With less than a month to go in the 2012/2013 Premier League season, I preview this Saturdays games and predict what I think their outcomes will be as the battles to finish in the top 4 and stay in the league for next season continue.
A 1-0 away defeat to Sunderland last weekend means Everton’s chances of finishing any higher than their current 6th place standing in the Premier League table look slim to none at best. The Toffees sit 5 points behind Tottenham Hotspur and 6 points behind Chelsea respectively and both of those sides also have a game in hand. While a slip up from either of those sides might let Everton back in, I think the best that their fans can probably hope for is to finish above neighbours Liverpool by as many points as possible. Next weekend they travel to Anfield with a great chance of making it happen.
This weekend however, they host Fulham, who dropped out of the top half of the table last week after a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal coupled with West Ham United’s 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Upton Park. With relegation still mathematically a possibility but yet very unlikely, The Cottagers will be looking to try and end the season in the top 10 and what better way to do that than picking up a big result at Goodison Park tomorrow afternoon.
While I am sure the travelling fans will be confident of getting something from the game, Everton have won their last 3 games at Goodison Park and have only lost one league game there this season. When the two sides met earlier in the season it finished 2-2, I can’t see it being a thrilling game filled with loads of goals, but I do see Everton just edging this one and with that, transferring the pressure onto Liverpool to try and get a result against Newcastle United in their game later in the day.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Fulham
With the title now back with Manchester United, City will surely be looking to end their league campaign on a high by winning their remaining games to set them up nicely for the FA Cup Final next month and securing 2nd place in the table so not to risk giving away a guaranteed group stage spot in the Champions League next season.
They welcome West Ham United to The Etihad in the early kick-off tomorrow afternoon. The Hammers win over Wigan last weekend pretty much guarantees their Premier League survival and allows manager Sam Allardyce to start building for next season as soon as his contract is renewed.
I’m afraid I can’t see it being a pleasant day for anybody wearing claret and blue tomorrow. While West Ham held last year’s champions to a 0-0 draw back in November at Upton Park. City’s only loss at home this season came in the Manchester Derby back in December. They suffered a big loss away at Tottenham last Sunday but I am certain that they will be able to rectify it with a fairly comfortable victory tomorrow.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 West Ham United
While other sides such as West Ham and Southampton look to be out of relegation danger, the same can’t be said for Newcastle. Given how well West Bromwich Albion have done at home this season, on any other day a 1-1 draw for the travelling Magpies would of been a good result, but as it stands after that result last week, they currently sit 16th in the table, 6 points clear of 18th placed Wigan with a slightly better goal difference, but The Latics do have a game in hand on all the teams directly above them.
Tomorrow in the late afternoon kick-off, Liverpool travel to St James’ Park looking to close the gap on rivals Everton after a week filled with controversy for The Reds following Luis Suarez’s bite on Branislav Ivanovic in last Sundays 2-2 home draw with Chelsea. The Uruguayan striker will miss out on the trip as he begins a 10 game suspension following his shocking actions from last weekend and it could prove costly in their bid to catch The Toffees.
The home side will surely be determined to make up for their embarrassing 3-0 home defeat to rivals Sunderland from a couple of weeks ago by putting on a better display and avoiding defeat. The absence of Liverpool’s top scorer this season will also surely be a huge boost to the Toon Army’s defence. In the only other league game Liverpool played without Suarez this season, they beat West Ham 3-2 at Upton Park back in December and showed that they can get by without the 26 year old if needed. When these sides met at Anfield last November it finished 1-1 in an entertaining game. If that game is anything to go by, anybody watching tomorrow should be in for a good show.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-2 Liverpool
A six game unbeaten run has helped Southampton go from 3 points above the drop zone at the start of March to 8 points above it at the end of April and seen them climb from 16th to 12th in the Premier League table. They picked up a point last week at Swansea City in a 0-0 draw which took them another step closer to guaranteeing more top-flight football at St Mary’s next season.
Their visitors tomorrow West Bromwich Albion drew 1-1 with Newcastle last week and currently sit 8th in the table and while they are only 6 points behind 7th placed Liverpool. The goal difference is considerably more in Liverpool’s favour and means that their current position might be the best West Brom can achieve this season which should still be considered a good thing for the West Midlands based club.
It probably won’t be the most exciting game of the day tomorrow, but both sides managers will be making sure their respective teams give it their all despite there being less at stake. West Brom won this tie 2-0 back in November at the Hawthorns, but I think the fact that The Saints are on a good run coupled with the fact that The Baggies have not won away from home since February means that the home side should just about edge this one.
Prediction: Southampton 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
The away win at Queens Park Rangers last weekend could not have come at a better time for Tony Pulis and Stoke City. It ended a run of 7 games without a victory and while it isn’t enough to get them completely out of danger yet, it surely gives the team a confidence boost and belief that they have what it takes to stay in the big time.
Their opponents tomorrow afternoon beat Reading 2-1 at Carrow Road last weekend and took another big step towards Premier League safety themselves. After a pretty poor start to the season Norwich City have since gone from strength to strength and have not been in the bottom 3 since mid-October but while they’ve not been in the kind of danger that teams such as Aston Villa and Southampton have been for most of this season, they’ve still not quite managed to build up a big enough gap at this stage of the campaign to make Premier League football next season a certainty.
This match might very well be the kind that both teams could fear losing and so will end up being tightly contested in defence. Norwich ran out victorious when these two sides last met in a fairly close encounter back in November. Despite The Canaries having one of the worst away records in the league, I do think they have more than enough quality to get at least a point from the game tomorrow. Stoke will probably be considered favourites but their once talked about impressive home record is a thing of the past now and while I reckon that they will probably be the slightly more dominant side of the two tomorrow, the tie has draw written all over it.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Norwich City
This is arguably the biggest game of the day. The home side currently occupy 18th place 3 points from safety while the visitors are in 5th just a point off 4th place. Wigan were the worst hit by results last weekend, losing their own game at West Ham and seeing the teams just above them picking up wins. The only bonus for them would have been Aston Villa’s 3-0 loss to Manchester United on Monday night meaning they could be out of the bottom 3 by the end of the weekend if they win tomorrow as Villa don’t play Sunderland until this coming Monday.
The fight for Champions League football next season continues and Tottenham did wonders for themselves in their quest to be there last Sunday with the 3-1 victory over Manchester City. After the match tomorrow, Spurs face Southampton at White Hart Lane next weekend before a midweek game 4 days later against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in what may well be the key match that decides who will get that top 4 finish.
If previous seasons are anything to go by, you shouldn’t rule Wigan Athletic out of any games at this stage of the season regardless of who the opponent is. They’ve got the FA Cup Final to look forward to next month and they still have 5 league games left to save themselves from the drop and will surely be able to take the fight all the way to the last day of the season. But while they may well have provided a shock when they won the reverse fixture 1-0 at White Hart Lane back in November, with Gareth Bale coming back at a key time for Spurs and the momentum he and his teammates will have after their massive win last weekend, I think that they will have just too much for The Latics on this occasion. Wigan will give it everything they’ve got, but I think Tottenham will be the team occupying 3rd place on Saturday night.
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur