Weekend Predictions: 25th October

Here are this blog’s previews for the weekends games in the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two. For a full list of the predictions, go to the table at the bottom.

Premier League

Man Utd v Chelsea

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho usually sets his teams up quite conservatively in the big games, particularly away from home. When Chelsea came to Old Trafford at the beginning of last season, they played without a main striker, and effectively settled for a draw. This time, Mourinho may place a little bit more emphasis on effective counter-attacking play.

He knows that Louis Van Gaal’s sides tend to dominate possession, however, Chelsea are very capable of staying organized before hitting their opponents on the break. Man United have players in defence such as Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, who are at times positionally naive, and looked quite vulnerable in Monday’s draw at West Brom.

Diego Costa is Chelsea’s best striker, but even if he does not start, Mourinho will still have attacking players who can cause Manchester United’s defence problems. Eden Hazard won the man of the match award in Chelsea’s midweek win over Maribor, while Oscar has improved massively of late. This blog foresees a game in which Man United have more possession, but Chelsea create the better chances.

QPR v Aston Villa

“If you don’t shoot, you don’t score”; a phrase Aston Villa fans will be all too familiar with at the moment. The Villains have had an average of just 7.8 shots per game, which is the lowest in the Premier League, and only 1.5 on target. Paul Lambert’s side are now without a goal in 4 games, although each of those came against teams who finished in last season’s top 7. Suffice to say, Villa will be relieved play a QPR side seemingly stranded at the bottom.

The Rs have picked up just 4 points from a possible 8, after a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool last time out. Harry Redknapp is clearly feeling the pressure given his public outburst on Adel Taarabt, and he is now odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave. In some ways, it says quite a lot about the lack of energy and work rate in this QPR team, that the vast majority of the goals they score come from set pieces. Both teams have shown a lack of attacking intent so far, and this match may end up as a dull draw.

The Championship

Leeds v Wolves

Bakary Sako

Bakary Sako

The state of these respective teams offers an example of how important it is for a club to get the transfer policy right. This summer, Leeds have brought in far too many young foreign players, of questionable quality, far too quickly. Against Rotherham on Friday, they lacked a core of experienced English players who would be prepared to battle and keep the team organized. Instead, the defence looked weak and incompetent, and they were lucky not to lose by more in the 2nd half.

Wolves, however, knew that they didn’t need to change much of a squad which stormed to League One title last season, and a summer of stability seems to have helped them. Kenny Jackett’s side kept their 6th clean sheet of the season against Middlesbrough on Tuesday, although the goalscorers that night, Nouha Dicko and Bakary Sako, are doubts for this match.

If Wolves can get those 2 fit for Saturday, they will have a great chance of winning, because the physical threat they offer may prove too much for this frail Leeds side to handle.

Middlesbrough v Watford

Watford have had a bizarre start to the season. They are onto their 5th manager of the season, but they are also in the automatic promotion places. The way the Watford board have handled Billy McKinlay, who was dismissed after 4 points from his first 2 games, was disgraceful. However, you must give some credit to the players, who have managed to get some impressve results, despite so much uncertainty at the top.

Watford have an in-form striker, as Matej Vydra has scored 4 goals in his last 5, but this cannot be said of Middlesbrough. It seems that Aitor Karanka’s side have played well, and deserve to be competing for promotion, yet still not found that clinical goalscorer they have lacked for a long time. Summer signing Kike is without a goal in 6 appearances, while Patrick Bamford has flattered to deceive since joining on loan. These are 2 talented sides with plenty of creative flair, but the finishing quality of Watford’s Vydra may be the separating factor.

League One

Crewe v Sheff Utd

Steve Davis

Steve Davis

Crewe Alexandra have picked up 3 consecutive wins, a feat which many would have deemed impossible 2 weeks ago. Having been 6 points off safety following the 2-0 defeat at Bradford, they are now inside the relegation zone on goal difference only. Credit must go to manager Steve Davis, for keeping his troops motivated when they had had such a dour start to the season. This re-invigorated Crewe side face the division’s big boys, Sheffield United. The Blades have been poor defensively so far, with rivals Chesterfield the only top half team to concede more goals. Perhaps a factor behind this has been a lack of tactical consistency. Nigel Clough has already used 25 different players, and so it may be hard for the players to start working as a unit when they don’t have the ball. However, back-to-back clean sheets suggests they are improvng in ths department, and Sheffield United’s attacking quality is far superior to Crewe’s.

Oldham v Bradford

Oldham are unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions, and they looked well-equipped to threaten the play-off places. Lee Johnson has always had a solid defensive base to work with, but he seems to have tweaked the team’s attacking setup to make them much quicker, and a threat on the counter-attack. Jonathan Forte, in particular, has made an outstanding start to life in League One, with 10 goals from 12 appearances. Although Bradford are in poor form, they have shown battling qualites in ther last couple of games. They came from behind twice to get a point at league leaders Bristol City, and when they played Sheffield United in front of the TV cameras, they looked very likely to score in the 2nd half, despite having gone down to 10 men.

Yeovil v Rochdale

Yeovil Town have taken just 1 point from their last 5 games, and sit inside the relegation zone. Only Walsall have scored fewer goals than the Glovers, whose 3-goal top scorer is their centre-back, Aaron Martin. That tells its own story, and you would expect Gary Johnson to try and find a decent striker in the loan market. By contrast, Rochdale are not struggling for goals in the slightest, having scored 23 times in the league so far, with only 3 teams scoring more. Keith Hill loves to get his teams playing good football on the front foot, and as you might have expected, his side have come into League One showing no fear. Rochdale will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season.

League Two

Shrewsbury v Portsmouth

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro

Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro

Shrewsbury Town boast the best home record in the Football League. They have dropped just 2 points from 7 games at Greenhous Meadow, conceding only 2 goals in that time. In attack, Andy Mangan is now out injured, but when he returns you sense that boss Micky Mellon will have some serious selection dilemmas. Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro scored a hat-trick in the shock 5-0 win over Bury on Tuesday, James Collins has already scored 6 goals too. Portsmouth, on the other hand, are in very poor form. They have only won 2 of their last 10, and had the season started in September, they would sit 3 points above the relegation zone. Pompey are struggling for goals too, although loan striker Miles Storey scored his first league goal in the win over Stevenage. The respective home and away records of these 2 teams suggests a home win.

Southend v Bury

Illness caused Southend winger David Worrall to miss Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at Newport, but he will return to the squad for this match, and they arguably need him. Manager Phil Brown has tended to use Worrall as an impact substitute, but when he does get a chance, he has often made a difference. Southend have scored 4 goals in the 263 minutes Worrall has been on the field, which equates to 1.36 goals per game, when they are only scoring 0.86 goals per game overall. Bury have struggled on the road of late, and their defence has looked slow and lethargic recently. David Flitcroft has responded to that defeat by signing yet another Barnsley old boy, Tom Kennedy. He can provide the team with a little bit of composure and leadership, which may be needed in games where they are under pressure away from home. Following Bury’s 5-0 loss at Shrewsbury, this blog would expect to see a reaction from the Shakers.

Wycombe v Dag & Red

Wycombe are probably the neutral’s favourite in the promotion race, having escaped the drop in such dramatic circumstances last season. They slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Exeter on Tuesday, conceding 2 goals from long balls into the box, which is unlike Wycombe, who are normally very sturdy at the back. Dagenham manager Wayne Burnett sounded very dejected after the 3-1 defeat at Luton Town on Tuesday. By all accounts, Dagenham’s performances this season have been good in patches, but individual errors are costing them points. With all the teams below them potentially on the up after a manager change, the Daggers are in danger of getting sucked into the relegation battle.

Fixture Prediction
Premier League
West Ham v Man City Draw
Liverpool v Hull Home win
Southampton v Stoke Home win
Sunderland v Arsenal Away win
West Brom v Crystal Palace Home win
Swansea v Leicester Home win
Burnley v Everton Draw
Tottenham v Newcastle Home win
Man Utd v Chelsea Away win
QPR v Aston Villa Draw
The Championship
Fulham v Charlton Home win
Millwall v Cardiff Away win
Birmingham v Bournemouth Away win
Bolton v Brentford Home win
Brighton v Rotherham Draw
Derby v Wigan Home win
Ipswich v Huddersfield Home win
Leeds v Wolves Away win
Middlesbrough v Watford Away win
Nottm Forest v Blackburn Home win
Reading v Blackpool Home win
Sheff Wed v Norwich Draw
League One
Barnsley v Bristol City Away win
Coventry v Peterborough Away win
Crewe v Sheff Utd Away win
Doncaster v MK Dons Away win
Gillingham v Crawley Draw
Oldham v Bradford Home win
Port Vale v Leyton Orient Draw
Preston v Fleetwood Home win
Scunthorpe v Notts Co Away win
Swindon v Colchester Home win
Walsall v Chesterfield Away win
Yeovil v Rochdale Away win
League Two
AFC Wimbledon v Tranmere Away win
Cambridge v Hartlepool Home win
Carlisle v Oxford Draw
Luton v Northampton Home win
Newport v Accrington Draw
Plymouth v Cheltenham Home win
Shrewsbury v Portsmouth Home win
Southend v Bury Draw
Stevenage v Burton Draw
Wycombe v Dag & Red Home win
York v Mansfield Home win
Morecambe v Exeter Draw
Last time… 15 correct/36 predicted