Week 27- Premier league preview and predictions
What a weekend upon us with many big matches coming up. Liverpool and Arsenal will lock horns as the fight for a top 4 place continues. The pressure is on Tottenham to react when they play Manchester United after their humiliating loss at Arsenal last weekend and not to forget the Tynewear Derby as well.
Let’s get down to business starting with the top of the table clash at White Hart Lane. Will Manchester United drop points?
Tottenham vs Manchester United
Tottenham and Manchester United go head-to-head this weekend in a top of the table clash. Manchester United will look to get past another top side as they have done in recent weeks beating Arsenal and Liverpool.
The champions just about scaled through the hurdle at Carrow Road last weekend against Norwich City thanks to veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs’ 92nd minute strike. United are just a couple of points away from top spot and will look to at least keep the distance the same way until their potential title-decider at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City in April.
Tottenham somehow contrived to lose 5-2 at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium on Sunday. Harry Redknapp’s side had gone two goals up and looked to be cruising to an away victory against their bitterest rivals, but Arsenal had other ideas and stormed back to a 5-2 victory.
Alex Ferguson will be a little relieved as his somehow nightmare injury list has subsided. Defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have returned to the squad, Ashley Young proved his importance to the side on his return from an injury layoff with the assist for Ryan Giggs’ winner on Sunday.
It’s a game Tottenham cannot afford to lose as there is now some pressure on them with Arsenal and Chelsea breathing down their neck. However, it has been a tremendous season for Tottenham, they have punched above their weight and should be proud of their achievements.
Tottenham are playing at home and always play well at White Hart Lane. Indeed, Tottenham have lost only once at White Hart Lane and that happened as far back in August 2011, when Manchester City crushed them 5-1. Credit to them as they immediately bounced back to win 10 of their next 11 league games, roaring right back into the title race.
The loss to Arsenal last weekend, though, has put a dent on their title hopes and a Champions League place or better still third spot will crown a great season.
Tottenham have to react after their humiliation at Arsenal the last time out, a loss would leave them in danger of getting dragged into the race for a top 4 place. Manchester United have the experience and with 9 away wins all season, they have shown that on their day, there are probably few teams that could hurt them.
Tottenham will set out in their usual attacking way and I fear that could be their undoing as Manchester United have very quick players in Young, Welbeck, Nani, Hernandez et al that could hurt them if left gaps to exploit in Tottenham’s defence. Amazingly, Tottenham have not one this fixture in 21 meetings. Manchester United have won 16 and drawn the remaining 5.
The last time Tottenham won Manchester United was far back in 2001 and I don’t see them changing that record this weekend.
VERDICT: Manchester United WIN
West Brom vs Chelsea
Roy Hodgson’s team have experienced a resurgence of sorts in their past couple of matches scoring a whopping NINE goals and conceding only once. They beat City rivals Wolves away 5-1 a couple of weeks ago before putting Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland side to sword at home last weekend in an emphatic 4-0 rout.
Andre Villas-Boas was eased a little bit of pressure as his Chelsea side beat Bolton last weekend 3-0. They stay level on points with Arsenal in 4th place and have Newcastle and Liverpool breathing down their neck. Hence, they must ensure every bit of concentration is accorded this fixture as West Brom can be a very tricky side.
Prior to the Sunderland meeting, West Brom had recorded FOUR losses in five home matches and only TWO victories in front of their own fans in the Premier League all season. That they didn’t only beat, but scored FOUR against a very good Sunderland side probably shows that they have finally found a way of playing without pressure at home.
Chelsea have to consolidate on the victory against Bolton and ensure they go into their make or break UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg tie against Napoli with all confidence. West Brom’s new found form coupled with Nigeria international, Osaze Odemwingie’s FIVE goals in his last couple of matches should serve as a warnings to Chelsea that this West Brom side can’t be taken lightly.
West Brom are on form and have confidence on their side, Chelsea on the other hand aren’t yet convincing and with one eye on the match against Napoli, I think they would be happy with a share of the spoils.
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Two teams in Liverpool and Arsenal on a high, go head-to-head this weekend in the Premier League. Kenny Dalglish’s team are on the high after their League Cup victory on Sunday and will now look to get past a resurgent Arsenal who brushed aside the challenge of Tottenham winning 5-2 after going down a couple of goals in their own last Premier League outing.
Arsenal looked dead and buried 20 minutes into their match against Tottenham but in one of the greatest comebacks ever seen in Premier League history, Arsene Wenger’s men produced some scintillating football to go on and win the match. They will be buoyed by that result, especially coming against their arch-rivals.
Liverpool survived a huge scare before going on to lift the League Cup trophy on Sunday against Cardiff City on penalties. The Merseyside side are now guaranteed European football next season, albeit in the Europa League, but they can ensure they play on a bigger stage (in the UEFA Champions League) next season if they can get a top 4 place. That task would be greatly enhanced with a victory against a fellow top 4 hopeful in Arsenal.
Both teams would welcome maximum points in these one. Both teams have the players to make that happen. After last weekend’s victories, both teams’ morale would have been greatly boosted and confidence will definitely be on a high. Sadly BOTH teams can’t win.
I’m going with Arsenal as Liverpool have a poor record at Anfield in the Premier League this season. Yes, they are unbeaten at home in the league this season, but too many draws haven’t helped their course. With the form of Robin van Persie and the new found confidence of Theo Walcott, the Liverpool defence could be in for a long a evening.
VERDICT: Arsenal WIN
Blackburn Rovers vs Aston Villa
Blackburn Rovers were completely outplayed and overpowered by a Manchester City side who looked to be in the mood last weekend. They lost 3-0 and could have conceded more but thanks to goal-keeper Paul Robinson who churned out a string of fine saves to keep the scoreline respectable.
Villa had the better chances but could not find a way past Wigan’s goal-keeper Ali Al Habsi last weekend in a goalless draw away at Wigan Athletic. News that club’s highest goal scorer, striker Darren Bent would miss the rest of the season with ruptured ankle ligaments coupled with an already big injury list including Richard Dunne (collarbone) and Ciaran Clark (knee) – all long terms absentees doesn’t spell well for Villa as they look to improve on their present 15th place.
Blackburn need the maximum points available in this one to aid their quest of avoiding relegation. Alex McLeish on the other hand needs his Villa side to be on point and provide a positive result in order to fend off little pressure regarding boos the fans. Blackburn have not drawn a Premier League match at home this season, but I’m going with a draw in this one.
Manchester City vs Bolton Wanderers
Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli returned to the Manchester City side last weekend and helped their team keep their 100% home record. Roberto Mancini’s men swept aside the challenge of Blackburn Rovers without breaking much sweat to keep their two-point lead over Manchester United on the table.
Bolton on the other hand looked like getting something away from Stamford Bridge against Chelsea last weekend in the first half, but in the second half, they lost their way, conceded thrice and lost.
Playing against Manchester City at their home is a daunting task for any Premier League side, let alone a side stuck in the murky waters of relegation battle. City have won 13 of 13 at home and Bolton won’t stop them recording their 14th home win. A respectable scoreline is what they can wish for.
VERDICT: Manchester City WIN
Queens Park Rangers vs Everton
For the third home league match out of four a Rangers player was dismissed in the first period and QPR lost 1-0 in the London Derby against Fulham last weekend and ensured their poor form continues. QPR have now only won once in 14 league games and their top flight status is in doubt as they sit in 17th place on the log.
Due to Liverpool’s participation in the Carling Cup final against Cardiff last weekend, Everton scheduled clash against the Reds was postponed. Everton haven’t played since their 2-0 win over Blackpool in the FA Cup on February 18.
Everton midfielders Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell are in contention for a return from injury in this fixture, news that manager David Moyes will be happy about. These two players will add some more needed depth to a very thin squad.
QPR have lost FOUR times in their last five Premier League home fixtures and against an Everton side fully rested, they are up for a tough afternoon.
QPR have won TWICE at home in the League all season and Everton have won double that figure on their travels. Both teams will go out for all points and though QPR need those points, I think Everton are well rested and could get a draw at Loftus Road.
Stoke City vs Norwich City
Norwich City have consolidated themselves well on a first return to the top flight in six seasons. They took on Manchester United last weekend and were only a minute close to getting a draw, but Ryan Giggs had other ideas. They rallied all through the game, forcing United goalkeeper David De Gea to a string of fine saves.
Stoke City halted a four-match winless run when they beat Swansea City last weekend. Two first half goals from Matthew Upson and Peter Crouch earned them a 2-0 victory.
The Canaries have been a delight to watch with their fearless performances since the beginning of the season earning them a place among the top 8 teams on the table.
Norwich City have won three of their last five away matches and can hold their own even at a very tough place like Stoke’s Brittania Stadium. How they deal with the long throws and high balls will go a long way in determining the outcome of this tie.
Stoke have lost FOUR times in their last five home matches and would have to be on point for the whole duration of the game to claim maximum points in this tie.
Wigan Athletic vs Swansea City
Roberto Martinez faces his former side as he looks to get his Wigan side out of the slump they are currently in. His side sits at the base of the table with 20 points and just last weekend could only manage a 1-1 draw at home against Aston Villa.
Swansea City just couldn’t withstand the firepower at Stoke City last weekend losing by two goals. They sit in 14th place on the log and are all but assured of their place in the Premier League next season.
Just FOUR wins in twenty-six matches for Wigan is poor, ONE win at home all season is ridiculous. Scoring less than 12 goals at home all season is simply unforgivable and playing against a Swansea team who though have a poor away record of their own having won only twice on their travels all season, Wigan must avoid a defeat. A draw is the most I think they would get.
Newcastle United vs Sunderland
Newcastle could only manage a 2-all draw at home to Wolves last weekend. The draw dented the Magpies’s hopes of putting pressure on the Premier League’s top four teams. They were cruising in the first half and duly went two goals up but somehow allowed Wolves a way back into the game to level up matters.
Martin O’Neill has overseen a transformation of Sunderland’s fortunes since taking over but was on hand to watch a dreadful performance from his lads against West Brom last weekend. His team conceded four times and the Irish will definitely hope that result was a one-off.
It’s the Tynewear Derby and though Sunderland have not won on Tyneside since 2000, I believe they can pull it off this time around. Newcastle’s season has been very impressive it must be said as their top 8 status confirms.
It will be an explosive game that will definitely provide goals and with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse’s leading the line for Newcastle, I think they would just about nick this one.
VERDICT: Newcastle WIN
Fulham vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Pavel Pogrebnyak’s early goal earned Fulham a 1-0 victory in their London Derby against QPR last weekend to help them to 11th place on the log while Kevin Doyle handed Terry Connor a point in his first game as Wolves pulled off a 2-2 draw at Newcastle after going down 2-0 in the first half. Was I surprised? Oh, yes. And this is definitely the ‘new coach’ factor at work.
Wolves really surprised me with their unlikely comeback against Newcastle last weekend. But against a Fulham side VERY strong at home, I think they would find the going tough this time.
VERDICT: Fulham WIN