Archive for ‘Sport’

January 31, 2011

Record breaking transfer deadline day closes, as Carroll, Torres, Suarez and Luiz all move

Fernando Torres after scoring goal against Vål...

Image via Wikipedia

There was no sign of austerity on transfer deadline day , as Premier League Clubs spent a record £214 million on new signings. The bulk of this was made up by four major deals involving Chelsea and Liverpool. The blues splashed out £21 million on David Luiz, and £50 million on Fernando Torres. The bulk of the Torres fee received by Liverpool went on buying Newcastle’s Andy Carroll, who’s £35 million price tag broke the British transfer record. Oh yeah, Liverpool also signed  World Cup wonder Luiz Suarez for £22 million from Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea vs Liverpool on Sunday will be rather tasty then, although Caroll will not be fit for at least a month, which makes his already excessive price tag seem more ridiculous. Torres has been out of form too, but obviously Chelsea think they can get the best from him once again. Clearly Roman Abramovich has decided to back under pressure Ancelotti, allowing him to also bring in highly rated Brazilian defender David Luiz from Benfica. Luiz is only 23, and can play across the back four. The signings could really reignite Chelsea’s bid to retain the Premier League title they won last year, although it is seems that these are signings that Abramovich has funded are once again try and win the Champions League.

While the hype will obviously be about Torres and Carroll, VN reckons Suarez is the real man to watch. Fulham also have pulled of a top signing,  bagging the services of Eidur Gudjonson until the end of the season. Gudjohnson is a proven goalscorer, strong, and experienced. His contribution helped Tottenham qualify for the Champions League last year (remember that vital goal at Stoke,) and means that Fulham are certainly safe for another year, and could even challenge for the top half of the table.

Not all the deals happened though. Charles N’Zogbia will still be a Wigan player, after the club rejected bids of £10 million and £12 million from his former side Newcastle. Harry Redknapp put in his now mandatory last minute bid, this time for Blackpool’s Charlie Adam, but the Seasiders keep their man, as time ran out on the deal. Spurs also had bids turned down for Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguerro and, erm, Phil Neville, and must be disappointed with their months (lack of) work. North London neighbours Arsenal still havn’t sorted their goalkeeper problem, and there were no big new names coming in to Old Trafford either.

This time last year, the relatively poultry sum of £29 million had been spent, but four major deals blew that sum out of the water today. Clearly Chelsea and Liverpool’s owners have decided to back their managers long-term, and try and reinvigorate their seasons short-term with some big money signings. If Liverpool sneak into the Europa League, or even the Champions League, thanks to their new fire power, and Chelsea win the title or the Champions League, the money men will consider it worth every penny.

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January 17, 2011

United stay top, but title rivals maintain pressure

>Manchester United ended the weekend at the summit of the Premier League, but only on goal difference. The Reds went into their clash on Sunday with three games in hand on their closest rivals Manchester City knowing that all three points would end Tottenham’s slim title hopes, as well as put them firmly ahead of the other challengers. At the other end of the league however things remained as they were prior to the weekend.

On a grey, rainy afternoon, the football action brightened things up. Chelsea returned to winning ways with a two nil victory over Blackburn Rovers. Ancelotti had threatened that he would start without Drogba and Essien, but both were present as Chelsea struggled to break down a stubborn Rovers side. Chelsea looked the more dangerous as Drogba went close, but efforts on goal were few and far between from both sides. The second half hour was a different story as Chelsea punished Blackburn from some set play routines. A corner was flicked on my Terry to Ivanovic, who guided his shot past a helpless Robinson to send sighs of relief around Stamford Bridge on fifty seven minutes. The lead was deserved, and Chelsea extended it when Ivanovic rose highest from yet another corner to head goalwards, with Anelka getting the slightest of flicks to send the ball home. Chelsea saw out the game to give them a much needed victory, a win that fans hope triggers the start of a good title charge.

Elsewhere, Manchester City and Wolves played out a rollercoaster of a game as new Bosnian signing Dzeko made his debut. City have been notoriously slow starters, and were punished by an efficient and hardworking Wolves side who took the lead, Milijas prodding home from close range. Wolves were much the better team, and could have made it two had it not been for a crucial block from Kolarov from Jarvis’ goalbound effort. City eventually got their act together, and got the much needed equaliser thanks to a scrambled effort from Kolo Toure before half-time. However, despite much of the pre-match attentions being focused on Dzeko, it was talisman Carlos Tevez who dragged City into the lead once again with a brilliant individual effort. The Argentinian picked the ball up on the left, cut inside and used his quick feet to twist and turn inside three defenders before slotting the ball into the net. Minutes later it was three one as Yaya Toure received the ball, following great link-up play between Dzeko and Tevez, and buried it past the Wolves ‘keeper. It was soon to be four as Tevez then nodded home a Zabaleta cross, and City looked to be cruising their way to the top. Wolves though were not finished. They found a way back into the game through a Kevin Doyle penalty, after Lescott clumsily bundled over Doyle. Wolves then hit the bar, before Zubar’s header was adjudged to have crossed the line, setting up a nervy finale to the game. City clung on though, and the result that leaves Wolves in the drop zone.

Similarly, West Ham remain rooted to the bottom of the league thanks to a three nil defeat at the hands of Arsenal. The Gunners took the lead through a clinical Van Persie effort, and the lead was doubled thanks to Walcott nipping in behind Bridge to tap home. Arsenal’s work was completed when Walcott outpaced Bridge who hacked the England winger down in the box, to bring an end to what was a miserable debut for the left back. Van Persie converted the penalty convincingly, and sealed the three points for Arsenal who lie third. West Ham however face a massive challenge to beat the drop and find some stability, as doubts continue to grow over the future of manager Avram Grant.

On a brighter note, Blackpool and West Brom played out a thriller at The Hawthorns. Vaughn put Blackpool in the lead with a brilliant curling effort, while West Brom turned the game on its head with well taken goals from Odemwingie and Morrison. Taylor-Fletcher looked to have salvaged a point for The Seasiders, only for his effort to be undone by a long ball down the field that was not dealt with by Cathcart, and was punished by a tidy finish from Odemwingie to give West Brom a much needed win.

Slightly further up the league, Stoke gained an impressive win over Bolton. A Matthew Etherington penalty and a Danny Higginbotham goal were enough to see off the increasingly impressive Lancashire team. Higginbotham scrambled home an untidy goal eight minutes before half time, before Knight committed a bad foul on Etherington, and could have no complaints at the decision. Jaaskelainen was unlucky not to keep the effort out as he guessed the right way and got a hand to the ball. The result meant that Bolton and Stoke are now level on points in the league in seventh and eighth, although Stoke do have a game in hand.

The only draw of Saturday came at the DW Stadium. Wigan took the lead against Fulham thanks to a cheeky chip from Rodallega. The Latics seemed to be closing out the game, until Andrew Johnson came off the bench to nick an equaliser and send Fulham back to Craven Cottage with a share of the spoils, with a result that leaves both sides hovering nervously above the relegation zone.

And so attentions turned to Sunday its three derby contests. David Bentley produced a man of the match performance on his Birmingham debut, but could not do enough to help the Blue side of Birmingham go home with all three points. Birmingham took the lead through Roger Johnson’s close range volley, and looked to be in control of the game. Villa looked short of ideas but threw on Bannan and Delfounso, who changed the outcome of the game. Shortly after their introduction the impressive Albrighton lifted a delicate ball into the box which was smashed home by Collins. Richard Dunne produced a brilliant block to keep Villa in the game. Delfounso smacked the bar with an adventurous thirty yard drive, but the game ended all square.

The Merseyside derby also ended in a draw, but was filled with goals. Meireles gave Liverpool the lead at Anfield just before the half hour, but the lead did not last long as Distin levelled straight after half time. Dalglish must have feared the worst when Beckford gave Everton the lead eight minutes later. However, all was not lost for Liverpool as Howard, who had kept Everton ahead with some brilliant saves, brought down Maxi. Kuyt stepped up and converted the penalty, which meant both sets of fans had to settle with a point each, and King Kenny continues to search for his first win back in charge.

Up in the Northeast the points were also shared. Newcastle, minus the injured Carrol, took a second half lead through Nolan, and could almost taste another derby victory as the game went deep into injury time. However, Gyan had other ideas, and in the fourth minute of time added on he netted the equaliser to frustrate Pardew’s men.

With the local derbies now complete, White Hart Lane took centre stage. Former United hero Beckham was in the stands as he seeks to complete his longwinded deal to Tottenham, but all of the focus was on the pitch. The game was a close affair which Spurs arguably shaded. The usual suspects of Van der Vaart and Rooney went agonisingly close for their teams, but neither side could find a way through. As the game wore on United were becoming more tormented, and their frustration was told as Rafael received his marching orders for a second yellow after a cynical tackle on Assou-Ekotto. Tottenham sensed it could be their day, but in the end had to settle for a point as United stretched their unbeaten run to twenty-one games.

By Oli Holmes

January 7, 2011

>A – team conquer Ashes is Oz

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Picture via The Guardian

The England A-Team of Andys Strauss, Flower, Alistair Cook and Jimmy Anderson have led england to a magnificent 3-1 ashes series victory. The first win in Oz in 24 years was secured by a third, record breaking, innings victory.

The A-Team have proved the spine of this England team throughout the seres down under, and will prove to be so for many years to come. The leadership and tactics of the Andys was astute, and inspired those around them. Anderson ended up the series leading wicket taker, securing the penultimate Australian wicket of Ben Hilfenhaus, while Alistair Cook ended up the leading run scorer with a magnificent horde of 766.

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 02:  Andre...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

VN could go on with a a whole load of superlatives about how brilliant the England team were, and how historic the victory was. However, we will just end with this thought:
What do you call a great Australian cricketer? Retired.

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January 5, 2011

>Phil Hughes should be fined, and so should his captain

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VN Towers has been well and truly struck down with Ashes fever the last few weeks. Last night we settled down, excited to watch Alistair Cook claim another century. Cook cruised quite comfortably to 99, before flicking the ball of his pads and into the hands of nearby Philip Hughes, who jumped in the air claiming his victim. Cook didn’t move. He didn’t move because the ball had bounced a good couple of inches before it got to Hughes. Cook knew it, Hughes knew it too.
Clarke, fielding at slip, may be forgiven for not having seen the bounce. Maybe. He clearly though led the appeal, and influenced his young batsman. Hughes was simply cheating, trying to deprive Cook of another century. TV may have saved Cook, but the Australian players were bringing the game into disrepute with illegitimate appeals. Hughes should be fined, as should Clarke for influencing him.
December 17, 2010

>Tottenham return to Milan as Arsenal get Barca in Champions League

>As it so often does, the Champions League draw has thrown up some rather wonderful pairings.

After Gareth Bale’s heroic hat trick a few weeks ago, Tottenham will return to Milan to take on AC. While  of course difficult, the fact that the second leg will be at White Hart Lane means that if Spurs can keep it within a goal they have a decent chance of progressing. AC no longer have the prowess they once did.

Neighbours Arsenal have the dubious pleasure of taking on the seemingly imperious Barcelona once again. Having been undone quite convincingly by Lionel Messi and company in recent years, and given Barca’s current form, the red half of North London won’t be relishing their tie.

Chelsea will play Marseille, and Manchester United face FC Copenhagen in much more favourable draws for the recent finalists.

The full draw is as follows:

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham
Valencia v Schalke
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
Lyon v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v Manchester United
Copenhagen v Chelsea

December 13, 2010

>Chelsea continue winless streak as City go joint top

>Yet again, the Premier League action did not disappoint this weekend as both the top and bottom of the table were shaken up and things just got that little bit closer.  With three of the top four playing each other there was the chance for the gap amongst the top teams to be extended or shorted, while at the bottom, Wigan, Wolves and West Ham were all scrapping away for the points.

With Manchester United against Arsenal not taking place until tonight, the game of the weekend was undoubtedly at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham welcomed Chelsea.  Tottenham, who have excelled in Europe, now have a chance to build up their form in the league, while Chelsea would do anything for a win following their recent relegation form. Tottenham took the initiative in the game as they looked to test Chelsea’s resolve.  Essien had an early effort, but Chelsea looked nervous and found themselves behind as Roman Pavlyuchenko’s superb first touch and then finish deservedly put Spurs ahead.  Chelsea tried to find a way back into the game before half time as Kalou tried to find a way through. John Terry even joined the attacks when he could!

Drogba was then introduced off the bench as a replacement for Mikel, and the Ivorian was to have a real impact on the game.  The frontman took advantage of some slack defending by Dawson to steel through and power a shot at Gomes.  The save looked routine as the effort was straight at the ‘keeper, but the ball had momentum and ended up in the back of the net.  Chelsea blew a sigh of relief as they had fought their way back into the game.  However, they must have thought Christmas had come early as Gomes brought down Ramires in injury time, with a penalty kick the end result.  The usually deadly Drogba struck the penalty but Gomes made up for his previous errors with a fine save.  The game finished one each with Chelsea continuing their winless run that now stretches over a month.  Although a point is never a bad result at White Hart Lane for the visiting team, Chelsea will surely rue throwing away the chance to rejuvenate their season.

Prior to the game down in London, a fantastic Lancashire Derby had taken place.  Sam Allardyce returned to The Reebok, and things looked to be going his way as Mark Davies was sent off for an elbow on Blackburn’s Phil Jones. In what was a fairly dull contest before Davies saw red, the game sprung into life as Martin Petrov produced dangerous chances that Bolton could not take advantage off.  Zat Knight was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch following a tackle on Roberts but it was Bolton who took the lead.  Muamba, who had come on as a substitute for Chung-Yong Lee to sure things up following the dismissal, scored as he skipped past Neilson to fire home.  Blackburn looked shocked but soon attacked the Bolton goal and found themselves thanks to Diouf scoring a looping effort.  The game looked set to finish a draw but Bolton, who are so impressive this season, snatched all three points as Holden struck from twenty yards to make it a very unhappy return for Allardyce.

The other derby of the day saw relegation contenders Wolves take on Birmingham.  Wolves were impressive right from the off and were only prevented from taking the lead thanks to the fine form of Ben Foster.  However, Foster was soon beaten thanks to a clinical finish from Stephen Hunt.  That goal proved crucial as Birmingham struggled to muster efforts on goal.  Kevin Phillips went close late on with a header from six yards but Wolves clung on for a valuable victory.

The victory by Wolves put three points between themselves and West Ham who had lost on the Saturday thanks to an impressive display by Manchester City.  Yaya Toure’s superb left footed goal from the edge of the box fired City into the lead.  Toure then went on a fine run and struck the post only for the ball to rebound off Robert Green in goal and end up in the back of his net for the second.  This came after the controversial Balotelli had been substituted following his constant petulance that Mancini will do well to stamp out.  The substitution seemed to  have caused a set back to City, who all of a sudden looked disjointed.  However, once City got the second it was game over and Johnson, Balotelli’s replacement, rounded Green to slot home a third.  Tompkins pulled a consolation goal back for West Ham but the signs look ominous for The Hammers.

Meanwhile, at Villa Park, Gerrard Houllier continued his mission of winning over the Aston Villa fans with a two one victory over neighbours West Brom. Prior to the game there had been talk of unrest amongst Villa fans and Directors who were not impressed with Houllier’s reaction to the defeat against Liverpool.  However, Downing eased the tensions as his effort put Villa ahead and Heskey doubled the lead with ten minutes left.  Villa looked to be cruising for victory before Paul Scharner pulled a goal back to set up a tense finish. Villa hung on to claim all three points, a result that Houillier needs to build upon.

Blackpool continued their journey in the Premier League with a one nil win at Stoke.  Stoke, a notoriously difficult place to go, were undone by a DJ Campbell goal just after half time.  Stoke had no answer to the goal in a win that moves The Seasiders up to tenth with sixteen games gone.

Elsewhere there were goalless draws between Everton and Wigan and Fulham and Sunderland. Fulham now lie precariously above the relegation zone on goal difference, with Wigan just behind them.  Birmingham and Everton find themselves closer to the drop zone than they would have expected at this point in time while Bolton continue their brilliant climb up the league.

by Oliver Holmes

December 6, 2010

>Newcastle sack Hughton in response to mid-table mediocrity and stability

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Newcastle United have disgracefully sacked manager Chirs Hughton, the man who led them back to the Premiership at the first attempt.

Chris Hughton has led his rag bag  team of ex-cons, future-cons, and Sol Campbell to some big wins this season, and they are sitting comfortably in mid-table coming up to Christmas, when most people thought they would be  under severe risk of relegation. Clearly these was undesirable for the Toon board, who much prefer inflicting high drama and suffering on their ever deranged fans.

The question is, and has been for a while, who on Earth would want to take that job now? One must assume Alan Curbishley is in the frame, but managing that club is hardly an enticing prospect for anybody serious.

December 6, 2010

>Arsenal gun down Fulham to finish weekend on top

>It turned out to be yet another weekend of brilliant Premier League action that continued the unpredictable foundation the current campaign has been built upon. There were plenty of goals, controversial refereeing decisions, as well as a postponement as Blackpool’s clash against Manchester United fell foul of the freezing temperatures.

A Samir Nasri double made sure Arsenal overcame a spirited Fulham side at The Emirates.  The Frenchman has been in sensational form this season, taking the limelight away from other fans’ favourites such as Fabregas and Van Persie.  The midfielder produced some amazing footwork and tidy finishing to grab a brace in what was not an easy game for Arsenal.  The deadlock was broken on fourteen minutes as Nasri smashed home, only for Kamara to break the Arsenal offside trap and provide a tidy finish to equalise.  It looked as though it could have been another frustrating afternoon for The Gunners as they continued to press without scoring.  That was until Nasri weaved his magic in between the Fulham defenders and slotted home a second in similar vein to his goal against Tottenham only a few weeks ago.  The win put Arsenal top for the time being while Chelsea took on Everton at home.

Chelsea, who have struggled of late to produce their amazing early season form, took the lead thanks to a Didier Drogba penalty.  The Ivorian smashed home from the spot after Anelka was brought down by Howard, having latched on to a poor backpass from Phil Neville. The decision was controversial as Anelka appeared to twist his run into Howard when he could have arguably rounded the keeper, who stayed on the pitch. Chelsea looked set to be on their way to three points, but they have definitely lost some of their free flowing cutting edge, and paid the price for not putting the game beyond Everton.  Everton carved the frail Chelsea defence open thanks to a creative run from left back Baines.  The homesick England left-back put in a brilliant cross that was nodded back by Cahill to Beckford who couldn’t miss.  The Everton striker wheeled away in jubilation to bring a point home for The Toffees.

The attention then turned to fourth placed Manchester City against European hopefuls Bolton. City have struggled to score goals at home all season, and have the joint lowest home scoring record in the league alongside Birmingham and Wigan. However, it took only four minutes for Tevez to notch in his tenth league goal of the campaign after good work from Yaya Toure.  City could have bagged plenty as they tore Bolton apart. Balotelli hit the post when he should have scored, while the impressive Silva struck the bar with a powerful effort.  To their credit Bolton never gave up, and were always in the game as long as City continued their poor finishing.  Davies struck a ferocious volley over the bar, while Joe Hart dropped a seemingly routine catch into the goal mouth, and had to be rescued by the solid Kompany.  Kolarov was harshly sent off for two fouls on Lee as Bolton tried to press for an equaliser, but City held out for the three points, although Tevez was not impressed at being substituted in the final minute.

At the bottom end of the table, three teams beginning with W fill the relegation zone.  Wigan twice fought their way back from behind to get a draw at home to Stoke while Wolves were comprehensively beaten 3-0 away to Blackburn, who showed no signs of their thrashing last weekend against Manchester United.  West Ham also lost this weekend thanks to a neat goal from Jordan Henderson, as Sunderland claimed all three points against the relegation strugglers.

West Brom climbed up the table with an impressive win against Newcastle.  The Baggies now sit eighth thanks to a 3-1 win as they battered the team that strode so easily to the Championship league title last season.

Finally, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was disappointed to drop points away to Birmingham.  Spurs took the lead through Bassong and were cruising, only for Craig Gardner’s second half header to snatch victory away from them.  The weekend’s action has now tightened up the top of the table with only three points between Arsenal on top and Manchester City in Fourth.  Manchester United now have a game in hand, while at the bottom Fulham, Wigan, West Ham and Wolves are all looking ominously at the drop zone.

By Oliver Holmes

November 29, 2010

>Weekend’s action creates Premier League history

>All twenty English Premier League sides scored this weekend, a feat that will go down in the history books as it had never been done before. In total, 41 goals were scored across ten games to produce a brilliant advertisement for English football ahead of the week that decides the 2018 World Cup bid.

The goal blitz began at Villa Park on Saturday when Arsenal took on Aston Villa. The Gunners looked in superb form as they took apart a very young Villa side without managing to get the breakthrough. However, a defensive mix up was punished by Arshavin as he showed his class to break the deadlock.  Minutes later Nasri should have made it two as he rounded Friedel, only to hit his effort into the side netting.  However, he redeemed himself moments later with a superb volley from a corner following poor Villa marking.  The Midland outfit were then booed off at half time by their fans, which would have rattled the Villa youngsters.  Nevertheless, the teams emerged from the break with Villa looking the more potent going forward. Ciaran Clark scored a superb half volley from the edge of the box to put Aston Villa back in the contest, only for Chamakh to poke home and extend Arsenal’s lead four minutes later.  Clark then made sure the Villa fans once again had something to get excited about as he headed home his second.  The goal set up a thrilling finish to the game, in which Arsenal made defensive substitutions to try and close it out. With Villa pressing for an equaliser, Arsenal counter attacked to great effect which enabled Wilshere to nod home a fourth and seal the three points for Arsenal.

The win moved Arsenal momentarily to the top of the league with only Manchester United being able to take over them on the day should they overcome what looked like a tricky tie against Blackburn Rovers.  However, any chance of this game being a contest was soon over.  United, who have not been free flowing this season despite being unbeaten, simply swept Blackburn away with some clinical football.  Dimitar Berbatov became the fifth Premier Player to score five times in a game, with Nani and Park getting the others.  Samba scored a consolation for Rovers, but it could have easily been more for United as Robinson did well to prevent Berbatov grabbing a double hat trick.  The Bulgarian’s link up play with Rooney looked telepathic at times, but Rooney’s failure to score yet again may cause concern for United and England fans alike.

Lower down the table West Brom thrashed Everton 4-1 thanks to strikes from Scharner, Brunt, Tchoyi and a Distin own goal.  Tim Cahill had brought Everton back into the game to make it 2-1, but Mikel Arteta saw red to which West Brom took control of the game.  The manner of the defeat will surely hurt David Moyes, who now finds his side only two points above the relegation zone. Fellow relegation candidates Wolves and West Ham both picked up crucial victories.  West Ham beat Wigan Three three goals to one while Wolves came from behind to beat Sunderland.

Elsewhere, there were score draws for Bolton against Blackpool, Birmingham against Fulham, and Stoke against Man City.  Stoke and Bolton both had to rely on injury time equalisers to share the spoils in what was a brilliant day of football.

With the amount of goals scored on Saturday, Sunday had a lot to live up to and it did not disappoint.  Chelsea who have struggled of late continued to show their frailties as a defensive error from Alex’s poor back pass allowed Carroll to race through and put Newcastle into the lead.  A deflected Kalou effort made sure the teams went into the break level, with neither side managing to find a winner in the second half.  Alarm bells may well be ringing for the Chelsea faithful who have now seen their side turn from unbeatables to vulnerables in a matter of weeks.

The last game of the weekend saw Liverpool go to Tottenham.  So far this season Tottenham have struggled in Premier League games when they have played a midweek Champions League game.  However, today they may well have just found a cure to the European hangover.  Skertel gave Liverpool the lead just before the end of a good first half.  However he went from hero to zero as he put through his own goal, after a great run from Modric, to give Tottenham the equaliser.  Prior to the goal, Jermaine Defoe had the chance to bring Spurs level from the penalty spot but sent his effort wide.  Both sides hunted for a winner, but Aaron Lennon stayed more alert than Paul Konchesky and, two minutes into injury time, ran through to beat Reina and send the Tottenham fans home happy once again after a very impressive week.

by Oliver Holmes

November 20, 2010

>Premier League predictions 20-21 November

>Birmingham v Chelsea
Birmingham can approach this game in one of two ways. They can view Chelsea as vulnerable due to their two defeats in three games, or they could go into the game fearing a backlash from Drogba et al as they look to put their recent poor form behind them. Birmingham were impressive defensively in their 0-0 draw against Man City last weekend, but Jerome looked isolated up front while Zigic does not do much else other than offer an aerial threat. This could be the day Chelsea return to winning ways, and should win comfortably.
Prediction: Birmingham 0 – Chelsea 3

Blackburn Rovers v Aston Villa
Until getting beat 4-2 by Tottenham last weekend, Blackburn had put consecutive wins together to move away from the drop zone. Villa meanwhile have been slowly finding their feet under Houllier, and were so close to beating Manchester United for the first time in many years. Allardyce has made Blackburn hard to beat at home, although they do struggle to score goals to clinch victories. Villa meanwhile can score due to the electric pace their side possess, but it would not be surprising if the game ended all square.
Prediction: Blackburn Rovers: 1 – Aston Villa: 1

Blackpool v Wolves
The goal specialists were surprisingly lacklustre in front of goal last weekend in a goalless draw against West Ham, while Wolves fought hard until the end against a classy Bolton side. [Bolton? Classy? – Oxymoron Ed] Unlike last weekend, Blackpool will have no problem scoring, but Wolves are no mugs in front of goal themselves. Wolves have put together some impressive performances recently and not necessarily got the results they deserve. Fortunes could change this weekend and there could be a bit of a goal fest.
Prediction: Blackpool 2 – Wolves 2

Bolton v Newcastle
Bolton currently lie fifth in the league and deservedly so. Owen Coyle has got them playing some impressive stuff this year and, unlike in previous seasons, they look clinical in front of goal. Newcastle have also been brilliant and always look a threat. Kevin Nolan returns to face his former club and surely will fancy returning with a bang. Both sides will be well organised but Bolton could easily continue their good form.
Prediction: Bolton 1- Newcastle 0

Liverpool v West Ham
If Liverpool are going to turn around their form, now is the perfect opportunity. West Ham are rooted to the bottom the league and are struggling all over the pitch. Liverpool still have class in places. and should be far too much for the strugglers. If Liverpool play as well as they did against Chelsea The Hammers could be on the end of a hammering. However, should the Anfield club do anything less than take all three points, the writing could be on the walls for the manager Roy Hodgson.
Prediction: Liverpool 3 – West Ham 0

Manchester United v Wigan
United left it late to secure a point against a classy Villa side, while Wigan emerged victorious over West Brom last time out. With Rooney expected to return tomorrow, this game could come as a perfect come back for the out of form striker, and he could find himself in the goals with Wigan’s defence not being the best.
Prediction: Manchester United 4- Wigan 0

West Brom v Stoke
Stoke will go into this game buoyed by their impressive win against Liverpool last weekend. West Brom, although impressive at the start of the season, find themselves slipping down the league as well as developing a poor disciplinary record. Stoke have taken their time to establish themselves this season, but could now make it two consecutive wins.
Prediction: West Brom 1 – Stoke 2

Fulham v Man City
Mark Hughes sees his former club travel to Craven Cottage, with the man who replaced him under enormous pressure to turn around the negative performances of recent times. Hughes has Fulham playing good football, but they have drawn a lot of games this season. City meanwhile find themselves fourth, but could struggle to get anything more than a draw this weekend as there is no question Hughes will want to get one over the club that controversially sacked him.
Prediction: Fulham 1 – Man City 1

By Oliver Holmes

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