Clearly, the focus on this weekend's Premier League action is on the London derby, where Jose Mourinho's Chelsea would look to bounce back from the nightmare at Villa Park by directly inflicting pain upon cross-city rivals and faltering title contenders Arsenal. Apart from that, Tottenham hosting Southampton also catches a bit of attention.
This weekend seems to not be particularly decisive in the final league standings, but we all know that anything can happen in the EPL especially as the season drives to yet another thrilling climax. Below are the coming fixtures and my predictions:
22nd March, 2014
Chelsea vs Arsenal, Stamford Bridge
This game would landmark Arsene Wenger's 1000th in charge of Arsenal, an achievement that would only add to the glamour and significance of this derby. However, Mourinho has had an outstanding record at Stamford Bridge (and indeed, against Wenger), and I see no reason why that shouldn't continue.
Arsenal have been woeful against big teams, primarily due to Wenger's tactical incompetence on the pitch. Mourinho on the other hand is a tactical genius; witness how he marshaled his troops to nab a famous victory at the Etihad. As much as I’d like to see Arsenal pull off a massive upset at the Bridge (this coming from an Arsenal fan), I realistically feel that the cards are laid for disaster on Wenger’s millennium. It will be a high scoring affair I think, but in Chelsea’s favour.
Prediction: Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
Cardiff City vs Liverpool, Cardiff City Stadium
Liverpool are on a superb run and are quickly becoming one of the favourites to win the Premier League. They literally blew United away only last week and would understandably fancy themselves to do the same at the Cardiff City Stadium.
However, I don’t think Cardiff are going to make it easy for them. Sure, they screwed up by firing Mally Mackay and bringing in Ole Gunnar. However, I still expect them to give Liverpool an early scare.
Irrespective of what Cardiff take from this game, I’d still fancy them to be relegated. Vincent Tan made a blunder in sacking Mackay and is duly reaping what he sowed. I think however, that they will take an early lead against the Reds (Liverpool’s disorganized defence would be a factor, of course), but Liverpool would regroup and blow Cardiff away.
Prediction: Cardiff City 1-3 Liverpool
Everton vs. Swansea City, Goodison Park
If Swansea want to escape relegation, they’d better start performing soon. They’ve endured a surprisingly poor campaign this season, which resulted in the sacking of Rodgers' successor Michael Laudrup. I think it was a poor decision as nothing of note seems to have changed, but maybe over time interim manager Garry Monk could turn things around.
Yes, it is difficult to start by beating Everton at Goodison Park. However, Swansea need to start proving themselves quickly or they might be in real hot water towards the end. I fancy Everton to win this anyway, they’ve been really good under Martinez.
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Swansea
Hull City vs. West Bromwich Albion, K.C. Stadium
West Brom pulled an impressive victory over the aforementioned Swansea to boost their survival hopes. Still, they need to grind out more victories if they want to stay in the league, and defeating Hull (who are 2 points above them) would directly help them.
Hull City are decent at home, and in my opinion should win this relegation six-pointer. There’s a reason why they’re above West Brom, you see.
Prediction: Hull City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion
Manchester City vs Fulham, Etihad Stadium
Pellegrini’s men must be laughing their heads off after knowing their next fixture. They have good reason too – Fulham have been the league’s worst side. Yes, they pulled a shocker against Newcastle at Craven Cottage, but that was only because Newcastle did not have any desire or aim to win that match.
City have the biggest motivation of all – winning the Barclays Premier League. In addition, they have double the strike force of Chelsea, the second meanest defence in the league and 36 more points than Fulham. I know that anything can happen in football, but I don’t think it will here.
Prediction: Manchester City 4-0 Fulham
Newcastle United vs Crystal Palace, St. James’ Park
Newcastle got a huge wake-up call after losing to Fulham. Although Alan Pardew’s side are firmly in mid-table with no relegation worries or Europa aims, they should and probably will buck up in this game.
As much as I loathe the anti-football cap-donning dimwit Tony Pulis, I must applaud his superb work to drag Crystal Palace from a downward spiral to genuine hope. He seems the right man to take Palace out of the mess that Ian Holloway created. Mind you, he's is still an insufferable prick.
However, this match is at St. James’ Park, a place where Chelsea lost and Arsenal and City struggled for wins. I think Newcastle would buck up for this match and dispatch Palace away, thus puncturing their resurrection.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-0 Crystal Palace
P.S. Just wanted to add that Alan Pardew is a repulsive human being, and it's about time the FA realized that. His antics on the touchline deserved a 5 game suspension at least. Is it too much to ask for both teams to lose?
Norwich City vs. Sunderland, Carrow Road
Sunderland are in the last relegation spot and are desperate to get out of it. It is often noticed that when mediocre teams go on sensational cup runs their domestic form nosedives; Sunderland typify that. While Norwich are only 4 points ahead of Sunderland, I think that home form would favour them going into this match.
I think Sunderland are one of the teams to go down, and this match could just be one of the many nails in their coffin.
Prediction: Norwich City 1-0 Sunderland
West Ham United vs Manchester United, Upton Park
Let’s face it – top four is virtually impossible for David Moyes now. I don’t see them toppling Arsenal or Liverpool; even Everton, for that matter.
Their Olympiacos thrill doesn’t change anything to their domestic position, but it certainly might provide a cathartic fillip to the side. I’m doubtful though – back in November they had moved to
within five points of the then-league leaders Arsenal by defeating them, but then proceeded to get only five points from a possible 15.
Nevertheless, I’d back United to win even if they had got hammered against Olympiacos. To me, this seems like one of those rare routine wins for United, but you just never know with Moyes.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United
23rd March, 2014
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton, White Hart Lane
Nothing’s going right for Tottenham at the moment. Their bold investment to spend £100m on seven players has backfired, their reckless decision to sack Villas-Boas and make Arsenal-supporter Tim Sherwood has backfired, and their early-season ambitions to compete for the league sound like a sick joke now.
They now sit fifth, 7 points off fourth placed Manchester City (having played 3 games extra) and don’t look like turning things around. Looking at that perception, Southampton might just decide to have a crack at them and make a last-ditch attempt for Europa. Who knows, under Sherwood’s stewardship, Tottenham might just capitulate.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Southampton
Aston Villa vs. Stoke City, Villa Park
Villa managed a magnificent victory against Jose’s Chelsea to propel themselves further to safety. Currently they sit side by side with Stoke in 10th and 11th respectively; so whoever wins this might just be completely free from the worries of relegation.
I expect a draw here, and I also recommend everyone to avoid watching this match. It could be a bore.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-0 Stoke City
Certainly the games to watch out for are the London derby in early Saturday kick-off and perhaps the Spurs vs Southampton clash the following day. Compared to other EPL weekends, I don’t think this one would be as exciting. I’ll still try to follow as many games as possible, though. Even the most boring deadlocked matches have a way of livening up my day.
-Santi (Follow my blog 'Gunning From India' and my Twitter account: @ArsenalBlogz)