Weekend Predictions: Arsenal – Liverpool – Tottenham – Manchester United – Newcastle United – West Ham – Manchester City – Fulham – Aston Villa – Bolton Wanderers – Portsmouth – Chelsea – Wigan – Middlesbrough – Sunderland – Everton – Reading – Blackburn Rovers – Birmingham City – Derby County

The Premier League weekend is likely to be overshadowed by Jose Mourinho’s exit (dismissal) from Chelsea, something that has also overshadowed the minor injury crisis at Liverpool as Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso are out for 6 weeks following metatarsal injuries.

No chance to breath though, as we’ve got some exciting close fixtures, 2 one-sided drubbings in order, a relegation scrap between clubs playing in the UEFA Cup and for a grand finale, the biggest game of the weekend with the biggest shadow cast over it, the Manchester United – Chelsea game at Old Trafford (biggest for the media, of course – in terms of footballing importance it’s probably your own club’s match).

As always, you can make your own predictions by copy-pasting the list at the end and posting your thoughts in the comments section.

Saturday 22 September 2007

Arsenal (1) vs Derby County (19)

If Tottenham can hit 4 past Derby (and Liverpool 6), you only wonder what an in-form Arsenal will do to them. This could be gruesome, and Derby’s only saving grace is that Arsenal would prefer to pass the ball around a bit before putting it in the back of the net so they’ll have time to count the goals.

In seriousness though, Derby did quite well to beat Newcastle United on Monday and I’m tipping them to do better this time around than they did against Liverpool. Of course, betting on a team to concede less than 6 goals isn’t a vote of confidence, but for the fans, for the manager and for ex-United player David Jones’ sake, I hope it’s not murder.

Liverpool (3) vs Birmingham City (12)

The other one-sided match for the week, and since Liverpool also thrashed Derby, I’m backing them to put at least 3 past Brum.

However, Birmingham have that 2-3 game at Stamford Bridge to guide them and they’ll probably do better than Derby over at Emirates, although the goals seem to have dried up and like I said earlier in the season, the only thing that can save Birmingham is that they could score goals (their defense is shot), and if that doesn’t come off for some reason we’ll see a massacre. Liverpool are good at dismantling poor teams at home (snicker), so no doubts on the result here.

Middlesbrough (13) vs Sunderland (14)

As long as the Sunderland defence can hold steady, I expect them to sneak in a goal. Middlesbrough have been good this season but they look ready to concede at all times and if Keano’s men have any chance of taking a point (or 3) from this one, they’ll need to play out of their skins.

I’m siding with Boro for this game, but these are the games that Sunderland can use to show that they are here to stay and I expect them to give Middlesbrough a good scare. At the very least, this won’t be a repeat of the collapse at JJB Stadium.

Reading (18) vs Wigan Athletic (9)

Reading are in a slump (although they did quit well early on and have been up against some top opposition), and Wigan haven’t done too badly. The real question here is whether Reading can start scoring again because they’re stuck in a rut. Steve Coppell will have to tell his men to go hard at Wigan because that’s the only way to upset their style – Reading don’t have the quality to sit back and pick them apart.

I expect this to be a scrappy draw, although it really is Reading’s game to win.

Fulham (16) vs Manchester City (2)

Manchester City are 2nd in the league (that will change when Liverpool win) and FUlham are 16th, but this will be a far closer game than the points suggest and I don’t think City will find it as easy to score as one might think against Fulham’s defence.

A draw from my view.

Sunday 23 September 2007

All of Sunday’s games are going to be quite close – a good day to watch football but a horrible day for predictions.

Newcastle United (10) vs West Ham United (6)

West Ham are 5th with a game in hand (and are technically within reach of #1) and I’m sure their early form in the league coupled with Newcastle defeat at Derby will turn this into a fascinating game.

I’d back Owen to score against West Ham’s defence but Newcaslte’s central midfield is not as solid as Sam would like it to be and if West Ham gain some momentum they’re quite likely to score.

I’m shading for a Newcastle win here, although a draw will get the media on Newcastle’s back. Not really Sam’s fault though – the team is new and will take time to gell together.

Aston Villa (11) vs Everton (7)

Some people don’t think Everton have it in them to challenge for a Champions League spot this season. Personally, looking at Tottenham’s form and seeing how Everton played last season and how they’ve started this time around, 5th is quite likely for them and if one of the top four slips up (Chelsea are the newest candidates for a wobble) then Everton should be well-placed for a snatch.

Aston Villa haven’t done badly but they’re never going to go for a game and score 3 goals at home (usually when I say this the team goes ahead and does it, so you never know), so I don’t see them in Europe next year. A top-10 place is in their hands, if MON can keep his team defending well.

Another draw.

Blackburn Rovers (8) vs Portsmouth (15)

Blackburn lost midweek away in Europe but that doesn’t take away from their excellent league form and no matter what you say about Pompey, they’re not as defensively strong as they seem to be on paper.

A Blackburn win is on the cards, unless Harry plots another masterstroke.

Bolton Wanderers (20) vs Tottenham Hotspur (17)

20th vs 17th in a game between two managers under extreme amounts of pressure. Nothing to say in this, except that neither side will keep a clean sheet and I fully expect more than 4 goals in this.

Spurs to win though, because Bolton’s morale is worse than their position suggests.

Manchester United (4) vs Chelsea (5)

Damn Mourinho for leaving – with him at least we would have had the pleasure of fun pre and post match quotes. Now we’re stuck with Avram Grant, who says that he’s very much ‘his own man’. Hopefully he’ll do something funny on the touchline, like assault a player or something.

Manchester United for all their troubles are doing better than Chelsea at the moment and a home game, without Ballack or Lampard or Drogba (the three players who helped win the midfield battles last season in the same fixture and thus helped Chelsea equalise) are absent, so I only see one result from this game.

Your Predictions

And now it’s time for your predictions – tell us who you think will shame their ancestors, who will script a famous victory and which club will be laughed at when Sunday night comes.

Copy-paste into the comments and fire away:

Arsenal vs Derby County
Liverpool vs Birmingham City
Middlesbrough vs Sunderland
Reading vs Wigan Athletic
Fulham vs Manchester City
Newcastle United vs West Ham United
Aston Villa vs Everton
Blackburn Rovers vs Portsmouth
Bolton Wanderers vs Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United vs Chelsea

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