The EPL returned with a bang last week after the international break dominating Europe—with Chelsea the only EPL team not to win in European competition.
Week 5 promises to be exciting and compelling as always as a whole bunch of teams pit their wits against each other in the pursuit of three points. This week will also bring some added spice as Chelsea take on Fulham in the west London derby before Champions Manchester United travel to visit neighbors Manchester City in the Manchester derby
UK and Ireland keen to host EURO 2020 matches
England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have told Uefa they want to stage European Championship matches in 2020.
Earlier in the year UEFA announced that Euro 2020 would be held in 13 cities, with the semi-finals and final played at the same stadium, and since then Uefa says 32 of its members have stated an interest in hosting games.
England wants to host games in London, Scotland has chosen Glasgow, Wales has opted to go for matches in Cardiff, while the Republic has picked Dublin as its venue.
All candidates have until the 25 April 2014 to finalize their choices, with UEFA set to announce which 13 cities will host games on 25 September 2014.
The European Champions were first staged in France back in 1960 and was won by the Soviet Union.
The tournament is usually held by one or two nations but UEFA plan to change the 2020 event to mark 60 years since European football’s governing body was formed.
Fulham to remove Michael Jackson Statue
New Fulham owner Shahid Khan is to remove the Michael Jackson statue outside of Craven Cottage.
U.S. billionaire Khan, 62, purchased the club from Mohamed Al Fayed in July for a fee reported to be between $225m and $300m.
Khan, who also owns a NFL side Jacksonville Jaguars, said the removal of the statue was the ‘right thing’ to do and that it would be returned to Al Fayed , who was a close friend of the late pop star.
The Statue was installed behind the Hammersmith Stand in 2011 as a tribute to Jackson, who visited the ground in 1999, but was not popular with many of the home fans.
“Our supporters’ views on the statue have been made clear,” Khan said in a statement on the Fulham website.
“I respect Mr Al Fayed and know he had good intentions in paying an individual tribute. However, the removal of the statue is the right thing for Fulham Football Club.”
Ferguson says Rooney is back
Former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson believes Wanye Rooney has returned to his best form after the forward scored two goals midweek against Bayern Leverkusen.
Rooney returned from a gashed head to score a free-kick in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend before adding two more in the 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen to become just the fourth player to score 200 goals for Manchester United.
Rooney is believed to have wanted a move away United following a breakdown with Ferguson, who dropped him for a key Champions League game against Real Madrid and revealed he had made a request to leave the Red Devils, something the club now accept was not the case.
But Ferguson, now a United director and ambassador, has lavished praise on the 27-year-old forward and believes he is back to his best.
Talking about Rooney for the first time since he ended his long stint as manager, Ferguson told MUTV of Rooney’s contribution against Leverkusen: “Wayne’s performance was fantastic, I was pleased to see that. He’s got his energy back – the determination, his purpose to attack players, was all very encouraging to me. Being a director, I’m delighted to see that; he’s back to what we always remember.”
Fergusons praises have been viewed as an attempt to build bridges with Rooney, but with United visiting neighbors Manchester City on Sunday in the Manchester Derby it could just be another one of the old master’s timely psychological masterstrokes.
Predictions and Previews
|Man Utd v Crystal Palace||2-0||3-0|
|Aston Villa v Newcastle||1-2||2-0|
|Fulham v West Brom||1-1||1-0|
|Hull v Cardiff||1-1||1-1|
|Stoke v Man City||0-0||1-2|
|Sunderland v Arsenal||1-3||0-2|
|Tottenham v Norwich||2-0||2-1|
|Everton v Chelsea||1-0||1-1|
|Southampton v West Ham||0-0||1-1|
|Swansea v Liverpool||2-2||0-1|
A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got FIVE correct results, with ONE perfect score, giving me a combined total of SEVEN points.
Last seasons highest score was 14-points, so lets see if I can get nearer to that total in Week 5.
|Norwich v Aston Villa||2-1|
|Liverpool v Southampton||1-0|
|Newcastle v Hull||2-0|
|West Brom v Sunderland||1-1|
|West Ham v Everton||0-0|
|Chelsea v Fulham||3-1|
|Arsenal v Stoke||3-0|
|Crystal Palace v Swansea||1-1|
|Cardiff v Tottenham||1-2|
|Man City v Man Utd||1-1|
Liverpool v Southampton
Top of the table Liverpool dropped their first points of the season last week in a 2-2 draw away the Swansea, but won’t be too disappointed as the Liberty Stadium is one of the more difficult places to visit in the EPL.
Daniel Sturridge once again managed to score a goal and is joint top scorer in the EPL with four goals. However, Liverpool lost Brazilian Philippe Coutinho to a shoulder injury during that game which could affect their forward play.
Southampton played well last but just couldn’t find a way past keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who was in inspired form for West Ham. The Saints looked tasty going forward Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Dani Osvaldo all looking dangerous.
Defender Daniel Agger is expected to return for Liverpool after missing Monday’s draw at Swansea with a side strain. But Philippe Coutinho is out for several weeks after shoulder surgery with Raheem Sterling likely to replace the Brazilian.
Southampton left-back Luke Shaw starts despite being forced off with a knock earlier in the week draw with West Ham.
The last five meetings between these two teams have all been won by the home side, so I guess this should be a victory for Liverpool. But Mauricio Pochettino has gotten Southampton playing some tidy stuff and I expect the Saints to cause Liverpool a few problems on Saturday.
Liverpool has looked better going forward this season, but still seem too reliant on one or two players to score all their goals—Liverpool won their three opening games by a 1-0 score line.
The loss of Coutinho could affect their ability to create chances in the final third, but I still feel the Reds will just nick this one.
West Brom v Sunderland
West Brom scored a last-gasp goal to rescue a draw away to Fulham last week and are still in search of their first win of the new season.
The Baggies are really struggling for goals this term and last week’s goal was actually their first of the new campaign. They signed Stephane Sessegnon from Sunderland on the transfer deadline and the Benin international could be in line to start against his former club.
Sunderland lost a contentious game against Arsenal last week. The Black Cats thought they had equalized through Jozy Altidore, who did extremely well to hold off a foul from Bacary Sanga and score, but was denied a leveler by the referee who failed to play an advantage.
West Brom forwards Shane Long and Matej Vydra are both doubts with respective knee and hamstring problems, though Stephane Sessegnon could make his debut against his former club after receiving a work permit.
Sunderland captain John O’Shea should return following a suspension, while fit-again midfielder Lee Cattermole could feature for the first time this season.
West Brom were the surprise package of last season, but have struggled for goals this season following the departure of top scorer Romelu Lukaku and need to start scoring and winning games soon or they will be caught in the scarp at the foot of the table.
Many pundits have tipped Sunderland and their animated manager Paolo Di Canio to fail this season, but the Black Cats showed fight and determination against Arsenal and I think if they can get a few decent results under their belt then they will be fine.
West Brom have won six of their previous seven Premier League games against the Sunderland (W6, D1) and are chasing a fourth straight win, so this should be an easy win for the Baggies. But neither of these sides are finding it easy to scores goals and that is why I’ll go for a low scoring draw.
West Ham vs Everton
West Ham managed to earn a draw away to Southampton last week thanks to keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. The Hammers currently boast the meanest defense in the EPL having conceded only once, however they have only scored twice and are really struggling threaten opposing teams at the moment.
Everton got a terrific win over Chelsea last week and look to progressing well under new coach Roberto Martinez. On loan striker Romelu Lukaku should be available to make his debut and will add another attacking dynamic to the Toffees attack that has so far struggled for goals.
West Ham remains short of attacking options, with Andy Carroll, Mladen Petric, Joe Cole and Stewart Downing all out injured.
Everton loan signing Romelu Lukaku is likely to make his debut, and fellow striker Arouna Kone has overcome a knee injury.
Darron Gibson is also fit and will be pushing for a start, but Steven Pienaar looks set to miss out with a hamstring problem.
Everton are unbeaten in their last 11 games in all competitions against West Ham (W7, D4) and I can’t see that changing tomorrow. But Everton are struggling for goals and West Ham currently have the best defense in the EPL, so I’ll go for a scoreless draw.
Chelsea vs Fulham
Chelsea have lost two on the trot and will want to get back to winning ways when they face neighbors Fulham in the west London derby.
The Blues have made a decent start to the EPL season picking up seven points from a possible 12, which is the lowest tally since Roman Abramovic purchased the club.
They lost last week away to Everton and then at home to Basle in the Champions League, and if they don’t turn the corner soon the pressure will really begin to mount on Jose ‘Special One’ Mourinho.
The Blues have a plethora of attacking talent, but ironically do not seem have someone who can score goals at the moment—Torres seems to have permanently lost that killer instinct, Eto’o doesn’t look match fit, and Demba Ba seems out of favor with Mourinho.
Fulham have made a decent start to the new season, though some fans have called for Manager Martin Jol to be sacked, which seems a bit ridiculous. The Cottagers are still breaking in their new players and still haven’t had the opportunity to field all their attacking talent at the same time.
John Terry is likely to return for Chelsea after being rested in midweek, while midfielder Ramires should also return after missing out midweek through suspension.
Darren Bent is fit for Fulham but fellow forward Dimitar Berbatov may miss out with a hamstring problem.
Chelsea have a fantastic record against their neighbors Fulham—The Blues have lost only once against Fulham in 34 league and cup meetings, a run spanning 34 years—and despite their troubles and poor form I cannot see that changing this weekend.
Arsenal v Stoke
Arsenal won 1-3 away to Sunderland last week and have now won all six of their games in all competitions since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa.
The Gunners look really impressive going forward—they have scored 14 goals in their last six games—but they still look a little lightweight and vulnerable at the back and were perhaps a tad lucky to leave Sunderland with all three points last week.
Stoke have started the season well and look like an improved side under Mark Hughes. They drew with Manchester City at home last week and would have taken all three points if not for poor finishing, but they will face a sterner test at the Emirates on Sunday.
Mikel Arteta could feature for Arsenal for the first time this season after recovering from a thigh injury, but Santi Cazorla, Yaya Sanogo, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski all remain unavailable.
Stoke Forward Marco Arnautovic could make his full Potters debut after impressing as a substitute against Manchester City, but Mark Muniesa, Glenn Whelan and Jamie Ness will all miss out because of injury.
Stoke are playing well and look like a much more adventurous and forward thinking team under Mark Hughes, but they have lost all five of their last visits to the Emirates in the EPL and I think the trend will continue.
Manchester City v Manchester United
Neither of the Manchester sides have made a good start to the season, picking up only seven points from their first four games.
City have not looked at their fluid best so far this season, but that is understandable considering they have a new coach and a whole bunch of new players. Nevertheless, they have struggled against teams you would normally consider them to steamroll and Sunday’s game will be a real test for them.
Manchester United have not made a good start to the season either, but they have had one of the toughest opening set of fixtures ever facing Liverpool, Chelsea and now City in their first five games.
New United boss David Moyes still does not seem to have decided what is his best midfield, but he seems sure on his forward selection of Rooney and Van Persie and will be hoping the two can finally get a run of games together—Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have scored a combined 28 goals in 23 Premier League starts together (van Persie 15 and Rooney 13).
City captain Vincent Kompany looks set to return to action, while David Silva could also return for City after recovering from a thigh injury.
However, Micah Richards remains a doubt, while Gael Clichy is also not expected to feature.
Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck remains doubtful with a knee injury, while Phil Jones and Rafael are definitely out through injury.
With both teams struggling for form and points, you might expect both coaches to pick conservative teams and play out a dour draw. However, Derbies are usually full action, goals and controversy and I expect Sunday’s game to be no different.
City will be boosted by the return of captain Vincent Kompany, but they have looked vulnerable at the back all season and with Wayne Rooney just starting to hit form they could be in trouble.