Friday, April 24, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 34

Chelsea can put all title talk to rest this week-end when they visit Arsenal. Mourinho's never lost in 12 confrontations with Wenger and he only adds to this tally to dispatch any intent of the Gunners to make it an exciting title race. It would not be a stretch to think that fireworks could be off field rather than on it, the animosity between the 2 club managers being as fierce as any. At the bottom half, Leicester has made huge strides of late and there are 6 teams very much in the fray for the drop. The only excitement of the EPL sadly lies there.

Southampton v/s Tottenham. Both teams won't make the UCL, that's a guarantee. The hosts have to contend with some absentees with the likes of Wanyama and Rodriguez, not to mention keeper Forster who's out for the season. Spurs will also likely miss their No 1 Lloris. Home advantage should count here and I think Soton will just edge this by the odd goal. Home win.

Burnley v/s Leicester. An absolute 6-pointer here. Leicester are in flying form while Burnley are mostly going down a steep. They need Ings to get back firing here as they have only scored 1 goal in their last 7 matches. They should be able to take advantage of the Foxes' dubious defence. As for the visitors, striker Nugent might be missing but they have other dependable strikers to count on. I think it's home advantage Burnley but by no means certain. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Hull. Palace were unexpectedly rocked last week at home to WBA. Overconfidence after a series of good results, maybe? Hull are right in the danger zone and seem to have grind hard to get results. Palace forwards could have a field day here. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Swansea. The Magpies have been on a rotten run since Cisse's suspension and it does not look to be any better with the coming of Swansea. The visitors relish this kind of away encounter. where they keep the match relatively close and rely on late spurts of attack to try to make the breakthrough. They are a tough side to break down on their best day and are visiting Newcastle at the right time. Away win.

QPR v/s West Ham. Rangers will be looking for full points against a team that has won only once in their last 12 matches. The Hammers cannot be taken lightly though as they tend to keep matches close for a while. A draw looks the likeliest possibility here, which won't really arrange the hosts. Draw.

Stoke v/s Sunderland. Not sure what to make of Sunderland under Advocaat yet. Stoke are very good at home on their best day and that's the only form on offer here. Home win.

WBA v/s Liverpool. The Kops were surprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Villa last Sunday. They are badly missing Sturridge up front as Balotellit clearly does not fit in Rodger's system. West Brom managed to win last week after some tough losses at home. Difficult on form to see how this will go but Liverpool have the 4th UCL spot to desperately fight for, I think they will just edge this match. Away win.

Man City v/s Aston Villa. Villa will go to Manchester in high spirits after booking their trip to Wembley for the FA final. They still are in a precarious position in the league though and have points to make. City are done for the title and are striving for a UCL spot. They will have Silva available after his scare in their last match. Aguero and Benteke will light the fireworks upfront here and City go with the favors in order to stop their season from unraveling. Home win.

Everton v/s Man Utd. This is a tough one for the Mancunians as the Toffees are on a decent run. A trip to Goodison Park is never easy but if Man Utd go there in the same spirit and demeanor as at Anfield, they can dominate proceedings. This should be a close match and a draw could very well be on the cards. Draw.

Arsenal v/s Chelsea. How will Wenger be able to beat Mourinho? Clearly the Portuguese has made a career getting results against clubs playing attacking football. Arsenal are best at playing their flowing football but that is often a suicidal approach against Mourinho's teams. That's a major dilemma for Wenger. Chelsea will play this match in order not to lose. They will park the bus or do whatever it takes not to give Arsenal the full points. I think it's either going to be a draw or an away win although for sporting reasons, it would be great if Wenger finally got one over his nemesis manager. Draw.

Friday, April 17, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 33

Anyone out there still thinking that Chelsea can be caught? Man City have been tamed away and Arsenal and Man Utd have seemingly entered the title race picture purely on their last bit of rich form. But it seems a case of too little too late as I cannot see Mourinho's team having a disastrous end run of games that would give these 2 chasers a fighting chance.

Crystal Palace v/s WBA. Palace are hot at the moment while the Baggies have turned surprisingly cold, possibly the loss of keeper Foster being one of the plausible reasons. It's impossible to go against the flying Eagles here and they can be dangerous on so many counts with talented players like Bolasie, Puncheon and Zaha to name a few. Home win.

Everton v/s Burnley. It is not a surprise that Everton are climbing the table after their disastrous first half. They won't be relegated but they won't make it in Europe either. Burnley are fighting for survival and are travelling to Goodison Park at an in auspicious time. Besides their rather fortuitous win at home against Man City, their level of form has been pretty poor. Lukaku could have a field day here and it should be 3 points for Martinez' men. Home win.

Leicester v/s Swansea. The good news for Leicester is that the visitors will be without a host of first-team players and will have to make do with a make-shift defence. If Ulloa and company can pounce on that weakness, they will get the much-needed 3 points to stave off relegation. Leicester usually make their games harder than they should, so I don't them to win this by a wide margin, but they can edge this. Home win.

Stoke v/s Southampton. If ever there is going to be a bore drawless match, it will probably be this one. The teams are evenly matched and even if it does not end up 0-0, a draw looks very likely to be on the cards. Draw.

Chelsea v/s Man Utd. A draw will suffice for Chelsea here to keep the Red Devils at bay in the title chase. This looks like a very likely scenario given that Mourinho goes into such types of matches in order not to lose, rather than to outright win. The hosts will be missing Costa but the visitors will be without Blind, Rojo and more importantly midfield anchor Carrick. I think it will be a home win or draw, with the preference going to the latter. Draw.

Man City v/s West Ham. The Citizen's miserable late form will certainly augur huge upcoming changes at the club. They are now fighting for fourth spot. They should be able to beat West Ham who are in a rut of their own. Aguero needs to find his lethal edge back if the hosts are to secure the last UCL spot. Home win.

Newcastle v/s Tottenham. Two more matches out for Papiss Cisse and the Magpies can't really wait. Spurs are ever reliant on Harry Kane to deliver and will again have several first-team player doubts going into the match with Lloris, Walker and Verthogen fighting for match fitness. A draw looks plausible here and that's the selection. Draw match.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 32

Some flash thoughts before the matches start this Saturday.

Home Win: Southampton, Tottenham, WBA, West Ham, Man Utd
Away Win: Arsenal, Chelsea
Draw: Sunderland/Palace 

Friday, April 3, 2015

EPL 2014/15 - Week 31

With the international matches over, it's the final push to the line. Man City are the ones under the gun as their title aspirations are all but gone, and they are fighting for second place with the likes of neighbours Man Utd and Arsenal hot under their heels. Liverpool can still aspire for a 4th place spot even after their home defeat last week-end but they have seemed to be running out of steam of late.

Arsenal v/s Liverpool. As I've mentioned above, I think Liverpool have peaked and can no longer sustain the good run of form prior to their defeat to Man Utd last week-end. Their dynamic trio of Lallana, Sterling and Coutinho have been devoid of ideas in their last matches, so other players will have to step up. The return from injury of Sturridge is a plus as he is always a goal scoring threat. The Gunners usually finish the season strong and they are in good form going into this match. Striker Giroud has been banging all types of goals lately and Ramsey's forward forrays give their attack much impetus. This is a 6-pointer match for a  UCL spot and I give the edge to the home team. Home win.

Chelsea v/s Stoke. The Blues might miss Costa for this match but I don't think it will matter. Stoke are always a dangerous side to play against but unless any mishap, this should be 3 more points for Mourinho's men. Home win.

Everton v/s Southampton. Pelle finally scored a goal and that was against England in mid-week. This should give him some confidence heading in this match against the Toffees. Southampton are a genuine top 6 team and they will have opportunities to score with the likes of likes of Tadic, Elia and Mane. Everton are solid at home and their main challenge is to climb up to a more respectable position up the table. These are 2 even teams and a draw is a probable outcome. Draw.

Leicester v/s West Ham. I see the Hammers finally getting an overdue win here. Leicester haven't impressed me in their last couple of matches, which makes me think that they are going down unless they pick up on their form. West Ham are not at their strong early-season level but they have been getting better after a rough stretch of matches. They are the away pick of the week-end. Away win.

Man Utd v/s Aston Villa. The home team will be buoyed by their win at Anfield last week-end. The LVG system seems to be finally going and heading to full steam. They need to beat Villa convincingly to silence the remaining critics. Villa are not out of the woods yet and Tim Sherwood has yet to prove that he will get them out of their rut. This is going to be a difficult match for them and I see a home win here. Home win.

Swansea v/s Hull. This should be a home win as there is a different class between these 2 teams. The only worry about the home team is how match-fit is striker Gomis but Gary Monk has creatively redeployed his resources when in need. Home win.

West Brom v/s QPR. Another home win here. WBA are almost a fortress at home against the small guns and QPR are the worst team on the road. To have any chance of staying up, Rangers will have to pile the points at Loftus Road. Home win.

Burnley v/s Tottenham. Spurs will be missing keeper Lloris for this match but the ever-dangerous Harry Kane will be spearing the attack again. Burnley cannot be dismissed and I think they will have at least a point out of this. They burned City last time out at home and they will feel they can undo Spurs as well. A high-scoring draw could be the likely outcome. Draw.

Sunderland v/s Newcastle. Dick Advocaat was rather unfortunate to lose his first match in charge of Rangers as they were un-done in the dying minutes of that match against West Ham. Jermaine Defoe is misfiring at the moment and it may be that he does not have the young legs for the EPL anymore. His strike partner Steven Fletcher comes off a fresh hat-trick for Scotland in mid-week, which could provide him the confidence to start banging the goals for the club. Newcastle will again be without Cisse and that's a big handicap going into this North derby encounter. I think the most they can expect is a draw but I think that Sunderland will get the much-needed 3 points. Home win.

Crystal Palace v/s Man City. Since this is a Monday game, the Citizens will know where they stand in the league as they take on the Eagles. The latter are currently playing with confidence under Pardew and will certainly pose problems to the City defence. This match could end up in any result and while it is hard to fathom another loss for City, I think that if they win, it will be by a minimal margin. Still, a draw might settle this. Draw.