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.

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