Friday, February 27, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 27

Man City could be in for a good gush of wind in their sails as far as the league is concerned; they have Yaya Toure back, they are almost out of the UCL which makes retaining the EPL their main target, and Chelsea do not seem to catch a break as far as referees are concerned. If Man City succeed in getting full points at Anfield this week-end, their confidence for catching Chelsea will be sky high.

West Ham v/s Crystal Palace. The Hammers were unlucky not to get the away win at Spurs last week-end. They had glorious chances to put the game beyond reach after opening a 2-goal advantage and will rue the 2 lost points in the end. Still, they are playing well and difficult to beat at home. After a successful opening few games under Pardew, Palace seem to be lacking confidence at the moment and they are scrapping to get points. I think the ball is very much in the hosts' court here and they should have enough to get the 3 points. Home win.

Burnley v/s Swansea. Burnley got the all-important draw at Stamford Bridge last Saturday albeit in controversial circumstances. The most flagrant in my mind was the penalty not given for a blatant handball of Knightly. How much should the defender's arm to be deliberately extended for referee Atkinson to call a penalty is beyond understanding. However, as they've shown in many of their previous matches, the Clarets are a team with a fight and will look for the 3 points at home in their fight for survival. They look a banker to score, it's just that they usually leak in a few as well. Swansea beat Man Utd last week-end and were it not for a couple of inspiring plays by midfielder Shelvey, I am not sure they would have mustered the win. On their best day, Swansea cannot be discounted against most teams and I think this one will go close. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Sunderland. The critics are having a great time lambasting Falcao but I still think he will show the world class striker he is, if given a few runs of games. It's true he's missed some glorious chances, but once he gets his mojo back, he will score by the bucket-load. The injury to RVP is a blessing in disguise for the Columbian and he has got to seize his chance if he wants to continue his career at Old Trafford. This is not an easy match for the hosts as Sunderland have sprung a few surprises in their recent visits. Under Poyet, they've shown capacity to deliver shock results when least expected. Still, I think that Van Gaal is close to having his team playing near optimum capacity and this could be the match when all the elements are finally put together for a big delivery. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Aston Villa. It was a little shocking to see the Magpies destroyed by Man City by a whopping 5-0, after a few consistent and strong showings in their previous matches. They started the match on the wrong foot by conceding a penalty on a defensive howler in the first minute and never got in the match. Villa were also undone by a defensive howler, that one in the final seconds, when losing their first match under Tim Sherwood. They deserved at least a point out of that loss. I can't see them winning this at St James Park but they look good value for a draw. Draw.

Stoke v/s Hull. Many are crediting ex-Man Utd No 2, Mike Phelan, for the recent revival of the Tigers. They have certainly shown more spark up front and Jelavic is taking the chances coming his way. Stoke were lucky to get the 3 points against Villa but they are a solid mid-table team that will carve chances against bottom clubs. This could end up in a bore draw. Draw.

West Brom v/s Southampton. These are two teams that rely on strong defences to keep things tight and then try to make the difference at the other end through the odd goal. The Baggies are trying to escape the relegation zone once and for all and I think they will be comfortably secure in the end. I think Southampton's best hope is for a 6th place finish although I think they will end up no better than 8th. I anticipate a close match and if there is to be a winner it will be by the minimum margin. Draw.

Liverpool v/s Man City. Coutinho won this fixture for the hosts last year following a terrible Kompany clearance. The win had the Kop confidence at an absolute peak to land the elusive title, which eventually petered out in memorable circumstances as everyone knows. The roles are different this year as Liverpool are out of the title race and are hoping for a 4th place finish at best. I think that the fact that the hosts had a tough away Europe League match on Thursday plays into the Citizens' advantage. Having Yaya Toure in the starting line-up gives them an extra lift. Having Bony ready to come off the bench gives them ample ammunition for damage. Silva is in the zone at the moment and Aguero is again terrorizing defences. A must win for City and I think they will get it. Away win.

Arsenal v/s Everton. Arsenal's loss at home to Monaco means that they are practically out of the UCL. I can't see them lose a successive home match so they look set to vent their frustrations on the visitors. Everton had all the trouble in the world to snatch a point against Leicester at Goodison Park last Sunday in a match where they showed uncharacteristic defensive frailties. Sanchez and co will carve them open if they get similar types of chances as the Foxes. The Toffees snatched a point late in last year's fixture but they will do well to do it again. I just don't think they will. Home win.

Finally, the Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Tottenham. I can't see anything other than a Chelsea win here. Although Spurs soundly beat them at White Hart Lane, it will be an entirely different match at Wembley since Harry Kane will be a marked man. The fact that Spurs had a tough away match to play in midweek clearly gives the extra edge to Mourinho's men. Chelsea win.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 26

Will the return of Toure and newcomer Bony give renewed impetus to Man City in their bid to catch Chelsea? The Citizens cannot afford to let any more points slip at this stage and while I think the gap is too big to be bridged, Pellegrini's men will certainly go gung-ho for full points as drawn matches will be useless for them at this point. Chelsea are in a strong position and should remain so by the end of this week-end.

Aston Villa v/s Stoke. The Villains needed a change of direction badly and Tim Sherwood is now responsible for saving them from relegation. A typical response of players for a new manager's first match is to over-perform; first impressions count that much. So, I give advantage Villa here, particularly against a Stoke team that will be missing a few first-team players. Can Benteke finally get going? Maybe. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Burnley. I don't think it will be an easy match for Chelsea as they just came from an arduous match in Paris. Burnley were unlucky not to have gotten more out of their last away match at Old Trafford and if they show as much enterprise and resilience as in that match, they will have chances to score against the hosts. Still, beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge should be too much for them and the hosts should prevail in the end. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Arsenal. Arsenal have new impetus in attack with the returns from injury of Sanchez and Walcott and more importantly the return to form of Ozil and Cazorla. I think they will have too much firepower for the Eagles, who have looked somewhat one-dimensional of late, relying mainly on the likes of Puncheon and Zaha to create havoc in their opponent's half. Away win.

Hull v/s QPR. A 6-pointer here with both teams deep in relegation territory. Hull have gotten some good form lately and can rely on Jelavic for their goalscoring. Rangers took me by surprise last week in winning at Sunderland. This match will either be a confirmation that new manager Ramsey is the right man to save them, or just a fluke first-away win against an erratic Sunderland side. I prefer to give advantage to the hosts here given what they've shown in their last matches. Home win.

Sunderland v/s West Brom. I really can't decipher the hosts; they are capable of the best and worst. What I know is that West Brom will make it hard for them as they will play compact at the back and rely on the speed up-front of Berahino. On paper, this looks like the best draw on offer. Draw.

Swansea v/s Man Utd. Much is being said about Man Utd and the kind of football they are playing. It is true that they were horrendous against Burnley. Still, they have only been beaten once in their last 18 matches, no matter how bad or well they've played.  Swansea shocked them at Old Trafford during LVG's first match in charge and it would be no surprise if they doubled up on them. If Di Maria and Falcao find their feet, then it could be an entirely different story. Best to avoid although a draw looks enticing here. Draw.

Man City v/s Newcastle. I think it will be a hard match for the hosts as Newcastle are no push-over. They visitors will get chances to score and if City play are as nonchalant as they have been in several of their home matches, they could lose points again. The arrival of Bony could give them some much needed firepower particularly when Aguero is out or not at 100%. The Argentinian has regained his scoring touch last week-end and it would take a brake one to dismiss him when he's on fire. The return of Yaya Toure is another big plus for the home team, which is why I think they will win this but I don't expect it to be a roll-over. Home win.

Tottenham v/s West Ham. Harry Kane is just on fire and that gives Tottenham some serious edge for this match. The Hammers have been cold on their road travels and will be happy that Spurs have played a mid-week Europa game. I expect another close match with possibly Kane and co outscoring their opponents. Home win.

Everton v/s Leicester City. Leicester had chances to score at least a couple of goals in their last away defeat at the Emirates Stadium, Their record signing striker Kramaric got himself on the score-sheet and he could be a shrewd buy. They have got to put in their chances if they are to garner points out of tight matches. It will not be surprising to see Everton on a resurgence as their first-half season results have been on the under-performing side. They lost to Chelsea last week due to a late goal and were good value to at least snatch a draw out of that match. Provided they keep the defensive mistakes at bay and do not under-estimate the Foxes, I think the Toffees will win this. Home win.

Southampton v/s Liverpool. The Saints will have the benefit of welcoming a Liverpool side that had a hard mid-week match. The Kops will still be missing Gerrard but Sturridge is fast getting games under his belt to be a major threat up front. I don't see the 3-0 scoreline that favored the visitors in last year's fixture; this one should be a close match with probably both sides settling for an even tie. Draw.

Monday, February 9, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 25

Chelsea distanced themselves from City last week-end and 7 points looks cushion-proof enough for them to lead all the way to the title. At the end of the season, City will be able to reflect on lost opportunities such as not being able to beat the likes of Stoke, Burnley and Hull at home. Unlike Chelsea suffer a monumental collapse, which is hard to fathom at this point, the 7 current points difference should be insurmountable. Actually, it would not be surprising if the gap were more in the end.

Arsenal v/s Leicester. This should be 3 points for Arsenal. Sanchez is back for this encounter and brings the Gunners to a whole new level. Leicester are a club in turmoil with rumours of manager Pearson being sacked. Whether the speculation is true or false should not matter for this match; Arsenal need the 3 points to re-position themselves for a UCL spot and they should get them. Home win.

Hull v/s Aston Villa. My mind is oscillating between a home win or a draw. Hull have more upside as they have more potential to score than the sorry Villains. Home win.

Sunderland v/s QPR. I cannot see anything other than a home win here. New arrival Jermaine Defoe is the main man for Gus Poyet and he's bagged 2 league goals in 3 matches. QPR were bad on the road with Redknapp; without him I don't know how they can expect to be better. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Tottenham. Spurs have had nightmare results against Liverpool of late and it will be interesting if in-form striker Harry Kane can change things in this fixture. The Tottenham striker has to get an England call-up surely. Liverpool are getting their mojo back and since they've enjoyed playing Spurs in recent matches, I think they will go for the jugular again here, particularly if Sturridge gets to join the confident cast of Sterling, Coutinho and Gerrard. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Everton. I cannot see Everton win this, particularly that they are not in sparkling form. Chelsea can crush the league this week and the Toffees will be lucky to escape this match with a point. Home win.

Man Utd v/s Burnley. Much is being said of the non-exciting football of Van Gaal's men although they have only tasted defeat once in their last 17 matches. I think once Falcao gets a good run of matches, the goals will start flowing for him and the rest. He's a goal-scoring machine at his peak. Although the match between these 2 sides ended in a score-less draw early in the season, this one could very well be a high-scoring affair; Burnley have a porous defence which will definitely be put to the test by the likes of Di Maria, Falcao and RVP. Home win.

Southampton v/s West Ham. I think Southampton have a live chance for a 5th place finish and they need to maximize their points at home. West Ham cannot be under-estimated in any way but they are one or two notches behind Koeman's men, so I think a home win beckons here. Home win.

Stoke v/s Man City. The visitors are finding life hard without Yaya Toure and are certainly going to endure an arduous trip here against a team that shockingly won at the Etihaad a few months back. Aguero has gone close lately and this could be the match that opens the flood gates for him. I see City just edging this match. Away win.

Crystal Palace v/s Newcastle. It's Pardew against his old Newcastle team. Newcastle are in good form and can snatch a point here. Draw.

WBA v/s Swansea. I see the Baggies just edging this as I still think Swansea are lacking in the scoring department without Bony. Home win.

Friday, February 6, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 24

Chelsea and Man City are playing 2 teams that are prime for relegation this week-end, so it should be statu quo at the top of the table with 5 points still separating the two. My thoughts on the upcoming matches.

Tottenham v/s Arsenal. I thought Spurs would stumble against WBA last game week but they came up trumps with a thumping 3-0 win. They should be pumped up for this always-tense derby. Harry Kane is simply the hottest striker in the league at the moment and will definitely cause problems to the Gunners defence. I think Arsenal are a team on the up. With the return of Walcott and the confident play of Cazorla, Ozil and Rocisky, they can open up the stingiest defences. Not mentioning that the return from injury of Alexis Sanchez gives them attacking options that makes them dangerous from the opening minute. This looks set to be a high-scoring affair and a draw could be a likely result. Draw.

Aston Villa v/s Chelsea. The naysayers will say that Mourinho has never won at Villa Park. I think this is bound to change tomorrow. I can't see anything other than a Chelsea win. Villa are finding it hard to score and that means that they will be fighting relegation this year, Away win.

Leicester City v/s Crystal Palace. I really think the Foxes can win this match. Palace were brought back to earth last week-end after winning all its matches under Pardew. I thought they were quire flattered in some of these wins. Leicester needs to win these kinds of home matches to survive; they are in the middle of a good run-in and they are a good value-bet for the outright win. Home win.

Man City v/s Hull. No contest here, this should be 3 more points for the Citizens. Could be a high-scoring contest too with Aguero prime to end his goal-scoring drought following his recent return from injury. Home win.

QPR v/s Southampton. Rangers have been rocked this week of the departure of Redknapp. They look vulnerable for a home loss here and I think the Saints will pounce here. Away win.

Swansea v/s Sunderland. Hard to gauge Swansea at the moment; they were in a terrible rut following the departure of Bony. They managed to win at Southampton last week-end although I wouldn't say that they deserved the 3 points. Gus Poyet might have gotten one of the best deals of the January window with the coming of Jermaine Defoe. The ex-England striker is always a scoring threat and will certainly pose problems for Swansea. I am juggling a draw or an away win here. Away win.

Everton v/s Liverpool. The Kops are definitely on the up and this is the kind of match where Everton wished it had keeper Howard back. The Toffees managed to win at Palace in their last match but that hardly puts them in season-winning form. With the return of Sturridge, Liverpool have gotten their mojo back. Coutinho and Sterling are playing with renewed confidence and if motivation counts for anything, Gerrard should have it in abundance for his last Derby match. It should be a tight match and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Kops smiling at the end. Away win.

Burnley v/s West Brom. If there is to be a scoreless draw, that would be it. Draw.

Newcastle v/s Stoke. The hosts won this fixture 5-1 last season and although I don't think the gap will be that high, I think they will win again. The Magpies are playing pretty neat football under John Carver and although their last home match ended in defeat against Southampton, they created chances galore but simply couldn't convert. With Papiss Cisse back, they should not have this kind of trouble. Stoke are usually hard to break down but will be missing Shawcross at the back. It's advantage to the home team for me. Home win.

West Ham v/s Man Utd. This tough match was made a little easier for the Mancunians given that the Hammers will be playing with only one recognized centre-back. That means that the likes of Falcao, RVP, Rooney and Di Maria are going to have goal-scoring chances; it will be a matter of taking them. Still, the Hammers are a tough nut to crack, particularly at home. A draw could settle this, although Man Utd have enough quality to bag the 3 points particularly with the return to form of Di Maria. Away win.