a job as Gerrard has done so far at Villa, though, it’s hard to see him getting anything from the game. Liverpool are just too good at the moment.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 top-flight matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week’s guest is Adam Devonshire, aka Dev, bassist with rock band Idles and a Newcastle fan.
Idles feature in 6 Music’s forthcoming Artist In Residence series and their episode – What Punk Means To Us – will be broadcast at 05:00 GMT on New Year’s Day. You can listen to it here.
Musically, things are going well for Dev – Idles’ fourth album, Crawler, was released in November and reached number six in the charts.
“We’ve just come back from the United States, which was probably the best tour we’ve done,” he told BBC Sport. “The new record seems to have gone down pretty well with people too, so we are a very happy bunch at the moment.”
Football-wise, things are looking up for him too – Newcastle won their first game of the season last weekend and are off the bottom of the table.
“I was really pleased when Eddie Howe got the manager’s job,” Dev added. “For three or four seasons before their form dipped and the team started to break up, his Bournemouth team were so exciting to watch.
“That’s what I always want to see as a Newcastle fan – good football and a team that tries to win games.
“I love that we had the reputation of being the entertainers in the 1990s when we came close to winning the Premier League, because we played some blinding football. Yes, we are in a relegation fight now, but that doesn’t change.
“That is what I think Howe will bring, but I think he will bring results too. He’s a young, hungry coach who can help modernise the club’s infrastructure and hopefully help catch up with the rest of the Premier League with that side of things, as well as keeping us up.”
Newcastle will get the chance to strengthen their squad when the January transfer window opens, so what would Dev like to see happen?
“We have some good defenders but I think we are missing a bit of balance in the side between attack and defence,” he explained.
“It can be done, we just need one or two better players in there somewhere to make us more solid. Basically, if we had Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante in there, we would be all right. Sadly, I don’t think he is for sale!”
|Brentford v Watford||x-x||2-1||2-1|
|Man City v Wolves||x-x||4-0||3-1|
|Arsenal v Southampton||x-x||2-1||1-1|
|Chelsea v Leeds||x-x||2-0||3-1|
|Liverpool v Aston Villa||x-x||2-0||2-1|
|Norwich v Man Utd||x-x||0-2||0-2|
|Brighton v Tottenham||P-P||P-P||P-P|
|Burnley v West Ham||x-x||1-1||0-2|
|Leicester v Newcastle||x-x||2-1||1-2|
|Crystal Palace v Everton||x-x||1-1||2-0|
Brighton v Tottenham has been postponed following a number of positive Covid-19 cases among Spurs’ players and staff.
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
Games kick off at 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated
Brentford v Watford (20:00 GMT)
Brentford were denied victory last week by a late Leeds equaliser which means they have now won only one of their past eight league games.
They will still be happy with their haul of 17 points from their first 15 league games, though. Their target this season was to stay up and, when I watch them, I think they are going to be OK.
Out of the two teams it is Watford who need the win more, but it feels like it is a toss of a coin as to whether they play well or not.
They weren’t expected to get anything against Manchester City, but this is different. They will probably think they can win it and, if they play a bit more open then that might suit Brentford.
It will be close but I fancy Brentford to sneak it at home – after all this is the Bees versus the Hornets, so the place will be buzzing.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Dev’s prediction: Brentford have tailed off a bit after their great start but they still play really good football and I think home advantage will make the difference here. Watford are a quintessential Premier League yo-yo club, aren’t they? They will be happy as long as they stay out of the bottom three this season. 2-1
Man City v Wolves (12:30 GMT)
Manchester City were able to rest a few players against RB Leipzig on Tuesday because they were already through to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners.
So, I don’t think that defeat or poor performance will stop the momentum City have been building in the past few weeks with a run of five successive Premier League wins that has taken them to the top of the table.
Wolves don’t give much away but they can’t score either – they’ve only managed to find the net once in their past five games. I can’t see them troubling City too much.
Lawro’s prediction: 4-0
Dev’s prediction: Wolves are having a good season but I can’t look past a City win. 3-1
Arsenal v Southampton
I don’t like to say ‘same old Arsenal’ because it’s a phrase I’ve used a lot in recent seasons but, at the moment, it feels like we’ve seen this before from the Gunners.
It must be very frustrating for their manager, Mikel Arteta. After making such a bad start to the season they had started to look like they knew what they were doing, but then all of a sudden you chuck in a couple of poor displays and they are almost back to square one.
That tells me more about the team’s mindset than any lack of quality in certain areas. Have they got a couple of people who, when it gets a bit tough, do not quite fancy it? I feel that is the case with Arsenal a little bit.
They play some lovely football – even when they lost 4-0 at Liverpool a couple of weeks ago – but as soon as something goes against them, they don’t seem to be able to deal with it.
Despite all of that, Arsenal are at home on Saturday, where their record is a lot better, and I still think they will beat Southampton, who should have beaten Brighton easily last week but would probably take a draw here, if they can get one.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Dev’s prediction: Arsenal this season are so up and down, I just haven’t got a clue what to expect from them each week. Just when it looks like they’ve got some stability, they throw in a performance like the one against Everton – they have some great players and a really good manager and they should win this game, but there is something not quite right about them at the moment, and I don’t know what it is. 1-1
Chelsea v Leeds
Chelsea have looked a lot less convincing of late, especially at the back. They lost their way a little bit in their defeat by West Ham which is strange because they are usually so well organised and mentally strong.
But Leeds have bigger problems, especially if Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford are facing some time on the sidelines through injuries sustained in their draw with Brentford.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Dev’s prediction: Things aren’t looking great for Leeds, and they are not the team they were last season. When they are playing well, they are great to watch but it doesn’t seem to be working out for them at the moment and more injuries are not going to help. 3-1
Liverpool v Aston Villa
I’m not surprised Gerrard has had some good results with Aston Villa because he has given them new impetus.
This is Dean Smith’s side but training will have been different since Gerrard arrived and he has new ideas, plus a good coaching team working underneath him.
Gerrard is doing really well as a manager and everyone is putting two and two together and saying that, if he carries on like this, he will be Liverpool’s next manager. He quite possibly will but he always plays that down, which I think is good, because he is fully focused on the job he is in.
I only see a home win here, though. The fact Gerrard is back will mean there will be a fabulous atmosphere at Anfield from the start, and that will work more in Liverpool’s favour than Villa’s.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Dev’s prediction: Liverpool are looking really strong and I can’t really see Villa getting a win here – and I don’t think Gerrard would celebrate much if he did. He will probably save the knee slides down the touchline for when he goes to Old Trafford. 2-1
Norwich v Man Utd (17:30 GMT)
Norwich got taken apart by Tottenham last time out, ending Dean Smith’s unbeaten start as manager, and also slipped to the bottom of the table because Newcastle beat Burnley.
I reckon the Canaries will find this game tough going too, although we are still waiting to properly find out what Manchester United will look like under interim manager Ralf Rangnick.
This is only Rangnick’s second league game in charge, and his first on the road. It will interesting to see if United’s running stats match their numbers against Palace, which were much higher than they had been all season, but they should see off Norwich comfortably enough anyway.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Dev’s prediction: United should win this anyway but, because of where they are in the table, I am really hoping Norwich lose – it is them or us! – but they play some good football and they didn’t just shut up shop when we went there a couple of weeks ago. 0-2
Brighton P-P Tottenham
This game was postponed following a number of positive Covid-19 cases among Spurs’ players and staff.
Burnley v West Ham (14:00 GMT)
Well, West Ham just keep on going. They have now beaten Chelsea and Liverpool, and given Manchester City a proper test – they are not fourth by beating the lower sides, they are beating the teams above them as well.
The thing about the Hammers is that they believe in themselves now, and the way they play absolutely suits them. They have got some really strong players in key positions and they work extremely hard.
David Moyes has got them playing and they have become a team who are really difficult to play against, because they have got a bit of everything – physicality plus flair and ability.
Their biggest problem right now, especially coming into such a busy period, is running out of steam. They are already short of numbers defensively now Kurt Zouma and Ben Johnson have joined Angelo Ogbonna on the treatment table.
If there are any tired limbs out there in the West Ham team, it might catch up with them at Turf Moor. Burnley have only won once this season, which is why they are in the relegation zone, but they are usually hard to beat.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Dev’s prediction: West Ham are just absolutely flying. Burnley are another of our relegation rivals and I think they might have problems this season. It would be good for us if they lose this one. 0-2
Leicester v Newcastle (14:00 GMT)
Like Tottenham, Leicester have had a number of positive Covid-19 tests in their squad. We might find out a bit more about who is affected nearer kick-off.
If, for example, Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes can play then I would still fancy Leicester. Again, I would go for a different outcome if the Foxes are without several of their best players.
Newcastle will be on a high after finally getting their first win of the season last week but they rode their luck against Burnley and they still have big problems at the back. If Leicester are anywhere near full strength, they will find a way through.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-1
Dev’s prediction: Leicester have slipped up quite a bit in the past few weeks and I really do think that, going forward, we are pretty strong. A lot of our players look completely rejuvenated – Jonjo Shelvey looks a completely different player right now, he is turning into the Pirlo-esque ball player that we always wanted. I just hope he avoids any more stupid red cards, because he is a really good player when he pings those passes around. 1-2
Crystal Palace v Everton (16:30 GMT)
Everton got a great result against Arsenal on Monday, and the way they got it – so late on and with such a good strike – will have lifted the whole club.
Crystal Palace have hit a sticky patch of late, and have taken only one point from their past four games, including three defeats in row.
But two of those losses came after they conceded late on and even against Manchester United last week they missed a really good chance with the score at 0-0.
So the Eagles will be competitive, especially at home where they have only lost once under Patrick Vieira all season.
But I just don’t see Everton boss Rafael Benitez taking many risks here, because it would be such a big backwards step to lose this game after that win over the Gunners.
Benitez will be absolutely determined not to be beaten, and I think he would take a draw now.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Dev’s prediction: I still think Vieira is doing a good job. They don’t seem to be relying on Wilfried Zaha all the time. As for Everton, well part of me wishes Rafa Benitez was still our manager but I do wish him well there. He’s got a big job on his hands though. 2-0
Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last week?
From last weekend’s Premier League games, Lawro got four correct results from 10 matches, including one exact score, for a total of 70 points.
He was beaten by singer-songwriter Jamie Webster, who got seven correct results with two exact scores, for a total of 130 points.
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2021-22
|110||Friction, She Drew The Gun|
|78||Lawro (average after 15 weeks)|
|70||Ben Cajee, Elena Cole, Jelani Blackman|
|50||Aqib Khan, Shaun Thomas|
|40||Dan Haggis of The Wombats, Murray & Tav from FUR, Justin Young|
|30||Michael ‘Venom’ Page, Roger Taylor, Zuzu|
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