After a weekend’s absence due to the international break, Premier League football returns this weekend with a full schedule of fixtures as clubs seek to either pick up the fine form they showed prior to the break or seek to use the break as an opportunity to turn their form around. Unfortunately the after effects of the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand incident from last season are still being felt in the build up to Chelsea’s return to Loftus Road, with speculation that Anton will snub a handshake with Ashley Cole and John Terry leading to the real possibility that no handshakes will take place.
The major story in English football over the past week is undoubtedly the Hillsborough Report which has finally brought the truth about the disaster to the fore and has proven beyond doubt that claims and attempts to lay the blame at the foot of Liverpool’s supporters were false and part of a systematic campaign to avert blame from the emergency services. It provides a sobering reminder that game we love is simply that, a game and the love of the game unites us all regardless of who we support.
So onto matters on the field and a look back at the results of the latest round of my season long competition with BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson. After Lawro getting the better of the opening round of predictions, a 6-4 victory for Carlosportsman means that we are level at 11 points a piece for the season, so on that note lets look ahead to this weeks fixtures.
Norwich Vs West Ham
Both teams will be pleased with their performances in their last outings, West Ham put Fulham to the sword with a clinical 3-0 victory helped largely by a powerful performance by Andy Carroll. Norwich will be satisfied with the point earned at White Hart Lane and will possibly feel they should have come away with 2 more. Norwich will not have Andy Carroll to contend with due to his injury setback but they will have their hands full with the likes of Kevin Nolan and Carlton Cole. West Ham shouldn’t arrive at Carrow Road expecting an easy fixture, Norwich have shown their ability to create multiple chances in there last two games and the lack of a hot striker has been the major reason they have not collected back to back wins instead of draws. Prediction – 2:1
Arsenal Vs Southampton
Arsenal got off the mark last time out at Anfield with a performance that will have greatly encouraged their faithful. Southampton will be sick of the sight of Manchester based clubs having had their pockets picked by United in the last few minutes of their last game, that on top of City’s smash and grab performance from being 2-1 down to the Saints. It has to be said that Southampton preyed on both those side’s defensive frailties and by doing so their own frailties have been somewhat overlooked., to me they still look likely to struggle with a team lacking in real Premier League experience. Arsenal have yet to concede this season and will be looking to continue this on Saturday and I expect them to do so. Prediction – 4:0
Aston Villa Vs Swansea
Both sides shared the spoils with North East opposition in their previous fixtures but prior to that they have contrasting fortunes, Swansea wining both their matches and Villa losing both their matches so does that suggest their last games mark a change in their progress? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did mark at least the beginnings of a drip from Swansea as teams start to find chinks in their armour. I am not as sure about Villa as they still look to be lacking the quality required at this level and their reliance on youth might not bear fruit soon enough to prevent them being drawn into the midst of relegation battle due largely due to their inability of score goals. Prediction – 0:2
Fulham Vs West Brom
Fulham failed to build on their encouraging opening two matches in their last match against West Ham and were thumped 3:0. West Brom recorded their second home win of the season against Merseyside opposition by beating Everton 2:0 to move to third in the league. West Brom have made a much better start than anticipated but the suspicion is that they have been aided in all three of their matches by their opponents wastefulness in front of goal. That suspicion coupled with Fulham’s home record and likely inclusion of Berbatov in their starting XI should lead to a home win, Prediction – 2:1
Man Utd Vs Wigan
Man Utd may have got 3 points against Southampton but their was plenty for Sir Alex Ferguson to ponder particularly in defence which remained a problem despite Ferdinand and Vidic being reunited in central defence. Wigan have made a hopeful start to the season picking up 4 points, and it could easily have been 5 points had they not been wasteful in front of goal against Chelsea. Old Trafford is always a tough place to go but if Wigan can keep themselves in the game with thirty minutes to go then they could cause an upset. Prediction – 3:1
QPR Vs Chelsea
Chelsea suffered a bit of kicking in their Super Cup tie against Atletico Madrid where their much lauded midfield was completely powered out of the match. QPR were beaten soundly by Man City in their last match but did cause City a few scares along the way and they look a team still trying to gel together and they will have to be strong in midfield if they are to compete with Chelsea. Chelsea will hope to put their Super Cup defeat down as a blip with a strong performance at Loftus Road, but I think they will struggle with the physical approach from QPR in midfield. Prediction – 0:0
Stoke Vs Man City
Man City have not hit top gear but they are still unbeaten and have 7 points so their fans shouldn’t be too glum, clearly there is room for improvement particularly like their neighbours in defence. Stoke have notched 3 consecutive draws and will make things tough for a City side which will doubtless of one eye on Tuesday’s clash with Real Madrid. It is not clear whether Michael Owen will play a part in this match but Stoke will have to take their chances in front of goal if they are to get anything from this game. Prediction 0:3
Sunderland Vs Liverpool
Liverpool have suffered their worst start to a season since 1962 and following the exit of Andy Carroll on loan are bereft of options in attack. Their performance against Arsenal typified the problem they have in the event of Borini and Suarez failing to shine, there is nothing to replace them on the bench. Sunderland have invested well during the summer and the purchases of Johnson and Fletcher have created a new dimension for Sunderland in attack. Prediction – 2:0
Reading Vs Spurs
Spurs have suffered a disappointing start to life under Andre Villa-Boas but it is important to note that the players have been steadfast in their defence of AVB and the system is trying implement at Spurs. Reading have only had 2 matches thus far and have shown signs of encouragement in both matches and will be confident that they can put forward a strong showing on Sunday. Spurs, I think, will be too strong for Reading and will get their first win under AVB. Prediction – 0:2
Everton Vs Newcastle
After making a stirring start in their opening two matches, Everton fell to a 2:0 defeat at West Brom last time out with a wasteful performance. There were still plenty of signs in the match that Everton will be well in the running for a top 6 finish this season, and a visit to Goodison will be a tough ask for any side. Newcastle have made a solid enough start to the season but will view their last match as 2 points lost when drawing at home to Aston Villa in a rare off day for Newcastle. They will have to be at their best to get anything from Everton on Monday evening. Prediction 2:0
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