The big clash of this weekend sees league leaders Chelsea host Manchester United at the soon-to-be-called-something-else-Stamford Bridge but there are plenty of other interesting fixtures too: two clubs who have started well, Spurs and Sunderland will do battle, while Everton and West Ham will both be trying to kick-start their seasons and of course, Liverpool will be looking to bounce back from another disastrous week on Monday evening. So how will it play out? Read on…
Saturday Fixtures; kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Aston Villa vs. Bolton Wanderers
Aston Villa struggled to impose themselves against an injury hit Everton at Goodison last weekend, and after succumbing to a last gasp goal against West Ham in midweek, Martin O’Neill will desperately want to get his side back to winning ways. Bolton though, will not make it easy for them. Yes, Chelsea rolled them over with consummate ease last time out, but that was a combination of Bolton’s own self-destruction and Chelsea’s brilliance. No, I think this will be a close game, though I still think Villa may sneak it.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Portsmouth
It’s hard to say quite what happened with Portsmouth last weekend – they beat Wigan 4-0, but whether that’s because they finally turned in a complete performance or because Wigan once again reverted to their hopeless alter-ego I couldn’t say without watching the game. One thing’s for sure though, Pompey will have taken a lot of confidence from that, and hat-trick hero Dindane is a man to watch out for now. Rovers lost to United last weekend, no shame in that and they put up a fight too, and on home turf Allardyce will fancy three points from this clash but I don’t think he’ll get them.
Manchester City vs. Burnley
Burnley have had a couple more good results at home in recent weeks but they still haven’t learnt how to win away and this is as daunting a trip as any they’ll face this season. City come into this game off the back of a couple of frustrating draws and Hughes will no doubt be tempted to use his plentiful firepower liberally at Eastlands. Burnley will match their slick football, but will probably over-expose themselves at the back – unless Owen Coyle’s really had them working hard on shutting up shop in training.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland
The Black Cats have suffered a real blip since their famous upset of Liverpool a few weeks back, but Bruce will at least have been pleased to see his ten-man team come back from two goals down against West Ham last week, it shows the spirit is still there. Redknapp will be looking for similar spirit from his Spurs team after the pre-match optimism before last week’s North London derby was deflated in 11 deadly seconds. This should be a really good game I think, and there’s bound to be goals in it – especially with Darren Bent returning to Spurs. I think the Londoners will prevail though.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Arsenal (5.30pm)
My oh my, aren’t Arsenal in good nick at present? I think there’s a case to be made for Cesc Fabregas being the form midfield player in world football at present and with Van Persie having scored in each of his last I-don’t-know-how-many games, they’re a frightful prospect for Wolves. Still, McCarthy’s men showed that they can be stubborn against Stoke last weekend, and if they can frustrate Arsenal anything can happen. We’ve seen before that Arsenal can be guilty of over-confidence which may cost them, but not today I feel.
Sunday Fixtures; kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Hull City vs. Stoke City (1.30pm)
If ever a manager needed a win, it’s Phil Brown against Stoke tomorrow. A new chairman has come in, the club are in a dire situation and Brown is starting to lose the fans – he’s got to start winning matches. Stoke’s away form has been quite solid though, they’ve won one, lost one, and drawn three which is excellent work given their home form. They’ll be very keen to capitalise on a Hull side that are in trouble, and who’d have thought this time last season that the fortunes of these two clubs would be so reversed? More misery for Phil Brown I fear…
West Ham United vs. Everton
West Ham got a great midweek win against Aston Villa but it looks to have come at a price, with their in-form striker Carlton Cole picking up an injury. Everton won’t have much sympathy though, as their excessive injury list continues to conspire with a very heavy schedule to ruin their season – not helped by the suspension of Bilyaletdinov after his dismissal last week either. Still, the Toffees enjoy facing West Ham and their defence is looking a bit stronger now and with Cole missing should be confident of keeping the Hammers out, and I feel that either Saha or Yakubu could help them nick three big points.
Wigan Athletic vs. Fulham
Well these two were on the opposing end of couple of last weekend’s shock results, as Fulham beat Liverpool while Wigan were hammered by Pompey. If that form is to carry on then the money would have to be on Hodgson’s men, and indeed he’s really turned Fulham round in the last month or so after a shaky start. However, Wigan are the Jekyll and Hyde of the Premier League: sometimes brilliant, sometimes woeful. If they turn up in the mood tomorrow then I think they’ll get a hard fought win, otherwise, Fulham will take the points – as long as they’re not to tired from their midweek exertions against Roma.
Chelsea vs. Manchester United (4pm)
What a mouth-watering clash this looks set to be, the rivalry between these two clubs has really grown in recent years and this will doubtless be as fiercely contested as United’s match against Liverpool a few weeks ago. I feel that United may once again come out on the losing side too – everyone knows Didier Drogba is in the form of his life but the same can arguably said for Anelka, while the Blues have such depth in midfield, especially with the return of Joe Cole. On the other hand, United are troubled at the back with Ferdinand missing although Vidic should return. It probably won’t be a classic, but on moment of magic could decide it, and I think Chelsea look more likely.
Monday Fixture; kick-off 8pm.
Liverpool vs. Birmingham City
This game is interesting, and difficult to call. Liverpool are a side in turmoil and without Gerrard and perhaps also without Torres, I don’t see them as much of a threat to anyone. However, even with that in mind it’s hard to fancy Birmingham on the road, even though I think they’ve got a decent squad and a decent chance of survival. They really need Chucho Benitez to click with McFadden and Larsson, making them more of a threat on the counter attack. I don’t think Liverpool will lose this one, but I think City may snatch a point.
That’s all for this week: anyone disagree? Let me know your own predictions and any other thoughts below…