Last weekend’s Premier League action can only really be described as ‘shocktastic’ after Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sunderland were all arguably held to a draw or defeated unexpectedly and it has been this unpredictability that has made the 09/10 season so exciting so far. It also makes predicting the results nigh on impossible, but I do my best and it works as a preview to the action too, so here goes…
Saturday Fixtures; kick-offs 3pm unless stated.
Portsmouth vs. Liverpool (12.45pm)
Portsmouth are starting to drift away again at the foot of the Premier League but with a creditable draw thanks to a late goal at Sunderland and a closely fought midweek defeat against Chelsea, they’re at least showing some signs of fight under Avram Grant. The new boss will recognise Liverpool as a potential upset in the making as the Reds have struggled for consistency this season but will probably be able to call on Torres and Gerrard and for that reason I expect them to build on their midweek win against Wigan.
Aston Villa vs. Stoke City
Both of these sides have added strings to their bow this season, with Stoke attempting to play football on a more regular basis with Sanli Tuncay especially giving them more options up front while Villa are now less reliant on the counter attack with a midfield featuring Downing, Milner, Petrov and Young ably supporting the front two and capable of bossing games. Stoke’s away record has picked up slightly this ter, but I fully expect Villa to continue their great form and pick up a reasonably straight forward home win today.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Tensions will be heightened around the Tottenham squad after the hilarious revelation that the players held a ‘secret’ Christmas party in Dublin days before last weeks defeat to Wolves but they should also be full of confidence after easily despatching rivals Man City in midweek with an excellent performance. Allardyce will be hoping Redknapp has layed into his boozehogs players this week but I think he’ll keep them focused and will keep his belt on until after this weekend so Spurs will probably have a bit too much quality for Blackburn to hold out against here
Fulham vs. Manchester United
United were the beneficiaries of Mick McCarthy’s newly established rotation policy in midweek (much to Arsene Wenger’s displeasure) but still put in a rather unconvincing performance that didn’t really justify the 3-0 scoreline. Fulham will pose much more of a threat, especially with Bobby Zamora in such fine fettle at present. However, Hodgson’s men had a Europa league match in midweek to contend with which will have left the squad tired and United may take advantage of that. I’m not sure though, I’m thinking honours even.
Manchester City vs. Sunderland
City were really, really poor in midweek against Spurs. Really bad. If they play like that too often then their dreams of Champions League qualification are ludicrous and Steve Bruce will certainly be hoping for more of the same from them this weekend. Hughes’ men are usually better at home though and will have had a rigorous kick up the backside from the Welshman while Sunderland too are struggling to find the sort of form we know they’re capable of with last weeks draw with Portsmouth compounded by a comfortable defeat by Villa in midweek. They do raise their game well for the bigger games though, so I think this one will be pretty even.
Arsenal vs. Hull City (5.30pm)
Wenger’s men will be keen to continue their good home form and make up for the disappointing midweek draw with Burnley by returning to winning ways. They should do too, as they’re at least twice the side of Phil Brown’s men but that doesn’t count for much in football. Hull will be fresher, having benefitted from the Europa League clashes in midweek which has annoyed Wenger no end and with Fabregas possibly joining Van Persie on the sidelines the Frenchman will be glancing nervously at his not over large squad list. I still think they’ve got too much quality for Hull though, and should win.
Sunday Fixtures, kick-offs as stated.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Burnley (1.30pm)
Mick McCarthy has sure ruffled some feathers with his decision to field a weakened side against Man United in midweek (how dare small clubs rest players!) and the upshot of that is that there is now MASSIVE pressure on his side to justify his decision by beating Burnley. That’s easier said than done though, Burnley do struggle away from Turf Moor but will have this one down as a great chance to pick up point away from home against a struggling Wolves side. Will the freshness of the Wolves players pay off? I’m not sure, I think it’ll be a draw. And for the record, I have absolutely no problem with what McCarthy did: his squad, his call.
Everton vs. Birmingham City (3pm)
Moyes was another manager who rested players in midweek, but it has been less controversial because it was a nothing game in the Europa League. Typically though, we still managed to pick up another injured first teamer with Jack Rodwell apparently doing a hamstring so it’s still fairly slim pickings for Moyes this weekend. That’s a problem, because Birmingham are the Premier League’s form team bar none at the moment. Five wins on the bounce, they’re scoring goals and have a sturdy back line, McLeish has really got them going. However, Everton may have started to turn the corner with draws against Chelsea and Spurs and I wouldn’t bet against seeing us end the Midlanders’ run this weekend.
West Ham United vs. Chelsea (4pm)
Deary me, West Ham are in serious trouble I thought they’d have another solid season this time around but things just aren’t going right for Zola are they? Without Carlton Cole they look pretty tame up front and their defence is so dodgy as to raise serious questions about the sanity of Spurs and City’s interest in relieving the Hammers of Matthew Upson. Chelsea have stuttered of late though, but an unconvincing win against Pompey may have them back on track and I’d be very surprised if they don’t roll West Ham over tomorrow.
Monday Fixture, kick-off 8pm.
Wigan Athletic vs. Bolton Wanderers
After a good draw with Man City Bolton picked up a much-needed win from the Hapless Hammers in midweek and Megson will fancy another three points from Wigan on Monday night. To decide whether or not he’ll get them though, you might as well take a coin and flip it. Heads says Wigan turn up and play well for the three points, Tails says they play like a bunch of dead grandmothers and lose. Honestly, I can’t say which side the coin will come down but I suppose home advantage may shade it their way. Strangely, perhaps most likely is that the coin lands on its edge and we get a draw, that’s what I’m going for anyway.
That’s it for another weekend’s worth of predictions, who disagrees with me? Please feel free to leave your own thoughts and predictions below…