Gather round, grab a pint, and enjoy some first-class football from over the pond. Here’s a look into the upcoming English Premier League fixtures for September 12-13:
Liverpool v Burnley
I want to write something cynical about Liverpool and their ineffectual displays so far, but it’s already been done from pillar to post. It’s trendy to write down the chances of the Anfield faithful a mere four weeks into the new year, but we’re neither that stupid, nor courageous. We’ll stick with the obvious on this one: Liverpool need a win more than Glen Johnson needs a new stylist, and they’ll find the net against a Burnley side that’s been playing some very good squads over the last few weeks. Keeper Brian Jensen saved somewhere in the vicinity of 30 goals against Chelsea a few weeks back, so he’s not to be taken lightly. I think the Reds have too much pride to wilt so quickly into a season, and it’ll have to rest on the leadership laurels of captain Steven Gerrard.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0
Manchester City v Arsenal
The Citizens are off to a flyer so far, but much of their early watermark has been painted against a backdrop of inferior opponents. Their first big test of the year comes at a time when they’re feeling the injury bug: Carlos Tevez and Robinho are knocked out for the fixture, leaving Manager Mark Hughes with a few questions as to where to field his attacking options from. Meanwhile, Arsenal are suffering the sting of losing a tough away fixture to Manchester United, dubious penalty calls notwithstanding. I would expect this to be the match that Adebayor finally cools off in, even though he’s shown no signs of slowing down- the pressure of playing against his old paymasters will catch up to him. Couple his misfires with the inability of anyone else to find the back of the net, and we’re looking at the Citizens first loss of the year.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0
Sunderland v Hull City
A few International players return to their respective squads, including American Jozy Altidore, who bagged a goal on his tour of duty to boot. He’s done well thus far for Hull, working his way into the rotation and staking a place for himself in the
starting XI. The questions remain as to whether he can serve as a long-term solution up-front, or if he needs the assistance of a second striker to help back him up. They did quietly pick up Jan Venniegor of Hesselhink (most AMAZING name ever) from Celtic for peanuts and a program, meaning they have nothing to lose and evereything to gain from the former Celtic skipper. Meanwhile, Sunderland are either winning or losing, with no place in between for draws. Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent are an exciting tandem to watch up front. I would expect this game to have a few goals between the two sides, with the winning edge tipping the way of the home squad.
Prediction: Sunderland 3-1
Blackburn v Wolves
Two teams that are both struggling to establish themselves this year, and the point totals are a clear indication of their fortunes thus far. Both are badly in need of wins, but perhaps no team (other than Portsmouth) need a win more than Blackburn, who are trudging along with a solitary point to their name. In this case, at home against an equal squad, their chances of breaking through are 50/50. I’ll give the home side the edge, even though they’ve done nothing whatsoever to deserve credit. Perhaps finally Franco Di Santo can find the back of the net for the squad and get his season going.
Prediction: Blackburn 1-0
Stoke v Chelsea
It seems like ages ago that FIFA slapped a two-term transfer ban on the west-London club for their mis-handling of the Gael Kakuta signing of three summers ago. In the wake, it’s left a bounty of questions as to the validity of signing youngsters to academy contracts, as well as the lengths that clubs will go to in order to acquire these jewel pieces for costs that seem inordinate and downright ridiculous. As a point of reference, today, FC Barcelona successfully signed a 7-year old from France. 7. FIFA, step up and do something about this. If Chelsea can’t sign a 15 year old French kid because it’s akin to ‘human-trafficking’ then how the hell does Barca get to buy 7 year olds with a free pass? Now then, back to footy, Chelsea are coming into the match with four wins on the trot, a scandal in their rear-view, and surprisingly few injuries to worry about. There remains the long-term knocks to Joe Cole, Alex, and Paulo Ferreira, as well as newly minted winger Yuri Zhirkov and his battle to return to match fitness. The only new concern is a slight knock picked up by Deco on international duty- otherwise, the team are as good as before the break. Stoke are also in fine form, having won their last match at home, and will look to put Chelsea on their heels early by pinning the ball into the box and looking to cause trouble for Chelsea’s vaunted defense. I would expect Chelsea to rise to the occasion, as they’ve done several times this season, and leave no questions unanswered with a comprehensive victory.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0
Tottenham v Manchester Utd
This would be a mouthwatering clash if Luka Modric and Verdan Corluka weren’t injured. Without the two Croatian sensations, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will have to dig into his back of tricks to conjure a lineup that will compete with SAF’s list of all-stars. Utd will welcome back into action defensive ace Rio Ferdinand, and their ambition will be to go out and scrounge a win at White Harte Lane. No easy task, mind you, given that Tottenham have a laundry-list of players to choose from in Modric’s absence, but the diminutive Croat will clearly be missed. However, I would like to see if Redknapp will find a way to work Mexican sensation Gio Dos Santos into the mix, while finding time for Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon, and David Bentley. We know the strikers will be Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe, but don’t be surprised if either make way for Peter Crouch, to be used as a target man in the second half for additional pressure. This is a tricky match to call, but I’m giving the edge to the home team and Harry’s band of brothers.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1
Portsmouth v Bolton
Portsmouth need a win more than you’d ever know. Bolton need a win before Kevin Davies decides to turn on his teammates. Desparate teams usually lead to exciting football. This game could well turn out to be a gem, but I’m not buying it- yet. It’s too early in the season for anyone to hit the panic switch, and I doubt either team will show up focused enough to indicate that they were well prepared by either coach. This one ends in a bore draw.
Prediction: 0-0 Draw
Wigan v West Ham
West Ham have had a couple of busy weeks since the aftermath of the Millwall clash at Upton. That said, it will be good for them to get on the road and ply their trade against a Wigan side that are not to be taken lightly. As they’ve shown so far this term, Wigan will play for the win, and will continue to attack with pace and versatility off the dribble until the dying minutes. This will be a fun match, but likely will end in a victory for the home side.
Prediction: Wigan 1-0
Birmingham v Aston Villa
This isn’t a hard one to call, at all. Villa have been on a high since beating Liverpool in their house two weeks ago, and they continue their return to prominence with a fixture against an inferior squad that will be looking to save a draw at best. Not a lot of resistance is expected, even if this is a B-City home match.
Prediction: Villa 3-0
Fulham v Everton
A battle of the scrappers, this one could be entertaining for the fan of the physical. Fulham have come into the year attempting to push, prod, and punch their way into Europa League glory. Meanwhile, Everton are a club in transition, looking to establish a new identity after their sale of Lescott, and a win against a resurgent Fulham would do wonders for David Moyes troops confidence. Dont’ expect either team to lead by much, I’d give this one a nod for a score tie.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw