Well, only 5 games remain in the league now for the title contenders and this weekend could yet prove decisive in the title race. United are at home against Everton, Arsenal away to Bolton on Sunday and Chelsea host West Ham late on Saturday. Here’s a quick preview of the matches and I will give my own predictions for the matches. I will run this post every week from here on in as the run in comes to what will eventually be another dramatic climax. I expect this season to go right down to the last week of matches and I will make sure I give a weekly update, so sit back and read. Hope you enjoy.
Manchester United vs. Everton
United at home are a formidable force this season. With a 28 game unbeaten streak in the Premier League that stretches all the way back to Dider Drogba’s offside winner in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory at the end of last season, United will go into this game as favorites to emerge victorious. Dimitar Berbatov is a doubt for the match with a groin strain but with the match against Schalke on Tuesday, Ferguson will likely be considering resting Nani and Hernandez for that match. I won’t be surprised if Fergie chooses to deploy the 4-5-1 formation with Rooney up front on his own, using Park and Valencia as the wingers. Hopefully the lads will be able to shake off the 180 minutes of goal-less football we have played but Everton are no pushover, despite United being unbeaten against them at Old Trafford since 1992 for a total of 17 Premier League games.
Everton will go into this match brimming with confidence, having taken 14 from a possible 18 in their previous 6 Premier League matches. With arguably the most in form defender in the league with Leighton Baines, Rafael could be exposed after he comes back from a 4 week lay off through injury. With Arteta and Cahill possibly returning for the game, creative spark within Everton may find a boost. This will no doubt be a thrilling match and I know I will be nervous for the boys but I am confident that they can overcome Everton and maintain a 17 year grip over Everton inside the Theatre of Dreams.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Everton
Chelsea vs. West Ham
Chelsea go into this game with the best form in the league, taking 16 from a possible 18 in their previous 6 encounters. Alex and Ramires will be absent from the squad again but the defense of Chelsea has remained firm without them and still stands as the strongest in the league having conceded only 27 goals this season. Two weeks ago, Ancelotti publicly denounced Chelsea’s chances of holding on to the title but he now believes that the race is ‘wide open’ again. Make your mind up. With only 5 games left however, Chelsea will need results to swing their way and United to slip up on more than one occasion. With David ‘Sycho Bob’ Luiz in the team, they seem to be a completely different force but let us all just hope that Fernando Torres is in the starting lineup again, so that we can all get a laugh in. However, I can’t see Chelsea dropping points against West Ham but as they are in a relegation scrap and as it is the Premier League, who knows!
West Ham will have to pull one out of the bag at Stamford Bridge. With 3 losses in their last 3 games in the Premier League, form has dipped having been unbeaten in their previous 3. Scott Parker has deservedly picked up the Football Writers Player of the Year award this week, an achievement ever more remarkable when you consider that West Ham lie 19th in the league. Having watched West Ham a few times this season, notably the victory over Liverpool at home, I know they are capable of playing some good football. The news that Gary O’Neill will be out for the rest of the season is ill timed news but it will hopefully not dampen the spirits of the Hammers. They will be happy with a point at the Bridge and to be honest, so will I.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 West Ham
Arsenal vs. Bolton
I wonder how many times Arsenal have been in this position and come up short of the finish line, quite a few times I imagine. They are away on Sunday with a 4pm kick off and will already know the results of United and Chelsea as they both play on Saturday, which might give them a slight advantage but regardless of the results at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, they will need to pick up 3 points here to stay in contention for the title. Surprisingly, the away form of Arsenal has surpassed their home form in recent months and they may be happy by not playing in the Emirates, a ground which has been so filled with nervous tension recently that the aura has been rather stifled. This is the most unpredictable match of the top 3 and I would not be surprised to see a score draw emerge at the end of it.
Daniel Sturridge has been a bit of a revelation under Owen Coyle, in much the same fashion as Wilshere was last season. Coyle has brought an expansive style of football that has transformed Bolton this season and made them a delightful watch for the neutral. They will have to come off the back of the 5-0 FA Cup semi-final drumming by Stoke but lying 8th in the table is a fantastic achievement for Bolton and they will be keen to uphold their spot. They are a team who are not afraid to fight to the dogged end and Arsenal will have to pull their socks up in order to secure 3 points at the Reebok.
Prediction: Bolton 2-2 Arsenal