Friday, 24 February 2012

Pierre’s Back To Dive Bomb All The Other Football Pundits Into Next Week

And so after last week’s delve into the world’s oldest cup competition we’re back in the land of the premier league, plus Pierre will be gandering at Sunday’s Carling Cup final and telling you how that one will play out, enjoy.

Barclay’s Premier League

Saturday 25th February

Chelsea Vs Bolton Wanderers
Stamford Bridge

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Back when I was a little owlet in the 1980’s Bolton were not a big club, they were wallowing in the third tier of English Football and in the first season I went to watch a live football match my team, Coventry City easily knocked them out of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win in the 3rd round. It set us off on our way to winning our one and only piece of meaningful silverware, a run that included wins away at Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and finally becoming the only team to beat Tottenham in an FA Cup final, and that Tottenham team had Glenn Hoddle in it.

But that was ever such a long time ago, Coventry are wallowing 2nd to bottom of the Championship and starring relegation in the kisser and Bolton are still not a big club. They’ve matched up to the best in the premiership for a decade or more now and yet with all that money and all that experience they’re still flopping around in the bottom three and looking bad to survive this season without dropping out of it. They would by no means be the biggest club to drop out of the top division either. It’s happened to Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Leicester and Birmingham (twice) and you could make an argument that all of those teams are bigger than Bolton.

It’s a credit to the club that they’ve created a system that keeps them competitive in one of the biggest leagues in Europe but with the money that it takes just to buy a fucking goalkeeper or a 4th striker or a 2nd fullback these days there will always be a season when Bolton go tits up and just don’t have the quality to stay in the league anymore. I felt it the year Coventry got relegated, you get a sinking feeling the longer a season goes on and before you know it you’ve run out of games and it’s the last week of the season and that’s that, you’re facing trips to Peterborough and Barnsley instead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

Chelsea on the other hand are in a very different sort of crisis, the manager seems to have no influence on the players he puts on the pitch from one week to the next. A part of you says that he should be allowed a season to get rid of some players who have clearly started down the wrong side of the hill as far as their footballing career goes, but a part of you also knows that Roman Abramovich doesn’t tolerate failure and that poor AVB will be lucky to still be in a job come the end of May.

But more than all that a very large part of you doesn’t care, they’ll probably win this game because they need to and Bolton aren’t good enough to pose them much of a goal threat, although Birmingham City shouldn’t have been last week and they managed to force a replay in the FA Cup (it should be said that Birmingham have been winning games and Bolton haven’t and losing is a hard habit to break) but it will just be masking some serious problems at Stamford Bridge. Phew, that went on a bit longer than I meant it to.

Prediction: Chelsea 1 – Bolton 0

Newcastle United Vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
James’ Park
Kick Off: 3:00pm

Terry who? New Wolves boss Terry Connor has been at
the club well over a decade but has just 13 games to
save their season and keep them in the top flight
Wolves are in much the same boat as Bolton were earlier (don’t worry, I won’t go through all that again, just cut and paste what I said up there and it pretty much describes Wolves as well, except they play in orange and not white, oh and they sacked their manager). Technically this is as hard a game as Bolton face, Newcastle are only a point and a place behind Chelsea but they’re arguably on better form, as long as they don’t have to play in London of course. They pose more of a lively goal threat than Chelsea, and before Chelsea fans say we’ve scored more goals than Newcastle, I know that, but it can’t have escaped your notice that you haven’t really done that much recently. So with all that in mind I can only see this game as a comfortable home win.

Prediction: Newcastle 3 – Wolves 0

Queens Park Rangers Vs Fulham
Loftus Road
Kick Off: 3:00pm

The last time these two teams met Fulham won by six, I doubt it’ll go that way this time, mostly because Fulham are very shit away from home but also partly because 6-0 wins are very rare and you’d be stupid to predict one, that being said I am a very daring sports predicting owl and I’m going to go out on a wing and say…..

Prediction: QPR 0 – Fulham 6

West Bromwich Albion Vs Sunderland
The Hawthorns
Kick Off: 3:00pm

West Brom should be well buoyed by the thrashing they gave to their relegation threatened local rivals last time out. They’ve had a week off and a win at home on Saturday could see them climb three places in one bounce. Will they do that? Erm, no I don’t think so. Just once too often this season I’ve thought West Brom were about to take a leap up to mid-table mediocrity by backing up one impressive result with another, but then they go and screw that up and make me look like a feathery fool in the process and we don’t like that at The Cold Ghetto Aviary. So I’m going with a hard fought away win for Sunderland, and despite my better judgement, I’m thinking that maybe Kieran Richardson may not be as bad a shout in the England leftback slot as it would have looked six months ago, there probably isn’t a better English leftback in the league at the moment and that really should be the only criteria to getting picked for England, even if it is Kieran Richardson.

Prediction: West Brom 1 – Sunderland 2

Wigan Athletic Vs Aston Villa
The DW Stadium
Kick Off: 3:00pm

Charles Insomnia returns to the DW
but needs to break out of his slumber
to help kick-start Villa's season
Wigan battled their way to a lifeline last time out, and they needed too, they were winless for about 100 years. They were becoming detached at the very foot of the table and they were letting in way too many goals to ever give them the chance of winning games. But a win can change the course of a season, especially one over another team who are deep in the relegation doodoo as well. And then they get to play Aston Villa, a team so morosely bad and lacking in attacking endeavour or excitement that most people would rather watch someone creosote a shed than watch the Claret ‘n’ Blue fools playing football. They’re also eminently beatable and if Wigan are to have any real chance of surviving the season without being relegated then they need to come out with all guns a’blazing and give Villa a proper shoeing.

Prediction: Wigan 2 – Aston Villa 1

Manchester City Vs Blackburn Rovers
Etihad Stadium
Kick Off: 5:30pm

Many, many, many blue moons ago, when Malcolm Allison was making the sheepskin car-coat “the” fashionable item of the day, Manchester City were involved in a title race. In order to bolster that title challenge they went out and bought one Rodney Marsh from QPR to get them a few more goals and give them a bit of squad depth, and for almost no other reason than that they crumbled to abject failure, the league title was utterly lost and that was that. A few years later Manchester City were wallowing down near the bottom of the league and facing relegation, it was the last day of the season and they could still survive depending on other results. It came close to the end of the game, they were drawing 1-1 and because Luton Town were losing that would have meant that Manchester City were safe, the manager, Alan Ball, told his players to knock the ball over to near the corner flag and keep things tight, instead of going for a 2nd goal that would have seen them definitely safe, only for Luton Town to score in the last few minutes to send the hapless Manchester City down to the 2nd division. Oh, and a couple of years after that they hired Steve Coppell as manager who hated the place so much that he quit inside a month and the club were relegated from the 2nd division as well. I mention these rather hilarious faux pas that Manchester City have committed over the years because they’ve just had the bright idea of bringing in Carlos Tevez in an attempt to solve their perceived current goal shy problems. Carlos Tevez translates to really stupid idea in Spanish btw. History tells us that this can only go well, for Manchester United. City will win this game though, it’s way to early for Man City to start fucking things up yet.

Prediction: Manchester City 3 – Blackburn 0

Sunday 26th February

Arsenal Vs Tottenham Hotspurs
Emirates Stadium
Kick Off: 1:30pm

You probably have to go back to the mid-1980’s to find a time when Tottenham were definitely better than Arsenal, and yet we’re in 2012 now and I think it may be possible that that once every quarter of a century thing is happening again. Apart from Robin Van Persie, I doubt there’s a player in any position that Harry Redknapp would swap with Arsene Wenger right now, if I had Bale, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Dawson, Friedel, Walker, Parker or even Adebayor right now I wouldn’t be ringing up the Emirates to offer any swapsies. From watching Arsenal’s rather limp attempt to beat Sunderland in the cup last weekend I’d say that there are very serious problems, not all of which can be blamed on having shocking injury problems at the back, for Arsenal. The chief issue is that apart from Robin Van Persie the rest of the team just isn’t good enough to challenge for the top four and they’re lucky that Chelsea and Liverpool have similar issues of their own. That plus Arsenal’s recent current form means they are in no position to take on a team like Tottenham means that Spurs should win this with ease, even at the Emirates.

Prediction: Arsenal 1 – Tottenham 3

Norwich City Vs Manchester United
Carrow Road
Kick Off: 1:30pm

This game is clearly a potential banana skin for the champions. Norwich have been no mugs this season, they’ve been hard to beat, scored goals and last time out they did became only the 2nd team to do what their visitors on Sunday did which is win at Swansea. That being said Manchester United are fresh off a win over bitter foes Liverpool, they’ve had an extra week to prepare for this and get some injured players fit and it’s right about now that they usually slip effortlessly into a higher gear and win football game after football game to clinch the title. I expect them to win in East Anglia but I don’t expect it to be easy, I think Norwich may even score first and make the Reds have to dig in a bit.

Prediction: Norwich 1 – Man Utd 3

Stoke City Vs Swansea City
Britannia Stadium
Kick off: 3:00pm

It’s never an easy visit to Stoke these days but if you’re going to make a visit there then now is probably the best time to do it. They are on a run of poor form that’s seen them drop from the top half of the table to 13th, and although they’re in no danger of getting sucked into the relegation battle they could do with a win to keep the sails puffed up on a long season that’s promised so much but which could still end disappointingly. They’re still in the Europa League, just, and the FA Cup, but a league win could settle any nervousness going into the final quarter of the season. But Swansea will be looking to continue the good form they’ve shown in their debut season in the top league and with some places left to be filled in the England squad for Euro2012 and a new manager to impress some of their young players could do with keeping going with their excellent performances this season, this one’s more interesting than it looks on paper, tough to call but I think a draw might just be the way it goes.

Prediction: Stoke 2 – Swansea 2

Carling Cup Final

Liverpool Vs Cardiff City
Wembley Stadium
Kick Off: 4:00pm

It’s been a while since Liverpool won anything and the fact that they’re only 7th in the league, despite both Chelsea and Arsenal having awful seasons, shows why, they just haven’t been good enough over recent years. But now they have a chance to win something and they don’t even have to beat Premier League opposition to do it. They managed to get past the title favourites, Manchester City, over two legs in the semi-final and all the clever money should be on them to win at short odds. But Cardiff have become something of a cup specialist team, they will have enjoyed their visit to Wembley for the FA Cup, and will probably think that they really should have made more of their play-off chances as well and got promoted, but they didn’t. Cardiff are a decent match for most teams on their day, but they do tend to have the odd off day when it really counts. If they were up against a middle-ranking Premier League side I would have said they stood a chance of causing an upset but I think that Liverpool are just that bit too good and I suspect that we’ll see the Carling Cup heading back to Merseyside.

Prediction: Liverpool 3 – Cardiff 1

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