EPL Week 35
It’s week 35 in the EPL and with only four games left to play it really is ‘squeaky bum time’. But there won’t any squeaks resonating from Alex Ferguson’s cheeks as Manchester United wrapped up a record 20th league title crown on Monday night.
Nevertheless, there is still a lot left to play for in the final four games, and with four teams vying for two remaining Champions League spots and eight teams fighting to beat the drop we could still be in for the most compelling finishes to an EPL season yet.
Suarez banned for 10 games for bite
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been banned for 10 games by the FA for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
The unsavory incident happened last Sunday during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea, but went unseen by the officials. The Uruguayan international apologized after the game, but was charged by the FA the following day and on Wednesday was handed a 10 match suspension.
However, Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers criticized the ban saying: “The punishment is against the man, rather than the incident.”
“We have a punishment with no intention of helping [his] rehabilitation.”, added Rogers.
The ban means Suarez, who is favorite to win the PFA player of the year, will miss the rest of Liverpool’s League campaign as well as the first six game of next season.
Suarez has until 12:00 BST on Friday to lodge an appeal against the suspension.
Arsenal to give United “guard of honor”
Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger has revealed his team will hold a “guard of honor” for Manchester United before Sunday’s match at the Emirates Stadium.
Sunday’s match in London will be United’s first since securing their 20th League title on Monday night.
There was speculation that Arsenal might opt-out, given the rivalry between the clubs and the high-tension surrounded the return of van Persie who left the Gunners in the summer.
However, Wenger was quick to dismiss any such notions saying: “I want the traditions of English football to be respected.”
It is not the first time a “guard of honor” has been held during this fixture, Manchester United players gave one to Arsenal at Highbury back in 1991 after the Gunners secured the League title.
|Fulham v Arsenal||0-1||0-1|
|Norwich v Reading||2-1||2-1|
|QPR v Stoke||0-2||2-0|
|Sunderland v Everton||1-0||1-1|
|Swansea v Southampton||0-0||3-2|
|West Brom v Newcastle||1-1||2-0|
|West Ham v Wigan||2-0||2-1|
|Tottenham v Man City||3-1||0-1|
|Liverpool v Chelsea||2-2||1-1|
|Man Utd v Aston Villa||3-0||3-0|
A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got SIX correct results, including THREE perfect scores to give me a grand total of 12 points—just one point short of the record 13-points in week 14.
|Man City v West Ham||3-0|
|Everton v Fulham||2-1|
|Southampton v West Brom||1-1|
|Stoke v Norwich||0-0|
|Wigan v Tottenham||1-3|
|Newcastle v Liverpool||0-0|
|Reading v QPR||2-3|
|Chelsea v Swansea||2-0|
|Arsenal v Man Utd||1-1|
|Aston Villa v Sunderland||1-1|
Man City v West Ham
Week 35 starts in Manchester as recently dethroned champions Man City host Londoners West Ham.
City’s title aspirations are officially over after they lost 3-1 last week away to Spurs. City were winning and comfortable for the first 70-minutes, but still ended up losing and the defeat more or less summed up City this season—good and dominant for the most part but just not clinical enough.
West Ham got another good result last week beating Wigan 2-0 and are now unbeaten in their last 5 EPL games. Manager Sam Allardyce is often criticized for creating teams that play long ball soccer, but his sides are always hard to beat and he has done an excellent job with The Hammers in their first season back in the EPL.
David Silva, James Milner and Sergio Aguero should all return for City after all recovering from hamstring injuries.
West Ham will be without James Tomkins and George McCartney due to respective calf and knee injuries, but could recall Mark Noble and Joe Cole to the staring eleven after the pair proved their fitness recently with cameo sub appearances.
West Ham are a tough team to beat and are unbeaten in five, but they have lost their last six encounter against the sky blues. City will be hurting after seeing their neighbors United take away their crown, and I expect them to take it to the Hammers.
Everton vs Fulham
Everton’s chances of making a Champions League spot look all but over after their 1-0 defeat away to Sunderland last week. But then again, I said that a month ago and they have somehow stayed in contention, so I guess we shouldn’t write the Toffees off just yet.
Fulham have lost their last two games, but those losses were against Chelsea and Arsenal, and before that they were on an eight-game unbeaten run. The Cottagers play some neat stuff, though they are still a bit of a soft touch on the road.
Everton look likely to be without Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe after the pair limped off against Sunderland last week, while Phil Jagielka remains a doubt with an ankle injury meaning fit-again defender Tony Hibbert could be in line for a recall.
Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell will definitely miss Saturday’s game as he begins a four-match ban, but the Cottagers should recall Emmanuel Frimpong, who was ineligible to play against parent club Arsenal last week, as well as Damian Duff who has recovered from a thigh strain.
This should be an entertaining game as Everton’s robust style meets the silky style of Fulham’s. Everton have never lost to Fulham at home in a League game (W20 D4), in fact they have won the last 19 at Goodison Park -the longest ever top-flight winning run against a particular club at the same stadium. I guess this should be a straightforward win for the Toffees
Wigan v Tottenham
Wigan have lost their last two games and currently sit third from bottom. But the Latics are playing well and if they can get a bit of luck they should be able to turn things around, though they will need to do so quickly as they only have five games left to play.
Spurs returned from their recent slump with a bang, coming back from a goal down to beat Man City 3-1 at White Hart Lane last Sunday. It’s no surprise that Bale and Defoe both scored, as Spurs have looked impotent in attack without them.
Wigan defender Antolin Alcaraz is the Latics only absentee with a hamstring injury.
William Gallas, Younes Kaboul and Sandro all remain out for Tottenham, but winger Aaron Lennon is in contention for a return after a three-week lay-off with a knee injury.
This is a massive game for both clubs, as Wigan try to ward off relegation and Spurs aim for a Champions League spot. Both teams play nice stuff and will be going for a win, so it should be an exciting game to watch. Wigan are vying for their first ever league double over Spurs, having won the reverse fixture earlier in the season. But Spurs have only lost once in seven trips to the JCB stadium, the north Londoners are currently brimming with confidence and have better players in attacking areas, and that is why I’ll back them to win.
Newcastle v Liverpool
Both these side drew last week and have not been in the best of form recently.
Newcastle got a good draw away to West Brom last week, but have only won once in their last five and need to a win to make sure of their EPL status.
Liverpool have struggled recently and are without a win in April, having only scored twice all month. The Reds are not in contention for any silverware or a place in Europe and it looks as if their players have given up in the last few games.
The 10 game suspension of Luis Suarez means the Reds are back to having only one recognized striker, and on their current form it is hard to see how will now get them goals.
Newcastle should recall Cheick Tiote after the Ivory Coast international recovered from a hamstring injury. But they will have to remain without the services of Fabricio Coloccini (back) and Sylvain Marveaux (thigh) who both remain out injured.
Liverpool have no new injury concerns, though they will be without Luis Suarez who begins his 10 match suspension, meaning Daniel Sturridge will play up top on his own.
This match has traditional produced goals with the winning team scoring a minimum of two goals in the last 12 league meetings. However, both these sides are struggling with form and goals at the moment—they have only managed 5 goals between them this month—which is why I’m going for a drab draw.
Chelsea vs Swansea
Chelsea were unlucky to draw with Liverpool last week, especially as the goal scorer, Luis Suarez, should not have been on the field after biting defender Branislav Ivanovic.
The Blues have had a mountain of fixture recently, but their squad shouldn’t be too tired as Rafa ‘tinker-man’ Benitez has shuffled his squad quite a lot.
Swansea have been a revelation this season, but they seem to have taken their eye off the ball since winning the League Cup—they have only won once since the League Cup final in February.
The Blues are playing well and seem to have moved up a gear in recent weeks, while Swansea are without a win in their last five, meaning this should be a stroll in the park for Chelsea. Having said that the Swans did go to Stamford Bridge and beat Chelsea in the semi-finals of the League Cup, so who knows?
Arsenal vs Manchester United
This is the biggest game of the week as Arsenal play hosts to newly crown EPL Champions Manchester United.
Arsenal got a good win away to Fulham last week to move third in the table for the first time in a while, and are currently on a good run winning five and drawing one of their last six games.
Manchester United finally won the EPL on Monday night with a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. The Red Devils have stutter in recent weeks, but were back to their best with van Persie scoring a first-half hat-trick.
This game has produced some ill-tempered affairs down the years, but with United wrapping up their 20th League title earlier in the week this game might have less of an edge than in recent years.
But I expect this game to still be a good one and the atmosphere to be intense, as the Arsenal faithful show their disapproval towards their former hero Robin van Persie and the ‘guard of honour’ the Gunners are expected to give United.
Aston Villa v Sunderland
This is a massive game at the bottom of the table as 17th placed Aston Villa take on Sunderland, who sit only three points above them in 14th.
Villa were well beaten at Old Trafford earlier in the week, which is a game I don’t imagine they banked on winning anyway, and need to pick up as many points as they can with only four games remaining.
The Villains currently sit three-points above Wigan, who are in the relegation zone, though they have played a game more than the Latics. Monday’s game against Sunderland is one of only two games they have left to play at home, so they need to win.
However, getting a result over Sunderland won’t be easy. The Black Cats have won their last two games and look completely revitalized under new coach Paolo Di Canio. They are playing with more vigor, ambition, and most importantly passion.
Both these teams are fighting for their lives and I’m sure they will give it their all, but neither team can really afford to lose and that’s why think this will end in a draw.