After a short round of International games mid-week, the soccer action continues as we head into week 26 of the EPL. As ever there are a host of juicy games to sink your teeth into with Tottenham hosting in-form Newcastle and Manchester United hosting Everton the sweetest games of the bunch.
Liverpool’s Carragher to retire
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
The 35-year-old who has been capped by England 38 times said: “I’m making this announcement because I don’t want the manager to be answering questions when I’ve already decided what I am going to do,”
Carragher joined the Liverpool youth system when he was aged just nine and made his senior debut against Middlesbrough in January 1997 at the age of 18. He is second in Liverpool’s all-time appearance table, having played for the club on more than 700 occasions.
Ferguson Fined by FA for comments
The FA has fined Alex Ferguson $18,000 over comments he made about a match official after Manchester United’s draw away to Spurs.
The United coach claimed that linesman Simon Beck failed to give Wayne Rooney a “clear” penalty in a post-match interview.
Ferguson was asked to explain his comments and was charged by the FA on 29 January.
“Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Sir Alex Ferguson has been fined £12,000 in relation to media comments made after Manchester United’s game at Tottenham Hotspur on 20 January 2013,” said an FA statement.
“It was alleged that the Manchester United manager’s post-match media comments implied that the match official was motivated by bias.
Ferguson was incensed when Manchester United’s appeals for a penalty were waved away after Wayne Rooney appeared to be clearly taken down in the box. A penalty would have given the league leaders an opportunity to double their lead, however, it was not given and the game eventually ended in a draw with Clint Dempsey scoring a stoppage-time equalizer for Spurs.
Previews and Predictions
|QPR v Norwich||0-0||1-0|
|Arsenal v Stoke||1-0||3-0|
|Everton v Aston Villa||3-3||2-0|
|Newcastle v Chelsea||3-2||1-1|
|Reading v Sunderland||2-1||2-3|
|West Ham v Swansea||1-0||0-0|
|Wigan v Southampton||2-2||2-1|
|Fulham v Man Utd||0-1||1-2|
|West Brom v Tottenham||0-1||1-1|
|Man City v Liverpool||2-2||1-1|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got TWO correct results, with ZERO perfect scores, giving me a dismal TWO points total for the week.
Lets hope I can do better in week 26.
|Tottenham v Newcastle||2-1|
|Chelsea v Wigan||4-0|
|Norwich v Fulham||2-1|
|Stoke v Reading||0-0|
|Sunderland v Arsenal||1-2|
|Swansea v QPR||0-0|
|Southampton v Man City||0-1|
|Aston Villa v West Ham||1-0|
|Man Utd v Everton||2-0|
|Liverpool v West Brom||2-0|
Tottenham Vs Newcastle
Soccer is a funny old game. Ten days ago no one would have given Newcastle a chance of winning this game, they had sold their best player (Demba Ba), were in poor form, and had not won in six games. However, a couple of signings and wins later, including an impressive 3-2 win over Chelsea, and all of a sudden Newcastle look like they could steal a win over Tottenham.
Tottenham have been playing relatively well and are still unbeaten in the EPL in 2013. They have been short upfront with Emmanuel Adebayor away at the African Cup of Nations and Jermaine Defoe out nursing various injuries. However, their shortcomings in that department have been well covered by the incredible form of Gareth Bale.
The Welsh winger has secured points for Spurs in their last two games with strikes that even Lionel Messi would be proud of. Tottenham will hope he can maintain his form as they continue to push for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Tottenham will be without Jermaine Defoe who injured his ankle in their last game, but will be boasted by the return of Emmanuel Adebayor who is back from the African Cup of Nations.
Newcastle will also be welcoming a player back from Africa, with Cheick Tiote back for the Magpies following the Ivory Coast’s defeat by Nigeria.
The Magpies do not have a good record recently against Spurs, having lost all of their away trips to London since 2007. They have failed to keep a clean sheet in their previous 16 EPL games against Tottenham, with their last shut-out coming in 2003 when they beat Spurs 4-0.
However, they do seem to be riding a wave of optimism at the moment having signed a few players and beaten Chelsea, and I expect them to give Tottenham a good run for the money. Nevertheless, I expect Spurs with their extra class to just edge this game in the end.
Chelsea Vs Wigan
Chelsea are in a bit of a rot at the moment and badly need a win to maintain the gap between them are the rest of pack chasing Champions League spots.
Chelsea fans are still screaming for interim Manager Rafa Benitez’s head, and if their poor run of form continues they may just get their wish.
Wigan have fought back to salvage draws in their last two games, but that has not stopped them from slipping into the bottom three, and they need to start winning games if they want to stay in the EPL.
Chelsea will be without their captain John Terry and keeper Petr Cech who are both injured, though striker Demba Ba could return with a protective mask after breaking his nose. While, Eden Hazard should return to the starting line-up after serving a three game suspension.
Wigan’s Gary Caldwell may miss the trip with a hip injury, while both Antolin Alcaraz and Arouna Kone’s fitness will be assessed.
Chelsea won this game 8-0 in 2010, and while I do not envisage that sort of score I cannot see anything other than a Chelsea victory.
Sunderland Vs Arsenal
Sunderland lost last week becoming the latest victims of a late Reading onslaught, however the Black Cats have looked a lot better and more competitive in recent weeks.
Arsenal are playing well and will want to pick up as many points as possible before they play neighbors Tottenham in a game which could well decide who ends up in the Champions League next season.
Sunderland winger James McClean looks set to miss out on Saturday’s clash after injuring his ankle mid-week for the Republic of Ireland, though Carlos Cuellar could return from a hamstring problem.
Arsenal have defensive worries with Thomas Vermaelen still out with an ankle injury and Laurent Koscielny struggling with a knee injury.
Sunderland have a poor record against Arsenal having only recorded a single win in their last 18 games against the Gunners, and with the Black Cats struggling to score goals I cannot really see them improving that record.
I expect Sunderland to sit back and try to frustrate Arsenal with the hope of nicking a goal on the break, but I think Arsenal have too much class and firepower up top and will win this game.
Southampton Vs Man City
Southampton have played in their last two games, but are still without a win under new boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Manchester City fell nine points behind leaders Manchester United last week after failing to beat Liverpool at home. The champions have struggled for goals in recent weeks, and realistically need to win ten or eleven of their last thirteen games to stand a chance of winning the EPL.
For all their class and firepower upfront, City have struggled for goals in recent weeks and have really missed the towering presence of midfielder Yaya Toure. The Ivorian has been integral to all their success in the last two season and City will be glad to welcome him back now that the Ivory Coast have been Eliminated form the African Cup of Nations.
Southampton have problems at the back with full-backs Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne unlikely to feature due to injury.
Manchester City could recall captain Vincent Kompany and Maicon back to the starting line-up after they both recovered from injury, while Yaya Toure is likely to feature at some point after returning from international duty.
Southampton have only ever beaten City once in their last nine games and I cannot see that changing anytime soon. The Saints have been playing neat and tidy possession soccer since Pochettino took charge, and striker Rickie Lambert could cause the City back-line problems, however I think they will just lose out in this game in the end.
Man Utd Vs Everton
Manchester United opened up a nine-point lead over neighbors at the top of the EPL, but will know the league is anything but over having squandered an eight-point lead with only a few games to go.
In fact, this game was one of those pivotal games towards the end of the season where United dropped points. The Red Devils were beating Everton 4-2 with ten minutes to left play, but somehow managed to capitulate and draw the game. The result left United only three-points in front of Manchester City, who beat them a week later and eventually won the EPL on goal-difference.
Everton were expected to steamroll Aston Villa last week, but were fortunate to nick a point in the end with Marouane Fellaini scoring a brace late on to rescue the Toffees. The big Belgian scored the decisive goal between the two teams earlier in the season, and will be one of Everton’s key players on Sunday.
Manchester United are boasting by the returns of Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, and Ashley Young who have all recovered from injuries.
Everton are hopefule that Phil Jagielka and Marouane Fellaini will play despite missing mid-week fixtures for their respective countries with injury problems. However, Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman will remain out.
Everton drew here 4-4 last season, and beat United in their EPL opener this season, however, their record at Old Trafford is not good – the Toffees have only won once at Old Trafford since the EPL was formed in 1992.
United seem to just keep on grinding out wins, and with Rooney now in goal scoring form too, it is hard to see how United will not score more goals than Everton.
Liverpool Vs West Brom
Liverpool have improved a lot recently and were unlucky not to beat City away last weekend. The reds have two tough away fixtures recently away to Man city and Arsenal, and ended up drawing both of them 2-2 when they really should have won.
If the Reds would have won those games they would have been sitting 40-points with a realistic chance of making it into a Champions League spot next season, however, the best they can hope for now is to build on their progress and end the season well.
West Brom are in bad form and without a win this year, but they have actually won more games than Liverpool this season, and are a tough team to play against. Injuries coupled with the Peter Odemwingie situation have not helped their cause, but the Baggies are a good team and I’m sure they will turn their season round soon.
Liverpool should start Daniel Sturridge after the striker recovered from an injury that kept him out midweek, and may give new signing Philippe Coutinho his debut.
West Brom defender Goran Popov is suspended for this fixture after receiving a red card in his last outing for spitting at an opponent, while Peter Odemwingie is unlikely to feature as West Brom continue to discipline the striker.
Liverpool have been unlucky in recent weeks by drawing games they really should have won, West Brom will give them a tough game and compete all over the pitch, but this should be a win at the third time trying for the reds.