EPL Week 24 – News, Previews and Predictions
EPL Week 24 – News, Previews and Predictions avatar

Beckham training with Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Beckham is training with the Arsenal team at their Hertfordshire training base. The former England captain is currently without a club having recently left the LA Galaxy after a five-year tenure.

“He called me,” Wenger said. “He has asked to come here and to work on his fitness. He has not done anything for a long, long time. [It’s] purely for fitness. There’s no speculation about signing or anything.”

It is still unclear if or where Beckham will continue to play soccer. It was reported last month that the 37-year-old midfielder was considering 12 offers from clubs around the world, including Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East.

 

Man City discuss Balotelli sale

Will he stay or will he go - no one seems to know? (Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go – no one seems to know? (Getty Images)

Mario Balotelli could be on his way out of Manchester after it was revealed Milan and Juventus were in talks with Manchester City over the possibility of loaning the striker until the summer, ahead of a permanent move.

The champions want around €23m ($30.9m) for the 22-year-old and it is understood that Milan have made an initial offer close to €20m ($26.86m). But Juventus also entered the bidding giving Man City hope that their interest may push the price up.

Balotelli – who has scored one league goal in 14 appearances this term – has courted controversy throughout his time in England and has been heavily linked with a move away from the club since a training ground bust-up with Mancini at the start of January.

 

Eden Hazard charged with violent conduct

Many say the ballboy was rather theatrical - did he react any differently than Hazard would? (Getty Images)

Many say the ball boy was rather theatrical – however did he react any differently than Hazard would? (Getty Images)

Belgium international Eden Hazard has been charged with violent conduct after kicking out at a Swansea ball boy.

The Chelsea midfielder already faces a three-game suspension for the dismissal, however the FA feels that punishment is “clearly insufficient”.

Hazard was sent off in the League Cup semi-final second leg after an altercation with a Swansea ball boy.

The ball boy, 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, was lying on top of the ball having fallen over when Hazard kicked the ball from underneath him, apparently catching Morgan in the ribs in the process.

With the score 0-0, and needing two goals to force the game into extra-time, Chelsea felt that the Morgan and the rest of the Swansea ball boys were deliberately wasting time, and a tweet before the game from the Morgan suggest they may have a point.

The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting — Charlie Morgan™ (@CHARLIEM0RGAN) January 23, 2013.

If Hazard is found guilty it is thought he will face a four-match ban – with one further fixture added to the standard three-game suspension.

You really can’t predict what will happen in a soccer game.

 

Zaha signs for Manchester United

Zaha's (R) agreed terms with Man U but won't join them until next season. (Getty Images)

Zaha’s (R) agreed terms with Man U but won’t join them until next season. (Getty Images)

Crystal Palace winger/forward Wilfred Zaha has signed a five-year deal with Manchester United but will be loaned back to Palace for the remainder of the season.

The 20-year-old said: “I am delighted to be joining Manchester United. However, my focus for the next five months will be solely at Crystal Palace.”

United will pay £10m ($15m) upfront, though additional fees could add an extra £5m ($7.5m) to the deal.

Zaha, who joined Crystal Palace at 12, has already played for the England senior national team, but is still eligible to represent the Ivory Coast as that game was a friendly.

“We like to sign players with potential,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “We develop players and that’s been proven many times. Hopefully the boy enjoys it here.”

 

Tottenham bring forward Holtby deal

Holtby will be hoping to make an instant impact when he arrives at Tottenham. (Getty images)

Holtby will be hoping to make an instant impact when he arrives at Tottenham. (Getty images)

Tottenham have reached an agreement to bring Schalke’s Germany international Lewis Holtby to White Hart Lane before Thursday’s deadline.

Holtby had been due to join Spurs at the end of the season, but it due to complete his £1.5m ($2.25) deal move this week.

A statement on the Spurs website said: “We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement with Schalke for the immediate transfer of Lewis Holtby.”

Holtby, who has a German mother and an English father, has admitted that as a child he dreamed of playing for England, however once he was called up to the Germany Under-21 side he knew where his loyalties should lie and continued his journey to the senior team where he has already been capped three times.

 

Previews & Prediction

Week 23 Score My Predictions
Liverpool v Norwich 5-0 2-0
Man City v Fulham 2-0 3-0
Newcastle v Reading 1-2 1-1
Swansea v Stoke 3-1 2-1
West Ham v QPR 1-1 2-2
Wigan v Sunderland 2-3 2-1
West Brom v Aston Villa 2-2 3-0
SUNDAY
Chelsea v Arsenal 2-1 1-1
Tottenham v Man Utd 1-1 1-2
MONDAY
Southampton v Everton 0-0 0-1

A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got FIVE correct results, with ZERO perfect scores giving me a total of 5 points, which is not the best score, but then again it isn’t the worst.

Lets see how I get on with Week 24’s midweek fixtures, there are some juicy games to look forward to this Tuesday and Wednesday with the Arsenal vs Liverpool the pick of the bunch.

Week 24

Prediction

TUESDAY
Aston Villa v Newcastle 1-1
QPR v Man City 1-2
Stoke v Wigan 1-0
Sunderland v Swansea 1-0
WEDNESDAY x-x
Arsenal v Liverpool 3-1
Everton v West Brom 2-0
Norwich v Tottenham 1-1
Fulham v West Ham 1-0
Man Utd v Southampton 3-0
Reading v Chelsea 0-1

 

Tuesday

QPR Vs Man City

David Silva (R) is on form and surely will cause QPR trouble. (Getty Images)

David Silva (R) is on form and surely will cause QPR trouble. (Getty Images)

QPR played their second string team in the FA Cup at the weekend and were made to pay losing 1-4 to minnow MK Dons. But the Hoops should call back their regular line-up for this game against the Champions.

QPR have done well since Harry Redknapp took over losing only three times in ten games. However, they remain rooted to the bottom of the table five points away from safety and will need to win games if they are going to make an amazing escape.

City are on a good run and keeping up the pressure on Leader Manchester, having won all seven of their games since losing at home to their neighbors.

Ex-City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips is a doubt to face his old side with an ankle injury, while Junior Hoilett is still struggling with a hamstring problem.

Manchester City Samir Nasri returns after illness, Mario Balotelli seems to be on his way to Milan, but City face real problems with their defense with captain Vincent Kompany ruled out with a calf injury, Matija Nastasic a doubt with a minor knee problem and Kolo Toure away at the African Cup of Nations.

This will probably be tight game and QPR will undoubtedly put up a fight, but City are looking somewhat back to their old-selves, and I think their extra class in the attacking areas will swing the game in their favor.

Prediciton: 1-2

 

Wednesday

Arsenal Vs Liverpool

Jack WIlshere will be Arsenal main threat and Liverpool will surely struggle to keep him at bay. (Getty Images)

Jack WIlshere will be Arsenal main threat and Liverpool will surely struggle to keep him at bay. (Getty Images)

The most glamorous of the midweek fixtures see sixth place Arsenal take on seventh place Liverpool.

Both teams had contrasting fortunes in the cup at the weekend, with Arsenal snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat against Brighton, while Liverpool went down to Oldham—The first time they have lost to a team two divisions below them since 1959.

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is available to face Liverpool after overcoming an ankle injury.

English trio of Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott should be recalled to the starting line-up after dropping to the bench midweek for the FA Cup win at Brighton.

Fit-again trio Jose Reina, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson return for Liverpool, who are likely to make wholesale changes to the team that lost to Oldham in the cup, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Aggar, Leiva Lucas and Stuart Downing all likely to return to the starting line-up.

This game will probably determine the rest of Liverpool’s season; win and they are still in with a fighting chance of making the champions league; lose and their dreams of making it into Europe next season are all but over.

Liverpool have not beaten a side above them in the EPL this season, and I do not think it will happen against Arsenal. The Gunners had a mini blip with consecutive losses, but their second-half performance against Chelsea may just be the turning point in their season and I expect them to come out winners in this clash of the titans.

Prediction: 3-1

 

Everton Vs West Brom

Howard will be hoping to keep a clean sheet and lead his team to another victory. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Howard will be hoping to keep a clean sheet and lead his team to another victory. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Everton have slowed down a bit in recent weeks after a blistering start to the season, but the Toffees traditionally finish strong.

Everton’s problem has been scoring goals, they have bossed many of their games but let too many teams off the hook with their lack of cutting edge, and had they have won just two or three of the 11 games they have drawn this season, they would be sitting in a Champions League spot now.

West Brom also got out of the block fast, but their season already looks to have petered out and the Baggies look very inconsistent at the moment. The Peter Odemwingie situation will not help their cause either. QPR had a bid for the striker rejected by West Brom, but the player has since gone on twitter to vent his outrage at their decision and express his wish to fulfill his career by playing for a manager like Harry Redknapp.

Everton forward Kevin Mirallas is a major doubt after limping off at the weekend with a hamstring complaint. Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson could also again miss out with thigh injuries, while the game will come too early for expected new signing Leroy Fer.

West Brom quartet Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring), Claudio Yacob (shoulder), Shane Long and Steven Reid (both leg) all look set to miss out, though Youssouf Mulumbu could return to the fray after DR Congo exited from the African Cup of Nation.

West Brom beat Everton 2-0 earlier in the season, but they have only won once in 13 trips to Goodison Park and I think their miserable run there will continue.

Prediction: 2-0

 

Norwich Vs Tottenham

Clint Dempsey has found himself isolated at times as a lone striker for Tottenham. (Getty Images)

Clint Dempsey has found himself isolated at times as a lone striker for Tottenham. (Getty Images)

Both of these teams lost to lower league teams in the cup at the weekend, and will want the opportunity to put in a good account of themselves and put those defeats behind them.

Tottenham are on a good run at the moment and are unbeaten in their last seven games. But the north Londoners do have severe troubles up top, top scorer Jermaine Defoe is struggling with injury, while their other striker Emmanuel Adebayor is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Spurs tried to play without a striker in the cup and it backfired. Playing as a ‘false nine’ is not easy, because it effectively means trying to play like Messi, which is a tad hard.

Tottenmham may opt to put Clint Dempsey up top, but he is more of an attacking midfielder whose skill is ghosting into the box late and scoring goals, and while he can certainly do a job for Spurs upfront it means sacrificing that part of his game.

Norwich are on a bit of a horrible run, drawing one and losing five of their last six EPL games. But the Canaries always put in a good shift at home, and seem to step up their game when the big boys are in town.

Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong is fit again after a calf injury and will return to face his former club.

On loan striker Harry Kane is ineligible against his parent club, while new signing Lee Camp will be in the squad.

Tottenham’s new arrival from Schalke, Lewis Holtby, will not be involved as he has yet to arrive from Germany, while Jermain Defoe may return upfront after sitting out the FA Cup defeat by Leeds with an injury.

On Paper this should be a walk over for Tottenham, but Norwich are difficult to beat at home, and with Tottenham lacking options upfront, I think this will end in a draw.

Predicition: 1-1

 

Manchester United Vs Southampton

Robin Van Persie was the star the last time these two teams met. (Getty Images)

Robin Van Persie
was the star the last time these two teams met. (Getty Images)

Manchester United were clawed back in the last minute during their last EPL game away to Tottenham. The Red Devils were not at their free flowing best and only recorded two attempts on target, but their defensive display will have impressed Ferguson.

United have been conceding goals for fun, but since the return of Nemanja Vidic they have look stronger at the back and recorded two shutouts.

Southampton were having quite a good season considering they were just promoted, so it was weird when they sacked their manager Nigel Adkins. The move is a bit of a risk, and new manager Mauricio Pochettino has not been given an easy start with Everton at home and then Manchester United away. But that is life in the EPL for you, there are no easy games.

Robin van Persie should return to the fold after sitting out of United’s win over Fulham in the cup at the weekend. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand will also come back in, but winger Ashley Young (knee) and defender Jonny Evans (hamstring) remain sidelined.

Southampton could welcome club captain Adam Lallana back after missing almost two months with knee ligament damage, though Jose Fonte and Guly Do Prado (both knee) are absent, but new signing Vegard Forren is in line to make his debut.

United needed a van Persie hat-trick to rescue them from the jaws of defeat against Southampton earlier in the season, but I think this game will be a lot easier for the Red Devils.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Reading Vs Chelsea

Demba Ba's Chelsea have not had the results they expected. (Getty Images)

Demba Ba’s Chelsea have not had the results they expected. (Getty Images)

Reading are in form at the moment, winning three of their last four games in the EPL and will feel this is a good time to play Chelsea who have had an indifferent last few weeks.

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has been an unpopular figure with the fans since his appointment and a string of poor results in the last few weeks have not helped his cause.

Unlike most teams at the bottom, Reading do not have trouble in front of goal, they score lots of goals—but they concede even more. They are a tad naïve and play too gung-ho, which has lead to some thrilling games; 5-7 to Arsenal and 3-4 to Manchester United both spring to mind. But being involved in thrilling games doesn’t keep you in the EPL, and if Reading play the same way as they did in those games they will be taken apart by Chelsea.

However, I see this being a tight game with Chelsea just squeezing out a win.

Prediction: 0-1

 

 

About Anthony Ta

Anthony Ta is a writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, specializing in Premier League, Champions League and the Euros.
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