Well we are into the final furlong of the EPL season now with only nine games left to play. Manchester United look to have claimed their 20th League title with an unassailable 15-points lead at the top, but there is still a lot to be decided—like Champions League and relegation places—and many scores to be settled before the season is out, so without further ado lets see what lies ahead of us in week 30.
Diaby out for the rest of the year
Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby has been ruled out of action for up to nine months with a knee ligament injury.
The 26-year-old French man has been plagued with injuries throughout his time at Arsenal, making only 92 starts for the Gunners since 2006.
A club statement said: “Abou Diaby injured his left knee in training on Wednesday and he has torn his anterior cruciate ligament.
“Abou will undergo surgery to repair the injury in the near future.”
Diaby’s injury leaves Arsenal short on numbers in the midfield department, with fellow midfielders Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott both out for up to two-weeks.
Ince wants Manager transfer window
Blackpool manager Paul Ince has suggested the FA should introduce a transfer window for managers.
The former Manchester United, Inter Milan, and Liverpool midfielder feels the next generation of soccer managers will be put-off of prospective careers in management with 34 managers already sacked this season.
Talking to BBC Radio Lancashire, Ince said: “Why would the Steven Gerrards and the Jamie Carraghers want to go into management when there’s no protection for them?”
“There needs to be some legislation where there’s protection for managers,”
Blackpool face Blackburn, who sacked their Manager after only 67 days, on Friday. And Ince, who was also dismissed fairly quickly when at Blackburn—177 day to be exact—feels a transfer system akin to the one used for players could be a solution to problems facing managers.
“You look at Michael Appleton – he’s a young English manager coming into the game. To lose your job after 67 days is ridiculous. We’re not getting any time.
“That’s what disappoints me with the Blackburn situation. It’s OK that we can protect players because they’re on contracts. We can sell them in January, and if they don’t want to go, they stay.
“It should be exactly the same as a manager. It stops all the commotion and it makes sense. Someone needs to seriously look at it.”
MPs plea FA to make stand against FIFA ‘sham’ reforms
British Members of Parliament have urged the English, Scottish, and Welsh Football Associations to help stop FIFA’s internal reform becoming a ‘sham’.
The move comes after Alexandra Wrage, a leading member of Fifa’s Independent Governance Committee (IGC), said the reform process was becoming neutered with FIFA rejecting several of the proposed measures such as stricter controls for deciding how future World Cups are awarded and disclosing how much FIFA president Sepp Blatter and other leading executives are paid.
Following Wrange’s complaints, representatives from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties requested the various British Football Associations raise the issues at FIFA’s annual congress in May—though the deadline to add items to the agenda for the annual congress is this Saturday.
Damian Collins and Alun Cairns (Conservative), Jim Sheridan (Labour) and Adrian Sanders (Liberal Democrats) are the MPs who have made the requests.
In a letter to FA chairman David Bernstein, Conservative MP Damian Collins wrote: “This was supposed to be the moment when FIFA embraced the need for greater transparency in its financial affairs and key decision-making processes.
“Instead the impression has been created that Sepp Blatter and the FIFA executive committee have no serious commitment to reform, and that the whole process has been a sham.
“According to FIFA statutes, any member may make a request for an item to be included on the agenda for the Congress, and I would like to ask if the FA would submit a proposal for the four key recommendations for reform recently presented by the Independent Governance Committee to be debated and voted on.”
Collins added: “These issues are of real concern to football fans around the world. To many the FIFA executive committee look like a group of hard-faced men who have done very well out of football.”
Previews and Predictions
|Everton v Man City||2-0||2-1|
|Aston Villa v QPR||3-2||1-2|
|Southampton v Liverpool||3-1||0-2|
|Stoke v West Brom||0-0||0-1|
|Swansea v Arsenal||0-2||0-2|
|Man Utd v Reading||1-0||4-0|
|Sunderland v Norwich||1-1||2-1|
|Tottenham v Fulham||0-1||2-0|
|Chelsea v West Ham||2-0||2-0|
|Wigan v Newcastle||2-1||2-1|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last time out I got FIVE correct results, with THREE perfect scores, giving me a combined total of 11-points, which is just two points shy of my best total of 13-points back in week 14.
There is a real mix and match about the fixtures this week with the top, middle, and bottom teams all playing one another. Man City vs Newcastle and Swansea vs Tottenham are probably the picks of the EPL games, though Chelsea and Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final replay on Monday is undoubtedly the biggest game this week.
|Sunderland v Man Utd||0-2|
|Arsenal v Reading||4-0|
|Man City v Newcastle||3-1|
|Southampton v Chelsea||1-2|
|Swansea v Tottenham||1-1|
|West Ham v West Brom||2-1|
|Wigan v Norwich||2-1|
|Everton v Stoke||2-0|
|Aston Villa v Liverpool||0-2|
|Chelsea v Man Utd (FA Cup)||1-2|
|Fulham v QPR||2-1|
Sunderland vs Man Utd
Manchester United may be tempted to field a weakened side against Sunderland with their FA Cup quarter-final clash against Chelsea scheduled on Monday.
However, even though the Red Devils have a 15-point lead at the top of the EPL it seems unlikely Ferguson will rest most of his star players. The Scot will want to wrap up the EPL as soon as possible, and it should also be noted that Ferguson fielded a strong team against Everton just before United’s away clash with Real Madrid in the Champions League – which was arguably a bigger game than the Chelsea clash is.
Sunderland have struggled with their form all season and are without a win in their last seven EPL games, taking a measly three points from a possible twenty one. The Black Cats lie only four points off the relegation zone, and need to start picking up points quick or risk sinking into the abyss.
However, with top goal scorer Steven Fletcher out for the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage, it is hard to see how Sunderland will score the goals they have struggled to find all season.
United have no injury worries and their only real conundrum is whether or not to rest players ahead of Monday’s clash with Chelsea.
Sunderland have only ever beaten United once in 23 meetings, and with the Black Cats present form, even the most optimistic of Sunderland fans would be hard pressed to predict a win.
Arsenal vs Reading
It looked like Arsenal’s hopes of making it into next season’s Champions League were all but over when they lost to Tottenham a few weeks back, but a couple of good wins coupled with Tottenham’s traditional end-of-season capitulation have left the Gunners within four-points of their neighbors with a game in hand.
Arsenal have nine games left in the EPL, five of which are home games. The first of those homes games is against joint-bottom of the EPL Reading, and if the Gunners are serious about finishing in the top four then they simply must beat the Latics.
Reading recently appointed Nigel Atkins, who was only sacked by Southampton a couple of months back, but it is unlikely he has the time or resources to keep Reading in the EPL. The Latic are just lacking in the class department, though they more than make up for it with their spirit, and will always give their opponents a good game.
Abu Diaby, Jack Wilshere, and Theo Walcott are all out for Arsenal with Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosiky and Oxlade-Chamberlain likely to replace the injured trio.
These two have played twice already this season with Arsenal winning on both occasions and scoring 13 goals in the process. The Latics have bundles of team spirit and can score goals, but they seem to be naive or short in class at the back and that is why I am going for an easy Arsenal win.
Manchester City vs Newcastle
City’s loss to Everton last time out means the Champions are basically playing for second place. They did overhaul an eight-point lead last season, but United now hold a massive 15-point lead over City and would basically have to lose all of their remaining games for City to even stand a chance.
Newcastle lost at Wigan in their last game, and seemed to be effected by some poor referring decision. But the result was in keeping with the Magpies form this season, which has been topsey turvy at best.
City look certain to be without captain Vincent Kompany, who aggravated a calf injury while playing for Belgium that has kept out of action for the champions since January, though striker Sergio Aguero should return to the starting line-up after recovering from a knee injury.
The champions have not hit the dizzying heights they reached last season and their biggest problem has been scoring goals. They may be out of form and only playing for second place, but I still cannot see anything other than a comfortable home win for City.
Southampton vs Chelsea
Southampton pulled another one out of the bag in their last game, defeating an in-form Liverpool side to maintain their target of EPL survival. The Saints have now taken points off of Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool at the St Mary’s Stadium this season, and will not be afraid of the task awaiting them on Saturday when they line up against European champions Chelsea.
After an indifferent start to the year, Chelsea have suddenly hit a bit of a purple patch in form, and they may be disappointed the international break came when it did as it might have broken their momentum.
Both these teams are playing well and need a win from this game—Southampton to ward off relegation and Chelsea to cement a spot in next season’s Champions League. Tinker man Rafa Benitez may field a weakened team with one-eye on Monday’s game with Manchester United, but either way I think the Blues will just about edge this one.
Swansea vs Tottenham
Both these teams lost in their last outings and will want to turn things around with a good win on Saturday.
Swansea seem to have gone off the boil after winning their historic first trophy, and have now lost two games on the trot. Club Captain Ashley Williams spoke this week about the danger of their season petering out, but I don’t think that will happen and I expect the Swans to bounce back soon after this mini-hangover.
However, they face no easy task against fourth placed Spurs, who desperately want to be in next year’s Champions League after missing out last year despite finishing fourth, only because Chelsea won Europe’s premier competition.
Spurs’ win over Arsenal looked to have put them in a commanding position for a Champions League spot, but consecutive losses in the EPL have allowed Chelsea to leapfrog the north Londoners and left arch-rivals Arsenal in with a chance of stealing fourth place.
This should be a good game to watch, as both sides like to keep the ball on the deck and play passing soccer. Spurs have the better players and normally I would pick them to win this one, but with a week of international soccer having just passed I feel a few of the Spurs players may be suffering the effects of ‘Fifa virus’ and that is why I will go for a draw.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool
Aston Villa got a massive win against relegation rivals QPR to keep them just above Wigan and outside of the relegation zone.
The Villains seems to be finding a bit of form just at the right time, and have now won three of their last five games in the EPL. U.S. international keeper Brad Guzan, who has been in inspired from for both club and country recently, feels Villa’s form has come from their rocking home supports, and they will definitely need that 12th man when they face Liverpool on Sunday.
The Reds surprisingly lost to Southampton last week, but were in good form before that, winning four consecutive games in the EPL. Brendan Rogers ideas seem to have come to fruition and new signings Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho seem to have added a different dynamic to the Liverpool attack.
Villa beat Liverpool away back in December, and with two consecutive wins under their belt they may just fancy their chances of beating Liverpool again. However, it should be noted that Villa’s last two wins were against the two bottom sides in the EPL, and even with the help of the 12th man I cannot see anything but a Liverpool win.
Chelsea vs Man Utd (FA Cup quarter-final replay)
Chelsea looked dead and buried after the first 15-minutes against Man Utd in the initial game, conceding two early goals. But the blues fought back valiantly in the second-half to tie the game and in the end were disappointed not to have won.
Chelsea seem to have improved a lot in recent weeks, as the Chelsea fans seem to have gotten bored with booing and shouting abuse at interim manager Rafa Benitez. Chelsea have had a strange season, it started out so well and then turned into a bit of a disaster. But the same happened last year and Chelsea ended up having their greatest season ever, winning the Champions League, and the Blues could still yet have another historic season with the FA Cup and Europa League still within their grasps.
But the west Londoners will first have to get past Manchester United, who will want to add the FA Cup to an EPL title that is all but already theirs. The Red Devils have won the world’s oldest cup competition a record 11 times, and will be itching to exact some revenge on Chelsea who defeated them in the 2007 final.
Chelsea are in form and at home, so they should really be favorites to take this game. However, playing at home has sometimes been harder for the Blues this season with the home fans spending most of their time abusing coach Benitez.
United felt aggrieved after bowing out of the Champions League and will want to end their season with a little FA Cup gloss. They were lucky not to lose to Chelsea in the last game, though they could have been out of sight by half-time.
This should be close and thrilling encounter, but United seem to have more match winners in their team and that is why I will back them to edge this one.