Midweek Predictions: 2nd December

With only 2 games in the Football League during the week, this blog’s focus is on the Premier League. At the Stadium of Light, Sunderland will look to repeat their stoic performance on Saturday when they face Manchester City, who have won their last 3. Under pressure managers meet, as Nigel Pearson’s Leicester aim to get out of their slump against Brendan Rodgers’ underachieving Liverpool, while Roberto Martinez and Steve Bruce are struggling to repeat the success of last season, with Everton and Hull respectively.

Burnley v Newcastle

Moussa Sissoko

Moussa Sissoko

Newcastle lost 1-0 to West Ham on Saturday, and they approached that match with no fewer than 10 players out of the matchday squad due to injury. They will be without yet another player for their trip to Lancashire, as midfielder Moussa Sissoko, who was a major influence in their 1-0 win over QPR, will be suspended for this match. By contrast, Burnley had to make just 1 change for their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, which followed victory at Stoke. Sean Dyche has not panicked while most pundits were writing his side off, and he has stuck to his principle of having a consistent line-up. Given Newcastle’s growing injury woes, Burnley will extend their unbeaten run to 4 games.

Leicester v Liverpool

There is a sense of doom and gloom around both of these clubs at the moment. Some people say that Leicester should sack manager Nigel Pearson, and it seems harsh, given that he was the man who took the club up from League One, and then, ultimately, into the Premier League. However, there is little place for sentiment in football, and if results continue until New Year, the board’s hand may be forced. Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Stoke on Saturday represented only their first win in 6, and just a 3rd clean sheet since March. It seems telling that they keep a clean sheet in the same game Brendan Rodgers drops Gerrard, who is not good enough defensively to play in front of the centre-backs. With Lucas Leiva shielding the defence, Liverpool will be able to grind out a win.

Man Utd v Stoke

Louis Van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal picked a very attacking Manchester United line-up against Hull, and his bravery was rewarded with a 3-0 win. However, he should be more cautious about this match, because Stoke City are a side that can cause problems on the counter-attack. Peter Crouch has not started since October, and as this blog has discussed, his absence will help Stoke be more effective on the break. Quick players, such as Bojan and ex-United man Mame Biram Diouf, will be able to receive the ball early in the final third, without a player holding it up for too long. Manchester United have won their last 2, but they have not shown any signs of improvement at the back in those games. Arsenal would have scored a few goals in the first half had they been more clinical, and Hull barely threatened on Saturday. Manchester United’s defence remains very poor, and this blog will tip Stoke to cause the biggest shock on Tuesday night.

Swansea v QPR

QPR went out to attack on Saturday. Opponents Leicester did likewise, and both teams created a highly entertaining game of football, which saw 52 shots and an all-important win for QPR. However, Harry Redknapp cannot afford to set his team up quite so adventurously in this match, because Swansea possess pace in attack. QPR operate with a narrow midfield, and there is a danger that they push their full-backs too far forward, which could allow the likes of Jefferson Montero and Nathan Dyer to run at their centre-backs. When QPR play at Loftus Road, they do not have to worry too much about being caught on the break, because the pitch is very small. However, the pitch at the Liberty is a lot wider, and that is a factor QPR often struggle to adapt to.

 

 

Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa

A lot of people say that Aston Villa need Christian Benteke back fit, but the whole team needs to take responsibility for their poor total of just 7 goals. The worrying thing for Paul Lambert will be that, in a lot of their games, they have not looked capable of creating chances, and the team is not playing with any confidence going forward. Crystal Palace have taken a very different approach under Neil Warnock. They have looked to simply out-score the opposition in games, and to some extent they have been rewarded, given that they have the joint-7th best goalscoring record in the league. When Crystal Palace play, they play with energy, commitment, and a sense of self-belief, which is not there with Villa at the moment.

West Brom v West Ham

West Brom have lost their last 3 games without scoring, but it is not time for their fans to panic just yet. The teams they faced were Newcastle, on a 6 game winning streak, as well as Chelsea and Arsenal, both of whom are playing in the Champions League. Alan Irvine can afford to write those defeats off, because apart from the Boxing Day visit of Manchester City, his side now have a series of winnable games. This blog would include Tuesday night’s match in that list, because West Ham’s star players, striker Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho, and midfielder Alex Song, are all struggling for fitness. Both teams have found goals hard to come by of late, and this is likely to be a low-scoring affair.

Arsenal v Southampton

Graziano Pelle

Graziano Pelle

Arsenal fans were right to hold up their banner asking for Arsene Wenger to leave, after their 1-0 win at West Brom. Some people argue they are being negative for protesting after a victory, yet it would be even worse if they only ever pounce on Wenger when crisis strikes. It shows maturity for them to see their team win, and still hold their view that change is needed. Southampton do not have the same squad depth as a lot of teams, and could struggle in this December period. They need to strengthen in January, and most importantly sign a striker, because Graziano Pelle has not been given enough competition for a place when he is out of form. Against Manchester City, he did not look like his old self, when Southampton needed forward players making more runs when they had the ball. If Southampton were playing this Arsenal team a month ago, they would stand a good chance of winning, but their performance levels have dropped dramatically.

Chelsea v Tottenham

Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at Sunderland was not a bad result for them. They were up against a side that are always very solid and industrious at home, and the players had done a lot of travelling during the week. There was a Champions League trip to Germany on the Tuesday, and then a journey up to the north-east a few days after, which may have affected preparations. Jose Mourinho’s side are in a position to accept a draw from a tough away game. For all the talk of crisis at Tottenham Hotspur, they have now won 6 out of their last 7 games in all competitions. Forward Harry Kane has caught the eye with some high-energy displays, and has started to look like the dynamic attacking player Spurs lacked last season. Chelsea will pull through here, but given they will be without the suspended Diego Costa, Tottenham can run them close.

Everton v Hull

Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce

Even though there has not yet been a managerial departure in the Premier League this season, there has been no shortage of speculation. Every club apart from a select few have at one stage had stories of the manager being under pressure, and Everton and Hull are no different. Both Roberto Martinez and Steve Bruce were considered outside contenders for manager of the season last year, and yet in under 13 games later, they are suddenly considered to be poor managers. Everton’s problem this season has been that they have been too attacking and left themselves vulnerable against quick transitions. However, a forward-minded approach against Hull is the best one. The Tigers have only scored 1 goal in their last 5 games, and they do not have the confidence, or the energy, to exploit any gaps at the back.

Sunderland v Man City

Sunderland were very well-drilled against Chelsea on Saturday, and had arguably the better of the chances towards the end. They face Manchester City, who they have beaten 1-0 the last 4 times this fixture has been played, although at the moment, City are gaining momentum. The Citizens put in an excellent counter-attacking display against high-flyers Southampton on Sunday, and possess a key asset in Sergio Aguero, who looks likely to be the Premier League’s star performer this season. Sunderland will no doubt provide a stern test for City, but a player like Aguero could be the one to carry them through.

Fixture Prediction
Premier League
Burnley v Newcastle Draw
Leicester v Liverpool Away win
Man Utd v Stoke Away win
Swansea v QPR Home win
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa Home win
West Brom v West Ham Draw
Arsenal v Southampton Home win
Chelsea v Tottenham Home win
Everton v Hull Home win
Sunderland v Man City Away win
League One
Barnsley v Doncaster Draw
Sheff Utd v MK Dons Away win
Last time… 23 correct/46 predicted