Friday, August 17, 2007

Premiership Predictions--Weekend, Round 3

1. Portsmouth vs. Bolton (Saturday, 7:45 AM, Setanta): After their midweek loss to Fulham, things don't get any easier for Sammy Lee and his Bolton side. It's no picnic to play at Fratton Park (as Manchester United knows all too well) and Bolton had a -11 goal differential on the road last season. Scoring could again be a problem for the Trotters as Ricardo Vaz Te and Kevin Davies are both out due to injury, however Portsmouth's defense is getting down to its skin and bones as Sol Campbell, Lauren, and Linvoy Primus are also hurt. What separates these two teams? Portsmouth have a better manager and home-field advantage. Portsmouth-2, Bolton-1

2. Fulham vs. Middlesbrough (Saturday, 10:00 AM): Fulham have been impressive in both of the games they've played so far this season (loss to Arsenal, victory over Bolton). Fill-in keeper Tony Warner will make his third consecutive start in goal for the Cottagers and take the task of denying Middlesbrough's new signing, Mido, who is set for his club debut. The Boro won just 2 games on the road last season and couldn't beat Wigan away in midweek. I don't like their chances here either. Fulham-2, Middlesbrough-1

3. Wigan Athletic vs. Sunderland (Saturday, 2:15 PM, FSC): Sunderland manager Roy Keane has his club playing good soccer. They have a chip on their shoulder and they honestly believe they belong in the Premiership; they're not a typical newly-promoted team who goes back down the next season. After going down a goal with just 10 minutes left on the road at Birmingham in midweek they could've just packed it in for the day, resigned to defeat. That's not the way this team plays however, and they came back to get a draw in the last minute. Wigan, on the other hand, have Titus Bramble. Enough said. What's that? Oh alright, if you insist. Keane-O, Keane-O!! Sunderland-1, Wigan Athletic-0

4. Reading vs. Everton (Saturday, 10:00 AM, FSC): Reading have already been handed out 2 red cards this season, which is shocking for a Steve Coppell side that prides itself on discipline and focus. Kalifa Cisse's dismissal ended any hope of a comeback against Chelsea in midweek while Everton dominated Tottenham at White Hart Lane and won 3-1, their second victory in as many games. The Toffee Train will truck right through the Madejski, giving Everton 9 points after 3 games. Joleon Lescott got jipped in not being named to the England squad for their friendly against Germany next week. Everton-2, Reading-0

5. Tottenham vs. Derby County (Saturday, 10:00 AM, FSC): If I was a betting man, I'd put money on Derby getting points from this game at White Hart Lane. Tottenham can't score goals right now and their struggles are further compounded by Dimitar Berbatov's groin injury. They're conceding goals as well, and though Gareth Bale isn't too far away from making his debut, he's not known as a defensive left back. However manager Martin Jol knows the pressure he's facing, he knows his club can't afford to drop this game. Derby County could easily have 4 points this season as they outplayed Portsmouth for much of that game (settled for a draw) and competed step-for-step with Manchester City. There's every reason to think Derby can get a result, but that's what leads me to believe they won't. Tottenham-2, Derby County-0

6. Birmingham City vs. West Ham (Saturday, 10:00 AM, Setanta Xtra): Let me get this straight. Kieron Dyer, Lee Bowyer, Craig Bellamy, and Lucas Neill are all on the same team?? I can see a training ground brawl a mile away between a couple guys in this group. Colin Doyle's masquerade as a legitimate Premiership goalie is rapidly coming to an end with Birmingham. Neither team has won yet this season and I just can't see that changing after this game. Birmingham City-1, West Ham-1

7. Newcastle vs. Aston Villa (Saturday, 12:15 PM, FSC): Both teams had the midweek off as their scheduled opponents had European conflicts that took precedence. Aston Villa is coming off a 2-1 home loss to Steven Gerrard--I mean Liverpool--and will look to rebound away from Villa Park against a Newcastle side that played very well against Bolton (3-1 win) a week ago. Michael Owen will join the Magpies' squad for this game (one of his 10 or so Premier League matches per season) but figures to come off the bench. Scott Carson, who is on loan from Liverpool, will make his debut in goal for Villa. He better be prepared to face a lot of action; Villa's defense looked ancient against Liverpool last weekend. Newcastle-1, Aston Villa-1

8. Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sunday, 8:30 AM, Setanta): The first Manchester derby of the season won't be like the ones we've seen recently. The fact that there is no Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo for United and few English players for City could result in a rather subdued derby; City's players will be new to this rivalry and Cristiano Ronaldo is the one player their fans love to hate. United come into this game with just 2 points from their 2 games while City are tied for the league lead with 6 points. The Red Devils can't afford to fall any further behind Chelsea or Liverpool and will be hoping for a draw when those two teams meet later on Sunday. They have it all to play for, that's why they'll squeak this game out. Manchester United-1, Manchester City-0

9. Blackburn vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 10:00 AM): Both of these teams were succesful in their respective European competitions during the week; Blackburn won the first leg of their UEFA Cup 2nd qualifying round tie 1-0 and Arsenal went to the Czech Republic and beat Sparta Prague 2-0 in the first leg of their Champions League 3rd qualifying round tie. Rovers striker Benni McCarthy is doubtful for this game with a concussion, but it's not like there's a shortage of strikers for manager Mark Hughes to choose from. Arsenal were fortunate to escape with a 2-1 victory against Fulham last weekend and they'll have to play much better in this game if they want full points. Blackburn-2, Arsenal-2

10. Liverpool vs. Chelsea (Sunday, 11:00 AM, FSC): The weekend's biggest game is its final game. Chelsea come to Anfield on the heels of a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Reading in midweek and Liverpool return to league competition after beating Toulouse 1-0 in their Champions League 3rd round qualifier. It's not quite a real 6-pointer, but it's by far the most meaningful game in the Premiership for the near future. England midfield mates Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard come into this game with a broken toe apiece but both will play for their respective clubs. John Terry should make his return from a knee injury for Chelsea; Michael Essien figures to play as well for the Blues. Liverpool lost just one league game at home last season but Chelsea have won 3 of the past 4 league meetings between the two at Anfield. Will it be 4 out of 5? I don't think so. Liverpool-2, Chelsea-1

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