It’s derby weekend in the Premier League with huge local derbies taking place in London, the Midlands and on Merseyside.
Everton vs. Liverpool
The series: In league play, the Reds have won 67 matches while Everton has won 56 times. There have also been 56 draws.
This is always a big game, but it takes on even more significance this year with the disappointing season that both clubs are having. Everton is in 14th place on 15 points while Liverpool is in seventh place with 20 points and with a loss, either team could end any faint European ambitions that either team has.
Fernando Torres is expected to be fit for this game, and he is a difference maker. In a full-bloodied affair Torres will be the difference as Rafa gets a much-needed win.
Prediction: Everton 1 Liverpool 2
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Another big game for Chelsea who have already beaten Liverpool and Manchester United this season. The difference is that this game will be at The Emirates and not Stamford Bridge, but the end result will be the same. A Chelsea victory.
Arsenal will be without Robin Van Persie, Clichy and potentially William Gallas. Three huge loses, that a thin Arsenal squad cannot overcome.
Chelsea on the other hand are the best team in Europe at the moment, and Anelka and Drogba will be too strong for the Arsenal back-four.
Prediction: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 3
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Birmingham
The third derby in the Midlands, where a relegation battle between Wolves and Birmingham City will take place.
Three of the next five games for Wolves are Brimingham (H), Bolton (H), Burnley (H). Mick McCarthy knows that 9 points will give them a good chance of avoiding relegation. Anything less and it will be a long season for Wolves fans.
Wolves are bottom of the current form table while Birmingham City are unbeaten in four matches, winning two. The form guide reflects the improvement in City’s play in recent weeks and I expect them to get at least a point at Molineux.
Prediction: Wolves 1 Birmingham City 1
Blackburn Rovers vs. Stoke City
A clash not for the football purists. Blackburn lost 3-0 at Fulham in midweek and will be looking forward to returning to Ewood Park where they have won four straight home games.
Stoke have done well on the road though, having lost only one of their last five games and this game has low scoring draw written all over it.
Prediction: Blackburn 1 Stoke 1
Fulham vs. Bolton Wanderers
Fulham had a good win over Blackburn in midweek and they will be looking to continue their good home form against a Bolton team who have lost their last four matches in all competitions.
Fulham are so much better at home than on the road and I excpect them to win this one comfortably.
Prediction: Fulam 2 Bolton 0
Manchester City vs. Hull City
Man City have only lost once this season and if they are to fulfill their European ambitions, this is the kind of game they must win.
While City have drawn their last six Barclays Premier League fixtures and Hull City side have taken seven points from a possible nine, I cannot see anything but a home victory here
Prediction: Man City 2 Hull 1
Portsmouth vs. Manchester United
New Portsmouth manager Avram Grant gets to host Man United in his first game in charge at Pompey. The last game that Grant managed was the Champions League final in Moscow where United beat Grant’s Chelsea on penalties.
This is a tough game for United, who have lost their last two away games in the league and have struggled at times when visiting the south coast.
I expect the change in manager giving Pompey a boost, but United’s class wins in the end, in what will be a very tight game.
Prediction: Portsmouth 1 Manchester United 2
West Ham United vs. Burnley
Somebody’s streak has to end here as after five defeats and a draw on the road, Burnley go in search of their first away win in the Barclays Premier League as they visit a West Ham United side who have won only once at home this season.
Who would have thought that at this point in the season that Burnley would be six points ahead of West Ham? The Hammers have been really struggling with injuries this season, but this is the type of game that they need to win if they are to avoid a season –long relegation battle.
Burnley are winless in nine games with West Ham in all competitions and I expect that streak to continue.
Prediction: West Ham 2 Burnley 1
Wigan Athletic vs. Sunderland
Two teams who made news for very different reasons last week. Wigan gave up 8 goals in a second-half capitulation at Tottenham, while Sunderland beat, then second in the table, Arsenal.
I am sure that Wigan boss Roberto Martinez will be expecting a reaction from last weekends mauling and their opponents, who have lost four out of five on the road and could well be without England striker Darren Bent, could just be what the doctor ordered.
It’s a homecoming for Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, but new Wigan boss Roberto Martinez will be the one with the last laugh.
Prediction: Wigan 1 Sunderland 0
Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Outside of the derbies, this is the big game of the weekend. Villa and Spurs both have Champions League ambitions, and the struggles that Liverpool are having has opened up that fourth Champions League spot. The questions is whether anyone is willing to take it?
Aston Villa is currently in fifth place in the league on 22 points while Spurs are in fourth on 25 points. So Spurs has a chance to open up a 6 point gap on their European rivals with a win.
Aston Villa have taken 13 points from a possible 15 at home, but Tottenham are flying high after last week’s 9-1 thrashing of Wigan.
This will be a really exciting game, and Villa’s speed will be too much for the back four of Spurs. Four out of the last five matches between these two clubs have ended at 2-1 and that will be the score here.
Prediction: Villa 2 Spurs 1