Fulham vs. Manchester City
It all depends, when Man City are playing, on whether or not they can keep things tight at the back. They have a wealth of attacking talent and Stephen Ireland is in top form, but sometimes they seem to over-commit and leave themselves dangerously exposed at the back, which is costing them points. Fulham have been very hard to beat at home, and will hope to nullify City’s attacking threat while taking the game to their richer opponents. I get the feeling that City might turn up for this one though and can see them picking up a much needed away win.
Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic
It would be just like Arsenal this season to go and lose this game. After an epic win at Chelsea last time out they have got themselves firmly back in the title race and surely full of confidence. Whether things will fully settle down with Gallas at the club remains to be seen but I think they will band together and should be able to see of Wigan in this one. Having said that Wigan are in good form and have the ability to take it to Arsenal, especially with their physical presence up front. So while I think that Arsenal will win this, I won’t be at all surprised if they slip up again.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Liverpool
Blackburn are threatening to sink without a trace at the moment, and with a lot of fan pressure to see Paul Ince removed from his post it is a club that is not in a healthy state at the moment. A win against Liverpool would certainly bring some of the fans around, and boost the players confidence a lot, but I don;t think it will happen. Liverpool have lost Torres for a while but in Gerrard and Keane and a few others they still have match winners, Alonso is playing well and at the back they are reasonably solid. One area Blackburn may exploit is down the wings as Liverpools full backs can be weak, so if they get service to Santa Cruz, they may do well (oh and I’ve just taken Cruz out of my fantasy football team so he’s bound to score).
Bolton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
Bolton are on a bit of a roll of late, picking up four victories in the past month or so, and even scoring a few goals in the process. Elmander finally looks to be hitting his best form and they are big and solid (but still more big than solid) at the back. Unfortunately for them they now face a Chelsea team that lost to Arsenal last week and will be determined to get back to winning ways. They’ve had a few disappointing displays this season but tend to bounce back from them quite emphatically, and Bolton could suffer if they are in the mood today. In the end I think it will be a close one, and maybe Anelka can pinch a winner against his old club.
Hull City vs. Middlesbrough
Well Hull keep picking up points even if they’re not winning game which is a testament to the resilience of Phil Brown’s team, but they will be dying to get back to winning ways. Borough had been looking very good but have lost a bit of momentum, but having said that away from home they have a great potential to catch teams unawares with their counter attacking style – I witnessed it first hand when they played Everton. These are two sides that will be quite solid, but I think Hull will get beaten today, as Middlesbrough have a touch too much quality about them, and I maintain that Geovanni can’t keep scoring so many free kicks!
Newcastle United vs. Stoke City
If there is one thing that Joe Kinnear will be working on in training, it will be defending long throws. If he can be the man to figure out how to do that successfully, then Newcastle will win against Stoke today, if not, they might drop some points. Newcastle are starting to get their game going, with Duff and Gutierrez firing nicely and Ameobi looking a handful up front. Stoke remain as one dimensional as ever, and need to start picking up wins if they are to avoid relegation. However, apart from Delap they have no potent weapons and their defence is unconvincing sometimes, Newcastle should get three points.
Manchester United vs. Sunderland Athletic
Well Sunderland are Roy Keane-less now, which is a shame, I bet the United fans would have loved to have welcomed the Irishman back to Old Trafford safe in the knowledge that they’d take the three points! However, sacking a manager has a funny old habit of reviving a team, and if Keane has been a bit of an ogre of a boss to his players, they might feel liberated by his absence. And a team of players enjoying themselves again often play very well, unencumbered by pressure and strict demands. Having said that, they’ll have to play very, very well indeed to take anything from Old Trafford and I am afraid that they will not.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Portsmouth (Sun)
Well from what I saw of the West Brom game at Wigan they played some really good stuff (helped by some shambolic defending) but eventually lost out to some poor defending of their own. If they can tighten up at the back I’d back them to give Portsmouth a run for their money. I’m not sure if they will be able to withstand Defoe and Crouch though, and whether they will be able to break Pompey down is another matter, as Portsmouth are a far less obliging defensive unit than Wigan were last week.
Everton vs. Aston Villa (Sun)
This is going to be a very tough game for Everton, just as last weeks win against Tottenham was. We have not been very good at all at home so far this season and it’s going to take a big performance to beat O’Neill’s Villa side. Villa are strong away from home, thanks in large part to the skills of Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, two players who I greatly admire, and I hope like hell that the Everton defenders are up for it tomorrow, particularly the left and right backs, because Lescott and Neville have been poor of late. We also have only one fit striker, in Victor Anichebe, so this will give us limited options but will mean that we play our best 4-5-1 formation which allows Arteta, Osman, Pienaar and Cahill to really perform to their best, and that could be the key.
West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Mon)
Harry Redknapp lost his unbeaten home record last weekend (:D) and will want to get his side back to winning ways immediately as they are still not looking exactly comfortable according to the league table. A trip to West Ham will be a tough one though, as the Hammers while lacking results have not been playing badly and finally got some reward by taking a point from Anfield last week. On home turf though they will be expected to push forward far more and in doing so will expose themselves at the back a little, and the tie may well be decided according to Tottenham’s clinicality (I know it’s not a word; it’s a neologism: look that one up) in front of goal. Draw or an away win this one for me, but I think Spurs may shade it.