Well we have reached the last round games in the EPL for 2012, and it has been quite a season so far with 188 games played, 2,686 shots on target, 526 goals scored, 96 shut outs, 578 yellow cards, 25 red cards and 5 hat-tricks. So if those stats are anything to go by then we should be in for one last treat before 2012 is out.
Ferguson calls Pardew a hypocrite
Sir Alex Ferguson has labeled Alan Pardew a hypocrite after the Newcastle Manager criticized him for confronting match officials during Manchester United 4-3 win over Newcastle on Boxing Day (26th December).
Pardew believes the Football Association should punish Ferguson for his behavior during that game and was unhappy that match referee Mike Dean did not include the incident in his match report.
“I think Mike Dean might feel slightly disappointed he didn’t do something about it,” Pardew said after the game.
“I think the pressure that was on him was tough for a referee to take. I think there were a lot of things the FA could look at. But it seems they are looking at none.”
Ferguson responded by saying Pardew is even worse. “Alan Pardew is the worst for haranguing referees. His whole staff [do it] every game,” Ferguson said.
“I wasn’t abusive of the referee – some managers push the linesman and make a joke of it,” said the Scot referring to an incident earlier in the season where Alan Pardew was fined $32,000 and given a two-game touch line ban for pushing fourth official Peter Kirkup.
The Newcastle manager immediately apologized talking of his shame at the “comical” incident, but Ferguson says Pardew now has no right to criticize the behavior of others.
“I’m not making a joke of it. I think [the goal] should’ve been disallowed, I really do. [Pardew] shoves the referee and makes a joke of it, and he’s got the cheek to criticize – it’s unbelievable.
Ferguson maintains he had a legitimate reason to question the referee after he ruled Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse was not interfering with play when Johnny Evans scored into his own net, even though the Senegalese forward was directly behind Evans in offside position when he tried to cut out a shot.
Ferguson added: “The press have had a field day out of it. They have addressed every possible avenue. The only one they have left out is Barack Obama. He is too busy.”
Pardew wants Ba to sign a new contract
Newcastle Boss Alan Pardew says he wantS striker Demba Ba to sign a new contract to end speculation about his future at Saint James Park.
The Senegal international, who has already scored 11 goals in the EPL this season, reportedly has $11.3m buy-out clause in his contract and has been linked with a move away during the January transfer window.
But Pardew is keen to offer him a new contract, which does not involve a release clause if he stays.
“We will either move Demba on or we will secure him in the summer,” he said.
Pardew is confident the club’s top scorer will stay, but is keen to put an end to the speculation that has been with the player since he joined Newcastle last year.
“Really and truly this window is the key, I think, because if Demba goes in this window, it will cause us a problem,” he added.
“I think he will stay, but there’s a possibility he could go because of the clause that’s still in force.
“In the summer – I won’t let it run until the summer. I’ll do something about it.”
Wenger rules out Ba but not Henry
Arsene Wenger has ruled out a move for Newcastle Demba Ba.
The 27-year old has been linked with a host of clubs, and Newcastle boss Alan Pardew admitted he could move on if he does not remove the reported $11.3m release clause in his contract.
“I like Demba Ba, yes,” said Wenger. “If you ask me ‘do we sign Demba Ba?’ I say no.”
The Frenchman added: “I don’t think [this] is the right place to speak about that, because he plays against us [on Saturday].
“I wouldn’t like to put Newcastle or us or him in an uncomfortable position.”
Meanwhile, Wenger revealed he still has not ruled out re-signing French Striker Thierry Henry for the third time on a short-term loan.
The Frenchman, who now plays for the New York Red Bulls, is Arsenal’s all-time record scorer with 228 goals and has been training with the club since the end of the MLS season.
“I’ve not lost interest in him. He’s still coming to practice with us.” Said Wenger.
“Our relationship is very close but, at the moment, I think he has had a second spell at the club that was very successful. You have to be cautious that it’s not one time too many.
“I have not completely ruled it out but I haven’t spoken about it with him at all.”
Previews and Predication
|Everton v Wigan||2-1||3-1|
|Fulham v Southampton||1-1||2-1|
|Man Utd v Newcastle||4-3||3-0|
|Norwich v Chelsea||0-1||0-1|
|QPR v West Brom||1-2||2-2|
|Reading v Swansea||0-0||2-3|
|Sunderland v Man City||1-0||1-2|
|Aston Villa v Tottenham||0-4||0-2|
|Stoke v Liverpool||3-1||0-0|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last round I got four correct results, with one perfect score, giving me a total of 6 points – not quite the Christmas miracle I was hoping for – but with one round of games left before 2012 is out I’m giving this week’s predictions everything in the hope of beating week 14’s record score of 13 points.
|Sunderland v Tottenham||1-0|
|Aston Villa v Wigan||1-1|
|Fulham v Swansea||2-1|
|Man Utd v West Brom||3-1|
|Norwich v Man City||0-1|
|Reading v West Ham||1-1|
|Stoke v Southampton||2-0|
|Arsenal v Newcastle||4-1|
|Everton v Chelsea||2-1|
|QPR v Liverpool||1-2|
Sunderland Vs Tottenham
Week 20 gets underway with an early Kick-off in the northeast of England as Sunderland host Londoners Tottenham.
Sunderland had a marvelous 1-0 win over champions Manchester City on Boxing day, they weathered an early storm, where they could have conceded on a few occasions, before eventually comeback to win the game and in the end they could have won by more.
Confidence is an important factor in any field, and it’s no different in soccer, Sunderland have now won three of their last four games and are beginning to look more like the side they were last season.
Tottenham are flying high on confidence too, having beaten Aston Villa 0-4 away. Critics may point that Gareth Bale’s hat-trick of goals were all scored in last half hour, but the game could have been wrapped up even earlier than that and in the end Spurs were good value for their money.
Gareth Bale has started to play differently this season, cutting in more often and sometimes playing directly down the middle. The change has meant Bale finding himself in goal-scoring positions more often, and with his pace, skill and shooting ability it has resulted in more goals for the Welshman.
Sunderland will have to do without on-loan defender Danny Rose who is ineligible to face parent club Tottenham. Phil Bardsley who came in for Rose for Sunderland 1-0 win over Manchester City is likely to keep his place.
Tottenham’s Clint Dempsey and Tom Huddlestone could return from their respective groin and knee injuries, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto may make his long-awaited comeback from a knee injury.
Scott Parker could also make his first start of the season.
Bale was magnificent against Villa in Spurs last outing, but I doubt he will be given the same amount of room and space by Sunderland. The Black Cats defended resolutely against Manchester City in their last game and I expect more of the same from them this game.
Sunderland is never an easy place to go and get a result, but if you have Champions League aspirations like Tottenham do, then you this is the sort of place where you have to come and grind out a result. I think Spurs do have a great chance of making the top four, but I don’t think they like to get their hands dirty and that is why I’m going for Sunderland.
Manchester United Vs West Brom
Manchester United continued their hollywood season with another madcap last minute 4-3 win over Newcastle.
The Red Devils may have to change their nickname to the Comeback Kings after once again coming from behind to snatch victory – Twenty-four of Man Utd’s 46 league points this season (52%) have come in games in which they’ve trailed.
However, Ferguson will definitely be worried by the amount of goals they are conceding – United have conceded 28 goals at the half-way stage which is already more than were put past United in an entire season in three of their last four title-winning teams: 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. In fact, no team in the top 13 has conceded more than the 28 they have – and that’s only five fewer than bottom-of-the-table QPR.
West Brom brought a bad spell of one point in four games to an end with a good win away to QPR. The Baggies have had a tremendous season and probably haven’t received the credit they deserve – they are only three points off of third place Chelsea.
Manchester United will have to do without Wayne Rooney after the striker hurt his knee in training, though forward Danny Welbeck should return after illness, while Ashley Young and Phil Jones are expected to overcome minor injuries.
Shinji Kagawa could be named among the substitutes after two months out with a knee injury.
West Brom defenders Jonas Olsson (groin) and Goran Popov (hamstring), and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu (hamstring) are all major doubts
West Brom are a solid team, strong defensively, pass the ball well in midfield and have strikers that can score goals. At home the Baggies are a match for any team, but going to Old Trafford is something else all together and I think West Brom will have to play at their best, especially defensively, if they are to leave with anything.
United are weak at the back and will probably concede, but West Brom have never beaten United in the EPL and I do not expect them to end that trend tomorrow.
Norwich Vs Manchester City
Both these teams lost 1-0 midweek and will be hoping to end 2012 with a win.
Norwich played well against Chelsea, but the Blues just had that extra bit of quality to find them a goal and edge the game in their favor. The result was their second successive defeat and with a string of tricky ties ahead of them Norwich will be looking to a get a result against City.
Manchester City lost away to Sunderland and seem to be finding it hard to score goals. The champions had a host of chances against Sunderland, but were guilty of taking an extra touch or playing an extra pass when a shot was on.
Norwich will again be without defender Steven Whittaker, who has not shaken off the hip injury that kept him out of the defeat by Chelsea, while midfielder Andrew Surman is also unlikely to feature as he continues his recovery from a knee problem.
Manchester City could welcome back midfielder Samir Nasri from a hamstring problem, while defender Gael Clichy has recovered from injury. Carlos Tevez is fit despite missing training with illness but Mario Balotelli is doubtful with a virus.
Roberto Mancini may decide to make wholesale changes to his team after the loss to Sunderland, as he attempts to revive the champions from their slumber.
Norwich have played well against the top teams at home, and I expect them to do so again. However, I think their lack of quality will stop them winning this one and I think City will just nick this game in the end.
Arsenal Vs Newcastle
Newcastle were ravaged by injuries in their last game, but almost came away from Manchester with three points. With the players available to them they had no choice but to take the game to United and it almost paid off – Newcastle lost the game despite taking the lead tree times.
The game no doubt took a lot out of Newcastle, both physically and mentally and it will be interesting to see how they approach the game against Arsenal.
Arsenal meanwhile had Boxing Day off after their game with West Ham was postponed, and should be well rested for the penultimate game of 2012.
Arsenal pair Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky have recovered from illness and are available to face Newcastle, but the game is too early for Andre Santos (stomach muscle) and Abou Diaby (thigh), though both are expected to return to training next week.
Newcastle’s squad is down to its bare bones with injuries to eight players , with Vurnon Anita (ankle) and Jonas Gutierrez (knee) the latest casualties. Cheick Tiote should return from a one-match ban but Mike Williamson is suspended after accumulating five bookings.
Five of Arsenal’s next seven games are at home and if they can win most of those they will be in a great position to cement a place in the Champions League. Newcastle will go to London and probably take the game to Arsenal because they don’t really have the players to sit back and defend at the moment, but I do not think Arsenal will gift them soft goals like Manchester United did.
All the Arsenal players have had a nice rest over Christmas and I expect them to put on a show for their home fans before the New Year.
Everton Vs Chelsea
Sunday’s early afternoon game is probably the game of the weekend as fifth place Everton take on third place Chelsea.
Everton had another good home win against Wigan, and have now won three of their last four games. The Toffees, who are enjoying a terrific season, are unbeaten in their last 7 EPL games and should they win on Sunday they will move up to third in the table, which is an amazing achievement when you consider they are run on a shoestring budget.
Chelsea also recorded a win and slowly order seems to have been restored to the Blues. Three successive league wins, back-to-back clean sheets and the Premier League’s joint-best goal difference after Boxing Day have elevated the Blues to the fringes of the title race.
Many feel Rafa Benitez – despite his critics – is proving to be the steadying influence but the interim boss has not really had to face a stern test and on Sunday both his and Chelsea’s mettle will be thoroughly examined.
Everton midfielder Darron Gibson could be fit to face Chelsea despite being substituted with a thigh strain against Wigan on Boxing Day. Seamus Coleman may return but Marouane Fellaini is out as he completes a three-match ban and Tony Hibbert and Kevin Mirallas are still injured.
Ramires is expected to return to the Chelsea squad, having missed the Boxing Day win at Norwich with a knee injury, though Sunday’s game has come too soon for defender John Terry (knee).
I think this game will be a good indicator for both teams aspirations this season, if Chelsea win then they will still be in with a chance of challenging for the EPL, but should Everton win then Chelsea will have to fight it out with Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham for the remaining two Champions League spots.
I expect Everton to bully and take the game to Chelsea, the Toffess have a good record against the Blues and are unbeaten in their last four home matches against Chelsea, winning the last three. The suspension of Fellaini is a big blow for them, but they have coped well in his absence and I think the best Chelsea can hope for is a point.
QPR vs Liverpool
Both these teams lost midweek and will want to start winning soon if they are to salvage their seasons.
It is only a couple of weeks ago that Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was talking about finishing second but they have won less than a third of their games and they will be lucky if they can finish in the top eight at the end of the season.
The Reds are playing the way they want to, but they are struggling to support Luiz Suarez upfront and scoring goals will remain a problem until they find a striker to help the Uruguayan.
QPR lost for the second successive game and need to start picking up points again or risk being isolated at the bottom of the table.
QPR defender Ryan Nelsen has a virus and is a doubt to face Liverpool at Loftus Road on Sunday, while goalkeeper Julio Cesar (back), full-back Nedum Onuoha (hamstring) and midfielder Park Ji-sung (knee) are also fitness concerns.
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is expected to play despite nursing an ankle injury. Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen are expected to be recalled after being left out of the side for the last two games.
QPR launched their relegation survival bid with a thrilling last-gasp home win against Liverpool last March, and they will be hoping to do the same again on Sunday. But the hoops still look like a team of overpaid individuals and I think the best they can root for is a point.