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