We’ve got a few interesting matches on this weekend. League leaders Chelsea go to in-form Tottenham, the Manchester clubs, City and United try to keep their title challenges on track with wins over Midlands clubs, West Brom and Stoke, Martinez goes back to Swansea, Mark Hughes fights for his job against Everton and we’ve got a north-east derby classic. I know which sofa I’ll be on at 10:30 on Saturday night.
So, as a starter for 10, thought I’d make some predictions on the games.
Tottenham vs. Chelsea
Both of these teams are in-form, high on confidence, and both are capable of creating chances and neither are especially strong defensively. I do think this has the makings of an exciting game. Tottenham are hitting a streak under Andre-Villas Boas and the comfortable win over Aston Villa last week proved that the dramatic win at Old Trafford wasn’t an anomaly. The Portuguese’s successor at Chelsea, di Matteo, has found a real winning formula though and the effects of Hazard, Mata and Oscar combining to provide for Torres have been devastating. The knowhow of Lampard and the dynamism of Ramires has also given Chelsea the platform they need in midfield to give these quality players time on the ball. For the time being, I just can’t see the Blues being knocked off their perch. I think they have it in them to nick this game 3-2.
Fulham vs. Aston Villa
Fulham’s positive start has stuttered, if not unpredictably, in their last couple of games. They probably expected to lose to Man City, but they will have been a little miffed that they dropped two points in injury time at Southampton last time out. Their home record always seems to provide doubters with the answers though, and Aston Villa look like a squad that needs time for their young players to acclimatize to the Premier League level, and to become familiar with playing under new manager, Paul Lambert. I think Fulham have the quality and experience going forward to put a couple of niggling disappointing results behind them and record a fairly comfortable win. 2-0.
Liverpool vs. Reading
Once they had won 5-2 at Carrow Road a few weeks back, it looked like the Rodgers revolution of the reds was all in place. In their last couple of results though, a home defeat to Udinese in the Europa league and a goalless draw with Stoke has somewhat stalled the revolution for the time being, they need a win to put themselves back on track. For Reading, it won’t do the mind-set of their fans any harm to see that 2-2 draws with Newcastle and Swansea have seen them climb out of the relegation zone, even if in both of those games the win was within their grasp. With Fulham, QPR and Norwich coming up for the Royals, I’m confident they can get their first win sooner rather than later, but Liverpool’s need for the points is probably greatest on Saturday. 2-0 Liverpool, and possibly a couple of goals from Suarez.
Man. Utd vs. Stoke
In recent weeks, Stoke’s 1-0 loss and two draws against Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool respectively suggest that they are capable of competing with some of the top teams in England (and also Liverpool), and that this won’t be an easy game for Fergie’s men. Charlie Adam and Steven N’Zonzi will provide quite a physical threat in the middle of the park that I’m not sure Carrick and Scholes will be able to compete with when they haven’t got the ball, meaning Rooney will have to work hard tracking back- it just makes me wonder whether the service to van Persie will be good enough. This could be one of those games that proves another stern test of Manchester United’s mental strength and ultimately, title credentials if it’s 0-0 with 20 minutes or so to go can they find that goal to pick up the win? They usually do. For that reason, I’m going to say the Red Devils can pass this test and nip the game in the bud with a 1-0 win.
Swansea vs. Wigan
Roberto Martinez will return to the Liberty Stadium in a game where Swansea need to win, but Wigan can’t afford to lose if either of these sides want to distance themselves from a relegation battle. The thinking behind this being that Swansea, in their next few games, I think have got to play the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. Whilst they will be happy to sit 12th at the moment, I’d expect their track in the league table to lead them downwards rather than upwards in the coming weeks. Although it can’t have felt like it, it was more of a bonus than anything else for Wigan to get a point against Everton last time out despite the late penalty. Their next three home games are against West Ham, West Brom and Reading. It will be those matches for the Latics that will define the course of their season, but I think Swansea might have the edge in this one. 2-1.
West Brom vs. Man City
West Brom are playing full of confidence at the moment- you’ve got to give a lot of credit for that to Steve Clark. The lively, buoyant and rampant attacking performances this Baggies team seem to be putting in owes a lot to what the manager has done. There is also a healthy competition for places going forward. Another tricky encounter then, for Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City. They did manage a clean sheet against Sunderland last week despite the absence of Vincent Kompany, the return of Lescott played a big part and I think him and Kompany at the back is the best way forward for Man City in future. Given that the Citizens aren’t quite in flying form, I’d be inclined to say West Brom could potentially sneak a draw but Man City have got to be the favourites so I’ll play it safe and say Man City will win 2-1.
West Ham vs. Southampton
The good thing about the local derby against Arsenal for West Ham, was that they had such a good start to the season they could afford to lose it- a draw or better would only have been a bonus. I don’t think it will have affected their confidence this much and would still fancy them to win this game.
Southampton showed quite a bit of spirit to snatch that point against Fulham so late on. Many teams would have given up at that point and I think the steely determination they showed could prove crucial in the relegation dogfight. I do get a feeling as well it’ll be their home form rather than away, that’ll be most important for them this season, which is why I’m going to say West Ham will win this 2-0.
Norwich vs. Arsenal
I can’t see past a convincing Arsenal win for Saturday’s teatime game. The Gunners do beat Norwich for quality all over the park, but most notably in the attacking midfield areas, so I could see them scoring about three goals in the closing stages of the game. Cazorla looks a real player for them, the passing quality and movement from out wide in this Arsenal team would be too much for most teams to handle, not least Norwich who have severe defensive problems. Chris Hughton’s side have lost their last three Premiership matches, albeit against good attacking teams, but you’ve got to place Arsenal in that category as well. I could be eating humble pie on Saturday night watching Chris Hughton celebrating his side’s first win of the season thanks to a fine defensive display and a 1-0 win, but I just don’t think I will be and once the first goal goes in, Arsenal can run rings around Norwich. 5 or 6-0 would probably be too much, so I’ll say a 4-0 away win for Arsenal.
Sunderland vs. Newcastle
I think there could be an element of fear and anti-climax about this north-east derby. Both teams have prolific strikers in Cisse and Ba, for Newcastle, and in Steven Fletcher for Sunderland but I worry that the service to these players could be reduced by what could be a tightly fought battle in the middle of the park. Sunderland have been little more than steady in their last few games, they were expected to lose to City so no real surprises there and getting four points from games against West Ham and Wigan makes me think they won’t be in the relegation mixer come March/April time. Newcastle will have been disappointed at being almost out of the game after about 10 minutes against Man United a fortnight ago; they might have hoped to snatch a draw in that game. Whilst it’s not been a great opening 7 games for them, the Geordies will be relieved that they don’t have to worry about a ‘continental hangover’ effect for this one. I’d say a draw is probably the best shout, 1-1.
QPR vs. Everton
This will be yet another crunch game for Mark Hughes. All of these big-name players he’s invested in are yet to do the business and you’ve got to question the work ethic within the team. It’s sort of the opposite scenario for Everton. David Moyes’s job is completely, more than secure, he’s signed a few obscure but hardworking players over the last couple of years and they’ve gelled well and become a real team unit. It seems like a strange way of looking at things, not always the most suitably applicable logic but I do feel like QPR are due a win from somewhere. At some point, there surely must be a game that changes the dynamics of their season. It would be uncharacteristic of Everton to take their eye off the ball, so to speak, but I’ll say QPR will record their first win of the season. It’s got to happen sometime, 2-0 my prediction.
That’s all for now folks, drop us a comment to say what your predictions are, would be interested to know what you think. Should be a great weekend of footy.