In the last predictions for a while, Bugler waxes lyrical against Cillian Dunn. A rare 7-5 victory over Freddie Turner last week leads him with plenty of confidence before the Chocolate break:
Man United- Aston Villa
The lunchtime kick-off is a showdown between two sides mired in mid-table mediocrity, only made interesting by the fact that both possess forwards, in Messrs Rooney and Benteke, who are far too good for such average sides. In terms of the likely result, Villa tend to do well against the better sides and lose, often by quite a margin, to the poorer ones. Assuming this pattern continues, United ought to win this one comfortably. One the other hand, United have lost just one of their last 36 meetings with Villa home and away since 1995, and David Moyes does love to buck a trend…
Rio Ferdinand is so embarrassed at United’s performances this season that he’s resorted to cowering behind the sofa, occasionally poking an eye out behind the curtains to see an angry mob wielding pitchforks and flaming torches. A home win against a dodgy Villa side should allow him to take his first steps outside into the back garden.
Crystal Palace- Chelsea
Two footballing purists come up against each in other in what is likely to be a hugely expansive game. After all, you can accuse Jose Mourinho and Tony Pulis of many things, but they’re not the type to order their sides to sit back and defend a lead. The only question is whether it will be the intricate link up play between Oscar and Eden Hazard, or the more, ah, direct relationship that exists between Cameron Jerome’s head and Yannick Bolasie’s left foot that proves the more fruitful. I’ll take a wild stab in the dark, and go for the former.
Palace are to scoring goals as Bugler is to writing words of his dissertation. The drought should continue against a resolute Chelsea side who somehow find themselves a favourite for the title without really having a striker. What Tony Pulis would give for a Demba Ba.
Everyone’s second team. The new Swansea, but more British. Supplying England’s reserve forwards since August 2013. Southampton play lots of pretty football and are up against a side with Mike Williamson at the heart of their defence. This is one of those games that should, on paper, be entertaining, even if things are a little quiet on the sidelines with the continued absence of Alan Pardew. And that’s without even mentioning the fact that this match could be crucial in the Premier League’s closest battle – the fight for eighth place. Much honour is at stake.
A massive fixture to clinch the all-important eighth place, the last spot between “top eight” and “mid-table mediocrity”. A few injuries for Saints has left their squad looking barer than a student cupboard at the end of term, but they should have enough to see off a directionless Newcastle.
This fixture has seen some real classics over the years. From Hull’s 2-1 win in their first ever meeting back in 1907, to their most recent clash, a 0-0 draw in December, there has rarely been a shortage of entertainment. Expect this to continue, with a battling performance from Stoke rewarded with a goal from Peter Crouch, who will relish the opportunity to try and score against one of the few clubs he hasn’t already played for, as his latest side seek to secure their position in the dizzy heights of tenth place.
Despite the half-decent football that these sides play now, there will always be a stigma to the monosyllabic names of these northern landmarks. There’s also something painfully digressive about the chat of taking Peter Crouch to the world cup, with the image of a tall, gangly man striding about the nudist beaches of Rio just too much to bare.
Two teams who will probably survive courtesy of the terrible quality of the sides below them will nonetheless wish to create, if not quite a buffer, then at least a gap greater than a couple of points, between themselves and the relegation zone. Swansea do at least possess a couple of forwards, in 20-goal Wilfried Bony and the fit-again Michu, who know were the goal is, whereas Norwich’s record signing, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, prolific in Portugal and Holland, hasn’t scored since August and seems to think it’s somewhere back on the continent. This, combined with the Canaries’ dire away form, suggests a Swansea win, and possibly even a clean sheet.
Norwich staying up in the Premiership is just a fact of life, like the fact that you’ll always get that Bounty Easter egg instead of the Smarties one you really want. Swansea are being led by a blind monk and are better at the philosophy of football than the practicality of it.
West Brom- Cardiff
A classic relegation six pointer of the old-school. It’s a game that will inevitably be bigged up as ‘season-defining’ by pundits, but ultimately end in a 1-1 draw that helps neither side. One of the sides will concede a late equaliser, much to the frustration of their manager, who will spent much of his post-match interview rambling on about how his side need to learn to ‘see games out’.
Who is Pepe Mel? An enigmatic, wraith-like figure emerging from the exotic land of Spain, he has silently flitted about the shadows in the last weeks without leaving an impression on his team. A damaging home defeat will do little to add to the rumours that he burns and smokes books like Lain Coubert from The Shadow of the Wind.
Arsenal- Man City
Arsenal have been on a dire run of form, culminating in a 6-0 loss to one of their greatest rivals, and are now out of contention for the title. City have been on a very good run of form, culminating in a 3-0 victory over their greatest rival, and are very much in contention for the title. All the facts point towards a City win, and a resounding one at that. But this is a sport in which Wigan Athletic can go to Wembley for two successive seasons, and a Manchester United side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson can lose 4-0 to a West Ham team managed by Avram Grant…
The inevitability of Arsenal’s decline this season has been like watching the leaves of summer give way to the cold emptiness of winter. Hope, the most powerful of human emotions, has burned bright for Gunners fans the last months, but this only makes failure even more heartbreaking.
Another match when there really should only be one winner. Fulham are bottom of the league for a reason – they have been through as many managers in a season as Manchester United have had in 33 years, consider Steve Sidwell to be a key player, and have conceded six goals against the lethal attacking force that is Hull City. Everton, meanwhile, are at that stage of the season where everyone normally stops talking up their Champions League aspirations, yet this year they find themselves only six points behind Arsenal, with a game in hand. However, Fulham’s desperation will lend them strength, though not enough to muster up the three points.
Ross Barkley’s goal the other night was a piece of art, a visual performance of man’s strength and individuality as he rampages through life’s obstacles and tosses aside those who stand in his way to reach his capitalist goal. There will be time for art in this trip to basement club Fulham, who need all three points but won’t get them.
This season, Spurs already have lost 5-0 to Liverpool. 4-0 to Chelsea. 6-0 to City, and then 5-1 in the return fixture. They have been beaten by Arsenal, home and away, and lost twice to West Ham at White Hart Lane. Is too greedy of me to hope for one more humiliation, in a season where they’ve already suffered so many? Probably.
Tottenham are just laughably woeful against the big teams. Raheem Sterling should be full of beans for this one, having revealed he has just the one child, not the 17 or so that rumour had. Roberto Soldado continues to resemble a disgruntled trout, and another limp showing could see him swim back to Europe in the summer.
Sunderland- West Ham
Right, no beating round the bush here, this will be a dire game of football, whatever the result. Relegation guru Sam Allardici has calculated that his side need only four more points to secure survival, meaning that he will undoubtedly set out to ‘respect the point’ and grind out a 0-0 draw. The result will not be pretty, probably a narrow win for Sunderland, although a 1-0 Irons win, courtesy of a Kevin Nolan goal following an Andy Carroll knockdown, is always a possibility. Speaking of Carroll, the guy hasn’t been injured or suspended for at least a month, so expect him to go limping off at some stage, probably with an injury that will rule him out of the World Cup, to the general relief of England fans across the country.
West Ham are the best worst side in the league, with Big Sam forever feeling aggrieved at the lack of recognition he gets for making teams stagnate in the lower-midtable slots. Sunderland also face a relegation battle, but in the grand scheme of things what does relegation matter? It’s the love of the club that should come first. Or not, in the case of booing West Ham fans.bookmark me