Thu, Sep 20, 2:59pm by Kevin Pitstock
At the four-week mark, there seems to be some “right” in the world of English football, as some of the usual suspects have finally returned to the top of the table. Chelsea, who have remained atop the Premier League since week one, saw QPR earn a draw last week against the visiting Blues. Despite claiming only one point out of three, Chelsea remain at the top of the table. They are one point clear of Manchester United, who blew out their opposition at Old Trafford to the tune of 4-0. The United win came despite fitness issues for key members of the expected starting 11. Shinji Kagawa and left back Patrice Evra were unavailable in the match due to injury. Robin Van Persie picked up a knock whilst on International duty, so he featured off the bench. Whilst United had to register somewhat of a makeshift squad, Chicharito Hernandez managed to recover from a horrible penalty kick that was saved in the opening minutes to find the net for the first time this campaign. Speaking of firsts, Alexander Büttner and Nick Powell each found goal for the Red Devils in their first ever appearance for the home team in red. Powell came on as a second half substitute and scored ten minutes after his debut. Büttner won the start and proved more than capable, as Patrice Evra was unavailable. The Dutchman was lively both on and off the ball, and he was in the right places at the right time to assist Anders Lindegaard in keeping the clean sheet. Also emerging into the top 4, joining Chelsea and United are Arsenal and Manchester City. Arsenal lit up Southampton by a huge 6-1 margin, whilst City finished 1-1 with Stoke City.
Whilst the world seems partially and temporarily righted, week five’s fixtures are sure to shake things up in a big way. The top squads from last season play mid-week fixtures in European competitions and week 5 features some rivalries of old and new.
Swansea look to recover from their uninspiring 2-0 defeat away to Aston Villa. Everton comes into this fixture on the back of a 2-2 draw with Newcastle. Swansea look a lot more lively at home than they do on the road, as they have found the net five times in two matches to the delight of the hometown fans. In Everton’s last away fixture, they were unable to score. Thus, they dropped 2-0 to West Brom. For Everton, Marouane Fellaini is key if they want to have any success on the road. English International defenders Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka provide more than adequate cover for Everton in the back, but they will surely be in trouble if they allow the Swans to possess the ball.
Michu has scored in all but his last match and is always looking like a goal. I like Swansea to win at home and Michu to score.
Both Stoke City and Chelsea enter this fixture coming off draws. Chelsea open up defence of their Champion’s League crown via group play on Wednesday by playing host to Italian champions Juventus. Roberto DeMattio is not accustomed to dropping points, as he has done so infrequently since taking over as Interim manager towards the end of last season. This season, Chelsea have outscored their opposition by a 4 to1 margin and by a 3 to 1 margin at home. Stoke City have earned a point in all four of their matches in the opening of the 2012-13 campaign. Whilst no one can accuse them of having an easy schedule to open the season, Stoke have had it both ways. They have had what I would describe as an extremely challenging home schedule thus far and a very easy travelling schedule – up until now. Stoke over performed in tying City and Arsenal at home and they underperformed by earning a draw against Wigan and Reading on the road. Given that they seemingly underperform on the road, I give Chelsea the nod for ending Stoke’s four-match draw streak.
Physio turned manager Nigel Adkins is rumoured to be in the hot seat after dropping his first four matches in the top flight as Southampton manager. We predicted that Southampton would likely come through their first four matches at or near the bottom of the table and they met our expectations.
Villa sit in thirteenth place on the table with four points and are fresh off an impressive 2-0 win at home to Swansea, which saw their £7 million signing Christian Benteke score much to the pleasure of the home crowd.
With Adkins in the hot seat and Darren Bent goalless despite playing every minute of the season thus far, I look for Rickie Lambert, Stephen Davis and company to take it to the Villains. I am not overly optimistic in the Saints pulling off the home win, but I expect Southampton to rally behind their manager and play for his job. I think both sides will have issues finding the net and see the match ending in a 1-1 draw.
West Brom is a mystery at home, as they have not conceded The Hawthorns this season. Reading have scored three times in three matches, which has not been enough to lift them above the drop zone, as they have conceded five whilst managing a single point on the table against Stoke City.
Look for Reading’s goal drought to continue by virtue of the stingy home side’s defence. I foresee West Brom scoring and Reading failing to do so.
West Ham is another side that is extremely tough at home. They have kept a clean sheet in both their home fixtures this season whilst scoring four at Upton Park. Sunderland have managed two goals in two away matches and earned draws in both.
Sunderland come to Upton Park an improved side via deadline day signings of Adam Johnson and in form striker Steven Fletcher, who has bagged three goals in two Sunderland appearances. Look for Sunderland to soil the clean sheet record for West Ham. However, I am not sure that they will provide enough penetration to defeat West Ham. They are too tough and physical at home, but not tough enough for me to bet this match either way. I do like Stephen Fletcher to score for Sunderland, however.
Wigan has failed to secure a home win in two matches. Fulham looked impressive despite seeing Dembele out the door on deadline day, whilst Dimitar Berbatov found his way into town. Berbatov has an impressive record against Wigan and in his first start for Fulham, he braced – joining teammates Damien Duff, and Mladen Petric with two goals each on the season. Fulham should be quite the handful against home side and will walk into DW Stadium and over Wigan.
Liverpool travel to play on Wednesday to play in the Europa League in Switzerland, whilst Manchester United open their Champion’s League campaign at home. Whilst United find themselves in second place on the table, Liverpool cannot seem to get things going. They currently reside in seventeenth place on two points. Liverpool has had difficulty scoring, as they average one goal per game at home and less than one goal per match overall. United have found the net ten times in four matches, which is best in the league. United have quite the stockpile of weapons at the striker position, as Danny Welbeck, Robin Van Persie, Chicharito and Wayne Rooney are all expected to be available for this run-in, providing no one picks up injury in their Wednesday CL match. Rooney has returned to training this week and whilst I do not expect him to start, he should see action in the second half.
Newcastle play away in Portugal for a mid-week clash in the Europa League. Strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé are not travelling with the squad. Norwich has looked disinterested and at times confused on the road this season. Newcastle will prove no easier for Norwich. Newcastle are too deep a squad and do not look like surrendering at home against an uninspired Norwich side.
City come into this fixture fresh off a heart-breaking defeat to Real Madrid in the Champion’s League, whilst Arsenal come in fresh off a victory in France in the Champion’s League. City looked like winning the match twice over, as they went up one-nil and then two-one before the world’s most expensive footballer Cristiano Ronaldo found the net in stoppage time. City goalkeeper Joe Hart was quite critical over his side’s lack of result, which seemed to draw fire from boss Roberto Mancini. However, City seemingly perform better when players light fires in the tabloids.
Arsenal lit the scoreboard up in a 6-1 victory in last week’s fixture against struggling Southampton. Whilst their attack looked quite lively, they will find City a more formidable opponent. I like City to win by 2 goals, as they will come out with guns a blazing. I also love this match for live in-play betting. Sergio Aguero found his way to the bench in Tuesday’s Champion’s League match and he could start for the home side. Look for opportunities to bet Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko, or Balotelli for City to score anytime if any of them look lively. Additionally, Cazorla and Podolski, and the in-form Gervinho are candidates to score for the Gunners. This match should be an exciting one that is full of goals.
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Tottenham play Lazio at White Hart Lane in the Europa League and will be on three day’s rest to host QPR. Tottenham found themselves last week by earning AVB his first win as a Spurs manager. Tottenham winger Gareth Bale also found he has a right foot by scoring a rare right-footed goal in the Spurs win over Reading. QPR will be a more difficult opponent for the Spurs than Reading was. However, Tottenham have the benefit of the home crowd and can rest easier now that they have claimed their first win of the season. QPR have struggled to find the goal and they have leaked goals whilst away from home. Jermaine Defoe is in terrific form at the moment and looks likely to continue his fast start.
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