The hectic winter schedule continues as teams in the EPL prepare for week 15’s round of games. As always there are some eye catching games on offer; east meets west, as Chelsea travel to east London to face West Ham, Arsenal host high-flyers Swansea, while Clint Dempsey returns to Fulham for the first time since his summer move.
|Sunderland v QPR||0-0||0-0|
|Aston Villa v Reading||1-0||2-1|
|Chelsea v Fulham||0-0||3-1|
|Everton v Arsenal||1-1||2-1|
|Southampton v Norwich||1-1||1-1|
|Stoke v Newcastle||2-1||1-0|
|Swansea v West Brom||3-1||2-2|
|Tottenham v Liverpool||2-1||2-1|
|Man Utd v West Ham||1-0||3-1|
|Wigan v Man City||0-2||1-2|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Midweek I got 7 correct results, including 3 perfect scores, giving me a record-breaking score of 13 points.
Can I go one better this week and get 14 points? … I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
West Ham Vs Chelsea
The first game of the weekend sees ‘Eastenders’ West Ham taking on ‘Westenders’ Chelsea in another London derby.
West Ham lost away midweek to EPL leaders Manchester United, but played well and will be encouraged by their display after having put in some awful performances in on their travels recently. But the Hammers are a different kettle of fish at home, and have only lost one game at Upton Park this season.
Chelsea are still searching for their maiden goal and win under new coach Rafa Benetiz. It has been a tough ten days for the new coach, and it does not like it will be getting any easier as the Chelsea fans continue to voice their discontent as his appointment.
But the Blues will be encouraged by their good record against the Hammers – Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 EPL encounters with West Ham, winning 12 times and drawing once since their 2003 defeat at Upton Park.
Mark Noble is expected to make his 200th appearances for West Ham after serving a one-match ban, though striker Andy Carrol may miss out with a knee problem.
Chelsea meanwhile, will once again have to do without the services of influential pair John Terry and Frank Lampard.
Arsenal Vs Swansea
Arsenal got a good draw away to Everton during the week. The game was probably the game of the week with both sides playing end-to-end attacking football, and Arsenal might be a tad upset they didn’t sneak a win, though a draw was probably the correct result.
Arsenal will be happy with the draw, as their away form has not been too great, plus Everton are in superb form. But Arsenal biggest problem this season has probably been their home form – they have only won three of their seven home games compared to the six home wins the two Manchester clubs have.
Coach Arsene Wenger realizes this and has challenged his team to get more home wins and make the Eremites a fortress.
Swansea will travel to London feeling good with themselves after an excellent 3-1 win over the EPL’s other high-flyers West Brom. The leaves the Swans only a single point behind the Gunners.
Arsenal have quite a few injury concerns with Bacary Sagna (foot), Theo Walcott (ankle) and Lukas Podolski (virus) all doubtful, while Laurent Koscielny is definitely out with a thigh strain.
Swansea’s summer signing Pablo Hernandez is sidelined with a thigh injury, though Chico Flores should be available despite a shoulder problem.
This will probably be the prettiest game to watch this weekend, as both team like to keep the ball on the floor and pass it around. Arsenal have not been at their best recently, and Swansea are more than capable of pulling off an upset. However, I’m backing the ‘Gooners” to get their fourth home win of the season.
Fulham Vs Tottenham
This London derby is always an intriguing game, but there is added spice this time around as a few old flames are once again reunited.
Clint Dempsey returns to Craven Cottage for the first time since his $9.6m deadline move to north London.
Dempsey scored 50 goals in 184 league appearances for Fulham after joining them from American club New England Revolution in January 2007 for a reported $2.4m. But his time in west London came to an unsavory end as coach Martin Jol claimed Dempsey no longer wanted to play for the Cottagers.
Dempsey says he felt unappreciated at Fulham – “If you always felt valued and appreciated enough, I don’t think you’d ever leave,” said Dempsey.
“But no matter what, I’ll always look back with good memories and be grateful for the club and the fans for the way they took care of me.
Tottenham will also be reacquainted with an old love when they line up against Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian scored 46 goals in two seasons for Spurs before moving to Manchester United. And they will have to keep their eye on him as he has 23 goals in his last 27 starts.
Fulham will still be without Brede Hangeland who serves his last match of a three-match suspension, while Alex Kacaniklic, Kieran Richardson and Bryan Ruiz all remain sidelined with hamstring injuries.
Emmanuel Adebayor remains suspended for Spur, while Scott Parker, Younes Kaboul, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto will all miss out through injury, though Steven Caulker should return after overcoming a virus.
This could potentially be the game of the weekend, as both teams are playing well and have goal scorers in their team. I see lots of goals and I would not be surprised if some old flames break one another’s hearts.
Manchester City Vs Everton
Manchester City have yet to reach the dizzying heights that brought them the EPL crown last season, but they are only a point off the top off the league and still remain the only unbeaten team in the EPL.
The had a good win midweek away to Wigan, and now that they are out of the Champions League their sole focus will be on retaining their EPL crown.
Everton were Fantastic midweek against Arsenal, and showed why they really are a contenders for the top four this season. Marouane Fellaini marked his return from suspension with a goal and the big Belgian is already being touted as a possible EPL MVP.
Everton have a great record against City, winning eight of the last 10 EPL meetings, and were actually the last side to beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the EPL, back in December in 2010.
James Milner is out of the Everton clash after picking up a hamstring injury in the midweek clash with Wigan, while Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Gael Clichy (ankle) Micah Richards (knee) are all still out.
Everton meanwhile will assess Leighton Baines (hamstring) and Nikica Jelavic (illness) before Saturday’s clash.
I think Everton will continue their good run against City, though I don’t think they have enough to steal a win.
Reading Vs Manchester United
Second bottom Reading lost away to Villa midweek and won’t be looking forward to the task of taking points from Manchester United, especially as United haven’t been beaten in their opening Premier League game in December in the last 10 seasons – Not since Chelsea beat them 3-0 back in 2001 have they gone into the Christmas countdown with a loss.
United beat West Ham 1-0 on Wednesday, with Van Persie scoring the quickest goal in EPL history – scoring after just 32 seconds.
So this looks like it should be a straightforward Manchester United win, but then again United lost away to Norwich just a few games back, so who knows. However I don’t see that happening again, as I think Norwich are a much stronger team than Reading.
This Week’s Predictions
|West Ham v Chelsea||1-1|
|Arsenal v Swansea||3-1|
|Fulham v Tottenham||3-2|
|Liverpool v Southampton||2-0|
|Man City v Everton||1-1|
|QPR v Aston Villa||1-0|
|West Brom v Stoke||2-0|
|Reading v Man Utd||0-2|
|Norwich v Sunderland||1-0|
|Newcastle v Wigan||1-1|