Tag Archives: Manchester

Transfer Window 2015: How did your club do?

With the Summer transfer window now slammed shut for Premier League sides, it’s time to reflect on the increasing, surely unsustainable spending that’s occurred during two crazy months.

Arsenal

Total spent: £11m
Notable addition: Petr Cech (Chelsea, £11m)
Notable departure: Abou Diaby (Released)

Arsenal addressed the need for a top quality custodian by acquiring Chelsea’s second choice stopper, Petr Cech, who promises to add stability to the set-up. Unfortunately they still look a striker and midfield destroyer short of challenging for the title, and an additional central defender wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Aston Villa

Total spent: £52.5m
Notable addition: Jordan Amavi (Nice, £10m)
Notable departure: Christian Benteke (Liverpool, £32.5m)

Christian Benteke’s departure was inevitable, but Fabian Delph’s transfer to Manchester City was a little more contentious, with the England midfielder, having rejected City’s initial advances, pledging his allegiance the Villains, only to perform an about turn and join the Eastlands club less than a week later. Villa have raided France, bringing in some promising talent; most notably Jordan Amavi from Nice.

Bournemouth

Total spent: £23.8m
Notable addition: Max Gradel (£6.8m, Saint-Etienne)
Notable departure: Brett Pitman (£1.2m, Ipswich Town)

The Cherries have picked up from where they left off last season, playing aesthetically appealing football and getting decent results along the way. On paper their squad looks short of quality, although the likes of Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings are astute additions. With Eddie Howe at the helm anything seems possible, and perhaps their best piece of business was retaining the talented Callum Wilson.

Chelsea

Total spent: £69m
Notable addition: Pedro (Barcelona, £21.4m)
Notable departure: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £11m)

A quiet, by Chelsea standards, transfer window, coupled with some disappointing results, has emphasised the need to reinvigorate a declining squad. John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic in particular have looked as if they’re on the slide. The ultimately fruitless pursuit of Everton’s John Stones will have left Jose Mourinho bitterly frustrated.

Crystal Palace


Total spent: £25.3m
Notable addition: Yohan Cabaye (PSG, £12.8m)
Notable departure: None.

Palace have quietly assembled one of the most thrilling squads in the Premier League, having enjoyed an excellent transfer window, whilst remaining under the radar. Their capture of Yohan Cabaye could be one of the deals of the summer; the diminutive playmaker already having made an impact for the Eagles.

Everton

Total spent: £21.75m
Notable addition: Ramiro Funes Mori (River Plate, £9.5m)
Notable departure: None.

Everton have decided to keep their powder dry for the most part this summer, adding five new faces without spending (relative) big bucks. Keeping John Stones away from Chelsea may prove a short-term victory; that said, a reported £40m offer for the defender was exorbitant, and unlikely to be matched in future, less frenzied times.

Leicester City


Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz, £7.2m)
Notable departure: Esteban Cambiasso (Released)

The unexpected departure of manager Nigel Pearson left a gaping hole in the Foxes’ recruitment drive in the early weeks of the window, but that soon picked up when former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri took the reigns. The ‘Tinkerman’ has made half a dozen useful signings, the best of which looks to be talented Japanese marksman Okazaki.

Liverpool

Total spent: £80.5m
Notable addition: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5m)
Notable departure: Raheem Sterling (Man City, £49m)

The Reds started the summer as if they planned to purchase an entirely new squad, perhaps with one eye on the impending departure of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City. Benteke has the ability to become a club legend, and the signings of Danny Ings, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne provide value for money, although none are exactly marquee purchases.

Manchester City

Total spent: £154m
Notable addition: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg, £55m)
Notable departure: James Milner (Liverpool, free)

The Citizens have resumed the spendthrift stance that was temporarily foiled as a result of the club besmirching FIFA’s “Financial Fair Play” regulations. Stockpiling players once again, they appear to have all bases covered, and anything less than European glory will probably result in Manuel Pellegrini receiving his marching orders.

Manchester United

Total spent: £115.8m
Notable addition: Memphis Depay (PSV, £24.4m)
Notable departure: Angel Di Maria (PSG, £44.8m)

A whirlwind deadline day saw United secure the services of prodigiously talented teenage attacker Anthony Martial from Monaco for an initial £36m and a deal to trade David De Gea to Real Madrid thwarted by tardy paperwork. Despite all of that, their best business was agreed before the window opened, with exciting winger Depay swapping Holland for England.

Newcastle United

Total spent: £48m
Notable addition: Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV, £13m)
Notable departure: Jonas Gutierrez (released)

The Toon Army have (finally) been treated to a host of exciting additions, as well as a much needed revamp in coaching set-up and management. Wijnaldum is, literally and figuratively, the biggest name addition to the group, although both Chancel Mbemba and Floran Thauvin have impressed thus far. Aleksandar Mitrovic should become the number nine supporters have long craved… If he can stay on the pitch for long enough.

Norwich City

Total spent: £12m
Notable addition: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7m)
Notable departure: Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, free)

Norwich haven’t managed to attract anyone particularly exciting to Norfolk, but what they have done is embellish their midfield with stable top-flight performers. Irish full-back/winger Robbie Brady is a gifted player who deserves the chance to fulfil his undoubted ability, but there is a feeling that the Canaries will end up relying heavily upon the jet-heeled Nathan Redmond.

Southampton

Total spent: £42.5m
Notable addition: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord, £10.5m)
Notable departure: Morgan Schneiderlin (Man United, £27m)

Saints have had a wonderful knack in recent seasons of getting top dollar for outgoing players and replacing them with better, cheaper alternatives. Jordy Clasie may prove to be another coup, although he’s not in the Schneiderlin mould just yet. Nataniel Clyne is a loss, but hanging on to Spurs target Victor Wanyama on deadline day was vital, while the late addition of Virgil Van Dijk is savvy.

Stoke City


Total spent:
£29.8m
Notable addition: Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan, £12m)
Notable departure: Asmir Begovic (Chelsea, £8m)

The evolution of Stoke City continues apace, with the addition of skilful innovators such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Marco van Ginkel to the ranks. Mark Hughes has assembled a quality squad at the Britannia Stadium. The departure of the brilliant Asmir Begovic has afforded the promising Jack Butland an overdue opportunity.

Sunderland

Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Fabio Borini (Liverpool, £10m)
Notable departure: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9m)

The Mackems don’t appear to have sufficiently addressed their leaky defence, conceding 13 goals in their five league and cup matches so far this season. The additions of Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila have at least given Dick Advocaat’s men a previously absent cutting edge.

Swansea City


Total spent:
£15m
Notable signing: Andre Ayew (Marseille, free)
Notable departure: Nathan Dyer (Leicester City, loan)

The Welsh side have been among the shrewdest Premier League operators this summer, picking up high calibre signings with minimal or zero transfer fee attached. Andre Ayew has immediately settled, while Eder provides important backup for on song target man Bafe Gomis.

Tottenham Hotspur

Total spent: £51.3m
Notable addition: Son Heung-Min (Leverkusen, £22m)
Notable departure: Aaron Lennon (Everton, £5.2m)

With Spurs fans crying out for additional fire power, Daniel Levy was only able to conclude deals for support acts and defenders. The club have done well to trim much of the fat from an inflated squad, but may rue the as of yet fruitless pursuit of West Brom’s Saido Berahino.

Watford


Total spent:
£31m
Notable addition: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham, £6m)
Notable departure: None

The most active top-flight team in this transfer window, the Hornets made no less than 15 signings during the summer. On the surface it appears to be a case of quantity over quality, although the likes of Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami at least have the capacity to supply sufficient ammunition for Troy Deeney and co. to trouble the scorers.

West Bromwich Albion


Total spent:
£33m
Notable signing: Salomon Rondon (Zenit, £12m)
Notable departure: Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa, £1m)

The Baggies have had a successful window, retaining the services of star striker Saido Berahino against his will, while adding real quality in the shape of Salomon Rondon, Johnny Evans and James Chester. Tony Pulis has steered clear of panic deals, upgrading key areas. With Rickie Lambert now on the books, Albion have a mouthwatering three-pronged front-line available if they can get Berahino to stop sulking.

West Ham United


Total spent: £35.6m
Notable addition: Dimitri Payet (Marseille, £10.7m)
Notable departure: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough, £5m)

A new manager and a dozen additions to the playing staff may seem excessive, but the Hammers needed revolution rather than evolution this term. Multiple deadline day deals so often spells impending disaster, but the quality of players such as Alex Song and Victor Moses can’t be questioned. Dimitri Payet holds the key to unlock any defence in Europe.

Did we nail it? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier Predictions: Week 8.

Last time out Dom comfortably overcame the might of former UK Gladiator Nightshade, winning by a personal high 10 points to 5. This time he takes on the wit and wisdom of ex-Pop Idol Rik Waller, hoping to make it back-to-back victories.

Rik Waller

*A correct outcome gains one point, an exact result three points. All games kick off at 3pm on Saturday 14th March unless stated.

Crystal Palace vs Queens Park Rangers
Kick-off: 12.45, Saturday

Bobby Zamora

Dom: 2-0
Alan Pardew must be on cloud nine; a few months ago he was being booed by his own fans as Newcastle United manager, now his name is sung from the Selhurst Park terraces, and with good reason. Pards has revitalised his old team, and they’ll slam another nail into the QPR coffin this afternoon.

Rik: 1-1
Hulk Hogan! Now that I have your attention I have a gig next month in collaboration with an Isle of Wight artist called Jonty not Bonty (his real name is Jonty Chodeflap, hence the change!) – with half a dozen people now tolerating his existence, and my three supporters “livin’ it large” we hope to at least account for five of the seats in the Dog and Duck pub in Fratton this time without getting heckled off the stage before we get to our third ballad!

Arsenal vs West Ham United

Dom: 3-1
The Hammers have reverted to last season’s tactics of drilling the ball long at every opportunity, this despite Andy Carroll once again being on the sidelines. Big Sam looks like he’s out of ideas, just as Arsenal’s league form appears to be gaining consistency – wrong time, wrong place for The Irons.

Rik: 10-2
During my last set of night terrors, Nasty Nigel seemed to be barking “ten two, ten two” at me, in hindsight it may have been Auntie Joan leaving a message about the time, oh wait wasn’t I supposed to scrub her shoulders in the tub around that time? Never mind, I’m stuck with the prediction now – just my luck.

Leicester City vs Hull City

Hull City

Dom: 2-2
A draw doesn’t really help either of these basement dwellers, but seems the logical result. The Foxes have played quite well recently, just lacking bite in the final third. Hull are hit and miss; a frustrating 90 minutes at the King Power Stadium will encapsulate their season.

Rik: Abandoned (Bomb Threat.)
All my life I was told what I can’t do; “You can’t sell your teeth to the Science Museum in London Rik”… “You can’t wear a cape to the Job Centre”…  Well screw you mother, I will go for a 6-1 win for the Lancashire Hot Pots, either that or I’ll call in a bomb threat, do we get extra points for that?

Sunderland vs Aston Villa

Dom: 0-1
Spare a thought for the supporters of these two sides, who have been subjected to the ugliest football in the division. Worse still, Black Cats star man Adam Johnson was recently arrested on charges of sex with a minor, meaning he could miss a chunk of games even if found innocent, something that would spell disaster for the Mackems.

Rik: 1-0
With Benteke and Johnson probably sitting this one out both sides are without their main sources of creativity, or at least that’s what I read on Ceefax. Benteke is one funny name though, doesn’t sound like he’s from Aston at all, so come on Sunders.

West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City

Dom: 2-1
A last gasp defeat to bitter rivals Aston Villa in their previous league encounter dampened some of the enthusiasm surrounding Tony Pulis’ appointment and subsequent upturn in fortunes. No problem, the Baggies will return to winning ways against Stoke, virtually guaranteeing safety in the process.

Rik: 2-5
Stoke have found a second wind lately, I thought I’d found a second wind with the old singing lark recently, but it was just a very tuneful burp. Stokers to win in some good style – go the young’uns!

Burnley vs Manchester City
Saturday, 17.30

Dom: 1-3
Manchester City’s title aspirations are surely dwindling; Chelsea will open up an 8-point lead if they win their game in hand. Burnley are still in the midst of a relegation scrap, with their small squad beginning to wilt in recent weeks. City should romp home.

Rik: 4-0
Man City are getting what they deserve. As I once told Simon Cowell; money can’t buy you everything, certainly not class anyway. City are going to get trounced! Let us make it trend: #cityisbadinfootballl!

Chelsea vs Southampton
Sunday, 13.30

John Terry

Dom: 3-1
The Blues will be gagging to put things right after their embarrassing Champions League exit at the hands of Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday, where their players acted like infants to get Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off. Saints’ form is hit and miss at the moment, so despite their excellent league position they’ll struggle at Stamford Bridge.

Rik: 1-0
I used to know a lad from Southampton, Dave something. Anyway very funny story about Dave; so Dave owned a bicycle and he forgot to tie it up and someone did away with it. The sad thing is that Dave was never the same after that, never really spoke much and always sitting in golf course bunkers with his middle fingers raised defiantly. Funny how everyone knows a Dave right?!

Everton vs Newcastle United
Sunday, 16.00

Dom: 2-0
Everton’s Europa League exertions on Thursday may have offered a pleasant distraction, but their domestic form is cause for concern, with the Toffees sitting only six points above the drop zone. Newcastle have given up on their season (again) and with a dozen injuries and Papiss Cisse’s lengthy ban to boot it’s hard to see where the goals will come from.

Rik: 0-0-1?
0-0 looks like a shocked face when you write it! Or maybe something else like ring doughnuts (num num!) I read the form guide and these two teams are not so good, so no goals for the two teams and maybe just the one for the ball boys or some American tourists. One lump or two? 0-0-1.

Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, 16.00

Harry Kane Adebayor

Dom: 2-2
I’m not convinced that either side has a defence worthy of Champions League football, but both possess talented attackers. Spurs’ Harry Kane in particular is fresh from two consecutive player of the month awards. Kane will score again, but Rooney’s due a couple.

Rik: 0-0 5-6
I’m torn between 0-0 and 5-6, they both seem like the obvious outcome when you add up corner kicks and divide them by numbers. Ok, my therapist said be decisive: 5-6. Linekar with 2 and Gazza to cry tears of joy again. As for Cantona, let’s just hope he doesn’t punch all of the fans again!

Swansea vs Liverpool
Monday, 20.00

Dom: 1-2
Swansea’s home form has been decent this term and Liverpool have lost a few away, but where The Reds appear to be getting stronger with each league match, their Welsh counterparts are just bubbling along contentedly in mid-table, and will have no answer to Raheem Sterling’s pace and trickery.

Rik: 3-0 for Anne
Swans in the sea or Liver in a pool? It all sounds eerily familiar to a wonderful meal I had under the stars one evening – my Tinder date ‘Anne’ didn’t show up, but funnily enough there was another Anne with exactly the same face, height, blood type (O Negative, as in “Oh she’s so negative!) and whose phone’s screen saver was the same photo-shopped profile pic I’d used on the app (Jared Leto’s face with Jared Leto’s body and my hair.) 3-0 it is, but only for for Anne.

The Premier Predictions league table is still led by DJ Rees. Dom’s win last time means that he goes level with Damian Clark, as Nightshade brings up the rear.

1. DJ Rees: 11 Points

2. Just Mike: 9

3. True Geordie: 8

4= Damian Clark: 7

4= Dom Kureen: 7 (average)

6. Kelvin West: 6

7. Jonathan O’Shea: 5

8. Nightshade: 5

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Van the right man for United?

Sometimes a job is just too big, as David Moyes found out during an ill-fated stint at the Manchester United helm, Louis Van Gaal was today confirmed as his replacement – Dom Kureen gives his views on the new man in charge.

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Manchester United manager: a post that can prove a poisoned chalice at the best of times, and one that was multiplied ten-fold for the brave soul replacing the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson, following his 27-year trophy laden reign in the North-West.

With David Moyes ditched four matches before the conclusion of his inaugural season in the Old Trafford hot seat, a cluster of prospective successors were linked to the vacancy.

Ryan Giggs was among the favourites, but his time is surely still to come.

Carlo Ancelotti seems content enough guiding Real Madrid, with the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Modric and Ramos in tow.

Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho are worshipped at the grounds they currently walk on and both are tied to lengthy contracts as a consequence.

Among the sea of credible candidates, one fit the bill like a Playboy Bunny frolicking in a mansion hot tub – that man was Louis Van Gaal.

Experienced: CHECK

 

Successful: CHECK

 

Respected: CHECK

 

Confident/arrogant: CHECK, CHECK!

 

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The 62 year-old Dutchman first came to prominence when guiding a youth packed Ajax Amsterdam side to the Champions League title in 1995.

Utilising hot academy prospects such as Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, Edwin Van Der Sar and the De Boer twins, Van Gaal built a squad the envy of every other club side in the world.

Stints with global giants Barcelona (twice), Bayern Munich and the Dutch national side (also twice) brought mixed results, although any doubts over the veteran’s credentials were nipped in the bud by a remarkable four year tenure at AZ Alkmaar, who he guided to the Eredvisie championship in 2008-09.

Heading to the World Cup with the Netherlands this summer, Van Gaal will begin his English adventure upon the conclusion of the tournament.

Where there was general scepticism surrounding Moyes’ appointment last year, the consensus now is that an exciting new era will be ushered in during the short-term, with newly appointed assistant, Ryan Giggs, learning from one of football’s master tacticians.

That is of course the plan, but as Moyes’ miserable reign confirmed: In football it’s dangerous to plan too far ahead.

 

Futures that look bright under Van Gaal

 

Robin Van-Persie
Excelled under Van Gaal at international level and was made Dutch captain by him last year. His partnership with Wayne Rooney should prosper as a result of the appointment.

Juan Mata
Has shown glimpses of his Chelsea form since making a £37m move to Old Trafford in January, usually at his best alongside the under-utilised Shinji Kagawa. Expect Mata to become integral to any success United enjoy next season.

Phil Jones

Hasn’t really developed as expected since a high-profile £16.5m move from Blackburn Rovers to Manchester United three years ago. Will need to step up next term, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic departing the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’

Old Trafford Bound: Southampton should pocket £27m for teenage full-back Luke Shaw
Old Trafford Bound: Southampton will pocket £27m for teenage full-back Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw
Seems destined to inherit the left-back slot from evergreen Patrice Evra, with a £27m transfer from Southampton on the cards. The 18-year old is part of an exciting long-term vision that Van Gaal is likely to swiftly implement.

Adnan Januzaj
One of the few players at Old Trafford to enhance his reputation last season, the fleet-footed, Belgian born 19 year-old is a gem who should continue to prosper under the new boss.

Other youngsters
Expect Nick Powell, Wilfried Zaha and James Wilson to be unleashed in 2014-15, embellishing what, on paper, appears to be a remarkable pool of attacking talent.

 

 

Futures that look bleak under Van Gaal

 

Nani
Prodigiously gifted, exasperatingly inconsistent, the winger probably realises that his time in Manchester is approaching a meek conclusion. His presence now only serves to stifle the likes of Januzaj in the coming years.

Patrice Evra
With Luke Shaw inbound, the French full-back is in talks with Juventus after an eight year spell in the Premier League. Could still do a job as backup, but will feel that the move to Serie.A represents an opportunity for one last hoorah.

6.0: Ashley Young scores well for his diving, but not so much for his football skills since joining Man United.
Splash!: Ashley Young has cultivated his diving since moving to Man United.


Ashley Young

Injuries, dodgy dives and a regression of performance have hindered Young since his £16m move from Aston Villa. Once pivotal to club and country, the 28 year-old now has it all to prove.

Marouane Fellaini
Symptomatic of David Moyes’ time at Old Trafford were the ongoing tribulations of his £27.5m signing from Everton. Since then the Belgian midfielder’s value has diminished significantly and his reputation as a midfield powerhouse is in tatters.

Squad players
Expect the likes of Tom Cleverley, Alex Buttner, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia to have their cards marked by the new coach.

The class of ’92
While Giggs may be untouchable, the same cannot be said for the likes of Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes. Van Gaal is unlikely to stand on ceremony, regardless of their achievements as players.

Is Louis Van Gaal the right man to replace David Moyes? If not who would have been better? Let us know in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier League D-Day preview

Can Norwich manage the great miracle escape at West Bromwich Albion’s expense? Can Liverpool rip the title from Manchester City’s affluent clutches with a helping hand from West Ham? Dom Kureen takes a look at the today’s decisive Premier League fixtures.

Premier League logo

Cardiff City vs Chelsea

Bluebirds fans have endured a miserable sequence of results since unpopular chairman Vincent Tan dispensed with the services of Malky Mackay and appointed the relatively unproven Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – resulting in an inevitable relegation that was confirmed last weekend.

Chelsea on the other hand would have probably won the title with a top notch goalscorer among their front line – Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres managing a combined total of 18 league goals and only exhibiting fleeting prowess.

It begs the question: Why did they loan out the exceptional Romelu Lukaku to Everton?

 

Prediction: 1-2 – Chelsea should have too much for a Cardiff side already planning for next term.

Fulham vs Crystal Palace

Past it: Brede Hangeland is one of many 30-somethings on Fulham's books
Past it: Brede Hangeland is one of many 30-somethings on Fulham’s books

You would have got long odds on The Eagles staying up at the start of the season, with Ian Holloway deciding to quit after a handful of belief sapping drubbings.

That proved to be the catalyst for a remarkable change of fortunes, with new chief Tony Pulis transforming Palace into a rugged mid-table outfit and resurrecting floundering individual careers at will.

Fulham have employed three different full-time managers this season, in a futile attempt to retain Premier League status, although current boss Felix Magath has done a reasonable job of utilising a squad bursting with decrepit and erratic flops.

 

Prediction: 2-1 – Neither team has anything on the line, but Fulham will be desperate to give their long suffering fans a happy Summer send-off.

Hull City vs Everton

Two teams that have exceeded pre-season predictions. The Tigers could bounce from 16th to 12th with a victory, leapfrogging a cluster of sides directly above them.

Everton have used the loan system more efficiently than anyone else, securing the services of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deuolfeu and Lacina Traore over the past two transfer windows.

Finally running out in the steam in late April, the rise of English prospects such as John Stones and Ross Barkley has been another bonus and a major reason why European football will feature at Goodison Park in 2014-15.

 

Prediction: 1-3: Two sides whose form has petered out as of late, Everton should nonetheless be able to gain a convincing victory.

Liverpool vs Newcastle United

King Luis: Suarez has hit 30 league goals this term to keep Liverpool in contention
King Luis: Suarez has hit 30 league goals this term to keep Liverpool in contention

Steven Gerrard’s untimely slip against Chelsea, followed shortly after by Liverpool’s capitulation at Crystal Palace, will mean that the Reds are probably more concerned about events at the City of Manchester Stadium than what’s unfolding before their eyes.

Brendan Rodgers’ boys must win and hope that West Ham do them a solid against Manchester City, who only need to draw their home match to secure a resting place at the summit.

Newcastle’s 3-0 win against Cardiff last weekend eased the pressure on Alan Pardew somewhat, but their horrific form since selling Yohan Cabaye in January has undermined what was developing into a hugely promising campaign.

 

Prediction: 4-1 – Rodgers knows that it’s win or bust. With more than 40,000 fervent home fans roaring the home side on they’ll dispatch a troubled Toon side without too much resistance.

 

Manchester City vs West Ham United

Fans favourite: Yaya Toure has been Man City's key player
Fans favourite: Yaya Toure has been Man City’s key player

Dispensing with Roberto Mancini in favour of Manuel Pellegrini in the summer, City have added flair and guile to an already high calibre group, in the process hammering home a remarkable 100 league goals (one more than Liverpool.)

Yaya Toure has struck 20 of those from midfield, establishing himself as the English football’s most intimidating presence in the process. The Ivory Coast international’s availability will be key against a Hammers team with an at times painstakingly direct philosophy.

Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll are key to ‘big’ Sam Allardyce’s ethos and could cause major discomfort to City’s back line, most notably error-prone Argentinian Martin Demichelis.

 

Prediction: 2-2 – Big Sam will be keen to disrupt this party and increase his job security as a bi-product, this will be far from a cake walk.

Norwich City vs Arsenal

The Canaries have faltered in the final third of the season, not helped by an horrendous fixture run-in. Chris Hughton’s dismissal has failed to vastly improve matters and a brave 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week was too little, too late.

Norwich could still mathematically stay up… If they win 10-0 and West Bromwich Albion lose at home to Stoke by eight or more goals (or results to that effect.)

Arsenal’s recent resurgence ensured that they fended off Everton for the coveted fourth Champions League qualifying slot. With an FA Cup final to come, expect the Gunners to rest a clutch of first team regulars.

 

Prediction: 2-3 – Norwich will hope to exploit some weaker links in Arsene Wenger’s selection, but their own flaws should once again be more deeply exposed come the final whistle.

 

Southampton vs Manchester United

Van The Man: Man United have lined up Louis Van Gaal as their next manager
Van The Man: United have lined up Louis Van Gaal as their next manager

Saints have been terrific this season, utilising their young English talent, whilst augmenting the squad with a few high calibre additions. In boss Mauricio Pochettino they also possess one of the most exciting young managers around.

Manchester United may be eight points above today’s opponents, but an alarming fall from grace necessitated David Moyes’ dismissal less than ten months into the role – leading to club legend Ryan Giggs taking over at the helm for the conclusive quartet of contests.

Expect United to promptly clear out around a dozen players who have long been living off past glories.

 

Prediction: 3-3 – Giggs and Pochettino will both be keen to attack from the off, meaning that this should be an end-to-end festival of reckless, exciting football.

 

Sunderland vs Swansea City

No team has defied logic like Sunderland over the past month. Sitting seven points from safety with a formidable set of fixtures to come, they proceeded to gain 13 points from a possible 15 to secure their seat among the elite.

Swansea have been grateful of £12m summer acquisition Wilfried Bony’s 24 goals, which have proven integral to their survival. Fellow close season arrival, Jonjo Shelvey, has pulled the strings in midfield.

With only one point separating these sides in the table, both will be relieved to have belatedly hit their stride after earlier turbulence.

 

Prediction: 3-1 – Sunderland are on a roll, expect that to continue against the Swans.

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa

Big Ben: Villa have struggled in Christian Benteke's absence
Big Ben: Villa have struggled in Christian Benteke’s absence

Andres Villa Boas’ Tottenham tenure was ill-fated from the start and his replacement, Tim Sherwood, was always going to be a temporary patch on a wound that eventually required major surgery.

Having sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record fee of £85.3m in the summer, Spurs appear to have squandered the majority of that bunse on over priced flops, although Christian Eriksen has shown glimpses of his pedigree.

Villa have stagnated following a promising conclusion to 2012-13’s excursions. Much of that has been related to a trilogy of circumstances: the regular absence of star striker Christian Benteke, a clutch of dire additions in the past couple of transfer windows and fluctuating form from mediocre youngsters.

 

Prediction: 3-1 – Villa are uninspiring and despite their best form having come away from Villa Park, they are unlikely to trouble Spurs.

 

West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City

Pepe Mel didn’t have the instant impact associated with a new manager when he replaced Steve Clarke in January, finally gaining his inaugural victory at the seventh attempt.

April successes at the expense of Norwich and West Ham put the boing back in the Baggies’ step though and, barring snookers, survival is assured, although they will hope to improve drastically next time out.

Stoke have progressed significantly under the guidance of Mark Hughes, adding facets of technical play to their long-time sturdy backbone. Potters followers will head into this summer with renewed optimism regarding the future of their club.

 

Prediction: 1-1 – WBA are a pretty ordinary outfit, with a couple of gifted midfielders, while Stoke have made good progress – score draw.

How do you expect it to unfold later today? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.