Sat, May 11, 7:11pm by Kevin Pitstock
Whilst there is plenty of “things” left to play out in the final two weeks of the English Premier League, the biggest news of the week deals with next season. Effective 1 July, current Everton Manager David Moyes is set to leave his post as Everton boss and take charge of this season’s EPL Champion side Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement and recommended Moyes as his successor. Sir Alex will not be leaving United altogether, as he has been named to Manchester United’s board of directors.
Fergie is the most decorated Premier League Manager of all time. Fergie first took the reins of Manchester United in 1986. He has won 13 titles out of 21 Premier League seasons. He was named England’s Manager of the year ten times over and Sir Alex is a strong contender to win the honour again this year. In addition to winning the top-flight competition and manager of the year honours, Sir Alex has led Manchester United to FA Cup glory five times and his side has four League Cups to their name. He also led United to be crowned the Champions of Europe in 1999 and 2008 when they won the UEFA Champions League competitions, as well as the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup. His trophy case also contains ten community shields, the Inter-Continental Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
Fifty-year-old David Moyes is set to take charge of Manchester United to succeed Sir Alex as United Manager. Like Sir Alex, Moyes is Scottish and he has been with his present club (Everton) for eleven years. Under Moyes, Everton went from a club that struggled to remain afloat to a successful club that finishes in the top ten religiously and he has done this on a sell-first transfer budget. When he takes charge on 1 July, he will have a transfer budget and a strong side to work with.
Moving on to news of this season, the English Premier League steps aside for the FA Cup Finals, which play out on Saturday. Thus, the majority of the matches for the week play out later than normal. One of the bottom three spots and two of the top 4 positions on the table are still undecided. Thus, despite the top two and bottom two positions being all but decided, there are fierce battles for relegation and European play left to be decided in the Premier League’s final two weeks. Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur are locked in a three-way dogfight where only two of the three can play in the Champions League. Chelsea hold a slight edge on 69 points, whilst Arsenal are on 66 and Tottenham have 66 points. Whilst The Spurs are on the outside looking in, they are not to be counted out.
At the bottom of the table, Wigan face relegation on 35 points. However, they are in the fight of their lives, as the trio of Newcastle, Norwich, and Sunderland are a mere three points away. Should it come down to goal differential, Wigan and Newcastle are -23 whilst Norwich are -22. Sunderland sit at a -12 goal differential, which gives them a slight edge amongst the triad of teams just above the drop zone.
Frank Lampard is tipped to start for the Blues and he needs one goal to tie the all-time goal scoring record for Chelsea with one more goal. Fellow midfielders Eden Hazard and Victor Moses are doubts for the match. However, Jon Obi Mikel has regained his fitness and could turn up on the team sheet. For Villa, they must do without Ciaran Clark, Karim El Ahmadi, Richard Dunne, Marc Albrighton, Chris Herd, and Gary Gardner.
Villa have played themselves out of the relegation zone to 40 points on the table. Their late season run saw them move off the bottom three and into 13th place, which “should” be good enough to continue in the top-flight for next season.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last three away matches and come off a 1-nil result at United along with a 2-2 draw home to Tottenham. Villa are winners of two straight, as they dropped Sunderland 6-1 on the back of a Benteke treble and they walked away from Norwich 2-1 winners.
Despite Villa’s impressive move away from the bottom three, I like Chelsea in this match. Look for the Blues to play disciplined football and come away from Birmingham with all three points.
Prediction: Villa 1 – Chelsea 2 (Lampard scores)
Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele fit from hamstring injuries in time for their trip to Stoke. Sandro, William Gallas, and Younes Kaboul however, are unavailable. Tottenham have taken points in five of their last six away matches and they are unbeaten in their last six.
Stoke have stopped their skid in winning two of their last three matches (2 wins – QPR, Norwich, and 1 draw against Sunderland). However, their results came at the expense of “lesser” teams and Tottenham will bring more “quality” in this meeting.
Stoke claimed the 2-1 win last season at the Britannia via two Matthew Etherington goals and the two sides played to a bore draw in London earlier this season. Despite Stoke returning to form, Gareth Bale’s speed and the form of strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe just might be too much for Stoke to handle. Look for Tottenham to walk away with all three points, as more is on the line for them than for Stoke
Prediction: Stoke nil – Tottenham 2
At Goodison Park, the spotlight has been on David Moyes and his agreement to join Manchester United beginning next season. However, this season his Everton side host another United in West Ham. This is Moyes last home game in charge of Everton and it should be an emotional one. Everton striker Nikica Jelavic has announced his intention to retire effective at the end of the season and he is expected to feature up top with Victor Anichebe with Marion Fellaini playing in right behind the strike duo.
Everton took all three points in London with Anichebe and Pienaar scoring for Everton at Upton Park against a ten-man West Ham side.
Prediction: Everton 2 – West Ham nil
Apparently, someone forgot to tell Brendan Rogers that his side was weakened with the end-of-season ban on Liverpool goalscorer Luis Suarez. Since Suarez was banned, Liverpool have put up six goals and taken points off Newcastle, and Everton. Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge stepped in with two goals each with Henderson growing into his role and Sturridge proving he can play leading the line as well as he plays in support of Suarez. The Reds are without Daniel Agger due to a back injury and they must play the remainder of the season without their skipper, Steven Gerrard. Gerrard is scheduled for a shoulder operation this weekend. Joe Allen and Martin Kelly are also unavailable for Roger’s side.
As for Fulham, they must make due without Steve Sidwell, as he is finishing off his suspension. Diarra, Dejagah, and Davies are out for the season. However, striker Mladen Petric and right back Sascha Riether are available for selection.
Fulham have dropped four straight whilst Liverpool has claimed points in five of their last six away matches. Liverpool put four past Fulham at Anfield earlier this season and a little more of the same would not be surprising in London this weekend.
Prediction: Fulham 1 – Liverpool 3 (Sturridge scores)
Both clubs are losers of four straight and Norwich is in danger of relegation. Although they would be safe if the season ended today. Norwich #1 John Ruddy flirts with fitness and could get the start in net for the Canaries in hopes of stopping their skid and avoiding relegation.
For West Brom, Chris Brunt could see action. The WBA Captain has missed the past three matches due to a knee injury.
West Brom have scored as many goals on the road as Norwich have playing at Carrow Road this season. Robert Snodgrass was taken off last week when Norwich lost to Villa at home due to what was reported as a cramp. Snodgrass’ fitness is imperative to Norwich’s success in my opinion. To me, other than a few flashes in the pan, Norwich have not looked like a top flight side. I expect them to challenge Newcastle as the third side to be relegated and see them dropping this match to West Brom.
Prediction: Norwich nil – West Bromwich Albion 1
Harry Redknapp’s boys are playing for pride, as they are in the Championship next season, whilst Alan Pardew’s men are playing in hopes of not joining them. Pardew will have his work cut out for him, as he faces a number of fitness issues going into this match. Sissoko and Ameobi are done for the season. Newcastle #1 Tim Krul is injured and will not play either. Mathieu Debuchy is back from his ban, whilst Sammy Ameobi is back from loan and eligible for inclusion in the squad. QPR are without Chris Samba, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Andrew Johnson.
Earlier in the season, Newcastle narrowly squeaked by QPR 1-nil, whilst last season these two played to a bore draw at Loftus Road. Worthy of note, Newcastle have earned a point in each of their last two away matches (drawing against both West Brom and West Ham United) whilst QPR dropped their last two at home (Stoke City and Arsenal).
Prediction: Neither side deserve the win on paper. QPR 1 – Newcastle 1
Sunderland have taken points in three of their last four despite being plagued with injuries to their strikers. Since Paolo Di Canio has taken over as Sunderland Manager, his side has scraped together results when it mattered. Former Manchester United defender John O’Shea rescued the point last week against Stoke and if they are to take points in their final home match of the season, they will have to continue with their creativity.
Steven Fletcher, Connor Wickham, and Lee Cattermole are all in the treatment room for Sunderland, whilst Craig Gardner is suspended. For Southampton, they are without Yoshida, Mayuka, Schneiderlin, Gaston Ramirez, and Danny Fox.
Prediction: Sunderland find a way to play themselves to safety – Sunderland 1 – Southampton nil
Sir Alex Ferguson manages his final Premier League match at Old Trafford this weekend in what is certain to be an emotional evening for his side and their supporters. Look for him to field a strong side to celebrate his final home match of his storied career.
Swansea travel to Old Trafford without their #1, as Vorm picked up a concussion. Angel Rangel will also miss the trip. However, Michu and Chico Flores could return to the starting XI from injury.
Ashley Young and Paul Scholes scored for United in their 2-nil win at Old Trafford against Swansea last season, whilst these two played to a 1-1 draw at the Liberty in December. Michu scored for the Swans whilst Patrice Evra found the back of the net for the Red Devils via a set-piece header.
Prediction: United play an emotionally charged match and destroy Swansea at home. United 3 – Swansea nil
Arsenal are playing good football and show no reason they should drop points in this match. However, Wigan are desperate to avoid relegation and are known for working late season magic to barely escape the clutches of the Championship Division.
Look for Wigan to tip their destiny in the final week of the season.
Prediction: Arsenal 1 – Wigan 1
City have pulled seven points from their last six away matches. However, Reading have only five points to their name in their last six at home.
Prediction: The better side wins. Reading nil – City 3
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