15:00: Chelsea vs Blackburn. Chelsea took Ipswich apart in the FA Cup last time out and could have had more although Ancelotti, I’m sure, would have definately taken 7-0 at the start of the game. But that was Ipswich, a struggling Championship side. The Blues, if they are going to be feared again, like they once were, then they have to beat good sides. And Ipswich, I’m afraid, are not one. The one thing, however, that this will give them, is belief. Belief that they can go into this game against Blackburn and thump them. Blackburn’s reign under Steve Kean is still yet to be proven as a good or bad appointment. People have to wake up and realise that he will never get as much out of those players than Sam Allardyce did. However some Rovers fans would rather see their side play attractive football and lose than win ugly. I get where there coming from, being a Spurs fan, I love watching attractive football with lightning quick attacks. Chelsea have to win this and I can’t see any other outcome. 2-0.
15:00: Manchester City vs Wolves. City are rampant in the league despite being held by Leicester and Sven last week-end despite making 5 changes to the side that held Arsenal. I say City are rampant because they know how to grind results. They are learning the trade that their Manchester counterpart is so good at doing. This will bode them very well if they want to aspire to win the title this year, or atleast finish in the top 4. Wolves have clambered out of the relegation zone with a sensational win over the double winners Chelsea, by a goal to nil. Mick McCarthy will tell his team to just go out and hit them hard and attempt to grind out a point. They will have their tails up for this battle but surely won’t have enough to push past a superstar filled City side. 1-0.
15:00: Stoke vs Bolton. For the first time since I’ve started doing these previews, I’m going to think completely logically rather than go into detail about individual players. Stoke are very physical and win games by using this tactic. I don’t blame Pulis. If I had that group of players then I’d look to do that. It’s only probably Tuncay and Etherington that can play with another style other than physically. Bolton do also have the physical style that they’ve always had under Gary Megson and even before that, where it all began, Sam Allardyce. But Owen Coyle has also brought in some great football to the club. Now, I said at the start of the season in my Premier League Preview blog that Bolton would finish in the top 8. People have said to me, Why did you predict that?” I knew because at the end of last season, Bolton were 2nd bottom, half way through the season. They ended up 14th. That was a massive achievement. I could also see that there was a clear gulf in what Megson had been doing from August to December than what Owen was doing from January to May. Bolton will handle Stoke’s physicality but have that bit more quality to kill them off. 1-2.
15:00: West Brom vs Blackpool. West Brom were thumped by Fulham in their last Premier League encounter. Surely a side that concede’s 3 goals against a team that couldn’t buy a goal in Fulham, must worry di Matteo, no? They must have some defensive worries considering they have a group of players in the Tangerine Army that will come at their defence with no mercy on the back of a brilliant win over Liverpool in midweek. Your a lier if you say that you predicted Blackpool were going to do the double over the troubled Reds at the start of the season and dyou know something, I wasn’t suprised in the slightest. Some people who I’ve spoke to say that football is all about the talent on the pitch. Well that theoary has been knocked out of the park by Blackpool. With the spirit that the tangerines have and the problems in the dressing room that Liverpool have, that transfers onto the pitch, without a doubt. I think Blackpool will pick up a point here in a real good game of football. 2-2.
15:00: Wigan vs Fulham. Wigan’s form has been so uneven this season, and in previous seasons. They need to start producing successive wins because then, after that they will bring confidence into the side. They rely on their home form to clamber them up the table but were beaten by Newcastle at the DW a couple of weeks ago which is the type of game that they should atleast grab a point from. You notice that I’m ignoring the Fa Cup because I cannot judge Premier League sides in the cups as they play 2nd string teams, with the exception of West Ham that is! They got a great victory over Peterborough, however, and scored 6 goals in the process. Not that this should be looked at as Peterborough are a poor side. Diomansy Kamara will benefit well from his hat-trick and he will start, I’m guessing on Saturday. But Fulham can’t seem to shake off this record of 1 win in as many games despite that win being against Stoke recently. 0-0.
17:30: West Ham vs Arsenal. The Hammers could well go to Wembley for their first final since they beat Arsenal in the 1980 FA Cup final, 30 years ago. Nonetheless we know how much the Carling Cup reflects Premier League form. It doesn’t, to be quite frank and this will be a game that the current West Ham manager Avram Grant will look upon as one that they can afford to lose however there are no slips ups that will not cost the claret and blue side. They sit rock bottom and need a win. Arsenal saved themselves against Leeds and were absoloutely diabolical against Ipswich although I do feel that that was not the Gunners side that we see, week in, week out in the Prem. Arsenal are fragile and can’t seem to kick off teams like Wigan, West Brom etc so I’ll go for a draw. 1-1.
12:00: Birmingham vs Aston Villa. The Blues will be disappointed with their first half display against West Ham in mid-week but will take great confidence in the type of football that they produced in the second. Alex McCleish does the right thing with his players. They are not a side blessed with attacking talent and so Alex makes them a hard team to break down. I can’t see Birmingham going down this season although they have to be careful. Villa’s form in the Prem isn’t improving In times like these, most clubs look to their manager for some inspiration. Like Liverpool have with Dalglish. But Houllier doesn’t look like he has a clue. If they get a point out of this then that will bide him some time but unfortunately, only time. 1-1.
12:00: Sunderland vs Newcastle. So we finish off with the 3 big games of the weekend, starting with the toon derby. Sunderland and Steve Bruce will want to enilhate Newcastle for what they did to them at St James’ Park earlier on in the season when the Black Cats were demolished 5-1. So don’t expect Sunderland to shut up shop if they score. They will want biiter revenge. Newcastle are also an attacking side with Andy Carroll looing like he could make his return. What a game to return to aswell, eh? He’ll want a couple of goals and that’s why I can see Pardew picking up a point from his first game at the Stadium of Light in what I can expect to be a thrilling game of football. 3-3.
14:05: Liverpool vs Everton. First of all, I’d like to state the weirdness of the starting time for the last 2 matches on the card this week. This game at five past two and hen the Spurs vs United at ten past four. Odd. Anyway, This is perhaps the biggest game of the week for both sides. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it has been quite a while since Everton fans were in a daze after doing the double over their biggest rivals. This will be massive for their fans. As a Yid, I know what it feels like to beat your closest enemy away from home (3-2 in November). And it feels good, oh so good. For “King” Kenny, this is a massive chance to show that he is serious about taking the job full time and what a place to do it. In the Merseyside derby infront of the onlooking Scousers. Dyou know something? I think he might just do it. 1-0
16:10: Tottenham vs Man United. This should be a cracker. Games with my side Tottenham in are always exciting. Whatever you think of Tottenham and their fans as a football club, you can’t argue that to watch them is a privllege and that you will always enjoy watching a terrific, attacking display. That cannot be said for United but what can be said, is that they have brilliant grit and determination to win games and salvage points from unthinkable positions. Tha’s why their top of the league, and in my opinion, as it has since a ball was kicked this season, will be there at the end of the season. Spurs will want to put an awful record against United in previous years behind them and pick up the points but Fergie knows how tough it is to go to the Lane and so I can’t separate the sides. 1-1.