The weekend sees relatively easy home ties for both title contenders (with Arsenal counting themselves out of the race and Chelsea being counted out by Fergie, and seriously, do you think Villa will take the title?) – Manchester United entertain Blackburn at Old Trafford and Liverpool play hosts to Manchester City at Anfield.
Don’t get me wrong – City are no pushovers, a squad with that much individual talent simply can’t be taken for granted, but if you account for Liverpool’s ability to grind out wins this season and Manchester City’s infuriating tendency to concede goals from silly mistakes,
Barring slip-ups, we should see United and Liverpool go into their Champions League 2nd stage ties with wins under their belts. Arsenal are certain to join them in a winning mood after a relatively simple home game against Sunderland, and so should Chelsea, despite all that’s being made out of Scolari’s departure and Villa’s form this season.
Let’s get the praise out first – Martin O’Neill and the whole Aston Villa squad have done quite well to push up not only into the Champions League spots but also go past Chelsea into 3rd place. They’re only 2 points ahead and have 13 games to go, and MON will be the first one to admit that all the progress made this season will come to nought if they don’t maintain this form till the end, but they’ve given themselves a great chance and that’s great in itself.
But the Aston Villa squad lacks the quality to overpower Chelsea in a one-off game. Yes, they have Young, and yes, Chelsea have a new manager (not to mention that they’ve scored only 4 and conceded 6 goals in the last 5 matches), but they are good enough to resist and eventually break Villa down.
The Chelsea – Villa game will be the closest of the traditional top 4 games this weekend but despite expectations from some quarters, Chelsea are quite capable of handling Villa.
Of course, if they lose this, they go 5 points behind the Villans and could get sucked into a battle for 4th place with Arsenal. Fun times.
For previews plus predictions for the full list of weekend games, see below.
Premier League Weekend Predictions:
Arsenal v Sunderland – Arsenal to win
Hull v Tottenham – Tottenham to win
Newcastle v Everton – Everton to win
Liverpool v Manchester City – Liverpool to win
Fulham v West Brom – Fulham to win
Stoke v Portsmouth – Draw
Middlesbrough v Wigan – Middlesbrough
Manchester United v Blackburn – Manchester United to win
Bolton v West Ham – Draw
Aston Villa v Chelsea – Draw