Thursday, April 7, 2011

INFTH Premier League Predictions

Wolves vs Everton- After receiving an absolute thrashing at the hands of Newcastle last weekend, Wolverhampton Wanderers find themselves fully immersed in what is fast becoming an absorbing relegation battle. At the moment, only six points stand between the eighteenth placed team, and Fulham in tenth, meaning that Wolves are not alone in their fears of the drop.

Everton seem to be bouncing back after another disappointing season, and I strongly believe that they will finish well, and possibly break into the top six. David Moyes is likely to find transfer funds hard to come by this summer, making the importance of Everton securing a Europa League place all the more pressing.

I expect an entertaining, hard fought encounter in this one, with both sets of players going hard at it for the ninety. Wolves have claimed some major scalps at Molineiux, and manger Mick McCarthy will hope that Everton are next.

Prediction: 1-1

Blackburn vs Birmingham- This one is about as big as they come, a relegation six pointer of the highest order. Both teams are in severe danger of facing the drop, but a win for either side in this encounter would go some way to relieving a little of the strain.

Following their Wembley cup triumph, no one would have predicted Birmingham to be this close to the relegation zone, but the Blues' drop in form since their Wembley victory has been as calamitous as their win over Arsenal was surprising, a disastrous dip, which could result in a place in the Championship next season.

For about two or three weeks, Blackburn manager Steve Kean has been under immense pressure. With the eyes of ambitious owners glaring down on him at all times, Kean knows the importance of winning this one, even after Rovers' brave, 0-0 draw with Arsenal last weekend.

Prediction: 2-0

Bolton vs West Ham- At half time last Saturday, it would have been hard to imagine the Hammers anywhere close to the bottom three, but after a second half collapse allowed Manchester United to win at Upton Park, Avram Grant's team slipped back into the dreaded relegation zone.

Key for West Ham will be keeping spirits up following the surrendering of that two goal lead, something that is easier said than done. One advantage that West Ham will have in this game though, is that many of the Bolton players will likely have half an eye fixed on a Wembley semi-final against Stoke, coming up next weekend.

Owen Coyle will no doubt claim that that Wembley showpiece will have no impact on Bolton's performance, but only the most naive of Premier League followers would believe that. Small teams building up to big occasions are notorious of taking their eyes off the ball, but if Bolton are to take three points from Saturday's match, then they must insure that they take no such liberties.

Prediction: 3-1

Chelsea vs Wigan- Last season, Chelsea won the league in this fixture, scoring eight goals to rout the Latics, and claim only their third Premier League title. However, times have changed since then, a fact no better illustrated than in Manchester United's Champions League victory over the Blues at Stamford Bridge. The Blues lacked cohesion upfront in that game, something they must develop if they are to get past a dogged Wigan side.

Roberto Martinez knows that trips to Stamford Bridge never define seasons, but the Spaniard will also realize that with games running out, any chance at points must be leaped upon.

David Luiz will most likely reclaim his starting spot in the center of defense, a fact that will cheer the Chelsea fans, but scare the living daylights out of Wigan, and of course, Bart Simpson.

Prediction: 3-0

Manchester United vs Fulham- After two straight, dramatic Barclays Premier League wins, United will hope that this game proves just a little more relaxing. However, with Wayne Rooney fulfilling the first part of a two match ban for swearing, the potential is there for a difficult afternoon.

Mark Hughes will no doubt remind his players of the importance of Rooney's absence, but in the back of his mind he'll know all too well that trips to Manchester United are always difficult. Last time he sat in Old Trafford's away dug out he was representing arch rivals Manchester City, a fact that he will be reminded about constantly by the vociferous Manchester United support. On that occasion, it was a late Michael Owen goal which controversially settled the tie, a moment that Mark Hughes will be keen to forget.

Set to get his first start in quite a while is Premier League top scorer Dimitar Berbatov. In recent weeks, the Bulgarian has been forced to play second fiddle to Mexican Chicharito Hernandez, but in the absence of Wayne Rooney, the two are likely to be paired upfront.

Prediction: 2-0

Sunderland vs West Brom- Winless for weeks, Steve Bruce will see this match as the perfect opportunity to end a streak of extremely poor form. West Brom meanwhile, are coming into this game off a fabulous two-one victory over Roy Hodgson's former club Liverpool, a result which has given them a fighting chance of survival.

Worryingly for Black Cats fans, the team hasn't scored since a home match against Spurs in February, a barren run which simply must be ended during this game. Since that Asamoah Gyan goal, Sunderland have only earned one point, albeit a fine nil-nil draw at The Emirates.

Key to West Brom's hopes in this game will be star striker Peter Odemwingie, who, after a poor run of form, looks to be rediscovering the goalscoring touch which served him, and the team so well during the first half of the season.

Prediction: 2-1

Tottenham vs Stoke- Last Tuesday, Tottenham suffered through one of the most harrowing experiences of the club's recent history, a 4-0 mauling at the Bernabeau. That result marked the end of a superb European run, one which saw them gain scalps against the likes of Inter Milan, AC Milan and Werder Bremen.

However, Harry Redknapp must make sure his players are focussed on this match, as Stoke City are unlikely to grant the home side any favors. Tony Pulis' men (like those of Owen Coyle) may well have one eye on next weekend, but even if they do, Spurs must take nothing for granted.

If Tottenham are to win this game, and get their charge for fourth back of track, then they will have to hope that their strikers are back in form, following three consecutive poor showings, against West Ham, Wigan and Real Madrid. Jermain Defoe in particular has looked off color, something which must change if Spurs are to push on in the league.

Prediction: 2-0

Blackpool vs Arsenal- Out of all but one competition, Arsenal fans know that if points are dropped here, then they may as well bag any dreams of Premier League glory.

Last time out, Arsenal were held to a lifeless nil-nil draw by Blackburn Rovers, a result which leaves them seven points off leaders Manchester United. Assuming United beat Fulham on Saturday, that gap will be stretched to ten, and if come the final whistle at Bloomfield Road the table remains untouched, we may as well hand the trophy to Ferguson.

For Blackpool, this game marks the beginning of a long string of home games which will define the Seasiders' season. Ian Hollaway  knows that the Tangerines must start picking up points, and although this match will be difficult, he'll believe his side is capable of taking the maximum.

Prediction: 1-2

Aston Villa vs Newcastle- On paper this game is an easy Aston Villa win, but very little about Villa's season has followed a set script. Gerard Houllier has not only been unable to push Villa into the top four, but he has also allowed them to drop down into the lower echelons of the Premier League, despite boasting three seasoned English internationals.

In Bent, Young and Downing, Villa have a potentially dynamic strike force, one which has performed well for England on several occasions this season. However, Villa's stars have been unable to translate international form to the club level, something which has resulted in Villa's lowly league position.

Newcastle took a big step towards safety last weekend with a 4-1 home win over Wolves. The Geordies did well to win that game, especially as they were coming off a thrashing away at Stoke. Certainly, Alan Pardew will expect more of the same come Sunday afternoon.

Prediction: 3-1

Liverpool vs Manchester City- Possibly the match of the week, and one that will go a long way to previewing the destinies of both these sides.

This match would be an ideal opportunity for Liverpool strike duo Andy Carrol and Luis Suarez to fully gel, while City will also hope that one of their big money buys, Eden Dzeko can open his account. Eden Dzeko's "worst buy of the window" tag is highly debatable, but only due to the continued struggle of Chelsea counterpart Fernando Torres. In short, he has flopped.

If City win this match it would send a clear signal of intent to Champions League rivals Chelsea and Spurs, while a Liverpool victory would assure the Reds of European football next season, and hinder the charge of close neighbors Everton.

Prediction: 2-1

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