Friday, March 20, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 30

The EPL race got somewhat spicier with all English teams now out of the UCL. To say that Chelsea holds a significant advantage is an under-statement; the title is theirs to lose and with Man City being off-form, the Blues can also rely on their opponents floundering in their coming matches to comfort their advantage at the top. Unlike what Mourinho is saying, it's not a 5-team race, it's maybe a 2-team race, and will possibly be a 1-team race sooner rather than later.

Man City v/s WBA. Having suffered the wrath of Messi and Barcelona, City have to get back on track with a win against the in-form Baggies. Quite a difficult task given that Tony Pulis' men are proving a difficult team to break down. Also, the hosts will be without injured Yaya Toure and their record without the powerhouse midfielder is not stellar. I still think they will win in the end, but it won't be a surprise if the Baggies end up sharing the spoils. Home win.

Aston Villa v/s Swansea. Christian Benteke seems to have regained a new lease of life under Tim Sherwood and can add to his counter here. Swansea were unlucky to miss out on points against Liverpool last Monday and deserve respect on their road travels. They do however, have trouble holding a clean sheet, which is why I think the Villa tandem of Agbonglahor and Benteke can open them up while holding the visitors' defence at bay. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Arsenal. The problem for the Magpies right now is the absence of Papiss Cisse which limits their goal scoring ability. They don't have anyone close to filling that gap. Arsenal produced a strong performance against Monaco in the UCL and were unlucky not to get that 3rd necessary goal to go through. There is definitely a question on their fitness after their exertions at Le Principaute. Class should tell in the end and I think the Gunners will just edge this. Away win.

Southampton v/s Burnley. Burnley cannot cease to amaze and their last shocking win against Man City showed the determination of Ings and company to fight till the end. I think they will be up against it against Southampton as the hosts have a strong home record and are difficult to score against. Striker Pelle is due a goal for a long time and this might be the match to stop his rotten spell. I am going for a home win but Burnley has burnt my predictions before. Home win.

Stoke v/s Crystal Palace. This pits two teams that are on an even keel and safe from the relegation battle. I give a slight advantage to Stoke because of their strong form at home. Also, Palace might be without Jason Puncheon, which will remove some of the flair out of their quick and inspiring attacks. Home win.

Tottenham v/s Leicester. The Foxes somewhat disappointed me in not being able to break down a 10-men Hull team last week. This is a dangerous match for them against a no-nonsense Spurs team with Harry Kane at the helm. Leicester will be lucky to get a point out of this match. Home win.

West Ham v/s Sunderland. Dick Advocaat is a good manager but I am not convinced he is the person to guide Sunderland out of the relegation battle. He's more proven with teams playing on the other side of the table. Still, players always try to make first impressions during a new manager's first game so Sunderland can hope for a result here, particularly that the Hammers are in a rather rotten form. I think the tide will turn sooner than later for Allardyce's men and they have shown lately that they are not far from their early-season blistering form. I think they will edge this one. Home win.

Liverpool v/s Man Utd. The Red Devils gave one of their more convincing displays of the season when beating Spurs last week-end. Liverpool, at Anfield, are another piece of metal though. The Kops were lucky to beat Swansea in their last match and I am wondering whether they have peaked. This is a 6-pointer for the 4th and last UCL spot and I think this will end up in either a home win or a draw. Draw.

Hull v/s Chelsea. Hull are riding some good momentum but their task for this match has been made harder with the injury to top striker Jelavic and suspension of midfield stalwart Huddlestone. Chelsea should pounce on these shortcomings and get the full points. Away win.

QPR v/s Everton. Everton were booted out of the Europa League in mid-week after being destroyed 2-5 in Kiev. They are bound to feel the effects of that arduous match and Rangers have the capacity to cause the Toffees problems when playing at home. The hosts will have Barton back and need the full points but I think they will have to contend with just 1 in the end. Draw.

Friday, March 13, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 29

Chelsea's spectacular ouster from the UCL at the hands of PSG is a blessing in disguise for their EPL title aspirations. That will be their only focus till the end of the season. There is a doubt regarding their current fitness levels as they have seemed somewhat flat physically in their last few games but unless they find themselves dealing with major injuries, I don't think that fitness will be a factor in the run-in. Man City will in all probability exit the UCL as well next week, so the EPL will be their main priority push. Expect lots of words of war between Mourinho and Pellegrini till the end.

Crystal Palace v/s QPR. The Chris Ramsey effect seems to have petered out at QPR and I expect them to flounder again on this road travel. The dynamic Palace attack spearheaded by Jason Puncheon will certainly pose problems for the Rangers slow defensive corps. Home win.

Arsenal v/s West Ham. The Gunners have a crucial UCL match against Monaco in mid-week, so Arsene Wenger might decide to tinker with his team selection against the off-form Hammers. They need the win for the Top 4 fight, so the hosts cannot set their sights too far ahead. Their last FA Cup win away at Old Trafford will buoy the team, particularly match-winning scorer Danny Wellbeck. The Hammers are due a wake-up call soon but in the end the Gunners should have too much firepower for them in this one; it won't be easy but Arsenal should edge this. Home win.

Leicester City v/s Hull. Leicester need to translate their good displays into points, their main problem is that they are not converting their scoring chances into goals. This is a 6-pointer for both teams and I give a slight advantage to the Foxes because they will have home advantage. Home win.

Sunderland v/s Aston Villa. These are 2 teams that don't score often, so it would be of no surprise if it ended in a drab score-less draw. Draw.

WBA v/s Stoke. These 2 teams should end in the middle part of the table far from the relegation zone. Both can play compact and are difficult to break down. This encounter can go any way really. Draw.

Burnley v/s Man City. Burnley snatched an improbable draw at the Etihaad and they will hope for another strong showing to get something out of this match. Man City have to win to keep their title hopes alive, their minds also set on their upcoming and most important match so far this season when visiting Barcelona in the UCL next week. They will probably try to put this match to bed early and avoid any injuries for their trip to the Nou Camp. Burnley seem to be suffering from burn-out in their last couple of matches and they look to be up against it here. Bony could open his account for the Citizens after having endured some tough initial matches . Away win.

Chelsea v/s Southampton. I think Chelsea will come firing out of the starting blocks after their flat UCL encounter against PSG. They will look for some redemption. Diego Costa is really due a goal, not having scored in his last 7 matches. Southampton do not have their early-season form and have shown vulnerability whether at home or on the road. I cannot see them stopping the Blues' march towards EPL glory. Home win.

Everton v/s Newcastle. The hosts had a tough Europa League encounter in mid-week and Newcastle can take advantage of any lack of condition the Toffees might suffer from. The problem for the Magpies is that they will be missing Papiss Cisse for a long stretch of matches because of the spitting incident with Johnny Evans. His absence is a major setback to the potency of their strike force. Everton need a win to stave off any talk of relegation but I don't think they will get the full points here. Draw.

Man Utd v/s Tottenham. This is a huge match for both teams fighting for a Top 4 spot. I give the Red Devils home advantage but they will have to shackle Harry Kane to bolster their chances of a win. It would be no surprise if this ended in a draw but I think that the hosts will have the benefit of the home crowd to spur them and somewhat relieve them of the misery of being booted out of the FA Cup at the expense of Arsenal in their last match.  Home win.

Swansea v/s Liverpool. If the Kops are on song, they will blow away Swansea, as their form and play has been irresistible of late. If they come up with another clanger like against Blackburn in the FA Cup, then Swansea have a shout. I think this match will be high-scoring and possibly a draw might settle this. Draw.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 28

Man City's season is un-raveling and their defeat at Liverpool is surely the final nail in their coffin. For sure, they will pick themselves up but there is every reason to think that it will be the case of too little too late should they gain ground on leaders Chelsea in the last 10 matches of the EPL season. Piling on Chelsea for whatever measly returns on offer is the surest thing in the EPL at this point.

Aston Villa v/s WBA. There is a distinct possibility that Tim Sherwood picks up his first point for Villa here. Villa should try to maximize points here as the Baggies have shown vulnerabilities on their road travels. A boring draw-less score is within the realms as these are 2 teams are more renowned for their defensive stance. Draw.

Hull v/s Sunderland. It remains to be seen how the off-field events concerning Adam Johnson will have impacted the visitors. Hull have shown strong form of late and will go into the match as firm favourites, but erratic Sunderland should not be discounted in these types of matches. A real 6-pointer at the bottom of the table and I think that the Black Cats could spring a surprise here. They look to be the value punt of this game week. Away win.

Southampton v/s Crystal Palace. These will match up with 2 teams going in the opposite direction; the Saints are huffing and puffing of late while Palace are racking up impressive points under Pardew. The problem with the hosts is their profligacy in front of goal, particularly with striker Pelle on a long goal scoring drought. Palace took full advantage of the failing form of the Hammers over the week-end but this match seems a harder proposition for them. It's a wake-up call for Southampton to revive their European ambitions and I expect them to edge this. Home win.

Man City v/s Leicester. City are clamoring that they need to win their remaining games to keep their title and they need to start their winning by beating Leicester. The Foxes have actually shown very disposition in their last games and I was particularly impressed with them in their last visit at the Emirates where although they lost to Arsenal, they crafted enough chances to get something out of that match. Man City have lost points against relegation-threatened teams at the Etihaad and the worst they could do is under-estimate the opposition again. Still, if they show the form which allowed them to blitz Newcastle in their last home match, they should be too much for the visitors. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Man Utd. I still think that Man Utd is a sleeping giant that will awaken up sooner than later. They are still racking up wins even though the team is un-balanced and certainly being bigger than the sum of its parts at the moment. Van Gaal needs time and until his system properly clicks, they will approach away matches with the aim of not losing them. Newcastle have a very good record at home and they will create chances against the Utd defence. It should be a tight one and I think a draw will settle this. Draw.

QPR v/s Arsenal. Arsenal need to win these types of matches in order to secure that ultra-competitive 4th UCL spot. Sanchez has been quiet of late and that could be the match to sparkle him. Ozil is their form player at the moment and it seems that the Gunners will have too much firepower for the hosts. Away win.

Stoke v/s Everton. Stoke are enjoying a fine season while Everton are a disappointment compared to last year. I think this match is going to be tight, with a draw suiting both teams. Draw.

Tottenman v/s Swansea. Spurs are in quick need of getting back to earth after their disappointment in the Carling Cup final. They are going to rely on Harry Kane to strike again. This is going to be a tough match for them as Swansea are usually a team difficult to break down. The visitors could spring an upset here but a draw is probably the likelier result. Draw.

West Ham v/s Chelsea. The Blues will be visiting the Hammers at the right time as the once high-flying hosts are now struggling. I can't see a home win here and the most West Ham can aspire to is a draw. Still, Costa is due a goal soon and could very well be the one making the difference in the end. Away win.

Liverpool v/s Burnley. The Kops are the form team of the moment and if the likes of Coutinho and Sterling display their cutting edge, they should be able to outscore the Clarets. However, it would be a mistake for the hosts to under-estimate the Clarets as the latter have shown remarkable resilience on their away travels to top teams. I expect a high-scoring match with the hosts riding their wave and edging this. Home win.