Thursday, March 31, 2011

INFTH Premier League Predictions

West Ham vs Manchester United- It's getting to that period of the season where the fixtures are just starting to run out. The smell of Spring is in the air, and for Manchester United fans that pleasant aroma is almost always coupled with anticipation of another silver lined season.

However, standing in the way of United's title charge this weekend is an inform West Ham side, for which the bnternational break came at exactly the wrong time. The Hammers were in great form, with the midfield triumvirate of Parker, Noble and Hitzelsperger linking well with new signing Demba Ba. Avram Grant will  hope that his side's latest coup (0-0 draw at Tottenham) was merely a continuation, and not a culmination of the Hammers' good form.

For United, the break couldn't have been more welcome, as it provided an ideal recuperation period for United's shattered back line. Rafael, O'Shea, Vidic and Brown are all either fit or well on their way to fitness, a fact that will come as a huge relief to avid supporters of Manchester United.

Prediction: 1-3

Birmingham vs Bolton- In a rematch of a recent FA Cup quarter final, Owen Coyle's Bolton side travel to St. Andrew's to battle relegation threatened Birmingham City.

Birmingham's drop in form since their cup final success has been well documented, so I fell no need to rehash the details of their recent poor results. The only stats that really need to be examined with respect to Birmingham are those pertaining to their current position in the league table, i.e. their paltry thirty-one points.

For Bolton, this game serves as another fixture in the build up to their semi-final clash with Stoke. Well clear of relegation, but still some way off Europe, Bolton can afford to turn their attentions toward that match, something that may well play into Birmingham's hands.

Prediction: 3-1

Everton vs Aston Villa- For most of this season Everton have been very poor. A combination of continued injury problems, and below par performances from key players have resulted in their dip down the table.

On the other hand, Villa haven't been much better, with Gerard Houllier's side fully entrenched in the relegation mire. It's amazing how bad Villa have been this season, especially as their forward line of Downing, Young and Bent have done so well for England in recent internationals.

With both sides off form, Everton will probably be tipped to win this game considering it's venue, but the Toffee's have been so poor at home this season that I struggle to pick them to win this game.

Surely, some time soon, Villa's attacking stars will click into gear, and I think this could be the day.

Prediction: 1-4

Newcastle vs Wolves- Of these two teams, it is Wolves that is in the deepest relegation hole, with news coming through this week that striker Kevin Doyle will miss the rest of the season through injury. However, if Mick McCarthy's side were to win this game, then it would be Alan Pardew's Newcastle United team who might have to start looking over their shoulder.

Wolves come into this game off the back of one of their biggest wins in sometime, a 1-0 victory over arch rivals Aston Villa, courtesy of a goal from recently capped winger Matt Jarvis. That win will have instilled some real confidence into the Wolves side, and I expect them to give a Newcastle a run for their money when the sides clash on Saturday.

Prediction: 2-1

Despite their current position of eleventh, Newcastle United sit only four points outside the relegation zone, and the Geordies will be well aware of the potential effects of a home loss against Wolves. It is vital that Newcastle stay up this year, so as to continue their march forward following relegation back in 2009, so a loss in this game would start to make a few people very nervous indeed.

Stoke City vs Chelsea- Much maligned for most of this season, Carlo Ancelotti's side seem to be gaining some much needed momentum. Brazilians David Luiz and Ramires guided the Blues to victory last weekend, but Chelsea fans will be looking for record signing Fernando Torres to provide the goods this time around.

There is a real feeling of euphoria around the Brittania Stadium, after an FA Cup quarter final win was followed by an emphatic 4-0 victory over Newcastle, one that palliated any lingering relegation fears. Stoke fans will understand that a win over Chelsea is unlikely, despite the quality of recent results, but I imagine that Tony Pulis would expect his side to grind a draw out of this one.

Prediction: 2-2

West Brom vs Liverpool- Since taking over for Roberto Di Matteo, Roy Hodgeson has done quite well as West Brom boss, and he will be looking to prove a point as his new side battle his former employers.

Not enough can be said about the remarkable renaissance Liverpool have enjoyed following the return of Kenny Dalglish. The Reds looked formidable last week as they ousted Sunderland by a score of two goals to nil, and that result was only the latest in a run of sparkling performances. The second goal of that gamehighlighted the quality of this Liverpool side, and in particular new signing Luis Suarez. Having danced through two defenders Suarez rifled a shot past Craig Gordon, which found the net despite being fired at the most acutest of angles. Suarez has been brilliant since signing in January, and that goal only served to underline his class.

Strike partner Andy Carrol meanwhile has ye to find the net in Liverpool colors, though to be fair he has been out injured for most of his stay in Merseyside. The former Newcastle man scored his first England goal midweek against Ghana, and Liverpool fans will hope that he can score a first goal for his club side, on the occasion of Saturday's trip to West Brom.

Prediction: 2-2

Wigan vs Tottenham- Once again, Tottenham have to be warned not to let their eyes stray from Saturday's trip to Wigan, to the more pressing matters of a Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match against Real Madrid on Tuesday.

The whole of Wigan breathed a sigh of relief last week as Maynor Figueroa's injury time winner gave the Latics a precious 2-1 win over fellow relegation candidates Birmingham City. Even after that game Wigan remain firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, but Roberto Martinez will hope that at least a point can be claimed from this encounter, and a drive up the table sparked.

Most of Spurs' players will come into this game off the back of appearances over the international break, and it will be interesting to see how their energy levels are effected by that. Certainly, the Spurs players will have to be back on form, with fully charged batteries, for Tuesday's trip to Spain, making a successful warm-up game an absolute must.

Prediction: 0-2

Arsenal vs Blackburn- Unfortunately for Arsenal, it does appear that Robin Van Persie will miss this game, but the team will still be boosted by the return of captain and best player Cesc Fabregas. Last time out or the Spaniard, it was his mistake which led to a Champions League exit, so Gunners fans will hope that Fabregas comes into this match with a clear head, all thoughts of silly back heels behind him.

Blackburn are another team slowly slipping into the relegation mixer, so Steve Kean will hope that his team can put up a staunch resistance to an Arsenal team that will be smelling blood. Key to his side's hopes will be  central defender Christopher Samba, the man most likely to be tasked with marshaling the back line for Rovers.

Arsenal's title hopes are already beginning to fade, and if all three points are not gleaned from this fixture,then Gunners fans can cancel all plans for celebratory parties and open top bus tours.

Prediction: 2-0

Fulham vs Blackpool- Revitalized by the return of star man Charlie Adam, Ian Hollaway's Blackpool side will be hoping to push out of the bottom quarter in the next few weeks.

However, if a push up the table is in the offing, then it is unlikely to start with a win at Craven Cottage. Mark Hughes' Fulham side are always tough to beat, even more so when they have the full backing of a vociferous home crowd.

With Bobby Zamora back from injury, and Clint Dempsey always a goal threat, Fulham certainly have the weapons to break down a fragile Blackpool defense, and if the home side manage to take an early lead, then it could be a very long afternoon indeed for the Tangerines.

Prediction: 3-1

Manchester City vs Sunderland- Difficult on paper, Steve Bruce may actually see this game as an opportunity to rack up a few more points. Midweek, Asamoah Gyan absolutely torched City defender Joleon Lescott, and if Ghanaian international Gyan can get into a one on one battle with Lescott there will only be one winner.

City were truly terrible against Chelsea last weekend, and Roberto Mancini will know that his side have to improve, or risk losing the fourth and final Champions League spot. As of now, City hold a four point lead over Tottenham having played a game more, and if Spurs beat Wigan on Saturday, then the pressure really will be focussed on the Sky Blues come kick off on Sunday.

Crucial to City's hopes in this game will be the form of their strikers, and with Tevez off form, Dzeko looking incapable of scoring in a brothel, let alone the Premier League, and Balotelli too busy throwing darts at reserve players to give a jot, that doesn't bode well.

Prediction: 0-1

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