Friday, January 10, 2014

EPL Week 21

As the second half of the season gets under way, there hasn't been much transfer happenings to crow about. Certainly, the return of Clive Dempsey on a loan spell to Fulham will give the Cottagers a boost in their bid to avoid relegation. The managerial change at Cardiff with the arrival of Solksjaer gives them a fighting chance as well, I believe. Here are my thoughts on some this week-end's matches.

Hull v/s Chelsea. The Tigers bode strong form at home where they are hard to score against. Man Utd were able to put 3 past them but not many teams will be able to do that. Chelsea are in top form since the festive period and Mourinho seems to have finally settled on a system of play that gets them a result, no matter the way it is achieved. They have to be respected in the title race and are definitely a live contender. I think this game will be settled by a goal or less either way, and it looks more likely to be for the Blues. At current odds, they are a worthy draw-no-bet selection.

Cardiff v/s West Ham. The Hammers are in disarray and this game could spell the end of Sam Allardyce's tenure at their helm. On the other hand, the hosts have been buoyed by the appointment of new manager Solksjaer and they boast a strong record at home. I see Cardiff as a home win.

Everton v/s Norwich. The 2 teams are fighting at the polar ends of the table; Everton are striving for a Champions League spot while the Canaries are battling to avoid relegation. Lukaku can have a big game here. I see the Toffees getting the 3 points at the end of the 90 minutes.

Fulham v/s Sunderland. Could go either way. Abstaining.

Southampton v/s WBA. The Saints are in need to get their mojo back if they are to fight for a European spot. West Brom have gotten a new manager and as often is the case, the players will be keen to give their all to make the best first impression. I give the Saints a slight home field advantage here and have them as a draw-no-bet.

Tottenham v/s Crystal Palace. I'll be a convert of Tim Sherwood's management capabilities if they can convincingly beat the Eagles on Saturday. Spurs have done well under his tenure and if he can get the best out of his talented squad, they can go places. They need to beat a resilient Palace team to keep the momentum going and convince skeptics like me. Spurs are a draw-no-bet selection.

Man Utd v/s Swansea. The Red Devils are in the eye of a perfect storm with both Rooney and RVP out injured. Fortunately for them, Swansea are on a poor form themselves, although they beat and ousted their opponents at the same venue in the FA Cup last week-end. The Mancunians have to wake up at some point and stem the run of losses. I think in the end of 90 minutes, they will prevail. I see value in going straight for the home win, although it must have been expensive for punters to side with them lately.

Newcastle v/s Man City. I think Man City will win the title this year and they are in rude form. Going to St James Park is always a test and if they can get the full points, it will be a case of another major hurdle successfully negotiated. There is no doubt that the Magpies will make a game of this and it would be of no surprise if the honours are shared at the end. I'll stay on the fence on this one.

Stoke v/s Liverpool. This encounter usually ends in a drub 0-0 draw. With Suarez in top form, this might not be the case this year. Stoke are very strong at home but the Kops are no push-overs wherever they play. This can go any result.

Aston Villa v/s Arsenal. I think this is a must 3 points for the Gunners in their title charge and I think they will be able to avenge their opening-season loss to the Villains. The downside for the visitors is that they've lost Walcott for the season and while this is a major blow in the long run, they still have a big enough squad to overcome dismal Villa. I take the Gunners as the value Win of the week-end.

Win: Cardiff, Everton, Man Utd, Arsenal
Draw-no-bet: Chelsea, Southampton, Tottenham

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