Another weekend is upon us and that can mean only one thing: it’s time for another round of Premier League action. Undoubtedly the clash of the round is the ‘Super Sunday’ battle that will see Liverpool (fresh off the back of a Champions League humbling) take on Chelsea (looking to recover from losing their 100% record last weekend) but there are plenty more intriguing fixtures to keep an eye on too.
Saturday Fixtures, all kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Tottenham Hotspur
It’s fair to say that apart perhaps from Paul Hart and Phil Brown, Gary Megson is one of the most under pressure managers in the Premier League – despite picking up a few handy wins lately, including last weekend over Birmingham. However, coming into this fixture it was Harry Redknapp on whom the bookies’ odds were slashed to be the first Premier League casualty of the season. That seems like nonsense given Spurs’ terrific start, but there’s rarely smoke without fire and something must have happened. If that’s the case I fancy that Bolton could nick a surprise point or three here.
Burnley vs. Birmingham City
Two promoted sides meet here and although both will be reasonably content with the starts they’ve made to Premier League life, they’ll also recognise this as one of their best chances to pick up three points. Birmingham are still missing some key players but they’re also starting to see the best from some new additions and in particular I think Christian Benitez has looked dangerous – when he becomes more of a team player he’ll be a real threat. However, Burnley have been excellent at home, maintaining a 100% home record including wins over Everton and Man Utd at Turf Moor so I’m going for another home win.
Hull City vs. Wigan Athletic
These sides come into this game from very different places: last week Hull were completely and utterly annihilated by Liverpool while Wigan shocked everyone and defied my most confident prediction by tumbling Chelsea. That means that Wigan will undoubtedly be on a high and full of confidence and as long as they’re not over-confident then Hull should be there for the taking. Brown’s men haven’t performed yet this season while he’s too quick to chop and change the side – he needs to give them a chance to settle, as dropping them in and out constantly is just going to damage morale further.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Portsmouth
Portsmouth lost by a goal to nil against Everton last weekend but they may still be wondering how they did. Everton weren’t at their best but they defended solidly and managed to keep what can only be described as a rampant Pompey at bay. Hart will undoubtedly be frustrated by that, but he’ll have been encouraged by the performance. Wolves were beaten by Sunderland but the 5-2 scoreline wasn’t indicative of the game itself and McCarthy will see this home game against the winless bottom side as a great opportunity. The key here is whether Portsmouth can recreate their performance from Fratton Park away from home – if they do, they may well end their losing streak.
Manchester United vs. Sunderland (5.30pm)
Sunderland put five past Wolves last week (though two were penalties) and with Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones both in goalscoring form, they’ll be a threat to United. However, they also shipped two at the back and I think their new defensive lineup is still settling in to playing with one another. That’s the sort fo weakness that United – and an in form Giggs and Rooney in particular – will exploit, and this will be a tough test for Steve Bruce. However, he’ll know as well as anyone how best to face up to an Alex Ferguson team and perhaps he has a plan. Unless it’s a good one though, I can’t see United slipping up.
Sunday Fixtures, kick-off times as shown.
Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers (1.30pm)
Blackburn picked up a great result against Aston Villa last weekend but they will be well up against it here. Arsenal were put under the kosh by Fulham last week and Mannone kept them alive but at home in particular they’ve been on fire this season and their trademark brand of football has been creating chances galore for them. Rovers will doubtless attempt to cause them some problems with their physical presence from set pieces but Thomas Vermaelen has helped sure up Arsenal’s defence so I think the Gunners will come out on top.
Everton vs. Stoke City (3pm)
Everton have picked up their form since a poor start to the season and have won five games on the bounce in all competitions, scoring fourteen goals while conceding just one. However Stoke may take heart from the enormous injury list that continues to plague the Toffees as well as knowing that they’ve had a long trip to Belarus to contend with this week and will doubtless hope his side’s physical style will help them pick up an away win. Despite that though, Everton will be boosted by the return of Saha, Heitinga and Neill as well as possibly Pienaar and Yobo to their squad from the European game and I think that they’ll be too good for Stoke at home.
West Ham United vs. Fulham (3pm)
West Ham were comfortably beaten by Man City on Monday and they’ve been struggling a bit lately to find their form, which has left Zola’s side languishing at the wrong end of the table. Roy Hodgson’s men are down there too though, but they played really well against Arsenal last weekend and only an inspired goalkeeping performance denied them three points. Last season they struggled away from Craven Cottage but I think they’ll fancy this one, they’re both sides out of form and need a win to get back on track, and Fulham look more likely to me.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool (4pm)
Chelsea lost their 100% record and top spot after a defeat against Wigan last week, something that surprised me a lot. I thought they’d looked really good so far despite not playing their best and I think if anything they became a little complacent against Wigan and couldn’t recover. They’ll obviously be without Petr Cech tomorrow which is a bit of a blow but I think their defeat will have been a wake up call and they’ll be good and solid again this weekend. Liverpool destroyed a very poor Hull side and ‘Nando Torres is in devastating form, but they looked pretty toothless against Fiorentina in midweek. Expect this to be feisty, tense and probably ultimately disappointing. A draw I think.
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City (8pm)
Man City are starting to get some of their injured players back from injury now, with Santa Cruz and Michael Johnson back fit and that could give them some real strength in depth – at least until they’re all back fit when some of their ego’s might start to feel a bit crowded on the bench. Martin O’Neill’s men slipped up against Blackburn last weekend and although they may have felt hard done by they didn’t play well enough to deserve the win. At home against City they’ll be looking to bounce back, but it will be a tough challenge and I think City will probably be too good for them tonight.
What do you think of my predictions? Are there any you disagree with? Leave a comment below with your thoughts and predictions…