Last week showed us how the mighty are capable of falling on any given Sunday….or Saturday, and sometimes Monday. Regardless, Chelsea and Manchester City both won by a score of 1-0. Arsenal lost a tough match on the road to Swansea, while Tottenham and Liverpool both played to draws. Manchester United exercised dominance with a 3-0 win over lowly Bolton, to show they mean business. This is the second week where Chelsea and Manchester City will be effected most by the loss of their stars playing in the African Cup of Nations. There are blockbuster matches this week, and will be incredibly exciting.
Players to watch for Week 21 – 17 shots, 5 shots on goal, 3 assists, 5 saves, 2 goals allowed.
Norwich City vs. Chelsea
Norwich would love nothing more than to keep their two game winning streak alive. That may or may not come true depending on which Chelsea club comes to play. Chelsea has made a great transfer in Gary Cahill from Bolton, with the hope that he strengthens their defense. The problem with this theory is that Bolton has given up the most goals in the entire league (46). Apparently Chelsea sees something that I don’t. Moreover, Chelsea has been great on the road, winning three of their last five and only giving up three goals in that span. Norwich would love a win, but with 15 goals allowed at home, their chances don’t look good.
Prediction – Chelsea 2-0
Player to watch – Daniel Sturridge – Sturridge has scored six goals and one assist in eight away matches. He is going to get a lot more looks with Drogba gone.
Everton vs. Blackburn Rovers
The last time Blackburn played an away match, they beat the mighty Manchester United. This time they face a…well, let’s just say Everton won’t be contending for the league title anytime soon. While they may have added Donovan on loan, and their keeper is a jack of all trades, there is still a lot of work to be done. Blackburn fans hate their manager, hate their clubs owners, and pretty much hate the fates for making them Blackburn fans. However, they should really stop bitching, considering their club has won the last two out of three. Although they have only won once on the road, Blackburn are rolling and are trying to save their season, Everton don’t have that desperation.
Prediction – Blackburn 2-1
Player to watch – David Hoilett – Canadians rarely get love, so this is my olive branch to our Maple-laden brethren. Hoilett has scored all of his three goals and two of his four assists on the road.
Fulham vs. Newcastle United
Fulham have played really well at home. Despite giving up five goals to Manchester United, they have won their last three out of four at home. Newcastle has gotten back to their winning ways, but the loss of Demba Ba will surely take its toll on the Magpies. Luckily, Newcastle has added reinforcements in the form of Papiss Demba Cisse from German club Freiburg. The unlucky part is that he is playing in the African Cup of Nations and won’t be available for a few weeks. Sorry for getting off topic, Newcastle on the right path, but don’t have the talent to go against this Fulham defense.
Prediction – Draw 1-1
Player to watch – Clint Dempsey – Dempsey has scored three goals and four assists at home this season. He is much better at home, but is still their only source of offense.
Queens Park Rangers vs. Wigan Athletic
Queens Park has made a lot of changes lately, and they are more to stay out of the relegation zone than making actual progress. However, they have the money and have several targets on the horizon. While I think they will remain in the Premier League at season’s end, they have a lot of needs to be met in the offseason. Wigan is destined to be relegated. Roberto Martinez’s squad played a tough match limiting Manchester City to just one goal at home, but they are in bad shape. This match will be ugly, and both teams will be extremely aggressive.
Prediction – Draw 2-2
Player to watch – Helder Helguson – Helguson has scored five of his seven goals at home this season. He is the ONLY offense this squad has. They desperately need to make improvements.
Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion
40 miles separate these two clubs, 63.5 km for those living in every other country. West Bromwich has been horrible lately with a three game losing streak. Stoke City have played to draws in three of their last four. Neither club can finish games, and seem to let things slip away. If Stoke want to remain in the top half of the league, they need to find consistency and strengthen their defense. West Brom just needs to play better than the bottom three, or they will soon become them.
Prediction – Stoke City 2-1
Player to watch – Jonathan Walters – Walters has scored all five of his goals at home, and three of his five assists. He is a tremendous playmaker….at home.
Sunderland vs. Swansea City
This is a match-up of two of the hottest clubs in the league. Sunderland has blossomed under manager Martin O’Neill, but they are still a club with work to be done. They have the talent, but I question when the honeymoon will end. They have won two of their last three at home, including a 1-0 win over league leader Manchester City. Swansea are hot, but only when they are at home in Wales. I can imagine that travelling to Wales is hard enough, but then to play against a phenomenal defense would be overwhelming. Well, the same can be said for the other side, traveling all over England can take a lot out of you as indicated by their 19 goals allowed in road contests this season. Sunderland looks to have the edge, purely because they are 400 miles away.
Prediction – Sunderland 2-1
Player to watch – Sebastian Larsson – Larsson has scored three of his five goals and both assists at home.
Wolverhampton vs. Aston Villa
Wolverhampton has been on a rollercoaster these past couple weeks. They lack a cut throat attitude that allows their opponents to just barely get the best of them. They have lost two of their past three by a total of two goals, both 2-1 losses. However, they face an Aston Villa club that has allowed 13 goals in 10 away matches. The counterargument is that Villa has scored 11 and Wolverhampton has allowed 17. It doesn’t look good for the Wolves as they continue their descent down the table.
Prediction – Draw 2-2
Player to watch – Stilian Pertov – Petrov has been phenomenal on the road, with his four goals and one assist coming on the road. Not to mention he is one intimidating looking dude.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Liverpool
Bolton has given up the most goals in the league this season. To make matters worse, they just sold their best defender/player to Chelsea. Is there really any reason to watch them anymore? If they are selling their only player worth watching, where is the incentive for the fans? They have won one match at home this season and it is likely to remain that way. Liverpool is still without Suarez and Andy Carroll is still homesick. However, the return of Steven Gerrard is a major boost to Liverpool, and may even wake Sloth into scoring a few goals. Andy Carroll reminds me of Edge from the WWE, I realize this isn’t my proudest journalistic moment. I am only human, and witty.
Prediction – Liverpool 2-0
Player to watch – Steven Gerrard – He is the only one who can get this lethargic bunch moving. He is a tremendous leader, and a living legend.
Arsenal vs. Manchester United
Arsenal will be looking to avenge their late game loss to Swansea City last week. That would be a solid plan if they didn’t have to face Manchester United and their phenomenal defense. Considering Arsenal’s attack is limited to Robin van Persie, and Gervinho is away on African Cup of Nations duty, things look pretty bleak for Arsenal. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for Van Persie, but there is a reason you play with 11 players and not one. Furthermore, aside from Manchester United’s loss to Newcastle, they have won five of their last six away matches by a total of 10 to 0. Good Luck with that one Arsenal…
Prediction – Manchester United 3-0
Player to watch – Nani – Nani has scored two goals, but more importantly five assists on the road this season. He is the driving force of this attack.
Game of the Week
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
This is a blockbuster match. While Arsenal and Manchester United will be an incredible match, this match will have season long repercussions. Tottenham will be without superstar Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor is on loan to Tottenham from Manchester City. Manchester City is his home club, and he is not allowed to play against his own club. It is a very different situation, mostly because Manchester City are so loaded with talent that they would loan out a player that ends up being a superstar for a rival club. Regardless, there will be a tremendous amount of talent on the pitch and the fact that Manchester City has yet to lose at home just adds to the intensity. City have outscored their opponents 31 to four at home, while Tottenham have scored 18 but allowed 12. If Tottenham wins, it could benefit Manchester United more than Tottenham as it would put United in first place while the Spurs would be two behind. Tremendous match-up, tremendous talent, Amazing Match!
Prediction – Draw 2-2
Player to watch – Jermain Defoe – Defoe has not played a lot lately. However, with Adebayor out of the lineup Defoe will probably be asked to fill his shoes. While big shoes he is more than capable and has the experience to do it.