EPL Week 23 – Previews and Predicitons
EPL Week 23 – Previews and Predicitons avatar

NEWS

Juan Mata unveiled at Manchester United

Manchester United have unveiled new signing Juan Mata at a press conference in Manchester.

The Spaniard said he was relishing the pressure of being the club’s record £37m ($55.5m) signing and playing with Wayne Rooney.

“I love the pressure. When people are suspecting big things from you then it’s a challenge but I am looking forward to being successful,” the 25-year-old said.

“This is a massive club. I’ve realized that since I came here and I’m really glad to be here. This is the club that has won the most trophies and it’s down to me to show people the football I have inside of me.”

Mata’s signing have raised questions about who will play in the number 10 position with Wayne Rooney currently operating in the role, however Mata does not believe there will be any problems.

“I will play anywhere the manager wants me to. I just want to help the team win as many games as they can,” he said.

“For me he [Rooney] is one of the best players in the history of this country. He is unbelievable, he can score and he can assist.

“I will try to connect with him as much as I can. I will try to find the gaps in defenses, try to be in the positions I have to be in to assist the strikers.”

Juan Mata was a record signing for Man Utd and will feature in the #8 jersey. (Getty Images)

Juan Mata was a record signing for Man Utd and will feature in the #8 jersey. (Getty Images)

It was thought Mata might wear the available iconic No. 7 jersey worn by United legends George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was revealed the Spanish international will don the No. 8 jersey vacated by Anderson who recently join Fiorentina.

“I know 7 is iconic here. I was speaking with David about it and we decided 8 is a good number for me. Hopefully it will bring me luck.”

United have been struggling this season to adapt to life without Alex Ferguson, who managed the club for 26 years, and they currently sit in 7th place in the EPL 14-points behind leaders Arsenal. However, despite the large gap Mata still believes the Red Devils can win the EPL.

“What I like the most about this club is the character. I think if another club were in this position in the league, I think it would be very difficult to come back and take first position, but this club can do it.

“This is the real image I have from Man United, always fighting to win titles, always coming back from difficult moments.

“The team is really good, the squad is really good. This season they have had some unlucky moments they didn’t deserve. Hopefully from now until the end of the season we will win as many games as we can.”

Moyes, who was criticized for failing to bring in a marquee signing during the summer, revealed his surprise that the club were able to do such a deal mid-season and said he would bring in more players of Mata’s caliber.

“I am thrilled, I got wind a month or two ago it could be possible but I never thought we would pull it off. When we got the sniff there was a chance Juan could be available we went after it right away. Congratulations to the club and [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward for getting the deal done. There will be more players like Juan in the future, I’ve no doubt about that.”

 

Essien Joins AC Milan

Chelsea’s Michael Essien has completed his move to AC Milan, signing a 17-month deal with the Seria A club.

The Ghana international joined the Blues in 2005 and will be officially unveiled at the San Siro on Tuesday, after both clubs struck a deal on Friday.

Michael Essien (L) has struggled to gain first team soccer for Chelsea. (Getty Images)

Michael Essien (L) has struggled to gain first team soccer for Chelsea. (Getty Images)

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told the Chelsea official website: “ We would have been happy had he stayed because he is a fantastic player for the team.”

“He’s given everything for the club and a great chance arrived for his future. I know he will continue to play at a high Level and I wish him success and happiness in Italy and at the World Cup in Brazil”, added Mourinho.

Essien signed for Chelsea from French Club Lyon in 2005, for a then club record fee of 24.4m, and immediately became an integral member of the squad helping the Blues to two Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

However, a couple of serious knee injuries have hampered Essien’s playing time over the last 5-years. The midfielder made only 10 starts during the 2011-12 and was an unused substitute in Chelsea Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich before moving to Real Madrid on loan last season.

He followed coach Jose Mourinho back to Chelsea last summer, but has found it hard to break into the team making only two starts and the £21m signing of Nemanja Matic has further decreased his chances of playing.

Essien becomes new AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf’s first signing. The Rossoneri are struggling this season and currently sit 9th in Seria A.

 

Predictions

FA Cup 3rd Round

Score

My Predictions

FRIDAY
Arsenal v Coventry 4-0 3-0
SATURDAY
Bournemouth v Liverpool 0-2 1-2
Birmingham v Swansea 1-2 1-1
Bolton v Cardiff 0-1 1-2
Man City v Watford 4-2 5-0
Southampton v Yeovil 2-0 3-0
Southend v Hull 0-2 1-2
Wigan v Crystal Palace 2-1 0-1
Stevenage v Everton 0-4 0-2
SUNDAY
Sheff Utd v Fulham 1-1 2-1
Chelsea v Stoke 1-0 2-1

A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got EIGHT correct results, including ZERO perfect scores, to give me a combined total of EIGHT-points.

Week 23

My Predictions

TUESDAY
Man Utd v Cardiff 3-0
Norwich v Newcastle 1-2
Southampton v Arsenal 1-2
Swansea v Fulham 2-1
Crystal Palace vs Hull 1-1
Liverpool v Everton 3-2
WEDNESDAY
Aston Villa v West Brom 2-1
Chelsea v West Ham 2-0
Sunderland v Stoke 2-1
Tottenham v Man City 2-2

Preview

TUESDAY

Manchester United v Cardiff City

The atmosphere at this game should be electric as the United introduce new record-signing Juan Mata and welcome back one of the club’s legendary cult heroes, new Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United lost their last game 3-1 away to Chelsea to increase the difficulty of them ending the season in a Champions League spot. The Red Devils actually played some neat and tidy soccer, but lacked the cutting edge in the final third and were once again punished at the back for sloppy defending.

David Moyes promised Juan Mata was the first of many exciting signings, but United will have to invest in some not so exciting defensive signings as they seem particularly weak and vulnerable without the ball.

Cardiff lost 4-2 away to Manchester City last week in the EPL, but bounced back from that defeat with a good 1-0 win away to Bolton in the FA Cup. The Bluebirds are currently bottom of the EPL, but a win at Old Trafford could propel them up to 16th position.

Man Utd have missed the fire power upfront and will be hoping to get Rooney and van Persie back playing . (Getty Images)

Man Utd have missed the fire power upfront and will be hoping to get Rooney and van Persie back playing. (Getty Images)

Manchester United record signing Juan Mata is expected to be given his full debut at the Theatre of Dreams, while Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie could also feature after both returning from injury.

United’s Captain Nemanja Vidic is suspended, meaning Rio Ferdinand could return to the starting fold to partner Johnny Evans at the back.

Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to restore a host of players to his starting line-up after they began the FA Cup win at Bolton on the bench.

Striker Jo Inge Berget, who has signed from Molde, could be involved.

Manchester United have only lost twice to Cardiff at Old Trafford in their entire history, with their last defeat coming way back on April 3, 1954. However, the Red Devils have already lost four EPL games at home this season, so this year could be Cardiff’s chance to break the streak.

Manchester United have needed a lift ever since Alex Ferguson left, but with Juan Mata joining the club and Rooney and van Persie close to returning things are starting to look up for the Red Devils.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Southampton v Arsenal

Southampton drew 2-2 away to Sunderland last week, though they could easily have left with all three points. However, the game was marred by two injuries to Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez, who both look likely to be out for over a month.

Arsenal picked up another three points with a good 2-0 win over Fulham last week to maintain their place at top of the EPL. The Gunners have not been playing their free flowing brand of soccer lately, but they have still been picking up points, which will please both manager Arsene Wenger and their fans.

Oliver Giroud ® came off the bench in the FA Cup match against Coventry and scored with his first touch.(Getty Images)

Oliver Giroud ® came off the bench in the FA Cup match against Coventry and scored with his first touch.(Getty Images)

However, injuries to keys players means Arsenal’s squad is almost down to its bare bones and the Gunners will probably have to invest in a couple of players in the next few days to increase the strength of their squad as they head into a series of massive fixtures during February and March.

Southampton are set to welcome back Rickie Lambert and Artur Boruc from injury, while Victor Wanyama (ankle) may return, but Dejan Lovren and Gaston Ramirez are out with ankle problems of their own.

Arsenal are likely to recall Wojciech Szczesny and Olivier Giroud to the starting  line up after their exclusion midweek in the FA Cup. Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Mikel Arteta (calf) and Thomas Vermaelen (knee) are expected to return to the squad, but Jack Wilshere (ankle) is a doubt.

Southampton have been one of the sensations of the 2013-2014, playing some of the most attractive soccer in the EPL. However, the Saints’ performances have fallen recently and they have definitely missed the presence of Wanyama.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine games against Southampton, and even though they are not playing at their best I fancy them to continue the winning streak.

Prediction: 1-2

 

Liverpool v Everton

It’s the Liverpool derby again and if the last game between these two is anything to go by then we should be in for an enthralling encounter on Tuesday.

Liverpool came from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa last week. The Reds were terrible in the first half and could easily have been four or five goals down, but they improved greatly in the second half and could even have stolen the game late on.

Liverpool continue to look lively going forward with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez upfront, but they look increasingly vulnerable at the back, which is worrying Brendan Rogers and Liverpool fans.

Leighton Baines seems to be relishing under new boss Martinez. (Getty Images)

Leighton Baines seems to be relishing under new boss Martinez. (Getty Images)

Everton currently sit sixth in the EPL just one point off Liverpool, who are in fourth place. The Toffees drew 1-1 away to West Brom last week, and look like they will continue to fight for the fourth Champions League spot until the end of the season.

Liverpool duo Joe Allen and Mamadou Sakho are the latest Red players to fall victim to injury and join quartet Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and Glen Johnson on the treatment table.

Everton also have injury troubles and will assess knocks to Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Antolin Alcaraz, Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar.

The last meeting between them provided the EPL with its best game so far this season, with both sides sharing the spoils in a 3-3 draw. Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 13 Premier League Merseyside derbies at Anfield (W6, D7), with Everton’s last away win coming courtesy of a Kevin Campbell goal in 1999.

Everton look a much-improved side under new coach Roberto Martinez and I fancy them to score a goal or two against the leaky Liverpool defense, but I feel the quality of Sturridge and Suarez upfront will edge the result in Liverpool’s favor.

Prediction: 3-1

 

WEDNESDAY

Aston Villa v West Brom

The second derby game of week 23 sees Aston Villa take on neighbors West Brom in the midlands Derby.

Benteke (L) has found his shooting boots and seems to found his form at the right time. (Getty Images)

Benteke (L) has found his shooting boots and seems to found his form at the right time. (Getty Images)

Aston Villa produced a terrific display at Anfield to draw 2-2 with Liverpool. The Villains looked full of pace and intensity, and really should have put the game out of sight before half-time. Christian Beneteke was once again on the score sheet, and if the Belgian keeps scoring Villa will have a good chance of finishing the season in the top ten.

West Brom earn a good 1-1 draw at home to Everton in new coach Pepe Mil’s first game in charge. The Baggies were thoroughly outplayed in the first-half, but changed things in the midfield at half-time and deservedly equalized in the second half.

Derby fixtures are always tough to call, but Villa have more options up front and that’s why I’ll back them to take this one.

Prediction: 2-1

 

Chelsea v West Ham

The final derby of week 23 sees west take on east, as west Londoners Chelsea take on east Londoners West Ham.

Chelsea seemed to have found consistency under Mourinho. (Getty Images)

Chelsea seemed to have found consistency under Mourinho. (Getty Images)

Chelsea maintain pace with Arsenal and Man City at the top of the EPL with a fine 3-1 over Manchester United. Jose Mourinho seems to have more or less settled on his best staring eleven, and the Blues look like they will be challenging for the title until the final day of the season.

West Ham’s woes continued with a 3-1 defeat at home by Newcastle last weekend to leave them lying in the relegation zone. The Hammers look in desperate trouble, as they cannot seem to score or defend at the moment.

The east Londoners have signed Roma striker Marco Borriello and AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino on loan until the end of the season, but whether those two players can change the Hammer’s fortunes remains to be seen.

Prediction: 2-1

 

Tottenham v Man City

The last game in week 23 is another mouthwatering affair as fifth place Tottenham take on second place Manchester City.

The last time these two sides played City scored within 14-seconds and eventually won the game 6-0. However, since then Spurs have changed their manager and are now unbeaten in their last 6 EPL games.

Adebayor and Tottenham have looked rejuvenated since Sherwood took over. (Getty Images)

Adebayor and Tottenham have looked rejuvenated since Sherwood took over. (Getty Images)

The return of striker Adebayor to the Spurs’ attack has been one of the reasons for the north Londoners return to form, and the Togolese international is sure to be fired up when he faces his former side on Wednesday.

Manchester City beat Cardiff 4-2 last week to continue their 100% record at the Etihad in the EPL this season. The Sky Blues have won all eleven of their home games scoring an incredible 48 goals in the process.

The Manchester club sits only one point behind Arsenal in the EPL, but have a few tough games coming up with Chelsea visiting them after their meeting with Spurs. If they can safely navigate their way through those two games and remain in touching distance of Arsenal then they will surely fancy their chances of recapturing the title they won in 2012.

The last game between these two was a one-sided affair, however, City are not the same team when they travel and I expect Tottenham to give them a real run for their money.

Prediction: 2-2

About Anthony Ta

Anthony Ta is a writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, specializing in Premier League, Champions League and the Euros.
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