Yaya Toure

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

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Premier League Preview: Manchester City

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

City enjoyed a successful first season under new boss Manuel Pellegrini and won both the Premier League title and the League Cup. Pellegrini had the strongest squad at his disposal so victory in the league was no real surprise, despite Liverpool pushing them close. The bigger challenge will be retaining the title with Chelsea, city rivals Manchester United and Arsenal all strengthening well.

The Manager
Manuel Pellegrini spent most of his early managerial career working in South America where he won plenty of silverware. He moved to Europe to manage Spanish sides Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga and although he was deemed to be a success he had yet to win a trophy in Europe. There were fears that he would struggle to bring titles required to keep city’s mega-rich owners happy. However, winning two trophies in his first season quickly set those fears aside. Not only did he bring home silverware but he brought together a squad largely divided under former manager Roberto Mancini and developed a far more attractive style of play than his predecessor.

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Pellegrini guided City to Premier League glory in his first season as boss

Biggest Signing
City have been fairly quiet in the transfer window thus far, possibly due to their massive financial fair play fine from UEFA, and have signed 3 players to date. Bacary Sagna has joined on a free transfer from Arsenal and will offer competition to Pablo Zabaleta. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has also been drafted in from Malaga in a deal believed to be worth around £4 million and he will offer fierce competition to Joe Hart having been Pellegrini’s number 1 in his time at Malaga. City’s biggest signing, however, has been completing the transfer of Fernando from Porto. Fernando is a powerful and hardworking defensive midfielder who will add extra bite to the city midfield. Pellegrini may opt to field both Fernando and Fernandinho along with Yaya Toure in the midfield to allow the Ivorian more freedom to get forward.

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

The much coveted Fernando is a good buy for Pellegrini

Who is tipped to join them?
Eliaquim Mangala is widely expected to complete a move to Manchester in the coming days for a fee believed to be around £32 million. Ross Barkley is also believed to be on their radar, should Yaya Toure decide to move elsewhere. Finally Paul Pogba has been tipped to be on the move this summer and City are one of the few clubs who could afford him. Pogba used to play for bitter rivals Manchester United so that would be a devastating blow for United fans if it were to come to fruition.

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

United fans would not be impressed if their rivals City were able to sign Pogba from Juventus

Who should they sign?
Pellegrini has a very strong squad available to him and does not really require too many reinforcements. He has correctly identified centre-back as his weakest position, Vincent Kompany aside, but the signing of Mangala will significantly strengthen them in that regard. Once Mangala arrives, City seem to have strong options and back up in every position and we shouldn’t expect too many more faces through the door.

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City's defence next season

Mangala is expected to partner Kompany at the heart of City’s defence next season

Key Player
Yaya Toure. On his day, Toure is unstoppable. His ability to make powerful, marauding runs across the whole length of the pitch is second to none. He scored 20 league goals last season and, with Fernando added to the midfield to allow him more freedom, it would be no surprise to see him match that feat again this campaign.

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Yaya Toure is one of the best players in the Premier League

Prediction
Manchester City have one of the strongest squads in the league and they will be expecting to challenge on four fronts this season. They will be in the title race right till the end but I think they will fall just short of Mourinho’s Chelsea this season. Expect City to finish 2nd.