Normal order was restored last week as Bugler defeated Dave Reynolds, who for all his chat could only muster a paltry 2 points. In the last round of term, before Bugler recharges his batteries over Christmas, will he finish in style over Marco Roberts?
Man City- Arsenal
A true test of Arsenal’s title credentials is a trip to the Etihad, where the Citizens have been banging in the goals left, right and center. The prospect of the pacey trio of Nasri, Aguero and Navas against football’s answer to the Giant Tortoise – Per Mertesacker – suggests a Man City win. Also, expect Arsenal to struggle in midfield, where Flamini will be too focused on the length of his sleeves to pick up any of Yaya Toure’s runs.
Manuel Pellegrini’s knowledge of the football rules was exposed as being a bit shabby on Tuesday, so expect him to be in detailed conversation with Sergio Aguero before kickoff about the details of the offside rule. They’ll still have enough to beat Arsenal, who have elevated Olivier Giroud to the position of battered war veteran trying to muster up enough energy for one last battle.
Cardiff- West Brom
Likely to battle with Hull vs Stoke for last place on Match of the Day. Cardiff have made their home ground a fortress, but West Brom under Steve Clarke are a good side. The Baggies to win, prompting Vincent Tan to change the kit colour to orange.
West Brom are free-falling faster than George Clooney in Gravity, heading into an abyss even more frightening than space. Cardiff are going to win this 1-0, because that’s the only score they can win by.
Chelsea- Crystal Palace
Tony Pulis will try to implement some of the tactics he studied on the continent during his sabbatical; expect to see a masterclass in ‘route uno’, pioneered at Stoke, perfected at Palace. The Blues’ multi-million pound strike force will again fail to show up, prompting rumours in the press that Mourinho will move for Chamakh in the January transfer window. I can see it being a tight match, with a 90th minute goal that sends Jose leaping into the crowd, followed by a press conference along the lines of “I told you I was the best”.
The rebirth of Marouane Chamakh to atone for the sins of Man has allowed him to perform the miracle of keeping Palace up. They’ll be on course for a ludicrous win at Stamford Bridge before the appropriately biblical Eden Hazard will bring them back down to earth.
Roberto Martinez has Everton playing some great football, and after giving Arsenal a tough time on Sunday they are likely to do the same to Fulham. Much of Fulham’s fate depends on whether Dimitar Berbatov can be bothered, and since he played well at the weekend it’s unlikely that he’ll be doing the same until the new year.
With Nelson Mandela dead, Roberto Martinez has taken up the duty of most adulated person in the world. The charming, intelligent, England-praising Spaniard likes to reward his players with sweets for playing well, much to the delight of Gareth Barry’s dentist.
(Or France vs England). Two teams that flirted with relegation last year, but who are now pressing the top 6. Both were responsible for some unhappy fans in Manchester last week, and this should be an entertaining match. With Artur Boruc missing the Saints might lack a little flair and fancy footwork, but should be able to match the Magpies anyway.
In the match obligatorily dubbed “the meeting of this season’s surprise packages,” the Saints will get back to winning ways against a Newcastle side who have ghosted so stealthily into European contention that Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell would be proud. Their comical negative goal difference will only decrease further in the face of Southampton’s attacking riches.
West Ham- Sunderland
Tactical master Sam Allardyce has been baffling opponents recently with his crafty false nine, striker-less team. Unfortunately, he also appears to be baffling his players, who were so confused against Liverpool that they were scoring in the wrong goal. Sunderland have improved under Gus Poyet, and could deliver a surprise.
In a match doing its best to dispel the myth of the Premier League being the best in Europe, Sam Allardyce will set his side out to kick the ball about a bit and stay solid defensively. Gus Poyet believes Sunderland’s best chance of success is to spend big in January, having meticulously studied the plight of QPR last season.
A fixture all football fans have been waiting for. Fresh from their victory against Chelsea, Stoke will have confidence. Hull haven’t been nearly as dire as most punters expected, and Steve Bruce has built a a solid team around on-loan Jake Livermore and half-man half-tree Tom Huddlestone. Both teams’ quality (or lack thereof) will cancel each other out.
My return to home comforts and Sky Sports will be greeted with this turgid affair on TV. Still, better than a slap on the face with a wet fish.
Aston Villa- Man Utd
Benteke vs Fellaini: two Belgians who took the Prem by storm last year, but are having a tougher time in 2013-14. A must-win for Man United; and having left 13 missed calls on Paul Scholes’s phone, David Moyes may have to settle for Tom Cleverly again. It will all depend on whether RVP spends the entire 90 minutes concentrating on the match, as opposed to daydreaming about what would have happened if he had stayed at Arsenal.
These two sides cower from the pressure of playing at home, where they are expected to pass it about nicely rather than turn up quietly and sneak it on the counter. Man Utd are slowly coming to terms with their descent into mid-table mediocrity, where wins like these will be crucial if they are to finish in the top half.
Still in therapy to get over being bullied by Luis Suarez, Norwich will get turned over by the slick passing Swans, no doubt spurred on by the return of Michu. May lead to the sacking of Chris Hughton, with interim-manager Delia Smith taking the reigns until the end of the season.
Norwich are perfecting the art of being dreadful for three quarters of their matches but winning just enough to stay out the drop zone and keep Chris Hughton in his job. After they farcically finished 11th last season, their current position of 14th speaks volumes about the declining overall quality of the Premier League. Swansea are just happy to be getting some exercise.
Liverpool can’t defend. Spurs can’t score. It will be a true test of both Rodgers’ and Villas Boas’ teams, and with the form Suarez is in he’s bound to find the net at some point. Spurs will probably dominate the midfield as Gerrard is out and Allen/Lucas/Coutinho is hardly much of a physical presence. Fortunately for the Reds, Tottenham haven’t been particularly prolific of late, and their best chance of a goal is by aiming at Martin Skrtel.
Tottenham will install the radical tactic of positioning 9 men to mark Luis Suarez. With Liverpool’s biggest threat out of the equation, Roberto Soldado will demonstrate his effortless superiority to his teammates by waltzing through the opposition team on his own, uninhabited by Andros Townsend’s well-meaning but ultimately not good enough crosses.bookmark me