Saturday, March 2, 2013

Premier League Preview

After this weekend's Premier League fixtures have run their course, there will be 10 games left of the current season. Manchester United hold a 12 point lead at the top of the division and look increasingly likely to secure their 13th Premier League title since its creation in 1993. If they do see out the rest of this season with the level of ruthlessness and professionalism we have come to expect from Sir Alex Ferguson's team, it will also be the 13th domestic league trophy of Ryan Giggs's evergreen career, after the Welshman signed a new contract to play beyond his 40th birthday.

Sir Alex Ferguson has offered Ryan Giggs a further contract extension.
Why won't Chelsea do the same with Frank Lampard?

Chelsea vs. West Brom

Rafa Benitez will be eager to record a positive result this weekend after his well documented outburst on Wednesday night. The previous two Chelsea managers have been sacked after matches against WBA, Benitez will be hoping he doesn't continue the trend. Steve Clarke, manager of West Brom is fondly remembered at Stamford Bridge for his time there as Jose Mourninho's number two, and is likely to receive the better reception of the two managers. West Brom are a difficult side to beat, but with their main goal threat Romelu Lukaku unable to play against his parent club Chelsea, the Blues should earn a narrow victory, especially if Demba Ba is preferred to Fernando Torres up front.

Everton vs. Reading

These are two teams with a lot to play for. Everton are pushing for European football as they are currently the 'best of the rest' in sixth place, five points behind Arsenal. Reading are second from bottom, 1 point adrift and will consider any points at Goodison Park a great result. Everton would usually be too strong for the Royals, but have already been in action this week after a cup replay against Oldham. Tiredness will play a part, especially when combined with Reading's desperation to survive. A score draw is the most likely outcome.

Manchester United vs. Norwich

With title rivals Manchester City not in action until Monday night, United will be hoping to put even more daylight between the two sides with a home tie against Norwich on Saturday afternoon. Ferguson is likely to have one eye on his team's second leg Champions League tie against Real Madrid so several first team players will be rested. Norwich are coming into the fixture after a dramatic 2-1 victory against Everton and have been lifted by the arrival of Kansas City striker Kei Kamara. This won't bother United, and a comfortable home victory is the only foreseeable result.

Southampton vs. QPR

Southampton continue to look impressive under new manager Mauricio Pochettino with their high intensity style of football, based entirely on pressing the opposition. Queens Park Rangers are a team with players such as Adel Taarabt and Esteban Granero who like to have time and space on the ball, which they won't be afforded against this rejuvenated Saints side. Bobby Zamora is injured for the away team, so Harry Redknapp, on his unwelcome return to St Mary's is likely to select Loic Remy from the start. There will be an intimidating atmosphere on the South Coast that will inspire Southampton to a comfortable home win.

Stoke vs West Ham

Stoke have been inconsistent this season but sit several places above the Hammers in the Premier League table. Both sides have enough quality to beat the drop, especially if Sam Allardyce continues to get the best out of January acquisitions Andy Carroll and Joe Cole. A gritty draw can be expected, as has been the case all too often at the Britannia Stadium this year.

Sunderland vs. Fulham

Sunderland have been hugely disappointing this year and Martin O'Neill will be worried that his side are not yet clear of relegation. A win against Fulham today however will see them move level on points with Martin Jol's team. Fulham have struggled away from home, ever since they gained promotion to the Premier League, but striker Dimitar Berbatov showed the kind of quality last week that could separate the two sides at The Stadium of Light. Danny Graham and Steven Fletcher are due to start up front together for the Black Cats, and one of them is likely to score the winning goal to grant Sunderland a hard earned 3 points.

Swansea vs. Newcastle

The most attractive fixture of this weekend's Premier League is also the most difficult to predict. Swansea are fresh from the first major trophy win in their history and Newcastle's string of French signings have been performing exceptionally well. Swansea play patient, possession based football, whilst Newcastle's tactics rely on pace and power on the counter-attack. It promises to be an exciting encounter, and one which relies heavily on the performance of two strikers, Swansea's Michu and Papiss Cisse of Newcastle United. Both could score in a probable high-scoring draw.

Wigan vs. Liverpool

Wigan Athletic love this time of season. They often struggle through the opening two thirds of a campaign, before hitting title-winning form around this point each year. It has become something of a habit for Roberto Martinez's side, and with striker Arouna Kone in prolific form, any result is possible against Liverpool at the DW Stadium. Liverpool's Luis Suarez is one of the favourites to receive the player of the season award and is likely to have a heavy influence on the result of this game. A flattering away win for the Reds is predicted, after a tightly contested fixture against the Latics.

Tottenham vs. Arsenal

Football fans will be relishing this tie, as the North London derby is often controversial and nearly always a great spectacle. Long gone are the days when the Gunners would regularly cast Spurs aside with the electrifying performances of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires. Tottenham are now the stronger of the two teams and find themselves in third place, thanks largely to the form of Gareth Bale, who continues to draw comparisons with some of the world's best players. This fixture is never straight forward, but Tottenham will be confident and I expect them to record a professional victory as Andre Villas-Boas continues his impressive spell in charge out of the spotlight.

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City

Aston Villa sit third from bottom of the Premier League table and have been relegation favourites all season. Paul Lambert has failed to perform in the same way that persuaded Villa owner Randy Lerner to offer him the job in the first place. The Midlands club are relying heavily on the goals of Belgium striker Christian Benteke during their bid for survival, but Manchester City are bound to be far too strong with both Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in goalscoring form and captain Vincent Kompany likely to return from injury.

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