Once again, backing the outsider. D Jones is no longer the Sheffield Wednesday coach and at home to Leicester earlier this week S Gray managed Wednesday. They won 2-1 against the high flyers Leicester. Last time I backed them, the only time, they defeated Reading 5-2 and Wednesday should be able to do better than their position in the table indicates. No G Cokes, midfielder, for this game, but both M Antonio and Reda Johnson will be back in contention. Defender L Buxton will be assessed. Nottingham, aspiring for glory this season, have only won three of their last ten league games and that is not good enough. They will have their previously suspended defender Lascelles back tomorrow, but both D Henderson and D Vaughan risk missing this game. Sheffield Wednesday to win.
Two big prices in the Championship starting with the Millwall home win. They are undefeated in their last seven home games, all competitions included, and one has to say that 3.03 is quite some price against this managerless and formless Wigan side. G Moussi, the Millwall midfielder, will be back for this game, M Waghorn was back in midweek and their only absentee at the moment is N Bailey. O Coyle left his job as a Wigan manager at the start of this week and yesterday his assistant also left his duties. They have a decent squad, but it is just not working for Wigan at the moment. Their midweek loss against Leeds was their fourth on the trot. Millwall to win.
A typical T Pulis win, a typical Palace win against West Ham earlier this week. I predicted a 1-0 win for the home side and I am prepared to to do it again. In the lead against the Hammers Palace had some outstanding scoring chances at the start of the second half, but the C P supporters have to live with their lack of fire power. Y Bolasie will once again be suspended for the home side. Cardiff have not found the net in any of their last three away games, but their defensive line looked rock steady away to Stoke the other day (0-0). 1-0 win for the home side.
I do not think that the West Ham coach Allardyce will allow L Suarez to dominate in this match the way he did against Norwich. Suarez scored four goals against Norwich, but Norwich always were his favourite opponents. Anyway it was one way traffic for Liverpool and their players should be fairly fresh ahead of this game. D Sturridge is not yet fit, but Lucas could be back for this match. West Ham have scored four goals in their seven away games but then you should remember that they scored three of those against Tottenham. Allardyce had come up with something special in that match and God knows, he has to do it again, or they will be outclassed tomorrow. No Ravel Morrison for West Ham. Home win of course, but indifferent odds.
The United ace Wayne Rooney will be suspended for this game. Van Persie was close to making his come back in midweek, but what I heard he is not likely to return for this game either. Phil Jones will be back from his suspension. United lost 0-1 to Everton, but it was a game that could have gone either way. United hit the wood work twice, for instance. You know what I am constantly saying about Newcastle. With their many strong individuals they can hurt any side, but they were emphatically beaten by Swansea the other day. Backing United, without Rooney and Van Persie, as 1.50 favourites? Over my dead body.
Basically dominating from start to finish against Aston Villa, Southampton ended up on the losing side. Their third loss on the bounce and they have conceded eight goals in these losses. Both Wanyama and N Clyne suffered injuries against Villa and they have joined a growing injury list, including players like Boruc and Schneiderlin. G Ramirez will return from a lay off period. Kompany was back for Man City away to WBA. City were cruising in a 3-0 lead, but conceded two unnecessary goals late on in the game. That is City away from home for me, they can switch off. This is it for Southampton. They most not lose again, they must stop the rot and I expect a very disciplined, defensive game from Pochettino’s side in this game. X2 game.
I have basically nothing to say about this Stoke side. Arnautovic was back against Cardiff (0-0), but R Huth remains sidelined. Stoke just look boring and winning football games has become extremely difficult for Hughes’ team. Just one win in their last ten league games. Eden Hazard played a terrific game for Chelsea against Sunderland (4-3 win) and rarely has one single player been so decisive in a game. The Sunderland boss Poyet said after the match, “Hazard’s performance was the best I have seen this season”. Both Eto’o and Oscar are back in contention. Stoke are probably still worth some respect at the Britannia Stadium, with 2-4-1 this far, but I expect Chelsea to win this fixture.
Tough for Sunderland going down 3-4 against Chelsea. They just could not stop Eden Hazard, who single handedly made the difference in the match. Sunderland, last in the Premiership, played once again a strong match and I can see them causing numerous problems for Tottenham in this game. Once again two unbelievable shots from outside the box saved Tottenham against Fulham. Well, their keeper Lloris was probably man of the match. It looks like their defender Verthongen will miss this match and Dembele continues to be an injury doubt. Backing the home win.
After two losses, 1-2 and 2-3, time for a WBA win again. The important Mulumbu will be back for WBA and maybe Sessegnon will start again. He was rested at home to Man City. Both Anichebe and Vydra looked strong coming on as second half substitutes. Jonas Olsson, their always fighting central defender, will be suspended for this fixture. It is now 28 goals conceded for Norwich so far, that is two goals per game and defensively they are the worst side in the Premiership. They are missing quite a few influential players. Very likely home win.
The Livorno coach is questioned after their recent dip in form. What did they expect? They were always favourites to get relegated, but I guess it went too well for the newcomers to start with, leading to their fans losing their perspective. Captain Luci will be back in their midfield for this fixture, but they lose Piccini to an injury. Livorno will probably start with a 3-5-1-1 formation, Greco backing up Paulinho. Zapata will return to the Milan defence, but Silvestre, defender, is ruled out of this match. It looks like Mexes, De Sciglio, Abbiati and El Shaarawy will all be available tomorrow. Milan scored six goals last week, away to Celtic and Catania, and at least this writer was both surprised and impressed. Livorno are on the same level as Catania and consequently Milan ought to win this game. Likely away win.
You could sense at half time that Napoli would overcome Lazio at the Olympic Stadium. I cannot pin point what is was, they just looked more like a classy side. Their defender Britos will be suspended for this match and it is quite possible that Reveillere will play from the start in the home defence this time. Hamsik will be rested for the Arsenal encounter and furthermore, I expect coach Benitez to rest quite a few of his regulars looking ahead at the Arsenal encounter. On another day Di Natale would have scored against Juventus and it was a bit harsh for Udinese losing the match. Juventus were the better side, no doubt about that, but Udinese played a strong defensive game according to the book. I would not trust Napoli to win this league fixture.
It was easy for Arsenal against Hull and several regulars were rested. It was not easy for Everton, how could it be? Against United they of course started with their strongest side. Big advantage for Arsenal on Sunday. I expect Giroud, Wilshere and the rest to return to the Arsenal starting line up. Martinez’ Everton went for the win against Man United and this was plain to see in the second half. No way that Moyes’ Everton would have taken the same risks late on in the game. Everton are a force to be reckoned with this season, but I think they will be suffering their second league loss on Sunday. Likely home win, but I cannot really say that the odds, 1.71 are worth backing.
My choice will be the home win. It was an inspired Fulham display against Tottenham. Their new coach had changed his team in several positions, but Hangeland was not fit to play. Berbatov played from the start, the Swedish international Kacaniclic as well and Fulham impressed as an offensive side, but alas, in some in explicable way, they ended up on the losing side. Yes, it is about being effective in front of the enemy goal, like Villa against Southampton. They had three-four scoring opportunites and managed to score three goals. Amazing effiency, or just pure luck, you decide. The Villa capatain R Vlaar will miss this game and I should think we will see Benteke from the start again. Joe Bennett could be back. Latest news indicate that B Hangeland will at last line up for Fulham. Very likely home win.
Pinilla will be back in the home attack replacing the injured Ibarbo. A Ekdal is a likely starter in their midfield. Matuzalem will be suspended for Genoa and one of Lodi or Bertolacci will replace him in the midfield. Manfredini will return to their defensive line again. Upfront Gilardino and Kucka could be joined by Fetfatzidis or Santana this time. Cagliari have only won three league games this season and they are hardly backable as below evens favourites against any Serie A side. They won more games playing at Trieste last season. 1X game.
Three goals in an away game and still losing the match, it was the Verona destiny against Fiorentina. They lost the Verona derby the week before and it is absolutely to correct to say that Verona are in need of a win again. They are 6-0-1 at home and they are worth backing in this game. They have to manage without the suspended Cacciatore and Jankovic. Del Grosso and Moralez are in danger of missing out for Atalanta and definitely missing will be the suspended Cigarini. Migliaccio is favourite to replace Cigarini. Likely home win.
Inter, much like Roma, have problems winning their matches. Draws vs Bologna and Sampdoria, that is four missed points for Mazzarri’s team. What can I say? Sampdoria got what they deserved against Inter, while Bologna rode their luck on a couple of occasions. Guarin behind Palacio again, I guess but I would love to see a second Inter striker. Nagatomo missed last week’s match and he is a serious injury doubt again. Cassano did his duty against Bologna, scoring their goal, but his Parma could not break down a 10 man Bologna side. Sansone and Biabiany will most likely join Cassano in their front line with Amauri on the bench. Home win I guess, but I would not bet on it.
The Roma goal production has dried up and consequently they end up drawing their matches. Still unbeaten though after fourteen rounds of league football. Totti and Balzaretti are still unavailable, but Borriello and Torosidis will be back in contention. Pjanic will play from the start again in their midfield. They say F Totti is close, but should be available, he will start on the bench. Aquilani will be back in the Fiorentina midfield, back from his suspension. Pizarro and Pasqual are injury doubts. Fiorentina do not have the best defence in the league and not the best keeper either, or what should I say about their many goals conceded this far. In fact eighteen goals, while Roma have conceded only four. I am not logical here, as I prefer the away win alternative.
Not quite happy with the odds, my choice has to be the home win. Mihajlovic has started quite well drawing with Lazio and Inter and here comes his first three pointer. Sampdoria were 0-1 down away to Inter, but their equaliser in the second half was quite logical with the team pushing hard for a goal. Krsticic will be back in the home midfield and Gastaldello will line up in their defence again. The bottom side will miss both their suspended players Barrientos and Tachtisidis and Bergessio plus Bellusci remain on the sidelines. It does not look good for Izco and Almiron either. Home winner.
An opportunity lost, statement from the Sassuolo coach after their 2-2 draw at Cagliari. His side was 2-0 up quite early in the game. Antei and Floro Flores will return from their suspensions this weekend. Chievo are looking good and their defensive line is rock steady at the moment. They will use a 4-3-3 formation again with Thereau in the middle flanked by Estigarribia and Sestu. Paloschi and Pelissier will also compete for starting roles upfront. I just have to back the away win.
What a scoring chance Cerci missed for Torino in the last minute of the game at Genoa (1-1). Torino are playing to their full potential at the moment, or at least close to it, and Lazio are facing quite a task on Sunday. All, and I mean all, but the Lazio coach, are critisising the Lazio central defenders at the moment. I am talking about Cana and Ciani, doing most things wrong against Napoli. Offensively Lazio can be relied upon, although it was a disappointment that Keita did not start against Napoli. Biava and Klose are fit at last and Biava will join Cana in the Lazio central defence sending Ciani to the bench and Klose will play upfront. No Gonzalez, Radu is a doubt, but on the whole, a better looking Lazio side on Sunday. X2 game.
Without their three injured strikers W Bony, Michu and Vazquez Swansea scored three goals against Newcastle. They had to use Pozuelo in a frontal position and another midfielder J Shelvey scored two of their goals. Football is rarely logical and who would have thought that Swansea would be so effective without all their natural front men. Hull had not much to offer against Arsenal, but I guess their task looked almost hopeless after the early Bendtner goal. I can see Hull keeping a clean sheet in this game for quite some time, maybe for the full 90 minutes. Swansea will pass the ball around, Hull will park the bus and Swansea have no one with the killer instinct in the Hull penalty area. Laudrup, the Swansea boss, is hoping that at least one of his strikers will be available on Monday. I have serious doubts. OK, the 0-0 draw.
In Spain it is a two horse race for the title between Real Madrid and Barcelona, same thing in Germany with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund the only title contenders. In Italy Juventus remain in a class of their own and I would absolutely say that about PSG in France as well.
There is no doubt in my mind that the most competitive league in Europe is the Premier League and this season it is tougher than ever with three teams, Chelsea, Man United and Man City, absolute title contenders and they are all priced around 3.50 as league winners. I will not entirely rule out Arsenal of the discussion and the advantage with Arsenal is the odds, they are 12.00 to win the title. My winners, however, are Manchester City.
When they won the title two years ago their weakest link, in my opinion, was their coach Mancini. He is gone now and Pellegrini is a better coach and City have also strengthened their offensive artillery in an impressive way. Negredo, J Navas, Jovetic and Fernandinho are awesome signings. OK, Mancini had Balotelli at his disposal when they won the title, but at that time Balotelli was no way near his present status as a player.
Chelsea are a bit over rated, but that is down to the Mourinho factor. Benitez did a great job with Chelsea last season and Mourinho cannot be expected to do a better job than the Spaniard, at least not the way I see it. I admit, should Lukaku, on loan at WBA last season, live up 100% to expectations then Chelsea can go all the way, because the sky is the limit for a player like Lukaku. He has Drogba potential and A Schurrle is also a strong new Chelsea player. I get the feeling that Wayne Rooney wants to play for Mourinho and should he leave United for Chelsea, then I do not have to tell you that the Chelsea chances of winning the title will improve quite drastically.
United do not have a weaker squad than last season and they won the title in some style, did they not? There is the obvious change of course. Alex Ferguson is no longer around and I cannot really see Moyles enjoying instant success with his new side Man United. I expect one or two late signings for United. Fellaini could be one of them.
The fact is that the “soft” Arsenal toughened up considerably during the last third of the 2012-2013 season and I will not rule out Arsenal of the title discussion. The problem for this writer, being an Arsenal fan, is that I almost always expect them losing against the top three sides. They have yet to sign a top player and this will not do. Luis Suarez joining Arsenal? I doubt that the transfer will happen, but I do think that Wenger is the man who could make the egoistic Suarez a team player.
With or without Bale 41.00 is a massive price on the Tottenham league win, while I do not even consider 34.00 on Liverpool as title winners. I expect Bale to leave, but looking at the bright side, Spurs can buy four top class players for the Bale money. Well they have already bought the Spanish international striker R Soldado, Paulinho and Chadli as well.
It looks like Everton will be able to hang on to their prime assets, Fellaini and L Baines. New coach Martinez has brought Kone and Alcaraz with him from Wigan and Everton should enjoy a positive season. As good as last season? Maybe not, but absolutely a top ten position.
Too many new players, too many injuries or lack of managerial skills made Newcastle underachieve last season. They should be able to do better this time around, or coach Pardew will have to bear the blame.
Aston Villa have been able to hold on to their great striker Benteke and this young, talented side can only get better. I look forward to a successful Villa season.
I have had my doubts about Swansea this season, but I need not worry. It looks like coach Laudrup has hit the jackpot with his some of his new signings, like W Bony, J Shelvey and J Amat. At least they have already impressed hugely in a Europa League game.
Quite often in modern times the newcomers enjoy a fruitful first season in the Premiership, but this time it looks extremely grim for Crystal Palace and Hull, at least if you want to believe the many pundits and experts. In fact both are priced as low as 1.50-1.60 to be relegated and that is rare. I have to say that it looks hopeless for Palace ( no big signings and Zaha, their former star, is nowadays a United player and their top scorer G Murray remains on their injury list) but Bruce’s Hull have at least done their best to strengthen their squad. Sagbo from Evian I like, Danny Graham joins from Sunderland, Figueroa has signed up and so on, but I admit, Hull also have the look of a Championship side. Cardiff? They have done two big deals, at least from the Cardiff perspective, as both S Caulker and A Cornelius have joined the club.
WBA have to manage without both Lukaku and Zoltan Gera this season and they have only signed the much travelled N Anelka and the veteran defender Lugano. I have my doubts and 10.00 on the WBA relegation could be tested.
No Grant Holt for Norwich, but in all fairness, he had a disappointing season last year. Instead Norwich have bought a couple of quite strong strikers, G Hooper and van Wolfswinkel, along with L Fer. They look like winners on the transfer market.
Giaccherini and Altidore strike me as excellent new Sunderland signings and I am not too worried about Di Canio’s side this season. They should be OK, West Ham, Stoke and Southampton as well, although they have been rather inactive on the transfer scene.
I would not trust Fulham. They were no miles from getting sucked into the relegation dog fight last season and they looked surprisingly disinterested from time to time in their matches. It is one thing for Berbatov to play like that. So maybe Fulham and WBA could face some problems this season, or they will be saved by the poor standard of the newcomers.