Saturday/Saturday: English Premiership Football Review

More European trials and tribulations this week: who would have thunk that going into this weeks plethora of Euro-matches that out of the four English teams remaining in various competitions that it would be Liverpool and Fulham that would emerge victorious??

It was always going to be tough for Arsenal; Barca away at the Nou Camp. They opened the scoring in the 18th minute through a jinking run by Walcott, finished off by Bendtner and the official light of hope went on around North London. That was until a certain 22 year genius decided to piss on the Gunners bonfire. Lionel Messi turned on the charm and the skill, scored four goals, saw Arsenal on their way and cemented his place as the best footballer in the world with consummate ease.

At Old Trafford, and to the surprise of all and sundry, Rooney started and help craft the perfect opening; two-nil up after seven minutes. But the glory, glory, Man Utd soon had their polish tarnished; Ribery goaded the young Rafael into his second bookable offense at the start of the second half, leading to him being sent off and Utd had to contend with the Bayern a man down: a big ask, too much in fact. Robben hit a blinding volley on the full from a corner and Bayern went through on the away goals rule.

So the Champions League cupboard lays bare for English clubs this year. However, next door at the Europa League cupboard lies a bountiful English presence: Liverpool play some great, flowing football to beat Benfica and Fulham needed only 21 seconds to find the net against German Champions Wolfsburg. Bobby Zamora neatly turned this defender on the edge of the box and calmly slotted the ball home; Capello surely now has to include Zamora in his England team for this summers World Cup? He can’t be ignored, he has the pace, ability and scoring prowess; and now has a reported price tag of 40 million pounds (that’s Sterling, people).

L. Messi, destroyer of worlds...

Anyway, in a neat segway, lets look at the Premiership games this weekend; and first up:

Liverpool V Fulham
In an ironic twist of fate the two teams that have done so well in Europe and could potentially meet in the Europa League final are playing each other on the domestic front. Rafa has been in the papers today claiming that Liverpool has two goals for this season; to win the Europa Cup and to clinch fourth place in the League and automatic qualification for Europe next season: a tall order. They will have to win every game until the end of the season to achieve this and playing the inform Fulham wont be easy. There is a doubt surrounding Zamora, who may have picked up an achilles injury this week, but Liverpool do at least look like Gerrard and Torres are back to their playing best; particularly Torres who’s finishing on Thursday was sublime. At Anfield and buoyant from this weeks European triumph I think The Reds will take this, but not by much.
Prediction: Liverpool 2 – 1 Fulham

Hull V Burnley
A tense battle in the relegation zone will ensue at the KC Stadium tomorrow. Both Hull and Burnley are fighting for Premiership survival with, in my mind, Hull looking the better prospect. Burnley were undone by Man City last week 6 – 1, and they looked completely out of sorts and in disarray; reports suggest that it was all too much for Burnley midfielder, Kevin McDonald, who was substituted at half time. He promptly left the ground and went to the local pub to watch the second half; he was fined a weeks wages – silly boy! Burnley have also failed to score in their last four visits to sunny Hull. Ian Dowie has instilled some belief back into a disheveled Hull side, and they can at least create chances. If Hull win, Burnley will be all but down to the Championship…… and I think they will.
Prediction: Hull City 3 – 1 Burnley

West Ham V Sunderland
It was spirited fight back against a far better quality Everton side last week that saw The Hammers get a point at least for their troubles. Sunderland took advantage of a depleted Spurs side, even if the final score line was a little over flattering to say the least. They have lost only two of their last eleven games and look to be finishing the season in a positive manner under Steve Bruce. Utd have lost their last three home games at Upton Park, but manager Zola will want to stop the rot and preserve some pride in his team. Unfortunately, I think they will only carve out a draw and if the don’t mark the on form Darren Bent out of the game, it could end in defeat.
Prediction: West Ham Utd 1 – 1 Sunderland

Aston Villa V Chelsea (FA Cup Semi Final)
So the last time these two met in ended in a triumphant victory for Chelsea, 7-1. This will be a completely different affair; and although Ancelotti is eyeing a League and Cup double I think Martin O’Neill is posed upset that applecart. He has a couple of injury worries in Dunne and Milner, but they should come through. One point to remember: Villa have only been beaten twice in 2010; once in the Cup Final against Man U, the other was against some team from Stamford Bridge???? Chelsea have scored an impressive slue of goals in their last three games (14); but the appetite of Villa will be more severe, having lost at Wembley already this season and been humiliated by Chelsea in their last encounter. It will be a close game, but I see Villa coming out on top and clinching a place in the final.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2 -1 Chelsea

Blackburn V Man Utd
Apparently Rooney is out for this one; but there were similar rumors for the Bayern match and up he popped in the starting line up, so don’t believe everything you read: apart from this blog of course! He is the fire starter for Utd at the moment and without him they have trouble with ignition. Blackburn have only lost at home once this season and that was on the opening day, they have also won five out of six at home in 2010; Ewood Park is no easy assignment. With Chelsea playing in the FA Cup and Arsenal off until Wednesday, Utd could use this weekend to galvanize their top dog status; but I think a draw is on the cards.
Prediction: Blackburn Rovers 1 – 1 Manchester United

Tottenham V Portsmouth (FA Cup Semi Final)
This is the only thing Portsmouth have to look forward to and can redeem from this nightmare season. Avram Grant will look to charge his players up with the knowledge that they could find themselves on the hallowed turf of Wembley with a win; although Spurs have done the double over them in League this season. They welcome back some key names; Nadir Belhadj, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Papa Bouba Diop and perhaps David “Calamity” James and this will certainly assist them. All this said, I don’t think they possess the talent to beat Spurs. Redknapp still has a lot of injury worries, but as a team Tottenham are just a better, more solid side, who can create chances at will. Although they suffered a difficult loss at Sunderland last week, and have the ominous prospect of facing North London rivals this week, Harry will let his players play in the style and manner in which they are accustomed; and that will be more than enough to seal a win.
Ladies and Gentlemen, its going to be a Villa V Spurs FA Cup Final; you heard it hear first.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 -1 Portsmouth

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