Yet another massive week in the Premier League as we return to the real action after all the ” phoney” stuff in the FA Cup.
Some really serious results in the Cup which just goes to show that not too many top teams take it all too seriously. The matches this weekend in the Premiership all have a significance about them and there are several top class fixtures at both the bottom and the top. So here goes.
Aston Villa v Stoke
Nothing like an easy one to start with. Villa have a new manager in Tim Sherwood and I am sure there will also be a new atmosphere at Villa Park for his first game at home. He will be a new voice in the dressing room and as Shay Given said last week his team talk in the Cup game was just the tonic they needed.
Stoke are on a bad run. They have lost their last two games on the trot . Both defeats 4/1 and that included the Cup game with Blackburn. Time to steady the ship although it won’t be easy in this one. Stoke are struggling with a few injuries as they face into this game and that could work against them.
All that plus the Tim Sherwood factor might just be enough to get Villa over the Line.
Chelsea v Burnley
Chelsea were lucky to get my predicted draw mid week in the Champions League. PSG tore them apart at the back and Chelsea look vulnerable when they play the higher quality teams in Europe. From Paris to Burnley. It just hasn’t got the same ring to it.
I fancy this home side with something to spare.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Not an easy game to predict I think. Palace have done well under Pardew but they have struggled at home. No wins at Selhurst Park in their last three games and they are facing into an Arsenal side who are beginning to play effective football. It was a stroll for them in the Cup against Middlesbrough.
Alexis Sanchez is back for this fixture and that could be the key. The ground will be rocking for this all London derby. I am tempted for a draw but I feel that Arsenal will view this game as massive in their race to get a top four finish. The Gunners just might have enough.
Hull v QPR
Now this is a game and half. Six pointer and all that. Both sides come into the game after great recent results. QPR beat Sunderland away and that would some boost for them. They have appointed Chris Ramsey as the manager until the end of the season and it will be interesting to see how that works. He has huge coaching experience but being a manager is a whole different ball game.
Such a tight match home advantage just might be key.
Not convinced but a home win. Only just.
Sunderland v West Brom
Beaten by Bradford in the FA Cup and having a lash at the media. All signs that manager Gus Poyet is feeling the pressure methinks. Not the case with Tony Pulis. He can do no wrong at this stage. They thrashed West Ham last week in the Cup and things are looking up. The confidence levels will be sky high.
Sunderland have the same old problem to deal with. Too many draws. They are finding it hard to get wins and they need to start doing that to ensure they stay up. I think they probably will but I’m not convinced they will get a win in this one either. A draw for West Brom would be perfect for them and I think they will get that at least.
Swansea v Man Utd
Swansea at home against a Manchester United side who are just not playing well at all. And yet despite all that United have only suffered one defeat in their 19 games. They are struggling but still getting results. It’s all down to the individual players who every now and then produce one little bit of magic to make the difference.
I was surrounded by Manchester United fans this week at the launch of the Harry Gregg foundation in Coleraine and they are like all fans of any club. Hoping for better things around the corner. If you talk about players making a difference Falcao it seems is not one of those players. It does look as if he is still not fit and you wonder will be ever really recover from that bad knee injury which kept him out of the World Cup. It’s just not working for him and there’s no way United will spend the millions in the summer to keep him. A bit of a shame really as I really like him as a player.
Swansea are having an in between season. One of their best Wilfred Bony is gone and that has made a huge difference for them. They will work hard against United but I think the away side just might have enough in their tank.
Man City v Newcastle
Wilfred Bony should make his debut and Yaya Toure is back from the Africa Cup of Nations. They have Barcelona mid week and despite all the talk from pundits City are still not the real deal this season. Having said that they will be too good for Newcastle. Newcastle will paddle along mid table and have done well in recent weeks under new boss John Carver. I can’t see his side getting anything in this one. City to win with something to spare. Now Barcelona? That’s a different story.
Spurs v West Ham
Sam Allardyce faced some hostile reaction from fans after the hammering by West Brom in the Cup. Pardon the pun. Not a great result nor effort for a West Ham side who have lost form in recent weeks . Only two league wins in their last ten says it all. Andy Carroll will miss the rest of the season because of injury and that is a blow. West Ham won twice at White Hart Lane last season in the league and the league cup but it’s hard to make a case for them to win this one.
Spurs are on a great roll and in Harry Kane they have one of the best strikers in the league.
I just think they will have too much at home for a West Ham side who have lost their way.
Everton v Leicester
Everton were a little unlucky to lose at Chelsea last time out in the league and they will fancy their chances in this one. Leicester are just sliding off the pace and there is little it seems to stop that. No wins in their last four games shows a team who are struggling if you ask me. I just think they are doomed already. They will get results before its all over but I fancy the hoke side in this one.
Southampton v Liverpool
This could be the game to watch this weekend in the Premiership. Both sides are in the mix for the top four places and Liverpool are on a good run
Several Southampton stars turned their back on the Saints last summer and moved to Liverpool and you wonder what sort of reception they will get. Daniel Sturridge is currently in talks with Liverpool abut a new contract and so far those talks have failed to reach a conclusion. It seems he wants a wage rise. He will be crucial in this game. Southampton are ahead of Liverpool in the league and this is a vital game for both sides. A win for either team would be a massive boost in the race for a European place.
Southampton tend not to concede too many goals. In fact they are the meanest in the Premiership with only 17 conceded so it will be interesting to see who will play up front for Liverpool. It will also be interesting to see who will take the penalties if any are given. Interesting little spat that one.
I just have a hunch for the home side.
I think Southampton are a very good side and whilst most will go for a draw I’m backing Steve Davis to get the job done.
Home win but it will be close.