Twas the weekend before Christmas and the air was full of sounds,
As fans up and down the country made their way to soccer grounds,
Players prepared and stretched their joints,
As they hoped to bring home the festive three points,
The games kick-off to chants and cheers,
While the fans watched on holding their beers,
There were plenty of goals, tackles and fouls,
And even a few festive nutmegs that caused exclaims of wows,
When the 90 minutes were up the final whistles were blown,
And all of those who attended merrily made their way home,
They hung up the stockings and got ready for bed,
As they prepared for the festivities that lay ahead,
Red-faced and chubby but nimble on his feet,
Santa, St. Nicolas, all in red it must be,
Either that or it’s just Wayne Rooney!
He sprang to his sleigh and drifted out of sight,
‘Happy Christmas’, he shouted,
‘And to all a good night’,
Mackay told to resign or be sacked
Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan has told the club’s manager Malky MacKay to resign or be sacked.
It is understood that Tan sent a letter emailed to MacKay on Monday listing in depth his grievances with the Scot.
The Malaysian businessman criticized MacKay at length in a range of areas, such as signings, transfer budgets, results on the pitch, style of play and also questioned his record as a boss.
MacKay has previously said he will not resign, however it remains to see how he will react to Tan’s latest remarks.
The former Scotland international was named Cardiff Manager in June 2011 and led the Welsh club to promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. However, his future became uncertain when head of recruitment, Iain Moody, was sacked in October.
Tan is said to be upset with a perceived overspend of the transfer budget agreed between MacKay, Lim and Moody. The owner claims the total budget was £35m and that £50m was spent including add-ons.
Moody and MacKay have denied these claims, insisting Tan and Lim had no complaints about that rising with add-ons.
Thursday’s events are not the first time Tan has caused controversy during his tenure at Cardiff, in 2012 the Malaysian business changed the clubs home colors to red and black as well as their badge—nicknamed the Bluebirds, Cardiff City had worn a blue home kit since 1908.
Wilshere gets two-game ban
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has been handed a two-game suspension for an abusive hand gesture.
The 21-year-old had admitted a Football Association charge, though contested the mandatory length of ban, but an independent regulatory commission rejected his appeal after a hearing on Thursday.
Wilshere made the gesture during Arsenal’s 6-3 defeat away to Manchester City last Saturday. Official’s failed to spot the offense, but television cameras picked up the England international raising his middle finger in the direction of home supporters at the Etihad Stadium.
An FA statement said: “Whilst admitting the charge, Wilshere claimed the standard sanction for this offense was clearly excessive.
“The commission rejected this claim and the two match suspension will commence with immediate effect.”
The FA said he had been charged retrospectively under a new pilot project for potential ‘not seen’ incidents in Premier League matches.
“Under the new process, if an incident has not been seen by the match officials, a three-man panel will be asked by the FA to review it and advise what, if any action, they believe the match referee should have taken had it been witnessed at the time,” said a spokesman.
“For an FA charge to follow, all three panel members must agree it is a sending-off offence. In this instance the panel was unanimous.”
The suspension is a blow for league leaders Arsenal, as it means Wilshere will now miss Monday’s vital clash with London neighbors and rivals in the title race Chelsea.
|Man City v Arsenal||6-3||2-1|
|Cardiff v West Brom||1-0||1-2|
|Chelsea v Crystal Palace||2-1||3-0|
|Everton v Fulham||4-1||1-1|
|Newcastle v Southampton||1-1||2-1|
|West Ham v Sunderland||0-0||2-1|
|Hull City v Stoke City||0-0||1-1|
|Aston Villa v Man Utd||0-3||1-2|
|Norwich v Swansea||1-1||1-2|
|Tottenham v Liverpool||0-5||2-2|
A correct result is worth ONE point. A correct score earns THREE points.
Last week I got THREE results correct and ZERO perfect scores to give me a grand old total of THREE-points, which is the lowest score yet this year.
|Liverpool v Cardiff||3-0|
|Crystal Palace v Newcastle||2-2|
|Fulham v Man City||1-3|
|Man Utd v West Ham||2-0|
|Stoke v Aston Villa||1-0|
|Sunderland v Norwich||2-1|
|West Brom v Hull||2-0|
|Southampton v Tottenham||2-1|
|Swansea v Everton||1-2|
|Arsenal v Chelsea||2-1|
Liverpool vs. Cardiff
Second place Liverpool could go top of the table before Christmas with a win, but to do so they will have to beat 15th placed Cardiff who have settled in well during their maiden season in the EPL.
Liverpool go into Saturday’s game with sky-high confidence following their 5-0 demolition of Tottenham last Sunday. The Reds had lost their previous six games at White Hart Lane, but easily disposed of the Londoners this time round with Luis Suarez once again in sublime form, scoring two and assisting the other three—the Uruguayan has now scored 17 goals in only eleven league appearances for Liverpool this term. However, Suarez was not Liverpool’s only outstanding performer, with Leiva Lucas and Jordan Henderson also playing well in Steven Gerrard’s absence.
Cardiff earned another good win at home last week defeating West Brom 1-0 and seem to have adapted well to life in the EPL. The Bluebirds have picked up eleven of their 17-points at home and that home form could be what keeps them in the EPL. However, the club’s fortunes could be about to change with club manager Malky MacKay unlikely to be in charge much longer following behind the scene problems with Cardiff owner Vincent Tan.
Liverpool are without captain Steven Gerrard, forward Daniel Sturridge and defender Jose Enrique who are all out with injuries.
Cardiff’s only injury concern is ex-Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy who will be assessed before to game with his former club.
Liverpool have been imperious at Anfield since the return of forward Luis Suarez, winning five out of five games and scoring 20 goals in the process. Cardiff, meanwhile, have struggled on their travels picking up only one win out of eight. However, the Bluebirds do have a good record at Anfield having won on eight of their 15 visits to Liverpool in all competitions. Nevertheless, I think the form Liverpool are in coupled with behind the scene troubles make it hard for Cardiff to get anything from this game.
Fulham vs. Man City
Fulham’s woes continued last week as they went down 4-1 away to Everton. However, the score line was not a fair reflection of the game as Fulham dominated and looked the more threatening side for long periods of the game.
The Cottagers have looked a better side since former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen took over, but they need to start picking up points soon or they will be left isolated at the foot of the table. But life does not look like getting any easier for Fulham as they now await the visit of perhaps the scariest team in the EPL at the moment, Manchester City.
City maintained their perfect home record this campaign by crushing Arsenal 6-3, and in all honesty they could have scored more. The Sky Blues have now won all eight of their home games scoring 35 goals in the process, but their away from has let them down this season—City have picked up just eight points out of a possible 24 away from home this term.
City have got injury problems at right-back with Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards both out injured, but a bigger blow is that Sergio Aguero has been ruled out for up to two months.
Fulham have looked better under Rene Meulensteen, so the Cottagers might have a chance against City, especially as the Sky Blues have struggled on their travels. However, I think City have too much firepower and will win this one comfortably.
Manchester United vs. West Ham
Manchester United returned to winning ways last week with a fine 3-0 win away to Aston Villa. That performance was probably one of their best displays this season and might have helped inject some confidence back into the side following a win-less run of four games.
That game also marked the return of midfielder Darren Fletcher following a long lay-off with a serious stomach problem, and if the Scotsman can get a clear run of games he could provide the steel and grit in the middle of the park that United have been lacking this season.
West Ham played out a goalless draw to Sunderland at home last week, but did produce a terrific result midweek in the League Cup defeating Tottenham away 2-0 to progress to the semifinals. However, the Hammers still look a little shy upfront and will surely have to dip into their wallets and purchase a striker when the transfer window opens back up in January.
Manchester United will be hoping Wanye Rooney can return to the starting fold after the striker sat out midweek with a groin injury, Nemanja Vidic is also doubtful, while Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie are definitely out.
West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan serves the last of his three-match ban, though James Tomkins returns after a groin problem. However, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Mladen Petric, Winston Reid and Ricardo Vaz Te are all injured.
The Red Devils have lost their last two games at home and face a tough game against West Ham who are one of the most physical teams in the EPL. Visiting teams have played well at Old Trafford this season and the ground seems to have lost its fear factor, but West Ham do not really seem able to score goals at the moment, so that’s why I’ll go for a scrappy United win here.
Southampton vs. Tottenham
Southampton were involved in a terrific end-to-end game with Newcastle last week that ended in a 1-1 draw. The Saints are without a win in their last five games, but they have had a tough schedule facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City.
They lost to Arsenal and Chelsea, but did pick up a good point against City and look like they will remain in the top half of the table this season.
Tottenham lost 0-5 at home to Liverpool last week and reacted to that defeat by sacking manager Andre Villas-Boas. The sacking seems a tad harsh considering Tottenham would have been level on points with second placed Liverpool if they had won the game, however, it seems the Tottenham hierarchy became impatient having spent over $171m during the summer.
The timing of the sacking was strange considering Spurs had a quarter-final League Cup clash a few days later against West Ham and it seems the whole affair affected the players, as they were knocked-out of the Cup going down 1-2 at home to West Ham.
Southampton full-back Nathaniel Clyne has returned to training following a hamstring injury and will be assessed. While captain Adam Lallana looks likely to reclaim a starting spot having sat out recently with a minor injury.
Tottenham winger Andros Townsend is ruled out with a hamstring injury. While midfielder Paulinho serves the second game of a three-match ban, but skipper Michael Dawson is available after serving a suspension in midweek.
Neither of these teams are in great form, but Southampton seem to have come out of their bad run with two well earned draws in their last two games. Tottenham are a team in transition and are seem low in confidence following heavy defeats by City and Liverpool.
Spurs won here 2-1 last season, but had lost their previous five visits before that. They are struggling to score goals at the moment and with Southampton boasting the meanest defense in the EPL I’ll doubt Spurs can get anything other than a draw.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Christmas comes a couple days early for soccer fans all across the globe as top of the table Arsenal take on their London neighbors and rivals in the title race Chelsea.
Arsenal were humiliated last week losing 6-3 away to Man City and will want to get things back in order with a good result at home. The Gunners actually played well going forward against City and could have scored a few more goals, however, they showed naivety at the back and were sorely punished.
Chelsea just about edged past third from bottom Crystal Palace last week with a 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. That performance prompted coach Jose Mourinho to question his team’s chances of winning any trophy this season saying, ‘he didn’t think Chelsea were big contenders of any competition’. And he seems to have been correct, as the Blues went out of the League Cup midweek losing 3-2 away to bottom of the EPL Sunderland.
Arsenal are without Jack Wilshere who is suspended, meaning Carzola or Rosicky are likely to take the spot left by the England international. While defender Luarent Koscielny is unlikely to feature with a knee injury.
Chelsea have no new injury worries, but must decide which of their three forwards should start as the lone striker against Arsenal.
Many pundits have questioned Arsenal’s chances of mounting a title challenge this year, but if they can beat Chelsea then people will have to start taking them seriously.
Chelsea are trying to play positive attacking soccer, but they just cannot seem to convert their good play into goals and if they continue to do so they may struggle to maintain pace with their rivals around them.
I think this has the potential to be a thrilling end-to-end game, but since Chelsea are struggling I suspect Mourinho will try to keep things tight to get a draw and maybe steal a win. However, Arsenal have been strong at home this season and with the festive home crowd behind them I think they will just edge this.