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.