This is somewhat of a test post as I move over to the new blog – so anyone who has already read the predictions for this week, sorry to be a bother. Do take note however, this will be the new site for chrissmithfootballblog.wordpress.com – though I will send out a confirmation post if all goes well. Fingers crossed.
If this week’s predictions prove correct, the Premier League title will be all but secured as a Manchester United victory at home to QPR would pile tremendous pressure on rivals City to match their result at Arsenal.
Even if Roberto Mancini’s side triumph, I wouldn’t back them to mount much of a challenge, such is the unimpeachable nature of United’s dominant form.
A rare Friday game affords us the opportunity to watch the league’s best two over-achievers Swansea and Newcastle square off in a contest which showcases the top flight’s two most in-form players, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Papiss Cisse.
On to Saturday, we have an absolute must-win for Liverpool at home to Aston Villa. It really should be three points for Kenny Dalglish and his team, but I do remember saying the same about the Wigan game (it’s still funny).
Hot on the heels of Fergie versus Kean on Monday, Paul Lambert and David Moyes square off in one the Premier League’s frequent Glasgow on Glasgow managerial bouts as Norwich host Everton. Defeat to Stoke could prove Wolves’ dying cry if results go against them, and a resilient Sunderland entertaining a resurgent Tottenham promises to be one of the more exciting attacking fixtures of the weekend.
Last week’s score: Eight (17 in the last two weeks – not bad I reckon)
Friday March 6, 2012
Swansea 1-1 Newcastle (16:30)
Two great sides, two managers who have earned masses of respect by establishing sides with both mettle and flair – as hard-working as they are entertaining. Though Rodgers will rightly be named manager of the year, Pardew really deserves credit for drumming up the sort of dedication and enthusiasm to enable consistency at St James’.
This match could go one of two ways: an end-to-end goal fest or a rather dull tactical battle. I fear the latter. Both teams can play but they can also break up and prevent, and given the afore-mentioned respect that follows each side around the country, I expect to see plenty of prevention in this one.
This game features two of this year’s top three performing goalkeepers in Michel Vorm and Tim Krul. Great keepers tend to raise their game against their own kind, so it will be interesting to see which one comes out on top.
Saturday April 7, 2012
Sunderland 2-2 Tottenham (12:45)
Saturday’s early game pits Sunderland who got back on their feet impressively at Manchester City after the hefty blow of the FA Cup exit, against Tottenham who themselves look to have overcome being brought back down to earth and fourth place by Arsenal.
Last week against Swansea, Spurs finally scored the goals their fine general play has warranted to gain a 3-1 win – just the scoreline Sunderland seemed to have earned but for City’s late comeback. Both sides should be in confident mood which is perhaps the defining characteristic of the respective managers’ successful styles.
Tottenham are still looking a bit lax defensively and should give away a fair few chances, though the return to form of Gareth Bale, Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart should earn them at least a point.
Bolton 2-1 Fulham (15:00)
Owen Coyle was named Manager of the Month this week for a number of reasons, not least because his side won three of their four March Premier League games. That those victories came against QPR, Blackburn and Wolves, and have left Wanderers 15th as opposed to 20th, means you can hardly argue with the decision.
You would think that form would steer Bolton clear, but you’d be wrong. Such is the congestion at the bottom that Wanderers could be breathing down 16th-placed Aston Villa’s neck on Saturday night, a point behind as they’ll be with a win – or even staring bewilderingly at the table to find only stranded Wolves beneath them. Depending on results of course.
Victory is paramount and certainly possible. Though Fulham played well at Old Trafford in their last away match, they tend to take their foot of the pedal for this type of encounter. Bolton, the opportunists of this year’s relegation battle, should live up to that mantle with a tight victory.
Chelsea 2-1 Wigan (15:00)
I sound like a broken record, and what is more, one of these new-famed Chelsea-haters, but despite Roberto Di Matteo’s impressive return since taking over as
interim first-team coach manager, I do not rate his team at all. ‘The table never lies’ – yeah but the Champions League obviously does. Chelsea were fortunate to make it out of the group stages, fortunate to beat Napoli and yet more fortunate to beat Benfica.
The real test will come later this month when the Blues attempt to settle scores both at home and abroad with domestic and European semi-finals, whilst also making up five points to overhaul either Arsenal or Spurs in the race for fourth place. Personally, I’d give them no chance.
That is of course with the exception of winnable fixtures such as a home game with a relegation side like Wigan. The Latics are four unbeaten however and have won their last two. Though a trip to Stamford Bridge will inevitably be tough, it is frankly Wigan’s easiest of the next three with Manchester United (h) and Arsenal (a) to come, and so with Chelsea playing in midweek, Roberto Martinez could well be looking for three points. Chelsea. Just.
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa (15:00)
Part of Liverpool’s success has always been the power of reputation – winning only a third of home games has calmed the impact. Kenny Dalglish has overseen Liverpool’s lowest ebb in my lifetime.
I won’t twist the knife however as history tells us Liverpool bounce back well, and whilst Dalglish has come in for justified flack, the difference between him and the players is that he’s won it all, and they still have to prove themselves.
If they have any strength of character and real value to a club like Liverpool, now at long last they must show it. Step forward one of the worst sides in the league. The similarity between Birmingham’s unthinkable slide towards the drop last season and Villa’s own must be galling in the minds of Villa supporters, particularly the (justifiedly) anti-McLeish ones.
I thoroughly expect a fairly comfortable Liverpool victory here, and depending on results beneath them, Villa could well be in the mire come Saturday evening.
Norwich 0-2 Everton (15:00)
Everton’s last three games away at Swansea, Sunderland and then at home to West Brom have been incredible. In light of the fact that each of these games finished 2-0 to Everton, you may consider my prediction lazy journalism, and, well, fair comment I suppose, but I just have one of those feelings.
Norwich have struggled to find consistency in recent weeks but that really is the biggest criticism you can throw at them after an excellent season in which relegation has been a non-issue for them. From the bottom of League One to the middle of the Premier League in three years? Absolutely brilliant.
By normal standards, Everton have a huge squad to choose from, and even more in their favour, both the players in the starting 11 and those on the fringes are desperate to earn a place in the Wembley team to face Liverpool. This sort of attitude has enabled Everton to control every minute of the last three – I expect that to continue.
West Brom 2-2 Blackburn Rovers (15:00)
Hodgson’s men were poor against Everton last week, but as I’ve mentioned, came up against a side at the peak of their powers. They usually bounce back well however so expect a decent showing from them here. Nine home defeats from 15 however reveals that Blackburn have a chance.
Steve Kean’s men looked safe a few games ago but the relegation renaissance that has seen victories earned left, right and centre for Bolton, QPR and Wigan, has pulled Rovers right back into the fold, and the drop zone after Monday’s defeat to Man Utd. There is a lot of goal scoring potential for either side, but also the occasional spate of defensive ineptitude. I’ll say 2-2.
Stoke 3- 0 Wolves (17:30)
I really can see only one result here, the only issue is the margin. I’ll go for a bit of hammering given that Wolves are about as hopeless as hopeless can get just now. The nosedive since Terry Connor took over is one thing, but the fact the side were pretty woeful before that just compounds their plight. There really is no way back.
Last week’s defeat to Bolton however cruel was decisive, and the psychological damage of such a loss cannot be underestimated. The last thing you need is a team like Stoke getting in your faces, not giving you an inch, and challenging all over the park from start to finish.
Though Pulis’ men have little to play for, they do have pride in their work, particularly at home. All anyone needs to beat Wolves at this time is a bit of momentum, and Stoke are well capable of producing that.
Sunday April 8, 2007
Manchester United 3-0 QPR (13:30)
You just can’t argue with Alex Ferguson and Man Utd. A win here would mean an eight-point lead at the top with City having to win at the Emirates to give themselves even a cat in hell’s chance of the title. In the 12 games since losing to Newcastle, the only time United have dropped points was the 3-3 draw with Chelsea. Say what you like about City bottling it, that form is outstanding.
I have given lots of plaudits to Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck this season but to be fair, it appears to have been Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young who have risen to the top of late. United are at the stage where they may as well work up a decent goal difference just in case, and these two players seem to offer the best hope in that regard.
Given their opponents are QPR, and yes, admittedly buoyed as they are by recent victories against bigger sides, United should have no trouble in achieving all of their objectives. Easy win.
Arsenal 3-2 Manchester City (16:00)
This will be the nail in City’s coffin in terms of the title despite Arsenal’s defeat to QPR. I expect the game to be reminiscent of the Chelsea/ Arsenal, Arsenal/ Spurs matches from earlier in the season when you really thought there would be a goal from every attack.
Some of City’s self-styled efficiency has broken down and will continue to continue to do so in the desperate battle for points – so the game should open a bit. Which is precisely what you are looking for as an Arsenal-tilted neutral. City’s attack has looked pretty ragged in recent weeks but in fairness, this is that their first title push and that takes adjustment.
Arsenal’s defence has looked stable and secure of late except for at the weekend. The combination of Arsenal losing a seven-match winning streak’s confidence and City’s need for three points, means there will be chances for Roberto Mancini’s men and they have quality to finish. But so too do Arsenal and a victory would provide perfect fodder for Arsene Wenger’s pre-season pep talks next year. Should be a classic.
By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789