Friday, September 14, 2007

Quick hits and a Weekend preview...

Some quick hits to start out:

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney will both be back in SAF's squad but SAF isn't sure yet if Rooney will be unleashed.

Chelski tells Real Madrid to back off of Michael Ballack.

Micah Richards named the Barclay's Premier League player of the month. Well done lad, your star is certainly on the rise. Sven was also named Manager of the Month -- a double for the Citizen's.

Shiva to start in place of the injured Drogba.

David Moyes really enjoyed his Scottish strikers crack against the Frenchies.

Tim Howard is most likely out of this weekend's match versus ManYoo.

Mark Lawrenson offers up his predicitions on this weekends fixtures:
THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS

SATURDAY

Birmingham v Bolton

Both of these teams look nervous, lack a little bit of confidence and are perhaps fearing a long, tough season.

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce said that his team did not turn up for their previous fixture at Middlesbrough, which Blues lost 2-0, and will want a much improved showing.

Bolton need striker Kevin Davies fit again as soon as possible - I think that to a degree their season depends on the success of his partnership with Nicolas Anelka.

Prediction: 1-1

Chelsea v Blackburn

Blackburn are a very decent side and they will certainly compete against any team they take on.

Playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is not easy and to an extent this means that the pressure is off them.

However, although Chelsea had a hiccup at Aston Villa in their last game I still think that they are the team to beat.

Prediction: 2-0

Everton v Man Utd

Everton have had a very good start to the season, while Manchester United came back from 2-0 down to register a crucial 4-2 win at Goodison Park last April on their way to winning the Premier League title.

I think that this will be a tight game that will go the way of United because they have more match winners in their team, especially with the expected return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Prediction: 1-2

Portsmouth v Liverpool

Liverpool have had an excellent start to the season and with the regular inclusion of Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres in the team they seem to have a lot more attacking edge and pace in their attack.

Portsmouth, I should imagine, will be pleased when this game is out of the way. It is only their sixth Premier League game of the season and they will have now met all of the 'big-four' teams.

Having said that, Fratton Park is a very difficult ground to visit and I think Pompey might take something from the game.

Prediction: 1-1

Sunderland v Reading

Sunderland's home games are of huge importance to them this season.

Roy Keane probably knows that his team are in for a long and difficult campaign and I imagine he would settle for finishing top of the 'mini-league' of numerous team's battling against relegation at the bottom end of the table.

I think that they will have a much-needed victory on Saturday over a Reading team that are starting to slip down the league.

Prediction: 2-0

Tottenham v Arsenal

I do not think that all that many Tottenham fans are getting on coach Martin Jol's back but the club have certainly put themselves in a tricky position following the business with Sevilla coach Juande Ramos.

Another couple of bad results and we know what could well happen - and that would be a complete travesty for Jol.

I hope for Jol's sake that Tottenham do not lose this high-pressure game against their local rivals.

Arsenal have made a good start to the season but I'm still not convinced about them away from home.

Prediction: 1-1

West Ham v Middlesbrough

There have been changes in personnel at Middlesbrough over the summer but I still think they are in for a tough season.

Home form will be crucial for them because their away record is not great.

I do not think West Ham will struggle this season, although I was talking to Alan Curbishley the other day and he pointed out that he is already without several key players.

The likes of Kieron Dyer, Julien Faubert and Freddie Ljungberg may all be first-team regulars if fit, though Scott Parker should return this weekend.

Prediction: 2-0

Wigan v Fulham

Wigan boss Chris Hutchings has been at the club for several years, initially working under Paul Jewell, and his team have made a good start to the season.

There seems to be a real durability about the Latics and I reckon Hutchings will see this sort of fixture as very much a bread and butter home win.

I do not think this match would be my pick of the week to watch.

Prediction: 1-0

SUNDAY

Man City v Aston Villa

Manchester City have lost their last two fixtures and I think they will end up defeated in this one as well.

The newness of Sven-Goran Eriksson's arrival has worn off and with so many players away on international duty he will not have had much opportunity to work on shape and systems.

Having said that, I will be at the game as I'm covering it for BBC Radio 5live so I should be careful what I say!

Aston Villa will be buoyed by their win over Chelsea last time out.

Sometimes it takes a decent victory like that early in a season to remind people at a club that they really do have a decent team.

Prediction: 0-2

MONDAY

Derby v Newcastle

Newcastle are undefeated so far with two draws and two wins in the Premier League this season.

Michael Owen also seems to be very much back in form following his goal-scoring exploits for England.

I reckon that Owen will fancy himself to score against a defence for whom the word porous is a definite understatement.

Rams boss Billy Davies must work out how his team are going to win their share of home games.

There have also been lots of stories about his future as manager.

I don't know where they have come from but surely the board at the club should let him get on with the job.

He has a very difficult task at Derby, not helped by the fact that the team winning promotion through the play-offs has less time than the others clubs to recruit over the summer.

Prediction: 1-2

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