Whether it’s because Alex Bonner’s 8-3 win last week continued his miserable run of form, or the fact that his tenure is coming to an explosive culmination, Bugler’s latest predictions are especially snarky and cynical. In true doppelgänger style, he takes on replacement figure Freddie Turner this week:
After Jose Mourinho described Arsene Wenger as a ‘specialist in failure’ a few weeks ago, Arsenal will be hoping for a backlash to silent the pipey Portuguese and reinstate their title credentials. After a shocking defeat to Villa last weekend, Chelsea need to get back to winning ways with the ‘business end’ of the season now upon us, and after impressing mid-week in Europe, I expect them to have too much for Arsenal, whose season normally begins to unravel at this time of the year. I anticipate a smug Mourinho and a whinging Wenger.
Fresh-faced Fernando Torres turning 30 is a cruel reminder of the tangibility of life and the incessant quest of Father Time consuming all in His path. Football provides a distraction from our inevitable mortality, and a surprise result like this will provide a strong dose of opium for the masses.
Liverpool fans are buoyant at the moment, as they finally have something to shout about other than their success in the last millennium. Cardiff have been consistently poor and suffered heartbreak last week with a last minute loss to Everton. I expect more heartbreak this weekend at the hands of Scousers, as the near-Championship defence is overrun by Suarez, Sturridge et al. It’s time these Welsh upstarts were replaced by a proper team…. like the mighty Leicester City.
Liverpool’s refusal to remember that they’re an average side is becoming slightly concerning. The closer the prospect of Jon Flanagan winning a Premier League medal gets, the more unsettling is the lack of natural law and order. No-one likes too much change, so at least we can take comfort in the fact that Cardiff remain dreadful.
Swansea are dropping more alarmingly than a Cellar Door beat and need to pick up points fast. Their hideous sacking of the majestic Michael Laudrup has left them in danger of following fellow sheep lovers Cardiff into the Championship. If they can replicate their Europa League form and feed the monumental Wilfried Bony, they should just be Ok. Everton’s focus is now on gaining qualification to the Europa League, one of the worst incentives ever. Everton are better, Swansea need the points…. I expect a draw.
Both teams have been sprinkled with some Martinez stardust, meaning that this contest should provide an aesthetically pleasing spectacle of wing-backs, ball-caressing and general masking-up of the fact that few chances will be created. Everton have got in the habit of labouring to victory at home, and any name on the teamsheet could provide this week’s late winner. Except Tony Hibbert.
Hull- West Brom
This game is guaranteed the last slot on Match of the Day. Hull need a win to rule out being dragged into the relegation scrap and with Messrs. Jelavic and Long they should have enough firepower. West Brom got a huge away win last week but under Pepe Mel have looked less inspiring than George Osborne’s budget. Hull to edge out an awful game.
West Brom are ludicrously out of the bottom three after one win, despite playing for most of 2014 as if it were a slow and inevitable descent down the spiral staircase of the Sky Bet Championship. Hull aren’t a great team really; they’re just not as bad as the rest of the dross this season.
Man City- Fulham
Free scoring City have been restrained of late and are due handing out a firm spanking to one of the Premier League’s whipping boys. Fulham were impressive last week in securing only their second win of 2014 and their first under new manager Felix Magath. However, their squad looks ageing and unbalanced and I cannot see Magath being the architect of their great escape. If City score early, it could be a rugby score! A dead cert for all accumulator lovers.
There’s no question that David Silva, Yaya Toure et al will have a field day against the likes of Dan ‘Football-League’ Burn and Maarten ‘How-are-there-no-other-Dutch-keepers’ Stekelenburg. But Fulham will also probably nick a goal against a Man City defence without Kompany, the equivalent of taking out the last piece in Jenga before it collapses.
Newcastle- Crystal Palace
Going to risk an away win here. With Alan Pardew unjustly being given an extortionate seven match stadium ban, for a mere clash of heads, Newcastle lack fiery passion. Their French legion have secured another season of mid table mediocrity and are probably already planning their summer trips. Pulis’ Palace will be afforded no such luxury and will scrap to the end to secure an unlikely survival.
Newcastle will be scuttling around St James’ Park on Saturday like lost lambs while Alan Pardew stares pensively out a drab hotel window. Tony Pulis will gnash and chomp at the livestock but ultimately fail to roast them.
A real six pointer this. I tipped the canaries for relegation at the start of the season and will stick by my guns. Their squad has a distinct Championship look to it and should fit in nicely alongside other small timers like Nottingham Forest and Derby County. Gus Poyet is a magician and by all accounts a lovely bloke, the world of football wants him to succeed and I expect a big win this weekend. Expect an overdue brace from Stephen Fletcher.
This is gonna be a mad afternoon of penalty shouts, headed goals by centre backs, and existential despair from the fans travelling back to the North East. Gus Poyet has done an Ok job at Sunderland, but he’ll have to do more than inspire Adam Johnson for four games in January if he wants to stay put next season.
West Ham- Man United
If David Moyes and his friends at the BBC are to be believed, the 3-0 win against an underwhelming Olympiakos side was the turning point for the Moyes era. This appears hyperbolic as impending doom looms in Europe and a top four finish is nigh on impossible. However, West Ham’s long ball which was so effective throughout February was undone against Stoke last week and for once this season Moyes’ men should just have too much for the Hammers.
In an ideal world, both teams would lose this one. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the Ram on Wednesday night every time a mediocre Greek team lofted the ball into the penalty box, only to be crushed by the sight of a snarling, feral Phil Jones nodding clear. Expect more of the same this Saturday, where the ball will spend little to no contact on actual grass.
Tim Sherwood’s brief spell at keeping the Spurs manager’s seat warm is growing less successful by the day, as he waits to be ousted in the summer for a more experienced, continental manager. The Saints remain impressive but seem unlikely to catch Spurs for a chance of European qualification. With lots of notable attacking players on show I expect goals, in this ultimately irrelevant encounter. No doubt Roy Hodgson will be in tow, to catch up on the form of his fringe players in red and white.
In their last meeting Southampton were completely flummoxed by Tactics Tim’s outlandish move of starting two strikers. In this fixture Tottenham should respond to Saints opening the scoring through Early Setback with goals from Immense Character and Took A’Risk.
Aston Villa- Stoke
Two great wins for both these sides last week, who on 34 points seem to have avoided any fears of relegation. Even more incredibly, Stoke were lauded for their style of football last week as they somehow managed to outplay Sam Allardyce’s West Ham. With the rapid Gabby Agbonlahor alongside Christian Ben’tekkers’, Villa have a strike partnership that can win them games. I reckon this combination should be enough for them to succeed in this West Midlands derby. (Yes the Midlands do exist.)
In a match that has as much place on Super Sunday as I do on a camping trip in Yorkshire, Aston Villa will win the battle of the borings through goals from Gabby Agbonhalor. Polite murmurings will ripple in the background that he should go to Brazil. They’re wrong.bookmark me