Posted on | December 7, 2013 | No Comments
Results on Saturday mean that there is a huge emphasis on this clash, with Arsenal having the chance to go seven points clear at the top should they net a victory. However, their opponents have once again shown that they are a huge threat to the top places, with the Toffees having the chance to close within four points of their opponents should they come away with a win.
There’s no doubt that Arsenal’s campaign has been so far out of this world, although whether or not it will continue like this depends a lot on the next month. The Gunners play the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and of course Everton over the next few weeks and if they can come out of these games relatively unscathed, they may just have convinced the pundits that they are serious title contenders. For the time being, we’ll concentrate on their current form and the Emirates Stadium have put a sterling run together, where they have now won four games on the bounce. If we look at the situation from an even more optimistic perspective, the fact that Arsenal have won their last four at home also bodes well ahead of this potential banana skin against the Toffees.
Everton’s recent results make Sunday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium all the more tasty, with Roberto Martinez’s side taking points off the very best this term. They showed exactly what they are made of with their 1-0 victory over Manchester United during the week, while they stole a point off Liverpool just a couple of weeks ago as well. Sandwiched in between those two results was a 4-0 thrashing of Stoke, meaning that the Goodison Park outfit approach this clash in nothing but the best of form. In fact, they’re unbeaten in seven in the league and after keeping clean sheets in five of those games, it’ll be interesting to see if their opponents can break them down.
There were several raised eyebrows in Arsenal’s last game, with the Gunners opting to leave a host of first team regulars out of the starting eleven. However, after resting the likes of Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger is widely tipped to include them back in his team for this next game. Two players who won’t be able to feature are Mathieu Flamini and Bacary Sagna though, with groin and hamstring issues hindering the duo respectively. Everton are in a completely different boat on the other hand and with Roberto Martinez having no fresh concerns, the general consensus is that he’ll keep changes to a minimum following recent form.
As for a prediction, we think Everton might be able to cause another scalp and at least record a draw at the Emirates. They’re proving exceptionally difficult to beat on the road and with this being Arsenal’s first serious test through the last few weeks, our tip will be a goalless scoreline.
Posted on | December 7, 2013 | No Comments
Last season, Fulham were the side to finish in a mid-table position while opponents Aston Villa were fighting for survival. This time around, the tables have been reversed and the home side approach this clash sat in 19th spot while Villa are in a comfortable 10th.
Fulham’s poor start to the campaign cost Martin Jol his job last week and it remains to be seen how his replacement, Rene Meulensteen, fares in his new role. The former Manchester United coach has forged a brilliant reputation over the years, but having tasted little managerial experience it’ll be interesting to see how he copes. Unfortunately, his first test ended in tears with Fulham throwing away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Tottenham. That defeat means that they have now lost seven games in a row although with three points separating them from 17th position, they could still claw themselves out of the bottom three with the right result this weekend.
Aston Villa in contrast have enjoyed a fine start to the campaign and they approach the fixture in completely opposite form to their opponents. Paul Lambert’s side have now put together a five game unbeaten run and having edged past high-flying Southampton in their most recent game, it’s clear that confidence amongst the Villains must be high. In fact, their away form in general has been very promising over the last few months and the club have just lost one game on the road throughout the campaign. Such a record actually means they hold the third best away record in the division and should they net another win on Sunday, they’ll even leapfrog Manchester United and venture into the top half.
As for team news, Fulham approach the clash with two absentees at the opposite end of the field. At the back, Brede Hangeland won’t be featuring following his back surgery, while up front Darren Bent is not eligible to make an appearance due to the terms of his loan agreement. Aston Villa also come into the game with a couple of problems, although both of them occur in defence. Ron Vlaar and Antonio Luna are both penned in for late fitness tests, with respective calf and groin issues hindering the duo.
All of the form suggests that Aston Villa should be clear favourites for the game, with the visitors holding some sterling away form which should see them threaten most sides in the league this year. However, we think the “new manager syndrome” could play a big part in the outcome of this and with Rene Meulensteen looking to make his mark on Fulham, we have a feeling that the Cottagers will begin his home era with a hard fought 1-1 draw.
Posted on | December 7, 2013 | No Comments
This is a game involving two sides under immense amounts of pressure, albeit for different reasons. In the case of Sunderland, the Black Cats are attempting to overhaul a five point gap between themselves and safety, while visitors Tottenham are looking to make a move towards the top four following a disappointing run of form.
While Sunderland might be rooted to the foot of the table, there’s no doubt that their fans have experienced a real improvement under Gus Poyet. The Black Cats may have lost their last outing to Chelsea, but they ran the Blues very close and the fact that they lost to a 4-3 scoreline highlights their efforts. Unfortunately, it also means that they are now three games without a win although if we again look towards the positives, they’ve now only lost two of their last five which is a stark improvement to what was occurring at the start of the season. Additionally, prior to that loss to Chelsea, Poyet’s men had won their last three at the Stadium of Light so their fans will be quietly confident they can make progress this evening.
We mentioned in the early stages that Tottenham are under pressure, but really it’s their manager Andre Villas-Boas who is feeling the heat. After a promising start, Spurs’ recruitment policy really is being tested to the limit and many of their big money buys simply aren’t living up to their price tags. Every day the newspapers are speculating that Villas-Boas has ‘x’ amount of games to save his job, and if current form continues then that could well be the case. The White Hart Lane outfit came from behind to beat Fulham in their last outing, but that was their first win in five in the league. On a more positive note, the club have now won their last two away games in all competitions, which should give them some confidence ahead of this trip north.
As for team news, Sunderland approach the game without two players in the form of Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar. The former is still nursing a shoulder problem, while Cuellar won’t be featuring due to a hip injury. Spurs meanwhile could have several absentees, with the first two classed as definite as Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen are sidelined by foot and ankle injuries respectively. There could be better news for Moussa Dembele, who is pencilled in for a late fitness test because of a hip problem.
Sunderland proved in their most recent game that they are certainly strong at home, with their form before that proving this as well. Spurs might have won their last encounter, but they were shaky to say the least and our tip is therefore going to be a 3-1 victory for the Black Cats.
Posted on | December 6, 2013 | No Comments
At the start of the season, not one person would have labelled this as a balanced clash. Southampton were battling to stay in the division last term, while opponents City were fighting for the title. The visitors are still attempting to net their second top flight crown, although the fact that Saints sit just six points behind them shows just how much success they have already experienced this term.
Unfortunately for Southampton, all of the positive results which were experienced in the early portion of the campaign seem to be tailing off. At one point, some optimists were classing Mauricio Pochettino’s as potential candidates for the Champions League places, but the last few weeks seem to have put such suggestions firmly to bed. Saints have now lost three consecutive matches although when you consider that were faced with Arsenal and Chelsea in two of those games, it perhaps highlights how they’re not quite ready to battle with the elite just yet. Nevertheless, the St Mary’s outfit are definitely the season’s surprise package and the fact that they only lost their first home game of the season on Wednesday highlights the progress they have made.
Manchester City certainly won’t be heading into this game full of confidence, though. City might sit 3rd in the league, just six points from top spot, but their away form this term has been nothing short of terrible. The club have won just two of their last seven trips on the road, with one of those occurring just several days ago following a tight 3-2 victory over West Brom. Following that result, it will certainly be interesting to see how Manuel Pellegrini’s respond in their next away encounter – with the club knowing that a defeat could send them nine points away from leaders Arsenal.
Something that won’t be aiding the home side will be their injury situation, with Mauricio Pochettino without several of his big names because of spells on the treatment table. Victor Wanyama, Jose Fonte and Nathaniel Clyne fall into this category, meaning that Saints will be forced into changes. On a more positive note, Gaston Ramirez should be included in some capacity after recovering from illness. If we turn to City, the visitors have been handed a massive boost with Vincent Kompany poised to return following his lengthy spell on the sidelines. However, David Silva, Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic have not recovered from their respective knocks and will miss out.
Southampton have enjoyed a fantastic start to their campaign and their home form is the envy of most of their rivals. However, Saints have several major injury concerns ahead of this clash and with their opponents managing a rare win on the road in their last outing, we think City will make it back-to-back wins with a 2-0 victory at St Mary’s.