Premier League predictions – Another bad day for the Hammers?

Not smiling today?

Not smiling today?

I want to make one thing clear here. I am writing these predictions prior to the games on 26th December. If anything interesting, strange or unusual happened in those games I am not aware of it at the time of writing.

I just want to get my defence in first if what I have written is even more rubbish than usual!!

Monday 28th December

  • Blackburn v Sunderland
  • Two poor sides in a lower mid-table clash. Either of these two teams could get sucked into a relegation battle if they are not careful. Equally, either of them could be a comfortable mid-table side.

    I think Blackburn at home might just have enough to grind out the three points.

    SoccerNews prediction: 1-0

  • Chelsea v Fulham
  • The West London derby isn’t really regarded as one of the big derby games. I guess the reason for that is because Chelsea have been so much better than Fulham for so long that they have hardly bothered with them.

    Well that might be changing. Yes, Chelsea are still the better side, but Fulham are catching them up. Roy Hodgson has done a wonderful job at Fulham and is gradually turning them into a comfortable top half team with aspirations of going even higher.

    I think Chelsea will win but it is no longer the foregone conclusion that it used to be.

    SoccerNews prediction: 2-1

  • Everton v Burnley
  • If ever Everton needed to win a home game this is it. Burnley have still picked up just one point away from home all season and if Everton can’t beat them then they are in serious trouble.

    Burnley will fancy their chances of opening their away account but surely Everton will be too good for them.

    SoccerNews prediction: 1-0

  • Stoke v Birmingham
  • Stoke are still good at home but they have lost some of the invincibility they seemed to build up last season.

    Birmingham defend well and look like the real deal. I fancy they will set out to get a point here and be successful.

    SoccerNews prediction: 1-1

  • Tottenham v West Ham
  • Another London derby that sees a very good Tottenham team take on a not very good West Ham one.

    Stranger things have happened than a West Ham win in this game, but I can’t think of any at the moment!

    SoccerNews prediction: 2-0

  • Wolves v Manchester City
  • Mick McCarthy has made Wolves become a half decent side at home recently although they have won only three of nine played there.

    Manchester City have only won twice on their travels and Mancini will be looking to turn that away form around as soon as he can.

    I fancy City to show that they can win away games.

    SoccerNews prediction: 0-2

    Tuesday 29th December

  • Aston Villa v Liverpool
  • Villa are an all-action team at home and they attack quickly and with purpose. They will be looking to complete the double over Liverpool and will feel relatively confident of doing so. (Of course, if they were stuffed at Arsenal on 26th that confidence may have taken a dent!)

    Liverpool will not fancy this game one little bit. Rafa has guaranteed a fourth placed finish and if he is to have any chance he will need to get something from this. It will be tough, but I think he might just get a point.

    SoccerNews prediction: 1-1

  • Bolton v Hull
  • The loser of this game might just have a claim to the ‘worst team in the Premier League’ title.

    Both teams need a win if they are to have a realistic chance of staying in the top flight.

    I don’t think Gary Megson has become a bad manager and I think he will steer his under pressure side to a very valuable and potentially crucial three points.

    SoccerNews prediction: 1-0

    Wednesday 30th December

  • Manchester United v Wigan
  • Which United will turn up and which Wigan will turn up?

    It doesn’t really matter. United will win anyway.

    SoccerNews prediction: 2-0

  • Portsmouth v Arsenal
  • Pompey’s raucous fans will be right behind their team in this one and Arsenal will have to be at their best to cope with a Pompey team fighting for their lives and a crowd that can be hugely intimidating.

    Arsenal should have the class to keep the ball and create chances. The only question is whether or not they will take any of them. I think they will.

    SoccerNews prediction: 0-2

    Mon 28 December, 2009
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    Premier League team of the ‘noughties’

    The skipper

    The skipper

    As we approach the end of the decade somewhat annoyingly referred to as the ‘noughties’ I thought I would pick my team of the decade from the English Premier League.

    It isn’t an easy task as there have been some wonderful players. This is my opinion and it will no doubt be different to everyone else’s. That is the great thing about football, we all have different opinions that we truly believe to be right.

    Consistent

    In goal I am going to choose Manchester City’s Shay Given. He has been a consistent performer for many years and along with Mark Schwartzer and Brad Friedel has probably been the most consistent keeper of the decade. On his day Petr Cech or Pepe Reine may be individually better, but Shay Given gets my vote every time.

    At right back I have to go for Gary Neville. I know he is one of the most hated footballers outside of Manchester but until he first began to get injured a couple of years ago there was nobody to touch him in the right back position.

    Talent

    At left back there are a few obvious candidates. I hate myself for doing this but I’m going to choose Ashley Cole. The reason I hate myself is because poor Ashley makes himself a very difficult player and personality to like. However, in order to pick the best team one has to rise above personal dislike and there is no doubting his talent.

    The two centre-backs are difficult to choose but I have made my decision. The opinion about Rio Ferdinand is well and truly divided but I believe that at his best he is as good as anyone in the world in that position. He would always be in my team, despite his occasional mistakes. He has the lot as a defender.

    Unbeatable

    The other centre-back position goes to Jaap Stam. He moved away from the Premier League towards the end of 2001 but he played in this decade and was unbeatable. If he hadn’t have upset Sir Alex in his autobiography I have no doubt that Stam would be regarded as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever players.

    On the right of midfield you can’t look past the phenomenon that is David Beckham. Until he moved to Spain in the summer of 2003 he was outstanding for United. His delivery from open play and set-pieces was the best I have ever seen.

    Contentious

    The left of midfield is a contentious position because most people would say that Ryan Giggs was a ‘shoe-in’. Whilst I admire the Welsh wing wizard and everything he has achieved I am going to overlook him for ex-Arsenal star Robert Pires. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea and he certainly knew how to take a tumble, but he was a magnificent player for the Gunners and because of the brilliance of others, most notably Thierry Henry, didn’t always get the credit he deserved.

    In the middle of midfield there are too many contenders to even think about. For that reason I am going to choose two men who I think made the biggest impact on the teams they played for. Patrick Vierra was the heartbeat of that great Arsenal side of the early ‘noughties’. He drove the team forward and did the work of two men as well as creating so many chances and chipping in with a few goals. In his time at Arsenal he was the complete midfielder and there is a strong argument to say he has never been replaced.

    Brilliance

    Alongside Vierra I am going to select Clause Makelele. His absolute brilliance in the defensive midfield role allowed Chelsea to have the success they did. It was no co-incidence that Real Madrid struggled for a while after he left. He was such a master of the role that it is now known by his name. That says it all.

    The two up front by no means pick themselves but are two magnificent players. People may ask how I could leave out Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s record goalscorer. The answer is that I am selecting Thierry Henry, simply the finest forward player to grace the Premier League and Ruud van Nistelrooy, simply the best finisher I have ever seen.

    So there we have it,

    Given
    Neville, Stam, Ferdinand, Cole
    Beckham, Vierra, Makelele, Pires
    Henry, van Nistelrooy

    What do you think?

    Sun 27 December, 2009
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    Merry Christmas

    Santa loves football

    Santa loves football

    On Christmas Day it is only right that some of the people in football who have three points and other matters to worry about should not be forgotten when it comes to handing out presents.

    Here is a short list of what I hope Santa will be delivering to some of the well known names in our great game.

  • To Sir Alex Ferguson
  • Blood pressure tablets and some anger management training. It can’t be good for a man of his age to get so apoplectic with rage at the fourth official in every game.

  • To Arsene Wenger
  • The ability to accept defeat without blaming the referee, the fixture list, the opposing manager’s tactics, the opposing team’s aggression, the weather, the time of day, the direction of the wind or whatever other flaming thing he comes up with when Arsenal drop points.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to hear Mr Wenger say, “I thought the other team played very well and deserved their victory.’ No, it’ll never happen.

  • To Rafa Benitez
  • Anything that would be some crumb of comfort. He really has had a miserable season and there are no signs of it getting any better. He has guaranteed a top four finish but that looks to be something of a tall order. He has started to sound like a broken record when it comes to the season starting with the next game.

    I can’t really think of a present for him, I just think he seems like a decent bloke and he deserves some small amount of happiness in his life. Maybe a victory would do the trick.

  • To Wayne Rooney
  • Health and fitness. If England are to have any chance whatever of doing well in the World Cup next Summer then Mr Rooney needs to be fit and well and firing on all cylinders. In fact, if Santa could wrap him up in cotton wool that would be a great present for all England fans.

  • To Rio Ferdinand
  • The fitness and opportunity to show that he is still one of the best defenders in the world at the World Cup.

    Those who have written Rio off have been far too quick to do so. This will be his last World Cup and it could still be his best.

  • To Steve Gerrard
  • The Premier League title. Now I understand that he is very unlikely to get it this season but maybe Santa could either bring him some quality team-mates or a transfer to a club that can win it.

  • To David Beckham
  • A place at the World Cup. He deserves it.

  • To FIFA
  • The ability to see the obvious. Technology must be used. Why can’t they see it?

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who visits this site and who reads the articles. Your comments are always appreciated whether they are in agreement or disagreement.

    I hope you all have a very merry Christmas.

    Fri 25 December, 2009
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    Can Martin O’Neill take Villa to the top?

    Top manager

    Top manager

    Aston Villa go into the Christmas games in fourth place knowing that games against Arsenal and Liverpool could see them announce themselves as genuine title contenders.

    Everyone at Villa Park is well aware that last February Villa found themselves in a similar position but faded away badly and eventually finished sixth.

    Martin O’Neill is desperate for his players to remain focussed and to not get carried away with their success,

    “The same thing might happen again. We are on a decent run but the Premier League is very unforgiving. You are going along nicely, you win a couple of games but then you pick up a couple of injuries, lose a game and want to know where the next win is coming from. I think it’s very much the case of same again. We are hanging in but we’re playing well, with plenty of confidence. We are managing to win games when we go behind and when we get in front too. But I heard Harry Redknapp speaking the other day about how fickle it all can be. He said you can win two consecutive games and you’re unbeatable and you lose a couple of games and you’re useless. I think the same applies to us.”

    O’Neill is quick to point out that last season was far from being a disaster. Villa eventually finished sixth but they had been five points clear of Arsenal in fifth as late on as February. In the end Villa won just two of their final thirteen league matches.

    “We lost to Chelsea, drew with Stoke and lost to Manchester City and we were rocked, knocked back and lost a bit of confidence. While we regained it eventually by finishing in the top six and getting into Europe, which I think is sometimes forgotten, we were unable to sustain the run.”

    This time around Villa have beaten the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United and have won their last four games against Hull, Manchester United, Sunderland and Stoke. They have been beaten in just three games all season and only Manchester City have lost fewer. It really does look as though they are mounting a serious challenge on the top four and possibly even the title.

    Quality

    All through the team Villa have quality and if they can stay free of injuries and suspensions they can break the Champions League dominance of the big four. In goal they have the excellent Brad Friedel. He took a while to settle after his move from Blackburn but now he looks to be right back to his best. At his best, there are few better in England.

    In the middle of the defence is Richard Dunne. Mark Hughes must be losing sleep at night about the fact that City let Dunne go and replaced him with Toure and Lescott for silly money. If Dunne had stayed at City Mark Hughes might still have a job. The silly defensive mistakes that have cost them would certainly have been reduced.

    Promise

    In midfield is James Milner. He was always a player of great promise but his record number of England under twenty-one caps and his lack of elevation to full squad until recently show that he has never quite fulfilled that promise. That is until now. Since moving into the middle of midfield he has looked like a class act. He is now an ‘almost certain’ for South Africa in the summer rather than a ‘possible’.

    Going forward they have Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor and the hugely underrated John Carew. Together they form a frightening strike-force. Young’s wonderful delivery, Agbonlahor’s pace and Carew’s awkwardness and strength make them a force to be reckoned with.

    Talented

    On top of all that they have Martin O’Neill, who whilst he can be an annoying little so-and-so, is quite clearly a hugely talented manager. He is a top man and it would be foolish to disregard what he could achieve with Villa.

    Thu 24 December, 2009
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    SFA agree Levein deal for Scotland job

    The Scottish Football Association (SFA) said Wednesday they had agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Craig Levein to become Scotland manager.

    But the contract has not yet been signed due to adverse weather conditions. However, if Dundee United boss Levein can travel down from his Fife home to Hampden Park, Scotland’s Glasgow home ground, the SFA plan to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

    Earlier, Dundee United said that, subject to confirmation of compensation from the SFA, Levein would be succeeding George Burley, sacked as Scotland manager after last month’s 3-0 friendly international defeat by Wales.

    Levein himself told United’s website he was on his way to the national job.

    “While it is a great honour to be asked to manage your country, it was a very difficult decision to leave Dundee United,” he said.

    “I have, and will continue to have, a great affection and respect for the club and its supporters, who have given me such strong support from the day I arrived.

    “I also leave behind a great bunch of players and a strong backroom staff and I know the club is in good hands.

    “I wish them and Dundee United well for the future.”

    Levein, 45, has been the favourite to succeed Burley since Rangers manager Walter Smith ruled himself out of a return to the Scotland job.

    But his move from Tannadice appeared to be foundering Tuesday on the issue of compensation, with United chairman Stephen Thompson saying the club had been treated “shabbily” by the SFA.

    However, Thompson confirmed Wednesday that United were seeking a new manager to replace Levein and that Peter Houston will act as caretaker boss, assisted by Gary Kirk, until a permanent replacement for Levein is appointed.

    “It is with great regret and disappointment that I confirm Craig Levein is leaving Dundee United,” Thompson said.

    “While we always knew he would move on to a bigger job and are flattered that the job he has done here has brought him to the attention of the national team, we’re neverthless very disappointed Craig is leaving us at this time. “However, he leaves with our gratitude and best wishes for the future.”

    Thompson added: “We now move on and look to our own future…we won’t be rushing into appointing someone else, we’ll take our time and look at all the options.”

    Burley was dismissed last month after a Wales defeat which followed Scotland’s failure to reach the play-offs for a place in next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

    Levein, a former Scotland international whose playing career was ended prematurely by injury, made his reputation as a manager with a successful 2000-04 spell in charge of Hearts.

    A brief, unhappy stint as manager of English Championship side Leicester followed and Levein returned to management in Scotland with Raith Rovers before taking over at Dundee United in October 2006.

    He guided the Tangerines to fifth place in the Scottish Premier League (SPL) last season and they are currently fourth in the table.

    The SFA has indicated that it wants to have the new manager in place before the draw for the Euro 2012 qualifiers is made on February 7.

    Scotland have not qualified for the final stages of a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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    Valencia star hints at Premier League move

    Valencia striker David Villa has revealed he would consider leaving the Spanish side at the end of the season.

    The Spain international has long been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League after impressing during his four-year spell with Valencia.

    “Quite simply, I rejected the possibility of moving abroad at that moment because there were issues that would not allow me to leave my country,” Villa  told The Times.

    “My wife was pregnant and it didn’t seem right to leave.

    “I like the Premier League a lot. It’s the league I follow the most along with La Liga  and I’ve got a lot of friends playing there.

    “There are a lot of globally important teams there that play very good football.”

    “Maybe quite a few years ago, Spanish players were reluctant to leave La Liga for another league,” he added.

    “But that’s all changed now. There are very important players, a showcase of Spanish footballers playing for Premier League clubs; and there are players in other leagues, lesser leagues, as well.

    “I think that the Spanish footballer has changed in this aspect in the last few years.”

    [Source: The Times]

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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    Zaragoza ready to sell Pennant

    Real Zaragoza are ready to sell former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant in the January transfer window.

    Pennant joined Zaragoza in the summer on a free transfer but is now being linked with a move to West Ham and Aston Villa.

    “We are disappointed with Pennant. This is based on the commitment of the players,” Zaragoza director Erard Poschner is quoted as saying in The Sun.

    “With spirit like this it is better to ‘sack’ some players and seek reinforcements in the winter market. We want players who guarantee their work and effort.”

    [Source: The Sun]

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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    Del Bosque signs new Spain deal

    (GSM) – Vicente Del Bosque has extended his contract with the Spanish Football Federation with two years. The 59-year-old national coach will be at the helm until the European Championships of 2012 in Ukraine and Poland.

    “The board have decided that we have to continue with Del Bosque for two more years whatever happens at the World Cup of next summer,” said Angel Maria Villar, chairman of the Spanish Football Federation. “We have qualified for the WC finals in South Africa. That fact on his own should be enough to extend Del Bosque’s contract.”

    Del Bosque has an excellent record with Spain. With the former Real Madrid boss in charge, La Furia Roja won 21 times in 22 matches. Del Bosque succeeded Luis Aragones following Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph.

    Spain are one of the favourites for next summer’s World Cup.

    “We’ve quilified brilliantly for the World Cup in South Africa,” said Villar. “We have a great national team and we are all hopeful that it can be a great World Cup.

    “But words are one thing, facts are another. We’re going there with hope.”

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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    Hammers interested in Ibrox favourite

    West Ham have Ibrox favourite Nacho Novo in their sights for the impending January transfer window, reports the Daily Mail.

    West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has made it known that his side must broaden their scoring options if they are to lift clear of the relegation zone.  Novo, who has netted 42 goals in his 157 outings for Rangers, would provide a much needed boost to second-from-bottom Hammers’ strike-force.

    With Novo’s contract expiring in the summer, and West Ham in possible takeover talks with former Birmingham owners David Sullivan and David Gold, cash-strapped Hammers would welcome a cut-rate deal in January.

    Rangers have yet to commence contract negotiations with Spanish striker Novo.

    [Source: Daily Mail]

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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    City hope Angel lands at Eastlands

    Argentina and Benfica midfielder Angel di Maria has fuelled speculation over a possible move to the Premier League, as early as the January transfer window.

    “I am very eager to play in a different league,” the 21-year-old told La Red.

    “I have been in Portugal for three years and going to a bigger club would be very beautiful for me and my career.”

    Di Maria believes a move to the Premier League would strengthen his prospects for the 2010 World Cup.

    Chelsea and Manchester United have expressed interest, but Manchester City are said to be leading the pursuit for the €40 million rated Argentine international.  Di Maria would fit Roberto Mancini’s plans to introduce a new attacking midfielder at Eastlands.

    Di Maria, who was on the score-sheet for Argentina in yesterday’s 4-2 friendly defeat by Catalonia at Camp Nou, hopes to feature in Diego Maradona’s World Cup plans but admits, “it is hard to get a place among the 23 given the quality of Argentina’s squad, but I feel I will be at the World Cup and I hope the coach thinks so too.”

    [Source: Sky Sports]

    Wed 23 December, 2009
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