10 games. Back to the real stuff! We can forget about the problems with the fixture as they’ve been moved, as expected, to GW33. That’s still 4 weeks away though- so let’s look ahead to this week!
Mucha; Coleman, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Osman, Gibson; Mirallas, Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic.
Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, K. Toure, Clichy; Y.Toure, Barry, Garcia, Silva, Milner; Tevez.
Everton remain without Howard between the sticks, while Jagielka is a massive doubt- Heitinga is his likely replacement.
City will remain with the same team that has been picking up the points in recent weeks, with Kolo Toure impressively slotting in for the injured captain Kompany. Aguero is expected to miss with knee soreness.
Man City haven’t been scoring bucketloads of goals recently, but their defence has been stoic. Since the New Year rolled in, they have conceded only 3 goals in a time where they have put 13 goals past their opponents. Away from home they have conceded a mere 13 goals all year- which is the equal lowest of any team in the Premier League. They have drawn 5 of their 14 away games though, which is a slightly higher ratio than their other top 4 comrades.
Everton however have lost merely one game at home all year- in a period where they have conceded a relatively high 17 goals- which is the same as Southampton and West Ham. This means that they are conceding each home game without getting blown out the water. A win isn’t likely against the defending Champions, but a draw is definitely on the cards.
I’m tipping a low scoring game- especially as Man City only managed to squeeze one goal past a leaky Aston Villa last PL meeting. A bet of <2.5 goals or <3.5 goals looks likely!
Guzan; Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Baker; Westwood, Sylla; Weimann, Bannan, Agbonlahor; Benteke.
Green; Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Fabio; Townsend, Mbia, Park, Hoilett; Remy, Zamora.
Delph is suspended for Villa, while N’Zogbia is battling to regain his starting spot he lost to Bannan.
Cesar is a doubt, while Taarabt seems to be on the outer at Loftus Road. Traore is struggling for fitness and is likely to miss again, handing Fabio the LB slot unchallenged.
Aston Villa have been a tippers nightmare this year. Getting thumped, then comprehensively beaten, then pulling out a result from nowhere. The fact remains they have still only won 3 home games this year ( two of them against West Ham and Reading who are terrible on the road). They have only scored 11 goals this year at home, from a possible 14 games- a ratio of less than a goal a game- which makes for terrible reading.
QPR under Redknapp have picked up 23 points from 19 games. Not great, but at least they’re getting results. Last week they blasted 3 goals in for the first time this year, and have been injected with new life from their new signings. They have only scored 13 away goals this year, but have conceded a mere 22- not bad for a team who sits rooted to the bottom of the table. In fact, of the entire bottom half of the table- QPR have conceded the least away goals!
Personally this game could go any way. Statistics say it will be tight- but this is a relegation scrap so goals traditionally fly in. Villa have a terrible home record- while QPR’s away record isn’t too bad. I honestly have no idea with this one- but I’ve got a feeling in my gut that Villa will get a much needed result.
Boruc; Clyne, Yoshida, Fonte, Shaw; Puncheon, Schneiderlin; Ramirez, Rodriguez, Lallana; Lambert.
Reina; Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Enrique; Downing, Lucas, Gerrard, Coutinho; Suarez, Sturridge.
At the back, Clyne will be pushing for a return- if he fails to make the final XI Hooiveld will deputise in at centre-half, with Yoshida sliding out to RB. Puncheon seems to be out of favour, while Rodriguez has started lately in his place.
Liverpool will hope to welcome back Reina after the first choice stopper was ruled out with a calf complaint last week. Elsewhere- Liverpool are unchanged.
Southampton have only won 1 game under new boss Pochettino- and have picked up 1 point in their last 3 games. Their defeat of Man City showed how clinical they can be at home, and considering they have only lost 1 of their last 5 home games they are in with a better shot than people think.
Liverpool have been very impressive since January, having climbed to 6th spot and have smashed home 21 goals in their last 7 matches. Delicious news for Suarez and Sturridge owners. Their away goal scoring record places them in the top four, meaning this trend isn’t tipped to stop anytime soon.
I reckon a high scoring game is in order, with Liverpool offering significant threat up front, while Southampton’s trio of Ramirez, Lambert and Rodriguez all possess significant attacking threat. A BTTS bet is what I’d be doing, with money on Liverpool winning probably at longer odds than they should be.
Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Wilkinson; Shotton, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Kightly; Walters; Crouch.
Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Dorrans, Morrison, Brunt; Lukaku.
Huth serves his final game of his 3 match ban, so the back four will remain the same as it has throughout his absence, with Wilson deputising at CB. Jerome is also a doubt after picking up a knock so Kightly could come into contention.
Reid is a doubt, but should pull up for the Baggies, while Long is a doubt meaning glory boy Lukaku will continue upfront unchallenged.
And so we get to the “who cares” game for the round. Stoke’s form has been diabolical in 2013, having only won 1 home game at the Brittania- against the cellar dwellers Reading. They have also lost 7 of their last 9 games… picking up points vs Reading and Wigan. Ordinary.
West Brom however don’t instil me with a lot of confidence in their away ties either. They have only won 1 away game since November 10th, and a lucky one at that in their 2-0 smash and grab at Liverpool.
I can see this being a 0-0, but West Brom will fancy their chances with the red hot Lukaku playing against a Huthless Stoke defence (pardon the pun).
Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Monk, Davies; Ki, Britton, De Guzman; Pablo Hernandez, Michu, Routledge.
Szczesny; Jenkinson; Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Giroud, Walcott.
Chico will miss again, so Monk starts again, while Dyer will be pushing for a start on one of the wings.
Szczesny was dropped midweek v Bayern, so his start is in doubt, while Sagna and Gibbs are both sidelined once again. Vermaelen was dropped midweek and Arsenal played their best defensive return of the year so I expect his absence to be prolonged. Wilshere is still out so Rosicky will play in the midfield with Cazorla on a wing.
Arsenal are tough to pick away. They’re 5-5-4 this year, and have been struggling to maintain any form of consistency. Their showing midweek was good- and with a new found defensive partnership I expect them to tighten up. They have only scored 5 goals in their past 4 away games mind you- so they’re hardly in explosive goalscoring form.
Swansea haven’t lost at home in their last 6 games, so Arsenal will find it tougher than most games- especially considering Swansea did them in during the reverse fixture at the Emirates. 10 goals in their last 5 home games highlight their consistency.
I’m tipping a draw here, with Arsenal probably the more likely of the two to sneak a win.
De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie.
Taylor; Kelly, Mariappa, Pearce, Harte; Robson-Kanu, Akpan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Hunt, Le Fondre.
United have no European commitments anymore so should go in full strength as they look to hammer home the title. Scholes is set to miss with knee problems. Nani misses with a knee complaint, handing Valencia a start.
Reading however are a basket case… This is how they rolled out last week but a new coach is sure to bring changes. Pogrebnyak misses with the last match of his three match ban being served. Guthrie is to miss with a knee problem.
Oh boy oh boy. This is going to get messy. Think 3 weeks of constipation finally being relieved in a shot glass…That messy. Well United are United… they’ve picked up 28 points from a possible 30- That’s 9-1-0 from their last 10. They’re also coming off a 4-0 drubbing of Norwich midweek- who aren’t actually defensively leaky.
Reading have only won 1 game away from home all year. All. Year. They’ve also lost four straight.
Where to put your money? Ha. As if you need to ask.
Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea, Bramble, Rose; Sessegnon, Larsson, N’Diaye, Johnson; Graham, Fletcher.
Bunn; Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Hoolahan; Kamara, Holt.
Sunderland’s formation with Graham is just so ordinary I expect them to change back to a 4-4-1-1… but when they do it nobody knows. Rose is fit at LB so Colback will miss out. If Graham is dropped, expect either McClean or Vaughan to earn a reprieve.
Norwich look set to continue with the 4-4-2 formation that accommodates Kamara, especially with the injuries to Pilkington and Tettey.
A tough one. Norwich have only 1 away win to their name all year, and have managed to concede a whopping 30 away goals all year- the third worst in the league. They are also on a torrid run, where they’ve won 1 of their last 10 games.
Sunderland’s recent form has been also been atrocious. No wins in their last 6 and 4 losses in that time mean Sunderland are under the pump. They have also got the second worst home goalscoring record in the league, with only QPR having scored less goals on their home turf. They don’t leak many goals though, conceding only 15 at the Stadium of Light this year- exactly the same as United at Old Trafford.
Sunderland have a poor scoring record and Norwich have a poor defensive record away. It looks like being a stalemate but I think Sunderland have enough up front to knock a few goals in- providing they drop Graham like they should.
Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Dembele, Parker, Sigurdsson; Bale; Adebayor.
Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Dejagah, Karagounis, Sidwell, Duff; Ruiz; Berbatov.
Dempsey is expected to miss, so Sigurdsson is likely to feature down the left with Bale in the hole. If Sigurdsson fails to recover from a dead leg he got v Inter then new boy Holtby might start with Bale shifting out left. Lennon should also come back into the foray after missing out last week through injury.
Fulham has been almost completely fantasy irrelevant all year, and their so-so team will turn out as they always do this week. The only injections they could make are loan signings Frimpong and Emanuelson, but a start for the pair looks unlikely.
Tottenham’s loss to Liverpool last week ended a 12 game unbeaten spell- but the Spurs are still a force to be reckoned with. They haven’t lost at home since Chelsea beat then 4-2 on October 20. That’s 7 home games ago! They should crush Fulham.
Fulham have been a complete basket case. Their last 8 games read as WDLWLDWD. Picking their results is tough- but on the road there’s a common theme. They suck. They’ve won 2 games on the road all year- which is half the amount of the second lowest Top 10 side.
Tottenham should win here, and win comfortably. If Tottenham don’t score I’ll shave my pubes and make them into a beard. You heard it here first…
Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Luiz, Lampard; Moses, Mata, Hazard; Ba.
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Collins, Reid, O’Brien; Noble, Taylor, Diame; Cole, Carroll, Jarvis.
Chelsea will rotate, but it’s Rafa so it’s anybody’s guess. I wouldn’t even bet on Ba starting even though Torres started last night! Mata should start, as should Azpilicueta, but prepare yourself for the worst.
For West Ham, they have a number of doubts- so it’s again a lottery who will start. Noble, Nolan, McCartney, Cole, Taylor and Tomkins all are unlikely so it leaves Big Sam with little options especially in midfield. I’d expect Noble and Cole to start due to necessity- but the others I’m slightly less confident about- wait for the press conferences.
Ah Chelsea. Bipolar is a word that comes to mind when thinking about their recent form. But what is the most surprising thing about Chelsea? They now have the best home defence in the league. I know- I didn’t see that coming either- but having conceded a mere 12 goals all year is nothing to sneeze at. They’ve also piled on 31 home goals- 9 more than 3rd placed Tottenham have managed.
West Ham on the road have been dreadful. Like- worse than Fulham dreadful. They have only scored 9 away goals (the worst in the league) and although they have won 3 away games, these have all come against opposition in ordinary runs of form.
Chelsea should win this- but I have my doubts about them winning comfortably. I can see a 1-0 or 2-0 win for them- but I can’t see West Ham scoring without a massive defensive blunder (which is perfectly within reason where Chelsea are concerned).
Al Habsi; Caldwell, Scharner, Figueroa; Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour; Di Santo, Kone, Maloney.
Elliot; Debuchy, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon; Gouffran, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Sissoko; Cisse.
Wigan are at full strength with McManaman the only fresh injury concern- but he’s not usually a starter anyways.
Newcastle are still without Ben Afra, Krul and Coloccini, but have suitable replacements in all positions. Sissoko will maintain his role in the hole with Ameobi a confirmed doubt. Cabaye is rated as a 50-50, and Anita will his replacement should he fail to make the trip to Wigan.
Wigan’s last home win came way back in November against the travelsick Reading- instilling me with absolutely no confidence at all that they’ll win this game. Then again- this is the time of year when Wigan decide to play football for once… so who knows what will happen!
Newcastle however have been pretty impressive since their French connection joined the ranks. They have won 4 of the last 6 games they’ve played- which sounds all dandy, but there’s one glaring problem. They have only won 1 away game all year (that’s as bad as Reading).
I’m a little torn for this game- as no one is screaming out for the win for me. On paper, Newcastle have the better side on paper, but this is Wigan’s favourite time of year… I still can’t go past the Toon to notch their second away win for the year though.
Time for the tips for this week… the tally currently stands at 27 to Seags, 26 to Matt and 22 to Stoodes.
Seags Matt Stoodesy
Everton v Man City 0-1 1-1
Aston Villa v QPR 2-1 2-1
Southampton v Liverpool 1-3 0-3
Stoke City v West Brom 0-1 1-2
Swansea v Arsenal 1-1 1-2
Man United v Reading 4-0 4-0
Sunderland v Norwich 2-0 1-0
Tottenham v Fulham 3-0 2-0
Chelsea v West Ham 2-0 3-0
Wigan v Newcastle 1-3 1-2
Anyway that’ll do it for this week, hope the 10 games will bring us a happier week all round!