DELE OMOARUKHE: WEEK 22 PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR V SUNDERLAND
(KICK OFF: SATURDAY 1.45PM, WHITE HART LANE, NORTH LONDON)

In this early morning cracker, two increasingly impressive sides go head-to-head in what is sure to be a thrilling game. An intriguing subplot is the return of in-form Sunderland forward and ex- Tottenham legend,Jermaine Defoe.

It is rare to see an ex-player receive a welcome with such fondness, at his old stomping ground. Such is Defoe’s legendary status that he is accorded so much respect. He is doing so well at Sunderland, reminding us how special a talent he has been over the years. His hat-trick against Swansea served as a timely reminder. His form would be the key to keeping a resurgent Sunderland outfit from the drop.

Their opponents however would be no easy a stroll (no match in this division is!) and despite their painful loss to Leicester, I expect this enterprising Spurs side to recover from their midweek setback and come away with a home win. Thus, it would be a challenge against this plucky Sunderland outfit, especially if “super Jermaine” has anything to say about it.

BOURNEMOUTH V NORWICH
(KICK OFF: SATURDAY 4.00PM, VITALITY STADIUM BOURNEMOUTH)

In a game between two sides who suffered painful defeats, i expect a tight game that will be rather difficult to call; these teams are versed in each other’s respective strengths and tactical setups from their games in the championship and their game earlier in the season.

I feel Bournemouth, despite being undone by an impressive west ham team led by the Genius and artistry of Dimitri payet, they lack the defensive spine to cope in this punishing league, and will struggle to retain their top flight status.

In Norwich however they still look a more balanced outfit and they seem to have been schooled on the importance of beating the teams around them battling relegation, yes they lost to stoke, but losing a talismanic figure like captain Gary O’Neil made getting a result difficult ask against an impressive stoke side. In this game, i expect both teams to huff and puff but more importantly i also expected a hardworking draw to be played

CHELSEA V EVERTON
(KICK OFF: SATURDAY 4.00PM, STAMFORD BRIDGE, WEST LONDON)

Last season, this was a title-defining encounter for the blues of Chelsea and their win set a marker for their subsequent 2015 EPL Title win. In contrast to last season, the extent of Chelsea’s decline is mirrored in that this game is only important in bridging the gap between themselves and the top 10.

I always felt this Chelsea side lacked balance from the beginning of the season and this fixture earlier in the season highlighted my fears greatly. Guus Hiddink has done an excellent job in steadying a once-sinking ship and restoring confidence and a feel good factor in the team, but this evident lack of balance looks like undoing their good work and i would advise him to make some good signings to take care of this.
He should cater to the lack of defensive spine due to the waning competence of Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry largely due to their age and also tell firebrand front man and star striker Diego costa to pick up good positions to score and not pick up fights. If this inconsistent Chelsea side are to make a push up the table. They might find the going tough against their opponents.
Everton typified by their goal keeper Tim Howard, were impressive against a good City side and they rubbished my opinion of them lacking defensive solidity, but they can be irritatingly inconsistent but so are this Chelsea team presently, so I expect no more than a draw but I expect goals

MANCHESTER CITY V CRYSTAL PALACE
(KICK OFF: SATURDAY 4.00PM, ETIHAD STADIUM MANCHESTER)

Sincerely, in this unpredictable season of ups and downs, it’s strange that this mighty inconsistent City side are still on with a genuine chance of winning the league title.

I claimed in my earlier match pack, that they were playing at second gear and this was laid bare against Everton and with misfiring star striker Sergio Aguero suffering mini slump, it does not bid well for a successful title challenge.

However,  a dint of luck has helped them keep in touch with other title contenders and this might just aid them in winning the title but only if their players play to their obviously high potential.

I feel the perfect opportunity presents itself against a recently inconsistent Palace side, which were looking increasingly impressive until recently where it looks like the wheels have fallen off in their previously impressive ride, and against a City side looking to recover lost ground; I see nothing apart from a home win.

NEWCASTLE V WESTHAM
(KICK OFF:SATURDAY 4.00PM, SPORTS DIRECT ARENA, TYNESIDE NEWCASTLE)

I was mightily surprised and embarrassed by my predictions and analysis of some games in mid-week, no less the Newcastle’s game.

This Newcastle side showed they definitely didn’t lack a spark and they played impressive stuff to  match the passion. Led by a great talent in Georgino “Gini”  Wijnaldum and armed with the signings of Henri Saivet and Jonjo Shelvey, they have the talent to stay up and if they produce more performances similar to that of Tuesday I won’t be surprised if they stay up.

However, they will find it a challenge to handle this impressive West ham outfit led by the awesome Dimitri Payet, my personal candidate for the signing of the season in Europe, and at 10.7 million pounds,he looks a bargain.
He is an awesome technician in every sense of the word, people are raving about Mesut ozil but i rank this awesome Frenchman alongside him – that’s how highly i rate him.

Undoubtedly, he deserves a better club and I will be surprised if he doesn’t move to the bigger sides. I also expect him to be an active influence in a good win to keep up their excellent away form.

SOUTHAMPTON V WEST BROM
(KICK OFF:SATURDAY 4.00PM, ST MARY’S STADIUM SOUTHAMPTON)

I was personally pleased seeing Southampton winning in midweek. Despite their struggles, Ronald Koeman remains an awesome manager and it never helps when you see your top players being troubled and unsettled by transfer rumours. Such is a manager’s hatred for the transfer window; just ask their opponents facing uncertainty with star forward Saido Berahino.

West brom surprised me with their resistance against Chelsea, but i seem to forget that they are coached by the symbol of “football resistance” in Tony Pulis, and due to his expertise I expect this Westbrom team to comfortably stay up but in this game, I expect the Saints to maintain momentum with a good home win.

ASTON VILLA   V LEICESTER CITY
(KICK OFF: SATURDAY 6.30PM, VILLA PARK, BIRMINGHAM)

It is a common phrase that sometimes “you make your luck” and it was the case in midweek for a struggling Villa side.

You will struggle to believe that this Villa side were on the brink of relegation in their game in midweek, they were organised, put a good Palace side under pressure and sealed a deserved win in the luckiest ways possible.

It is too premature to speak about a mini-revival but you feel this January transfer window is their last ticket to survival. In this topsy- turvy league, the signings of a good quality goal scorer (what they would get in a Jermain Defoe), and good wingers could bridge a great gap.

They should look no further than their opponents, to get the much needed inspiration.

Little over a year ago, Leicester was bottom of the league without a prayer, but a year after they are toe-to-toe with top sides atop the league. They are showing Champion’s form at the minute. They are known to be entertaining but they are learning to play and win ugly as seen in midweek. Arsene Wenger sees them as contenders and i also see them as such and I also see them having more than enough for this Villa side but i expect a tight game

LIVERPOOL V MANCHESTER UNITED
(KICK OFF: SUNDAY, 3.05PM, ANFIELD STADIUM, LIVERPOOL MERSEYSIDE)

In the latest instalment of this rivalry between eternal enemies, expect passion, fireworks and drama all in stock, no thanks to Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp.

This Liverpool side are buying into his high energy version of attacking football as evidenced in their pulsating game in midweek and a possible contender for game of the season so far. Klopp is instilling a never say die mentality into this team and getting the best of seemingly average talents, my belief in Klopp being a success on Merseyside is unwavering and Liverpool would be the better for his appointment.

I feel they can hurt this United side. I was surprised to see United play good attacking football, but they also showed their balance in defending goals and leads, typical Jekyll and Hyde stuff, but i expect a more controlled approach in this game of high stakes. I will be cautious and go for a safe draw but it will not be due to a lack of passion and excitement.

STOKE CITY V ARSENAL
(KICK OFF: SUNDAY, 5.30PM, BRITTANIA STADIUM, STOKE ON TRENT)

“Welcome to hell”, would be an appropriate slogan for this tea time slugfest.
This has been the scene of scorn and embarrassment for Arsenal fans and their faithful football fans. Despite the fact that Stoke have changed their philosophy in recent seasons this does not discount how dangerous an opposition they can be and how impressive their season has been, and with Arsenal you never know what you get from them on match day.

All eyes are on Mohammed El neny but I only see a capable performer if given time and perfect conditions to be a perfect addition in the short and long term. In this battle I expect Arsenal to end their woeful run of form on this ground but only just! I expect a close Arsenal win in this one.

SWANSEA V WATFORD
(KICK OFF: MONDAY, 8.45PM, LIBERTY STADIUM)

In their game against Sunderland, I found it a disappointing watch with the manner in which Swansea faltered on the night.

They are more talented than what they are giving at the minute and I feel the signing of a quality centre forward will spur them to maintain their top-flight status.

Against Southampton, an impressive Watford were unexpectedly limp and Coach Quique Sanchez Flores called it their worst game of the season. He demanded a reaction and I expect him to get one on Monday.

I still believe this Swansea side will produce a performance to aid their quest of remaining a top-flight club, come the end of the season, i expect points to be shared in this game.

DELE OMOARUKHE: Premier League Wednesday Preview.

CHELSEA V WEST BROMWICH ALBION (KICK OFF: 20.45, STAMFORD BRIDGE, WEST LONDON)

The feel-good factor is back and results are steadily improving- The players are responding to Guus Hiddink’s methods to positive consequences.

It is fascinating that a Chelsea team that were struggling to pick up results have suddenly developed a winning mentality, a lesson to all coaches that no matter how good you are, you must have good people management skills to get the best from a team.

This Chelsea team has been totally transformed in recent weeks, with players playing with broad smiles across their faces and performance levels seemingly raised. However, much should not be read into this mini-revival as one poor result could burst their bubble.

I don’t expect the wheels of this growing  Chelsea machine to fall off against an inconsistent West Brom team, who have not set the world alight this term, no thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the future of star forward Saido Berahino. As a punter, I will look no further than a comfortable Chelsea win
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION: CHELSEA 2- 0 WEST BROMWICH ALBION

MANCHESTER CITY V EVERTON
(KICK OFF: 20.45, ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER)

Almost every pundit’s favourite to lift their third EPL crown in five years. You still feel this Manchester City side have a lot more about them than they are offering.  Often times, it seems like they are playing on a second gear. One fears that this inconsistency may deny them glory when the top prize is given out in May.

I feel this city team will get into gear come the business end of the season, thanks in no part to their in-depth strength, and there is the belief that if they can get Kun Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva all fit for sustained periods, added to the obvious talents of Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne, they have more than enough to lift the title.

Tonight, I also expect them to beat a highly entertaining but inconsistent Everton side, which guarantee great entertainment. In Romelu Lukaku, the league has the top flight’s in-form forward, but there are doubts that Everton have the necessary grit to see out this win and move up the table.

I expect a great performance tonight against this City side though. Expect goals and a City win.
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION- MANCHESTER CITY 3 – 1 EVERTON

SOUTHAMPTON V WATFORD
(KICK OFF 20.45, ST MARY’S STADIUM SOUTHAMPTON)

What a difference 12 months can make! At this time last year, we were toasting to a refreshing Southampton side, making all the right noises, challenging the so called “big boys” and refusing to be overwhelmed by their might, playing a fearless and refreshing brand of total football, and well-orchestrated by boss Ronald Koeman which culminated in European qualification. Fast forward 12 months and this Southampton side are struggling to regain their identity, no thanks to the sale of key players. Worse still, they are facing the ignominy of a relegation battle.

Their season has unravelled due to gross indiscipline on the field and transfer saga off it.  Ronald Koeman has a job on his hands but not that this Watford side will readily make it easy for him, as they have been highly impressive all season. Gritty, yet entertaining, credit should be given to Quique Sanchez Flores for masterminding their push for Premier League survival and probable European qualification.

His intelligence and calm nature had rubbed off on the side and in Troy Deeney and especially our very own Odion Jude Ighalo, they have a front line to trouble any defence, Ighalo has proven himself to be the real deal and better things are expected from him, including a move in the coming summer, to a bigger club.
In this game, considering the strength of both sides being equally matched and the stakes involved, I will go for a safe score- A draw
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION-SOUTHAMPTON 1 – 1 WATFORD

STOKE CITY V NORWICH CITY
(KICK OFF 20.45, THE BRITANNIA STADIUM, STOKE ON TRENT)

A battle involving two possible mid-table sides should make for captivating viewing. It’s been amazing to see the evolution of Stoke from the boring and irritating long ball side of yesteryearS (ask Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans), to a thoroughly entertaining attacking outfit. This is credited to their recruitment and scouting processes, led by Coach Mark Hughes.

Stoke boats of 4 European Cup winners in the team, a feat hard to match, considering how hard it is to sign players these days. These signings have given them a fresh attacking impetus and a refreshing continental flavour, and in Bojan Krkic they have one of the top performers in the division.The only hindrance to their progression as a proper outfit, is their inconsistency, a trait Mark Hughes should cater for, if he wants this team to fulfil its great potential.

In their opponents tonight, they have one of the brightest young coaches in Alex Neil. His rise from Hamilton Academicals to taking Norwich to the Premier League while shocking the EPL big boys has been nothing short of outstanding. He has drawn parallels with another great Scot who ruled the EPL with his genius.

Norwich come across as a plucky side but are willing to play football if given the opportunity, and I expect them to give the survival battle a good go. Looking at the intimidating imitation of hell in the Britannia and also against this impressive Stoke outfit, I can only see one winner.
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION- STOKE CITY 2-  0 NORWICH CITY

SWANSEA CITY V SUNDERLAND
(KICK OFF 20.45, LIBERTY STADIUM, SWANSEA, SOUTH WALES)

It is a mystery how Swansea’s season unravelled after their impressive win over Manchester United. In the heat of it,  prodigious manager, Gary monk was axed. Credit to new manager, Alan Curtis, he has steadied the ship and halted the decline with some good results.

Swansea still have good players but they need their confidence levels to increase and they look a side short on numbers and on goals, and with the sale of Jonjo Shelvey to Newcastle they look increasingly light. They will struggle but I don’t expect them to be relegated, they are too good a squad to.
At Sunderland however, I can’t say the same about their survival prospects, but if they do survive, I believe their best transfer acquisition is the appointment of Sam Allardyce as their manager. His appointment has given Sunderland their best shot at survival because he is versed in the survival game, we all know what we get with ‘Big Sam’, the football might not be pretty but he gets the right results.

With him at the helm, I expect Sunderland to give the survival rat race a good fight but in this game of low scoring sides struggling at the wrong end of the table, I feel they will come unstuck at Swansea.
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION-SWANSEA 1-0 SUNDERLAND

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR V LEICESTER CITY
(KICK OFF: WHITE HART LANE TOTTENHAM, NORTH LONDON)

A prospectively thrilling game involving two of the stories of the season so far. These two sides have reminded us neutrals why we stay glued to a television set at pubs, viewing centres and in our homes. We were given an awesome audition of what we expect tonight, in their thrilling F.A cup tie over the weekend.

Tottenham, under Mauricio Pochettino have been a revelation, their high press- cavalier style of football built on a youthful side has won many admirers. His usage of previously discarded signings from previous managers like Moussa Dembele and Erik Lamela to distinction, coupled with his breeding of budding talents like Harry Kane and Dele Alli has made the Press tip him for greater things, Real Madrid or Manchester United, maybe?

They are on course for European qualification and with the unpredictability of a season, in line to be the lowest, in terms of points required to be Champions, don’t discount this Spurs team to be dark horses for the title.

But for every dark horse and genuine contender, there is a team for the romantics, the surprise package. The Foxes of Leicester are proving to be that, this year. They have been incredibly consistent for over a year now and despite changes in management, they have kept momentum going.

In Jamie Vardy, they have the tale of the season so far (a great advert for Drake’s Started from the bottom smash hit) and also in Riyad Mahrez, they have one of the division’s top performers. In this game between the 2nd and 4th, I will go for a draw, featuring lots of entertainment.
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION: TOTTENHAM 1 – 1 LEICESTER CITY

LIVERPOOL V ARSENAL
(KICK OFF: 20.45, ANFIELD STADIUM, LIVERPOOL)
In this game between traditional heavy weights of English and European football, pencil down and anticipate an abundance of excitement, passion, drama and energy.
In Arsenal, you have the division’s most consistent performers. While others have wobbled, the Gunners keep racking up important results and they have developed a harder spine to tackle the general criticism of having a soft mentality. No thanks to their master stroke in signing serial title winner and top performer Petr Cech, and in Mesut Ozil, you have arguably the division’s top performer. Credit for his upturn in form should be given to relentless support from “le Professeur” Arsene Wenger.
There is talk of lack of depth in key areas, but with the imminent transfer of a capable performer in Mohammed Elneny, that should be temporarily masked. Even without signings, they have trudged on and frankly, a fully fit Arsenal team should win this unpredictable league on a canter. Will their constant title race naivety resurface to haunt them?  Your guess is as good as mine.
For Liverpool, they made a shrewd acquisition in hiring world class quality in Jurgen Klopp and despite inconsistent results, I personally see him as the real deal. Owners and fans know they should be patient because he is suffering from the recruitment errors of previous managers and I feel with time a stronger Liverpool team will emerge. An emerging problem though this season, is that the players available are struggling to adapt to the demands of his “heavy metal” high press philosophy which has led to them having multiple injuries particularly hamstrings, evident by the amount of mileage they cover per game.
I expect this game to be tight, with  fireworks, entertainment and passion- Partly how firebrand ‘kloppo’ will like it and partly due to the philosophies of the respective coaches.
Due to the fact that this Arsenal team look more settled and Liverpool are undergoing a mini injury crisis and transition, I expect a close Arsenal victory on the night.
CHARMANT’S PREDICTION- LIVERPOOL 1- 2 ARSENAL