Predicting results is a crapshoot. It’s the main reason sports are so compelling, we simply don’t know. We like to think we do, but we can’t. The underdog may step up; the favourite may fumble -- who knows? It’s the reason people who pick their March Madness brackets by colours and mascots win the office pool every year -- it’s also why we love sports.
That being said, I’m willing to take one on the chin and give you my thoughts on who will win, lose or draw the week’s fixtures in the Barclay’s Premier League each week. If you just so happen to win a wager based on my (can we call them) insights (?), make sure you put a few quid in the collection plate at church for me – or buy a pint, either way.
Manchester City v. Arsenal
In a fixture with definite title implications, one would have to assume Manchester City, coming off their 3-2 comeback victory against Bayern Munich in mid-week, will be teeming with confidence. Arsenal will certainly be motivated to extend their gap atop the league table, as well as keen to remove the sour taste of defeat from their trip to Napoli on Wednesday. Nevertheless, it’s a hard ask for any team, including league-leaders Arsenal, to take points off City at the modern-day fortress labeled “The Etihad.” Keeping that in mind, Manchester City will be tested, but after 90 minutes should win a rather open game.
Manchester City 3 - Arsenal 2
Cardiff City v. West Bromwich Albion
Over their last six games Cardiff and West Brom have a combined one point – not too earth shattering. Even still, this game is an opportunity for both teams to separate themselves from the not-too-far-off relegation heap by getting a win. West Brom will be boosted by the return of Scott Sinclair and Jonas Olson; not to be out-done, Cardiff are entering both Craig Bellamy and Neil Taylor back into their first-team -- both coming back from injury. The Welshmen have taken points from four of their seven homes games thus far, while The Albion’s form way from The Hawthorns has been lackluster at best. This confluence of circumstance makes a Cardiff win more possible, but not surpassingly likely.
Cardiff City 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Chelsea v. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace have taken six points from their last two games, whilst Chelsea only gained three. A bit misleading, as the Eagles are 19th and Chelsea sit third -- but a fact nonetheless. Another fact is José Mourinho has never lost a Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, and if you think Crystal Palace are the side to end that run – you might also be convinced to buy beachfront property in Switzerland. Thinking a victory in the Premier League’s a "sure thing" is foolhardy, but one should be confident Chelsea will correct the wrongs of their Stoke City debacle, and get the three points rather comfortably.
Chelsea 3 - Crystal Palace 0
Everton v. Fulham
Roberto Martinez’s side has been absolutely brilliant thus far into the campaign. There’s been talk of a “top-six,” well Everton’s been putting the lie to that -- with points taken off Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal as my proof. In fifth position, with the potential to go as high as second by Sunday evening, it just might be time to take the Blues as serious contenders. As for Fulham, what do you get for ending a six-game losing streak? An in-form Everton. Cottagers must be ready to sacrifice their firstborns at this point – for a point. Taking the last two fixtures into account, Everton’s sails might come out a bit deflated, but after a half hour or so you’d expect the Toffees to seise control at Goodison and take all three points.
Everton 2 - Fulham 0
Newcastle United v. Southampton
While not the sexiest game by name, this is certainly one of the more intriguing ties this week offers. Newcastle have been flying, 18 points from seven games with wins against Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United last week, -- the Magpies are probably the team you’d least like to face at the moment. While Southampton started the season flaming hot, they’ve cooled off as of late, and meeting NUFC at St. James' Park in the form they’ve shown this past month mightn’t be the best fixture to right the ship for Mauricio Pochettino & Co.
Newcastle United 2 - Southampton 1
West Ham United v. Sunderland
If you think being one point away from the relegation zone is bad, being bottom of the table is the only thing worse? The main question for this fixture is: “Where are the goals coming from?” That question's hard to answer. The game has the feeling of a low-scoring, defensive, 15 yellow-card affair. Sunderland haven’t played terribly, just inconsistently, but the same can be said for Big Sam and West Ham. 1,533 yellow cards, no goals and a point seems like the most likely outcome. Then again, a long ball here, a set-piece there, tides can change, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
West Ham United 0 - Sunderland 0
Hull City v. Stoke City
After their improbable win against Chelsea, the environment in and around Stoke City must be heaven. The major inquisition is what can they do when they’re favoured? When there’s nothing to lose a team plays more freely than when they're expect to take the three points. Hull City’s beating Liverpool should be a warning to Mark Hughes’ boys, as they Hull (do we call them) Tigers (yet?) aren’t your average promoted side. If Yannick Sagbo can lead the line and get his midfielders into space behind the less-than pacey Stoke City back four, there just might be an “upset” on the cards?
Hull City 2 - Stoke City 1
Aston Villa v. Manchester United
David Moyes… just David Moyes.
Can you imagine what his life is like right now? To be fair, it isn’t at all. Following any kind of legend is difficult, but a man with a statue on your way to the office? That’s a different level altogether. Patience is the key in Manchester one might easily say -- but are the fans, players and Glazers prepared to wait? Losing to Newcastle last week wasn’t ideal, as it facilitated the need for rumours: Robin Van Persie to Barcelona, Wayne Rooney to Real Madrid, at this rate Manchester will be the third largest metropolitan area in Spain by the end of January. Aston Villa on the other hand wasn’t impressive at all against Fulham; leading to the thought three points are ripe for the picking in the case of Moyes and United.
Aston Villa 1 - Manchester United 3
Norwich City v. Swansea City
Following their 7-0 thrashing by Manchester City in early November, Norwich have nine points from five games, only losing to Liverpool and Newcastle. Swansea meanwhile have taken only eight points in the same time frame. With Swansea key-men Michel Vorm and Wilfried Bony out with knee injuries, this might be the perfect time for the Swans to visit Carrow Road from a Norwich point of view. With former Celtic man Gary Hooper looking to have found his feet in East Anglia, the Canaries may just have enough in attack to take a point from their Welsh visitors.
Norwich City 1 - Swansea City 1
Tottenham v. Liverpool
Luis Suarez has seven goals in his last two Premier League matches; Tottenham meanwhile has netted seven goals in seven games. Being the home team might give Andre Villas-Boas a bit of comfort, as well as their 4-1 demolition of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League, which looked to give struggling striker Roberto Soldado a much needed boost of confidence. Liverpool, without Steven Gerrard, will have to find a new engine in midfield, as Tottenham is at no loss for midfield talent and quality. As with most clashes between “big” teams, they will probably cancel each other out, but with Luis Suarez on the pitch, their might be a hat-trick or Liverpool could be down to 10-men – who knows?
Tottenham 2 - Liverpool 2