The festive period is out of the way and the FA Cup Third Round weekend is finished as we begin to sink our teeth into Premier League football again in 2015. We are back with head to head predictions again this year and will strive to improve last year’s poor form where the report card more than likely read ‘could do better.’ This week Niamh Archibald is the contender.
Manchester United 3-1 Southampton
Rivals Louis Van Gaal and Ronald Koeman go head to head at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon just a month after Van Gaal’s Manchester United stole a 2-1 victory away from Southampton at St Mary’s. Southampton dominated United in the reverse fixture but two Robin Van Persie goals gave United a largely undeserved win away from home in the midst of what is a now 11 game unbeaten streak for the Red Devils.
The Saints were going through a string of tough defeats at the time but are now back on form and back in the top four as they look to challenge for Champions League football in 2015. Southampton are a solid outfit with creativity throughout and showed they can also grind out a result as they beat Arsenal 2-0 on New Year’s Day but they will be up against the man that can’t stop scoring against them in the form of Holland captain Robin Van Persie.
The Dutchman netted twice at St Mary’s last month and a hat trick against the south coast club in his first season at Old Trafford and he will be looking to put the Saints to the sword on Sunday as his partnership with Radamel Falcao continues to improve week on week.
Another boost for United is that Angel Di Maria returned to goal scoring action against Yeovil in the FA Cup. The Argentines pace has been sorely missed by United but as injuries dry up and players begin to hit form, 2015 could make up for a largely disappointing 2014 although Koeman and co will certainly have something to say about that this weekend.
Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
A repeat of last month’s scoreline. Southampton are now back in form and will be looking to challenge for the Champions League spots, while United will hope to close the gap on leaders Chelsea. The return of Angel Di Maria will give United a much needed boost as they have being struggling for pace through the midfield and on the counter-attack. Up front Van Persie and Falcao have started to build an understanding and with Wayne Rooney absent the pairing could have a chance to shine. The United defence looks shaky if put under pressure and Southampton will hope to get Morgan Schneiderlin and Dusan Tadic running at them.
Match Result: Manchester United 4/5
Correct Score: Man Utd 3-1 16/1
West Brom 2-0 Hull City
Tony Pulis returned to Premier League management at the turn of the year and immediately helped his new charges to a 7-0 FA Cup third round victory against Conference side Gateshead and now goes up against Hull City in a huge relegation battle at the Hawthorns.
The ex Stoke and Palace manager has been signed to keep the Baggies bouncing in the Premier League and they can begin that up hill climb with a victory against beleaguered Hull on Saturday.
Saido Berahino is back amongst the goals since the turn of the year and despite muted celebrations when he took the match ball home against Gateshead, it could be a whole different matter this weekend.
In his short time in the Premier League Berahino has scored in spells and he is currently in the midst of a very fruitful one and with Hull struggling to gain any consistency whatsoever this season, the young England striker can take advantage.
Last season’s FA Cup finalists are a single point above West Brom in the table and will be buoyed by their wins at Sunderland and a home victory against Everton over the Christmas period but Pulis and West Brom will provide a sterner test and it could push Hull closer to the bottom three come 5pm Saturday evening.
West Brom 1-1 Hull City
The Tigers will be hoping to build on their wins over Sunderland and Everton but Martin Pulis’ charges will be buoyed by the FA Cup victory over Gateshead and they will be hoping that Saido Berahino can continue his scoring form. With just a point separating the sides neither side will want to drop points.
Match Result: West Brom 20/19
Correct Score: WBA 2-0 9/1
Chelsea 4-0 Newcastle
Alan Pardew has gone but the same problems remain for Newcastle as mediocrity sets in for the men in charge at St James’ Park and things are set to get even harder as an away trip to Stamford Bridge awaits.
Chelsea are wounded after their 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day but John Carver’s side will seem the best remedy in what should be a stroll for the Blues.
Diego Costa’s eyes will light up against Mike Williamson in defence and despite Chelsea losing at St James’ Park a month ago, this will have a completely different feel to it.
With revenge and pride to regain after last week and the recent result between these two, Mourinho will have his side cocked, locked and ready to fire. It could be a long afternoon for the travelling Geordies.
Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle
Chelsea will be wanting to restore pride after their 5-3 defeat to Spurs. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa will provide the main threat to the Magpie’s who are showing no signs of recovery after Pardew’s departure.
Match Result: Chelsea 1/5
Correct Score: Chelsea 4-0 10/1
Everton 1-1 Manchester City
Since Roberto Martinez and his team visited the Etihad in early December they have only managed to pick up three points out of a possible 15 with four defeats on the bounce so an upcoming visit of Manchester City is the last thing they need.
The saving grace for Everton is that Romelu Lukaku’s late FA Cup equaliser against West Ham on Tuesday is the kind of moment where fortunes could turn. Lukaku woke up with ten minutes to go against West Ham and if he continues that form for the remainder of the season, like his club need him too then Everton will be back in the top half in no time but a visit from City is not ideal.
City will be without Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero but will be with Frank Lampard who will be expected to fill the substantial void left by the Ivory Coast international.
It was Toure’s penalty that separated the two teams at the Emirates but as City struggle with striking injuries, Everton can stop the rot with a draw as Tuesday showed, Martinez is starting to tighten his team up and with the home crowd roaring on, the season could well just turn a little bit more positively for Martinez.
Everton 1-2 Manchester City
Without Toure and Aguero it would seem the best time to capture a victory over the reigning champions but they have shown great resilience so far this season and with Lampard filling the Toure void in midfield City should have enough know-how to see off the Toffee’s.
Match Result: Draw 11/4
Correct Score: Draw 1-1 15/2
Brendan’s North East Bother
Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool
Goals are unlikely to be on the cards as Liverpool travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland as the starting point for the first weekend of Premier League action in 2015.
Both teams laboured to FA Cup victories last week, Sunderland at home to Championship Leeds and Liverpool at League Two AFC Wimbledon.
Sunderland gained a goal less draw at Anfield last month with the not so free scoring Black Cats likely to be happy with more of the same.
Steven Gerrard announced he was leaving Liverpool at the end of the season last week and will certainly be looking to lead his Liverpool side to some European football but their home performances against Arsenal and Swansea aside, invention has been lacking and as shown against AFC Wimbledon on Monday night, they still can’t defend set pieces.
With that in mind, Sunderland’s set pieces will be vital and if the delivery is right and Liverpool can be exploited, then there is no reason to believe that the Black Cats will have Liverpool feeling very unlucky indeed.
Sunderland 0-0 Liverpool
Neither side looked impressive in their FA Cup wins and Saturday will be more of the same, both sides lack firepower so a set-piece will be either side’s best change of a goal.
Match Result: Sunderland 33/10
Correct Score: Sunderland 1-0 12/1