Friday, 14 December 2012

My Premiership predictions- 14/12/12

Well, well. It's nearly Christmas again. I seriously don't know what's happening to this year. I remember being a child and the years always took so long. A year usually felt like about a decade, whereas now it's no time at all. I'm 20, and I only left school like 10 minutes ago!

Anyway, after the drama of the Manchester derby, it looks to be United's title to lose now and they'll be going into the new year top of the table baring a sensational recovery of points from City. The Citizens will look to bounce back from that late setback when they go to struggling Newcastle, but still United may fancy themselves to actually extend their lead when they play their north-east opponents, Sunderland at home. Chelsea's involvement in the Club World Cup this weekend means it's a day off for Southampton.

Down at the bottom, QPR are still searching for their first win of the season and will attempt to get it against Fulham, Reading are searching for their second of the season and need to get to get it soon with a 6 point gap between themselves and safety, but play host to under-pressure-Wenger's Arsenal. Norwich look to hold onto their unbeaten run against Wigan, whilst Villa travel to Anfield against Rodger's side who have been showing strong signs of improvement in recent games. 

Everton attempt to keep hold of 4th place but will have to win at clean sheet merchants Stoke, but Tottenham will stay right on their tails if they beat Swansea, and two of the overachievers of the season so far go against each other; West Brom play West Ham.

Joining me this week as always is Del, and Predictions Pro, who you can follow on twitter by following the link. Good luck to you both.

Newcastle vs. Man City

The Manchester derby will have been a big blow for the Citizens. Having come so close to even claiming a point, it'll take a bit of character from them to get back into this title race. I've favoured United for top spot from the start - even when Chelsea were top for a while - because I don't rate Mancini. His tactical nous is not up to scratch in my opinion, and I think he's the man they need to change if they want to succeed in Europe, but as long as Ferguson is in charge at United, I'm struggling to see them win the league again in the next few years.

Newcastle have lost 4 of their last 5 games and they clearly aren't coping at all with playing in the Europa League- as Thursday night proved. The worrying thing for them will be that they're through to the last 32 in February. I probably don't think they will go down if the board understands the need for squad investment in January, but they're actually only 2pts off the relegation zone. I'd be a bit worried if I was a Newcastle fan.

On balance, I think City will have just enough to bounce back from the disappointment against United by edging this. I don't see a route back into the title race for them though. 1-2.

Del says: 0-2
Predicts Pro says: 1-2

Liverpool vs. Aston Villa

I've been looking at the latest possession statistics for Liverpool and it tells you something. Liverpool have had an average of 60% of the ball in their last 3 games, all of which they've won, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that continue today. Villa's gameplan lately has been very much a case of getting the ball direct to Benteke in the air, at times lumping it up, due to their lack of quality in midfield. That leads me to think Liverpool will have more than 60% in this match- especially if they can keep the Belgian quiet.

I'm starting to think now, that the Rodgers revolution of Liverpool is in full flow. They've won their last 3 games in all competitions, and to win at West Ham last week was a very good achievement, especially having played in Italy on Thursday night. I did think that the Hammers, such a hardworking team they are, they'd grind Liverpool down.

Villa got a point against Stoke that can be considered little more than satisfactory given their position in the table. Assuming QPR and Reading are locked down there, it could now be a four-way battle between themselves, Wigan, Sunderland and Southampton to avoid that final relegation place. I think they'll beat the drop, but they've caught Liverpool at the wrong time, so 2-0.

Del says: 2-1
Predicts Pro says: 2-0

Man Utd vs. Sunderland

I can't see anything more or less than a routine win for Manchester United here. Sunderland have got a respectable defensive record and will be boosted by their 3-0 win over Reading in midweek so I'm not sure if it'll be a walkover for Ferguson's side, but I would expect them to control the game.

Contrary to the title race, my opinion on who will go down with Reading and QPR changes frequently. Before their game against Reading, I thought Sunderland would go down because they don't score enough, but to not just win that match but to win it by getting on the scoresheet 3 times will be a massive confidence booster. The only problem for them is that result maybe came at the wrong time in terms of momentum, because they've still got to play Man City and Tottenham  after this, so they're by no means out of the waters yet.

Ferguson hasn't got any midweek Champions League games to plan for, or worries in terms player fitness after one, so he can put out any team he likes without hesitation. I get the impression this will be the kind of game where they get a couple of goals in the first half, bring on Paul Scholes in the second, keep the ball and just see the game out. 2-0 seems about right.

Del says: 3-1
Predicts Pro says: 3-0

Norwich vs. Wigan

I'm going to go with my gut instinct on this one and say Wigan can record an away win, because  Norwich's 10 game unbeaten run in the Premiership simply can't go on forever, however good a manager Hughton is. Plus, Wigan have picked up just 1 point from their last 3 games, which means... yep, that's right, they're going to win this.

I'm not sure what kind of impact losing 4-1 to Villa in the cup on Tuesday will have on the Norwich team. Hughton opted to field a full-strength side which, although I wouldn't have done it personally, it was a defendable decision, because the team would still have 4 days rest and also they're well above the relegation zone. I do wonder if it'll have a negative affect on the team going into this one though. 

Wigan need the points considerably more. They only managed a draw at home to bottom-of-the-table QPR last week, but as I've talked about before, they've got that enviable ability to turn on the style when they've just lost a game or had a disappointing result. I think that'll serve them well in the relegation battle and this situation will be no different. 0-1.

Del says: 1-2
Predicts Pro says: 2-1

QPR vs. Fulham

Opportunities missed for QPR. They had the perfect chance to get off to the good start they needed under Harry Redknapp by beating either of three teams potentially involved in a relegation scrap - Sunderland, Aston Villa and Wigan - ideally 2 of them. They haven't won any of those games, they haven't lost any either which suggests that they're not giving up without a fight, but I just don't think draws are enough against those kind of teams, considering the situation they're in.

Fulham got the win they wanted over Newcastle last week and I'd expect that to ease a any of the Cottagers' mild relegation fears, after going 7 games without a win beforehand. I personally never thought they'd go down in the first place, and I would actually back them to pick up a win here.

I feel like QPR won't continue to draw matches and stay bottom, very few teams have done that. At some point, things will change and we'll know whether there's a chance of them staying up. There might be the unlikely hope of a revival, but they need to get some confidence from somewhere that they can win football matches, like Southampton have had since the start. Otherwise, my calculation is that these draws will begin to seep into defeats and they'll be bottom for the rest of the season, so 0-1.

Del says: 1-0
Predicts Pro says: 1-1

Stoke vs. Everton

Two of arguably the hardest-working teams in the Premiership do battle on Saturday, so I'm predicting a tight one with chances few and far between. It's probably worth remembering that Stoke have conceded just 2 goals from 7 home games this season. You could argue that that doesn't quite tell the full story of their defensive record, as they've conceded 12 overall, but if anything the contrast highlights how tough to play against they are at home, which will be important in this match.

Despite their solid defence, I wouldn't expect them to have it all their own way against Everton, who got such a crucial win against Tottenham last week to stay 4th. Just looking at the way Jelavic celebrated when he scored the winning goal so clinically, high-fiving all his teammates coming off the bench and giving Moyes a hug, it epitomised the team spirit they have at that club.

For that reason, I'm going to back Everton to come away from Stoke with all the points in a very close game, as Jelavic only seems to need one chance in a game to score at the moment. Stoke will have no intentions of making it easy for them though, and will run the Toffees right to the wire. 0-1.

Del says: 2-2
Predicts Pro says: 0-1

Tottenham vs. Swansea

What a strange few days it's been for Swansea. Firstly they win 2-0 at the Emirates, then they conceded 4 goals at home to Norwich and then they reach the semi-finals of the League Cup for the first time in their history! However a midweek game, especially Laudrup having fielded a full-strength team, means Swansea won't be at their freshest. The best way for them to play this is to make sure they have plenty of the ball at White Hart Lane, or else hope like hell that most of Spurs's chances don't fall to Jermain Defoe.

The ex-Hammer has 13 goals to his name so far, in all competitions, which wouldn't necessarily be too bad a return at the end of the season, and we're not even half-way through! I'll admit I wasn't sure about the idea of a penalty-box-predator, like Defoe is, playing up front on his own. I'd normally say he needs a target man alongside him, someone to work the flanks, do all the donkey work and win the flick-ons and knock-downs for Defoe to finish- will he get enough support on his own? The answer being an emphatic yes. The creativity of Dempsey has had Modric long forgotten and Lennon and Bale offer great support running in from the wing, though Bale is out for this one.

They haven't had a European game to worry about this week, so I'll go for a comfortable Spurs win. More often than not Defoe scores, so I'll go with a pretty safe bet and back him to grab himself another goal or two, and lead Tottenham to a 3-0 win.

Del says: 3-0
Predicts Pro says: 2-0

West Brom vs. West Ham

I think it's important for West Brom that they can even things out a bit after losing 3 matches on the trot. It won't help the team's cycle of confidence by making it 4 or 5 defeats and they just need to draw a couple now to stay fully on target for a midtable finish. After this game, they've got Norwich and QPR so I strongly doubt that they'll continue a losing run into the new year. 

West Ham have had a tricky run of games lately and with Everton and Arsenal still to come, they'll only really get easier once they're into the new year. It's their home form that they'll rely on mostly, having scored just 5 goals away from home all season, but I think they can come away from this game with a point which both teams will accept. 0-0.

Del says: 1-1
Predicts Pro says: 1-1

Reading vs. Arsenal

I would be surprised if this game turns out to be a repeat of the 5-7 in the Capital One Cup earlier this season. Arsenal crashed out of that competition this week in a shock defeat on penalties to Bradford and more than a few Gunners fans want to see the back of Wenger.

My own opinion is that he's done a great job and I'm not judging him too much on a few bad results, keeping Arsenal in the top four so consistently is a great achievement. However, if he does go, I sincerely hope he gets the respect he deserves simply for what he's done for the club. Maybe they do need a new manager to take the club to the next level in the 'post-Emirates era', but Arsenal fans should remember that there's no guarentee they'll immediately start to win  the title once Wenger goes. If a high-spending manager comes in and the buys don't do the business, the club could start to go downhill, I think their best chance is by keeping their faith in Wenger.

I'm practically at the stage of pronouncing Reading down. I don't think they can defend leads well enough and they followed up their first win of the season over Everton a few weeks ago with a series of defeats. I'm predicting this will be another one as Arsenal come out fighting after the embarrassing defeat to Bradford, 1-3.

Del says: 1-3
Predicts Pro: 1-2

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