It’s been a tough few weeks for all involved – forget the Christmas cheer, life has been a hard struggle without the reassuring comfort of Bugler’s predictions to hold your hand and tuck you in at night. Fortunately, the wait is over as he takes on a very big name in the (small) Exeposé world: News Editor and football purist Owen Keating.
This game doesn’t immediately strike me as a classic. Southampton’s form has been sketchy since they were forced to play with a hi-vis ball, and Sunderland are…Sunderland. Expect Adam Lallana to make a total mockery of Phil Bardsley before complaining that the terrible right-back teased him that he’d changed.
Sunderland are in the midst of the Premiership’s slowest ever recovery from a poor start, as Gus Poyet has avoided the a Di Canio-style instant impact followed by general uselessness in favour of a gradual ascent from the relegation zone based on sneaky wins away from home. They still can’t win at the Stadium of Light though, and a Saints side playing for fun will assert their superiority.
Fulham’s appalling sprint towards the relegation trapdoor will continue here, as they’ll inevitably crumble against a far superior side. The thought of a beleaguered Steve Sidwell trying to keep up with Santi Cazorla is the kind of thing that everyone will surely enjoy, except Fulham’s away fans. Yeah, both of them.
In recent weeks, Arsenal have transformed from a swashbuckling, rampant array of midfield cavaliers to a gritty unit grinding out wins over lower-table sides to a chorus of doubters. An 89th minute Oxlade-Chamberlain winner will add to their collection of “hallmarks of champions”.
Crystal Palace- Stoke
A clash for the masochists, Tony Pulis has the chance to avenge his irrelevant sacking from the Potters against a team whose defence enjoyed a particularly restful Sunday last time out, shipping five against Liverpool. In this battle of philistine managers, of baseball cap and alarmingly errant grey hair, the only winner will be the person who chooses to stay in and watch Deal or no Deal instead.
For Stoke, ditching Tony Pulis at the end of last season meant they would have the opportunity to progress into a more complete footballing side. In other words, they would remain in the same position hovering over the relegation zone whilst occasionally losing 5-3 at home. Palace are the new Stoke, although in Jason Puncheon they have one of the most underrated players in the League, someone who can win matches like these. As long as he doesn’t take a penalty.
Man City- Cardiff
Considering that Man City beat West Ham 6-0, and West Ham beat Cardiff 2-0, this should be 8-0. It won’t be (maybe), but nonetheless, Man City will have far too much for a Cardiff side who, like I said, lost to a team who rarely ever try to score goals. Cardiff are, in every sense, lambs to the slaughter.
Cardiff’s first Premiersip result under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham, was an absolute stinker. Nevertheless, in new signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem they have a player who did great things for me on FIFA at Euro 2016. Although Andreas Cornelius was also good on FIFA, and he’s turned out to have the movement and agility of an ent.
Hull have been good value recently, and another win here would firmly ensconce them in the top half of the table. Steve Bruce has sprinkled a large amount of glitter on some dull, dull players, as opposed to Chris Hughton, who appears to have been tactically outsmarted by the childproof cap. Away win.
Hull have somehow managed to reach 10th in the table in mid-January despite not having a striker. The answer to this gap in the squad lies in the two-pronged monster of Nikita Jelavic, who barely scored in the whole of 2013, and Shane Long, a striker who specialises in not scoring goals and who missed a sitter against Southampton last week that even Harry Redknapp’s missus would have put away. Goalless draw it is then.
West Ham- Newcastle
Big Sam’s jump for joy as Mark Noble secured three priceless points at Cardiff last weekend signalled the end of a traumatic week for the Hammers. This is a tough home game, but the kind they need to win if they’re going to have any chance of avoiding Huddersfield away next year. They’ll also need to beat Alan Pardew’s men both at football and the inevitably messy touchline spat that will ensue in the second half.
West Ham fans face football’s ultimate dilemma: do you support your team even when the football is dire and the results poor, or do you hope that your team loses enough matches to have no option but to sack Sam Allardyce and get someone better in to put long-term improvements in place? If the answer is the latter, then look forward to Big Sam spouting clichés about the enormity of back-to-back wins after this match while smugly knowing his job is safe for at least another month, when the cycle will begin again.
Liverpool- Aston Villa
Aston Villa’s home defeat to Arsenal was a further indicator of their crippling mundanity, and Villa fans travelling to Anfield can only expect a tonking. At least they won’t get a nasty shock, as Luis Suarez and the returning Daniel Sturridge will do terrible footballing things to hapless midlanders like Nathan Baker.
The disproportionately large number of Liverpool fans in Exeter have had reason for cheer this season, while Luis Suarez is bent on single-handedly derailing my Exepose Fantasy Football title bid. As for Aston Villa, who are they? What do they mean? Questions beyond a simple football predictor.
Michael Laudrup and Tim Sherwood look kind of similar, if you, like me, are both cripplingly short sighted and unable to locate their glasses. Spurs have undergone a renaissance since Sherwood brought his loathsome cheeky chappy shtick to the Lane (AVB, forever in our hearts), and they might have too much for a Swansea side whose redeeming feature is an anonymous superfan who was once seen on Twitter wearing a personalised white leather jacket, stitched with “Michu: The White Dove”. Different gravy.
Swansea, lurking a dangerous three points above the relegation zone, have had a bit of a nothing season, aimlessly drifting through the monotony of life whilst sometimes kicking a ball into a net. For Tottenham, Tim Sherwood is the Robin Williams to Emmanuel Adebayor’s Matt Damon, and an exciting affair awaits.
Chelsea- Man United
The biggest game of the weekend, both of these teams remain among the most dislikable in the Premier League. Moyes’ United are turgid and uninspiring, while Mourinho’s Chelsea are like the rich kid at school who bullies you by hitting you with his fat, gold £28million watch several times every Saturday. Expect over-entitled fans and abhorrent press conferences.
The question is, how much controversy can be packed in one game? Chelsea will have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, Mourinho will be sent to the stands, United will take the lead only to give away a soft penalty. With the scores level in the 70th min, Mourinho will react to Fernado Torres’ sending off by throwing on Demba Ba, who will stab home after a goalmouth scramble deep into extra time. Either this, or nothing will happen, like the reverse fixture in August.
West Brom- Everton
Everton’s star has fallen slightly since the halcyon days earlier this season where they played with verve and vigour on the regs, as their main traits so far in 2014 have been gritty midfield performances and the troubling reappearance of Steven Naismith. The Baggies’ new boss Pepe Mel will have had easier home debuts, but Everton are not the force they were in October, especially without the recently injured Ross Barkley.
Pepe Mel is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, and the brooding Spaniard will have an enjoyable debut against housewives’ favourite Roberto Martinez. Rumour has it Mel knows a thing or two about charm as well, so expect a lot of courtesy pats on the back as the two go in for the pre-match handshake.bookmark me