Happy New Year one and all! Well the New Year isn’t all that old and rumors are flying around the premiership about who wants who during this transfer window! Seemingly the most wanted man in the Premiership right now is Wilfred Bony, not as glamorous as the back pages of the tabloids would like it. Probably why we are hearing so much about Lionel Messi coming to the league although that’s unlikely to happen until the summer and Messi would surely demand some time to request a few other purchases are made prior to his arrival! With African Nations cup getting under way the Premiership loses a host of talent for a couple of weeks and after the long fixture list of Christmas some teams may find themselves under the spotlight as this piles on the pressure, namely Newcastle who can’t catch a break at the minute.
The weekend kicks off with Sunderland v Liverpool in Saturday’s early game. Although Sunderland have been a thorn in many peoples sides, most recently Man City with an end-to-end cracking 3-2 on New Year’s day, it seems the determination of the Sunderland side may be diminishing after a string of bad results, coupled with a few injury problems Sunderland will need everything they can to beat down a resurgent Liverpool. The visitors have shown recently a passion to play like last year, though mostly when Gerard isn’t on the field and not being played desperately out of position. Missing Sterling this week, who is likely to be rested and Lallana they lose some of that attacking impetus but a hungry Borini who got player of the year in the stadium last year should be able to utilize a bit of pace against the older Sunderland defense. Last time these two met was a nil-nil bore at Anfield before the Liverpool fire caught flame, I would expect a few more opportunities to be taken this time around as Sunderland and Liverpool both know that they cannot drop any more points if they want to achieve their respective goals. With desperation comes risky football, expect a few defenders being caught way out of position early on here as the two teams try and snag the lead early.
Chelsea take on Newcastle in Stamford Bridge, looking to inflict some payback to the team that brought their unbeaten run to a halt. Chelsea who should have a full squad, last time they met Matic was absent, will hope to see a lot more from Diego Costa who in recent weeks has come off the boil, being dropped, reshuffled and replaced in different games over the busy fixture list. Newcastle losing Pardew, a host of players to the African Nations Cup, a continuing injury saga and a string of mixed results in the past couple of weeks does not scream discipline and structure for a side that needs a couple of more wins to be truly safe of relegation. Chelsea will do best to have patience tomorrow and take control, Newcastle will have a lot of players trying to show their worth tomorrow and offer up a few scares to a team who think they have won already – their biggest weakness. This game is a six-pointer to both teams, 3 points Newcastle don’t expect and 3-points Chelsea can’t lose again. Mourinho will need to blame more than the ball boys this time around, he might actually want to look for the problems in the team instead of blaming everyone else.
A little further north the Toffees welcome City, although I doubt they will welcome the team with open arms who look the most confident in the league right now after closing the gap on tital rivals, Chelsea. Sergio Aguero might be back in tomorrows squad and should be guaranteed a run out once the game is put to bed. City should have a bit of a reworked side after losing Toure to international duties, the midfield may not be as familiar although Lampard will hardly get a rare start considering the furor with all his transfer dealings, Pellegrini may want to let the football do the talking here and has plenty of options with so few injuries to make up for African player of the Year, Yaya Toure. Everton on the other hand are losing midfielders to injury and maybe top players to other club, although only rumor for now Coleman and Barkley could be on their way out in the coming weeks and this could be a swan song for them. It will certainly take more than transfer speculation to inspire Martinez’s men and break their current form. Expect a bright start from the blues but go altogether too defensive and watch the sky blues pick it apart late.
The Afternoon games sees Spurs travel the short distance to play Palace. Spurs, the on form team in the Premiership are sitting pretty in 5th with a host of teams watching closely behind rely heavily on the home grown hero Harry Kane, adding a spark to the Spurs squad who were struggling to click under Pochettino. There is a sense of belief to this squad and the supporters must be thrilled seeing Kane get his day in the sun, while showing real confidence and composure he can lead this team – similar to Bale who inspired great form but how long will it last for Spurs? Palace welcome Pardew back to his spiritual home who jumped at the chance and requested out of Newcastle and still had to be bought out of his contract! It will be interesting to see what he can inspire from the Eagles in his first home game in charge. This game could serve up a couple of surprises while other fixtures look somewhat cut and dry.
Sunday sees Manchester United take on Southampton at Old Trafford as the two feuding Dutchmen meet again. The last time they met, the saints were robbed after barricading the United goal and losing to their own errors as Van Persie grabbed the spoils. Although Van Gaal’s team have hardly looked as bright as they did before Christmas, nearly putting the nails in Brendan Rodgers coffin and the results have matched the on-again-off-again squads performance hashing out a few draws while beating the rudderless Newcastle. Virtually no injuries to his squad, chances are he will start with the same squad as he did in St. Mary’s and then throw on Falcao to see if he is worth the money Monaco want. Although playing slightly better football than last year United lack the same results and have a lot more players performing than Moyes could muster.
Southampton, who could lose Koeman to Barcelona if Luis Enrique gets the bullet, have enjoyed some confidence boosting results of late and have surprised many with how good they have been this year after losing so many players. Pelle and Long are two fast, yet very different strikers and are building a good relationship that could give the weak United defense a lot of headaches as the spread them wide and test the infamous 3-5-2 set up. If there is Karma Southampton will take this with ease, yet their inconsistency looms. The result against a lackluster Arsenal last week shows the venom they needed the last time against United. Maybe this will be their time.
Speaking of Arsenal, they host Stoke who took the spoils in the Britannia the last time the two met after a miserable first half where Arsenal effectively beat themselves. A Sanchez inspired second half nearly saved the day, alas too little too late. Stoke have a lot of raised eyebrows and concerns while looking over the team sheet, a lot of attacking options are lacking. Already a stubborn side to break down you can imagine one-meter-Peter getting on the end of a counter attack as the five men at the back send it forward. An early goal will beat the wind out of the Stoke sails more than likely although Arsene Wenger will struggle with his own injury problems it seems he is finding it easier to get the right dynamic than his jacket zipper!
With Podolski gone there is one less option for the Gunners but Ozil should be expected back in the squad. Sanchez and Ozil getting a good run together could be a key to a top four finish for Arsenal. Ozil always looking disheartened in his surroundings he may just find the quality matched in Sanchez and enjoy playing again, in turn Sanchez may not feel like he is on a one man team with support from Theo and Mezut. Expect revenge to be served cold.
Enjoy the Games
|10 Jan 7:45||Sunderland||v||Liverpool|
|10 Jan 10:00||Burnley||v||QPR|
|10 Jan 10:00||Chelsea||v||Newcastle|
|10 Jan 10:00||Everton||v||Man City|
|10 Jan 10:00||Leicester||v||Aston Villa|
|10 Jan 10:00||Swansea||v||West Ham|
|10 Jan 10:00||West Brom||v||Hull|
|10 Jan 12:30||Crystal Palace||v||Spurs|
|11 Jan 8:30||Arsenal||v||Stoke|
|11 Jan 11:00||Man Utd||v||Southampton|