Chelsea Football Club

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the weekend fixtures for the 31st round of Premier League football. Last time out we got five out of ten predictions right and no correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Arsenal vs Liverpool (12:45)
As far as I’m concerned, Arsene Wenger’s side have already confirmed a top-four spot and there is a genuine possibility that they will finish second as Man City continue to falter. Liverpool lost a crucial battle in the race for the Champions League places and this match could prove to be a last hurrah for them. They are under pressure following their defeat to Man United and Raheem Sterling’s contract saga is not making life any more comfortable around Anfield. With home advantage for The Gunners, I’d expect them to come out on top.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool

Everton vs Southampton (15:00)
The Toffees have strung together some decent results in the last few weeks and their safety is all but confirmed. Southampton, meanwhile, refuse to give up the possibility of nabbing a Champions League spot but realistically it will be beyond them. Having said that, they are more than capable of winning against a team who have nothing to play for.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Southampton

Leicester vs West Ham (15:00)
This is a must-win game for Nigel Pearson’s team. If they fail to win then I can’t see any way back for them. The Hammers did every relegation-threatened side a huge favour by beating Sunderland last time out but Leicester will know that this is a team whose season is over and they simply have to win. I still think The Foxes will be relegated but I’ll back them to make things at the bottom even more interesting with a home win.
Prediction: Leicester 1-0 West Ham

Man United vs Aston Villa (15:00)
Louis van Gaal was under great pressure prior to the matches against Spurs and Liverpool but his side have come away with two excellent victories to put them in complete control of earning a top-four spot. Villa suffered a poor home result against Swansea in their last match and it has thrown them firmly back into the relegation mix. Tim Sherwood’s side may have half an eye on the crucial home match against QPR on Tuesday night but it is important that they put in a good performance to keep morale in the camp high. Villa certainly have the weapons to hurt van Gaal’s team if they play to their best and they will make a game of it but it’s hard to look past United in this one.
Prediction: Man United 3-1 Aston Villa

Swansea vs Hull (15:00)
The Swans continue to impress and look determined to end their season on a high. Hull have also been in decent form and gave Chelsea a run for their money in their last match. Two more wins would virtually guarantee safety for The Tigers and this is a game they could certainly get something out of but Garry Monk seems intent on finishing the season strongly and I think they will get the three points.
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Hull

West Brom vs QPR (15:00)
The Baggies are another team looking to secure their top-flight status and Tony Pulis will be confident of achieving safety if they manage to beat hapless QPR. The R’s continue to put in poor performance after poor performance but this is the biggest week of their season. West Brom are by no means unbeatable and then they face one of the sides they could realistically catch in the form of Aston Villa on Tuesday. If they could get four points from those two matches then they would be right back in it. Sadly for them, I fancy Pulis’ team to be too strong for them.
Prediction: West Brom 2-0 QPR

Chelsea vs Stoke (17:30)
The Blues edged another step closer to claiming the title with a nervy 3-2 win over Hull and it would be amazing to witness anything other than Chelsea’s colours around the trophy this season. Stoke have tied Mark Hughes down to a new contract while the international break has been going on and they have enjoyed another solid campaign. It won’t be an easy match for Jose Mourinho’s team but one they should win.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Stoke

Sunday

Burnley vs Spurs (13:30)
The Clarets are still in the frame for survival and a win here would lift them out of the relegation places for at least a couple of hours. Their opponents, however, will have seen at least one of their rivals for a top-four spot drop points on Saturday as Liverpool and Arsenal face off against each other and simply cannot afford to slip up against opposition of this ilk. Sean Dyche’s team won’t let them have it easy but I fancy Tottenham to just about nick it.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Spurs

Sunderland vs Newcastle (16:00)
This Tyne-Wear derby has plenty riding on it, particularly for Sunderland. The Black Cats sit a point above the relegation places and are in atrocious form. Dick Advocaat got off to a losing start against West Ham but will have had time to work with his team during the international break. Newcastle, on the other hand, are meandering towards the end of another mediocre season and defeat here would not go down well with their support. This could go either way so I’ll go for a draw.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle

Monday

Crystal Palace vs Man City (20:00)
Alan Pardew’s new team rose above his former charges in the table with their victory over Stoke and he deserves great credit for what he has achieved at Selhurst Park. City put in a much better performance against West Brom in their last match but they can’t afford to drop another point if they are to have any chance of winning the title. This is not an easy fixture and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Palace get something out of it but City should edge it.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Man City

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Premier League Preview: Liverpool

There are only 4 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Liverpool.

Liverpool were within touching distance of the title last season but fell just short. Since then, star man Luis Suarez has jetted off to Barcelona for a fee of £75 million and there will now be question marks around Liverpool’s title chances without their main attacking influence. There will be a greater concern as to whether they can even remain in the top 4 this season with Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City all strengthening and Liverpool having to play more fixtures due to their involvement in the Champions League. The battle for the top four has never been more intriguing and Liverpool will be at the heart of it.

The Manager
Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has really made a name for himself in English football. He earned promotion with Swansea to the Premier League and wowed people with their possession based and stylish attacking football as he kept them in the league. After such success with Swansea he was handed the task to turn Liverpool back in to title contenders after years in the wilderness and came desperately close to achieving his brief last season.

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Rodgers is a young manager with an excellent reputation

Biggest Signing
Liverpool have already been busy in spending the £75 million they received for Luis Suarez and have made some big signings. They brought in both Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana from Premier League rivals Southampton for £4 million and £25 million respectively. German Under-21 midfielder Emre Can moved from Bayer Leverkusen in a £10 million deal. However, the most exciting signing for Liverpool fans will be that of Lazar Markovic, the former Benfica wide man, who they have spent £20 million on.

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Markovic is an extremely talented young prospect

Who is tipped to join them?
Rodgers may have already spent big but with Suarez’s huge move bringing in lots of money, he still has plenty to play with. They have agreed an £8.5 million deal to sign Loic Remy from Queens Park Rangers and that transfer is expected to take place sooner rather than later. Dejan Lovren is another major summer transfer target for Liverpool but Southampton are demanding a large fee for a move to take place. Finally, Divock Origi, who impressed for Belgium in the World Cup, is likely to complete a move to Anfield in the near future.

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Loic Remy is set to join from QPR

Who should they sign?
Liverpool, for all their attacking prowess, were defensively weak last season and Rodgers will be keen to sure that up. Dejan Lovren would be a good signing to strengthen their central defence but they could also do with a left-back as Aly Cissokho’s loan spell has finished. Ben Davies from Swansea is an option.

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Dejan Lovren could prove an expensive signging

Key Player
Daniel Sturridge. After Suarez’s departure, the weight of expectation to provide the goals for Liverpool will be England’s main front man Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge has an eye for goal, a fierce left foot strike and makes intelligent runs that are a nightmare for defenders to keep track of.

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez's departure

Sturridge will be expected to bang in the goals to ease the pain of Suarez’s departure

Prediction
The loss of Suarez is a big blow to Liverpool and it’s difficult to tell how they will cope with it. Some players are irreplaceable and Suarez definitely fits in to that category. The problem for Liverpool is that whilst they have been significantly weakened with the loss of their star striker, other teams around them have really strengthened. Furthermore, they will be playing significantly more fixtures this season due to their Champions League involvement, which will put more strain on their squad. Liverpool will be in and around the Champions League places but I see them falling just short. Expect Liverpool to finish 5th.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea

There is only a month to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at Chelsea.

Chelsea were reunited with outspoken manager Jose Mourinho last season and finished 3rd in what was generally a disappointing campaign. Mourinho insisted that his young side was a work in progress so this is the season they will expect to be judged. Their major opposition for Premier League glory comes from fellow big-spenders Manchester City but Chelsea will be confident of pushing them all the way.

The Manager
Does Mourinho need an introduction? He is one of the most successful bosses in football history and is still at a young enough age to establish himself as the greatest manager of all time. When Mourinho originally arrived at Chelsea he heralded himself as “the Special One” and proceeded to win them their first Premier League title. He presided over the most successful period in the club’s history before falling out with Roman Abramovich, the owner, and moving on. He has since managed Inter Milan and Real Madrid before returning in an attempt to guide Chelsea to further glory.

Can Mourinho guide Chelsea to Premier League glory?

Can Mourinho guide Chelsea to Premier League glory?

Biggest Signing
Chelsea have already been busy this transfer window and have made some major signings. So big, in fact, that it difficult to determine which one is the biggest. It’s largely a tossup between the signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas who both cost around £30 million. Mourinho has also splashed big money on left-back Filipe Luis who will cost roughly £20 million. Although not officially a new signing, Thibault Courtois has also returned from loan and is another boost to Chelsea’s already talented squad.

Can Diego Costa justify his hefty price tag?

Can Diego Costa justify his hefty price tag?

Who is tipped to join them?
Chelsea are linked with hundreds of players every window due to Abramovich’s vast fortune so it is difficult to sift through genuine rumours. Names that are continuously linked are the likes of Sami Khedira, Edison Cavani and Paul Pogba. Interestingly, Champions League hero Didier Drogba has also been linked with a move back to the club as a back up striker for Diego Costa combined with a coaching role.

Will Drogba return to Chelsea this summer?

Will Drogba return to Chelsea this summer?

Who should they sign?
Chelsea are in the very comfortable position of not really needing to sign anyone. Having said that, Mourinho is not keen on the striking options available to him, Diego Costa aside, and he will be looking to bring in a secondary option. He is trying to rid himself of the likes of Torres and Ba and, with Eto’o having already been released, it is likely he will want one more forward. Drogba has been mentioned but may be past his best to be seriously challenging for first team football. The most sensible option would be to allow Romelu Lukaku the opportunity to stake his claim at the club but should Mourinho remain undecided on him, Wilfried Bony could be an option.

It remains to be seen whether Mourinho will give Lukaku an opportunity to shine at Stamford Bridge

It remains to be seen whether Mourinho will give Lukaku an opportunity to shine at Stamford Bridge

Key Player
Eden Hazard. He enjoyed a wonderful campaign last season and will be fully expected to do the same again this time. Often he was looking to inspire an unbalanced side with a lack of cutting edge but this season, with the improved quality up front, he should be part of a more menacing attack. Hazard is one of the most skilful players in the league and a fullback’s worst nightmare when he’s running at them.

Eden Hazard was Chelsea's top performer last season

Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s top performer last season

Prediction
Make no mistake about it; this is a very strong Chelsea side and one that will most likely win the league this season. They have added wisely to their squad early and will therefore get a long preseason behind them with all their playing staff together. Mourinho seems prepared and to have a best team in mind, which wasn’t always the case last season. Players like Ivanovic and Azpilicueta are useful to offer cover anywhere across the back four and there are quality options throughout the squad. Although Manchester City will be a force to be reckoned with, I think Chelsea have enough about them to emerge victorious this season. Expect Chelsea to finish 1st.