All eyes are on Sunday’s fixtures when the glitterati take centre-stage – last year’s top 8 EPL teams will be playing, and apart from Manchester United and Chelsea, everyone else will be looking to get some ‘form’ and start playing to their potential.
Charlton Athletic vs Portsmouth
If Portsmouth win on Saturday and United lose on Sunday, they will go top in the Premiership. It’s a twist that will add extra spice to a game in which Harry Redknapp will be bold enough to demand a win and a 5th consecutive clean sheet for the new season. Charlton blow hot and cold, and Saturday will be no different.
Which Charlton will turn up? The side that beat Chelsea last season, or the side that succumbed to 7 goals against Manchester United in two games at Old Trafford this year? The biggest problem facing Charlton right now are injuries, and a Portsmouth side welcoming Andy Cole to its fold will be brimming with confidence at a trip to The Valley.
Charlton will dig deep and take a point from this game. A result is more likely, but the injuries will seriously limit Charlton’s chances. Plus Portsmouth are bound to a have a blip, and this could be it.
Soccerlens Prediction: Draw.
Bolton Wanderers vs Middlesbrough
Bolton have key players out with injury (Davies, Pedersen), but they will be more than a match for Boro at the Reebok. With Anelka in their ranks Bolton are set to push for a European spot that eluded them last year, and while I personally don’t give a damn about Allardyce or Bolton itself I’m hoping Nolan scores and helps Bolton win.
Boro are without Boateng and will have new signing Woodgate as stand-in skipper. I’m half-expecting a Bolton player to hack down Woodgate and injure him for the rest of the season, but the man will be, without exaggeration, the one man standing between Bolton and victory on Saturday.
Soccerlens Prediction: Bolton wins.
Everton vs Wigan Athletic
Everton’s shock 3-0 win over Liverpool highlighted Pool’s frailities more than Everton’s class and calibre, but with Cahill, Arteta, Neville and Johnson spurring them on Everton should be able to edge this high-flying encounter.
Wigan are still feeling the after-effects of losing Jimmy Bullard, and could very well be rooted in the bottom quarter of the Premiership come May. Quality team, quality manager, but do they have enough in the tank to beat off the increased challenges from teams like Everton and Aston Villa?
Soccerlens Prediction: A tough win for Everton.
Sheffield United vs Reading
A six-pointer relegation battle? Reading are being tipped to survive top-flight football for another term, and pundits have them pencilled in for an away win here. Me? I don’t know, couldn’t care less
Soccerlens Prediction: This game should have a result, with Reading marginal favorites to win.
Watford vs Aston Villa
The attacking (albeit off-target) flair of Watford versus the calm efficiency of Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa. Watford have had several ‘close’ games, with their 1-2 loss against Manchester United and 0-1 defeat to Bolton proving that the side CAN survive in the EPL if they can start scoring goals. Don’t expect a renaissance against Villa, and by Monday Watford will still be in the bottom 3.
Aston Villa are pushing for a European spot this season and once the euphoria of O’Neill’s appointment wears off they will be in trouble if their light-weight squad is hit by injuries. For now, they are good for winning against easy opposition and Watford are, for all their pluck, as easy as they come.
Soccerlens Prediction: Aston Villa squeaks through.
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Robben’s back for Chelsea, and his addition to the squad will allow Mourinho some much-needed width. Chelsea know that a win here will seriously dent Liverpool’s title chances while a defeat or draw will give Manchester United a 5-6 point lead after just 5 games.
Liverpool must win this game. Forget what people are saying about the season being about 38 games – it is matches like these that make or break your season. United’s 1-0 win against Chelsea at Old Trafford gave them the hope and self-belief to keep challenging them till the very end, while Liverpool’s shocking start to the season meant that despite their amazing season October onwards they were still only 3rd in the Premiership.
Yes, this one counts folks. I’m rooting for a Liverpool win (to help United’s cause), but Chelsea should win this one.
Soccerlens Prediction: Chelsea wins
Blackburn Rovers vs Manchester City
Blackburn are sorely missing Bellamy and to say that they are suffering a hangover from their 6th-place finish last season would be an understatement. They need to win this one badly to haul themselves out of the bottom 3 but it won’t be an easy match against Manchester City. Blackburn are also missing Steven Reid through injury.
Blackburn are too good to be languishing in the bottom quarter of the table, but will they be able to take 3 points off Man City, a side that has already beaten Arsenal this season (albeit in a game that saw the worst of Arsenal)?
Soccerlens Prediction: Draw.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham
I’m not even going to bother with this one. Tottenham have Lennon out for knee surgery and Berbatov out as well, but they should win this match quite easily.
Soccerlens Prediction: Tottenham prove that they have some class, after all.
West Ham United vs Newcastle United
Who doesn’t want to see Mascherano and Tevez crank out a win for West Ham? Newcastle have a habit of making things difficult for themselves and the teams placed 7th and 8th last season will be going all out for a win that will set the marker for how well each side will fare this season.
Soccerlens Prediction: West Ham win.
Manchester United vs Arsenal
You all know what I think here.
Soccerlens Prediction: Manchester United win.