Month: February 2017

Premier League Prediction – Week 23

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Football, eh. You take a little break from league action and then Leicester use that gap to sack their manager to great umbrage and outrage from the pundits. Well should they have sacked the man who won them the title in an incredible achievement less than one year ago? Loads of sentiment and arguments to and fro looking at loyalty versus expectations being disappointed significantly.

It feel like a long time ago since league action took place, but way back then I did have a go at looking at what I thought those scores would be, so it’s worth reminding ourselves what I thought versus the reality. Points are accumulated on the following score basis – three points for getting a spot on prediction; one point for just getting the right outcome and didley squat for getting everything wrong. Let’s have a look.

Arsenal 3-1 Hull City (1 point – actual score 2-1)

Man Utd 2-1 Watford (1 point – actual score 2-0)

Middlesbrough 1-3 Everton (0 points – actual score 0-0)

Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Sunderland 2-1 Southampton (0 points – actual score 0-4)

West Ham 2-1 West Brom (0 points – actual score 2-2)

Liverpool 1-3 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 2-0)

Burnley 0-3 Chelsea (0 points – actual score 1-1)

Swansea 3-2 Leicester (1 point – actual score 2-0)

Bournemouth 1-4 Mn City (1 point – actual score 0-2)

Sheesh, it’s not the most pleasant set of results. In terms of outcomes I eked out a mere 50% and with no correct scorelines at all there’s just a measly five points to look at for the effort put in. Not the best of weeks, to be fair and so it’s good to wash things out and have another go at this thing.

Moving swiftly on, then. With the exception of two league games being postponed because of the League Cup final, the other 16 teams will resume league action. So here is how I see those games panning out.

Chelsea 4-1 Swansea

Crystal Palace 0-0 Middlesbrough 

Everton 3-1 Sunderland 

Hull 2-0 Burnley 

West Brom 2-0 Bournemouth 

Watford 1-1 West Ham 

Tottenham 2-1 Stoke City 

Leicester 1-3 Liverpool 

There are not that many games left in the season and points are becoming all the more precious. Expect tighter games, but there should be no lack in quality for all that. In any case …

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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Premier League Prediction – Week 22

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The world of football hasn’t been that busy of late, the stories doing the rounds reflect the lack of anything of worth to be talking about. Thus it’s on with looking to consider the games this weekend.

Before that however, we have the small matter of seeing how I did in the last set of predictions. The points system operates in a simple way – three points gained for a spot on prediction, one point for just the right outcome and zero points for getting nothing.

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (1 point – actual score 3-1)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland (0 points – actual score 0-4)

Everton 2-1 Bournemouth (1 point – actual score 6-3)

Hull City 1-3 Liverpool (0 points – actual score 2-0)

Southampton 1-1 West Ham (0 points – actual score 1-3)

Watford 2-1 Burnley (3 points)

West Brom 1-1 Stoke City (0 points – actual score 1-0)

Tottenham 3-0 Middlesbrough (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Man City 4-0 Swansea City (1 point – actual score 2-1)

7 points is not the greatest return and a 50% return on the outcomes is only just about acceptable. You may have noticed that there was no prediction for the Leicester v Man Utd match which was an oversight on my part and so I duly accept the zero points that go with that. Which is a pity because the score could have done with me getting at least a point from that prediction. It’s not the best week of predictions.

However, there is the chance to do better by taking a look at this weekend’s fixtures. Let us have a look at what is going on.

Arsenal 3-1 Hull City: Here’s the thing. Arsenal tend to crumble when it really matters then resume their expected superiority when the chase is over. The chase is over. There was argument that the chase was over before the Watford game. There was more talk about the chase being over before the Chelsea game. Now, being twelve points behind the leaders, no matter what Wenger says, the chase is over. Apparently there’s a little issue about confirming their top four place, but seriously since when has Wenger failed on that minimum standard? Since never that’s since when. So as part of all that jazz they should return to winning ways in this home game. They should do, not because Hull City are pushovers. They played Liverpool and Man Utd in their last two games and if anyone had said they would emerge from those games unbeaten with four points they would have been committed to an institution for ongoing monitoring. Yet here they are arriving at the Emirates on a genuinely impressive run of form that could … yeah legitimately … see them emerge triumphant in their quest to play Premier League football in the 2017-18 season. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. They are still in the thick of the battle. It’s one thing going unbeaten against two heavyweights in a row, it’s a stretch of incredulity to expect them to leave this third encounter unscathed. It’s not impossible and let’s face it, it would be hilarious if that was to happen to Arsenal, but it’s just not going to happen. So there. (He says with a smirk of hope.)

Man Utd 2-1 Watford: United will know better than to take Watford for granted. Mazzari’s side are actually enjoying a decent run of form that has seen them unbeaten in their last four league fixtures winning the last two. One of those wins was away to Arsenal. That means Mourinho would be making a big mistake to take them lightly. The team from Hertfordshire can play a solid game that is high energy and frustrating to bigger opponents. United, however, are on a little mission of their own. Their unbeaten league run stretches back for months and yet they are still looking up at five clubs above them. Their fans are understandably wondering how and why. Especially as some of those sides have faltered dramatically of late, that United are still in sixth place is a sore point. It’s also part of the fuel that will motor the team onto taking this game seriously and applying due professionalism. They certainly have by far the superior squad, their selection of players is the envy of most teams in the Premier League and there is enough quality in them to make any team suffer if they are clinical. Therein lies the challenge for United especially at home where they have not been as clinical as they should and that allied with world class goalkeeping displays have meant a number of games have finished with frustrating draws. This one could go the same way if the opponents are similarly disciplined and focused more on stopping the red machine. The home team know, though, that they cannot afford to keep dropping points if they want to achieve their goal for the season.

Middlesbrough 1-3 Everton: This is the tale of two very different football teams. Middlesbrough were not guaranteed staying in the Premier League when they got promoted. Their squad did not scream the sort to be well established in the Premier League. Yet when you considered the others in their area of the division there should have been a glimmer of hope that if they play the right way and make things difficult for their opponents they could look forward to playing more Premier League football. As it’s transpiring, though, their run of form has been dire and they are not far from the drop themselves. What’s been the ongoing concern with them has been the lack of goals scored. Who knows if this was something Karanka wanted support in during the disappointing transfer window. All that is known is that they don’t look any the better to address that issue. That should be of grave concern to Boro fans. What should make that concern all the worse is that they are about to entertain a team who are on a run of games where they have won four of their last five games. Koeman is not the sort to get complacent, he’s never had the team in a position to do that. There has always been something to play for. He still sees there being something to play for with this Everton side on this run. They are five points behind a relentless United and four points ahead of a West Brom that doesn’t look in the mood to win that many games on the trot. That is to say Koeman is doing a tremendous job keeping his team motivated under such a safe position. Their entertaining game against Bournemouth would have told Koeman much of what his team is capable of both positive and negative and that will keep him on his toes in ensuring his team can get the maximum points available from the trip to Teeside.

Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace: The bottom of the table is fairly congested with five teams scrambling over each other in a bid to avoid the dreaded drop. One of the teams that has a squad that should not be in this scrap is Crystal Palace. Palace sacked Pardew before the transfer window and replaced him with Allardyce in a move that many applauded as the one that would see them ease out of danger. Four losses in five games was not the kind of form they had in mind. Second from bottom was not the plan going into this arrangement. Some blame the last guy for wrecking the club, to his credit Allardyce hasn’t gone down that road in terms of apportioning responsibility. Rightly so, because here is the guy much lauded for being able to turn it around fairly quickly. Small issue is, he really isn’t turning it around. The team aren’t looking that defensively solid. The team aren’t really that much of a threat up front. The team aren’t really that resilient mentally. The team aren’t really doing much worthy of thinking they can make the turnaround. Not the best time to make a trip to the Potteries. Stoke, however, are blowing a little hot and cold at the moment. They could do with a win to get back on track in their bid to finish in the top half of the table. This could be the game where they get to see some of the promise in their new guy Berahino, the defence they face would certainly appear to be generous for that to happen. That is not to say a Sam Allardyce team is just going to sit down and take it where this game is concerned. He will demand that they keep fighting until the end. It’s just that the end could still see them return to South London with nothing for their efforts.

Sunderland 2-1 Southampton: I can’t remember the last time I predicted Sunderland would win a match. I don’t even know if that has ever happened. That’s not any antagonism towards the Wearsiders. I don’t particularly find them distasteful, they have just been reliably awful throughout the season which is a good reason why they are looking up at 19 teams ahead of them. And yet here I am writing legitimately about Sunderland winning this game. That’s not a commendation about Sunderland, though. They still depend too much on Defoe for inspiration and goals. They are still far to porous at the back. Signing up a number of Everton rejects might make Moyes feel more comfortable but it’s not the recipe for success in the relegation dogfight. So it’s about their opponents. There is little that surprises me these days and Southampton’s collapse in league form of late is one of those things that has not been that surprising. It’s as though the entire club has gone on snooze mode in preparation for the League Cup final. Their performances and results have been so substandard that they have to do something to be careful to rise themselves from this or else the effort will be for nothing and there is still enough time for them to get sucked into the mess at the bottom of the table. If it was down to comparing between the two sides in their quality the Saints should go marching in to collecting three points. Yet Moyes should have enough in him and in this squad and hopefully in their goal-den saviour Defoe to snap up another three points that might prove valuable in their quest to stay up.

West Ham 2-1 West Brom: Although the Hammers are one place behind the Baggies there is a not insignificant five point gap separating the two teams. That is testament to the sterling work Pulis has done at the Hawthorns in going to great lengths to ensure not just safety but progression. Finishing in the top half of the table would definitely be classed as progression to the Midlands side. Not so much for the team playing in London. Although they recovered well from the City beating to defeat Southampton, Slaven Bilic will know that there is still much work to do to finish what has been a tumultuous season on a high. He speaks well of the squad cohesion in the light of certain transfer debacles and if they are indeed settled and the team pattern can work well, they have every chance of emerging from this tussle with the much needed victory to bridge the gap between both sides. Pulis sides are notoriously stubborn, though, and even if their away record isn’t that much to write home about, they can still prove to be tricky for those forever blowing bubbles. The progress of late since 2017 and the quality of players who are not playing towards their peak means that West Ham can look forward to this game with some optimism. Though a safer prediction would be to plum for the draw, there is something about the capacity of the home side to be a danger that particularly makes me think they can edge this close encounter.

Liverpool 1-3 Tottenham: The record of the home side in 2017 has been well documented. They are not scoring anywhere near enough goals and they are certainly not winning games. There has been reference to their capacity to get up for the big games and this would certainly fall under that category. Maybe with the week to lick their wounds and address things on the training pitch they will be better prepared for this big fixture. Perhaps with Mane nearer full fitness and the side getting back into gear the Anfield faithful will be able to cheer their heroes to a desperate and rare three points. The record of Spurs at Anfield might also be reason for further optimism. There is something about this Spurs side this season, however, that suggests that it will not be that straightforward at all. Something Pochettino has instilled in this Spurs side is a rugged ability to grind out results. They are in second place and the best placed to challenge Chelsea not because they play beautiful football, it’s because when they are playing poorly their system stands strong because of the effort of remaining tight to beat and ready to hit on the counter-attack when necessary. They seem to have matured even from last season and their unity and sense of purpose is allowing them to keep plugging away despite the feeling that hey won’t be able to last the course. Their progress has been made without fuss or fanfare very much in suiting with their manager’s approach to the game. There is strength, solidity and determination throughout their side and in Harry Kane they have one of the league’s hardest working and clinical strikers. If they come with the right frame of mind they could quite possibly exploit some of the frailties in the Liverpool side and in that way reinforce their own credentials whilst dismissing those of the Reds.

Burnley 0-3 Chelsea: Looking at the league table for Burnley fans must be such a fun exercise. They are a full nine points clear of the relegation zone. They are three points away from a top half position. They have more to look ahead for than to look behind them. That position has been established primarily because of their home record. Indeed of the 29 points they have picked up so far, 28 of them have been collected from Turf Moor. They have done tremendously well in turning it into their fortress to a large degree. They have faced top sides before at their own patch and sent them packing pointless. Now, however, they face undoubtedly their greatest challenge. It’s not that this Chelsea side play memorable fantasy football that gets the pulses racing. It’s not that this is the best first eleven to ever play in the Premier League. It is that Conte has struck solid gold with the best way to utilise this collection of players who have experience of playing winning football. The defence are stingy to say the least. The midfield is beastly to underrate them. The attack is clinical to not put a fine point on it. No one can in anyway deny that they deserve to be where they are on merit. That will pose massive problems for the Lancashire side where the onus is on them to make the moves. The Blues meanwhile can play any way they need to. They can hit on the break when under the cosh or they can impose themselves if invited. They don’t even have to slip out of second gear to manipulate teams and manage games as Arsenal discovered last week. As long as it’s football there’s a degree of hope for Burnley, but that window of opportunity won’t be open for long at all with the relentless way that this Chelsea side operate. Expect the away win.

Swansea City 3-2 Leicester: It would have been very heartening for Ranieiri to see his reserves eventually put Derby to the sword in the FA Cup on Wednesday. Extra time would not have been something he would have wanted to get the job done, but at least it was done. Perhaps one or two performances could have made him think again about who he will start with or pick in the squad for this match. What will be abundantly clear, however, is that the big guns will return for this massive encounter. The way they were easily dispatched in their last league game will be the pressing matter that the Foxes will want to fix. What is not that encouraging, however, is their away record. Even Hull City have won away from home, but for Leicester they have yet to get three points in one game away from home comforts. They will no doubt know that Paul Clement’s side will not be accommodating them at all. Swansea have the edge in this match. Three wins in their last five matches is the sort of turnaround in fortunes that now sees them level on points with the visitors. Clement will certainly be looking to make the most of this opportunity to get some more points on the board to assist in their quest for safety. This game will also be a good indication to see their ability to come back from a disappointing defeat. Sure City were expected to beat them, but to lose out in the last minute having fought valiantly can do one of two things to the mentality of the players. The first is to discourage them, but the second is what Swans will be hoping for and that’s namely taking the positives to give them hope for the next fixture to present a force that’s hard to beat and able to capitalise on the frustrations of others. This is a significant fixture in the race to safety and a draw will not be a good point for either team. In that light, although the pressure is mostly on the Foxes, it just might be the home side that rises to the occasion most to get the three points.

Bournemouth 1-4 Man City: Bournemouth can’t remember how to win a football game in the league. Their form over the last five games have been a cause for concern. Their saving grace is the fact that there are teams whose run of games have been even worse than theirs. There are enough games, however, for the side on the coast to be drawn into an unseemly scramble to stay in the Premier League. They have to pick up the winning habit quickly. They have beaten Liverpool and took Arsenal to a thrilling draw at the Vitality Stadium, their manager’s commitment to the style of football they play is admirable and has overall been effective enough. Now, however, they face a side who have begun to remember what it is to be who they are. The arrival of Gabriel Jesus into the first team of Man City has been a massive boost. The three they play in attacking positions now have a fluidity, a dynamism and a run of form that makes them massive threats going forward. They know if Spurs slip up at Anfield the win here could see them take second place and for that to happen after the level of criticism they have faced this season would be a great way to invite their critics to place their jibes in a pipe and proceed to inhale and exhale thereof. They may not be thoroughly convincing defensively just yet, but that won’t matter if their attacking and possession game gets into the rhythm. They won’t find it easy against Howe’s side, but unlike others, they should learn to take the game by the scruff of the neck and put their possession to clinical use. If they turn up in that mood, Bournemouth won’t be able to live with them.

So at least I have the ten games going on this weekend! It’s an interesting set of fixtures where I am fairly confident on improving on the points collection and getting the better than average percentage of outcomes. Of course there’s always the possibility that one or two results might turn out my way, but I am certainly hoping to get some spot on predictions to help the scoring.

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Auditioning for Optimus Prime

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I used to watch Transformers – the cartoon. I think I was into it. Certainly remembered that opening theme tune and Optimus Prime. So it was cool coming across this story of how the voice for Prime happened. 

Be strong enough to be gentle. Good advice. 

Enjoy 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Premier League Prediction – Week 21 Part 2

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Teams could have made significant strides to competing with Chelsea and largely failed. Teams could have made significant strides to easing away from the relegation zone and some teams made the most of that, where others sunk deeper. It’s the Premier League ramping up the action as the end becomes clearer in sight.

Let us consider how I did in the games earlier this week. There are points at stake as ever with these predictions and those points work in the same way as the points do in the league. That is three points for a spot on correction, one point for just getting the right  outcome and absolutely nothing if I got both of those wrong.

Arsenal 3-0 Watford (0 points – actual score 1-2)

Bournemouth 2-1 Crystal Palace (0 points – actual score 0-2)

Burnley 2-1 Leicester City (1 point – actual score 1-0)

Middlesbrough 1-1 West Brom (3 points)

Sunderland 0-2 Tottenham (0 points – actual score 0-0)

Swansea 2-1 Southampton (3 points)

Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea (0 points – actual score 1-1)

West Ham 1-3 Man City (1 point – actual score 0-4)

Man Utd 4-0 Hull City (0 points – actual score 0-0)

Stoke City 1-1 Everton (3 points)

Well look at that, can’t remember the last time I got three game predictions spot on. That’s a pleasant site and that’s a great contribution to the final score for the round 11 points. In terms of the percentage of correct outcomes, though, it was a disappointing 50%.

No need to rest on that however, as with the game there’s plenty of chances to do better the next time around. So let us consider this weekend’s games.

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal: No surprise that this is the game of the weekend. A lot rests on the outcome of this match. Chelsea find themselves facing the second game against a potential rival for their position at top spot. Getting a draw at Anfield has been viewed overall as a positive result. They cannot, however, afford to continue to drop points if they want to secure the title that is very much in their grip. A win in this match would do much to move them in that direction. Whereas for Arsenal the surprise defeat at home to Watford suddenly sharpens their focus on what it is that they’re really fighting for this season. This is a game that they know they must win if they want any hope of catching Chelsea, otherwise the season will be considered another disappointment. Arsenal have the quality in their squad to compete against Chelsea. They have a stunning attack who tend to score in most games and they have a goalkeeper who knows Chelsea very well. The question remains whether they have the mental capacity to deal with the game’s ebbs and flows. They will not face a harder away match for in Chelsea they face the best team in the league for a reason – resolute, formidable, relentless and able to bounce back from setbacks. For those reasons alone in what will be a tough match the advantage has to go to the home side.

Crystal Palace 3-1 Sunderland: From the match of the weekend in quality, to the second most important match of the weekend. No it won’t be a festival of football delight. Don’t expect flicks and tricks or stunning displays of tactical genius. Nope this is what is referred to as a six-pointer. Both teams find themselves at the wrong end of the table scrabbling to get out of the mess their poor performances have left them in. A precious three points for either side will be more welcome than a free holiday to Barbados all expenses paid in the middle of winter. This also sees the first time Sam Allardyce will face the last club he managed. No ill feeling will be experienced from either party, but likewise sentiment won’t get in the way of both looking to get the win. While Sunderland celebrated a surprise draw at home to Spurs with the added bonus of a clean sheet, Crystal Palace emerged with a much needed three points from their slugfest at Bournemouth and again they got a clean sheet from the experience. Looking at both sides, the home side really should have enough to edge it past their rivals. Moyes will endeavour to utilise his new signings to bolster their defence and ensure that the clean sheet will be a pattern, but Palace should have enough going forward to be a nuisance and pierce through the resistance

Everton 2-1 Bournemouth: Eddie Howe must be scratching his head a little. At the moment it’s not a crisis, but losing to Crystal Palace makes their position in the league just a little tenuous. Nothing too serious yet, but he won’t want this to become a habit at this stage of the season. Not the best time to go visiting Goodison Park, though. Koeman will be glad to see his side keep fighting to emerge from the tussle at Stoke City with a draw to keep their little unbeaten run going and keep on looking up to what they could achieve rather than at those chasing their position. The squad is a little stronger for the transfer window and this will be a good opportunity to see them flex that opportunity at home. They are clicking into gear at the right time of the season and if they don’t take this game for granted they could very well run up a large score against the side that don’t do all that well on their travels.

Hull City 1-3 Liverpool: Liverpool should lose this match. That’s nothing to do with their recent awful form in 2017 so far, this is something about Hull City in particular. They somehow love being the sort of annoying team that gets to beat Liverpool. With the Reds being in generous mood with inferior rivals, Hull are ripe to take advantage of that. This follows their sturdy performance at Old Trafford where they left with a point and a clean sheet after a superlative effort by their goalkeeper. The new manager is not so much the mug after all with a number of creditable performances. They see a way out of the relegation zone if they keep up their current run, they see a way out. It is not so much mission impossible. Especially if they can capitalise on games like this. Games where they should be onto a loser. The main reason why I am still going for an away spanking is that two great performances in a row for a team with Hull’s resources is a stretch. They will be a team that has a relatively decent amount of recovery time to be able to focus their energies on what is their sole concern for the rest of the season. That kind of focus should let them see each game as even more important than ever before. Winning this game is more important than ever before. They have a team that looks more ready to take on these kind of games like before. This game should see them start getting in the mood to return to winning ways.

Southampton 1-1 West Ham: The Hammers were torn apart in their match against City. It was a case of the masters putting the apprentices in their place. That king of humbling defeat puts their season in perspective. As it looks at the moment it will be something of an achievement to finish in the top half of the table. They would do their chances the world of good by getting three points at St. Mary’s. The home side are not doing so well of late, the semi-final win at Anfield securing their position at the EFL Cup final has had the predictable effect of making it harder for the players to rise to the occasion when it comes to their regular league duties.This is not something that Puel will want to see maintained as they look at  getting some sort of run together to also go chasing to secure a top half finish to the season. Though they have the record signing in their ranks there is still the settling-in period to take into account. Whilst all of that is happening they will not want to let their focus slip too much. They will want to make this a competitive effort for their home fans so they don’t pick this dropping points deal as a habit. They may find their visitors, however, a tough nut to crack. Thus with those factors in place this is set for a draw.

Watford 2-1 Burnley: I have to admit I did not see it coming at all. Mazzari has not set the league alight with the way Watford go about their business. There’s nothing that much different in how they perform now to how they performed last season. Yet there they go up against Arsenal and can get into them straight from the first whistle and manage to return to Hertfordshire with all three points. That is a massive boost in their efforts to retain their Premier League status. Now they have the not as arduous challenge of facing at home one of the worst teams away from home in the league.   Burnley away from home are a mess. Their saving grace is their home form, because away from home they have been dire. It is odd, though, because Dyche has put together a hard working football team. They don’t have outstanding individuals and leave it to the outstanding team ethic to make all the difference. That should be as successful home and away. It’s not just the fans that are baffled, so Dyche will be looking for a match like this to be able to turn that form around. Watford are there for the taking due largely to their patchy and inconsistent form, so it could the time and the chance to pop the balloon that’s kept the home side buzzing. Yet perhaps it’s time for Watford to do something they rarely do and go and win two games in a row.

West Brom 1-1 Stoke City: It seems for the longest time that these two sides have had a somewhat niggling relationship. They are not the outright most fearsome Midlands derby there is, but there appears to be a little something about this tie which has fans from both sides a little more antagonistic than usual. That irritant has been flared up again with the arrival of Berahino from the Hawthorns up to Stoke. Recent suggestions and comments have not been all that flattering from the former club to the player. Likewise implications from the new club raise questions about what was going on at the last club. Should he come on the pitch it’s unlikely that he will be greeted with warm wishes from the home side. This could all be a convenient smokescreen, however, to two teams who essentially slugging it out for a place at near the top of the middle of the table. It’s the ultimate fight for mediocrity. These two teams are fairly similar in many ways including the quality of the playing staff. Both teams can score, without ever threatening to be anything prolific on a regular basis. Crouch has his 100th Premier League goal now, so he’s not desperate for that much now. Pulis likes his record usually against former clubs. So it’s set up neatly for a tussle that could see both sides fight each other to a standstill.

Tottenham 3-0 Middlesbrough: Spurs won’t be happy. They have had two games where the level of performance has been disappointing and in the last game they failed to beat Sunderland, worse still they even couldn’t manage to score against a team so generous that it’s surprising they are not just a registered charity such is their nature of giving. Pochettino will want to do something about that as soon as possible and they face a team that they should really beat … again. Boro seem adverse to scoring. Their record away from home is not something to be pleased about either. If they show up to White Hart Lane and perform anything like they have in those games then Spurs will smash them to pieces where the final result is concerned. Something Boro can do fairly competently is defend. They don’t usually concede many. That rigid defensive system is evidently proving very useful and it will certainly need to as they face the barrage of attacking options that Spurs call on.

Man City 4-0 Swansea City: It has been a breath of fresh air at the Liberty Stadium. Before Clement they were at the bottom of the table without a hope of survival. Two win later and they are looking at pulling away further from that dreadful drop. They face, however, Manchester City. For the indifferent results they got in the league, there was never anything to suggest that they were a poor football side. They play arguably the most attractive style of football which has been found out by a few teams and they have not always been as clinical as their chances suggested. The result against West Ham would have done them the world of good to know they can get back on the scoring front. Swansea are many things, but stingy in defence is not one of them and if City can rack up four against West Ham with Aguerro on the bench, there’s no reason why they can’t put the Welsh side to the sword if they maintain that clinical nature.

Leicester City 1-3 Man Utd: Some have argued that United’s draw against Hull in the week saw them back to their worst. Some even mentioned that it was as bad as the LvG. That’s because some have very selective and poor memories. United may have not been as sharp in front of goal as they should have been but overall this season they have shown progress. They are not the LvG stodgy style of play and they are far better than they ever were under Moyes. They have a chance to close the gap still further on those ahead of them and they have the core of players who can make that a reality. They particularly have a good game to get the chance to gain those points because of who they face. Leicester didn’t do much in the transfer window to indicate they were going to be better than they were before. And before in the league even without Champions League matches they were not good at all. They have gone out of their way to keep a player who wants to leave because they don’t want to sell him to a competitor and when that competitor is Sunderland that should be all you need to know about how bad they are. There is little to suggest that they can use this game to climb out of their predicament. They have beaten the other Manchester side at home, though, which might be a source of some hope. Yet the team that are still referred to as the Premier League champions will have a lot to do to salvage any aspect of that credibility back in this match.

There are the games that take place this weekend. It would be lovely to repeat the feat of getting more than one correct scoreline and if the majority of matches can have the same result it will be the sort of improvement I would heartily recommend. Whether that will happen or not …

Let’s see how it goes.

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden