I couldn’t be more thankful that we’re back to the important football.
I also feel a bit of back story is due, as I usually just jump right into the predictions.
Last year I started doing predictions for every Premiership game not involving Liverpool (I don’t guess scorelines for Liverpool games out of superstition) a few months into the season. The content doesn’t quite fit in with everything else I write, but after last year’s performance, I’m bound and determined to pick more than 50% of the games correctly. It’s become sort of a bet with myself.
So far, I’m 37-42 this season with 9 correct scores. Better than last year, and getting closer to that magic number. So if you come here for the Liverpool content, I almost feel an apology’s due, but I’m so close to .500, I can’t help but continue.
Arsenal v Bolton, 10am, Setanta: Van Persie’s out for the next month, and while he’s been a key performer for Arsenal, Adebayor and Fabregas have been even more influential. Bolton may get a “new manager” bounce, with Archie Knox in charge of his first match, as we’ve seen happen for so many other teams, but I doubt it will the way Arsenal’s playing. Arse 2-0
Middlesbrough v Chelsea, 10am, FSC: Drogba’s interview with France Football couldn’t have come at a worse time for Chelsea. Neither Kalou nor Sheva can hold a candle to his performances in the PL, and an unhappy Drogba will assuredly affect a Chelsea team that thought they might have turned a corner with away wins at Valencia and Bolton. I make my fair share of Boro jokes, but they've been decent at home, and while it may be more hope than anything else, I think this will be a lot like Chelsea’s first couple of matches under Avram Grant. 1-1
Manchester City v Birmingham, 10am, Setanta Xtra: I’m still surprised at how well City’s done. Results so far this season coupled with how “well” McClaren’s done as England manager is making me second-guess all my thoughts about Eriksson. My world has turned upside down. The scariest part is that I expect it to continue. City 2-0
Blackburn v Reading, 10am: I’m finding it hard to pick Reading in most games so far this season. I’m not especially surprised about their sophomore slump, especially after losing Steve Sidwell, but they’ve been worse than expected. They’ve picked up three wins this season, all at home, with the only “surprising” result a 1-0 win over Everton. With Blackburn’s form, especially at Ewood Park, that trend will probably continue. Blackburn 2-1
Fulham v Derby, 10am: Derby on the road. They’ve won no points nor scored any goals away from home. I had expected Lawrie Sanchez would get more out of this Fulham side, as results have been quite similar to those under Chris Coleman, but I’m not picking Derby on the road until they at least score a goal. Fulham 1-0
Wigan v Portsmouth, 10am: Without either Heskey or Sibierski, I doubt Wigan will have much luck in attack against Pompey. Marcus Bent played better than expected when I saw Wigan against Liverpool, but Aghahowa was absolutely gash. Portsmouth will probably continue to establish themselves amongst the European contenders, while Wigan’s lost their last three. Pompey 1-0
Aston Villa v Manchester Utd, 12:15pm, FSC: Outside of the Merseyside derby, this is the game I’m looking forward to the most. Villa at home has been a very tough ask, and Gareth Barry couldn’t be playing with more confidence. But United’s starting to click into gear; Rooney’s back amongst the scorers for both club and country, and United seem to have remembered where the goal is, putting 4 past Wigan in the 2nd half last time out. As much as I’d like to do the opposite, I just can’t go against United with the form they’re in. United 2-1
West Ham v Sunderland, 11am Sunday, FSC: West Ham may have lost their last three league outings, but two were on the road, and the home loss was against Arsenal, where they battled the whole way and only lost 1-0. Sunderland’s still getting goals (5 in their last three games), but not results. West Ham 2-1
Newcastle v Tottenham, 3pm Monday, Setanta: The best possible news for Spurs is that Robinson will miss this one with a calf injury picked up yesterday. It’s become too easy to take shots at Robbo, but I imagine that most Tottenham supporters will be pleased to see Radek Cerny get a run out. Newcastle still hasn’t lost at St. James’ Park (granted, one road win, and it was at Bolton in the first game), but with Tottenham’s improved results over the past couple of weeks, I think this one will end in a draw. 2-2