Well it’s the last weekend before Christmas and from now until the New Year the games will be coming thick and fast, so take your seats, fastening your seat belts and prepare for the crazy EPL soccer ride.
Ferguson set to resume rivalry with Mourinho
Alex Ferguson says he is relishing the prospect of locking horns with old rival Jose Mourinho, after Manchester United were drawn against Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.
The two giants of the game have not met since the 2003 quarter-finals of the Champions League, when Real Madrid won 6-5 on aggregate.
Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Manchester for the first time since making his record $131.6m move to the Madrid in June 2009.
“Well, it’s the tie of the round,” Ferguson, who will resume his rivalry with Jose Mourinho, told manutd.com.
“It’s a great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with Jose [Mourinho] again – I’ll need to order some good wine!”
The EPL’s other representative in the competition, Arsenal, will meet last year’s runners-up Bayern Munich.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is optimistic his side will see off Arsenal.
“We enter this match as the slight favorites but we can make the mistake of underestimating them,” said the German.
Toure wins African Player of the Year
Manchester City Talesman Yaya Toure has won the Africa Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
The midfielder beat off competition from fellow Ivorian Didier Drogba who was named in second place and former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song who finished third.
Yaya Toure was instrumental in Manchester City ending their 44-year wait for a league title, putting in a number of influential performances and scoring vital goals during the closing weeks of the EPL.
Previews and Predications
|Newcastle v Man City||1-3||1-1|
|Liverpool v Aston Villa||1-3||3-1|
|Man Utd v Sunderland||3-1||4-1|
|Norwich v Wigan||2-1||2-2|
|QPR v Fulham||2-1||1-2|
|Stoke v Everton||1-1||0-1|
|Tottenham v Swansea||1-0||3-2|
|West Brom v West Ham||0-0||2-1|
|Reading v Arsenal||2-5||1-2|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got 3 correct results, with Zero perfect scores, giving me a combined tally of 3 points—a record equaling low score.
However, with Christmas just around the corner I’m feeling really optimistic of doing well this weekend.
Wigan Vs Arsenal
Arsenal got back to winning ways on Monday with a good 2-5 victory away to Reading on Monday.
The Gunners lined-up differently to what they have this season, with three up top and Theo Walcott playing as the center forward—the position he so desperately wants to play in.
Walcott terrorized the reading backline with his pace, and the move appeared to pay dividends with Arsenal scoring five. However, I can’t imagine Arsenal continuing with the experiment—especially as Wigan play with three center-backs—and I expect Arsenal and Walcott to return to playing the way they have most of the season, with Giroud up top and Walcott and Podolski on the wings.
Wigan started the season reasonably well but are now in somewhat of a crisis having won only once in seven games, leaving them languishing in the bottom three.
So this should be a ‘no-brainer’ Arsenal win, but anyone who watches the EPL will tell you Wigan are the most unpredictable team in the EPL – they win away games they shouldn’t and lose home games they should win.
Wigan defender Adrian Lopez (hamstring) is out for up to 10 weeks, while James McCarthy is a doubt after suffering an ankle injury against Norwich.
The Arsenal game has come too soon for long-terms casualties Gary Caldwell, Antolin Alcaraz and Ivan Ramis, though they are all nearing a return.
Arsenal have no injury worries apart from Long-term absentees Abou Diaby and Andre Santos.
Manchester City Vs Reading
Reading are looking in deep trouble after suffering their sixth successive defeat on Monday. Arsenal dismantled their defense without too much effort and if they don’t tighten up soon they will have to start preparing for life next season in the division below.
Manchester City bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Manchester United at home with a good 1-3 win away to Newcastle last week.
The win was actually one of their better displays this season, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that City’s forward play was a lot more threatening with Tevez restored upfront—the Argentine has arguable been their best player this season and yet has found himself starting on the bench.
City midfielder Samir Nasri looks like he could be sidelined until the New Year with a groin injury, while City captain Vincent Kompany is a major doubt to face Reading due to a similar problem.
James Milner and Jack Rodwell will again miss out with hamstring injuries.
Reading forward Jason Roberts is absent with a hip problem, and Sean Morrison and Alex McCarthy remain sidelined, though Jem Karacan (knee), Jimmy Kebe (groin) and Danny Guthrie (thigh) should all be fit to play.
I think Christmas will come early for City and their fans, as I can’t see anything other than an easy City win full of goals.
Tottenham Vs Stoke
Tottenham got back to winning ways with a solid 1-0 at home against Swansea last week. However, they didn’t look quite the same without winger Gareth Bale and will be glad to welcome the Welshman back this weekend.
Stoke are having a solid season, they have not won that many games, but their key is they have not lost too many either. The Potters, who are a notoriously hard team to beat, actually have the best defense in the EPL at the moment, and if they could score a few more goals they would find themselves a lot higher up in the table.
Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson are fit again after hamstring injuries, while striker Emmanuel Adebayor will have a fitness test. Midfielder Scott Parker and defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto could feature after recovery from recent injuries.
Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam is set to miss the match after being granted compassionate leave, but Potters defender Ryan Shotton is available for selection again having completed a one-match suspension.
Stoke do have the best defense in the EPL, but I think Spurs have enough quality to at least create two or three good goal scoring chances, and think this extra quality will see them take all three-points in the end.
Liverpool Vs Fulham
After a good spell of games I think Liverpool fans and everyone else expected the Reds to stroll past Aston Villa, instead Aston Villa comfortably won 1-3, which I guess shows you just how unpredictable the game can be sometimes.
Fulham are struggling and have only won once in their last nine games. They seem to have an array of talent going forward, but quit weak at the back and Martin Jol will be concerned with the amount of goals they have conceded in recent weeks.
Liverpool defender Jose Enrique could play some part, having resumed training this week after a hamstring injury, but Midfielder Nuri Sahin should be back after surgery on a broken nose, though Oussama Assaidi is definately out with a knee problem.
Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell is banned, but full-back Sascha Riether has recovered from a knee problem.
Both these teams are of a similar quality, but Fulham do not travel too well and have been leaky at the back recently, so I expect Liverpool to just edge this one.
Swansea Vs Manchester United
Swansea lost for the second successive game last week, though they played well and were a tad unlucky not to leave Tottenham with a point.
The Swans have played four of the five teams at the top already this season, losing by a single goal twice, drawing once and wining once, and on all those occasions they sat back and tried to teal a goal on the counter. The strategy worked wonders at Arsenal a few weeks back, and I expect them to try the same against United.
United meanwhile had a comfortably 3-1 win over Sunderland at home, and have now won their last five games since losing to 1-0 Norwich a month ago.
Swansea may welcome back goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who has not played since injuring his groin in October. They will also assess Pablo Hernandez and Angel Rangel, both of who are nearing returns from respective thigh and calf problems.
Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic looks like he may start his first match since September after recently recovery from a knee-injury, though Rafael remains out with a hamstring injury and Shinji Kagawa still is not ready to make his comeback.
United’s poor defending has seen them being involved a few thrillers already this season and this game could well be another one. But I expect the return of Vidic to coincide with United tightening up at the back, and with their firepower upfront I expect them to win this game.
Chelsea Vs Aston Villa
Aston Villa got a fabulous result away to Liverpool last week winning 1-3 and slowly seem to be improving. Belgium summer signing Christian Benteke was once again impressive, and there are already rumors that he may move on to a bigger club when the January transfer window opens up.
Chelsea meanwhile overcame the disappointment of losing the World Club Cup with a 1-5 win away to Leeds in the League Cup. The win may have come over a lower league team, but the Blues looked good nonetheless and may be finding their feet under interim coach Rafa Benitez.
Chelsea’s Gary Cahill, John Obi Mikel and Ramires are all available after surving suspensions, though John Terry remains sidelined and Ryan Bertrand is a doubt.
Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland is available again after recovering from illness, but Ron Vlaar and Gabriel Agbonlahor are major doubts for Sunday’s game.
Aston Villa may have gotten a great away win at Liverpool on their last outing, but I will be surprised if they managed to leave London with a point as Chelsea struggling or not are formidable at Stamford Bridge.
|Wigan v Arsenal||1-3|
|Man City v Reading||4-0|
|Newcastle v QPR||1-1|
|Southampton v Sunderland||1-2|
|Tottenham v Stoke||2-0|
|West Brom v Norwich||2-1|
|West Ham v Everton||2-2|
|Liverpool v Fulham||2-1|
|Swansea v Man Utd||1-3|
|Chelsea v Aston Villa||3-0|