It is week 27 in the EPL and with only 11 games left to play things are really starting to heat up. As usual this week has an array of exciting games to choose from, but this Sunday could prove to be extra special with Liverpool playing Man City, Arsenal hosting Everton, whilst at Wembley there is the little matter of the League Cup final between Chelsea and Tottenham.
Chelsea sign $61.7m-per-year shirt deal
Chelsea has signed a shirt with a Japanese tire manufacturer that is reported to be the second biggest in English soccer.
The EPL leaders signed a five-year deal with Yokohama Rubber Company that is reportedly worth $61.7m per season, eclipsing their current deal with Korean electronics giant Samsung that is worth approximately $27m per season.
“Chelsea and Yokohama are a perfect fit. Both are global organizations with a focus on performance and innovation, as well as having huge ambition and an unwavering culture of success,” Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said on the club’s website.
Manchester United currently boasts the biggest shirt deal with U.S. car brand Chevrolet who signed a seven-year deal with the Red Devils worth around $77.2m per season.
Wilshere has minor ankle procedure
Jack Wilshere’s return from injury has been put back with the midfielder having a minor procedure on his ankle to stop discomfort.
The Arsenal midfielder has not featured for the Gunners since his side’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United in November.
He had surgery on his ankle in November and returned to the bench for the north Londoners last week for their trip to Crystal Palace. However, Wilshere’s return to action has been temporarily postponed with the midfielder undergoing minor surgery.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said Wilshere had two pins removed from the joint to combat discomfort but said he would be missing for “days, not weeks”.
Arsenal host Everton at the Emirates on Sunday, and will be looking for a positive result and performance after a disappointing result midweek in the Champions League.
Last Week’s predictions
|Aston Villa v Stoke||1-2||0-1||1-2||2-1|
|Chelsea v Burnley||1-1||3-0||2-0||2-0|
|Crystal Palace v Arsenal||1-2||1-2||0-2||1-2|
|Hull v QPR||2-1||2-0||1-1||2-0|
|Sunderland v West Brom||0-0||1-1||1-3||1-0|
|Swansea v Man Utd||2-1||1-1||2-1||1-3|
|Man City v Newcastle||5-0||3-0||3-1||2-0|
|Tottenham v West Ham||2-2||2-0||2-1||2-1|
|Everton v Leicester||2-2||2-1||3-0||2-1|
|Southampton v Liverpool||0-2||1-1||0-1||2-2|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point. Getting the exact score correct earns THREE points.
Last week I got FIVE correct results, including ONE perfect score to give me a total of SEVEN-points, but it was not enough to beat challenger LUKE who managed to get FIVE correct results, including TWO perfect scores to earn a total of NINE-points.
Do you think you can do better? If so, why not try your hand at week 27 by leaving your predictions at the bottom of the page. Good luck!
This Week’s Predictions
|West Ham v Crystal Palace||2-0|
|Burnley v Swansea||2-1|
|Man Utd v Sunderland||2-0|
|Newcastle v Aston Villa||1-1|
|Stoke v Hull||2-0|
|West Brom v Southampton||1-1|
|Chelsea v Tottenham (League Cup final)||2-1|
|Liverpool v Man City||2-2|
|Arsenal v Everton||3-1|
Man Utd v Sunderland
Manchester United suffered a disappointing defeat last week and will be hoping to bounce back with a positive performance and result against Sunderland on Saturday.
United lost 2-1 away to Swansea and while the final goal had an element of luck about it, the Red Devils can have little complaints as they played without any real conviction.
The defeat was only United’s second in 20 games, but they have played poorly for a while and it seems their luck finally ran out on. Luis van Gaal cannot seem to make up his mind about his best team and is constantly changing his system and team personnel, which is probably why United always look like bunch of pick-up players.
Sunderland drew 0-0 with West Brom last week, though they were unlucky not to win as they dominated and unfairly had a goal ruled offside. That draw means they now sit just three-points above the relegation zone and have only won once in their last nine games (D4 L5).
Manchester United will be without forward Robin van Persie who injured his ankle in last week’s defeat at Swansea. Michael Carrick has returned from injury but lacks fitness and is unlikely to feature.
Sunderland’s Emanuele Giaccherini is probably out for the remainder of the season after undergoing ankle surgery, whilst Billy Jones and Jack Rodwell still are not quite fit enough for the trip to Old Trafford, though they could feature against Hull on Tuesday.
Manchester United have not played well for a while and need to get their act together soon, as although they currently sit fourth only four points separate third to seventh in the table and they have a tough run of fixtures coming up—they play Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea within the space of a month from mid-March.
The loss of van Persie might actually be a blessing for the Red Devils, as van Gaal will probably be forced to play Rooney up top with Falcao most probably his striking partner, meaning may actually play actual midfielders in midfield, which should bring more balance to the side. However, as everyone is beginning to find out, it is pretty hard to second-guess van Gaal who appears to employ the same random Game Theory tactics that Pete Carroll used in the Super Bowl.
Nevertheless, I think they will beat Sunderland, who cannot seem to buy a goal at the moment. But then again Sunderland did win here last season so you never know.
Chelsea v Tottenham (League Cup Final)
The first showpiece final of 2015 sees two of the EPL’s biggest rivals square off at Wembley for the glory of lifting League Cup.
The London rivals are meeting for the third time in less than three months—Chelsea won the first 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, Spurs won the second 5-3 at White Hart lane, and we will see who takes the third at Wembley.
Chelsea did not have a game midweek so will be well rested for the Final. The Blues are the favorites, but they are not in the best of form at present with only two wins in their last five EPL games. They drew last week to Burnley and could well have lost the game in the last minute.
Tottenham have the disadvantage of having played on Thursday night in the Europa League. The north Londoners lost 2-0 away to Fiorentina to end their European dreams, though they probably had one eye on Sunday’s final.
Chelsea is without midfielder Nemanja Matic who is suspended with Ramires and Obi Mikel competing to take his place.
Thibaut Courtois is likely to start in goal, while Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill are competing to partner John Terry in Defense.
Tottenham have no fresh injury worries and should recall Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker to the starting line-up after all three were substitutes on Thursday.
Michel Vorm could also replace first choice keeper Hugo Lloris, as he has started every League Cup game so far.
Both these sides have won the competition four times, with Chelsea lifting the trophy last 2007 and Tottenham in 2008. Tottenham actually defeated Chelsea in 2008 to win the Cup, and will be confident of repeating the feat having recently ended a 10-match winless run against the Blues in all competitions with a 5-3 win at White Hart Lane.
However, Spurs have looked a bit tired in recent games and still seem too reliant on Harry Kane. I think they will give Chelsea a tough game, but I expect the Blues to just about edge this one, because they have more players that seem to be able to make the difference and if Chelsea really needs goal they can always call on ‘Wembley and cup final specialist’ Didier Drogba—The forward has scored in all eight games he’s played at Wembley with Chelsea and he’s scored nine goals in the nine finals he’s played with the club.
Liverpool v Man City
Both these sides suffered disappointment midweek in Europe and will be hoping to bounce back with a result in the EPL.
Liverpool won 2-0 away to Southampton last week to move to within two-points of a Champions League spot. The Red’s defense looked a bit shaky in the first-half, but they now look a threat going forward and are one of the in-form teams in the EPL at the moment. The Reds were knocked out of the Europa League by Turkish side Besitas midweek, but they did rest players with one eye probably on Sunday’s game with City.
Man City pulverized Newcastle 5-0 last week and looked back to their free flowing best. However, they were humbled midweek with a 2-1 home loss to Barcelona in the Champions League and questions still remain over whether they have the mentality to compete at the highest level.
Philippe Coutinho returns for Liverpool after being rested midweek in Europe, but Jordan Henderson is a doubt with an ankle problem.
Yaya Toure returns for City after missing the loss to Barcelona through suspension, while Wilfred Bony is in contention to make his first start for City.
Liverpool won this game last season 3-2 and looked on course to win the EPL before they and Steven Gerrard slipped up in their last three games to allow City to win their second EPL title.
The Reds look much better going forward now that Daniel Sturridge has returned and will definitely fancy their chances against City’s defense, who have looked shaky recently.
Liverpool’s defense does not look much better though, and that’s why I think there will be goals in this game.
Liverpool has a terrific recent record against City at Anfield—the Reds have not lost any of their last 11 games against City in their own backyard (W7 D4)—and that’s why I’ll go for a draw.
Arsenal v Everton
Arsenal need a positive result on Sunday against Everton after their horror show midweek in the Champions League.
The Gunners lost 3-1 at home to a well-organized Monaco team, as playground defending and woeful finishing coast them dearly, and they will need to put that nightmare behind them and concentrate on securing a place in next years competition now.
The 2-1 away win at Crystal Palace last week put Arsenal up to third in the EPL, but with only four points separating them and seventh place Tottenham the Gunners cannot afford many more performances or result like the one against Monaco.
Everton drew 2-2 at home to Leicester last week and have now only won once in their last 10 EPL games. The Toffees have struggled to match their form of last season and are 17 points worse off than they were after 26 games last season.
Romelu Lukaku has not been scoring as prolifically as he was last season, but Everton’s biggest problem has been their defending—the Toffees have dropped a league-high 17 points from winning positions this season.
Jack Wilshere’s return for Arsenal has been postponed due to a minor procedure on his ankle, while fellow midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini are doubtful with hamstring problems.
Everton forward Romelu Lukaku should feature despite coming off midweek in Europe, while John Stones and Aaron Lennon should also return after missing out midweek through suspension and being cup-tied.
Arsenal is playing well in the EPL, but they may well be nervy following their midweek capitulation in the Champions League. Everton are not playing well in the EPL, but played well in Europe and will be looking to replicate that form domestically.
Everton has not won any of their last 18 league visits to Arsenal (D4, L14), and I don’t imagine they will be too adventurous on this visit. In fact, I think they will be happy to defend and hit arsenal on the counter much like Monaco did. However, I doubt Arsenal will be as wasteful in attack as they were midweek and this should be a routine win for the Gunners.