Premier League weekend preview – 27+28 August 2011

Aston Villa v Wolverhampton Wanderers 12.05 Saturday Aston Villa picked up three points last weekend against Blackburn to kick their season off properly.  Agbonlahor, Heskey and Bent all got on the score sheet and the resounding win has to have raised confidence going into this Black Country derby.  Villa lost this fixture last year and they will be keen to rectify that this time around. Wolves beat Fulham to win 2-0  on Sunday and are in good form in the league so far this season, their 4-0 win against northampton in the League Cup won’t have hurt confidence going into this weekends round of matches, they’ve got a few injuries but not to anyone really important. I’ve got this down as a home win but it’s a tenuous one, derbies are always tricky to predict but Villas home advantage and clean bill of health swing it their way for me. Wigan v Q.P.R. 12.30 Saturday Wigan have looked ok against the newly promoted sides so far this season but now they are up against a team with greater financial backing and a more dangerous team in terms of players likely to create and score goals.  The decision of three of their key players (James McCarthy, Ben Watson and Emmerson Boyce) to sign extended deals will help confidence in the camp but I don’t think it will be enough in this instance. Q.P.R. got their first points of the season against Everton and with renewed crowd backing (new owner Tony Fernandes has made some crowd pleasing decisions over the last week), I fully expect them to pick up another win here.  This match may be a little too soon for Keiron Dyer and Joey Barton may not be registered in time (if his signing goes through) but I still think Q.P.R. will still have enough about them to cause a fairly toothless Wigan side problems. Away win. Blackburn Rovers v Everton 15.00 Saturday Blackburn lost again last weekend and so far, they look likely to become this seasons Premier League whipping boys, their squad isn’t that bad compared to some of the others and the signing of Simon Vukcevic from Sporting Lisbon adds some extra quality to a midfield that will soon be without veteran Brett Emerton who’s returning to Australia to play for Sydney FC.  They are perhaps lacking up front but the real problem seems to be that no-one expects Steve Kean to end the season in charge at Ewood Park and he is, in managerial terms, effectively a dead man walking. Everton have no money, no new players to speak of and so far, no points either.  This could be the turning point for them, there are three worse teams in the division and their spirit and work ethic will take them a long way. New signings would be great but if they can keep key players fit throughout the campaign they are going to surprise a few teams. An Everton win won’t be a surprise this time around and that’s what I’m expecting. Chelsea – Norwich 15.00 Saturday Chelsea didn’t exactly shine against West Brom last weekend but an ability to win when playing poorly is often an indicator of the mental strength a side possesses.  Several questions remain to be answered, will Drogba start, will Mata make his debut, will Chelsea press on with their pursuit of Modric.  The questions in the press have been centred around signings and possible future signings but if Andre Villas Boas doesn’t start picking up some more impressive wins, questions could be asked about him as well. Norwich looked excellent in their draw against Stoke last week, capable of standing up to the oppositions physical play and also able to knock the ball around nicely at times, they even managed to score against Stoke from a set piece with a blocking manoeuvre that seemed to come right out of the Stoke playbook.  Paul Lambert looks like he has the ability to spot a good signing and inspire the players under his tutelage, a good combination to have. Home win. Swansea v Sunderland 15.00 Saturday Swansea are still waiting their first wion of the season and a 3-1 defeat away to Shrewsbury won’t make things any easier.  On the bright side, their new signings seem to have settled quickly and their goalkeeper Vorm looks an excellent signing, on loan defender Steven Caulker also seems to have made a good start and quickly settled into a centre back partnership with Ashley Williams. Sunderland are still struggling with injuries and a long trip down to Wales won’t be much welcome right now, last weeks defeat away to Newcastle will have hurt, Tuesdays loss to Brighton will have just compounded that. Both teams will be looking for all 3 points, I expect both teams to be disappointed.  Draw. Liverpool v Bolton 17.30 Saturday Kenny Dalglish experienced his 200th win in charge of Liverpool on Wednesday night against Exeter and life at Anfield seems to suit him well, last weeks 2-0 win against Arsenal was well deserved and as the side continues to gel, results should continue to be good, they have a real chance of breaking back into the Champions League spots this season and games like this one will be important to that aim. Bolton looked capable of giving Manchester City a game last weekend but reality took hold and the three points went to City.  With some important players out injured, most sides would look a reasonably soft target right now, Bolton though are not soft, neither is their manager and he’ll keep them focussed on the games ahead.  A new striker would help them out but Bolton aren’t exactly flush with cash so they might just have to make do with what they have. I’m going for a battling draw in this game. Newcastle United v Fulham FC 13.00 Sunday Newcastle have had a good start to the season, the question will be whether they can maintain that when Joey Barton leaves?  The Toon squad is full of pace and has been freshened up by some astute buys over the summer.  Alan Pardew looks to be doing a good job and the ownership issue seems to be staying out of the spotlight for once. Fulham have been steady so far, their main highlight being a Europa qualifier win against Dnipro, whether European trips like that will take the wind out of Fulhams sails remains to be seen but Martin Jol has plenty of experience managing in the Premiership and in Europe now so whilst they might still be waiting for their first league win of the season, I don’t expect them to be worrying about relegation too much this season. I had this one down as a Newcastle win but then I heard about Bartons proposed move to London and that levelled things up. Draw. Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City 13.30 Sunday Things aren’t looking rosey for Harry Redknapp right now, the postponed match against everton and the defeat to Manchester United have left Tottenham looking up at much of the league, Thursday night European matches won’t help either and this is a big game for the Tottenham manager.  A side that could use a physical presence up front and the return of some players in the middle, Tottenham have got to pick themselves up after last weeks defeat but they won’t be happy that they are now facing the leagues most expensively assembled side. New loan signing Emmanuel Adebayor won’t be allowed to play against his parent club so will have to wait to make his debut. Manchester City have shown real attacking verve this season and if they continue to go at teams as they have so far, this season could be an exciting one and a challenge for the title isn’t inconceivable.  The players they have on the bench cost more than some Premiership sides and the attacking talent they have at their disposal is quite frightening to opposition fans. Away win. West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City 15.00 Sunday West Brom are a tidy side, they play good football and have a boss that works well with the players at his disposal, Roy Hodgsons time at Liverpool didn’t shriek of canny buying ability but his time at Fulham and purchases made so far at his current club show he does indeed have an eye for a player.  Shane Long wasn’t exactly unknown to clubs in this country but West Brom took the plunge and so far it’s looking another great deal, if Long and Odemwingie can form a decent striking partnership, they’ve got a good chance of improving last seasons 11th placed finish. Stoke haven’t hit form yet, injuries to kep players haven’t helped and Tony Pulis is known to be looking for new players to bolster his squad, time is running out though and Stoke fans will be hoping it doesn’t go down to the last day of the transfer window as there are very few winners in that scenario.  Stoke perhaps should have won all 3 points against Norwich but they were up against an attractive, well organized side and the match ended up being decided by a missed penalty. Home win. Manchester United v Arsenal 16.00 Sunday This could be the game of the weekend, the sides are at opposite ends of the scale, Manchester United are in good form, vibrant and at the top of the table with their Mancunian neighbours, Arsenal have lost two very influential players from last season, including their captain and are sitting in mid table with only one point.  Suspensions and injuries are biting at the north London club and Arsene Wenger looks to be under real fan pressure for the first time in ages. The league can’t be won in August but if Arsenal don’t pick up 3 points here and go on a run, it can certainly be lost. Home win.]]>