Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone. There will be no resting for
soccer fans over the holidays as another round of games get underway on Boxing Day (What the UK call 26th December).
|Wigan v Arsenal||0-1||1-3|
|Man City v Reading||1-0||4-0|
|Newcastle v QPR||1-0||1-1|
|Southampton v Sunderland||0-1||1-2|
|Tottenham v Stoke||0-0||2-0|
|West Brom v Norwich||2-1||2-1|
|West Ham v Everton||1-2||2-2|
|Liverpool v Fulham||4-0||2-1|
|Swansea v Man Utd||1-1||1-3|
|Chelsea v Aston Villa||8-0||3-0|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got 6 correct results, with one perfect score, giving me a combined tally of 8 points. The highest score so far was 13 points in week 14, so lets see if there can be a Christmas miracle in Week 19 that can help me better that tally.
Previews and Predictions
|Everton v Wigan||3-1|
|Fulham v Southampton||2-1|
|Man Utd v Newcastle||3-0|
|Norwich v Chelsea||0-1|
|QPR v West Brom||2-2|
|Reading v Swansea||2-3|
|Sunderland v Man City||1-2|
|Aston Villa v Tottenham||0-2|
|Stoke v Liverpool||0-0|
Manchester Utd Vs Newcastle
Manchester United were not really at the racing in their last outing away to Swansea, with Rooney in particular looking completely off the pace. Though saying that, they could have still won the game if not for some poor finishing late on.
The Red Devils have been pretty poor defensively this season, but they have looked a lot surer during their last few games and the return of skipper Nemanja Vidic will probably coincide with a good defensive spell of games.
Newcastle got a much needed win over QPR after two consecutive defeats in the EPL. The Magpies have failed to replicate the form they showed last season both individually and collectively so far this year, but much of that has been down to an unsettled squad due to injured players.
With two rounds of games left to play before 2012 is out Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson may look to make changes from the side held by Swansea to keep his squad fresh.
Javier Hernandez, Darren Fletcher and Danny Welbeck could feature with Rafael (thigh) facing a fitness test.
Newcastle United will be without suspended midfielder Chieck Tiote who is suspended, while Hatem Ben Arfa, Steven Taylor (both hamstring), Yohan Cabaye (groin) and Ryan Taylor (knee) are all out injured.
This has been one of the most free-scoring EPL games over the years. In fact 82 goals have been scored in 24 games since the turn of the millennium. Newcastle would probably settle for a repeat of last season’s 1-1 draw, but I think they may get the stuffing knocked out of them as United try to give their home supporters something to cheer about over this festive period.
Norwich Vs Chelsea
Norwich suffered their first defeat in 11 games after losing away to West Brom at the weekend. The Canaries were on a good little run, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they went on a losing streak as they have a few tough games ahead of them and not the depth in their squad to deal with the busy winter schedule.
Chelsea had a fantastic win at the weekend thrashing Aston Villa 8-0, and have now scored 13 goals in their last two games. They look to be settling under interim boss Rafa Benitez and if they can get themselves going on a winning run they will be right back in contention for the EPL crown.
Norwich captain Grant Holt will have a fitness test before the game, though Steven Whittaker (hip) is definitely out, joining John Ruddy, Andrew Surman and Ryan Bennett on the sidelines.
Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi could be recalled after completing a three-game ban, but John Terry is unlikely to be fit, while Ryan Bertrand is doubtful with a groin strain.
Norwich have done well at home this season beating the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United on their home patch, and I think they will give Chelsea a really good game. However, I expect the Blues to just sneak this one.
Sunderland Vs Manchester City
Sunderland are still having a rather indifferent season, but they did get a good win against Southampton at the weekend and will be hoping to build on that result as they try to move up the table.
Manchester City are struggling a little for goals at the moment, but they are still second in the league and have only lost once in the league. They seem to be grinding out results every week, and scored another late goal to win at the weekend.
In fact, no side has scored more goals in the final 30 minutes of Premier League games this season than City – a tally that is at 21 – and as long as they keep wining games no one will be complaining.
Ex City player Andrew Johnson is a doubt for the Boxing Day clash with a hamstring injury, while Sebastian Larsson (knee) is also a doubt meaning David Meyler, back from a loan spell at Hull, could be recalled.
Manchester City could be boosted by the return of skipper Vincent Kompany (groin) and Mario Balotelli (illness), but Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy are both doubtful, while Samir Nasri (hamstring) is out.
Sunderland won this game in stoppage-time last season, and I think with the home crowd the Black Cats will have a real go at City. However, even with City struggling for goals, I can’t see anything other than a win for the Champions.
Aston Villa Vs Tottenham
Aston Villa were giving a good hiding by Chelsea at the weekend, and in the end they must have been happy with losing just 8-0 as it could easily have been 12 or 14-0.
Tottenham meanwhile were locked in a goalless stalemate with Stoke, and will be fancy their chances of scoring a goal at Villa on Boxing day.
Aston Villa Captain Ron Vlaar (calf), Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh) and Charles Nzogbia (knee) will all be assessed ahead of the game with Tottenham.
But the home side will again be without Darren Bent, who looks set to miss the rest of 2012 with has a hamstring injury, Tottenham’s Clint Dempsey is doubtful with a groin problem, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto could return from a knee injury, while Scott Parker is pushing for a first start of the season after two substitute appearances.
Spurs are unbeaten in their last eight EPL games against Villa, with their last loss to the Villains being a 1-2 at home in 2008.
Spurs will be confident about scoring past a Villa side that conceded eight goals in their last game, but it will not be that easy for Tottenham and I expect Villa to put up a good fight. However, in the end I expect the greater attacking edge offered by Spurs to see them past Villa.
Stoke Vs Liverpool
Stoke earned a good draw away to Spurs on Saturday, and once again showed how hard they are to break down – In fact, the Potters have the best defense in the EPL having only conceded 13 goals all season.
Liverpool, meanwhile, bounced back from the disappointment of losing at home in their previous game with a good 4-0 win over Fulham, and have now won three of their last four games.
Former Liverpool hero Michael Owen is close to fitness and could make his first appearance since hurting his hamstring in October. While another ex-Liverpool forward, Peter Crouch, will hope to win a recall to the starting line-up having recently been demoted to the subs bench.
Liverpool could welcome back Raheem Sterling, who began on the bench against Fulham, though Joe Allen, who was also a substitute on Saturday, is nursing a pelvic problem, and may not be fit to start.
Liverpool may have scored four at the weekend, but in general they have struggled for goals this season and I think they will endure another frustrating afternoon in front of goal against the EPL’s most stubborn defensive.
Only a moment of inspiration will prevent this game from finishing 0-0, but I cannot see that happening.