There were a couple more upsets in last weekend’s Premier League fixtures, with the clarets of Burnley and Aston Villa both picking up wins against the Merseyside teams that few would have forecast, as I didn’t. That meant that it was another average round of predictions for me, with six right results but still no perfect scores, and this round of fixtures promises to be just as tricky to call with some intriguing match-ups, including the first ‘big four’ clash of the season between Man Utd and Arsenal. Read on MacDuff…
Saturday Fixtures, 3pm K.O. (unless stated)
Chelsea vs. Burnley (12.45pm)
When the fixtures were announced, it’s probably fair to say that after five games of the season, Owen Coyle would have been happy with three points. An winnable opening day game against Stoke was followed by meetings with four of the top five teams from last season. But wins against Man Utd and Everton will have Chelsea (and next week’s opponents Liverpool) sitting up and taking notice. I rate Burnley (indeed, I tipped them as dark horses), but I think this will be a game too far as Chelsea look really strong this season.
Blackburn Rovers vs. West Ham United
This is a tough one to call – West Ham are a fine side and I think they’ll have a good season but after all the shenanigans of their Carling Cup match and the disruptions that a coupld of their players have suffered, it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t right on their game today. Blackburn have had two narrow defeats against Man City and Sunderland so far this season and if they can be a bit more clinical they could get off the mark today. I think this will be a bit of a stalemate though.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Liverpool
Arguably two of the most under pressure managers meet in this match, with Bolton still pointless and their fans struggling to warm to Megson, while Rafa Benitez has now seen his side lose as many times in the opening three games of this season as they did in the whole of the last one, and put in some pretty uninspired performances. Megson has called on Johan Elmander to step up while Benitez has admitted that Steven Gerrard is “not up to his best level” and both sides are really struggling for inspiration. I think Liverpool will win though, unless Bolton can really tough it out.
Stoke City vs. Sunderland
Both these sides have started the season pretty well, and Stoke will be confident that they can once more make the most of their home advantage to get three points. I’m not so sure though as I think Sunderland are looking really good and Steven Bruce is an excellent manager who has made some shrewd signings, with Bent & Jones looking like forming a deadly partnership. Playing at the Britannia is never easy, but I think the Black Cats could earn a comfortable win here.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Birmingham City
What a difference a year makes, eh? This time last year Spurs were on their way to the Championship, now they’re on their way to becoming Champions – at least if you believe the hype. Realistically, they aren’t going to win the league but they have had a fantastic start to the season, with their opening day scalp of Liverpool filling them with the confidence to push on. Birmingham have picked up some handy points from Stoke and Portsmouth but a Spurs side brimming with goals at White Hart Lane will be too much for them I feel.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Hull City
Mick McCarthy won’t be too displeased with his side’s start to the season, after a meek opening against West Ham they outplayed Wigan and then gave Man City a really good game last time out, and it looks like they’re growing in confidence. Hull bounced back from their hammering at the hands of Spurs with a solid win over Bolton last weekend though, and they’ll fancy taking some points away from Molineux – I think this one could very easily go either way and I can’t see it ending in a draw.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal (5.15pm)
The big one, with Arsenal bang in form after convincing wins against Everton and Portsmouth as well as Celtic over two legs, while Manchester United have had a topsy-turvy start with defeat against Burnley followed by a 5-0 thumping of Wigan. After United completely outclassed Arsenal in last season’s Champions League (a moment Wenger called the worst of his career) the Gunners will be desperate to carry their form into this tie and claim a famous scalp at Old Trafford. So often these games are tight, frustrating affairs, but not this one I don’t think…
Portsmouth vs. Manchester City (1.30pm)
Well Pompey have just successfully joined the ‘Middle-East Money Club’ after their takeover and the new owners are wasting no time in bringing in some new faces with Jamie O’Hara, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Aruna Dindane joining on various deals – and boy didn’t they need it? An abject start to a season that looked sure to see them relegated may just have been rescued, if Hart can get the new boys to gel quickly. City though, will win this one, their players are better and more settled, and they have more confidence.
Everton vs. Wigan Athletic
Everton have started badly this season but it’s not all bad – we did last season too, and still finished 5th, while losing to Arsenal in their form is no great shame and Burnley have shown they’re not to be taken lightly. Wigan too have, gone downhill after a positive beginning and after a hammering at the hands of Man Utd and an embarrassing Carling Cup exit, will be looking to bounce back. Everton have a convincing European victory under their belts though, and with Sylvain Distin and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov replacing the unsettled Lescott, look in better shape. The Toffees to get underway this weekend I think, and hope.
Aston Villa vs. Fulham (4pm)
Villa fans must be wondering what’s going on a bit, after what promised to be such an amazing season last time out faded considerably as it reached its climax, and they’ve now continued their patchy form into this campaign, with defeat to Wigan and a disappointing Europa League exit sandwiched between a victory over Liverpool. Fulham did make it through in Europe and beat Pompey on the opening day before being outplayed by Chelsea – and there’s no shame in that. This will be a very interesting game I think, and it depends really on which Villa side turns up.
What do you think of my Predictions? Are there any you disagree with? Let me know what you think will happen by leaving a comment below.