Saturday, December 7, 2013

Premier League Predictions Round 15

After an exciting midweek round of Premier League fixtures filled with goals, the next round of weekend fixtures are already upon us. My predictions below.

Manchester United vs. Newcastle United

The pressure continues to mount for David Moyes after Everton beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Roberto Martinez's first visit to the theatre of dreams as manager of the Toffees. To add to Moyes' woes, Wayne Rooney is suspended, and nobody has a clue as to when Robin Van Persie will be back in the side.

Newcastle actually played pretty well in their defeat at Swansea, and were it not for Michel Vorm, Loic Remy could even have had a hat rick. It's been a while since the Toon Army have celebrated in Manchester, but if Alan Pardew can inspire some belief in his troops, there is no reason why Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote can't be the latest midfield pair to dominate the Red Devil's weak centre.

Prediction: A game with a history of goals and excitement, I am not so certain we are going to get something very exciting this time around. Lunchtime kickoffs don't generally bring the best out of teams, and in front of another tense Old Trafford crowd, I see Newcastle nicking a point.

Crystal Palace vs. Cardiff City

Crystal Palace got the expected win in Tony Pulis' first home game in charge at Selhurst Park, despite barely managing to string two passes together in their encounter against West Ham. Nonetheless, there was enough defensive discipline on display, and if Barry Bannan can continue to cross well with his cultured left foot, Marouane Chamakh will always have a chance to score. The less said about Cardiff's stalemate against Stoke the better.

Prediction: These were the kind of games that Pulis mastered when managing Stoke, and I see the Eagles winning their second game in succession.

Liverpool vs. West Ham United

There have been enough superlatives written about Luis Suarez's phenomenal display against Norwich. It's not often that one scores four goals in one match, much less four goals of different yet exceptional quality. Liverpool will be relying on their talisman to lead them to another three points, which are an absolute must in light of the Reds upcoming visits to the Etihad, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane.

West Ham are in the midst of a horrible run, and are playing some truly dreadful football. If it wasn't for a win against the truly abject Fulham last weekend, the Hammers would be in the relegation zone and Sam Allardyce would certainly be under greater scrutiny.

Prediction: While West Ham have previous in frustrating Liverpool at Anfield, I just don't see it happening this time around. There may still be tactical flaws in Brendan Rodgers planning, but he has brought back goals to Anfield, and I think Liverpool will score a few more at home in this fixture.

Southampton vs. Manchester City

The Saints were supposed to recover at home against Aston Villa after two tough losses on the road to Arsenal and Chelsea. In stead what transpired was Southampton's worst defensive display of the season in a shock defeat. Mauricio Pochettino should look to make some changes just to freshen up things and ensure that his starting eleven all remain grounded.

Manchester City put in one of their best away displays of the season in the 3-2 win at the Hawthorns. If it wasn't for the Citizens coasting in the last ten minutes the scoreline would have reflected the true dominance of City. Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero all continued their sublime form, and if they can follow up at St. Mary's, then City can justifiably claim to banish their away day blues.

Prediction: It was Southampton's 3-1 win in this fixture last year that marked the arrival of Pochettino's pressing game in the Premier League. Both managers have a clearly defined European style, and this is the game where I take my risk this week and suggest a close victory for the Saints, as City's midfield two might struggle against Southampton's incessant pressing high up the pitch.

Stoke City vs. Chelsea

Mark Hughes promised a lot in the summer upon taking charge of Stoke, however the style hasn't really improved, and the results are hardly a ringing endorsement of his appointment. The midweek draw against Cardiff was a terrible advert for the Premier League, and just where the Potters next goal is coming from is anyone's guess.

After some shaky performances on the road to begin the season, Chelsea have won two successive games away to West Ham and Sunderland. One may argue that Jose Mourinho's men weren't entirely convincing at the Stadium of Light, but I think it demonstrated the manager's winning mentality and ability to find solutions even in the toughest circumstances.

Prediction: In previous years this would be an extremely difficult road trip, but on current form can't see anything other than a Chelsea victory, especially since Eden Hazard and Juan Mata are in such great form.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Norwich City

This is not necessarily a game that will set the pulses racing for the neutral. However, I really enjoy watching West Brom under Steve Clarke, and I find them one of the most tactically balanced teams with a good mix of creative flair and direct efficiency. Norwich on the other hand have been one of the worst teams away from home this season, but at least the Canaries defence won't be coming up against Luis Suarez this season.

Prediction: It could be hard for West Brom to pick themselves up after putting in a lot of effort against City in their midweek home game, but Clarke will not want any points dropped against a visiting Norwich, and the Baggies should get the three points.

Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur

That Sunderland managed to score three goals against Chelsea despite losing provides further evidence that Gus Poyet has added belief to the Sunderland players in addition to a general improvement in the standard of the Mackems performances.

The noises coming from the Spurs camp suggest that Andre Villas-Boas and the playing squad believe their comeback victory against Fulham at Craven Cottage might just be a turning point. We'll find out whether that's the case in the next few weeks, but the truth is that two long range goals hardly prove that Spurs have solved their scoring problems.

Prediction: I believe Tottenham were genuinely lucky to get all three points against Fulham, while conversely Sunderland probably should have garnered more points across the games that Poyet has managed. I think luck will even out in this game, and the home team will finally get their rewards in a crucial victory.

Fulham vs. Aston Villa

Fulham put in their best overall performance of the season against Tottenham, and while the close defeat must have hurt, Rene Meulensteen can take plenty of encouragement from his players creative flair and defensive discipline. The key question is whether the Cottagers can now perform at the same level consistently and most importantly against teams in the lower half of the table.

Aston Villa have snuck up to tenth in the table without setting the league on fire. I actually thought Paul Lambert's charges played their best football in August and September, but results weren't matching performances. They have been playing with less flair recently, but have been unbeaten for five games now. Most concerning for Villains fans however is that Christian Benteke has gone completely off the boil, and they will hope that Labor Kozak maintains his scoring form.

Prediction: Aston Villa haven't been playing well recently, and I think this is the game where they will not be able to escape with a result, as Meulensteen inspires his troops to a much-needed victory.

Arsenal vs. Everton

This is easily the game of the round, as two teams with the most impressive midfields seen in the Premier League this season come up against each other. After an impressive away victory at Cardiff, Arsenal followed it up with a performance of complete domination against Hull City, as the Gunners made four changes without disrupting the flow of the team one iota.

Everton are coming into the game on the back of their biggest victory of the season away to Manchester United. Fans of the Toffees have fallen in love with the style and panache displayed under new manager Roberto Martinez, and for many their victory at Old Trafford wasn't surprising as Everton have recorded the most midfield possession in the league this season. Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley as well as Gerard Deulofeu and Bryan Oviedo have been grabbing the headlines, but two absolutely crucial players that have kept things ticking for Everton have been Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. Martinez will rely on the duo if Everton are to get another impressive away result.

Prediction: As impressive as Everton's win at Old Trafford was, dominating against Arsenal's midfield at the Emirates is another matter altogether. It will be a game that will be easy on the eye for the neutral, but it's the Gunners fans who will be celebrating another three points at the top of the table.

Swansea City vs. Hull City

Swansea got a crucial victory against Newcastle when not many expected them to do so. Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Michel Vorm played a crucial role with some excellent saves. Nonetheless, the fact that Michael Laudrup's men displayed attacking variety despite the absence of Michu and Wilfried Bony must be especially encouraging.

After the high of victory over Liverpool, Steve Bruce's men couldn't live with Arsenal's midfield at the Emirates. However, Hull will expect to lose some matches against the top teams, but do possess the defensive discipline to frustrate teams like Swansea who can suffer from a lack of directness a times.

Prediction: I except the Swans to dominate possession at home, but Hull will be extremely organized with two banks of four, and I can see Bruce's men can escape with a point.
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