Another weekend of Premier League football is upon us and it promises to be a top drawer weekend of action with intriguing fixtures on Saturday acting as precursor to the televised double-header on Sunday involving Liverpool & Man Utd followed by Man City & Arsenal.
Much of the on-field midweek headlines in the football world were dominated by the opening games of this season’s Champions League group stage and it was very much a mixed start for the Premier League teams involved. Man Utd marked Sir Alex Ferguson’s 100th Champions League game in charge with a 1:0 home defeat of
Galatasaray who had the better of possession in this game but it wasn’t enough for them get anything from the game. Arsenal advertised they’re battling qualities by coming back from an early penalty to beat French champions Montpellier 2:1 in doing so they successfully soaked up a great deal of pressure in the 2nd half.
In contrast, Chelsea will be disappointed to have let a two goal lead slip despite having a superior possession but they failed to convert this into creation of superior chances and they were made to pay for this. Equally so Man City will be frustrated that they were pegged back from a leading position twice before eventually succumbing 3:2 to Real Madrid, in truth they were dominated from start to finish, and would have been fortunate to have been victorious and their defensive frailties put paid to their chances.
Prior to the Champions League matches there was controversy on and off the field following last weekends Premier League matches. On the field there was no controversy in the commanding performances by Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs & Fulham, nor in the defiant stubbornness shown by Stoke & QPR in holding Man City and Chelsea to draws respectively.
However, Monday brought a double dose of controversy with Everton suffering from two controversial decisions. Firstly they suffered from a dubious offshore call which ruled out a goal, and then as if to further the need for goal line technology, Everton had a shot which seemingly crossed the line only for it be waved off by the linesman. Off the field as expected, Anton Ferdinand declined the opportunity to shake the hands of John Terry and Ashley Cole. Sadly, the findings of the Hillsborough Report failed to discourage a minority of Man Utd making Hillsborough chants.
Those two off field incidents are likely to dominate the build up to the headline match of the weekend between Liverpool & Man Utd. This time the hand shake issue will be played out by Luis Suarez & Patrice Evra though indications are that this time Suarez will accept the hand of Evra. Should he not there may will be questions being asked about his future as a Liverpool player as it will potentially inflame another match between these two teams particularly in light of the potential for crowd issues caused by distasteful chants by a minority in both sets of supporters.
As a Leeds fan I know first hand about such chants having heard minority sections of my fellow supporters chanting about Munich as well as hearing minorities of opposition supporters chanting about Istanbul. In my opinions these chants about events that go beyond team rivalries have no place in the game and are an expression of mindlessness rather than an expression of support for their team.
So to this weeks instalment of Carlo vs. Lawro and a preview of this week’s matches, last week saw Lawro regain his lead in our battle with a 2 point victory 9-7 and leads the overall standings 20-18. Hopefully I will regain the advantage this week.
Both sides have made solid starts to their campaigns but survived setbacks last weekend so will be eager to get things back on track in their lunchtime kick off. Everton, as discussed above, were unlucky to have not taken 3 points on Monday but they will be without Jelavic who could have been a nuisance for the Swans defence. Swansea had plenty of opportunities to get something from their game at Villa Park but were erratic in front of goal but have the attacking threat to remedy that this weekend. Everton’s attacking threat (even without Jelavic) makes for an exciting start to the weekend. Prediction 2:2
Chelsea Vs Stoke
Chelsea come into this game in the back of a defeat and two draws and it will be interesting how their midfield cope with the physical approach of Stoke’s midfield having struggled against a similar approach by Atletico Madrid two weeks ago. Stoke were dogged in their game plan against Man City and will need a similar approach if they are to get anything from this match. Whilst I think Chelsea will find the midfield battle tough, I also think they will have enough in attack to make it 4 wins from 5. Prediction 1:0
Southampton Vs Aston Vila
Southampton were on the end of a complete thumping by Arsenal last weekend and have had a tough start to the season, much of which was predetermined by the fixture computer. That said they failed to take advantage of their easier fixture when hosting Wigan, so will be hoping to this weekend against Villa. Aston Villa have got progressively better in their opening 4 games and were clinical against Swansea last weekend so it will be interesting to see how they perform at St Mary’s. I can see this being a tight game with Villa adding to the pressure on Adkins shoulders. Prediction 0:1
West Brom Vs Reading
According to some pundits the writing is already on the wall for Reading, but I think they have shown enough in their first four games to have cause for hope, the main thing for them is to not allow lapses of concentration to blow them out of the games as it has done in their matches thus far. West Brom were soundly beaten by Fulham but will view this game as far more winnable, both sides have an attacking outlook so it should be an open game. Prediction 2:2
West Ham Vs Sunderland
West Ham looked fairly impotent against Norwich on Saturday and didn’t look to have the impetus they showed when Andy Carroll was on the pitch against Aston Villa. Whilst Big Sam was content with the point earned at Carrow Road, he is unlikely to be content with anything other than 3 points this weekend. Sunderland gave a really good account themselves when drawing with Liverpool and O’Neil looks to have got the team playing as he wants them to. Steven Fletcher will be a real goal threat for them, and it is that extra goal threat that I think will give them the edge in this game. Prediction 1:2
Liverpool Vs Man Utd
Aside all the off field issues, this is a big game for both sides with Liverpool hoping to pick up their first win after a difficult start to their season. Much has been made of their lack of attacking options and rightly so as should their starting front line fail to strike there is little in the way of reinforcements on the bench. Man Utd have no such problems with their vast array of attacking options even with the absence of Rooney, this was clearly advertised by the win against Wigan last weekend. Liverpool made Anfield a tough place to visit last season but it hasn’t been the case this season thus far and I can see them losing again this weekend. Prediction 1:3
Newcastle Vs Norwich
Norwich are still winless and have a difficult run of fixtures upcoming with Liverpool & Arsenal due at Carrow Road as well away trips to Chelsea and Sundays visit to Newcastle. It is hard to envisage them getting much more than 2-4 points from those fixtures and it is likely that the pressure will quickly mount on Chris Hughton. Newcastle were much improved in the 2nd half at Goodison and despite the speculation surrounding Demba Ba they look to have a settled squad. They are a tough side to beat at St James Park and it is hard to see Norwich getting anything from this match on current form. Prediction 2:0
Man City Vs Arsenal
Arsenal thrashed Southampton last weekend and look a real handful this season, most Arsenal fans are not bemoaning the loss of Van Persie despite his impressive start for Man Utd. What has been most impressive from Arsenal has been their defence prowess which has been the area where Man City have struggled this season so far, giving away careless goals on more than one occasion. The combination of Man City’s defensive frailties and attacking prowess with the likely resumption of the Aguero/Tevez forward pairing will result in an open game with City coming out on top. Prediction 3:2
Spurs Vs Qpr
Spurs got their first Premier League victory under Andre Villas Boas at Reading last weekend, helped largely due to a strong first performance that put them in command of the game even though it was only reflected in a 1:0 score line at half time. They took advantage of Reading’s errors in the second half and their fans will happy to see Defoe with success in front of goal. By contrast QPR were stubborn and disciplined against Chelsea and managed to successfully frustrate them, whether they will be able to retain that discipline this weekend is another matter. Spurs looked more expansive against Reading than in previous games and should be able to continue their progression on Sunday. Prediction 3:1
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