Christian Benteke

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the four FA Cup quarter-final matches as well as the one Premier League fixture. Last time out we got nine out of ten predictions right and two correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Bradford vs Reading (12:45)
The Bantams are entering this match as favourites given their recent cup history in both the FA Cup and the League Cup and particularly considering their home form in cup competitions. Reading may be a division above them but pundits have largely written them off, however, I’m not sure that they will roll over so easily. The Royals will be fully aware of the dangers that Bradford will pose in this tie so they shouldn’t underestimate them. In addition to this, there are question marks over whether the Bantams will be able to be motivate themselves to perform at the levels they have in previous rounds because Reading aren’t such a big name. For those reasons, I think the tie might go back to the Madjeski Stadium.
Prediction: Bradford 1-1 Reading

QPR vs Spurs (15:00)
The weekend’s only Premier League fixture features two sides facing very different battles. The R’s are back in the relegation zone following their defeat to Arsenal in midweek, whereas Spurs put themselves firmly in contention for a top-four spot with their 3-2 victory over Swansea. Mauricio Pochettino will be expecting his side to use their game in hand wisely and put real pressure on the sides above them and they should do that.
Prediction: QPR 1-2 Spurs

Aston Villa vs West Brom (17:30)
This is a very interesting cup-tie. It’s a local derby and the same fixture was played on Tuesday night where Villa came out on top 2-1 through a late Christian Benteke penalty. The atmosphere should be electric and both sets of players will be up for it, especially because a trip to Wembley awaits the winner. The Villans were the stronger side when the sides last met but Baggies’ boss Tony Pulis will get a reaction out of his players. It could go either way and neither side will want a replay but I’ll sit on the fence and say that’s what they’ll get.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 West Brom

Sunday

Liverpool vs Blackburn (16:00)
Brendan Rodgers’ side are the form team of 2015 and Rovers couldn’t have picked a worse time to play them. Having said that, Liverpool must guard against complacency as Blackburn have knocked out Premier League opposition in the form of Stoke and Swansea already this competition but this is a real opportunity for The Reds to lift a trophy and it’s hard to see Rovers stopping them.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Blackburn

Man United vs Arsenal (20:00)
This should be a fascinating tie. Louis van Gaal’s team are yet to convince anyone of their powers but United always seem to have a hold over The Gunners. Arsenal, meanwhile, have been in good league form but are still susceptible to conceding silly goals and gifting opportunities to the opposition. United have the firepower to capitalise on those sort of chances and I think this will end up as a high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Man United 2-2 Arsenal

Advertisements

Leicester 1-0 Aston Villa

Paul Konchesky pulled Leicester to within two points of safety as The Foxes beat Aston Villa.

Konchesky struck a fine left-footed strike at the end of the first half in a match that Leicester dominated.

Matty James and Ciaran Clark were sent off in stoppage time as tempers boiled over.

The Foxes remain bottom of the table but are level with relegation rivals Crystal Palace on 17 points.

David Nugent wasted a great early opportunity by putting an effort wide in the 13th minute after Marc Albrighton slid him in.

Christian Benteke then had the ball in the net but he was flagged offside.

Nugent passed up another glorious opportunity to score, this time with his head, as he managed to put the ball wide from three yards.

He came close with a spectacular volley from the edge of the area that cannoned off the bar.

Leicester continued to pile the pressure on and Konchesky fired in a brilliant effort from just inside the area after Alan Hutton failed to clear.

The Foxes came out the traps quickly in the second half and almost doubled their lead but Brad Guazan expertly denied a Matty James header with a fingertip save.

Guzan made another excellent stop to deny former villa man Albrighton’s drive.

James lunged in on Jores Okore to earn a straight red card while Clark received a second yellow card for his reaction to the incident.

Benteke came close with a header but Leicester held on.

Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion

There are only 2 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 West Brom.

Last year was a difficult season for the Baggies as they finished in 17th place and only 3 points above the relegation zone. A lack of goals was a major concern and their top scorers, Saido Berahino and Stephen Sessegnon, ended the season on a measly 5 league goals. Manager Steve Clarke was sacked after a poor start to the season and Pepe Mel replaced him. Mel kept West Brom in the Premier League but left the club, by mutual consent, at the end of the season. The Baggies have since hired Alan Irvine and will hope that he can turn their fortunes around.

The Manager
Alan Irvine is an unknown entity in Premier League management so it is difficult to know how he will adapt to his new surroundings. He has previously managed Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday and, most recently, Everton’s youth team. He was sacked at both Preston and Wednesday after poor runs of form at each club so Irvine’s appointment represents a gamble on Chairman Jeremy Peace’s part.

This is Alan Irvine's first job as a Premier League manager

This is Alan Irvine’s first job as a Premier League manager

Biggest Signing
The Baggies have been busy in the market so far and drafted in 6 new recruits. Albion’s biggest signing, in money terms, is Brown Ideye who joined from Dynamo Kiev for £10 million, a club record. Remarkably, Irvine admitted that he had never seen Ideye play before splashing the cash on him, which is bizarre given the large fee involved. However, the transfer that will excite the Albion fans more is the arrival of Joleon Lescott from Manchester City. Lescott is an experienced defender who the Midlands club will be delighted to have landed on a free.

Lescott is a quality signing for the Baggies

Lescott is a quality signing for the Baggies

Who is tipped to join them?
Alan Irvine will be keen to add reinforcements to what, on paper, looks like a side that will struggle to score goals. The main player currently linked with a move to the Midlands is Jonathan Biabiany from Parma. Biabiany is a French Winger who was a product of Inter Milan’s youth system and is likely to cost around £5 million.

Biabiany would be an exciting addition to the Premier League

Biabiany would be an exciting addition to the Premier League

Who should they sign?
As mentioned previously, the Baggies are a team who are short of goals and will, therefore, be looking to add to their attacking options. Brown Ideye is an unknown entity and if he fails to meet expectations then West Brom’s season could become disastrous. Berahino has great potential but they won’t want to rely solely upon him for goals and Victor Anichebe, frankly, does not look good enough to lead a potent attack. Albion should bring in a more experienced Premier League attacker to bolster their options. Unfortunately, Jeremy Peace runs a tight ship and Irvine will have to operate on a strict budget. A loan move for Victor Moses would make sense for both player and club.

Victor Moses will be available on loan from Chelsea again this season

Victor Moses will be available on loan from Chelsea again this season

Key Player
Ben Foster. One position that West Brom is not lacking in quality is in goal and keeper Ben Foster is a safe pair of hands for them to rely on. He has recently returned to the England set up and the Baggies will need him to maintain his excellent form in order for them to survive.

Foster is vital to West Brom's survival plans

Foster is vital to West Brom’s survival plans

Prediction
The Midlands side were perilously close to the drop last season and I haven’t seen enough improvement to their squad to suggest that they will pull away from a relegation battle this season. Of course, Irvine could prove to be a masterful manager and Brown Ideye could turn out to be a player of the quality of Benteke or Bony to fire them up the table but I just don’t see it. West Brom are notoriously a yoyo club who bounced between the Premier League and the Championship and I think that they will return to England’s second division after this campaign. Expect West Brom to finish 19th.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa

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 Aston Villa.

Aston Villa have been in limbo for the past 4 seasons and have faced a relegation battle throughout the majority of each season. Randy Lerner has announced that he is trying to sell the club that has added even more uncertainty to proceedings for the Villa Park faithful. Talismanic striker Christian Benteke is also injured for the foreseeable future and could be ruled out from now until any time between September and the New Year dependent on his recovery rate. Villa will be hoping for a less stressful season at the wrong end of the table but it is hard to see them climbing too high up the table unless there is a takeover in the next few weeks.

Randy Lerner has put Villa up for sale but is yet to find a buyer

Randy Lerner has put Villa up for sale but is yet to find a buyer

The Manager
Paul Lambert has been in charge of the West Midlands side for the past 2 seasons and there has been very little progression. In fairness to him there have been significant restraints and limitations placed upon him during his reign as Villa are still trying to undo the financially damaging aspects of O’Neill’s time in charge. Chairmen Randy Lerner trusts him and his position seems safe until a takeover occurs.

Lambert has endured a tough spell at Villa but still has the backing of owner Randy Lerner

Lambert has endured a tough spell at Villa but still has the backing of owner Randy Lerner

Biggest Sigining
There are limited funds to spend so Lambert is doing his best Harry Redknapp “wheeler-dealer” impression and attempting to bring in experienced performers at low cost prices. He has already lured Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson to Villa Park and seems keen to make a couple more signings to bolster his relatively thin squad. However, Villa’s biggest signing so far has perhaps been off the field. Roy Keane has been drafted in as Paul Lambert’s number 2, a role he will assume alongside his position as Ireland’s assistant manager, and could have a big impact on the club. He has been there and done it all as a player so will instantly gain the respect of the players and could be a catalyst for an improved season for the Villans.

Roy Keane will be hoping to help Villa climb up the table

Roy Keane will be hoping to help Villa climb up the table

Who is tipped to join them?
Nicklas Bendtner has been heavily linked with a move to Aston Villa and is widely expected to sign soon. Swansea’s Ki-Sung Yueng is also tipped to be coming through the door in the next few days. Moreover, a loan deal for Chelsea winger Christian Atsu could be on the cards if he doesn’t feature in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the season.

Bendtner is expected to be wearing claret and blue next season

Bendtner is expected to be wearing claret and blue next season

Who should they sign?
Due to the lack of funding at Villa Park, it is unlikely that they can afford any player that would command a decent transfer fee so they will be scouring the market for bargains; the afore mentioned players wouldn’t be bad pieces of business for them. In honesty, Villa’s best players could be those returning from long absences from the club. Charles N’Zogbia has all the attributes to be a top performer for Aston Villa but there are question marks over his attitude and Darren Bent certainly knows how to stick the ball in the back of the net at this level. If both players are fired up and willing to prove Lambert wrong for casting them out then they could play big parts in the upcoming campaign. The return of Jores Okore from injury is also a huge boost for Paul Lambert and the thought of partnering him and Vlaar at centre-back will be an exciting prospect for the claret and blue faithful.

Can N'Zogbia find the form that persuaded Villa to part with £9.5 million to acquire his services?

Can N’Zogbia find the form that persuaded Villa to part with £9.5 million to acquire his services?

Key Player
Fabian Delph. With talismanic figure Christian Benteke being a long-term absentee, the responsibility to galvanise Villa falls largely upon the shoulders of Fabian Delph. As a midfielder he has it all: the ability to pass, shoot and he’s tenacious in the tackle. He scored a host of wonderful goals last season and is often the driving force behind the side. Villa fans will be praying that there is no serious interest in him this summer and they can cling on to one of their prize assets.

Villa fans will be desperate to keep hold of Fabian Delph this transfer window

Villa fans will be desperate to keep hold of Fabian Delph this transfer window

Prediction
Many will be tipping Aston Villa for relegation this season due to the current issues at the club but I see it rather differently. Villa may have their difficulties off the pitch but there is a decent spine to the side with the likes of Guzan, Vlaar, Delph and, when fit, Benteke. Getting Ron Vlaar alongside a more capable defender than Nathan Baker was a priority for this summer and Lambert has addressed this early on. The return of Okore is a boost and the signing of Senderos means that, all of a sudden, there is some decent competition for places in a position that was desperately weak for the Villans last season. They are proven battlers in the bottom half so a relegation scrap will be nothing new to them should it come to it. I think they have enough to see themselves through another season in the Premier League and hopefully earn a sale along the way. I suspect they will end up in the bottom half but will survive. Expect Aston Villa to finish 14th.