Did you read this column last week? If not, then you should have. It could have made you some money. Nine out of ten outcomes correct, five out of ten results spot on, I should be backing my instincts.
Of course last week was a one-off, a fluke. Or was it? Here are my predictions for this week’s round of matches, tell me if you agree, and feel free to add your own.
Birmingham City v Bolton Wanderers
The purists won’t be too enamoured with this fixture I’m sure, but it promises to be a fascinating tussle. Birmingham picked up a vital 1-0 win at Hull City last weekend, whilst Bolton snatched an equally important 1-1 draw at home to Stoke thanks to a late Matt Taylor penalty.
Home advantage should play a part here, St Andrews can be a cauldron, and if the Blues can get the crowd onside early on they should be favourites. Bolton boss Gary Megson has lost influential midfielder Sean Davis this week to injury, he will need someone to replace his passion and tenacity in the middle of the park.
Prediction Birmingham 2 Bolton 1
Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa
I have to confess, I don’t like the look of Blackburn this season. Their squad, small but solid under Mark Hughes, now looks bereft of genuine quality and consistency. Defeat at Everton last weekend was insipid and deserved, and they have a chronic lack of options up front. Jason Roberts & Benni McCarthy can’t be trusted week in week out, whilst new signings Franco Di Santo & Niko Kalinic have disappeared from view.
Villa, on the other hand, are in decent form. Three straight wins, three clean sheets in a row. Gabby Agbonlahor is in good nick, and their midfield – minus the problematic Nigel Reo-Coker – is stepping up well. I see them taking all three points from Ewood Park.
Prediction Blackburn 0 Aston Villa 2
Fulham v Arsenal
When Arsenal lost this fixture last season to a Brede Hangeland goal, the world threw their arms aloft and announced that THAT was why this side would never win the league. They had a point, and this late afternoon clash at Craven Cottage will tell us plenty about Arsene Wenger’s latest challengers.
Fulham are a decent, if not special, side and will allow Arsenal room to move the ball around. That could be fatal, if the likes of Cesc Fabregas are on form. Either way, I don’t see a repeat of last season’s scoreline.
Prediction: Fulham 1 Arsenal 3
Liverpool v Hull City
Hull shocked the world last season by taking a two-goal lead inside the first half hour at Anfield, but the odds are stacked against a repeat. Phil Brown’s team are in rotten form, and were thumped midweek against Everton in the League Cup – albeit with a weakened side. A trip to Anfield could arguably not come at a worse time.
Liverpool are still a way short of their best, but have won 4-0 at home twice already this season, expect something similar this weekend.
Prediction : Liverpool 3 Hull 0
Portsmouth v Everton
Paul Hart’s side picked up their first win of the season at Carlisle United on Tuesday, but their league form has got their fans fearful that even a concerted push during January’s transfer window may come too late to save Pompey. Six straight defeats is relegation form, and things won’t get much easier here.
Everton are finding form, they brushed aside Blackburn last weekend and are welcoming back former Fratton Park favourite Yakubu from a long term injury. With another ex-Pompey man, Sylvain Distin, helping to shore up the defence, it is hard to see anything other than a (narrow) away win.
Prediction : Portsmouth 1 Everton 2
Stoke City v Manchester United
On Boxing Day last year, Manchester United went to Stoke on the back of a gruelling trip to Tokyo for the Club World Championship. They won 1-0, and it set up a blistering run in which they reeled in Liverpool and took command of the title race.
The omens suggest something similar this time. Stoke remain rugged and direct, but have added some flair to their ranks. United remain impossible to write off, and have shown an ability to get results in adversity. Chelsea left it late to snatch the points at the Britannia Stadium, don’t be surprised if United do the same.
Prediction: Stoke 1 Manchester Utd 2
Tottenham v Burnley
Four away games this season, four defeats for Burnley. Including one at Barnsley this week. Tottenham thrashed Owen Coyle’s Clarets at the Lane in the Carling Cup last season, and look well set to repeat that this campaign.
Peter Crouch netted a hat-trick against another Lancashire club, Preston, in midweek, and will be clamouring for a start. Jermain Defoe is still bang in form, and Spurs should have too much for Burnley, even with David Nugent added to the ranks.
Prediction : Spurs 3 Burnley 1
Wigan Athletic v Chelsea
Wigan’s first ever Premier League game was at home to Chelsea, they lost 1-0. It is perhaps not being too fanciful to suggest that Roberto Martinez would take that this weekend.
His side was bereft of ideas at Arsenal last weekend, and defended shambolically. Any such errors here, and the league leaders will be equally ruthless. Didier Drogba is set to be fit, Joe Cole could return, and Chelsea will surely make it a perfect seven to start the season.
Prediction : Wigan 0 Chelsea 2
Sunderland v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Mick McCarthy returns to his former club, as Sunderland look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat at Burnley last weekend. Wolves meanwhile, will be looking to build some momentum after a good home win over Fulham at Molineux.
With Darren Bent still sharp, and Andy Reid in form, Sunderland should create chances against a porous Wolves rearguard, but can the Black Cats’ defence hold out against the physicality and aerial presence of Kevin Doyle & Stefan Maierhofer? Probably not, I’d take the draw on this one.
Prediction :Sunderland 1 Wolves 1
Manchester City v West Ham United
Has the bubble burst for Mark Hughes? Will Michael Owen’s late late winner condemn City to another year of nothingness? Probably not, and in truth a home match with West Ham represents a favourable fixture.
The Hammers are short on squad depth, especially in attacking positons. Carlton Cole is developing well but City should have more than enough firepower to see off Gianfranco Zola’s men, who could well be without influential defender Matthew Upson for the trip to Eastlands on Monday night.
Prediction: Manchester City 2 West Ham 0