The Premiership is back! With the December hurricane of games comes the January Cup back log of Matches. Last weeks F.A.Cup showed that many top level clubs want that piece of silverware, most playing a host of star names and still losing to lower tier adversaries, namely Chelsea, who got their reputation tarnished and lost their main man over the course of two different cup campaigns.
Chelsea go into this week looking to show they can live up to the task, Mourinho not only playing Manchester City, is battling pundits and a campaign against him. It’s Chelsea versus the world! The quality of this Chelsea side has been evident for a lot of this season and although there is depth and experience on their bench, Mourinho has stuck with a consistent team throughout this campaign. Many of the starters have been relatively unknown stars to Englands top league, a testament to Jose’s tinkering and his ability to mastermind brilliance. One of the first names on the team sheet is Diego Costa, although this week suspended for stamping Emre Can on Tuesday in the league cup, is just reward for a player who constantly goes one step too far in his bullying tactics and never gets a red card. Never marshaled in a game, Diego Costa is a superior attacker who shows that he can win games and breakdown teams single handed, either he is being coached to commit off the ball fouls and taunt oppositions or he has no sense as to where to draw the line. Kompany and Manchester City will be glad he is not there to give them a headache this week.
With Chelsea only winning games on a narrow margin this year their top goal scorer is gone, leaving them without an evident threat up front. Their old talisman lurks, Didier Drogba will want to win the hearts of the blues again. Untested and untried relatively in the league campaign this is major tie to be called upon. For City this game is not just a six-pointer but a possible make or break title challenge, lose this and lose the league. Pellegrini’s men have struggled of late, only showing glimpses of form and looking lack luster in many ties. Ever since Sunderland found so many holes in the middle, Arsenal followed and picked them apart and beat them two-nil. Arsenal were a superior team on the day and would have beaten nearly any opposition on the day, although the blue side of Manchester made it look so easy and never really got out of the starting gate. Toure still missing with international duties has left a void in the heart of the squad and their playmaking. Relying on an aging midfielder who plays box to box marauding football, enabling him to be one of their top scorers, is something you can only do for a few seasons, Yaya’s days are done. Manchester united learned it with Keane, Arsenal with Viera, Liverpool never really understood it with Gerard and City have squeezed the last out of Toure, the failure of City is not realizing this and not having a routine to play without him and not finding a suitable replacement. Frank Lampard will not fill that void and it’s unlikely he can be relied upon to score a winner at the bridge this time around.
City have the more daunting task on their hands this time around, facing a side that have just restored their confidence against Liverpool who statistically won the league campaign except for the score line, the hero of those ties – Thibaut Courtois, a goalkeeper brimming with confidence and surely being one of the best in the world will be hard to beat. This game has a defensive masterclass written all over it with neither team wanting to give away points, neither will think about winning them. This leaves a chance for the pack to catch up and shows how the divide has shrunk this year with the top clubs unable to instill fear in lower placed clubs.
One of those Clubs catching up is Manchester United, but you would be a fool to believe they are worthy of third spot. Facing Leicester, who came from behind to stun Van Gaals lads 5-3 in their last meeting. A reasonably full squad travelled to Cambridge United’s humble ground last Friday and were held firmly to a draw, and at times were out-witted by some fancy play from the club over 70 places below them. The team lacks verve and spirit, they don’t look like winners in their current form and the premier league new boys might just hand them another embarrassing afternoon. Sir Alex will be lurking, waiting for round two.
Everton go to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace as they continue their absurdly bad form, Martinez, looked to be an inspirational signing this time last year but now he seems a man with an unfixable problem. Palace, revitalized by Pardew look a sure bet to walk with this. A loss here and Ross Barkleys agent may be ringing around for a new club for his star before he withers away.
The other side of the Mersey, Liverpool host a London club this week with West Ham, who are placed one place and one point above them. A win for the reds would leap them up into European places while the Hammers could go to 5th. This will be a tough game with Song creating a masterclass in midfield and Andy Carrol giving Alderdice something to smile about yet Liverpool will feel hard done by their extra time loss to Chelsea they may want to dust off and jump into the driving seat and get a return to form now that Daniel Sturridge should get a call up to the first team for the first time in roughly 5 months.
Managerless Newcastle face Hull City and are in desperate need for some form with a host of players away or injured they may not find it. Stoke play Q.P.R. and will want to start winning some of these games and maintain the rhythm that was starting to show, but after losing Bojan for 6 months, the strike force may tire soon. Sunderland and Burnley have a big relegation battle on their hands tomorrow although it might still be too early to get a frantic end to end thriller here as neither team will want to be thinking of relegation just yet.
Harry Kane and Spurs go to West Brom to round out the afternoon games. Pochetino’s men are getting some form together and should leave with three points as Erikson and Kane are both scoring freely these days.
Southampton host Welsh big men Swansea on Sunday with an impressive record for Koeman in his first season in England. Although missing a lot of players upfront, they still have a good option in Pelle and will hope to provide him with scoring opportunities. Swansea, will look to Gomis to fill Bony’s boots after Gary Monk’s reluctance to spend any of the $30m they got for Bony. Trying to make Champions league Southampton will play tough and work hard to get a result at home.
Arsenal have the early game on Sunday as they host Aston Villa, who are just three points above the relegation zone. With Sanchez more than likely out for the fixture, Ozil will pop back in to show his worth. Fatigue had to set in on Sanchez eventually, possibly the hardest working player in the league. His non-stop effort and work rate almost inspires his team mates to try and keep up, it will remain to be seen if the rest of the squad keep up that effort on Sunday.
Aston Villa, have looked a characterless side of late. For most years they have been a mid-table side but now they are struggling to maintain that idiom. Wenger will want to capitalize on this with third place calling and a need to show the other teams they are more than a one man team. A loss or a draw at home the week before the London Derby will be a much bigger one as Spurs lie waiting to seek another scalp this year.
Enjoy the games!
|31 Jan 7:45||Hull||v||Newcastle|
|31 Jan 10:00||Crystal Palace||v||Everton|
|31 Jan 10:00||Liverpool||v||West Ham|
|31 Jan 10:00||Man Utd||v||Leicester|
|31 Jan 10:00||Stoke||v||QPR|
|31 Jan 10:00||Sunderland||v||Burnley|
|31 Jan 10:00||West Brom||v||Spurs|
|31 Jan 12:30||Chelsea||v||Man City|
|01 Feb 8:30||Arsenal||v||Aston Villa|
|01 Feb 11:00||Southampton||v||Swansea|