Friday, March 1, 2013

The Better Late Than Never Predictions

Those of you in Blighty are no doubt slumbering peacefully away on the eve of yet another Premier League Saturday...or you're not and you're out carousing with the boys (or ladies) and more than a few pints in. In any case, you're not reading this right now. Consider it a morning gift and/or hangover remedy left in the still of night by yours truly. I'm like football blogging Santa.

Those of you on this side of the Atlantic, well, what's your excuse? It's Friday night! I know because I'm doing this rather than making any number of much more questionable although undoubtedly more fun decisions all for the benefit of you dear readers. I'm like football blogging Jesus.

Santa and Jesus. I'll take that.

On to the predictions!

Chelsea take on West Brom in a match that will no doubt attract even a neutral's eye after Rafa went Waterboy, snapped, and leveled his shoulder on everyone from the Blues' fans to the Chelsea boardroom. I can't say I blame him or even that he's wrong, but wow. Anyone else get the feeling that Chelsea's season may be one or two losses from a spectacular, flaming train wreck to be played out in the season's remaining press conferences, tabloids, and rumor mills?

Rafa Benitez is not impressed
The best thing Chelsea have going for them this weekend is that Romelu Lukaku is ineligible to play against his parent club. Beyond that, you can bet the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge will be considerably unwelcoming to Rafa and populated by the Boo Bird's predatory raptor cousin.

To Chelsea fans, I'd love to say the leadership and quality in the side will buckle down, play for one another, and kick on, but it would be disingenuous and against type for me to do so. Remember the whole "Santa Jesus" thing. That's why I'm right off the bat using my William J. La Petomane Insane Prediction Of The Week! I call a 1-0 Baggies win with more gnashing of teeth and finger pointing in the post match interviews.

Everton and Reading square off at Goodison Park and both teams are in need of a win but for entirely different reasons. The Toffees began the campaign like a house on fire but have recently struggled to find their previously scintillating form and are coming off a FA Cup win against lowly Oldham that should have been done and dusted a couple of weeks ago.

Clearly, the resemblance is uncanny
Reading find themselves at the foot of the table, but only just. With some help in the other matches, they could pop out of the relegation zone with a win tomorrow, but they'll have to do it without Pavel Pogrebnyak who went Drago in last weekend's loss to Wigan. On paper, this should be a relatively easy Everton win, but there are goals in this Reading side and Everton have been suspiciously generous in the back, especially late on in matches. I think the Toffees storm out to an early lead only to get pegged back by Reading to set up a grandstand finish. 2-1, Everton.

Manchester United are the only side in the perennial frontrunners to yet show any semblance of the yips. They see off inferior sides and find a way to win against the other frontrunners. Whether it's 73 year old Ryan Giggs smacking one in with his ivory headed cane, hirsute Wayne Rooney cannoning in a screamer from the edge of the box, equine Robin Van Persie scoring for fun, or even Rafael blacking out and murdering a 25 yard scud into the top corner, United always seem to find the goals to win.

And speaking of "finding the goals to win," whatever Chris Hughton has done to the Canaries in recent weeks (ostensibly not using them to warn miners of impeding death), has worked wonders. This side has come a long way from the team who were thrashed by Fulham 5-0 to start the season. If Norwich find themselves down a goal with 10 minutes left to play, David de Gea will get ample opportunity against the likes of Grant Holt and Kai Kamara to prove that he's gotten over his callow attempts to claim crosses. I don't think it gets that nervy, but I also think Norwich are good for at least a goal in this contest. 2-1, United.

Southampton entertain QPR on Saturday and it looks for all the world to me like the Harry Redknapp effect has earned its few points and normalcy has returned. "Normalcy" being QPR's complete inability to execute even the basic fundamentals of sound defense while setting new standards for futility in the attacking end of the pitch.

That said, Southampton, while a little more than occasionally playing some fine attacking soccer, are also prone to a little more than occasionally pulling a Jos Hooiveld, even when it's not Jos Hooiveld executing the aforementioned Jos Hooiveld maneuver. I think there are goals in this one. 4-2, Southampton.

Murder Incorporated (aka Stoke City) play host to West Ham and all bets are off given the injuries and suspensions affecting players from both sides. Robert Huth is out for Stoke after trying to rearrange Philippe Senderos's face with his forearm in last weekend's match against Fulham (couldn't have made him uglier) , although given that they seem to have an entire squad of meat fisted center backs at their disposal, I don't think this hurts Stoke too much. West Ham are at a considerably more significant loss as Kevin Nolan is set to miss the match with a broken toe and Mark Noble has hurt his arm.

With West Ham missing arguably their two best midfielders and coming off a heart breaking loss to Gareth Bale, I think Stoke finally get back to winning ways and probably break a few legs along the way. Stoke for the 1-0 win.

Sunderland v Fulham represents a chance for the Cottagers to avenge the thumping they received from the Black Cats earlier in the season at Craven Cottage and also build on last week's victory over Stoke. I think they have every opportunity to do this against an underachieving Sunderland side, but as a Fulham supporter, I am immune to confidence and find optimism generally distasteful.

To me, the lynchpin to a successful Fulham side lies in Dimitar Berbatov's ability/desire/discipline to stay farther up the pitch than he has a tendency to do. In lieu of that, Fulham need to play with two out-and-out strikers to compensate for Berbatov's dalliances into the midfield. Given that this match is away from home, I don't think Martin Jol will start two dedicated forwards. This leaves me praying that Berbatov will draw a lesson from the Fulham "Harlem Shake" video (scroll down) and calmly occupy space in the attacking third while the other ten Fulham players go apeshit around him winning the ball, pressing Sunderland, and finding the Bulgarian in space between the Sunderland center backs. Even if all of that does come to pass, I'm still wary of Adam Johnson, Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon, and Danny Graham...and Philippe Senderos's one required moment of lunacy. Does a 1-1 draw sound about right to anyone else?

In Saturday's most tantalizing match, newly laden with silverware Swansea play host to Nouveau Chateau (aka Newcastle). This could be a really exciting match for the neutral viewer. Now that I've written that it will most probably end 0-0 and have all the drama and intrigue of your grandparent's sex life. Let's hope not.

Swansea will be well rested and full of confidence after winning an uncontested Capital One Cup and Newcastle are playing some of the most powerful and pleasing football in the league at the moment. I'm honestly at a total loss on this one. I call 3-3 in a classic, borderline William J. La Petomane Insane Prediction.

And in Saturday's final match, Liverpool travel to Wigan in a battle of ex Swansea managers, ex Swansea managers who did an excellent job setting the table for Michael Laudrup. Martinez has been trying to set his Wigan table with plastic forks, chopsticks, paper plates, a towel and a cookie tray for the last few years (and made some delicious meals in spite of these presentational limitations) and Brendan Rodgers has a table cluttered with fine china, doilies, real silver silverware, and an enormous centerpiece, but can't keep his hollandaise from separating.

Wigan throttled Reading last weekend and helped only half of my WJL Insane Prediction come true while Liverpool are coming off a similar demolition of the Swans. I see Liverpool the more likely of the two sides to continue their run of form as I think Rodgers is finally starting to put some delicious dishes in those expensive platters. Liverpool, 3-0.

Have a wonderful Saturday!                

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    My name is Herb Scribner, and I had a few questions about this article and your writing that I thought we could discuss. Would you mind sending me an email at Just had a few questions.