As we move into the weekend attention returns once again to the Premier League after some Carling Cup action, and what looks to be a comparatively low-key affair after the dramas and derbies of last week. Still, there are some interesting encounters to look forward to with potential for upsets as all of the ‘big four’ teams face sides against which they will expect to win. I think we’ll see a few surprises too, but hopefully I can call them as well as last week where I got seven correct predictions and one perfect score.
Saturday Fixtures, 3pm kick-off unless stated.
Portsmouth vs. Everton (12.45pm)
With Pompey having lost all six of their opening Premier League matches and looking to be sinking like a stone, they won’t be looking forward to facing an Everton side who have shaken off their dodgy start to score 11 goals while conceding none on their way to three successive wins. Still, with Portsmouth having picked up a morale boosting win in the Carling Cup and myself foolishly tempting fate by writing an article all but condemning the South Coast club this week, anything could happen. I have to back the in form Toffees though.
Birmingham City vs. Bolton Wanderers
Bolton snatched a last gasp draw from Stoke last weekend and then bettered that with a creditable win over West Ham in the Carling Cup in midweek, a result that will boost their confidence no end, and Megson will have been especially pleased to see mis-firing forward Johan Elmander finally hit the net again – his side has lacked goals so far this season. Alex McLeish at Birmingham is more just missing his side though, with a long injury list making his tough job even harder at present. Despite that I’ve been impressed by their play and spirit – when they get back to full strength they’ll do OK, but an away win for me this one.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Aston Villa
Villa have turned things round after a shaky start to the season and have quickly risen up the league without ever setting the world alight. However, they’re a side that flourished away from home last season by utilising the pace of Agbonlahor and Young and with the former amongst the goals recently, Blackburn have every reason to be fearful – especially after succumbing meekly to a rampant Everton last weekend. Doubtless Big Sam will be hoping for a battling home performance but I can’t see them adding to their four point tally today.
Liverpool vs. Hull City
Both Fulham and Hull have rested players in Cup games already this season, and I rather wonder why – it’s only six games old and surely they should have been using those games to try and find some form and consistency and gain a confidence boost? As it was, Brown’s makeshift side got well and truly hammered by Everton in the Carling Cup and will return to League action with slightly fresher legs but even worse confidence – not ideal when heading to Anfield. And with Gerrard, Benayoun and particularly Torres pulling West Ham apart last weekend, they’ll need to sure up their defence – and hope that Carragher and Skrtel are in as generous a mood as they were last week too.
Stoke City vs. Manchester United
Tricky one this, and I think we could see an upset here. Yes, United will have been delighted by their late, late win over rivals City last weekend, but in a way that may have distracted them and after such a fierce match may take this one a little too lightly. Stoke at home are very stubborn proposition and certainly won’t make it easy for the Champions. If Ferguson can keep his players focused and determined then they’ll win – but not by much. If they’re a tad over-complacent then they may slip up here. That said, I can’t see Stoke winning unless they receive the sort of gifts City were given last week.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley
Harry Redknapp will have been delighted to see his players shake off successive defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea with a 5-1 demolition of Preston in the Carling Cup this week. Doubtless they will be disappointed to have succumbed so readily to their ‘big four’ opposition after such a great start, but realistically Redknapp wouldn’t have expected anything from those games. Burnley are doing OK so far, but their three wins have all come at Turf Moor and with Spurs looking very dangerous up front with both Defoe and Crouch in impressive touch, I think they’ll lose this one.
Wigan Athletic vs. Chelsea
Wigan are going at a point per game at the moment but after their good start against Villa, Martinez will be slightly concerned about their present form. Unfortunately for him I can’t see it happening today but I think it’s important that he and his squad don’t let defeat – if it comes – get them down. They need to look to use this game to establish a bit of form, knock the ball about when they can and use it as preparation for next week. From Chelsea’s point of view, they look like beating anyone and everyone at present, Drogba on current form is unplayable and they’re looking particularly determined and together at present; almost a given that they’ll continue they’re 100% start.
Fulham vs. Arsenal (5.30pm)
Fulham were so strong last season but Hodgson’s men are struggling a bit at the moment. I was able to watch them the weekend before last against Everton and despite picking up a win they didn’t play well at all and didn’t seem to have much cohesion going forward, and the loss to Wolves last time out will not have helped the mood in their camp. Arsenal on the other hand, coasted to a win against Wigan and look to be going very well indeed, despite their losses to both Manchester sides I think they’ll challenge at the top this season, if Wenger can keep his key men fit and is willing to reinforce come January.
Sunday Fixture, 4pm kick-off.
Sunderland vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves got a good win at Fulham last weekend and with Michael Kightly and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake on their way back from injury while Kevin Doyle also looks to be settling in at his new club, things are looking pretty good for Mick McCarthy and Wolves. The Irishman will be returning to his old stomping ground and will doubtless be envious of Steve Bruce’s spending power, something he never had in the north-east, but will be encouraged by their inconsistency this season. They lost to Burnley last time out and haven’t been able to kill games off despite Darren Bent proving to be an inspired acquisition.
Monday Fixture, 8pm kick-off.
Manchester City vs. West Ham United
Both these sides were on the losing end of high scoring and entertaining defeats at the hands of ‘big four’ clubs last weekend and though ultimately disappointing, they can take some solace from their performances. However, both sides were gifted some easy goals while looking shaky at the back themselves and will have been working hard to tighten things up. City in particular need to bounce back from their dramatic defeat and it will be a test of their character if they can band together and come out stronger from that experience. If they instead fall divided, the Hammers could sneak a win but I think at home, City will be too strong.
What do you think of my predictions? Any you disagree with? What are your thoughts for the weekend ahead? Please leave a comment with your opinions and predictions below…