Paul Lambert

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 weekend’s fixtures for the 22nd round of Premier League football. Last time out we got four out of ten predictions right and one correct score. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Aston Villa vs Liverpool (15:00)
Villa are in a real mess at the moment and were fortunate to not lose to Leicester by five or six last weekend. Liverpool, meanwhile, performed well in the first half of their victory over Sunderland with Lazar Markovic finally beginning to demonstrate why they forked out £20m for him. Villa fans are due to launch a protest this weekend over how the club is being run which will only add to the already toxic atmosphere at Villa Park. Another defeat without scoring could really add to Paul Lambert’s woes but it’s hard to see any other outcome.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

Burnley vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
Burnley will have been disappointed in the manner of their defeat to Tottenham Hotspur to be knocked out of the FA cup but realistically The Clarets will be better served focusing on survival. Crystal Palace’s new boss Alan Pardew got off to the best possible start with their win over Spurs last weekend but this is a more important game in terms of doing damage to their rivals. Burnley are generally strong at home and the honeymoon period may end swiftly for Pardew this weekend.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Crystal Palace

Leicester vs Stoke (15:00)
The Foxes are on a decent run of form at the minute but their big problem is their inability to take chances. David Nugent could have scored a hat-trick last weekend against Villa but wasted all his opportunities. Stoke were very poor against Arsenal last weekend but it’s not often they perform poorly in two consecutive games and they can come away from The King Power Stadium with a point.
Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Stoke

QPR vs Man United (15:00)
There has been a lot of talk surrounding Harry Redknapp’s position at QPR but I still believe he’ll keep them in the Premier League this season, largely due to their home form. United have hit a sticky patch in their season and have slipped to fourth place following their defeat to Southampton. Due to QPR’s strength at home they are well placed to earn a draw.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Man United

Swansea vs Chelsea (15:00)
The Swans have lost Wilfried Bony and it will be interesting to see how many goals they score without him. I suspect their outlay will decrease significantly. Chelsea are having no such problem and extended their lead at the top to two points – a lead they will be in no mood to relinquish here.
Prediction: Swansea 0-2 Chelsea

Spurs vs Sunderland (15:00)
It was typical of Spurs to beat Chelsea and then lose to Crystal Palace in the following match – they lack consistency. Sunderland performed admirably in the second half when they were down to ten men but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. Jermain Defoe should add firepower to their attack but it’s hard to see him doing any damage against his former club here.
Prediction: Spurs 2-0 Sunderland

Newcastle vs Southampton (17:30)
Newcastle are another team who lack consistency and their lack of manager is hardly ideal. Southampton, however, keep marching on and will hope to maintain their push for a top-four spot. I’m still not convinced that they’ll get it but they should win this one.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Southampton

Sunday

West Ham vs Hull (13:30)
The Hammers have slipped to seventh in recent weeks but are still enjoying an excellent season and should finish inside the top ten. Hull continue to struggle and the supporters have accepted that this relegation battle could last to the end of the season. It’s hard to see anything but a home win.
Prediction: West Ham 2-0 Hull

Man City vs Arsenal (16:00)
This is the game of the weekend. City dropped points last weekend to Everton and won’t want to give Chelsea any more impetus in the title race, while Arsenal played as well as they have done for a while as they dismantled Stoke. If they can play like that at The Etihad then they will certainly have a chance but City could call upon Sergio Aguero from the start this weekend, which makes a huge difference. This should be an entertaining game but City will most probably come out on top.
Prediction: Man City 3-1 Arsenal

Monday

Everton vs West Brom (20:00)
The Toffees stopped their slide with a good draw against Man City but they have struggled for form all season and Tony Pulis’ side are no pushovers. It was no surprise to see The Baggies win their first match under Pulis and they will be tough to beat under his stewardship. It could be another frustrating evening for Roberto Martinez’s side.
Prediction: Everton 1-1 West Brom

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.

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the weekend’s fixtures for the 21st round of Premier League football. Last time out we got four out of ten predictions right and one correct score. Will we do better this week?

Saturday

Sunderland vs Liverpool (12:45)
Sunderland are continually proving themselves to be difficult to beat, although they don’t win enough games. Liverpool slipped up against Leicester in their last match and were very lucky to even get a draw after earning some very dubious penalties. Sunderland have enough about them to get a point.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool

Burnley vs QPR (15:00)
This is a big game for both these teams. A win will do great damage to their relegation rivals and allow the other breathing space. Burnley fought hard for a point against Newcastle while QPR dropped two points against 10-man Swansea. The R’s are yet to pick up a point on the road this season but they will know how important it is not to lose this match and I think they can get a draw.
Prediction: Burnley 1-1 QPR

Chelsea vs Newcastle (15:00)
Chelsea’s remarkable loss to Spurs was completely unexpected and nobody would have thought that they would concede five goals in a single match this season. Newcastle were also involved in a goal fest against Burnley and will have confidence coming into this game having beaten Chelsea earlier in the season. Having said that, Chelsea rarely lose two league matches in a row and normally make a statement to their rivals after defeat. A comfortable home win.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle

Everton vs Man City (15:00)
Everton are close to scooping the prize for most disappointing team of the season and if they continue this form, they could get relegated. I’ve been expecting them to turn things around for a while but they look shot of confidence and are really struggling. City, on the other hand, pulled level with Chelsea at the top of the table and will believe they can regain their title. Everton’s misery will go on.
Prediction: Everton 0-3 Man City

Leicester vs Aston Villa (15:00)
This is another big game at the bottom of the table. Leicester have clawed their way back into contention after appearing dead and buried a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Villa may be sitting in 12th but they are struggling in front of goal and face a tough run of fixtures against three of last seasons top four in their next three matches. Paul Lambert is coming under increasing pressure from the fans and will be desperate for all three points here. They might be playing Leicester at the wrong time, though, and The Foxes are good value for at least a draw.
Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Aston Villa

Swansea vs West Ham (15:00)
The Swans have lost top scorer Wilfried Bony to international duty and that will prove a huge miss. There’s a good chance that he has played his last game for Garry Monk’s side and will join Man City in this transfer window. West Ham dropped two points in what should have been a comfortable win against West Brom but they have enough to get a point from this one.
Prediction: Swansea 1-1 West Ham

West Brom vs Hull (15:00)
This is another huge relegation matchup this weekend between two struggling sides. Hull pulled off a good victory against Everton in their last league match, while The Baggies fought hard for a point away at West Ham. Only a point separates the two teams but West Brom have Tony Pulis in charge now who oversaw a comfortable FA Cup victory last weekend and he has a knack of earning good results.
Prediction: West Brom 3-2 Hull

Crystal Palace vs Spurs (17:30)
Alan Pardew takes charge of his first league game against London rivals Spurs who demolished Chelsea in their last match. The Eagles will be up for this game and Selhurst Park should be rocking and I fancy Palace to nick a point.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Spurs

Sunday

Arsenal vs Stoke (13:30)
The Gunners were very poor in their last fixture against Southampton and Wojciech Szczesny is under pressure following a very poor performance and for being fined for smoking in the team’s showers. The Potters did well against Man United and beat Arsenal earlier in the season. Stoke will be confident of attacking Arsenal’s defence but Arsenal are generally strong at home and should have too much for them.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Stoke

Man United vs Southampton (16:00)
This is a battle between two sides who believe that a top-four spot is achievable this season. United have dropped points in recent weeks and the gap between them and their rivals has shrunk. Southampton, on the other hand, have battled back into contention after a poor run of form and Ronald Koeman is confident that they will be fighting at the top of the table for the rest of the season. This could go either way and should be an entertaining game but I’ll sit on the fence and predict a draw.
Prediction: Man United 2-2 Southampton

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the 19th round of Premier League football. On Boxing Day we got seven out of ten predictions right and three correct scores. Will we do better this week?

Sunday

Spurs vs Man United (12:00)
Spurs’ recent upturn in form means that if they win this match, they will be within two points of United. Having said that, their recent matches have been against relatively weak opposition so it may be too soon for their fans to get ahead of themselves. Louis van Gaal’s side overcame their blip against Aston Villa with an emphatic win over Newcastle on Boxing Day. This should be a good match but United look the stronger team and should have the edge.
Prediction: Spurs 1-2 Man United

Southampton vs Chelsea (14:05)
Southampton have returned to the top four after another good victory but they are yet to really dominate one of the league’s top sides. Chelsea were comfortable against West Ham until the last five minutes and they are a very strong team. Southampton will be competitive but it’s hard to predict against Chelsea at the moment.
Prediction: Southampton 1-2 Chelsea

Aston Villa vs Sunderland (15:00)
Villa may have lost two of their last three games but they were very unfortunate to lose in both those instances and Paul Lambert’s side have been on the receiving end of several poor refereeing decisions in recent weeks. Sunderland, meanwhile, let a home lead slip against struggling Hull and will be nervously looking over their shoulders again. Had they beaten Hull I would have backed The Black Cats to nick a draw but Villa are due a win and some good luck and they have a good record against their opponents.
Prediction: Aston Villa 3-1 Sunderland

Hull vs Leicester (15:00)
Hull’s fight-back may have saved Steve Bruce from increasing pressure and now gifts them an opportunity to catapult themselves towards safety with a win against bottom side Leicester. The Foxes are playing for Nigel Pearson’s job, in my opinion, and defeat here will condemn him to the sack. Back-to-back wins can utterly change a team’s standing in this league and Hull are about to demonstrate that.
Prediction: Hull 2-0 Leicester

Man City vs Burnley (15:00)
City are playing very well at the moment and are brushing weaker opposition aside. Burnley, on the other hand, are in the middle of a tough run of fixtures that they will be glad to see the back of. City should put The Clarets to the sword, even if they are without their strikers once more.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Burnley

QPR vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
This is a massive game and is filled with uncertainty now that Neil Warnock has been sacked from his post as Palace manager. QPR almost snatched a point against Arsenal at the weekend but this match is far more important to them and they can reach the 20-point mark with victory. Palace sacked their manager at the most bizarre moment of the season possible. Warnock should have been given the chance to get a result out of this match rather than being given the boot just before it. Sometimes a change in personnel can give a team a boost but QPR are strong at home and seem to beat their relegation rivals consistently and I don’t see that changing here.
Prediction: QPR 3-0 Crystal Palace

Stoke vs West Brom (15:00)
Stoke again surprised me last weekend with another outstanding result and they look assured of a place in the Premier League once more. West Brom, however, do not. Alan Irvine has already admitted his job is under threat and if they lose this one, he could be fired. Stoke seem to slip up randomly, which can offer The Baggies hope, but I’d be surprised if West Brom got a result.
Prediction: Stoke 1-0 West Brom

West Ham vs Arsenal (15:00)
The Hammers rested a couple of players in their defeat to Chelsea and they will have targeted this match as a more winnable game. The Gunners did well to hang on with 10 men against QPR but West Ham have shown that they are no pushovers and they have the firepower up front to hurt Arsene Wenger’s men. This should be quite a fast-paced and entertaining game and these teams are difficult to separate. For all of Alexis Sanchez’s brilliance, Arsenal look too lightweight in midfield and catastrophic at the back. West Ham have big strong forwards who will fancy their chances against Arsenal’s weakened back-line and they are capable of getting a result here.
Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Arsenal

Newcastle vs Everton (16:15)
Both these teams are in poor form and it will be interesting to see how this one pans out. Alan Pardew’s men have lost every match since beating Chelsea and don’t look like producing a good result anytime soon. Having said that, Everton have been appalling this season and another home loss to Stoke was very disappointing. They are already 10 points off the guaranteed Europa League spot and their form is extremely poor. Roberto Martinez may decide to gamble and go for broke in the Europa League because qualification through the Premier League seems improbable. This could go either way but both defences look leaky so there should be goals.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Everton

Monday

Liverpool vs Swansea (20:00)
Both these teams won on Boxing Day but neither won convincingly. Liverpool edged out Burnley while Swansea held off an Aston Villa fightback. Neither side is in incredible form but Swansea’s squad looks tired to me and Liverpool may just have enough to earn an important win.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Swansea

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

Villa solidity gives great reason for optimism

For the first time since November 2012, Aston Villa have recorded back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League with their goalless draw with Newcastle building upon their opening day away victory against Stoke.

At the end of last season, Villa’s leaky defence had conceded 12 goals in their final four matches to round off a miserable season where they had shipped 61 goals. However, Paul Lambert has used the resources available to him this summer to strengthen his back line to add some much needed solidity.

Lambert has spent his time this summer addressing Villa's problems at the back

Lambert has spent his time this summer addressing Villa’s problems at the back

Of the back four he largely deployed last season, only Ron Vlaar has retained his place in the side. Bomb squad castaway Alan Hutton has replaced Leandro Bacuna, a winger converted to a fullback last campaign. Although Bacuna offered several moments of attacking magic, he rarely looked comfortable in his primary defensive role and it is a wise move to allow him to return as an option further up the field. Conversely, Hutton has added much needed defensive strength and mettle with defending his primary objective. Hutton deserves particularly wholehearted praise for his incredibly positive attitude on his return having been ruthlessly pushed aside in previous seasons.

Alan Hutton has made an encouraging start to the new campaign

Alan Hutton has made an encouraging start to the new campaign

Aly Cissokho was drafted in as a replacement for the unconvincing Antonio Luna and the equally unreliable Joe Bennett. Cissokho may not have enjoyed the most successful spell at Anfield but he seems to have found his feet at Villa Park. His pace and power are huge assets and he caused Newcastle countless problems in the first half with his overlapping runs and dangerous crosses. Cissokho did unfortunately limp off towards the end of the match but Villa will be praying it’s not too serious.

Cissokho looks like a great addition to the West Midlands side

Cissokho looks like a great addition to the West Midlands side

Most importantly, however, is the addition of Philippe Senderos who has formed a formidable partnership with World Cup star Ron Vlaar. The Dutchman will be delighted to have the Swiss international alongside him rather than the clumsy Nathan Baker. Jores Okore is also regaining full fitness and will be hoping to push both centre-backs for a starting berth.

Senderos has a great understanding with Villa captain Ron Vlaar

Senderos has a great understanding with Villa captain Ron Vlaar

The key element that has been added to Villa Park over the summer is experience. Hutton, Senderos and Cissokho are all internationally capped defenders who have played for some of the top clubs in their respective leagues. Baker, Bacuna and Luna/Bennett are largely unproven and inexperienced. Teams will find it tough to break down this Villa team this term, particularly with the addition of the impressively industrious Carlos Sanchez who will be deployed in front of the back four.

Carlos Sanchez will add some steel to the Villa midfield

Carlos Sanchez will add some steel to the Villa midfield

Villa fan Andrew Philpot was critical of both sides attacking performances during his description of Saturday’s match by claiming: “both teams decided it was best to bring butter knifes to the sword fight today.” He is right in the sense that neither side was particularly fluent in attack, however, he can take heart from the fact that, for the first time in two years, Villa have kept two clean sheets in a row and have a solid base to build upon.

Weekend Preview and Predictions

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

Saturday

Aston Villa vs Newcastle (12:45)
Villa made a fantastic start to the new season by beating a much-fancied Stoke team away from home. The Villans deployed a new look back four and one that looked infinitely more capable of dealing with the challenges faced in the Premier League. Newcastle may have fell to defeat in their first outing but they gave a decent account of themselves against a strong Man City team and can take heart from their performance. This one could go either way and I think both sides would be pleased with a point.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Newcastle

Chelsea vs Leicester (15:00)
Mourinho’s men demonstrated why they are heavily tipped to win the league this season by ably dispatching newly promoted Burnley on Monday night. They face another promoted side this weekend, in the form of Nigel Pearson’s Leicester, who began life in the Premier League with a commendable draw at Goodison Park. Leicester will be on a high from their performance last weekend but fixtures in this league don’t come much tougher than this. They should succumb to a comfortable defeat.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Leicester

Crystal Palace vs West Ham (15:00)
Palace were left devastated by a late Aaron Ramsey goal to deny them a brilliant first point after the departure of Tony Pulis. West Ham suffered a similar fate against Spurs, who were down to ten men for the majority of the match, so both sides could be low on confidence. This is likely to be a cagey match that neither side will want to risk losing. A bore draw seems the most probable outcome. 
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-0 West Ham

Southampton vs West Brom (15:00)
The Saints began their season with a decent showing against a Liverpool side, who plucked several of their stars in the transfer window, although they did succumb to defeat. The Baggies, on the other hand, earned an early point at home to Sunderland. Saido Berahino scored twice for the Midlands side in their first match and Alan Irvine will be praying that he can be the answer to their goal scoring problems. Both these sides are tipped to struggle this season and victory in these matches could prove vital in their bids to stay afloat. Southampton have the home advantage and should be buoyed by a positive performance at Anfield so they will win this one.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 West Brom

Swansea vs Burnley (15:00)
The Swans made the unlikeliest of starts by beating Man Utd at Old Trafford and they were thoroughly deserving of their win. Burnley’s comfortable defeat to Chelsea was less surprising, although it is difficult to gauge how they will cope at this level having only played The Blues. Swansea will be on a high after last weekend’s triumph and the confidence they have should be enough to see off Sean Dyche’s side. If they are overconfident they could find themselves dropping valuable points but Garry Monk will hope to keep them in check.
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Burnley

Everton vs Arsenal (17:30)
This is likely to be one of the best fixtures of the weekend where two sides who love to attack go against one another. The Toffees smashed The Gunners 3-0 in the same fixture last season so the London side will be aware of how big a threat Roberto Martinez’s side are. Everton will be disappointed to have dropped points against Leicester last weekend whilst Arsene Wenger’s team can count themselves very fortunate to have taken all three points off Crystal Palace in a very laboured display. Arsenal also had to play in Turkey on Tuesday night so they will hope that the trip won’t have taken too much out of them. This should be a lively encounter and one that could end in a high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Arsenal

Sunday

Hull vs Stoke (13:30)
The Tigers made a winning start to the season by narrowly defeating QPR thanks to a James Chester goal. Meanwhile, The Potters were surprisingly beaten by Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa side at home. Both sides will have pinpointed this as a potentially winnable fixture and it’s one that could go either way, as they’re two evenly matched sides. One thing that could tip the balance in Stoke’s favour was Hull’s midweek trip to Belgium, where they were defeated, in the Europa League. It should be a tight game but Stoke may just edge it to bounce back from opening day disappointment.
Prediction: Hull 1-2 Stoke

Spurs vs QPR (13:30)
This is a battle between two London sides and it features Harry Redknapp doing battle against his former club. Spurs kicked off their season with a well fought victory against West Ham, despite being down to ten men for the majority of the match. QPR, on the other hand, were defeated by Hull. Tottenham faced a midweek venture to Cyprus, where they secured an away victory, and that could take its toll but, in truth, this is a match that they will be confident of winning. Both sides looked well organised defensively so it will be a low scoring affair but Spurs should come out on top.
Prediction: Spurs 1-0 QPR

Sunderland vs Man Utd (16:00)
The doom and gloom has seemingly returned around Old Trafford after a poor display and result against Swansea last weekend. Despite the disappointment, the result could prove a blessing in disguise. Louis van Gaal knows he needs to add quality to his squad urgently and their showing against The Swans will certainly have convinced Ed Woodward to let the manager buy whatever he needs. Sunderland made a decent start with a point against West Brom and will have fond memories of knocking United out of the League cup over two legs last season so they will have no fears. It will be interesting to see how much of a reaction van Gaal will prise out of his players and we think they will pinch a victory.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd

Monday

Man City vs Liverpool (20:00)
This is the other massive match this weekend and one that is very close to call. Manuel Pellegrini’s side made a very impressive start away at Newcastle and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. Encouragingly, Sergio Aguero featured off the bench and scored their second goal and they will be hopeful that he is fit enough to spearhead their attack this weekend. Liverpool also began the new season with a victory although it was less convincing than many expected. It remains to be seen how they cope without Suarez on the really big occasions such as this one. We are expecting a fast-paced and exciting encounter where City will find a win.
Prediction: Man City 3-1 Liverpool

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: 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.