It’s a midweek bonanza as some teams in the EPL try to catch up on games they have missed due to FA and League Cup commitments. There are only five games this week, but with Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City all in action they could have a huge bearing on where the EPL ends up in may.
The biggest game this week is without doubt the Manchester Derby. Man City have won four of the last five, but United have the greater overall record with winning 59 encounters to City’s 41 in the league.
Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs cleared by FA
Neither Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Kieran Gibbs will face supsension for the refereeing blunder that occurred during Arsenal’s defeat by Chelsea at the weekend.
Arsenal were reduced to 10-men when Referee Andre Marriner sent off Gibbs instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had handled a shot from Eden Hazard, despite Oxlade-Chamerlain admitting he committed the offense.
The Football Association transferred the red card to Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Arsenal successfully argued he had not stopped a goalscoring chance given Hazard’s shot was going wide, meaning neither player will be suspended for the Gunners upcoming game.
It was reported referee Andre Marriner might be dropped for the next round of EPL games, but the 43-year old appears to have also escaped punishment and will now officiate the Southampton v Newcastle game on Saturday.
Rules drawn up by world governing body Fifa state a player should only be shown a red card for handball if “the unacceptable and unfair intervention prevented a goal being scored”. The rules make no mention of a player’s intent when handling the ball.
The error has once again ignited the debate over whether referees should be able to use replays to aid their decisions in soccer, as is the case in the NBA, the NFL and many other sports across the globe.
However, the ever anti-technology cronies disagree. Uefa spokesperson Pedro Pinto said the error highlighted the need for additional goal-line officials.
He tweeted: “With an additional assistant referee on the end line, referee would not have got that sending off wrong. Technology is not the answer. More eyeballs are the answer.”
A correct result (i.e picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got EIGHT correct results, including ONE perfect score to give me a combined total of 10-points.
|Arsenal v Swansea||2-1|
|Man Utd v Man City||1-2|
|Newcastle v Everton||1-1|
|West Ham v Hull||0-1|
|Liverpool v Sunderland||3-1|
Arsenal v Swansea
Both these sides lost at the weekend and will be looking to bounce back with a good performance on Tuesday.
Arsenal were thrashed 6-0 by rivals Chelsea and desperately need a win against Swansea to stay in within touching distances of the leading pack. The Gunners have not been at their best in recent weeks and that is in large part due to a devastating catalogue of injuries to key players. However, a win on Tuesday would put them only four points behind Chelsea before they host Man City at the Emirates at the weekend.
Swansea have had an a disappointing season compared to last year and haven’t really been able to gain any sort of consistency. The Swans played magnificently against Everton at the weekend and created a host of chances, but poor defending cost them in the end and they eventually lost the game 3-2.
Arsenal have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs available to face Swansea after appealing against the red card shown to Gibbs on Saturday, but defender Laurent Koscielny is a doubt with a calf strain.
Swansea have no new injury worries and could hand a starting berth to fit again striker Michu.
Swansea beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates last season in the EPL, but Arsenal have won the last three games against Swansea in all competitions and I expect them to continue that streak.
Man Utd v Man City
This is undoubtedly the biggest game midweek and could have bearing on where the title ends up come the end of the season.
Manchester United bounced back from their defeat against Liverpool last week with a good 2-0 win away to West Ham. Wayne Rooney scored both of United’s goals, with his first one a contender for goal of the season. The Red Devils were without striker Robin van Persie, but played well as they employed a different system with Kagawa and Mata playing behind Rooney.
Man City thumped Fulham 5-0 to maintain their pursuit of Liverpool and Chelsea. The Sky Blues made easy work of EPL’s bottom side and will go top of the EPL if they win their three games in hand. However, those games include the trip to Old Trafford against Man Utd and then a visit to the Emirates to face Arsenal at the weekend.
Manchester United have defensive worries with defenders Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling all major doubts, while United captain Nemanja Vidic is definitely out as he completes a two-match suspension.
Manchester City will be without Matija Nastasic and Sergio Aguero who remain absent with knee and hamstring injuries respectively, but skipper Vincent Kompany returns after his one-match ban.
United lost this game 4-1 earlier in the season away to City, and have lost four of the last five meetings against City. Indeed, City have won on their last two visit to Old Trafford.
United have been poor at home all season—The Red Devils have lost as many Premier League home games this season (five) as in the previous three put together—and just cannot seem to string a run of games together. They have played well and won their last two games, but those games were against lesser oppositions and I’m not convinced United can mix it with the big boys yet—in matches against the current top six at home this season, United have won just once – against Arsenal. (D1 v Chelsea, L2 v Liverpool, L1 v Tottenham and L1 v Everton).
City desperately need a win to maintain the pressure on Chelsea and Liverpool and I think they will get it.
Liverpool v Sunderland
Liverpool continue their pursuit of a first league title in 24-years with a tremendous 3-6 away win to Cardiff.
The result did not tell the full story of the game and Liverpool actually came back twice in the first-half. However, they made their class show in the end and Luis Suarez was once again the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick and creating a goal for Daniel Sturridge.
Sunderland’s poor form continued as they went down to their fourth defeat in five games, going down 2-0 away to Norwich. The Black Cats’ EPL form seem to be suffering for their great Cup form and they need to start picking up points soon or they will be left behind in the relegation zone.
Liverpool are flying and are the only side in the EPL still unbeaten in 2014. They are the top scorers in the EPL at the moment with 82 goals, and their striking duo of Suarez and Sturridge (47) look set to break Alan Shearer and Chris Suttons goal tally of 49 goals in a season and challenge the record set by Newcastle’s Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole’s record of 55 goals set in 1994.
Sunderland’s intensity seems to have dropped and they will need to get back to basics if they want to have a chance of remaining in the EPL. I expect them to sit deep and defended doggedly, but I think Liverpool’s skill and guile upfront will see them win this game comfortably.