Well… it’s been a while since I dusted off the old prediction hat and made some wild stabs in the dark concerning the outcomes of a round of Premier League fixtures, but now seems like a good time to revive the famous TTIAO predictions for one week at least. Let’s hope I haven’t lost my knack…
Saturday Fixtures, Kick-off 3pm unless stated.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Liverpool (12.45pm)
Liverpool were made to look quite good for the first half of the Merseyside Derby last week, but when Everton got going properly in the second half we once again saw the familiar Liverpool of the season so far – lacking any real cutting edge and any real fighting spirit, and they may have been lucky to draw the game in the end. Wolves, on the other hand, seem to have found some form. They very nearly upset Manchester City in a 4-3 thriller last weekend and McCarthy’s side are fulfilling their potential, as they have some really talented players, and I think they may frustrate Dalglish today.
Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic
This should be a comfortable win for Arsene Wenger’s team. However, the trouble with Arsene Wenger’s team is that they quite often fail to deliver in the matches where they should deliver. Be it through a little bit of complacency or an unwillingness to battle it out against “lesser” opposition, Arsenal are always prone to stumble against teams like Wigan. With Wigan in stubborn form too – they’ve lost just once in their last seven matches – you suspect that this isn’t going to be an easy game for Arsenal. That said, Wigan are also known to be a little Jekyll and Hyde and I think Arsenal will probably win this one at home.
Blackpool vs. Sunderland
The big news around this fixture has been the somewhat bemusing decision of Darren Bent to quit a relatively successful Sunderland team to join struggling Aston Villa, especially as the Black Cats helped him revive a career that seemed dead in the water at Spurs. While I don’t think Sunderland will miss him greatly – Gyan and Welbeck have been on fire lately – I think life-after-Bent will get off to a losing start at Blackpool. The seasiders really have been a revelation this season, a breath of fresh air in the Premier League, and it wouldn’t surprise me if their free-flowing attacking game gets the better of Steve Bruce’s men here.
Everton vs. West Ham United
Everton remain yet to hit their stride so far this season, much to my frustration. At times we’ve played brilliantly, like the top four contenders we have the potential to be (see the wins against City and Spurs), but all too often we stumble against lesser oppositio (see loss against Stoke). West Ham are having a worse time of things though, and to be honest, I don’t know what on earth is going on over there, and neither it seems, does Avram Grant, which perhaps is where the problem lies. The Hammers have some quality in their squad though, and on their day can and should be a real threat, but things for them look too up in the air at the moment. Everton begin life without Pienaar, which is a shame, but I think we’ll still overcome West Ham.
Fulham vs. Stoke City
Both these sides have been a bit hard to predict this season. You can usually count on both teams being strong at home and relatively stubborn away but both have been through poor spells at one time or another, but both now look to be pressing on towards mid-table safety in the second half of the season. I think Hughes will soon start to get the best out of a squad that has more talent than its shown this season – the Europa League final is no mean feat after all – and I would say that Fulham should beat Stoke on paper. But Stoke will never make anything easy for anyone and I feel they may strangle this game out into a draw.
Manchester United vs. Birmingham City
Out of all of the title challengers this season, Man Utd have certainly been the most consistent, but that is a little misleading. It’s not like they’ve played consistently well, indeed their performances have actually been consistently rather scratchy and dogged, but their results have at least been consistently good and that’s why they currently lead the way. Birmingham are struggling a little, especially under the weight of a few injuries and a dip in form, but they’re a good side and will come through it – but probably not at Old Trafford, where United’s formidabble defence will probably shut them out.
Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
This is another tough one to call because on their day Newcastle look like they could be up challenging for Europe – especially when Andy Carroll is on song. At other times though, they seem to deflate a little and don’t offer the same sort of challenge, though at St. James’ Park that shouldn’t happen. Spurs have had a draw and a loss in their last couple of games and will be feeling the pressure to get back to winning ways, but it won’t be an easy trip for them. They have a whole host of attacking talent, especially in the mercurial Van Der Vaart, but their defence may find it tough to deal with the Magpies’ forceful attentions.
Aston Villa vs. Manchester City (5.30pm)
Villa fans will be hoping to see Darren Bent start life in their colours with a bang against City, who completely outplayed them last time the sides met. They’ve made a (ridiculously) huge investment in him and Bent must surely have the weight of their Premier League survival on his shoulders – it’ll be interesting to see how he handles that pressure, especially given his lack of form of late for Sunderland. City are ticking along nicely at the moment and in Dzeko they’ve signed a real top quality player who should fit their system very well. I think that they may well sneak a win at Villa Park, but it won’t be easy for them. Dzeko and Bent to score.
Blackburn Rovers vs. West Bromwich Albion (4pm)
Rovers fans will be hoping that the Roque Santa Cruz that has returned to Ewood from Man City will be the same Santa Rcuz that thrived there under Mark Hughes before his big money
flop move, as they haven’t looked very convincing lately. West Brom were involved in an amazing game of football with Blackpool last week, the score should have been about 16-14 in the end, but Di Matteo will be concerned at how easily his defence was breached and will know that if not for some woeful finishing, his side would have lost that game. I think they’ll find themselves subjected to a different kind of onslaught at ohysical Blackburn’s hands, but they may well succumb this time around.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Chelsea (8pm)
I must apologise to all Bolton fans: I may be partially responsible for your side’s slump in form. A few weeks ago when Elmander was scoring for fun I subbed him into my fantasy football team, and he has barely scored since – it is a curse that has haunted me all season. Of course, injuries have also played a part in Bolton’s decline but here they have a great chance to give themselves a boost. Despite a few decent results lately, Chelsea are still not the force they are supposed to be and Bolton, if they get in amongst them early and don’t let them settle, could make it very hard for them and put more pressure on Ancelotti. I’m picking a draw for this one.
So there we have it. Do you agree with my predictions or have I got them all wrong? Leave me your thoughts below…