Friday, 27 September 2013

Gabriel's Weekend Predictions: Week Six

Premier League

Tottenham vs. Chelsea
Friends re-united?
This game sees Mourinho meet up with his old friend Villas-Boas, who in my view played an understated part in the Special One’s previous success at Chelsea and Inter Milan. Whilst Mourinho was the enigma in the limelight, AVB was the tactical brains behind the operation, and managing without him will be the Special One’s big challenge at Chelsea. Both managers, rightly, made wholesale changes for their Capital One Cup matches midweek and strong performances give both men something to think about for future games. I’ve got a feeling AVB’s side can topple Mourinho’s men here, although Chelsea have a lot of talented attacking players in their team, I would fancy Spurs to cut the supply to them  by controlling the midfield with players like Dembele and Paulinho in the centre. Spurs to win 1-0.

Aston Villa vs. Man City
How will Villa cope without Benteke?
Aston Villa only won five home games last season, they never seem to excel in front of their own fans, so this should be no problem for a Manchester City team who have scored twelve goals in the last week and a half. The Citizen’s are on a real high at the moment, and perhaps a small piece of humble pie can be eaten on my part with regard to Manuel Pellegrini. I thought he might struggle to settle at City due to the language barrier, they had started poorly, but he’s turned it around and to get such a big win over Manchester United will give everyone a lift. Villa are now without Christian Benteke for six weeks, so their chances of getting an unlikely point depend largely on whether Brad Guzan can have a stormer again. They’ve relied on the American a lot, I feel the quality City have in their team will give him too much to do. 0-3.

Fulham vs. Cardiff
Martin Jol's side start the weekend in the drop zone
This is a big game for Fulham, because four points from five games is a disappointing start, even though they’ve played the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. Cardiff, who have shown promise early on in their campaign, will provide tough opposition. They’ve had close matches against top teams in Manchester City, Everton and Tottenham at home, and if this was in Cardiff I would definitely fancy them for the win. As they’re playing away, they’re more likely to settle for a point and I think it’ll be a case of them defending doggedly to get it at 0-0.

Hull vs. West Ham
How will the injury to James Chester affect Hull?
An excellent start to the season for newly-promoted Hull. They’ve taken seven points from their first five, despite having already played away against two of last season’s top three teams. My pre-season tip for them to surprise people and stay up comfortably is looking good so far. But both teams are having to contend with early season injury problems, Hull have added James Chester to their list, whilst West Ham are still without a few regular first teamers alongside Andy Carroll. That said, their 3-2 win over Cardiff in the cup will give the Hammers confidence that they can still score goals without him. This is the first of four winnable home games for Hull, but because they’re eleventh, they wouldn’t be too disappointed if this was a draw, and neither would West Ham. Allardyce seems to see most points away from home as a bonus, so I a 1-1 draw seems the most likely outcome.

Man Utd vs. West Brom
Can Moyes turn things around at Old Trafford?
Time for Manchester United to grind out the results. It has to be said they’ve started poorly, taking just one point from the three big games, losing 4-1 at City is a massive blow, and beating Liverpool in the cup will only take some of the sting out of that defeat. The challenge now for Moyes is to repair the damage quickly, and get the team going on a run of wins. I distinctly remember when United lost 6-1, that they won their next three games 1-0, and that’s what Moyes needs to do. Performances are secondary at this stage. West Brom needed that win over Sunderland last week, because this is the start of a hard fixture period for them. The Baggies are a tightly-knit team, having conceded just five goals from seven games in all competitions, so they won’t make it easy for United. The Red Devils to get an important three points with a 1-0 win, it might be tighter than most expect though.

Southampton vs. Crystal Palace
Dejan Lovren has settled in well at Southampton
This match sees the team with the most injury problems in the Premier League host the team with the least. A surprise win for Southampton at Anfield took them up to seventh in the table, although they remain the league’s joint-second lowest scoring team, but that only testifies how well Fonte and Lovren have settled in together at centre-back. You’d have to back them to keep a clean sheet against Crystal Palace, too, as the Eagles are playing quite conservatively at the moment, with five in midfield and the inexperienced Dwight Gayle on his own up front. Southampton’s attack hasn’t quite clicked yet, but the good result they’ve had last week will always breed confidence, so I’ve got a feeling this will be the day that the Saints see the best of £15 million man Osvaldo. The Argentine will help them on their way to a 3-0 win.

Swansea vs. Arsenal
Arsenal chase ninth successive victory
If you’d told Arsenal fans on the underground back from their 3-1 defeat from Aston Villa on the opening day, that they would now be top of the league with twelve points, they would take some convincing. Much credit needs to go to Arsene Wenger for how he’s dealt with the pressure once again, and with joint-top Tottenham playing Chelsea in the early game, Arsenal could well be two points clear on Saturday night. Having made ten changes, Swansea won’t be too disappointed with their 3-1 defeat to Birmingham in the cup, and it was probably the right thing to do with such a tough game at the weekend. Yes, only two teams have scored more goals than Swansea this season, but there’s always a flipside – only three teams have scored less. Arsenal will do the business, even without Theo Walcott. 1-3.

Stoke vs. Norwich
Hughton under pressure from minority of Norwich fans
I was talking to a Norwich fan on Twitter who wants Chris Hughton out. Although I disagreed, when you spend as much as the Canaries have done this summer there’s always an element of expectation. Norwich have started slowly, with their new players taking time to settle in, but the worrying thing for Norwich is that after this match, they play Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City in their next few games. A slightly disappointing result for Stoke last week, conceding two goals from set pieces to Arsenal, when I thought their aerial threat would be their trump card. They’ve only conceded two other goals so far though, so they can beat this slightly out of sorts Norwich team 2-1.

Sunderland vs. Liverpool
Will Kevin Ball re-organise Sunderland?
It’s a complete unknown how the Sunderland players will approach this game. They might rally around their new manager after the revolt against Di Canio, or the fact that Alan Ball is only there on a temporary basis could be a little bit unsettling, they might not be fighting as hard to impress in training as they would for a manager there for the long haul. It’s difficult to tell, especially with so many new players still trying to settle into the squad. Liverpool, having started the season on a real high, have now lost their last two matches. It might take Luis Suarez a few games to refind his old form, and the other factor is that the Reds fielded a very strong team for the North-West derby in the cup on Wednesday, they might be a little tired from that match. I’m going to sit on the fence and say a 1-1 draw.

Everton vs. Newcastle
Will Baines score another free-kick?
I didn’t expect Newcastle to lose at home to Hull, especially after back-to-back wins, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. With such an inconsistent start, it looks like it’ll be midtable finish for the Magpies this season. Everton remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League, to be able to go to an intimidating place in Upton Park and score three goals, coming from behind shows that the players have a lot of self-belief under Roberto Martinez. I’d fancy Everton to win this 2-1.

The Championship

Huddersfield vs. Blackpool

Will James Vaughan net again?
Two of the early season eye-catchers go head-to-head Friday night, and it's difficult to split them. Two-thirds of Huddersfield's points this season have come from home games, they're currently averaging two points per game at the John Smith's stadium, or the McAlpine, as it should be called. I don't go along with criticisms that they're relying too much on James Vaughan, because it breeds confidence having a reliable goalscorer, and defensively the Terriers been sound - only QPR have conceded more goals. I've already predicted Blackpool to lose five times this season, and been proved wrong on every occassion, but I do feel that after taking one point from their last two, they're about to fall away from the chasing pack. 1-0.

Nottm Forest vs. Derby
Forest have missed Kelvin Wilson at the back
Gabriel This is Derby's second... derby, of the week, this time they face their old manager, Billy Davies. Derby have been extremely inconsistent this season.  Another home defeat against Reading last week, but they do have an ability to conjure up a brilliant away performance out of the blue, so predicting their games can be a nightmare. I've been looking through Nottingham Forest's results, defensively they've struggled over the last few weeks but the key reason in my eyes is the loss of Kelvin Wilson in defence. With him in the team, they conceded six goals in seven games, but without him, they've conceded six in three. He's a doubt for the weekend though, so I'll take a stab in the dark and say Derby will surprise again, and win 2-3.

Bolton vs. Yeovil
Will Neil Danns improve Bolton's midfield?
The scene is set very much for Bolton to get that first win and move off the bottom, but I've got a hunch Yeovil will excel in this kind of game. Things just aren't going to plan for Dougie Freedman at the moment, the signing of Neil Danns seems like a bit of a desperate measure, but he could provide Bolton with some more creativity in the middle. The pressure is entirely on Bolton for this game because of the squad they have and being bottom of the table, Yeovil aren't expecting to stay up at all. Although the Glovers have only picked up a point since the opening day of the season, I'm not going to write them off entirely, because three of their five defeats this season have come by one goal. They've ran the likes of Reading and QPR very close, they shown they can compete at this level, so I'll say they'll pick up a point. 1-1.

Bournemouth vs Blackburn
Tokelo Rantie set for Bournemouth debut
If you'd told me three years ago that Bournemouth would be above Blackburn in the Championship, I would have struggled to believe you. Due to such contrasting histories, the last time these clubs met in the league, Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison. Bournemouth are continuing to impress this season, particularly at Dean Court, having won three of their first four home games. Blackburn though, have failed to win thirteen of their last fourteen away games. Such a contrast in home and away form makes me think that Bournemouth's excellent start to the season will continue, big money signing Tokelo Rantie is set to make his home debut, who should further boost the Cherries' goal tally provided he picks up no more serious injuries. 2-1.

Burnley vs Charlton Athletic
Yann Kermorgant is back to full fitness
In pre-season, I thought these teams would finish in a similar sort of position - lower mid-table. But they've got off to very contrasting starts. Burnley have started very well under Sean Dyche, despite a small squad, but I worry that their run in the cup might hinder their performances in the league. Only four changes were made for the cup game against Nottingham Forest in midweek, whereas Charlton have had a whole week to prepare for this game. The Addicks will want to bounce back from the defeat against Millwall, Yann Kermorgant will be fully fit which is a plus. I think they'll put in a strong performance, and come away with a point. 1-1.

Ipswich vs. Brighton
Ipswich look solid under Mick McCarthy
A difficult one to call. Brighton have conceded just two goals in their last six games, and their ability to defend deep and hit teams on the counter attack has played a big part in that. The absence of top forward Leonardo Ulloa isn't ideal, but last week they scored three goals without him, coming from midfield, defence, and a set piece. If Brighton can win this, I would fancy them to make a push for the play-offs, because Ipswich have been reliable at home so far, winning three out of their four games at Portman Road. Brighton seem to be playing the better football, but they will do well in games against teams who are desperate for a win, and disorganized at the back. Under McCarthy, I think Ipswich will remain defensively solid, and won't give Brighton enough of a chance to break, thus making this game a 0-0 stalemate.

Leicester vs. Barnsley
How will Butland do on loan at Barnsley?
Barnsley have already conceded twenty two goals this season, and at this rate they'll be lucky to end it with their 'goals against' tally in double figures! They've brought in goalkeeper Jack Butland on a short-term loan as a measure to try and stop it, that might help them in the next few games, but when he goes back to Stoke I'm not sure how Barnsley will cope then. Their regular goalkeeper, Luke Steele, will be out of match practice and have his morale damaged knowing he's not their first choice. Thanks to an excellent start Leicester are now joint-second, and in terms of the other teams on the same points, I would fancy them over Burnley and Blackpool to maintain their form. Over October, Leicester have a very favourable run of fixtures, so they have a realistic chance of nailing down onto that 2nd spot. 3-0.

Millwall vs Leeds United
Will Scott McDonald score his second Millwall goal?
The best away fans in the country meet arguably the worst home ones. When Leeds came to St Andrews last season, they sold out their allocation and were in full voice for the whole game. On the other hand, Millwall fans are still against the management of Steve Lomas and the ex-West Ham player's position looked untenable less than a fortnight ago, but back-to-back victories have taken Millwall well out of the drop zone, and it'll be interesting to see what response he gets if the Lions pick up a third successive win. Leeds just aren't scoring enough goals at the moment, having drawn a blank in three of their last five games in all competitions. I can't see there being many goals in this one, Millwall to scrape it 1-0.

QPR vs Middlesbrough
Another solid defensive display from QPR?
Charlotte Green is taking over from James Alexander Gordon announcing the final scores on BBC Radio 5 Live, and if the first few weeks are anything to go by, the most common score she'll be announcing is: "Queens Park Rangers 1 (Opposition) 0". It seems remarkable to think that although QPR are top of the table, they've also scored the lowest number of goals in the top half, which is testament to their defence. Middlesbrough are starting to score goals, having bagged five in their last two games, although they're yet to win since the second match of the season, and I can't see that changing. QPR are always winning 1-0 at the moment, so it's the wise prediction to go with that again.

Reading vs. Birmingham
Sharp rejoins Nigel Adkins at Reading
Bringing in Billy Sharp in on loan is a very good move for Nigel Adkins, who will be re-united with the man he worked closely with at Scunthorpe and Southampton. Sharp is a natural goalscorer. He had an incredible record in League One, scoring fifty-three goals in eighty-two games at Scunthorpe, before having an excellent 2011-12 season in the Championship gaining promotion with Southampton, in spite of deep personal issues. He's a forward I've always admired, and I think he'll give Reading a much needed goal boost, they've kept three clean sheets in their last four games which suggests that a reliable striker is the missing ingredient in their play-off push. Sharp could be that man. Birmingham come into the game off the back of two excellent results against Wednesday and Swansea, Jesse Lingard will pose a big threat to Reading's chances of keeping a clean sheet, whilst Nikola Zigic returning to the squad should give the players a lift. But Reading might want the win a little bit more to try and put pressure on the teams at the top, whereas the Birmingham players might be slightly tired from giving their all against Swansea on Wednesday. The Royals to edge this 2-1.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Doncaster Rovers
Things looking ominous for Dave Jones' side
Wednesday got a terrible result at Birmingham last week. It's strange to think that although them and Bolton are the only teams yet to win a game, the Owls have actually scored in every one of their matches. Federico Macheda got off to the perfect start to his time at Doncaster, netting a brace, in what must be accepted as a good result for Paul Dickov's side, despite Nottingham Forest's late equalizer. Wednesday's defence hasn't done too well recently, conceding four goals at Birmingham was a disaster, but they also gave away two at home to Millwall who hadn't scored at that point, and surrendered a lead against 10-man Yeovil. Macheda will inject some confidence into Doncaster's attacks, so I'll go with my instinct and say they can kick Wednesday when they're down, and win 1-2.

Watford vs Wigan
Watford can't stop scoring
Grant Holt will miss out on this match which is a big loss for Wigan. His height would have caused problems, and the Latics only have Marc Antoine-Fortune as backup - and he's yet to score this season. Not only that, but their top scorer Shaun Maloney is a doubt for this game, so it's difficult to see Wigan scoring. That's never the case for Watford, who are scoring goals like there's no tomorrow. They've bagged nineteen already this season, by far the most in the league, and almost two and a half times the number league leaders QPR have scored. The impressive thing for them is that goals are coming from all over the pitch, with McGugan and Farouani chipping in with four from midfield, and Angella contributing from the back. Every time Wigan have won a game in the league, they've lost the following match, they beat Ipswich last week, so on that logic this has to be a comfortable win for the Hornets. 2-0.

No comments:

Post a Comment