Newcastle United vs Everton (12:45)
Newcastle came away from the Britannia last week with a fantastic performance and result, having shown that defensively they can cope with some of the toughest tests this league has to offer. Pardew has tightened the ship, gotten the midfield working hard and his signings, most notably Cabaye and Ba, have posed a real threat up front.
Everton are coming into this game on poor form, but they are notorious slow starters to the season and Moyes will undoubtedly get a reaction from his players during and after the Christmas period. Despite an empty wallet Moyes has been one of the most consistent managers for years now, and don’t expect that to change any time soon.
If Newcastle come into this one over-confident, they could be in for a shock.
Prediction: Newcastle 1 – 1 Everton
Arsenal vs West Brom (15:00)
Despite Arsenal’s fantastic run, I don’t think they’re nearly as strong as they were last year. The huge boost for them this year has been the fitness of Van Persie, who is the best goalscorer in the league when injury-free. Chelsea tried to outscore and outplay Arsenal last week, which is extremely inadvisable whilst Wenger remains at the helm. I’m massively unconvinced by both Santos and Mertesacker defensively however, so Vermaelen’s return can’t come soon enough for the Gunners.
West Brom’s big success story this year has been Shane Long, who has not only scored goals but worked incredibly hard for the team. He’ll be a big miss on Saturday, as I fancied him to trouble the Arsenal defence. Hodgson always puts out an organized side and the Baggies have enough quality throughout their starting eleven to finish comfortably mid-table. They’ll win plenty of games at home against the teams around them, but this won’t be their day.
Arsenal to win comfortably – Van Persie likely to score.
Prediction: Arsenal 3 – 0 West Brom
Aston Villa vs Norwich
I was worried for Alex McLeish when he took over at Villa Park, as a lot of their fans had clearly already written him off. They’ve looked surprisingly disorganized defensively, considering the experience that they have at the back. He’s got the team working for each other though, and despite their form being a little slack they are by no means on a blip. Bent and Agbonlahor can do as much damage as any front pairing on their day.
Norwich have started the season fantastically, especially considering that Lambert has pretty much kept the same squad that did so well last season. They weren’t brimming with quality even in the Championship – like Blackpool last year, the key to their success has been organization and work ethic. If Holt and Pilkington continue to score goals then Norwich should have no trouble hitting the magic forty points this year.
It’ll be a tough test for Villa, but they’ll have too much up front for the Canaries to handle.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2 – 0 Norwich
Blackburn vs Chelsea (15:00)
Blackburn came desperately close to taking all three points at Carrow Road last weekend and were only denied by a deflected strike and a stoppage time non-penalty. Steve Kean has got a lot of stick from the Blackburn faithful but in my eyes most of that has stemmed from the wrongful dismissal of Sam Allardyce eleven months ago.
Andre Villas-Boas has had some success in implementing his style at the Bridge. Chelsea are certainly a more fluid, mobile unit going forward, in no small part thanks to the excellent signing of Juan Mata. However, they have also had problems at the back and Blackburn could cause an upset if Chelsea don’t improve.
Chelsea should have enough to win but don’t count Blackburn out.
Prediction: Blackburn 1 – 2 Chelsea
Liverpool vs Swansea (15:00)
I’ve been highly impressed by the work Dalglish has done at Liverpoool, but they still have some way to go to regain the supremacy of old. Suarez is straight out of the top drawer, but they’ll need to gain the vital fourth spot if they want to attract more players of his ilk to challenge for the title next year. However, the addition of Charlie Adam and the return of Gerrard mean they’ve got fantastic quality in the heart of midfield, and they can cause any team problems.
Many knowledgeable faces in football expected Swansea to stay up this season, but few expected they’d start so well. They’re great going forward and probably play the best football of any team that’s come up from the Championship. Sinclair can always cause problems and Danny Graham has started emulating the form of last year so they’ll get plenty of points from the teams around them. However, they are heavily reliant on their home form and could get a wake up call at Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 4 – 1 Swansea
Manchester United vs Sunderland (15:00)
United bounced back well against Everton last week, and more importantly defended excellently. Whilst their drubbing at the hands of City hit the headlines, the score would almost certainly have been very different if it wasn’t for the naivety of Johnny Evans’ challenge.
Sunderland have gained publicity for all the wrong reasons this season. The controversial circumstances of Gyan’s departure along with a lengthy injury list have cost Bruce the support of the Sunderland fans. They’ll have enough to avoid relegation come the end of the season, but United away is a different test altogether.
United will be too strong for Sunderland on the day.
Prediction: Manchester United 4 – 0 Sunderland
QPR vs Manchester City (17:30)
Despite QPR’s strong start the season I think they will undoubtedly be fighting against relegation by the summer. What will possibly save them is the experience of Barton, Wright-Phillips and Neil Warnock, all of whom are seasoned campaigners at this level. I do worry about where the goals will come from with QPR, and they may have to rely on their home form to stay in the division.
Manchester City have improved immensely this season. They are the all-round package and in my eyes are one of the strongest squads the Premier League has ever seen. It’s this kind of test that will define their season, however. Without their captain Kompany and potentially also without the influential David Silva, some screws could come loose. Still, the likelihood is that they will have the strength in enough depth to cover those absences, and enough strength of mind to win this game. I can’t see anyone pipping City to the title.
Expect a hard-fought City win.
Prediction: QPR 0 – 3 Manchester City
Wolves vs Wigan (13:30)
After a great start to the season Wolves have had some really poor results, crucially against teams that have similar expectations to them. I’m also worried about where the goals are going to come from in what looks to be an especially competitive and attacking league this year. It’s crazy that some fans are booing Mick McCarthy though, as he’s done a great job there. It might not be enough for them to be organized this year, but if Fletcher and Doyle can score regularly they could survive again.
I think almost every football fan has been amazed at the Houdini act Martinez has managed to perform for the past few seasons with Wigan. It’s nice to hear that Dave Whelan has given Martinez his support, but I can’t see how they’re going to survive without additions to the side. Crucially they lack organization at the back and goals up front, which need rectifying. They’ll probably pick up more points post-January, but this is a real chance for them to get their season up and running.
Feels like a real six pointer. Unfortunately, it’ll probably be a cagey affair.
Prediction: Wolves 0 – 0 Wigan
Fulham vs Tottenham (15:00)
I don’t think Martin Jol has settled in West London quite as easily as most expected. They’ve had some great results though, winning 6-0 in a London derby and taking a point against Man City – no mean feat this year. They’ve got quality players all over the pitch, from Schwarzer to Murphy to the fit and firing Andy Johnson. I think they could do well at home to an extremely tough Tottenham side.
After a slow start to their campaign Tottenham are looking as good as anyone now. Scott Parker has given Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale the freedom to attack and the latter three could get into any side in the league. The key to Spurs securing a top four spot is making sure Adebayor is scoring regularly. Whilst they’ve got bags of quality throughout midfield they need a twenty-goal-a-season man to reach the dizzying heights of the Champions League.
A fiery, action-packed local derby – expect plenty of goals.
Prediction: Fulham 2 – 2 Tottenham
Bolton vs Stoke (15:00)
I don’t think anybody predicted how poorly Bolton would start the season. Owen Coyle has done an excellent job there and no one has yet pinpointed where things have gone wrong. Perhaps the poor form of Gary Cahill that resulted from all the summer transfer speculation has shaken them defensively, but they should still have enough quality in their side to finish mid-table.
Stoke are coming off the back of two home losses in a row. You don’t hear that very often. It may be that their superb form in Europe has left them jaded for their league campaign, but they’ve had an extremely steady start to the season. Pulis has had plenty of money to spend but he’s done an unbelievable job. They are an established Premier League outfit now and offer far more than just the “long ball football” that they were initially branded with. The Britannia is still where they are most at home, though.
Both sides’ poor League form will most likely render this a tight, scrappy affair.
Prediction: Bolton 1 – 1 Stoke