Not the best start to the season predictions-wise (surprise, surprise), but merrily and unencumbered we roll along.
Arsenal v Manchester City, 10:00am, FSC: This will be a better test as to how good City is than the derby was. Derbies are always closely fought, and while I don’t think Arsenal is a better all-around team than United, they’re in a better position to beat City, given United’s suspensions, injuries, and new players settling in. It’s worth noting that Lehmann’s out for the next couple of weeks due to an injury picked up yesterday, but given his recent miscues, that might be a good thing. The key will be Arsenal playing better at home than they did last season, which they really should. Plus, City’s due for a fall back to Earth. Arsenal 2-1
Chelsea v Portsmouth, 10:00am, Setanta: I sincerely hope Portsmouth can do as they did against Manchester United, especially given how furious I still am that Chelsea came away with a point last weekend, but I don’t think it’s very likely. That so many Chelsea players featured in internationals yesterday shouldn’t matter much, as at this point of the season, players should be fit enough for 2 games a week. Plus, this one’s at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea’s unbeaten in something like 65 games. Chelsea 2-0
Aston Villa v Fulham, 10:00am, Setanta Xtra: It’s good news for Fulham that they’ve signed Kasey Keller today (further cementing them as America East), because Tony Warner’s cost Fulham points in both their outings, but I doubt that Keller will start here. And Villa should have enough to put goals past Warner. David Healy will be a handful, and given his CV, it’s not a huge surprise he’s kept scoring under Lawrie Sanchez, but Villa should still be too much. Although I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a draw isn’t out of the question, given how many matches these two teams tied last season. Villa 2-1
Bolton v Reading, 10:00am: With Bolton already propping up the table (the lone team without a win or draw), Sammy Lee needs points, and needs them badly to save his job. But with the way Reading’s playing, even considering this will be at the Reebok, I can’t see that happening. The Anelka and Diouf out rumors haven’t gone away, and it’s pretty clear something not right in Bolton’s camp. Meanwhile, Reading hasn’t looked like succumbing to a sophomore slump for one second. Reading 1-0
Derby v Birmingham, 10:00am: Two promoted teams, and two teams that have shown little so far to suggest they’ll be able to remain in the Premiership for a second season. Derby will want to make amends for their toothless performance last week against Spurs, while Birmingham’s failed to keep a clean sheet in three games, so I doubt this one will end 0-0, but a draw still seems the most likely result. 1-1
West Ham v Wigan, 10:00am: Wigan are 3rd in the table right now. That should say enough about how much the early season table means. Don’t get me wrong, I’m surprised and impressed they’ve picked up 6 points from 3 games when everyone (including myself) were talking about them as relegation candidates, but I feel very secure in saying they won’t finish in the top half. And much like the last two seasons, Wigan and West Ham will probably occupy similar positions in the table. In this match-up last season, the away team handily won both encounters. Mainly because of my antipathy towards West Ham, but partly because of Wigan’s good start, I’m thinking (hoping) that trend continues. Wigan 1-0
Everton v Blackburn, 12:15pm, FSC: Hmm. My desire for Blackburn to do better than expected this season, combined with my complete and utter disdain for Everton. The Toffees do look tough to beat this season, and when Yakubu joins, he should do well partnering Andy Johnson (although I had thought Anichebe and McFadden had done well), but my personal preferences just can’t let me pick an Everton win. Chances are that this one’s going to be eminently close and a rough game, so a draw’s the most probable outcome anyway. 1-1
Middlesbrough v Newcastle, 8:30am Sunday, Setanta: Hey, a Northeast derby. It doesn’t have the vehemence of a Newcastle/Sunderland game, but it’s close. I still don’t trust Boro; they didn’t deserve their win at Fulham last weekend, they will assuredly miss Yakubu’s goals, and they aren’t the best in defense (contender for understatement of the year). The way that Allardyce has Newcastle playing, the Geordies should be able to take advantage. Newcastle 2-1
Manchester United v Tottenham, 11:00am Sunday, FSC: Poor Spurs. They fought so hard to save face last week, getting 4 goals in a good performance against Derby, and now they’ve got to go to Old Trafford to face a United team that’s close to being backed into a corner. I said similar last week, but I still expect United to turn it around, even before Rooney and Ronaldo return. Goals will have to come from somewhere, but I’ve still seen nothing that makes me feel secure about Tottenham’s defense, especially since Paul Robinson’s started doing his best Calamity James impression. United 2-0
Liverpool is at Sunderland 7:45am Saturday on Setanta.