Saturday/Saturday Predictions…On Monday

[Editor’s Note: Our apologies for getting this up late; Mags had actually delivered it on time. I guess you can play the game of checking back on the predictions and seeing what lined up…]

Three weeks left on the countdown to the title race in the Premiership and it’s still all to play for. So set your alarms clocks early tomorrow and feast your eyes on the plethora of footballing excellence that is on the menu. We are going to focus on the five games that are the focus of contention and involve the top seven clubs; all of which are vying for either the title or a place in Europe next season.

Man Utd V Tottenham
Significant names are set to return to the fray for this crucial match. Aaron Lennon, who has been out for over four months, is set to take a seat on the bench and as Redknapp said, “He won’t start but could be available for 20 minutes if we need him.” For Manchester, Ferdinand and Brown return to the squad; which is sure to provide more stability at the back. Utd scored a last ditch effort against local rivals City last week and were held by North West upstarts, Blackburn the previous week. Thankfully though, their goal of clinching the division is still alive because Chelsea faltered. Spurs have won seven of their last eight league matches and have returned to the elegant and confident form of earlier in the season, they will also be looking for a helping hand from their own bitter rivals, Arsenal, to assist them in their cause for fourth spot. But all eyes will be focused on Old Trafford. Tottenham have already beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal this season and if they dispatch of Utd, they will be the first club to defeat each of the Big Four clubs in a single season since a certain Leeds United did in 1995. Rooney has cooled off of late, but Ferguson will want him to rally this weekend, a win would see them overtake Chelsea (at least for 24 hours) and put the pressure back on Chelsea. Always one to go for the upset, or rather the unconventional I reckon this will be a draw: either one-one or two-two.
Prediction: Man Utd 2 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur

Arsenal V Man City
Mancini’s boys in light blue were unlucky not to get a draw and take a point from Utd last weekend and that point make prove crucial later. This week they head south to north London and take on The Gunners who rolled over and died against Wigan last weekend, not disrespect to Wigan, but three goals in ten minutes! I am sure Wenger had some choice expletives in the dressing after the match. There is a bevy of ex-Arsenalites in the new and improved City team including Adebayor, Toure and Vieira – who will surely get a frosty reception at the Emirates. Arsenal need a win to secure third spot and an automatic place in next seasons Champions League, and they have won their last five games at home. On the flip side, City haven’t lost two consecutive League games all season, and they won’t want to start now. It will be a feisty affair, their last encounter was no picnic; but I see Arsenal coming out on top.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 -1 Man City

Chelsea V Stoke City (Sunday)
Chelsea controls their destiny. They have it all to win or throw away, as they did against Tottenham last week. Terry will be absent because of his tantrum and subsequent sending off last week, but Ancelotti knows that this weeks fixture looks easier than next weeks, on paper at least, and will look to pick up all three points. Stoke haven’t won at the Bridge in 36 years, but all the pressure is on Chelsea, Tony Pulis’ lads are secure in mid table bliss and have nothing to lose, interestingly they are unbeaten in all their away games in 2010. I just don’t think Chelsea a solid and convincing enough to be the Champions this season, they have shown flashes of brilliance, but that has been marred by indiscipline and theatrics. I can see Stoke causing an upset and at least getting a draw, but why not live dangerously. Away win for the Potters!
Prediction: Chelsea 1- 2 Stoke City

Burnley V Liverpool
The rumour mill is in full effect at Anfield; Rafa is leaving?? Torres is moving to Man City?? Gerrard is releasing a hardcore, grime record?? Alright, the last one is fictitious, but the other two have been thrown about the UK press this week. Benitez still has his sight set on a Europa League final, even with the defeat against Madrid on Thursday. Mathematically they could still land in fourth spot at the end of the season, but other clubs would have to lose in order for them to do so. Burnley are all but relegated, in fact but the end of the weekend it could be absolute. The stadium of Turf Moor that proved to be such a fortress earlier in the season has not languished into disrepair, Brian Law’s has lost 13 of his 16 games in charges and the mighty Reds will not be easy. Torres is out for the rest of the season, so Dutchman Dirk Kuyt will have to step into the breach; he is an energetic player, who is good in front of goal and he will have to be in the season final days, they are however winless in their last seven away leagues games. I think the fire has gone out at Burnley and Liverpool will romp home.
Prediction: Burnley 1 – 3 Liverpool

Aston Villa V Birmingham
Villa currently lie in sixth place and have improved dramatically since their FA Cup exit. Again, the coveted fourth spot is their motivation at this point, but regardless O’Neill’s boys should qualify for Europe through the Europa League. They will most likely have an unchanged side from recent weeks, and key players are once again gelling. They have still only lost one league game in the last 15, since the beginning of 2010. McLeish is on target to ensure Birmingham have their best top flight season since 1959, a huge accomplishment, but Villa have won the last five of these Midlands derby’ and the blues are winless in the last seven. Villa seem to be in a better place and brimming with confidence, coupled with the fact that they are at home I think they will take it.
Prediction: Aston Villa 3 – 1 Birmingham

Elsewhere, both my teams are keeping me infuriated and on the edge of my seat until probably the last day of the season. Leeds lie in second, with automatic promotion beckoning, but with a shockingly dismal defeat against Gillingham last week and the playoff contenders snapping at their ankles; we need wins fellas!! I can not sit through another nail biting playoff again, only to be denied at the last hurdle. The Championship is calling, a victory is needed tomorrow at MK Dons.
York City are definite playoff contenders, striker Brodie is back on form and this weeks final league game is against Stevenage, who have already been promoted. It’s about who we play in the playoffs now: either Oxford or Luton, with the sacred soil of Wembley at the end of it. Experience has told me not to hold me breath.

As a final aside: spare a though for spritely Dundee goalkeeper, Bobby Geddes. He was called into action last week against Raith Rovers at the grand old age of 49! He is currently Dundee’s goalkeeping coach and hasn’t played first team football in over ten years. The regular keeper came off with a hamstring injury and although Dundee lost the match, it wasn’t because of the aged bloke between the sticks. Geddes was quoted as saying afterwards, “Looking back on the game it was okay, but a bit nerve-wracking at the time….I’m feeling the aches and pains today; and probably tomorrow as well, I think.”

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