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Lawro takes on Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith


Lawro's predictions

Tottenham are the Premier League leaders going into Sunday’s game against third-placed Chelsea, but which London side will come out on top at Stamford Bridge?

BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson said: “This is a great match-up. Tottenham are very capable of shutting teams out but Chelsea have got a real cutting edge at the moment.

“A lot will hinge on who gets the first goal. I have a feeling it will be Chelsea.

“By the time this game is played, Liverpool could be back on top, and it is possible Spurs, Chelsea or Leicester could be leaders by Monday night.

“I’m really enjoying it being so open. I still think when every team is fully fit and has hit their stride, Liverpool are still the best side but that situation may never happen.

“We could have four or five teams still in the title race in the last couple of months of the season, which would be brilliant – especially if we have got fans back at games by then.”

Snapshot of the top of the Premier League table: 1st Tottenham, 2nd Liverpool, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Leicester 5th Southampton & 6th Everton

Lawro is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches this season, against a variety of guests.

This weekend, he is up against Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith, who is a lifelong Middlesbrough fan.

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith
Smith was nine when Boro were promoted to the top flight – Division One as it was then – in 1988. ‘You couldn’t help being swept away by it if you had any interest in football’

Smith told BBC Sport: “When I was growing up everything was always about the Boro.

“I’m from Billingham, which is a small town nearby, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter when I was a kid. Playing football in the yard, everyone would be talking about them.

“It was in the late 1980s when Bruce Rioch was in charge. The club had almost gone bust in 1986 and the gates to our old Ayresome Park ground were padlocked. I remember watching it on the local news, and there was all the uncertainty about whether we would survive.

“We had come through it but we were in a rut in the old Third Division and Rioch had no money to spend. He built his team using a lot of teenagers, so there was a real connection with them, because they were mostly local.

“Things took off and it was a special time. Rioch is well known for instilling discipline, but we had an amazing team spirit. We had some very talented young players too like Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper, Stuart Ripley and Tony Mowbray – aka ‘The Redcar Rock’ – and of course Bernie Slaven scoring the goals.

“Slaven had written to every Football League club for a trial and we were the only ones to reply. For him to then go on and get the goals to get us up the divisions and into the top flight was just an incredible story.

“He was my hero. When I played as a kid I was usually up front, so I was always Slaven in the playground.

“I kind of ended up on the wing when I was older though because I was pretty fast and loved taking people on, so I guess I turned into Ripley in the end. That’s how I saw it anyway.”

Maximo Park
Maximo Park were formed in Newcastle, which is where Smith went to university. Their latest single ‘Baby, Sleep’ is out now and their new album ‘Nature Always Wins’ is set to be released in February 2021

Local businessman Steve Gibson helped save the club from liquidation and by the mid-1990s he had overseen a brave new era on Teesside, with Bryan Robson in charge and a new home for Boro at Riverside Stadium. They were soon back in the Premier League and making exciting Brazilian signings like Juninho, Emerson and Branco.

“There have been some great players down the years,” Smith added. “Like Slaven, Cooper has always been a favourite of mine because he was such a stalwart. Those childhood players stick in your mind because you have their posters on the wall, but I have ended up getting to know him pretty well too.

“But there have been plenty of others, as I’ve got older, watching people like Alen Boksic. It was open to question whether he was that interested in playing for us but when he did play, wow, his control and movement was just so good.

“Then there was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka too. I couldn’t quite believe his first touch.

“It was a total pleasure watching the players I have just listed when it was going your way, but when it wasn’t going your way, there were players who gave it all, all of the time, like your Coopers and even Juninho. He never gave less than 100%. He was always incredible.

“They stand out because they forge a real connection with the club.”

Result Lawro Paul
FRIDAY
Crystal Palace v Newcastle x-x 2-1 1-0
SATURDAY
Brighton v Liverpool x-x 0-2 1-3
Man City v Burnley x-x 3-0 3-0
Everton v Leeds x-x 1-1 2-2
West Brom v Sheff Utd x-x 1-1 1-2
SUNDAY
Southampton v Man Utd x-x 0-2 1-1
Chelsea v Tottenham x-x 2-1 0-0
Arsenal v Wolves x-x 2-1 2-1
MONDAY
Leicester v Fulham x-x 2-0 3-1
West Ham v Aston Villa x-x 2-1 1-1

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

LAWRO’S PREDICTIONS

FRIDAY

Crystal Palace v Newcastle

Crystal Palace v Newcastle (20:00 GMT)

Newcastle started off defending deep in their defeat by Chelsea and then got even deeper.

The Magpies had the odd opportunity but it was an extremely poor display from them. Callum Wilson could be fit to return up front this weekend, but they still need to create far more chances than they have been.

Crystal Palace were not great either, and they really missed Wilfried Zaha. Whenever he’s back after testing positive for coronavirus, he will make a big difference.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Paul’s prediction: This is the kind of game Newcastle have been winning recently, against the odds… but I wonder if that luck is going to kind of run out. Crystal Palace have got a little bit more going for them up front. 1-0

SATURDAY

Brighton v Liverpool

Brighton v Liverpool (12:30 GMT)

Brighton were really impressive in their win at Aston Villa last weekend. The game could have been done and dusted by half-time.

The Seagulls will be without their best player at the moment, Tariq Lamptey, who is suspended after his red card right at the end of that game, but I did not really fancy them much in this one anyway.

If Brighton try to play their way out from the back again, like they did in July when Liverpool nicked the ball off them and scored a couple of early goals, they will be in trouble. This will be a hard enough test for Graham Potter’s side anyway.

Liverpool have played Brighton six times in the Premier League in the past three seasons, and won every time. I know the Reds still have lots of injuries but I think this will be win number seven.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Paul’s prediction: Both of these teams like to play good football, but one of them is better at it. Liverpool might leak a goal though. 1-3

Man City v Burnley

Manchester City v Burnley (15:00 GMT)

Manchester City have put five goals past Burnley in each of their past three meetings at Etihad Stadium.

I don’t see City scoring quite that many this time – they haven’t managed more than one in any of their past six league games – but the points should still be theirs without too many problems.

If Sergio Aguero is fit, Pep Guardiola should play him up front. They will make loads of chances on Saturday, and Aguero is the best man to take them – I know he has been injured, but I don’t really understand why Pep Guardiola doesn’t just play his strongest attacking line-up when he is available.

Burnley look a lot more solid now Ben Mee is back in their defence, but I don’t see them keeping City out.

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0

Paul’s prediction: City are not particularly prolific at the moment but I think this will be pretty comfortable for them. 3-0

Everton v Leeds Utd

Everton v Leeds Utd (17:30 GMT)

Leeds are probably still wondering how they didn’t beat Arsenal on Sunday – and so am I.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side will be just as attack-minded here, because they just don’t change, home or away. They approach every game like it is Custer’s Last Stand, and it is all or nothing for them.

Everton got the win they needed at Craven Cottage last weekend but they were hanging on a bit at the end, and I didn’t see anything that makes me think they will keep Leeds out.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Paul’s prediction: This is difficult to call – all of Leeds’ games are! How many goals will they score before they run out of energy? I was a fan of Patrick Bamford when he was at Boro and always thought that, in a good team, he would do well… so it is nice to see him scoring some goals in the Premier League. 2-2

West Brom v Sheff Utd

West Brom v Sheffield United (20:00 GMT)

There are various reasons why these two sides are the bottom two, and one of them is a lack of goals.

West Brom have managed only six in nine league games, and Sheffield United have fared even worse with just four. That’s the joint-lowest total with Burnley, who have played a game less.

Snapshot of the bottom of the Premier League table: 15th Newcastle, 16th Brighton, 17th Burnley, 18th Fulham, 19th West Brom & 20th Sheff Utd

The Baggies and the Blades are also the only sides yet to win in the top flight this season, and both of them have no doubt earmarked this game as a big chance to put that right.

Things don’t always work out like that, though, which is why I am going for another draw.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

Paul’s prediction: Sheffield United were dangerous going forward last season, especially when they got the ball out wide, but the goals have dried up. They will be stinging a bit from the criticism they are getting and people saying their first year in the Premier League was a fluke so I think they will really come out with something to prove, against a team they will think they can beat. 1-2

SUNDAY

Southampton v Man Utd

Southampton v Manchester United (14:00 GMT)

Manchester United have been much better on the road this season, and have won three out of three away league games so far.

I am backing them to make it four out of four on Sunday, with the template being their win over Everton at Goodison Park before the international break.

We know how good Southampton have been but they are not going to just sit in – they will have a go at United, who will be happy for them to do that and then look to pick them off the same way they did at Everton.

Lawro’s prediction: 0-2

Paul’s prediction: You just don’t know what you are going to get from United at the moment. Saints are doing well, so I’m going for a draw. 1-1

Chelsea v Tottenham

Chelsea v Tottenham (16:30 GMT)

Spurs put on a Jose Mourinho masterclass when they beat Manchester City last weekend.

It was a great performance and they are playing well, but I do feel with Tottenham that they have to score first for that gameplan to be successful.

Chelsea always seem to get a lot of goals – they are the highest scorers in the Premier League this season – and I am not so sure Spurs will keep them out.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Paul’s prediction: Either the floodgates are going to open, or it will be super tight and dull as dishwasher. I’m going with the latter – although I hope I’m wrong. 0-0

Arsenal v Wolves

Arsenal v Wolves (19:15 GMT)

I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but Wolves are lacking something at the moment.

Arsenal are a bit stodgy as well, though. I’m going with the Gunners, but Wolves could easily edge it.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Paul’s prediction: Tony Pulis never seems to be a particularly popular manager wherever he goes, but when he was in charge at Boro he was the one who really gave Adama Traore a chance. I would go and watch Traore with my mates and we would go ‘this guy is going right to the top, he won’t be with us for long so let’s enjoy him while we can’. Traore has been sensational for Wolves but it was Pulis who gave him his first real opportunity and his confidence grew from there.

As for the game, I’m going with Arsenal. They are solid if unspectacular, but Wolves have been a bit indifferent by their standards this season. 2-1

MONDAY

Leicester v Fulham

Leicester City v Fulham (17:30 GMT)

Leicester ended up being well beaten at Anfield last weekend but the chance Harvey Barnes had to equalise for them at 1-0 was massive. If he’d scored then, there might been a bit more doubt in the Liverpool defence.

The Foxes didn’t give much service to Jamie Vardy as they chased the game but I don’t see this one going the same way.

I know Leicester’s home form hasn’t been brilliant, but I look at Fulham and they are so open.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

Paul’s prediction: I enjoy watching Leicester and they should be in control of this one because Fulham are so open. 3-1

West Ham v Aston Villa

West Ham v Aston Villa (20:00 GMT)

Like Manchester United, Aston Villa are another team who have been getting much better results away than they have managed at home.

Villa have improved in every department compared to last season, but West Ham have got better too, and they are on a good run right now.

I like the look of the Hammers’ attack at the moment and, even if this one is close, they have got the quality to nick the points.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

Paul’s prediction: West Ham have clearly been a different proposition this season, and Villa surprised a lot of people by coming out of the blocks so quickly. This is another hard one to call, but I think whoever gets their noses in front will be pegged back in the last 15 minutes. 1-1

Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

How did Lawro do last time?

Last weekend, Lawro got four correct results from 10 matches, including one exact score, for a total of 70 points.

He was beaten by Idles bassist Adam Devonshire, who got six correct results, including one exact score, for a total of 90 points.

Lawro's League Table graphic

TEAM P W D L PTS +/-
1 Man Utd 8 7 1 22 +9
2 Leeds 9 7 2 21 +12
3 Chelsea 9 6 2 1 20
=4 Liverpool 9 5 3 1 18 -2
=4 Man City 8 5 3 18 +9
=4 Tottenham 9 6 3 18 -3
=7 Arsenal 9 5 1 3 16 +5
=7 Leicester 9 5 1 3 16 -3
9 Wolves 9 4 3 2 15
10 Burnley 8 4 1 3 13 +7
11 Everton 9 3 3 3 12 -5
12 Southampton 9 3 2 4 11 -7
13 Newcastle 9 3 1 5 10 +2
=14 Brighton 9 2 2 5 8 +2
=14 West Ham 9 2 2 5 8 -6
=16 Aston Villa 8 2 1 5 7 -9
=16 Sheff Utd 9 2 1 6 7 +4
18 Crystal Palace 9 1 3 5 6 -7
19 Fulham 9 1 8 3 -1
20 West Brom 9 9 -1

GUEST LEADERBOARD 2020-21

110 Amy Macdonald, Steve White
90 Adam Devonshire
81 Lawro (average after nine weeks)
80 Raye
60 Celeste, Caroline Weir
50 Declan McKenna, DJ Target
Rema

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