Greetings fellow addicts! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be frothing at the chance to sit back and enjoy the weekend’s games after a 2 week break. Beware though, I don’t think we’ll see as high a scoring week as we’ve seen recently. The captains pick may not make as big an impact as Aguero and Suarez have made this month, so picking the right differential could give you the edge…
Everton v Liverpool
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Barkley, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar, Lukaku, Mirallas
Liverpool: Mignolet, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Cissokho, Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Couthino, Suarez, Sturridge
The early kick off on Saturday sees Roberto Martinez’ men take on Liverpool at Goodison Park. An awesome start to the weekend, but I think it could be a tightly contested affair and the visitors will find it difficult getting past the resilient Everton defense. We will more than likely see the Toffees start with the same team that ran out in GW11, but I’m hoping we’ll get to see Barkley on instead of Osman. The goal scoring chances seem to have dried up since he lost his starting berth and the Everton attack needs some spicing up after netting just twice in the last three.
Liverpool look set to be without Jose Enrique for an extended period of time and with the Liverpool manager reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, we’re likely to see Cissoko fill in at left-back. Suarez is on fire but I’m not sure he’ll rake in as many points this weekend as many of you will be hoping. I think Everton have enough in them to hold Liverpool so I’m expecting a low scoring game.
Arsenal v Southampton
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud
Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Rodriguez, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Lallana, Osvaldo, Lambert
The Gunners return to the Emirates after tasting defeat at the hands of bitter rivals, Man Utd, last time out. Flamini serves a one-match ban and Aaron Ramsey should recover in time to line up alongside Arteta in the midfield. Walcott has returned to training but it’s unlikely he’ll get handed a start straight away. The backline has been leaky and you’d expect The Saints to find a way through. Up top, Giroud will need to hit the back of the net and regain the faith we once had in him. He’s scored just once in the last 7 game weeks but has been ticking over with the occasional assist.
Believe it or not, Southampton could go top of the log with a big enough win over Arsenal. I don’t think they’ll have enough to defeat the Gunners at their home ground, but they certainly have the players and form to earn themselves a draw. Lambert is finding his form and Lallana will be in a buoyant mood after getting a call up to the National squad midweek. I’m going with a draw and goals for both sides.
Fulham v Swansea
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Hughes, Hangeland, Senderos, Richardson, Kasami, Sidwell, Parker, Dejagah, Ruiz, Berbatov
Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Chico, Davies, Dyer, De Guzman, Britton, Shelvey, Routledge, Bony
Fulham will be without Sascha Riether once again as he continues to serve his 3-match ban. Aaron Hughes should continue to deputize at right-back and Bede Hangeland is expected to shake off his leg problem. The Craven Cottage side will need Berbatov to show his magic if they hope to get themselves out of the mess they’re in at the moment. The Fulham defense is a shambles so they’ll be relying on the Bulgarian, as well as the budget priced Pajtim Kasami, to score more than the opposition.
The Swans have Michel Vorm back but are still without Pablo Hernandez and Michu. Wilfried Bony will be the target man up front and may get the assistance of Jonjo Shelvey in the midfield. Judging by recent form, you’d expect The Swans to take it comfortably, but I think it’ll be a tight, low scoring affair. I’m going with a 1-1 draw.
Hull City v Crystal Palace
Hull City: McGregor, Figueroa, Elmohamady, Davies, Rosenoir, Livermore, Huddlestone, Boyd, Brady, Koren, Sagbo
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Gabbidon, Delaney, Ward, Moxey, Dikgacoi, Bolasie, Jedinak, Bannan, Chamakh, Thomas
Chester and Aluko remain sidelined and Stephen Quinn has been ruled out for 4-5 weeks with a hamstring injury. The Tigers should have Brady and McGregor return to the starting XI though and we’re likely to see Sagbo upfront. Hull have been pretty impressive at home and have kept clean sheets in their last three at The KC Stadium. I’m backing the likes of Figueroa, Elmohamady and Davies to come away with another cleanie. Palace have failed to score in 6 of their last eight and there aren’t many signs of that goalscoring form changing.
Palace don’t seem to have any new injury concerns, so we’re likely to see the same eleven that faced Everton a fortnight ago. Chamakh continues to disappoint in front of goal, so Millen could look to Dwight Gayle to somehow change things up. I can see a 1-0 win for The Tigers, so wouldn’t bother too much with the Palace prospects.
Newcastle v Norwich
Newcastle: Krul, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, Santon, Tiote, Sissoko, Cabaye, Ameobi, Gouffran, Remy
Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Bennet, Turner, Olsson, Snodgrass, Elmander, Howson, Fer, Pilkington, Hooper
The Magpies have grabbed our attention over the past few weeks with back-to-back wins over Chelsea and Tottenham and the short-term future looks pretty rosy for them. With 2 clean sheets in those victories, Fabricio Coloccini and Williamson look decent bets at the back. With Debuchy serving a ban, Yanga-Mbiwa will have another chance to fill in at right-back. My pick for this game would be Yohan Cabaye. The midfielder has produced attacking returns in four of his last seven and is proving to be an intrical part in the Newcastle setup. Most will be looking to Loic Remy though to bring home the points.
Norwich don’t have much news on the injury front. Chris Hughton will still be without Ricky Van Wolfswinkel as he continues to struggle with his toe injury. This will allow Gary Hooper to lead the line. Anthony Pilkington is expected to recover in time from a hamstring injury he picked up against The Hammers. The Newcastle form and confidence should be enough to get them home this weekend and they may very well pick up another clean sheet in the process.
Stoke City v Sunderland
Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters, Walters, Palacios, N’Zonzi, Ireland, Arnautovic, Crouch
Sunderland: Mannone, Celustka, O’Shea, Brown, Bardsley, Johnson, Ki, Colback, Giaccherini, Larsson, Fletcher
Over the past few seasons, it’s been the Stoke defense that you’ve been able to rely on for consistent points. Unfortunately this year it’s a different story. We should see an unchanged XI from the one that faced Swansea last time out and it’s the attacking half of The Potters’ side that looks more intriguing. Ireland, Walters and Crouch have all put up their hand over the past few weeks and will be worth monitoring with a fairly kind run of fixtures on the horizon.
The Sunderland outfit should also send out the same eleven from their last matchup– and why not! An impressive showing against City will instill some confidence into a side that has struggled for form this season. Cattermole and Dossena continue to serve their three-match ban and Steven Fletcher will lead the line in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The return of Wes Brown has been instrumental and may be enough to earn Sunderland a point at The Britannia. I’m going for a draw, probably goalless.
West Ham v Chelsea
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, Morrison, Nolan, Noble, Collison, Cole, Downing
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Willian, Ramires, Lampard, Hazard, Oscar, Eto’o
West Ham have a number of injury concerns and will be forced to continue with the 4-6-0 formation that has seen them keep two clean sheets in their last three. Unfortunately for them, they’re coming up against a side looking to get back in the title race after a poor showing last time out. New signing, Razan Rat, is a doubt and we should see Joey O’Brien cover for him, should the Irishman recover from a knock in time. Collins is also a slight doubt at the back. Besides the promising showing of Ravel Morrison, there isn’t too much to get excited about further up the pitch.
Chelsea may be playing away from home, but with the lack of attacking options in the West Ham side at the moment, I’d put money on The Blues keeping a clean sheet. Although they haven’t managed to keep a team out since game week 5, Ivanovic and Terry have the perfect opportunity to show their value. With games against Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke coming up, Eden Hazard may emerge as the stand out pick in a midfield that has been notoriously difficult to pick from. Torres remains sidelined and Eto’o will have the chance to add to his recent goal scoring form. 2-0 Chelsea.
Man City v Tottenham
Man City: Pantillimon, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Demichelis, Kolarov, Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Milner, Aguero, Negredo
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Townsend, Sandro, Paulinho, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Soldado
At first glance, both these sides seem pretty evenly matched in terms of points and log position. Dive a little deeper into the stats and you’ll realize that it’s City who should have the upper hand this weekend. Besides their impressive home form, City have scored 28 goals this season, to Tottenham’s 9. Kompany and Silva are still sidelined but Pellegrini should have Fernandinho and Nastasic back in the fold.
The Spurs’ midfield is a bit of a guessing game at the moment. The injury to Christian Eriksen means Lamela or Holtby could be handed a role in “the hole”. If I was the Spurs boss, I’d bring Lennon in on the flank and playing Sigurdsson up the middle. Rose is still out at the back so we should see a backline of Walker, Dawson, Chiriches and Vertonghen. This game could go 2 ways. Either Tottenham will hold them to a draw, or City will walk it. I’m leaning towards a comfortable win for City.
Cardiff City v Man Utd
Cardiff: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Cowie, Medel, Gunnarsson, Odemwingie, Bellamy, Whittingham
Man Utd: De Gea, Evans, Vidic, Jones, Evra, Nani, Fellaini, Cleverly, Kagawa, Rooney, Van Persie
Cardiff have been a decent side at home this season and United won’t have it easy. The Bluebirds had record signing Andreas Cornelius return from an ankle injury this week, with an appearance for the reserve side. It’s tricky picking the midfielders from the Welsh side, as Bellamy, Cowie and Odemwingie all look to tussle it out for a starting berth.
Phil Jones and Rafael are doubts for the United side, but they do have Nemanja Vidic back. Fellaini should partner Cleverly in central midfield in the absence of Michael Carrick and it’ll be a toss up between Junuzaj and Kagawa for a place on the left flank. Robin Van Persie is expected to start despite a continuing worry of a toe injury. Rooney has had a lot of soccer over the past few weeks and may be due a rest, but I’m not sure Moyes can afford the luxury. United to win it 2-1.
West Brom v Aston Villa
West Brom: Myhill, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Yacob, Mulumbo, Anichebe, Sessegnon, Amalfitano
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Clark, Vlaar, Baker, Westwood, El Ahmadi, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
The Baggies should have come away from Stamford Bridge with all 3 points and will go into a fairly kind run of fixtures with the confidence gained from the Chelsea and Man Utd clashes. Steven Reid will remain in the right-back slot and Myhill is a slight doubt with an Achilles problem. Both Nicolas Anelka and Scott Sinclair are near full recovery, but I doubt they’d be thrown in right away. Shane Long will have the opportunity to link up with Sessegnon once again. The Frenchman has looked lively lately and is my pick of the midfielders for the next few game weeks.
The goals have dried up for Benteke since his return from injury, but a favourable run of fixtures could see him return to the form he showed at the start of the season. Strangely enough, it’s Villa’s defense that many will be considering for the next few weeks. Paul Lambert’s side have tightened up at the back and Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker offer us some great budget friendly options at 4.4 and 3.9 respectively. I don’t see much for the defenders this game week though as I’m going with a 2-1 win for the home side.
Good luck and have fun agonizing over that ever-important transfer!