Match day 15 of the premier league. The premier league is always interestingly poised. From match day 1 to match day 38. This weekend the context is the build-up to the ‘who will be the winter champions in the premier league’. Well, who leads the table by the end of the year has no relevance to the final league table. It’s just the snapshot at the end another match day. But you know, it certainly gives a pschological edge to the leaders as that’s something teams set as their mid-season milestone and the one that achieves it can surely feel more confident. There are several key games that come up in and around Christmas and this weekend will set us up nicely for all that action. Let’s look at some key games this weekend.
Manchester United vs Newcastle United: Well, purely on form, Newcastle should win this game. Man Utd will be missing Rooney (suspension), Cleverley (injury), Kagawa (not good enough) and van Persie (doesn’t want to play). And Newcastle should play this game to win. They beat Chelsea and Tottenham and also drew with Liverpool. Pardew should target nothing less than 3 points in this game. The morale at Man Utd is as high as their league standing. Rumours emerge that RvP has handed in a transfer request. How I hope to God that’s true. Prediction: 1-2
Liverpool vs West Ham: Luis Suarez is on fire. He’s the best premier league player at the moment. I remember an article I wrote on this blog to say that a player of his quality is worth all the trouble that he brings. Many pointed out that he would be missing the first 6 games of this season due to suspension. And he did. Look who’s topping the list for the golden boot and the odds-on favourite. West Ham haven’t had great success apart from ripping Spurs apart and at Anfield, I don’t see them taking any points off Liverpool. Prediction: 4-0
Southampton vs Manchester City: After a great start to the league, three defeats in a row for Southampton. A top half finish is very possible if they maintain their home form. Man City seem to have shrugged off their away form to secure a win at West Brom in the mid-week. But they are a team now that can win 7-0 and 6-0 at home and still lose an away game to Sunderland between those two incredible results. Great squad and great performances at home but still have a mental block in away games this season. Prediction: 2-2
Sunderland vs Tottenham: Spurs were very close to another heart break at Fulham in the mid-week game. They are playing poorly, they are not getting the results, the fans are turning against them, pundits are questioning them and the manager is fighting the media. Looks like a perfect recipe for a ‘downward spiral’. Luckily the Fulham result has healed some wounds. Sunderland did not play against Chelsea like a No.20 team. They could have drawn that game. That game would have given them so much confidence. Prediction: 1-1.
Arsenal vs Everton: Game of the weekend. Arsenal’s league form this season has surprised everyone, including themselves I suspect. They’re in the exact opposite position of their North London rivals. They’re playing well, they’re getting the results, fans rejoicing, manager being lauded again, becoming the media-darlings that they once were. Everton are riding high on their results and must be really high on confidence too. If the Saturday results go their way and if they beat Arsenal they could be level on points with Chelsea and second in the table if not for goal difference. Under Martinez, they are playing very positive and attacking football. Hopefully, another opportunity for Lukaku to repay Chelsea with a winner against Arsenal. Prediction: 2-2
Stoke City vs Chelsea: Ever since their disappointing defeat at Newcastle, Chelsea have beaten Sunderland and West Ham away. Both were potential banana skins but Chelsea have got all 6 points from those two games. Winning against Stoke today will be key for Chelsea as this prepares them for a proper assault at Arsenal and Liverpool for the top spot this month. Chelsea are playing well and have their match winners firing for them. In 7 home games, Stoke have score 5 goals. Chelsea have scored 11 in away games. The form team here is Chelsea. Prediction: 0-2
By my expectations, the gap between Chelsea and Arsenal should come down to 2 points tomorrow night and expecting Arsenal not to beat Man City next weekend while we beat Crystal Palace at home and then . . . well you know where I’m getting at.