新年快乐! Happy Chinese New Year to all! Today marks the end of the year of the water snake and the beginning of the year of the horse. So far no one has run away with the league, but the race for the EPL title does look like a three horse race with Manchester City leading the way and Arsenal and Chelsea both following close behind.
Who will be the recipients of good fortune this year? I guess we will all have to stayed tuned to find out.
Berbatov poised for Monaco
Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov is set to join French Ligue 1 side AS Monaco.
The 33-year-old, who is out of contract this summer, has scored five goals in 19 games this season, and was linked with a return to old club Tottenham.
However, it appears Monaco have hijacked any move to north London, as they seek cover for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao who is likely to be out for the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury.
However, Monaco boss Claudio Ranieri said there was “nothing definite” about any deal for the Bulgarian.
Manchester City chase Porto pair
Manchester City may have propelled themselves to the top of the league midweek, but the 2012 EPL champions are not resting on their laurels and hope to snatch Porto pair Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando before the January transfer window closes later today.
France defender Mangala, 22, who is valued at $57.6m by Porto, is one of Europe’s most coveted talents, with Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain reportedly keeping tabs on his progress, while Brazilian Fernando, 26, is a player who will help to add even more depth to City’s midfield.
The move for Mangala places even more scrutiny on the future of England defender Joleon Lescott, who has only played eight games for City this season.
Lescott, 31, has only six-months left on his current contract and is reportedly attracting interest from EPL clubs West Ham and Fulham, as well as Turkish side Besiktas.
Manchester United’s Zaha moves to Cardiff on loan
Cardiff City have completed the loan signing of Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha until the end of the season.
The 21-year-old is Cardiff City’s fifth signing during the January transfer window and the second player to join from United after Fabio Di Silva joined on a permanent deal earlier in the month.
“He [Zaha] should be [done] now, the name is on the papers,” said Cardiff coach Solskjaer.
“Probably we are done with signings, but there may be players going out on loan and some transfers as well.”
Zaha was Alex Ferguson’s last signing before his retirement when he signed from Crystal Palace last January. However, he was immediately loaned back to Palace meaning he never had a chance to play under the legendary coach.
Big things were expected from the winger after an impressive campaign with Palace in the Championship last season, however, Zaha has made just one appearance for United in the EPL under new coach David Moyes, coming on as a late substitute in the 1-0 defeat by Newcastle.
|Man Utd v Cardiff||2-0||3-0|
|Norwich v Newcastle||0-0||1-2|
|Southampton v Arsenal||2-2||1-2|
|Swansea v Fulham||2-0||2-1|
|Crystal Palace v Hull||1-0||1-1|
|Liverpool v Everton||4-0||3-2|
|Aston Villa v West Brom||4-3||2-1|
|Chelsea v West Ham||0-0||2-0|
|Sunderland v Stoke||1-0||2-1|
|Tottenham v Man City||1-5||2-2|
A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got FIVE correct result and ZERO perfect scores to give a modest FIVE-points, however, with the good luck brought by the Chinese New Year I have a feeling the a lot of this year’s predictions could be about to come true.
|Newcastle v Sunderland||2-2|
|West Ham v Swansea||0-0|
|Cardiff v Norwich||1-1|
|Everton v Aston Villa||2-2|
|Fulham v Southampton||1-2|
|Hull v Tottenham||1-1|
|Stoke v Manchester Utd||1-2|
|West Brom v Liverpool||1-3|
|Arsenal v Crystal Palace||2-0|
|Man City v Chelsea||2-1|
Newcastle v Sunderland
Week 24 kick-off with one of the most hotly contested rivalries in the EPL, as Newcastle take on neighbors Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear Derby.
Newcastle huff and puffed against Norwich midweek, but were unable to blow the Canaries’ defense down as the game ended in a 0-0 draw. The Magpies are currently going well in the league sitting in eighth place with 37-points, however, they suffered a bit of a blow midweek when they were forced to sell midfielder Yohan Cabaye after Paris Saint Germain made a $31.25m offer for the French international. Despite refusing to play for the club after they rejected a bid from Arsenal for him earlier in the season, Cabaye has been one of Newcastle’s top performers this season and will be sorely missed.
Sunderland continued their resurgence under new coach Gus Poyet with a fine 1-0 win over Stoke and are now unbeaten in their last eight EPL games (W4 D4). The Uruguayan coach has reinvigorated the entire Sunderland side, with Adam Johnson standing out in particular. The former Manchester City winger has put himself back in the frame for a call-up for England at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil with a series of outstanding performances—Johnson has scored or assisted in all of Sunderland’s last seven Premier League goals.
Newcastle will be without striker Loic Remy who begins a three-match suspension following his sending off against Norwich in midweek. While fellow forwards Papiss Cisse and Yoan Gouffran remain injury doubts, but loan signing Luuk de Jong is available.
Sunderland will assess right-back Phil Bardsley after he went off injured against Stoke. While new signings Ignacio Scocco and Liam Bridcutt are available for selection, but unlikely to start the game.
Newcastle lead the EPL head-to-head encounters between the two sides with 9 wins, 9 draws, and 5 losses. However, the Magpies have lost their last two games against the Black Cats, who are aiming for three successive derby wins for the first time since December 2nd 1923.
Sunderland are probably in the better form, but I expect Newcastle to play well and the game to end in a draw.
Hull v Tottenham
Hull are in a bad patch of form at the moment with four successive defeats in all competitions. They lost 1-0 midweek away to Crystal Palace in a tight a game, to draw them closer to the relegation battle at the foot of the table.
Tottenham were thrashed 5-1 at home by new EPL leaders Manchester City midweek. The north London side was thoroughly outplayed from the start, though the sending off of defender Danny Rose at 1-0 did end the game as a spectacle.
Hull will be without first choice keeper Allan McGregor who starts a three-match suspension for picking up a red card midweek, with 38-year-old Steve Harper coming into the team.
Stephen Quinn is in line to start in midfield, as on-loan midfielder Jake Livermore is ineligible against his parent club.
Tottenham will be without Danny Rose who is suspended, Jan Vertonghen has recovered from injury and should fill in at left-back.
Hull are in a poor run of form and have four games without either a goal or a point since beating Fulham 6-0. However, the Tigers have been solid at home this season—they have earned nearly four times as many points from their 11 home league games (18) than in 12 away fixtures (five points)—and will fancy their chances against Spurs.
Tottenham have won their only two Premier League games at Hull, but I think they will be hard pushed to continue the streak.
Stoke v Manchester United
Stoke’s poor run continued with a 1-0 loss away to Sunderland—The Potters have now lost five or their last six EPL games. However, the Potters have only lost twice at home in the league and will be sure to give a good account of themselves when champions Manchester United visit on Saturday.
The Red Devils got a good 2-0 victory over Cardiff midweek. Juan Mata made his debut, while Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both made their comebacks from injury. The champions were not back to their free flowing best, but there were signs of improvement.
Steven Nzonzi is unavailable for Stoke after picking up a red card at Sunderland, but Peter Odemwingie, who joined from Cardiff City on Tuesday, may make his home debut.
Wayne Rooney is pushing for a start after returning from injury midweek and could partner Robin van Persie for the first time this year. However, the Red Devils face trouble at the back with Nemanja Vidic suspended and Rio Ferdinand struggling with injury.
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last dozen league games against Stoke, winning all but one of those matches, but the Potters have taken points against Man City and Chelsea at home this season and are sure to give the Red Devils a tough game.
However, I think the purchase of Mata coupled with the return of Rooney and van Persie is going to give them the spark they have been missing and I expect them to win this one.
West Brom v Liverpool
West Brom were involved in a thrilling midlands derby with Aston Villa, but eventually lost the game 4-3. New coach Pepe Mel has got the Baggies playing some attacking soccer, but they still look a bit lightweight at the back and they will have to improve if they are to stand a chance against Liverpool.
The Reds brushed aside neighbors Everton in the Mersyside derby winning 4-0 and they could easily have scored seven or eight. Daniel Sturridge maintained his fine scoring form with another two goals, but he was quite selfish towards the end of the game, as he went in search for a hat-trick and Brendan Rogers displayed his displeasure towards Sturridge by hauling the striker off with twenty minutes still to play.
West Brom play some nice soccer at times, but their defense looks leaky and with Liverpool boasting one of the most prolific striker partnerships in the EPL I cannot see anything other than a Liverpool win.
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Arsenal survived a late surge by Southampton to earn a good 2-2 away to the Saints. The Gunners had chances to win the game at 2-2, but were made to sweat late on when Mathieu Flamini was given his marching orders for a two-footed challenge. From then on it was all Southampton and Arsenal defended resolutely for what turned out to be a good point in the end.
Crystal Palace continued their transformation under new coach Tony Pulis with a 10 victory over Hull. The Eagles were struggling at the foot of the table when Pulis took over, but are now up to 14th in the table having won five of the 11 games he has been in charge.
The EPL is so tight at the top and bottom of the table that every game seems to be vital. Arsenal lost their lead in the EPL to Man City midweek and will want to heap some pressure on league leaders by picking up three points before City’s clash with Chelsea on Monday. However, it will not be an easy feat against a Palace side who have become tough to play against under Pulis.
I expect Palace to trouble Arsenal and to keep things tight, but to ultimately leave the Emirates empty handed.
Man City v Chelsea
Week 24 ends with a blockbuster of game as league leaders Manchester City entertain third place Chelsea.
Manchester City jumped to the top of the EPL with a comprehensive display against Tottenham midweek. The Sky Blues beat the north Londoners 5-1, though the victory was bittersweet, as striker Sergio Aguero was forced off with a hamstring injury that is likely to rule him out for up to a month, meaning he will miss key games against Chelsea in the league and FA Cup, as well as the Champions League games against Barcelona.
Chelsea, meanwhile, threw everything and the kitchen sink at West Ham midweek, but failed to find a break through. After the game Jose Mourinho called West Ham’s style of play “Victorian era”, but the truth is that his side still lack a clinical goal scorer and will continue to find it difficult against teams that park a bus in front of the goal.
Chelsea are aiming to do the double over City, having beaten them at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season 2-1. However, they have their work cut out, as City have won all eleven of their EPL games at the Etihad this season scoring an average of 3.8 goals a game.
Chelsea have gone to Old Trafford and the Emirates this season and parked the bus, much the way West Ham did against them midweek and I expect them to do the same against City. However, City possesses probably the best attack in Europe at the moment and I think they will just edge this one.