First up – if you haven’t already, read Hugo’s writeup on who will win La Liga this season. And no, Barcelona aren’t favourites.
On to the Premiership – there’s a 2 week break for international matches after this weekend (England have their Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia (H) and Croatia (A)).
I refuse to pretend that I know anything about football (and I suspect some of you have figured that much out by now), but I’m going to match wits against the Fink Tank Predictor and on Monday night we’ll know whether statistics or gut-instincts are better are predicting meaningless results.
Premiership Weekend Fixtures
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool
Bolton will take heart from Liverpool’s shambolic last 30 minutes at home against Galatasaray – the pretenders to Chelsea’s throne are still some way away from displaying any consistency in their football this season and will need to put out another tough performance if they want to take away points from this fixture.
History does not support Liverpool, and their recent away form has been woeful in the Premiership. The only positive that Liverpool will take into this game is that their team is starting to score goals again (even if they have been at home) and Benitez will know that against an obdurate Bolton side the key to winning will be to ensure that they aren’t caught on the counter. Liverpool have enough talent to score at least a goal, and it might all come down to Bolton’s ability to put one past Reina.
A win for Bolton will see them move into 2nd place (if only for a day) while Liverpool will slot into 3rd place with a win.
Soccerlens Match Prediction: Draw, 0-0
Fink Tank Prediction: Liverpool win, 0-1
Charlton Athletic v Arsenal
Is there an easier match to predict this weekend (apart from Manchester United vs Newcastle)? Arsenal will win this, no questions asked. Where Arsenal are concerned the opposition’s league position usually does not matter but considering that Dowie’s side are languishing in 19th place, only a miracle will see them thwart Wenger’s side on his 10 year anniversary.
Expect Thierry Henry and Baptista to come to the party today, helping Arsenal to a thumping win.
Soccerlens Match Prediction: Arsenal win, 0-3
Fink Tank Prediction: Arsenal win, 0-1
Chelsea v Aston Villa
Statiscally speaking, Aston Villa don’t stand a chance. Chelsea don’t lose at home, they don’t concede goals at home and with the Special One talking himself up again this week (see below), you’d rather bet on Martin O’Neill kitting up than Chelsea losing to Villa.
Stranger things may have happened, but I don’t see them happening today.
What I DO think is that Villa might be able to hold out for a draw, especially if they can score a goal. Wishful thinking though. High-flying Villa are in for a defeat at the hands of table leaders Chelsea.
Sidebar: The Special One is spot on when he says that his presence has contributed to Chelsea’s success and growth – in footballing terms as well as financially. He’s not so astute when he says that they are are “almost self-sufficient”, although if you consider that Chelsea is a multi-billion business that had a ‘loss’ of 140 mil last year, he’s not far off the mark.
Soccerlens Prediction: Chelsea win, 2-0
Fink Tank Prediction: Chelsea win, 2-0
Everton v Manchester City
Everton are flying high and deservedly so, but their inability to kill off Newcastle last week means that doubts still remain over their ability to mount a sustained challenge for the 5th spot. What’s sure is that they will always manage to score (and have been in excellent form at home), so Manchester City don’t have much of a chance, at least on recent form.
Soccerlens Prediction: Everton win, 2-0
Fink Tank Prediction: Everton win, 1-0
Sheffield United v Middlesbrough
A game that could go in any direction, but as long as Woodgate helps keep Boro a clean sheet this match could allow Boro 3 points and a chance to move in the right direction on the Premiership points table. Not that this team will get too far though.
Soccerlens Prediction: Middlesbrough win, 0-1
Fink Tank Prediction: Draw, 1-1
Sunday, October 1, 2006
West Ham United v Reading
It’s got to give some time, hasn’t it? West Ham haven’t been scoring goals, and with a humiliating 0-3 defeat at the hands of Palermo on Thursday Pardew may be tempted into ringing some changes, dropping Tevez and Mascherano and returning to the side that took them to the FA Cup final last season. With Zamora and Harewood up front I don’t see why West Ham cannot score at home, with Tevez being used as a sub.
Reading have had a week’s worth of rest and their battling draw against Manchester United will have done their confidence a lot of good. They should find it easier going against West Ham but I doubt they’ll beat West Ham.
Soccerlens Prediction: West Ham win, 1-1
Fink Tank Prediction: Draw, 1-1
Blackburn Rovers v Wigan Athletic
As Lawro said, this is going to be one of the hardest-hitting matches of the weekend. Expect lots of tackles and even a couple of reds. Blackburn should shade this one though, with history, home advantage and league form on their side.
Soccerlens Prediction: Blackburn win 2-1
Fink Tank Prediction: Blackburn win 1-0
Manchester United v Newcastle United
Whether Scott Parker gets his England callup as expected or not, Newcastle United will need their inspirational captain to play one of the best games of his life if Newcastle are to handle Manchester United at home. It’s not just that Newcastle have a poor record at Old Trafford (most teams do) – the scrappy away win against Benfica coupled with 1 point from two previous games in the Premiership means that Manchester United are a team raring to bring about a good result, and Newcastle’s defensive frailities will give them the perfect opportunity to enter the international break with a cracking win.
Now if only Aston Villa could hold Chelsea to a draw.
Manchester United will manage to tear Newcastle apart one way or another (whether it’s an early blitz or a late flourish). With Rooney expected be restored up front alongside Saha, Manchester United will probably play O’Shea in midfield to counter Parker, although Carrick’s in the middle of a good run and should get more time. At the back Heinze and Vidic will continue, meaning that a very settled (and confident, based on history) Manchester United side will turn up hungry for a win against the misfiring Newcastle side.
Soccerlens Prediction: Manchester United win, 3-0
Fink Tank Prediction: Manchester United win, 1-0
Tottenham Hotspur v Portsmouth
One of the few good matches this weekend. Tottenham go into this fixture in woeful form, while Portsmouth have just suffered their first defeat and both sides will be itching to get maximum out of a potential 6-pointer. At the end of the season, both Portsmouth and Tottenham could be jostling for places in Europe and Jol will know the importance of Tottenham drawing first blood against the early pace-setters.
The 6-pointer label might be laughable considering that Tottenham are 17th and Portsmouth are 3rd, but only 9 points separate the two sides and Portsmouth still have to play Liverpool and Manchester United. A win here for Tottenham, and two defeats for Portsmouth against those two (with Tottenham winning 2 more, of course) and the two sides will be level, somewhere in mid table. It’s not as bleak for the Spurs as you might think, although it certainly is quite rosy for Pompey’s old guard.
Soccerlens Prediction: Tottenham win, 2-1
Fink Tank Prediction: Tottenham win, 1-0
Monday, October 2, 2006
Watford v Fulham
Good thing I’ll be busy on Monday.
Soccerlens Prediction: Draw, 1-1
Fink Tank Prediction: Watford win, 1-0
So what are your predictions for the weekend?
Oh, and before I forget, are you bending it like a banana?