14 December 2006

Prem Prediction Party 12/16-12/18

Early predictions for lack of material to write about today, and more than enough (CL draw, Liverpool preview) tomorrow.

Arsenal v Portsmouth (10am, Setanta): Sol Campbell’s first game against the Arse since his free transfer over the summer, and his first visit to the Emirates period. Campbell and the rest of Pompey’s overachieving backline will have to continue their excellent form if they hope to pick up any points here. Arsenal rested Fabregas, van Persie, and Hleb midweek with an eye on this game, and I've little doubt they'll be more potent than they were at Wigan. Arse 3-1

Wigan v Sheffield United (10am, FSC): Insert standard FSC complaint here. Surprised they aren’t even showing the Reading game, to satisfy the two or three people stateside who watch to see how the Americans are doing. This is probably the least attractive game in this time slot. Wigan’s lost two straight at home, albeit to Liverpool and (barely) Arsenal while Sheffield’s on a three match unbeaten streak that’s seen them climb out of the bottom three. Despite the recent win-loss record (Wigan’s far better than it shows and I still think Sheffield will struggle to stay up), this is a match the home side should be winning. Wigan 2-1

Newcastle v Watford (10am, Setanta Xtra): Add N’Zogbia to the list with Owen, Duff, Parker, Dyer, Bramble, Solano, Ameobi, Carr, and more I’m sure. And yet Newcastle was unbeaten for over a month until Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Chelsea, which could easily have ended in a draw. Meanwhile, Watford’s desperately missing Marlon King’s goals and is currently propping up the table. Newcastle 1-0

Reading v Blackburn (10am): Reading will continue to be compared to Wigan of last season as this season's promoted surprise. They currently sit in 7th and have picked up 13 points out of their last 6 games. Whereas Blackburn, after finishing among the European places last year, sits 2 points out of the relegation zone. It’s a sign of how well respected Mark Hughes is (and how underperforming his talented side has been) that he hasn’t been mentioned in the same breath as Dowie and Pardew, who were eventually axed. Reading 1-0

Aston Villa v Bolton (12:15pm, FSC): Think I’ll continue the trend of predicting Bolton to win on a smash-and-grab goal, only to see them romp to a victory. It’s worked against West Ham and Arsenal so far. Villa’s continued their slide back to reality, drawing Sheffield 2-2 last time out when they really should have put them game out of question by the end of the first half. Bolton 1-0

Everton v Chelsea (8:45am, Sunday, Setanta): Feels weird taking the mickey out of Everton after September’s abomination of a match, but they aren’t the same team as the one that sat in 3rd a couple of months back. They sincerely miss Arteta and Cahill, and Andy Johnson hasn’t scored since the end of September. I’ll take the usual 2-0 Chelsea prediction even though they haven’t scored 2 goals in a league match in over a month. Chelsea 2-0

Manchester City v Tottenham (10am, Sunday): Tottenham's 5-1 win was a fluke. Granted, they’re better than they’ve shown for most of this season, but 5-1 flattered them and what progress they have made. They're getting better and starting to replicate their excellent European form, but still nowhere near the side they were predicted to be (why does that sound familiar?). Despite sitting 12th, City is still unbeaten at home, while Tottenham hasn’t won on the road all year in the league. 1-1

West Ham v Manchester United (11am, Sunday, FSC): Welcome to West Ham, Curbs, here have a go at the league leaders. Yikes. Teams frequently get up for a first game under a new gaffer, but how much can that help here, with West Ham’s difficulty in deciding on the best 11 and United’s away form? United 2-0

Fulham v Middlesbrough (3pm, Monday, FSC): Fulham were better than the 4 goals shipped in the 2nd half of their last match let on. And they should have less defensive liabilities at Craven Cottage, where they’ve only let in 4 goals total since hosting Chelsea in mid-September. Fulham 1-0

For those who haven't seen the memo, I don’t predict the scores for Liverpool games. I’ve found that it’s egregiously bad luck, even if I happen to be confident, which is infrequent anyway. A full preview of Saturday’s game at Charlton (7:45am, Setanta) should be up midday tomorrow.

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