It’s been a busy week on the football front. In terms of the English clubs in Europe, it was a great result for Liverpool against Dortmund and Manchester City against PSG.
Dortmund’s keeper played really well and it’s nicely set up for the second leg – but I think it’s fair to say the German side have performed better this season. PSG likewise.
The second legs will be really interesting and they’re both 50/50 in my eyes right now – even if the foreign teams are favourites with the bookies.
I also briefly heard about the story with Jack Wilshere being near trouble at a nightclub in the early hours. Like with Gabby Agbonlahor last week, it’s a hard one because it’s difficult to expect players to behave like monks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
You need a release, an out away from the game. But having said that there’s a time and a place to do these sort of things. Wenger’s no doubt had a chat with him because it’s not the wisest thing to be doing but I do have sympathy for Jack at the same time. He’s coming back from injury though and trying to get fit for England, where Roy Hodgson has dangled a carrot to him by saying he wants him there.
He needs to act professionally and get fully fit, because the press will always be on the lookout for something to write about.
West Ham v Arsenal
This is going to be a really intriguing game. West Ham are unbeaten at home since August and they’re in good form in the Premier League. They went down to ten men last week and lost points because of that but they’ve since had the card rescinded at least. They were also denied a late penalty shout against Chelsea the week before so might feel they should have more points than they currently do. They also beat Arsenal on the opening day of the season too so will have confidence going into this.
If they have any aspirations of a top four finish they really need to win – but Arsene Wenger has a good record at West Ham. I’ve been impressed with how Iwobi and Welbeck have linked up in recent weeks for the Gunners and over the past few games against Everton and Watford the team performances have been decent.
Sticking with Welbeck, I think he should be starting over Giroud as it stands right now. He’s always wanted to play in the centre-forward role and form he’s shown in recent weeks shows he doesn’t deserve to be stuck out wide.
Aston Villa v Bournemouth
It’s a case of ‘when?’ for Aston Villa. They’ve lost seven on the spin and there’s absolutely no way they’ll stay up. Ironically their only away win came on the opening day of the season against Bournemouth. The Cherries were unlucky not to get anything that day and in truth Villa stole the win.
Bournemouth are safe now, their form has been ok aside from the heavy defeat to Manchester City at home last week. But I think Man City can do that to anybody on their day so we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Bournemouth can grab a win here.
Palace v Norwich
This is massive for both sides. I’m heading towards Crystal Palace because the law of averages says they’ve got to win sooner or later. They’ve lost their last 6 home games which is surprising because the atmosphere at Selhurst Park is great and fans always get behind their team.
Pardew would have targeted this game as a key one in their bid for safety. This one would have been pencilled in about three or four weeks ago and there’s no doubt he would have been getting everyone nailed on for it.
Norwich have good form though and have taken 7 points from their last 3 games. They have Sunderland next week and are also in the middle of a crucial spell. It’ll be tight but I think Palace will nick it in a nervy game.
Southampton v Newcastle
Southampton were unlucky last week against Leicester. They probably deserved to get something from the game and were a bit unfortunate to go home empty handed.
As for Newcastle, they’re just not getting results. They have four games at home and two away after this, so they might feel they still have a chance of survival, but maybe they’ll be thinking it’s time to put two up front in Perez and Mitrovic. They have to change something because they need to start winning games.
Swansea v Chelsea
Swansea have been in good form and got themselves out of trouble in recent months. They’re now 10 points from safety and should be fine, though they’ve never beaten Chelsea in the Premier League, which is an amazing statistic.
I don’t think Chelsea will slip up here. Conte’s now been confirmed as manager for next season and players have something to prove now. They’re 15 games unbeaten in the Premier League and Pato looked very lively against Villa last week. I’ll say that even without Diego Costa, who is suspended, they should be good for another win here.
Watford v Everton
I watched Watford last week and they never got close to Arsenal. They’re on a bad run in the league having lost 9 of last the 12 and it looks like they have their eye on the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace.
Everton also disappointed as well last week. Barry is back from suspension here though, which might help things, so from what I’ve seen of both teams in recent weeks I think the Toffees are in better to shape to take the three points.
Manchester City v West Brom
This is perhaps the perfect game for Manchester City to have sandwiched between their Champions League ties with PSG. They’ve won eight of the last eight meetings against Albion in the Premier League and I think if there was one side Pellegrini wanted to face this weekend, it’d be a home tie against the Baggies.
Pulis always gets his teams working hard and difficult to beat, but I ‘d make Manchester City clear favourites – even if they might have an eye on the return leg against PSG.
With reference to that game, PSG are capable of going to City and winning but with Kevin De Bruyne back and Aguero in the side you always have a chance.
Sunderland v Leicester
Another really interesting game at the Stadium of Light here. Sunderland have been in good form and they deserved more when they came up against WBA and Ben Foster last week.
They’ve drawn the last four but I have a feeling that Sunderland will get something. Whether it’s all 3 points I don’t know because Leicester have been excellent defensively recently.
Sam Allardyce’s side have this game and Norwich next week, so it’s two massive matches for them on the trot.
Stoke v Liverpool
Here’s another really big stat. Stoke have been to Anfield seven times in the Premier League and never scored. It’s an incredible record but they won there earlier on in the season in the League Cup.
You wonder if they’re capable of a result considering Liverpool have the Dortmund game coming up. They’ve been away on Thursday in Germany, have a game soon after on Sunday and stats show teams struggle more often than not after Europa League games. Henderson also picked up a bad injury so I think Stoke are capable of getting a point at least.
Tottenham v Manchester United
United have a good record at White Hart Lane and are unbeaten in last four games there, which seems amazing really. They get results even though they’re not playing particularly well. The manager said they got lucky against Everton last week and were fortunate to have won.
Spurs can’t afford another draw if they want to win the league. They’ve had too many stalemates this season so I think Tottenham might edge this with the likes of Harry Kane in the squad.
He has to be an automatic starter at Euro 2016 for me. There were questions at the end of last season about whether he could do it again. He’s proven that he can so I think he’s absolutely nailed on to start for England.