Mark Hughes

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

Advertisements

Midweek Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the weekend fixtures for the 28th round of Premier League football. Last time out we got three out of eight predictions right and two correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Tuesday

Aston Villa vs West Brom (19:45)
Tim Sherwood has had a terrible introduction to life managing Aston Villa and The Villans have now lost their last seven league matches. The Baggies, meanwhile, earned another win against Southampton and Tony Pulis looks set to guide them to safety. These two clubs face each other twice this week as they have their FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to on Saturday but Villa simply cannot afford to lose this and Pulis is unlikely to allow Villa to close the gap on his side so a draw would be the logical outcome.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 West Brom

Hull vs Sunderland (19:45)
Last time out Hull were defeated away at Stoke while Sunderland lost away at Man United – neither of which were disastrous results. Hull have shown good form against the sides around them recently, beating both Villa and QPR, but Sunderland have demonstrated time and time again that they are very difficult to break down. This could be a cagey affair and don’t be surprised to see it finish goalless.
Prediction: Hull 0-0 Sunderland

Southampton vs Crystal Palace (19:45)
The Saints’ top-four challenge has drifted away in recent weeks and there are few people who will be genuinely surprised by that. Palace have reached 30 points, convincingly beat West Ham at the weekend and look like they will be comfortably safe. Southampton have shown throughout the season that they can bounce back from a setback and they will need to again here to keep their slim Champions League hopes alive.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Crystal Palace

Wednesday

Man City vs Leicester (19:45)
City wasted a golden opportunity to put Chelsea under pressure whilst they weren’t in league action but were very poor and now need a minor miracle if they’re going to bag a trophy this season. Manuel Pellegrini’s job will now be under serious scrutiny from their demanding owners. Leicester enjoyed the comfort of a break at the weekend but it is unlikely to do them many favours at the Etihad.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Leicester

Newcastle vs Man United (19:45)
The Magpies bounced back from their crushing defeat at the hands of Man City to beat Aston Villa and virtually confirmed Premier League safety. United returned to winning ways but will know that they can’t drop points in this game as they prepare to face Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool in their three fixtures following this match. They may still not be at their fluent best but they should still be able to beat Newcastle.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Man United

QPR vs Arsenal (19:45)
The R’s benefitted from a rest this weekend but the arrival of The Gunners represents a tough fixture for a side that generally rely on their home results. Arsenal may as well have had the weekend off as Everton put up little resistance but this is not an easy fixture for Arsene Wenger’s men. The pitch will suit QPR more than it will Arsenal and Chris Ramsey’s side will hope to get in their face and cause them problems. Having said that, Arsenal should have enough quality to edge this.
Prediction: QPR 1-2 Arsenal

Stoke vs Everton (19:45)
Mark Hughes’ side did what they traditionally do best and won at home this weekend while Everton faltered once more. Roberto Martinez must surely want them to focus all their attention on winning the Europa League to try to earn qualification to the Champions League through that route. Their league form is less important providing they steer clear of relegation and I can’t see Stoke giving them an easy ride here.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Everton

Spurs vs Swansea (19:45)
Tottenham may have been disappointed to lose the Capital One Cup final but it’s important that they put that behind them quickly and focus on their push for a Champions League place. Swansea have suddenly returned to superb form and will not make this easy for Mauricio Pochettino’s team but they have enough in the tank to get a win.
Prediction: Spurs 2-1 Swansea

West Ham vs Chelsea (19:45)
The Hammers lost the plot at the weekend and it was surprising to watch them concede such a high number of goals again. Chelsea, on the other hand, enjoyed an excellent win over Spurs to lift the Capital One Cup trophy. They will have to guard against complacency but they could be catching Sam Allardyce’s team at just the right time and can keep their five-point gap at the top intact.
Prediction: West Ham 0-2 Chelsea

Liverpool vs Burnley (20:00)
The Reds’ great form continued with a win over Man City and they are breathing down the necks of Arsenal and Man United to earn Champions League football. Burnley, meanwhile, lost to Swansea at home and I am struggling to see an escape from relegation for them now. This is the last team Sean Dyche would want his side to be facing at the moment and they won’t be able to get a result at Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Burnley

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the weekend fixtures for the 26th round of Premier League football. Last time out we got four out of ten predictions right and no correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Aston Villa vs Stoke (15:00)
A lot has changed at Villa Park since their defeat at Hull where they were utterly appalling. They have sacked Paul Lambert, hired Tim Sherwood and moved into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – a busy week or so. Stoke have conceded eight in their last two games and Mark Hughes will be expecting a reaction from his players. Sadly for Hughes, he might have picked the wrong weekend to play Villa and Sherwood may provide the spark for The Villans to get a much-needed win.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Stoke

Chelsea vs Burnley (15:00)
Jose Mourinho’s side continued their march towards the title with another victory over Everton and it would take a brave man to bet against them winning it now. It would perhaps take similar bravery for someone to back Burnley to stay up. They have battled hard all season but have had some poor recent results against some of their relegation rivals and it’s hard to see them getting anything at Stamford Bridge.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Burnley

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal (15:00)
Alan Pardew’s team earned another point at home to Newcastle in their bid for safety and now sit five points clear of the relegation zone. Arsenal, meanwhile, are one point off fourth but with Spurs, Liverpool and Southampton playing on Sunday, they have an opportunity to put pressure on their rivals and it’s hard to see them wasting that chance.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal

Hull vs QPR (15:00)
Hull climbed out of the relgation zone with a big win against relegation rivals Villa and Steve Bruce will be desperate for them to follow it up with another three points against fellow strugglers QPR. The R’s also pulled themselves out of trouble with victory over Sunderland, their first away win of the season, to keep the battle to avoid relegation wide open. This could prove a pivotal game in the hunt for survival but I’ll opt for Hull due to their home advantage.
Prediction: Hull 2-1 QPR

Sunderland vs West Brom (15:00)
Had Sunderland beaten QPR at home last time out I would have said they were all but guaranteed to beat the drop but they have allowed their rivals to draw closer to them and Gus Poyet’s position looks under threat, especially after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford. The Baggies, on the other hand, are four points clear of the relegation zone and are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Tony Pulis has solidified West Brom since his arrival and may be happy to return from the Stadium of Light with a point.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-0 West Brom

Swansea vs Man United (15:00)
Swansea have generally struggled going forward without Wilfried Bony and they’ll be pleased that they acquired enough points with him as they may struggle to win matches without him. United have been heavily criticized for their playing style but they keep coming up with the results and they should pick up three more points here.
Prediction: Swansea 0-1 Man United

Man City vs Newcastle (17:30)
City welcome Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony into their matchday squad and that can only spell trouble for Newcastle. The Magpies have been very hit and miss in recent weeks and will need to be at the top of their game to get a result. City can’t afford to slip up again and need to go on a big winning streak to have a chance of lifting the title but they shouldn’t come up against too much resistance from Newcastle.
Prediction: Man City 3-1 Newcastle

Sunday

Spurs vs West Ham (12:00)
Tottenham will have been disappointed with their Europa League result at home to Fiorentina and the arrival of West Ham will be a daunting prospect as they look to keep up their push for a Champions League spot. However, the Hammers haven’t had a straightforward week either. They signed Nene on a free transfer but a reported boardroom argument has erupted and there is a lot of speculation over the future of Sam Allardyce, whose contract is up at the end of the season. This could be a tight game but Spurs should have enough to get the win.
Prediction: Spurs 2-1 West Ham

Everton vs Leicester (14:05)
The Toffees produced an excellent performance to dismantle BSC Young Boys and Romelu Lukaku’s return to form will offer great encouragement. Leicester, meanwhile, crashed out of the FA Cup last weekend, are still five points clear of safety and Nigel Pearson remains under pressure. The Foxes can hope that Everton will be jaded from their trip to Switzerland but Roberto Martinez’s team should claim victory.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 Leicester

Southampton vs Liverpool (16:15)
This is a very important game in the race for the Champions League spots and one that both teams could do with winning. The Saints are likely to be outside the top four by the time the match kicks off if Arsenal beat Crystal Palace and it remains to see how long their challenge to finish in the coveted Champions League spots can last. Liverpool managed to earn a win against Besiktas in the Europa League and if they lose here that may be their only route back into Europe’s elite competition. It will be interesting to see how much each side goes for this match but I suspect it will be a cagey affair and that neither side will be able to land a knockout blow.
Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Liverpool

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the fourth weekend of Premier League football. Last week proved to be an absolute shocker on the prediction front with a measly one correct result out of ten. We’ll surely do better this week…

Saturday

Arsenal vs Manchester City (12:45)
Neither of these sides will have been too happy to head off for the international break on the back of poor results. Arsenal will be even more incensed with the injury to Aaron Ramsey that could rule him out of this one. The Gunners were very poor against Leicester and were fortunate to get a point against Everton after being wholly outplayed. City, on the other hand, suffered an unbelievable home defeat at the hands of Stoke. It goes to show how unpredictable this league can be. Arsenal were very poor against the big teams last season and City will be out to avenge that Community Shield defeat at the start of this campaign so expect a City win.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-3 Man City

Chelsea vs Swansea (15:00)
1st plays 2nd in an early top of the table clash. It seems unlikely that The Swans will continue their push at the top of the league for much longer but they should enjoy their run whilst it lasts. Chelsea have made an equally impressive start to the season and are full of goals. They should have too much for Garry Monk’s side in this one despite Swansea’s confident outlook.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Swansea

Crystal Palace vs Burnley (15:00)
This is a clash between the bottom two sides in the division, on one point respectively, and they will both be desperate to hoist themselves out of the relegation zone with this one. Although it’s very early on in the season, psychologically you don’t want to be stuck down at the bottom of the pile. Whilst a trip to Selhurst Park is never easy, Burnley will give The Eagles a good match. Neil Warnock is still getting to know his side and may have to settle for a point here. Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Burnley

Southampton vs Newcastle
Southampton have started the season fairly convincingly under Ronald Koeman and don’t seem to be suffering too much from the mass exodus in the summer. Newcastle, in comparison, are still desperate for a win and there is talk of Alan Pardew having only two games to save his job. The Magpies probably need this win more but an entertaining draw is a more likely outcome.
Prediction: Southampton 2-2 Newcastle

Stoke vs Leicester Stoke secured the most unlikely of results by beating Mark Hughes’ former club Man City at the Etihad Stadium and that has really saved them from what had otherwise been a very poor start. Leicester have been one of the surprise packages of the season so far and have done remarkably well to get two points out of three of the best teams in the division. A note of caution, however, it is often easier to get fired up against the big teams where there is no pressure and it’s the results against the smaller sides that keeps you in the division. Leicester may find that out the hard way here.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Leicester

Sunderland vs Spurs
Both sides will be keen to bounce back after disappointing defeats prior to the international break. Sunderland succumbed to defeat away at Loftus road whereas Spurs were hammered by Liverpool at home. It will be interesting to see how both sides recover. Sunderland, on the whole, have looked pretty tough to beat but don’t seem to have that killer instinct in front of goal. Spurs, on the other hand, have performed admirably against weaker sides but there still seems to be a gap to bridge with the big boys. Expect Spurs to just edge a victory.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-1 Spurs

West Brom vs Everton (15:00)
These teams find themselves in and around the relegation zone at this early stage. The Baggies were thrashed last time out by a rampant Swansea and scoring goals seems to be their Achilles heel. Everton, conversely, have made a really disappointing start to the season. Although they’ve had relatively tough fixtures that included Chelsea and Arsenal, they have thrown away several leads in their opening two fixtures and conceded six against a rampant Chelsea. West Brom shouldn’t threaten the Toffees though and an away win should kick start their season.
Prediction: West Brom 0-2 Everton

Liverpool vs Aston Villa (17:30)
Liverpool negotiated a potentially tough trip to White Hart Lane with ease and they have made a decent start to the season. Villa have also made a terrific start, however, they are about to embark on a tough run that sees them play five sides out of last season’s top six. Villa have been remarkably good at Anfield in the last two seasons beating Liverpool 3-1 in the campaign before last and drawing 2-2 earlier this year. Despite their good start and the injury to Daniel Sturridge, it’s hard to see anything other than a Liverpool victory.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Aston Villa  

Sunday

Man United vs QPR (16:00)
Rio Ferdinand returns to play against his old club and Radamel Falcao could be in line for his Manchester United debut; two subplots that make Sunday’s tie a mouth-watering clash. Louis van Gaal will need to get a win sooner rather than later after an uninspiring start that sees them languishing in the bottom half of the table. QPR changed their formation last weekend at home to Sunderland and looked instantly more solid as they came away with a good win. This should be an entertaining game and United should, finally, come away with three points.
Prediction: Man United 3-1 QPR

Monday

Hull City vs West Ham (20:00) Hull were absolutely terrible in the first half against Villa last weekend and their exit from the Europa League could prove a blessing in disguise so that they avoid abject performances like that in future. West Ham are trying to improve their style of play, with mixed results, but I think they’ll go back to basics here and try to grind out an away point.
Prediction: Hull City 1-1 West Ham

Top Signing Per Club: M-W

The transfer window has now closed and the Premier League sides will have to make do with what they have until January. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the top signing made by each club whose name begins between M and W.

Manchester City
Fernando (FC Porto, undisclosed). Fernando was signed to bolster City’s options in midfield and has slotted seamlessly into the side thus far. He is a strong and powerful midfielder who will do the dirty work in midfield to allow Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking options more freedom so they can maximise the damage they inflict on the opposition.
Other notable signings: Willy Caballero (Malaga, undisclosed), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto, £32m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free).

Manchester United
Angel di Maria (Real Madrid, £59.7m). Louis van Gaal has smashed the British transfer record by acquiring the services of Argentine winger di Maria. Di Maria was influential in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season and was a key member of the Argentina side that reached the World Cup final. United have signed a world class player and one that has the ability to turn their fortunes around.
Other notable signings: Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m), Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco, loan), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon, £16m), Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m).

Newcastle United
Jack Colback (Sunderland, free). Sunderland fans were furious that Jack Colback was allowed to move to their bitter rivals for no fee. Sunderland’s loss is Newcastle’s gain and Colback should play a big role at the heart of their midfield. He was recently called up to the England squad and, although he had to leave the squad with an injury, has a bright future in front of him.
Other notable signings: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, undisclosed), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Siem de Jong (Ajax, undisclosed), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, undisclosed), Emmanuel Riviere (AS Monaco, undisclosed).

QPR
Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8m). QPR manager Harry Redknapp has been keen to add solidity to his back line this summer and highly rated English centre-back Steven Caulker fits the bill perfectly. QPR kept their first clean sheet of the season in their last match against Sunderland and there were encouraging signs that the Caulker-Ferdinand partnership is ready to blossom.
Other notable signings: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, free), Leroy Fer (Norwich City, £8m), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading, undisclosed), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Jack Robinson (Liverpool, undisclosed).

Southampton
Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m). A lot of the focus of Southampton’s summer spending has been on replacing the key players who left for pastures new. There are question marks over how successful their recruitment drive has been, however, one position they have certainly strengthened is in goal. Forster is a top young goalkeeper who has the potential to challenge Joe Hart for the England goalkeeping jersey and represents a major coup for The Saints.
Other notable signings: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, loan) Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan), Florin Gardos (FC Steaua Bucharest, £6m), Shane Long (Hull City, £12m), Sadio Mane (Red Bull Salzburg, £10m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m).

Stoke City
Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan). Mark Hughes has largely spent the summer bolstering his attacking options and Victor Moses represents a good piece of business for The Potters. After an uninspiring loan move at Liverpool, he will be keen to get back on track with Stoke and rediscover the form that made him heralded as a highly rated prospect.
Other notable signings: Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Bojan (Barcelona, £3m), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free).

Sunderland
Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, free). Rodwell’s career may have stalled at Manchester City but The Black Cats have pulled off a major coup in landing him. He is a tall combative midfielder but has rediscovered the attacking side to his game that was evident in his goal against Manchester United. Sunderland fans can expect Rodwell to really kick on and become a key player for them.
Other notable signings: Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, undisclosed), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton and Hove Albion, £2.5m), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, loan), Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic, free), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion, free), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City, free), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan).

Swansea
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Spurs, undisclosed). Sigurdsson has been one of the stars of the Premier League season so far and has played a large part in guiding Swansea towards the top of the table. Swansea fans will expect more of the same from a man who looks to be enjoying his football again after an indifferent spell at Spurs.
Other notable signings: Tom Carroll (Spurs, loan), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski, Federico Fernandez (Napoli, undisclosed), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free), Raheem Hanley (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisclosed), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, undisclosed).

Tottenham Hotspur
Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m). Spurs haven’t splashed too much cash this window as Mauricio Pochettino has been briefed to bring the best out of the players already at the club. However, the signing of Eric Dier looks to be an excellent piece of business. Not only is he solid at the back, he is also a threat going forward and already has two league goals this season. He is still a young prospect and will be a major asset to Spurs in the future.
Other notable signings: Ben Davies (Swansea, £10m), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, undisclosed), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier, £4.7m), Michel Vorm (Swansea, £5m), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC, undisclosed).

West Bromwich Albion
Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, free). It’s been a summer of change for West Brom. The Baggies have brought in more new faces than any other side in the Premier League as they hope to draw a line under last season. Their most impressive signing is that of Joleon Lescott. Lescott has vast amounts of Premier League experience as well as playing international football and in the Champions League. Once fully fit, he will be a vital part of West Brom’s plans to stay in the division.
Other notable signings: Chris Baird (Burnley, free), Sebastian Blanco (Metalist Kharkiv, undisclosed), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, free), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, undisclosed), Georgios Samaras (Celtic, free), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan)

West Ham United
Alex Song (Barcelona, loan). Sam Allardyce has been told he must bring style rather than just substance to Upton Park and he has brought in some exciting attacking prospects to do just that. However, The Hammers’ most high profile signing is Alex Song who has joined on loan from Catalan giants Barcelona. The former Arsenal man is a quality defensive midfielder who has an excellent range of passing and will drastically improve the quality of the London club’s midfield.
Other notable signings: Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, undisclosed), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, free), Diafra Sakho (Metz, undisclosed), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisclosed).

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the third weekend of Premier League football. Last week we got six out of ten correct with two correct scores, will we do better this time around?

Saturday

Burnley vs Man Utd (12:45)
Neither side has recorded a Premier League win this season and The Clarets are yet to register a point. In fairness to Burnley, they produced a good second half display against Swansea and they will be encouraged that they won’t be pointless for too long. United, on the other hand, have made a terrible start to the season and, worryingly, are showing no attacking creativity or incisiveness to strike fear into any opposition. Their midweek hammering by the MK Dons has made things even worse and confidence will be at an all time low. On the plus side, United have brought in a world class player in Angel Di Maria, one of the stars of Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season. Playing away from home should take some pressure off the players and they will hope that the signing of Di Maria will give them enough of a lift to record their first three points. Judging by their current form, however, don’t be surprised to see them slip up once more.
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Man Utd

Man City vs Stoke (15:00)
Manchester City may not have hit their best form so far but they have still recorded two relatively comfortable victories over decent opposition. In contrast, Stoke have made a stuttering start to the season by losing at home to an unfancied Villa side and only managing a draw against ten-man Hull. On the plus side, they did record a comfortable victory against Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup, although they will face a much sterner test here. Stevan Jovetic appears to have put his previous injury concerns behind him and looks a real threat going forward, which will really please Manuel Pellegrini. Provided City aren’t overconfident, this should be a straightforward home victory.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Stoke

Newcastle vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
Newcastle, whilst only having one point on the board, have made a solid start and look set for a good season. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace have had a nightmare start to the campaign, although they avoided an upset against Walsall in the cup with a confident three goal victory. They have appointed Neil Warnock as their new manager, so they will have some stability on that front, and are set to re-sign Wilfried Zaha on loan so there should be a slightly more positive buzz around Selhurst Park. Having said that, Warnock’s record at this level is fairly poor and fans may question the appointment. Newcastle will feel confident going into this one and should have enough to earn their first three points of the season.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Crystal Palace

QPR vs Sunderland (15:00)
Harry Redknapp and his side have made a really disappointing start to the campaign and there is already talk of him facing the axe. Sunderland, in comparison, have drawn both their matches and performed very well against a struggling Man Utd last weekend. Redknapp’s players will be shot of confidence after their thumping at the hands of Spurs and the fans will be expecting a big performance this weekend. Sunderland look like a tough side to beat and they should come away with another point here.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Sunderland

Swansea vs West Brom (15:00)
Swansea have made a truly magnificent start to the season and Garry Monk will be delighted with the performances of all his players thus far. West Brom may not have made such a glamorous start but they have a couple of points on the board and Alan Irvine will be pleased with the battling qualities his side have demonstrated to date. Irvine’s side seem well organised and won’t roll over easily so Swansea’s 100% record may come under threat here. A draw seems the most likely outcome in this one.
Prediction: Swansea 2-2 West Brom

West Ham vs Southampton (15:00)
The Hammers bounced back from opening day disappointment to easily dispense of Crystal Palace with the free-flowing football that Allardyce has promised. Ronald Koeman won’t be too disheartened by his side’s performances so far, although they appear less dangerous in attack this season. This is yet another game that’s very difficult to call but West Ham seem to be on a high and should just about manage a victory, although with less ease than last weeks encounter.
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Southampton

Everton vs Chelsea (17:30)
Everton have thrown away leads late on in their first matches of the season and will be bitterly disappointed to only have two points when they could easily have had six. Chelsea have waltzed to two comfortable victories against the promoted sides but this is their first real test. Jose Mourinho won’t underestimate his opposition and will be likely to keep it fairly tight, making sure they don’t lose the game, and try to nick the three points. Roberto Martinez won’t change his attacking philosophy and will go all out to try and win this one but Chelsea have the quality to pick them off. This should be an entertaining fixture and one Chelsea will just nick.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea

Sunday

Aston Villa vs Hull (13:30)
The Villans had made an excellent start to the season until their midweek home loss to League One side Leyton Orient. Goals seem to be the biggest issue for Paul Lambert’s side but they will be happy enough defensively (https://originalfooty.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/villa-solidity-gives-great-reason-for-optimism/). Lambert will also be aware of their terrible run of fixtures following this match that combines trips to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park with hosting Arsenal and Manchester City. They will want to leave this match with all three points so they don’t slip too far down the table in a period where they are unlikely to pick up many points. Hull, like Villa, have also made a good start to the season and will be feeling buoyant about their chances of finishing well in the league. They will be disappointed to have crashed out of the Europa League on away goals but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Hull were, realistically, unlikely to win the competition and it would have added a large number of fixtures to their season that may have effected their league form. Villa could do with the win but a low scoring draw seems the more likely scenario.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Hull

Spurs vs Liverpool (13:30)
This should be a very interesting encounter and will give us more of an indication of how far Spurs have come since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival. They have been very good so far this season and have won all their matches. Liverpool haven’t made the start they might have hoped for and, once again, defensive errors cost them against Manchester City. On current form there doesn’t seem to be too much between the two sides so we can expect an entertaining draw.
Prediction: Spurs 2-2 Liverpool

Leicester vs Arsenal (16:00)
Leicester have had a terrible run of fixtures to start the season but have performed admirably. Earning a point against Everton was a good result and there is no shame in defeat at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal have made a slower start than many people expected but showed good fight to score late goals in both their matches to earn four points as opposed to one. Arsene Wenger has been rocked by the news that Olivier Giroud has been ruled out until late December with an ankle injury and it remains to be seen if he drafts in a replacement for him. Leicester, on the other hand, have added experienced midfielder Esteban Cambiasso to their ranks and they will hope that he can provide some additional quality and bite to their midfield. Regardless of whether he plays or not, Arsenal should still have too much for them.
Prediction: Leicester 0-2 Arsenal

A First Time Footballer

As the Original Footy know-it-alls near the end of their Premier League previews, I still feel completely and utterly lost. I have been reading the posts, but there is mountains upon mountains of information about the teams involved – names I can’t spell or even begin to pronounce, movements of players from foreign and exciting lands, absurd sums of money in the fight for the best footballers – all of which I find baffling. For those of you who, like me, want to learn a bit more about the game but can’t hope to retain all the information in the Original Footy previews, the key is to go at it in bite-size chunks. So, we will begin today with the managers of the Premier League teams. I’m going to ask one of the guys at @0riginalFooty to test me on this at some point next week, so it’s time to start learning!
Arsenal – Arsene Wenger
Aston Villa – Paul Lambert
Burnley – Sean Dyche
Chelsea – Jose Mourinho
Crystal Palace – Tony Pulis
Everton – Roberto Martinez
Hull – Steve Bruce
Leicester – Nigel Pearson
Liverpool – Brendan Rodgers
Manchester City – Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester United – Louis van Gaal
Newcastle – Alan Pardew
QPR – Harry Redknapp
Southampton – Ronald Koeman
Stoke – Mark Hughes
Sunderland – Gus Poyet
Swansea – Garry Monk
Tottenham – Mauricio Pochettino
West Brom – Alan Irvine
West Ham – Sam Allardyce

At present I would say that I know 3 of these for sure. A measly 3 managers. Arsene Wenger is one of them and is an easy one to remember because his name is so similar to the name of his team. I actually know Paul Lambert and Aston Villa, but only because a good friend of mine speaks of very little else other than his favourite team. Finally, Manuel Pellegrini is where my knowledge of Premier League managers ends. I was on a flight back from Malaga last summer and he happened to be on the same plane as me. When collecting our luggage, he was stood with all the “normal” people and I noticed lots of passengers going up to him and asking for his autograph. Needless to say, I had no idea who he was so I sneaked a photo of him and sent it to a few of my football-savvy friends who confirmed that it was Manchester City’s new manager. So, I currently stand at a meagre 3 out of 20. I have a lot of work to do. Look out for A First Time Footballer’s post next week to find out how well (or not as the case may be) I fare in my Football Manager test…

Premier League Preview: Stoke City

There are only 3 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 Stoke City.

Stoke ended their 7 year relationship with Tony Pulis at the beginning of last season. Having established themselves as a Premier League club, their aim was to push up the table as far as possible. During Mark Hughes’s first season at the helm, they finished 10th and will be hoping to improve on that this time round.

The Manager


Mark Hughes has had an inconsistent managerial career in England’s top flight. With difficult spells in charge of moneymen Man City and QPR, scattered amongst impressive ones at Blackburn and Fulham, most Premier League fans don’t know what to make of “Sparky” as a manager.

Having inherited a notoriously sturdy and robust Stoke squad with a playing style labeled ‘unattractive’, amongst other things, Hughes has successfully implemented a more attractive playing style at the Britannia. By adding exciting players, such as Arnautovic, Assaidi and eventually Odemwingie, Hughes created an intriguing mix of physical strength alongside pacey, more technically gifted stars.

Mark Hughes has impressed Stoke fans thus far

Mark Hughes has impressed Stoke fans thus far

Biggest Signing


Stoke have already added Premier League experience to their ranks. Both Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell were standout performers last season for Sunderland and Fulham respectively. To get both on a free is somewhat of a coup for Hughes.In Mame Diouf they have a player who had a decent spell in the top flight with Blackburn Rovers, on loan from Man United, but has since proved himself abroad with Hannover 96, bagging almost a goal every two games for the Bundesliga outfit.

Their marquee signing, however, has to be Bojan Krkic. The former Barcelona man was once hailed as the next Lionel Messi and made over 100 appearances at Camp Nou between the ages of 17 and 20. Since then, Bojan has had three fairly average seasons on loan at Roma, A.C Milan and Ajax. The Spaniard insists that his lack of form is a result of being played too often on the right wing instead of in his favoured role as a striker. It will therefore be interesting to see how Mark Hughes deploys this ambitious signing. I am sure that we are all hoping to see a player who promises so much fulfill his potential for Stoke this season.

Bojan was once tipped for great things but has lost his way. Can he rediscover his best form at Stoke?

Bojan was once tipped for great things but has lost his way. Can he rediscover his best form at Stoke?

Who is tipped to join them?
Having seen wide-men Kightly, Etherington and Pennant depart from the Britannia, Mark Hughes will surely be looking to strengthen his options on both wings. Oussama Assaidi looks set to return permanently, after a good spell on loan last season, providing a fee can be met with Liverpool. Further to this, there is reported interest in Norwich’s young English prospect Nathan Redmond, who would surely be keen to join The Potters after suffering relegation last season.

Redmond is keen to make a quick return to the Premier League

Redmond is keen to make a quick return to the Premier League

Who should they sign?
Stoke fans must be delighted with their business so far; having signed a good balance of Premier League experience and exciting flair players, whilst retaining their key men from last season. With good strength in depth, there is only the aforementioned need for a couple of wingers to complete a strong-looking squad. Two players who could be available, either on loan or on the cheap, are Victor Moses and Scott Sinclair, both capable of contributing to Mark Hughes’s side.

Victor Moses would be a useful loan signing

Victor Moses would be a useful loan signing

Key Player
Apart from big name signing Bojan, who could prove a crucial figure for The Potters, Marko Arnautovic is a player who should have a big say in City’s fortunes this coming season. He found his feet very quickly in the Premier League and showed his pace, power and excellent technical ability in what was a very impressive debut campaign for the tall Austrian international. He was one of the key players in helping Mark Hughes achieve his goal of transforming the rugged Stoke of Tony Pulis’ era into a more aesthetically pleasing outfit. Expect to see this man continue to flourish next season as he links up with Stoke’s exciting new signings.

Arnautovic has settled well into life in the Premier League

Arnautovic has settled well into life in the Premier League

Prediction
When a side achieves its highest ever league finish, there is always a worry that, from this position, the only way is down. Stoke fans, however, should have no such fears. With an ambitious manager making ambitious signings and with no key players set to leave, it appears that The Potters will continue into next season in much the same vein as the last, consolidating their place as a top-half team. I’m expecting Hughes’s men to go one better this year and grab themselves an 8th place finish.