FA Premier League Predictions

So the Premier League kick is getting closer and this season I will be providing weekly predictions for the 2017/18. The new season is certainly going to be an interesting one especially with the transfer window still open until the end of August. With players being bought and sold during the summer, it will be interesting to see how things move along the coming weeks.

It will be entertaining to see how my predictions turn out each week, but you can only predict what’s ahead. The Premier League season kicks off on Friday night at the Emirates where Arsenal entertain Leicester City, Watford host Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime, whilst newly promoted Brighton host Manchester City on the Saturday tea time. The Sunday fixtures see a visit to Newcastle United who host a  Tottenham side not only looking to go one step further this season by winning the league. The only down side is playing away from the Lane. The opening weekend is completed when West Ham travel to Manchester United. West Ham travel to Old Trafford with the likes of Joe Hart and former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez.

Week One

  1. Arsenal      3-1 Leicester City
  2. Watford     0-3 Liverpool
  3. Chelsea      2-1 Burnley
  4. C.Palace     1-1 Huddersfield Town
  5. Everton      2-2 Stoke City
  6. Soton          3-1 Swansea City
  7. WBA           1-1 AFC Bournemouth
  8. Brighton    0-4 Manchester City
  9. Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham
  10. Man Utd    2-2 West Ham United.

Im sure there will be differing opinions and thoughts on the opening weekend but be free to share your predictions. Come Tuesday will I be wishing I had put money on or be looking like the least likeliest person to do your lottery numbers.

 

Football Fixtures release review

It doesn’t seem so long ago that the domestic football season came to an end, but here we are yet again with the release of the Premier League fixtures. No doubt some will be happy with the opening few games whilst others will be looking towards the run ins their respective clubs will have to get through to either stay in the league, qualify for Champions League/Europa League and the grand prize of the Premier League title.

The opening set of fixtures sees Premier League Champions Chelsea kick off their defence with a home game against Burnley. It’s a repeat of last seasons opener and the blues will be hoping to have a repeat the same which saw a 3-0 win. The Blues find themselves though with a mix of the top six thrown in. Following Burnley it’s a trip to Wembley in the London derby at Spurs. By the end of September, they would have hosted four of last seasons top seven. Chelsea have a relatively good Christmas period as they have back to back home games where they face Brighton & Stoke City with the return trip to Everton just before Christmas. If Chelsea are in the hunt for the title come April, it will be a good run seeing how tricky March is. Trips to the Etihad and Turf Moor are mixed in with games at home against Palace and Tottenham. April brings West Ham and Huddersfield to the Bridge alongside trips to Southampton and Swansea. The final two games see a visit from Liverpool and a trip to Newcastle Utd.  Liverpool have started are currently unbeaten in the league against Chelsea since 2014. Results between Conte’s men and Newcastle have been even with a mix of wins and losses although United fans will be keen to forget their last visit to the Bridge.

Staying with Newcastle Utd, their return to Premier League football sees them host runners up Tottenham. It will be interesting to see how Spurs line up in the coming season, will players join or even leave, one thing is for sure is that the Magpies wont be fussed and will be looking to open their return with three points and Premier League security under the managerial guidance of Rafa Bentez. they follow that up with a trip to fellow promoted club Huddersfield Town. The Magpies will be looking to repeat the victory that they managed in the Championship last season. Newcastle Utd see a mixed bag affair for the Christmas fixtures. Pre Christmas Eve fixture sees a trip to West Ham, where the visitors will be hoping that they grab three points at the London stadium. Boxing Day and the final fixture of the year sees two home games in the shape of Manchester City and last seasons Championship runners up Brighton. A couple of juicy fixtures no doubt as many enjoy the festive period. Their  New Years Day fixture sees a trip to Stoke, possibly not the best journey for anyone with sore heads.

New boys Brighton kick off their top flight return with the hosting of Manchester City, not the easiest start for the club but as the old addage goes, everyone has to play each other at some point in the season. It’s a double dose on the road as they travel to Leicester City and Watford. These are certainly winnable games in the league. Christmas and New Year looks challenging as the Seagulls have the return  fixtures against Watford pre Christmas Eve, a trip to defending Champions Chelsea and a return against Newcastle Utd.

Their run in mind you is a bit trickier, they host Tottenham and Man Utd, before going to Anfield on the final game of the season. Certainly not the best run in if looking for Premier League survival.

Manchester City have a mixed start in terms of opponents. Having faced Brighton on the opening day, they find themselves facing Everton and Liverpool at home with Bournemouth sandwiched inbetween. Finishing wise Man City have a reasonable run in. Only Tottenham from the top five are in City’s possible title push. Finishing with newly promoted Huddersfield, who could be battling relegation or even securing mid table safety.

Liverpool kick off their campaign with a trip to Watford. Bogey team Crystal Palace are at Anfield next in back to back home games which sees Arsenal heading up next. It’s first of two games running which see top team clashes. Last season Liverpool came out top and unbeaten against Utd Chelsea Arsenal Spurs and City. This season they will look to repeat it once again. Pre Christmas sees a trip to Arsenal following home games against Swansea and Leicester City. Liverpool, hoping to be challengers once again for the title will see visits to Chelsea with home games against Stoke and a final game at home to Brighton. It will be interesting to see if  any summer signings make a huge impact during the season.

Manchester United will be hoping to go better than last season, where draws proved the end to United’s title and top four challenge. This season West Ham, Swansea, Leicester and Stoke are the opening opponents for the Europa League champions. Christmas looks certain to bring festive cheer, although a new look Everton might be a bit more tricky for United, who could be seeing the return of Ronaldo, if reports are to be believed. Whilst May might be easy, April could be tricky. Man City and Arsenal stand in the way together with Bournemouth and West Brom.

Tottenham will find themselves having to deal with a different stadium for their home games. With the renovation of White Hart Lane,  last seasons runners up will be hosting their games at Wembley.  Champions League is one thing, but 19 games might have an effect on their title aspirations. Chelsea, Burnley and Swansea are the first three visitors to Spurs temporary home. It’s natural to think that Spurs might struggle, but there is no guarantee that their opposition will necessarily have any advantage. Christmas for Spurs is Burnley, Southampton and West Ham. It will be interesting to see what presents they get.  Tottenham’s run in sees Watford, West Brom and Leicester in the run in.

Finally its Arsenal, who this season will be having Thursday night football. Having played Leicester and Stoke, it’s the tricky visit to Liverpool followed by a visit from Bournemouth and a trip to defending champions Chelsea. West Brom and Brighton are next. Christmas sees more return trips for the Gunners who will be hoping to have a happy Christmas. Arsenal’s run in, which could see them either challenging for the title or a top four place looks fairly easy as Man Utd look the strongest of the opponents Huddersfield and Stoke.

It is looking very interesting in the coming season, especially with the chase for Champions League football. There will be no worries about top four spots as they will all be automatically qualifying for the group stages.

Two into one – Chase for the Champions League

With both Arsenal and Manchester City both winning their games in hand, the chase for the final two Champions League spots looks like going from three into two to two into one. As it currently stands, Manchester City have all but  sealed their Champions League in third with on 78 points and a goal difference of plus 36, fourth place sees Liverpool on 73 and plus 33 together with Arsenal on 72 points and plus 31 goal difference.

After a roller coaster season for the three sides, City look odds on to finish third. Only Liverpool can overtake the Manchester club should City lose to away to Watford. Say a 1-0 defeat for Man City and a Liverpool win of 3-0 and its City drop down into fourth. It wouldn’t matter on the Arsenal result unless the Gunners give the home fans some joy and spank the toffees 4-0, which would then Arsenal would go into the Champions League and Man City finish fifth. How interesting would that be to see.

Realistically Manchester City should finish the game Sunday knowing that they can put their feet up with regards to Champions League football. The only thing they need to worry about is if they say for example 4-4 and Liverpool win 4-1. In these set of circumstances you would see a playoff match at a neutral ground.  The likelihood of that though is very slim. I imagine though should that happen, come Sunday evening there would be a large number of nervous Liverpool and City fans.

For Liverpool, it is Champions League playoff if they win. Should they draw or lose to Middlesbrough, not only will it be typical of the season, but all eyes will be on the Emirates hoping that their neighbours Everton can do them a favour. Should Liverpool lose and Arsenal draw, then that is when it becomes interesting. Should Liverpool lose 2-1 and Arsenal win 2-1 then both teams would have a record of 76-44 and plus 32. Under the Premier League rules, this would require a play off to distinguish who would finish in 4th and 5th place. Im sure neither team would want to go through a play off given their post season activities. As a Liverpool fan like others, I doubt there will be much hunger for 90 minutes at a neutral ground. I guess the same for Arsenal fans.

Not since 1989 when Arsenal won at Anfield to take the title, have either Liverpool or Arsenal gone to the wire in deciding league placings. Personally I dont want to relive that moment any time soon.

February -Premier League review

When I left for Australia, the Premier League looked quite reasonable, Chelsea were strolling, the chasing pack were still chasing and the teams at the bottom were still battling although some more than others. During the time away however, it seemed to all go a bit mad.

Chelsea’s charge to the title continued with seven from nine, only a draw at Burnley denied the league leaders a 100% February record, that also included a 3-1 home in against Arsenal. Come the end of the month they were able to maintain a lead at the top of 11 points. It was Burnley’s first dropped points in four games and first goal conceded at home in the same four games as they look to cement their Premier League status.

Manchester City, having put that wobble against Everton in January firmly behind them, were back on the chase in February with three wins from three. The blue half of Manchester will know having over come a similar points difference to steal the title in 2011-12 with six games to go, they can take some comfort that they have a few more to try and pull off another storming late run to victory. They will need a confident looking Chelsea to have a bit of a melt down, but as we all know watching football anything can happen.

Having dropped four points in January, February looked like being much kinder with their three games, although their title aspirations were dented a little further with a 2-0 defeat at Anfield, that said Stoke were made to pay as they were thrashed 4-0. The only thing that can derail their top four place are injuries and the FA Cup run albeit with two games that can affect them given that the FA Cup final is back in its right place as the end of season fixture. Given the FA Cup and international fixtures, the coming month will not make it easier for Tottenham.

Given the spending at Old Trafford, you would think they could be doing a tad better than what they are. This season, whilst on a long unbeaten run, they have failed to kill off games when needed or nabbed a draw to rescue a point. February looked to be a 3 from three, but Hull denied them at the start by holding them to a scoreless draw. They could though get back on the winning run with victories over Leicester and Watford. With games to rearrange and two cup runs, it will be interesting to see if this unbeaten run continues, or whether the wind in the sails changes direction as they chase a top four spot.

Liverpool, oh Liverpool. Having sped a long nicely, 2017 seems to have thrown a curveball. Out of both domestic cups, the league was the main focus although that seemed to be a mare for them. A home game against Spurs finally snapped the winless run. The joy was shortlived, managerless Leicester City seemingly annoyed some of their own fans as they scored a 3-1 win against Liverpool. Liverpool’s top four chase is going to be tricky especially if they drop points, even more with some of the clubs around with games in hand, but of course a game in hand is only worth the final result and if the club doesnt win, that all counts for nothing.

 For Arsenal, well I think they have had enough over the last few weeks but never rule anything out with the Gunners even if they have had a bit of a mare.

Of course it’s not all about the top, there is the crucial battle for survival and in February that realisation of relegation can become all too real.

Crystal Palace fans thought seeing the back of Pardew might bring a better future, then of course that future was with Sam Allardyce. February hasnt been kind to the Eagles. A 4-0 pasting at home to fellow strugglers Sunderland was followed up by a narrow defeat at Stoke. The final game of the month saw them net a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough. Things can only get better said a certain music group just over 20 years ago…

Sunderland’s hopes for the great escape seem all but dead, having take two points in January with draws against Liverpool and Spurs, February had promise. Well it did on February 4th but that’s where it ended. Having stuffed Crystal Palace 4-0 in London, Southampton did exactly to them as they had given out. A trip to Everton was never going to end well as the home side extended their winning run with a 2-0 victory. They have a testing March, which if they can get a run together they might just have a chance on the final game of the season to survive.

In 1977 -Reds joy & Lillywhite gloom

So 1977 saw the reds of Liverpool and Manchester claim the League and  FA Cup and Liverpool successful in the European Cup. Liverpool had in fact retained the League title. Liverpool had  battled in a three way title challenge with Ipswich Town and Manchester City, who would finish second. It was also Liverpool’s tenth league title and a new record.

The FA Cup that saw the final between Liverpool and Manchester United, had seen United along the way avenge their Wembley defeat against Southampton the season before. Liverpool in the Semi Final faced their Merseyside neighbours Everton. A 2-2 draw at Maine Road meant a replay at Goodi. It was definitely a case of the blues for the hosts as Liverpool stormed to a 3-0 win.

It was double misery for Tottenham as not only they ended up finishing bottom and relegated, they also went out in the third round to second division Cardiff City.

The 1976-77 had seen the introduction of yellow and red cards and a change from goal average to goal difference. The change to goal difference was designed to encourage more goals scoring.

International football saw a disappointing run of summer games for England compounded by Don Revie’s controversial resignation as he went off to manage in the Emirates. It was also the yeat that saw the famous scenes at Wembley where Scottish fans invaded the pitch and break the goal posts.

 1977 saw the beginning of the rise of Wimbledon, who were elected into the fourth division. Having seen a successful run in non league football, they were rewarded with League football participation and for the Dons, life in the league was about to get interesting and in ten years time it would become even more special.

It was soon time for a new season and newly promoted Nottingham Forest were making themselves known as they topped the table at the end of the first month. Other promoted sides, Birmingham City and West Ham both started winless.

Newcastle were in all sorts of trouble, bottom of the table, they found themselves sacking their manager Richard Dinnis who had also criticised the club chairman.

International misery for England once more as they failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup, making it an absence of eight years for the 1966 winners.

Finally it was big transfers as Kenny Dalglish became the most expensive player signed from a British club when he moves from Celtic to Liverpool. The price was 440,000. Pricey for the Scotsman, not sure whether it would work out though for the defending champions…..

Well that’s all for now on the opening Flashback 40 series. Be sure to check out more.

Premier League review – Moaning and Mane

The Premier League was back this weekend just gone and it seems that some things just never change. Mourinho was moaning about incorrect decisions and missed cards after his first Manchester derby ended in a 2-1 home defeat. A handball decision and a challenge by Bravo on Rooney. Whilst Bravo touched the ball, some will look at his initial feet being both off the ground when he went charging. On the other hand some could say if United had started better and not allowed City the space, the result again could have been different. It was probably not something United fans might have expected under Mourinho that being tactically out done by the opposition at Old Trafford, but there we were.

Tottenham maintained their unbeaten start to the Premier League with a 4-0 pasting against Stoke City. The North London club seem to enjoy their trips to Stoke and made easy work of Mark Hughes team. They have only conceded two goals which is one of the tightest defences in the Premier League.

Arsenal left it late to grab a win against Southampton. WInless Saints had gone ahead after an unfortunate own goal from Cech, but with Koscielny equalising the Saints looked to take a third point of the season. Southampton hearts were broken deep into injury time with a Santi Corzola penalty winner.

Watford came back from 2-0 to win 4-2 and open their win account. Having gone 2-0 down after 33 minutes, it seemed that Watford might be in for a beating but two goals in four minutes brought the visitors level. Second half seemed no better for the home side as a Watford side now with a buzz, grabbed two in ten to secure the three points and hand another defeat for the struggling Hammers.

Another team knocking four in the back of the net were Liverpool. The Reds were finally getting to play at Anfield for the first time since last season. With the main stand now expanded, Anfield was now at a capacity of 54,000. Anfield was a sellout as Liverpool hosted the defending Champions Leicester. It was a strong attacking performance from the home side although the defence still had a few iffy moments, such as Lucas giving the ball away for Leicester to pull on back. That as as good as it got for the visitors as Mane and Firmino did the damage.

Bournemouth and Palace secured wins in their matches to win their first league games of the season.

Mignolet at the last chance saloon?

Last season was a season that the Belgian international Simon Mignolet would like to forget, the error prone keeper cost Liverpool 15 points that would have seen them in the top four and even second spot. The problem for Liverpool was that there was no real competition for Mignolet although when Ward came back from loan, he showed that he could do well to put pressure on the Belgian. The indifferent form didnt stop manager Jurgen Klopp from offering him a new five year deal. This brought some mixed reaction from the fans, mostly concerned reaction as it seemed strange to reward a keeper who more than likely cost them a top four finish and a place in the Champions League.

The decision to offer the Belgian a new deal would either be one questionable decision by Klopp, or some long term thinking in seeing im have value in a possible future transfer. It could very well be the latter as German youngster Lorius Karius was signed towards the end of May. He gave a relatively decent performance during pre season as Mignolet was given extra time off from playing in Euro 2016. Karius had been convinced by Klopp not to go to the Olympics, which signalled that the former Mainz keeper would start the season between the sticks. Whilst the Reds only faced the likes of Fleetwood Town, Wigan and Huddersfield, he had kept clean sheets until the Chelsea game. The game against the Blues would be his last for a while as he would break his hand.

Mignolet will be hoping his appearance in the opening games of the season will be error free and preferably clean sheets.  Visits to Arsenal, Burnley, Tottenham and Chelsea in amongst an opening run of fixtures that also sees a home time against defending champions Leicester. The pressure and focus is on Mignolet and any unforced errors will certain be tallied up by Reds fans up and down the country. With no European football for the club, there are plenty advantages for Liverpool and Mignolet will hope to be helping to spearhead that venture.

If come Christmas and the New Year we see Mignolet’s errors are mounting once more then the bell surely has to toll. Should the second half of the season be a nightmare of proportions for the keeper I can only imagine that Klopp will be opting to cash in on the Belgian international.