The big clash of this weekend sees Manchester United travel to Anfield to attempt to compound what has already been a simply awful week for Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool side. Much of the pre-match speculation centres around whether or not Rooney, Gerrard and Torres will be making an appearance for their respective sides but one prediction I’m positive about is that at least one beach ball will make it onto the field of play at some point. For the rest of the weekend’s predictions, read on…
Saturday Fixtures; all kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Aston Villa (12.45pm)
Villa stunned Chelsea last week after putting in an excellent battling performance, they had their backs to the wall for long spells but their new defensive lineup is really shining and there’s a great spirit amongst the squad. That spirit will be important for this Midlands derby with Wolves bound to be up for the game and with the return of Michael Kightly and Slyvain Ebanks-Blake they’ll certainly be boosted in terms of squad morale and confidence. I think this’ll be a typically frantic derby that Villa may just shade.
Birmingham City vs. Sunderland
Sunderland have had a couple of fantastic results in their last two fixtures, a draw that was so nearly a win against Man United followed up by last week’s toppling of Liverpool. They’re in great form and will be full of confidence but Steve Bruce will have to guard against complacency as it would be easy to take Birmingham lightly after those two results. Birmingham still lack some clinical firepower so they’ll be relieved to see Lee Cattermole sidelined, but whether they have enough to win this one, I’m not sure: honours even for me.
Burnley vs. Wigan Athletic
Burnley had a good crack at breaking their 100% away defeats record last week at Blackburn but couldn’t quite manage it, which will make Owen Coyle even more determined to maintain their great home form against Martinez’s Wigan. The Lactics picked up a very worthy point against Man City last weekend though and they’re starting to look a bit more consistent after a very up and down start to the season. At Turf Moor though, it will take something pretty special to beat a confident Burnley and I think the Clarets will win this one.
Hull City vs. Portsmouth
Two of the league’s bottom three sides meet here and it probably isn’t too much of an exaggeration to suggest that this is a bit of a six-pointer even so early in the season. They both really need to start chalking up some wins or they’ll drop off the pace quickly and this represents a great chance for both sides to pick up a morale boosting victory. Hull were toothless against Fulham last week but the return of Jimmy Bullard should at least give them some more quality, but I think this one will go to Pompey, they’ve actually been turning in some good performances lately and this could be a big game for them.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City
Stoke have had a very solid start to the season, again drawing largely on their home form, and Tony Pulis will be delighted with his team’s ability to compete so consistently at the top-level. A trip to White Hart Lane at present though, is about as tough a fixture as you can face with Tottenham in blistering form and scoring goals for fun. They’ll be without Jermaine Defoe but with Peter Crouch to deputise that shouldn’t trouble them unduly and I think this will be comfortable for Redknapp’s men.
Chelsea vs. Blackburn Rovers (5.30pm)
Sam Allardyce may well fancy his chances in this match, despite the odds being overwhelmingly against them. It’s true that Chelsea lost against a very good Villa side last week but they still played some good stuff and on that form should despatch of Blackburn at home with ease. However, they’ve struggled with defending set-pieces all season and Big Sam’s teams are well-known for their direct and physical approach and that could cause problems for Ancelotti’s men. Still, they’ll have been working on it all week so I still see Chelsea as taking three points, but there’s definite upset potential here.
Sunday Fixtures; kick-offs as stated.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Everton (1.30pm)
Everton have a massive injury list to contend with going into this match but will at least be able to field a proper back four, rather than the hugely makeshift one that was toppled by Benfica on Thursday. In midfield they will miss the creativity of Pienaar in the continued absence of Arteta and need Bilyaletdinov to shake off a knock to provide a bit of ingenuity in there – with Saha and Yakubu up front, there’s potential there at least. Bolton will fancy their chances, they’ve been improving all the time and especially solid at home, Megson’s men will look to out-muscle a stretched and tired Everton squad. No classic this, and a draw may be on the cards but I’m going with my heart…
Liverpool vs. Manchester United (2pm)
Team news for this one depends on what you’re reading and who you believe but there’s no doubt that Rafa will have to throw in any of Torres, Gerrard and Johnson if they’re fit while Ferguson is less likely to take a risk on Rooney. Liverpool are a bit of a shambles of late with their defence all over the show and while United haven’t been setting the world alight they are far more solid than their fierce rivals at present. This will be as aggressive a clash as this fixture always throws up and that often results in a stalemate, but I just think that the Red Devils will sneak it to condemn Liverpool to a fifth consecutive defeat.
Prediction: 0-1 and at least one beach ball to make it onto the field of play.
Manchester City vs. Fulham (3pm)
Fulham are really struggling to recreate their form of last season this time around but they did pick up a pretty cruisy win over Hull last Monday and that will have given them a boost. A trip to Eastlands is a massive test for Hodgson’s men though especially with Hughes no able to call on the majority of his massive squad. There’s no doubt that City have a lot of quality, and as long as he can keep the balance of the side right, you just can’t look past them for the three points tomorrow.
West Ham United vs. Arsenal (4.15pm)
Another defeat for West Ham last week has people starting to whisper about Zola’s future at the club but similar things were being said at this stage last season and he turned it round once he got players back fit and the team how he wanted it. Like Everton the Hammers are missing key players and I’m sure that once they’re back fit then West Ham will be well clear of the relegation spots. Unfortunately though, they’re facing a huge test tomorrow against an Arsenal side full of confidence and scoring goals left, right and centre. Only one result here.
What do you think of my predictions? Any you disagree with? Please do leave a comment below and let me know how you see this weekend’s ties going…