Uefa maintain that they’ll leave the Grant situation for the Premier League to solve – a polite way of telling the English to firm up and police themselves. While the Premier League scrambles to find its pair of strap-ons (balls!), there are some juicy matchups taking place this weekend.
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 29 September 07
Manchester City (3) vs Newcastle United (5)
Manchester City’s dream start to the season (despite 2 back-to-back defeats) continues and they’re up against another resurgent team (takeover, new manager, raft of new players, lots of promise, etc) in Newcastle United. Home advantage and the fact that City’s defense is nothing to be joked about means that Manchester City look good for 3 points here.
Newcastle United will have their work cut out for them – they couldn’t put away their chances against Arsenal and with their past, they’re going to have a tough game against Manchester City. I’d expect Newcastle United to concede a goal so it all comes down to a matchup between Manchester City’s defense and Newcastle United’s strikers. Owen’s injured, Ameobi’s injured, so it’s down to Viduka and Oba to deliver the goods.
It’ll be good to see those two up against Richards and co.
Soccerlens Prediction: Manchester City to win.
Chelsea (6) vs Fulham (17)
Rumours of Chelsea’s demise are greatly exaggerated – they’ve got a good squad and while Hull City’s demolition means little (nearly full-strength squad for Chelsea and all that), they’re still part of the top four and favourites for a Champions League spot. Add to this their impressive home record and Grant would not want to be the man to lose the first home game after such a long time.
Chelsea will be out for blood, and the fact that this is a London derby will make it all the more fiery.
Fulham are in trouble, despite investing heavily and producing a few good performances. In the 7 league games so far Fulham’s problem has been one of defence – they have scored 12 goals (only Arsenal, with 15 and top of the table, have more) and time and time again their defending has let them down (14 goals conceded – only Derby have let in more with 20 and they’ve conceded 15 in 3 games). Sanchez has instilled a fighting spirit in the team but it’s time he brought some steel to Fulham’s defence.
Soccerlens Prediction: Chelsea to win.
Derby County (20) vs Bolton Wanderers (19)
Another week, another relegation scrap. While no one seriously expects Tottenham to get relegated this season there is a genuine concern that Bolton could go Charlton’s way (last season) and not recover until it’s too late. Bolton only managed a draw against Tottenham at home last weekend and with Newcastle’s example fresh in their minds, they’ll be wary of a resolute Derby side looking for a second scalp for their league campaign.
It’s quite simple for Sammy Lee now – win this game, or get sucked further into the quagmire. They’re just 8 points off 4th spot, and it’s still early days, but a few more games of not winning and Bolton will be in real trouble. The more you lose, the harder it is to get out of the funk, and it looks like Bolton are just sinking at the moment.
Derby will be up for this one and this game will be their best chance to score a couple of goals and get some confidence going in the Derby players. Mathematically, a win here coupled with a Spurs draw and Fulham loss would pull Derby out of the relegation zone, so I’d expect Derby to come out with all guns firing. They won’t have any answers for Anelka though.
Soccerlens Prediction: Draw.
Portsmouth (11) vs Reading (16)
Portsmouth and Reading are separated by just 2 points and on the surface it wouldn’t seem that there’s too much of a gap between the two sides. However, while Portsmouth have held their own, Reading have failed to score much and have conceded far too many times.
Portsmouth were tipped to challenge for Europe this season and while that will still happen this season it’s too early to tell if they have the quality to get into Europe, especially considering the improvements Newcastle, West Ham and Manchester City have made (don’t forget that Everton and Spurs are still there, plus Tottenham are still in it despite being 18th). I don’t think they can do it, but Redknapp’s surprised us before.
Reading have been labeled by many as suffering from the second season syndrome – one of the things people forget about SSS is that if a club doesn’t reinforce the squad and if they don’t improve their playing style, they are obviously going to be countered the next season. Reading (and Wigan and West Ham before them) have made the mistake of playing the same way all the time, and once the goals dried up they didn’t have the squad depth or the tactical adjustments to compensate.
Reading will put up a good fight but Pompey have too many players who can win the game for them to worry.
Soccerlens Prediction: Portsmouth to win.
Sunderland (15) vs Blackburn Rovers (10)
This should be a good match to watch. Former Manchester United players going up against each other is always special but with these two, both tipped as future managers for Manchester United, there will be an extra edge.
Blackburn have scored just 5 times in the league, letting in 4 in the process. They sit 10th, a testament to their fighting spirit (only Derby has scored fewer goals, and they’re bottom). Normally you’d point to the Rovers as favourites for this game, but despite Gamst and Bentley playing well I don’t see Blackburn scoring more than once against Sunderland.
Sunderland have had a tough start to the season but they always threaten to score and at home I’d expect them to score at least once. The game could easily be decided by the third goal, but from how Sunderland and Blackburn have performed so far this season I’m predicting a draw.
Soccerlens Prediction: Draw.
West Ham (7) vs Arsenal (1)
A game that could easily change the complexion of the title race. West Ham will be looking to take at least a point from this game and after their high-flying start they’ll be aiming for an upset. West Ham know that they can score against Arsenal so the big question for them will be if they can score twice (even if West Ham defend like superstars, they’ll concede a goal to Arsenal).
Arsenal have been in free-scoring form this season (the 5 against Derby helped, but apart from that it’s been 2 per game so far) and they go into this game as favourites. I really don’t see how West Ham can beat them, but there’s hope and then there’s also the thought that last season, this Arsenal side was prone to stumbling and that will happen once again this season.
Soccerlens Prediction: Arsenal to win (despite my hopes for West Ham).
Wigan Athletic (12) vs Liverpool (4)
In simple terms – if Torres starts for Liverpool, this game is as good as over. On the other hand, if Torres is rested ahead of the midweek Champions League tie, then this game ‘could’ be interesting. However, I expect the likes of Kuyt and Crouch to score for fun against Wigan, and Liverpool’s ‘sit back and pick them apart’ style is well-suited to beating Wigan.
The stats will tell you that after a bright start, Wigan have faded and so have Liverpool. The stats will also tell you that Liverpool hold a stranglehold over Wigan in terms of recent performances. Don’t expect things to change.
Soccerlens Prediction: Liverpool to win.
Birmingham City (14) vs Manchester United (2)
A game that couldn’t come quickly enough. Birmingham City have had a topsy turvy season, first scoring freely but conceding goals and now keeping things tight at both ends of the pitch (they’re not scoring but they’re not conceding either). In midweek Steve Bruce rested his first team to give them time to be fresh for the home game against Manchester United and there’s no doubt that Brum, after an away draw against Liverpool, will be going for a smash and grab win against the champions.
Can Manchester United beat Birmingham? Certainly. Don’t let the midweek result fool you – Manchester United fielded the weakest team from all the top 4 clubs and that team got a deserved beating. The Manchester United starting XI is a different beast, and all they need is for one of their many stars to fire and the game will be over for Birmingham.
Soccerlens Prediction: Manchester United to win.
Sunday 30 September 2007
Everton (9) vs Middlesbrough (13)
Some say that Everton are in a mini-slump, but to me it’s just a case of a little readjusting – in the long run I see Everton making a strong case for 5th spot, although they’ll have Man City putting in a heavy challenge for it as well. I’d like to know what’s the deal with Yakubu though – why isn’t he playing for Everton these days?
Middlesbrough have no strikers and their defending has been scrappy and not as authoritative as you’d expect with Woodgate around. In an away game they’re likely to start with one up front and play 5-5, and while it would be brave of Southgate to go for a win I wouldn’t be surprised if Middlesbrough sat back and played for a draw.
Everton have been accused (by yours truly) of not doing enough to kill games off and they might have the same problem here – but they’ve got enough quality to put a couple past Boro and that should be enough for Sunday.
Soccerlens Prediction: Everton to win.
Monday 1 October 2007
Tottenham (18) vs Aston Villa (8)
Aston Villa have had a miserly defence this season, and away from home I’d expect them to continue in that spirit. The thing with Villa is that Martin O’Neill has no qualms with playing for a draw if he thinks it’s the best strategy for his team – it’s good to have a practical manager but sometimes his lack of adventure (if you can call it that) can play into the hands of the opposition team.
Tottenham have to win this game – not just because Jol wants to but just to get the media from going on and on about the ‘crisis’ at White Hart Lane. There’s no crisis at Tottenham, thank you very much – back-stabbing is very much the norm in football and at least Levy and co. haven’t found a replacement for Jol yet.
If Villa had Carew fit I would’ve given them a shot at victory, but right now it’s all Tottenham for me.
Soccerlens Prediction: Tottenham to win.
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 the madness is over.
Copy-paste into the comments and fire away:
Manchester City vs Newcastle United
Chelsea vs Fulham
Derby County vs Bolton Wanderers
Portsmouth vs Reading
Sunderland vs Blackburn Rovers
West Ham vs Arsenal
Wigan Athletic vs Liverpool
Birmingham City vs Manchester United
Everton vs Middlesbrough
Tottenham vs Aston Villa