Focus of news this week has been on the sad emergence of abuse among footballers in their youth. This puts a distinctly unsavoury light on the way of the world of football where even there things can be perpetuated with little to nothing in the way of recrimination because of the system. Sure, the FA can talk about steps that have been made in recent years to challenge the culture and ensure safeguarding is a high priority, yet there is a gloom that’s cast on the sport in the light of those revelations.
Here’s hoping, however, that the greater aspect of the sport will shine through this particular disturbing phase. Never disregarding the real hurt and pain that takes place, let’s hope the game itself can assert itself as a sport of competition and enjoymentabove any darker elements.
As for me, it’s once more time to look at how I did in week 13 of the Premier League fixtures. The scoring system sees three points for hitting the bullseye of a correct scoreline. There’s one point if I miss the bullseye but it the board in getting the correct outcome. There’s absolutely nothing but shame and sadness if the prediction misses everything completely and nearly hits that picture of your Mum above the board.
Burnley 1-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 1-2)
Hull City 1-2 West Brom (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Leicester 1-1 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 2-2)
Liverpool 4-1 Sunderland (1 point – actual score 2-0)
Swansea 2-1 Crystal Palace (1 point – actual score 5-4)
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham (3 points)
Watford 2-1 Stoke City (0 points – actual score 0-1)
Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth (3 points)
Man Utd 3-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 1-1)
Southampton 1-1 Everton (0 points – actual score 1-0)
Another fairly mixed bag of results this week, but I’m particularly pleased that I got a 60% correct outcome scoreline this week. That’s over the average and that’s good. Points collection wise, it’s beautiful to get two correct scorelines which means that I hit the double figures with 10 points. that’s fairly pleasing this week and a good basis on which to consider what happens from here.
It’s weekk 14 now and to a degree last week’s results won’t be a great help to indicate how things may emerge. Yet looking at the league table and seeing a clear gap marking out the top six from the rest, that is a good help in checking how things might turn out this week. On that score here are the predictions for this week’s fixtures.
Man City 1-2 Chelsea: This is undoubtedly the game of the season. The league table informs you that this is third place taking on those currently leading in the league. I’m sure Liverpool fans won’t think it’s unfair to say, though, that these two are the legitimate favourites for the title, because unlike the Reds, these two have a recent history of winningthe competition. This is a tasty fixture pitting the two best clubs in the leagues against each other. Conte keeps on rolloing out the wins. Their comeback win against Spurs last week showed their capacity to win without playing well against a team that are credible challengers. To get that win will be hugely encouraging to those from Stamford Bridge, it’s a good basis in which to enter this game. What works in their favour as well is that the onus is not on them to go out and dominate possession to win. Guardiola’s City are not the finished article as yet – despite the investment in the squad, settling process at the Etihad is definitely very different for City. They have picked up some vital wins of late that have shown they have the mettle to get these results against teams they should be beating without ever going into top gear. The best is definitely yet to come from City as they work through their new regime. It’s a fair argument to say that in Chelsea they face their toughest oppnents to date. Defeating them will not be easy at all as all over the pitch the Blues from the capital seem to have sufficient quality to pose a threat to the opponents whilst having the wherewithal to take on the barrage that City might throw at them. It’s because of that largely that I see this game ending in something other than a draw.
Crystal Palace 2-2 Southampton: There are certain people you don’t want to be at the moment and Alan Pardew is one of them. Being on a losing streak is one thing, continuing that losing streak is a worse thing and the manner in which that streak was maintained isthe worst of them all. Add to that the small issue of getting beat by the team that had previously been a strong contender for worst team in the Premier League. That title now, however, looks to be leaving Wales to find its new home at Selhurst Park. Nope, you don’t want to be Alan Pardew at this time as some journalists are counting down the days before he finally becomes a recipient of a P45. What makes matters worse for him is the collection of players at his disposal look to be playing less than the sum of their parts. You look at the squad and you’re not surprised that they score four goals last weekend. But conceding five? That’s just not what this squad look capable of and making that all the worse is that they now face Southampton who are feeling good in the light of two wins.What goes in their favour as well is that their recent win – with eight players changed from the previous match – they were in the capital city beating of all teams, Arsenal. There will be something in the heads of some in the Saints’ dressing room that says if they can beat the Gunners away from home then Crystal Palace should be a walkover. I can certainly see how that thought would be rumbling among other things. Puel has the Saints playing a brand of football that, importantly, is hard to break down. These factors considered, it would be easy to go for an away win that plunges the reign of Pardew ever close to its end. It might end up that way, but there’s something in me that thinks Pardew will may get a slither of hope. How long that slither will last is another thing, but against the odds, on this match I reckon can leave with a point.
Stoke City 2-1 Burnley: A bit like this predictions business, Stoke are suffering from inconsistency. Good result one week, bad result the next. Good performance one week, poor performance the next. Stoke don’t look as threatened by relegation as they did a month or so ago. They need to be kicking it up a level, though, if they want to make good their desire to hit the top half and stay there. Thankfully for them they come across a Burnley who are very obstinate at home, but do not have the greatest away record. In fact if their away record was merely mediocre it would be an improvement they would accept. This is not a side to be taken lightly, though and Stoke City have hardly been all conquering at home. If City decide to have an off day then there might be enough in the engine for Burnley to come away with three points. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. That’s not where this prediction is going, though. This prediction is about looking at the two teams and noticing that in as much as the away side has a tenacity and determination that is seeing them doing marginally better than they were last time in the Premier League, they are still not quite at that level to be assured in surviving a relegation battle. Meanwhile Stoke don’t look that poor enough to get embroiled in that relegation struggle. That reality has to see the home side take matters into their own hands and do what’s necessary to see the Potters come out of the contest with all the points and a platform for positivity.
Sunderland 1-2 Leicester City: Apparently the Leicester fans have resorted to booing their side. That is so bizarre. They must know why they are booing their side. Maybe they’re not happy with the quality of performance they are seeing. Yet to boo the side that miraculously won them the Premier League just seems so odd. Things surely aren’t that bad. Yet this must be what happens when you spoil your own with a trophy of that magnitude. Good thing for Leicester, then that this game sees them play away from home. Some respite from the spoiled lot. What a splendid place to go away from home too. Sunderland got exactly what they deserved at Anfield whatever comments their manager might state to suggest otherwise. The Black Cats came to stop a massacre and so received just a quick beating which merits them nothing. They will be heartened, however, to see they are playing hosts to a team out of sorts in terms of Premier League form. That makes predicting the result of this match very difficult indeed. The factor that swings it towards the away side on this occasion is the quality that Leicester have at their disposal. Yeah, they have their final group game in the Champions League coming up, but that’s not as much a priority at the moment. This match is crucial for them. They do need to get another three points on the board just for their sense of safety. They do have enough to get the predicted win, but that does not rule out at all the likelihood of the home side turning up and actually taking the game by the scruff of the neck and not letting go until the final whistle.
Tottenham 3-1 Swansea City: Bob Bradley is not a fool. The win last weekend was necessary and welcomed. The character to get that win having given up a lead was remarkable and roomto be very optimistic. It is, however, just one win. Just three points. Those three points will matter little if they go for another spell without winning. That might prove to be difficult when they consider this match. Spurs are still hurting after a disappointing run of form that saw them knocked out of the Champions League and meekly surrender a lead to Chelsea. Pochettino is not exhibiting anything that suggests he is feeling under pressure, but something must be done about the form of late. If they can maintain the quality of play in that first half against Chelsea they will scare a lot of teams. If they can reproduce the style that put Man City on its derriere then they can reignite hopes among the White Hart faithful that winning the title is something truly worth aspiring to. They won’t take their opponents lightly, Spurs are one of those sides that are well drilled on the press and have a team ethic that would scorn pride and arrogance in any form. If they are about that kind of thinking when they face Swansea, the Welsh side could be in for a torrid time.
West Brom 1-1 Watford: Watford Head Coach, Mazzari, was not pleased after their home defeat to Stoke City in their last outing. Not just losing but the manner of the loss irked the boss. He was not having it and there’s something about the approach to the game in the Premier League that gives the strong impression that he will be expecting his side to do a lot better at the Hawthorns. It must be satisfying for Watford fans to know this is the level of expectation when they go on the pitch. That demand should drive them on to once more do enough to finish the season as a Premier League outfit. Tony Pulis has not had a good week for personal financial reasons. He will not let that affect him, though, as he applies himself to the taskat hand. The draw away at Hull was much more like the West Bromwe expect after that blip four goal display against Burnley. I don’t expect them to score four against Watford. They have enough among their squad to make this home match something for which their fans can be somewhat hopeful of getting all three points. The hesitation remains around the fact that this is a Tony Pulis side, one that typically just plays hard to beat and hope for the best at the other end of the pitch.
West Ham 1-2 Arsenal: The vibes around West Ham do not appear all that good. They did well to draw with Man Utd in the league in that fixture, but then went on to lose comprehensively to the same side in the EFL Cup. Results and performances like that can have a negative effect and the Hammers could definitely do with avoiding negative effects. It’s not the best time to be playing Arsenal either who were also dumped out of the Cup. The Gunners will delight in knowing two of their closest rivals face each other which indicates they could have an opening to make their way up the table and sniffing the top spot. To do that, however, they have to get this game right. The disappointment of the ease with which they were knocked out will provide them with a test to see if they can really let that frustration out on the next opponent. Nothing can be put down to fatigue as key players were rested. They have an opportunity to put a marker on their season having escaped November without losing in the league. They face a side who is not at all that comfortable in their new home, but this is a London derby and if Bilic can motivate the side and look to be solid they can do something against the Gunners. The thinking is, though, that the away should have too much for them on this occasion.
Bournemouth 2-3 Liverpool: Along with Arsenal, Liverpool will be looking forward to the fact that the two teams immediately around them face each other with dropped points on any side being a positive for them to either gain on the top or draw away from the one behind. They just have to beat Bournemouth to do that. That is all they have to do. That is not as easy as it is written, though. Eddie Howe has built a side who not only play ‘attractive’ football, this team can make things awkward for the bigger teams. They have it in them to get a result from this match and they certainly won’t allow the tag of underdog to be anything to them. They will not be intimidated by Liverpool. They have seen the weaknesses the Reds have. They can sense a susceptible side to the team they face and they can take heart from the example Burnley have shown in taking chances, stifling the Reds and comingup trumps. What makes their task all the easier is seeing their opponents with a star player missing. Coutinho’s loss to Liverpool has got some tongues wagging as to whether this will be the start of seeing the wheels fall off the league challenge. Will they suffer from the lack of creative options in the final third? Where will that spark and magic come from and without that can they still get results? Bournemouth might scent a hint of something they can do to really upset the current title challengers. That does not, however, negate the fact that it is the away side who go into this match as favourites because they have the quality to pull off a win. No doubt, however, it will not be easy.
Everton 1-2 Man United: Both of these teams cannot say they are having their desired season. United’s travails are well documented. Of course small things like performances mean little for a club of the size and expectation of United. All that matters is their presence among the title contenders and they are conspicuous by their absence from the title scene. There are some fans who are bothered that they appear to put it in for cup competitions but aren’t doing much in the league. The pressure remains on Mourinho to make the team selections that gives fans the impression they can go and win the game in the league. While the pressure is on him, his counterpart at Goodison Park is not having an easy time of it. It’s hardly the honeymoon season for Koeman. There is a degree of patience that they can offer, but when the performances and results are not obviously improving then it is little wonder that Evertonians are a little nervous at the moment. Having won only one game in the last eight and with November being a month not to remember the situation for the Toffees is very simple – they need a win. Can they beat United? Of course they can – of course it’s possible. Yet United have played better than Everton overall. United have a much better team than Everton. There’s a good argument to suggest United have a better manager as well. All of those factors point to a tough time for the home team. For that to be realised, though, United must be careful to be a lot more clinical. If they can perform have they have been over the last six weeks and turn their chances into goals Everton will not have a prayer.
Middlesbrough 2-0 Hull: This is a Championship game. Come on. Let’s be real here. Hull are a Premier League club in name only. Middlesbrough have just come up and so have to play whatever they can to succeed in just staying up. The natural habitat for both sides is in the league below. That’s not being harsh and judgemental, that is simply saying it as I see it. Nevertheless these are teams playing in the Premier League in the hope of gaining enough points to stay in that privileged position. Of the two there’s little between them quality wise. No players roll off the tongue in terms of outstanding, mouthwatering quality. The managers are similarly nondescript. Hull, however, have been marginally worse than Boro this season. It will be an enormous achievement for this collection of players to avoid relegation. That will not start in this game. They will turn up and be as competitive as they can. If they keep their shape and not lose heart through the game, there’s every reason to believe they can quiet the home crowd, work their way into the match and look to get something.from this game. Karanka, however, will be keen to make the most of the home advantage and he is the slightly better manager in a slightly better team that can hope to get a result that leaves them in a slightly better position than their opponents.
There are one or two matches to give a miss this weekend. There are a couple of crackers though that make the Premier League worthy of its name. The ongoing drama of the teams and their desire to go for the title or escape relegation make this weekend’s action overall worth the watch. Regarding the predictions, there have been a few weeks where I have got two correct scorelines, there is the strong desire clinch the hat-trick or more as well as maintain the 50% or over correct outcome record. Its possible, as to whether it will be realised …
Let’s see how it goes.
C. L. J. Dryden