Happy All Hallows Eve to you all as we prepare for another weekend of Premier League action and, in an increasingly rare phenomenon in these modern times, we have nine of the ten matches being played on Saturday this weekend as well as no less than seven traditional Saturday 3pm kick-offs – it makes a nice change I have to say. Arguably the clash of the weekend is the North London Derby between high-flying Arsenal and Spurs first up, but there should be plenty of action before the ghouls come out tonight…
Saturday Fixtures; all kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur (12.45pm)
Arsenal are in imperious form at present, especially at the Emirates Stadium and with the kids beating Arsenal in midweek the senior players will certainly not want to be shown up. Spurs were surprisingly humbled by Stoke last weekend and will still be missing Jermaine Defoe (suspended) and probably Aaron Lennon (injured) which denies them them their two best players so far. A win against an injury-hit Everton in the Carling Cup will have boosted morale, but I think Arsenal will be too strong for them today.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Chelsea
Chelsea put their little slip up behind them with a 5-0 demolition of Blackburn last weekend and for Chelsea and England fans alike, it was great to see Joe Cole back playing and making such an instant impact, even prompting the usually reserved Ancelotti to call him a “genius”. Bolton too got three points last weekend, despite almost giving up a two goal lead against beleagured Everton but they’ll need to show considerably more quailty to undo a full strength Chelsea. Unfortunately, that’s quality they don’t have.
Burnley vs. Hull City
Burnely surrendered their 100% home record to Wigan last weekend which will have disappointed Owen Coyle but he’ll recognise this fixture for what it is: a great chance to bounce back to winning ways immediately and to condemn a troubled rival to another damning defeat. Hull are a club under pressure, with chairmen Duffen walking out on the club and taking much of Phil Brown’s support with him, the perma-tanned gaffer will know now that every defeat will lead him closer to the precipice. Expect an edgy affair, but Burnley just look a far better side to me, and I think they’ll win it.
Everton vs. Aston Villa
Much as I like to retain boundless optimism on this blog when predicting the fortunes of my beloved Toffees, even I’m realistic enough to recognise that we’re well under the kosh at present. After three games in six days last week and without upwards of 10 first team players, Moyes’ small squad is exhausted and struggling for form. He’ll ask his men to give another battling performance today but Villa are always up for a scrap too and they’re in good form and with far fewer players missing. The away side have to be favourites but Everton are dangerous with their backs to the wall and this could go either way.
Fulham vs. Liverpool
Liverpool eased a lot of the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez with a crucial win over United last weekend which puts them just about back in with a shout. Any more slip ups though and the hounds will be at Rafa’s door again and despite a good team performance last week, the goal was only ever coming through one man. Torres provided last weekend, but if Fulham can keep him in check they’ll be in with a shot and last season especially they had the defencive solidity to do so. Struggling a bit this time around though, Hodgson will set out his stall and hope for the best – O don’t think it’ll be quite enough.
Portsmouth vs. Wigan Athletic
Portsmouth conspired with Hull last week to give us the Premier League’s first goalless draw for a number of weeks and what was generally considered to be one of the most dire games of football ever played. There’s little doubt that Pompey are a side that lack the all round quality of a true Premier League side and they’re struggling for a reason. Wigan on the other hand, have got some really good players with Hugo Rodallega really finding his form and despite the off-field distractions surrounding Marlon King, I think they’ll get annother away win this weekend.
Stoke City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves got a scrappy draw from a scrappy game against Villa last weekend, it was typical derby fare but McCarthy will have been reasonably happy with a point from that fixture. If anything, they’ll have another similar game this week, while not a derby any game at the Britannia is a battle and Stoke are the masters of playing their way on their own turf – it will take an absolute heroic effort to beat them, and I’m not sure if Wolves quite have the quality and fighting spirit to do so.
Sunderland vs. West Ham United
Sunderland slipped up against Birmingham last week off the back of two fantastic results against Man Utd and Liverpool and Steve Bruce will be absolutely gutted to see some of their hard work undone by complacency. They should be looking to bounce back at home though, and West Ham have struggled so far this season, Zola’s men lacking some real verve and consistency. However, they did claw their way back from 2-0 down to gain a very creditable point against Arsenal last weekend and that will have lifted their spirits. I think this will be an even, well matched game but with a high chance of goals.
Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers (5.30pm)
Blackburn are suffering from an infection of the swine flu virus which is really the last thing that any club needs when they’re facing back to back league games against Chelsea and Manchester United. Chelsea hammered them last week, and with United coming into this game off the back of a league defeat against fierce rivals Liverpool, it all seems to be conspiring against Rovers – Ferguson will be desperate to get back on track in style, and was able to rest his big guns in midweek. I can’t see anything but a fairly comfortable home win here.
Sunday Fixture, 4pm kick-off.
Birmingham City vs. Manchester City (4pm)
The weekend’s only Sunday fixture sees a clash between two of England’s second cities’ second clubs, and it’s a tricky one to predict. Birmingham got a very good win over Sunderland last time out and in general the spirit around the club is really on a high after their takeover and in McFadden, Larsson and the erratic but improving Benitez they’ve got plenty of attacking quality. The same can be said for City too, they’ve got arguably too much up top and with everyone fit some players will start tp get unhappy, but at the back it’s a different story – they conceded two against a goal-shy Fulham last week and the new centre-half partnership still hasn’t settled.
Disagree with my predictions? Feel free to leave your own in a comment below…