Friday, January 30, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 23

Huge match between the 2 only contenders for the title; Man City visit Chelsea in a match that they cannot afford to lose. Big-name players Costa and Yaya Toure will not be playing and much will rest on the decisiveness of other star players such as Silva, Aguero and Hazard. Here are my week 23 predictions.

Hull v/s Newcastle. I think this looks prime to end in a draw. Hull have not been as solid at home as in previous years and I believe they will be seriously involved in the relegation battle. Newcastle played some lively football in their last loss at home to Southampton but they lack cutting edge with the absence of Papiss Cisse. The jury is still out on caretaker manager Carver as to how he will make of the Magpies. Draw.

Crystal Palace v/s Everton. New manager Pardew seems to have given the Eagles a lift after winning his first 4 matches. They move the ball well and are an attacking threat, but it is their defence that is their main Achilles heel. Everton are in a rot at the moment and will again be without the services of keeper Tim Howard. While the Toffees can never be discounted, I think the most they can look for here is a draw and that's my selection. Draw.

Liverpool v/s West Ham. The Kops should have a much better second half of the season. Sturridge should be back, Gerrard should have a spring in his step given that these are going to be his last months as a Kop. And more importantly, Coutinho and Sterling seem to have regained confidence in terrorizing defences. That said, the Hammers are no slouch. They are in a comfortable position at the moment and their offence has particularly clicked, giving them all-important goal scoring opportunities. Probably the hosts will edge this, by just. Home win.

Man Utd v/s Leicester City. The visitors have had a resurgence of late but I don't think they will go win at Old Trafford. The Red Devils lost this fixture in the first leg at King Power stadium, a match in which they looked like comfortable winners until referee Clattenburg wrongfully changed the course of the game. Van Gaal will probably resort to an attacking formation here to uncover the Foxes again. Falcao is begging for a goal and it could very well come in this one if he starts. Home win.

Stoke v/s QPR. The Potters were dealt a huge blow in mid-week by losing striker Bojan for the season. Rangers are hapless on the road and it looks like they need a quick goal in order to stand any chance of getting something out of this match. If Stoke replicate some of their late good form, they should win this. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Burnley. These are 2 teams where it would be stretching to back with any confidence and a draw could very well be on the cards. New Black Cat Defoe will be at ease playing the Burnley defence and should be a prime target to score. Draw.

West Brom v/s Tottenham. Probably another draw on the cards. West Brom will be difficult to break down at home under Pulis. Spurs had a hard mid-week match edging Sheffield United in the Carling Cup and are so ever-reliant on edging matches in the last 10 minutes or so. It should either be a home win or a draw and the latter is my selection. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Man City. That's the big one and I cannot see Chelsea losing this, even without Costa and possibly Fabregas as well. First, Mourinho will go for the draw if he sees his team cannot win this match. His league record at Stamford Bridge speaks for itself and it will take a City team at the top of its game to come away with the 3 points. Fact is, the Citizens are not even close to being at full-strength. Yaya Toure will be missing and City have expressed difficulty controlling the tempo of matches in the absence of their midfield enforcer. Striker Aguero has yet to fully discover the sparkling form prior to his injury layoff. A quick goal for City will certainly put Chelsea's home record into perspective and under pressure, but I believe there are more chances of damage being inflicted on Hart rather than Courtois over the 90 minutes. Chelsea might feel it more in their legs after their tempestuous mid-week win against Liverpool but in the end, I think they have the mental toughness to win this. Home win.

Arsenal v/s Aston Villa. It seems that "RoadRunner" Alexis Sanchez might miss this match but that should not prevent the Gunners scoring a win. Villa just cannot score and the Gunners should not have this kind of problem with the returning Walcott and in-form players like Cazorla and Rosicky. Home win.

Southampton v/s Swansea. The value home win of the week-end should go to the Saints. Swansea are finding it tough with life without Bony and the Saints are in impeccable form of late. After grazing the post so many times of late, Saints striker Pelle might finally get a well-deserved goal. Home win.

Friday, January 16, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 22

Man City fired the first salvo of the transfer window by snatching Bony from Swansea. The Ivory Coast striker has very well adapted to the demands of the EPL and has proven a clinical striker; it will interesting how he fares in a star-studded team where he will not necessarily be the main focal point of the attack. I nurture some doubts as to how well he will fit in the scheme of things at Man City but he could very well prove me wrong and be a success. Here are my selections for this week-end.

Aston Villa v/s Liverpool. The Villains have a problem of scoring but are also tough to score against. Liverpool will have Sterling back after he was rested in their last league match; the England winger has a few goals in him if at his best for the remainder of the season. This should be a tight one and a draw looks a likely possibility. Draw.

Burnley v/s Crystal Palace. This is a 6-pointer game for 2 struggling teams. Burnley need to make the most of these home matches and with striker Ings in good form, they have a live chance to win this. I am interested to see the impact of new manager Pardew on this Palace team. I see the odds of him improving the team as good as the odds of him making them worse. I will go for a home win by the minimum margin here. Home win.

Leicester v/s Stoke. Stoke were uncharacteristically poor in their last away loss to Arsenal last Sunday. I was expecting a better showing. Leicester is on the up slightly and it may be that the draw they snatched at Anfield a couple of weeks back, have opened doors for them. If Stoke play poorly again, Leicester are in with a big shout for the win. Probably a draw is on the way here. Draw.

QPR v/s Man Utd. Man Utd were horrible in their last home loss to Southampton. The talk of Falcao being unsettled is one of the many topics during this transfer period. Obviously, if they are playing at their best, this should be a walk in the park for the visitors, but their last couple of performances have been far from convincing. Rangers need to pile the points at home because they cannot do so on the road. Striker Austin will certainly cause havoc up front and Redknapp's men will battle all the way to get something out of this match. This match looks tight and I will go for the draw here. Draw.

Swansea v/s Chelsea. The fact that the hosts lost their best player Bony does not bode well for this encounter or for the rest of the season for that matter. I don't see their forward Gomis having the same kind of impact as his predecessor. After stuttering of late, Chelsea need to get full points out of this encounter to get their momentum going. I think they will win, probably by a slight margin. Away win.

Tottenham v/s Sunderland. Newly-arrived striker Defoe might suit up against his old club Spurs. The home team have enough talent to break down any defence, as they proved by banging in 5 goals against Chelsea. I think with high-flying Harry Kane, they will be too much for Poyet's team. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Southampton. After getting Man Utd's scalp at Old Trafford, it won't be a surprise iff the Saints beat the Magpies at St James Park. They will be missing 3 key players for this match but Koeman is such an astute manager that I see them getting something out of this match. Probably another win for the visitors. Away win.

West Ham v/s Hull. This is a glorious opportunity for West Ham to continue their great form and add another 3 points to their tally. Hull are in deep trouble at the moment and with the loss of their 2 strikers in their last match, it's hard to see how they are going to score in this match. I have a suspicion that Hull are ripe for the drop if one wants a long-term punt. Home win.

Man City v/s Arsenal. The Citizens have done well to close the gap with leaders Chelsea lately and they look set to keep the momentum going against an Arsenal side that struggles to beat the big teams. Man City will welcome Aguero back and the Argentinian brings them to another level. Arsenal have their own talisman of their own in Chilean winger Sanchez, who to me, is the EPL player of the year so far. Even though they will be missing Yaya Toure for their next few matches, their form dictates that they will be too much for the Gunners who have been over-reliant on Sanchez. Home win.

Everton v/s WBA. Tony Pulis teams are tough to break down and Everton are not playing with any confidence at the moment. This looks set to be a dull Monday game, and the end result might very well be a draw. Draw.

Friday, January 9, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 21

Man City ate away Chelsea's lead in the past weeks and should actually be on top at the moment had they not let 2 points escape against Burnley a fortnight ago. I still give a slight advantage to Mourinho's men as they have proved more cohesive as a team while the Citizens have mainly relied on striker Aguero to make the difference in many of their matches. Here are my thoughts on this week-end's matches.

Sunderland v/s Liverpool. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Kops with the knowledge that long-serving captain Gerrard will be leaving the club come May. Will it spur them to a better second part of the season or will it be a self-inflicted distraction? Their form of late has been improving with the trio of Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling giving vibrant displays up front. The team will get better with the return of Sturridge. Sunderland are capable of the better or worse and cannot be backed with confidence in this type of match-up. I think this will end in a draw. Draw.

Burnley v/s QPR. A 6-pointer at the tail end of the table. I've made a mess of predicting Burnley's outings so far but this looks an ideal match for them to get 3 crucial points as QPR have an awful away record. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Newcastle. I thought that Chelsea were unlucky to lose the fixture at St James Park a few weeks ago. They were undone by some bounces not going their way on the Newcastle goals. I can't see anything other than a Blues win here. Home win.

Everton v/s Man City. Everton are reeling at the moment and Man City will find that it's the perfect time to visit Goodison Park. The hosts will be hampered by the loss of keeper Tim Howard to injury. The Citizens will have to cope without play maker Yaya Toure, who has gone to play in the African Cup. On form and paper, the visitors should edge this match. Away win.

Leicester v/s Aston Villa. This looks set to be a low-scoring affair with both teams not re-known for their goal-scoring. The hosts showed great spirit and endeavour to snatch a point at Liverpool in their last game. They will aim to maximize points against a Villa team that has specialized in goalless matches of late. The problem with the visitors is their over-reliance on Benteke to get goals. I think the hosts will just edge this. Home win.

Swansea v/s West Ham. The loss of Bony to Man City is a huge loss on the pitch for Swansea. It remains to be seen where they will get the goals from now on. I expect West Ham to have a tougher second half of the season and although they are a top 10 club, they are mightily flattered by their 4th position at the moment. I don't think they will be in the top 7 in the end. A draw looks to be in the offing here. Draw.

WBA v/s Hull. The Pulis era has started at West Brom and I think that pretty much guarantees their safety in the top flight. Mind you, even before Pulis' arrival, West Brom were playing well and with purpose but were just being wasteful up front in some of their recent matches. With some better judgement and luck in these matches, they could easily be 6 points higher up the table than their precarious position. Striker Berahino is a great talent, albeit a raw one. Hull have no cutting edge and I think they could be in serious relegation trouble if they don't improve in the coming weeks. A home win looks to be the value punt of the week-end. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Tottenham. What Harry Kane is doing for Spurs is unbelievable. He single-handedly destroyed Chelsea last week. If he keeps up his goal scoring form, Tottenham will be difficult to beat in this match. It will be new manager's Pardew's first league match for the Eagles and as from now on, it's safe to throw away their previous nonchalant form. I think this match will either end in a draw or a Spurs win. Draw.

Arsenal v/s Stoke. This won't be a walk in the park for the Gunners as Stoke are very resilient as an away team. They beat the Gunners a few weeks back at home after storming through a commanding 3-goal lead. Obviously they won't get away that lightly in this match but I still expect them to pose problems for Arsenal who have over-relied on Alex Sanchez so far. The Chilean has spared his team many times recently and one has to wonder for how long they can rely on his goal scoring exploits. I see Arsenal losing another 2 points here. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Southampton. After a turbulent period, Southampton are back to their winning ways. They will pose a serious test to the Mancunians as manager Koeman has made them difficult to pin down. They are at ease playing with or without the ball. The good news for United is the return of Di Maria who will give their attack immediate impetus. With Rooney, RVP, Falcao, Di Maria and Mata, this is a team that will will have goal scoring chances at any time during a match. This could end in a draw but I give a slight home advantage to Van Gaal's team. Home win.