Saturday April 26 2014

Liverpool’s title to lose

Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote (L) challenges Arsenal’s

Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote (L) challenges Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini in a previous Premier League encounter. In 2010, Tiote scored a scorcher as Newcastle recovered from 4-0 to hold Arsenal 4-4. PHOTO BY AFP  

By Allan Ssekamatte

Southampton 1 Everton 1

Roberto Martinez must have been taken aback by the manner of his team’s 2-3 capitulation to Crystal Palace. Although the Toffees bounced back to blitz Man United, the Catalan tactician will be keenly aware of the attacking threat posed by Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints. This match has a potential to generate thrills and spills given the number of potential England internationals on display. Gareth Barry’s confrontation with MVP nominee Adam Lallana will be a joy to behold.

Fulham 2 Hull 1

Felix Magath’s Cottagers have no option but to attack Hull City, for this is a must-win game if they are to stay afloat. However, I was taken aback by the decision to let Steve Sidwell take the penalty he missed in the 1-3 defeat to Spurs. Common sense dictated that man of the moment Hugo Rodallega was the right man to convert the penalty. All the same, I am tipping Fulham to edge a feisty affair.

Stoke 2 Spurs 2

Stoke City are third on the current form table behind Liverpool and Crystal Palace. I have been infinitely impressed by Mark Hughes’s self application. The manner of his dismissals from Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers had left his reputation badly battered. We can now safely say his reputation has been restored. I expect a very open game in which African stars Peter Odemingwe and Emmanuel Adebayor steal the show with their goal grabbing antics. Swansea 2 Aston Villa 0

I liked the spirit with which Swansea approached their humdinger with Newcastle last weekend. Gary Monk’s Swans were hungry, industrious and dexterious as they condemned Newcastle to a fifth consecutive Premier League loss. Paul Lambert’s Villains are a troubled outfit and I can’t see how they are going to withstand the raw energy and shooting power of Ivorian powerhouse Wilfred Bony. Victory today for the Welsh club will be a victory for a proper footballing philosophy.

West Brom 2 West Ham 1

If West Bromwich Albion survive the dreaded axe, Pepe Mel’s principal job next season will be to sort out the team’s mentality. They are losing too many points from winning positions. The Brummies’ Premiership status would have been already guaranteed if they had closed out two-goal advantages against Cardiff and Spurs. West Ham are in freefall, and provide a perfect opportunity for Mel to register his first home victory. Look out for Saido Berahino and Stephane Sessegnon.

Man United 3 Norwich 1

This has been a catastrophic season for United. The Red Devils’ abject display in the 0-2 defeat to Everton must have had the Glazer brothers thinking hard about David Moyes’ future. It is almost as if the players are deliberately underperforming to force the manager out. That said, I do not expect Norwich to have the ammunition to trouble United at Old Trafford. Star players Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj will be in destructive mood.

Sunderland 2 Cardiff 1

Sunderland surpassed even themselves when they ended Jose Mourinho’s 77-game unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge. That victory came within days of a terrific 2-2 draw with Manchester City. Gustavo Poyet’s side must now translate their giant killing credentials into excellent home form as they seek an unlikely escape from relegation. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Cardiff are stuttering to the finish line and Connor Wickham and Fabio Borini are in the right frame of mind to destroy them.

Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1

Liverpool’s best title challenge in a quarter of a century has been built on an avalanche of goals, relentless attacking play, midfield organisation and boundless energetic play. Chelsea’s faltering campaign is the exact opposite. Poor finishing means they’ve relied on obdurate defending. Today’s clash at Anfield will thus be a clash of styles. Jose Mourinho has old scores to settle from his first spell at Chelsea but his shy strikers cannot let him exact revenge.

Palace 1 Man City 2

With a home match against Liverpool to come, Tony Pulis’ Palace may yet have a say in the destiny of the Premier League title. Palace’s run of five consecutive victories was last achieved by the London club 22 years ago. Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City are therefore in for a difficult night. Nevertheless, with the Londoners already safe from relegation, they may lack the intensity to fell a title chasing outfit. David Silva will be a marked man.

Arsenal 3 Newcastle 1

All the chips are falling into place for Arsenal. After a difficult spell in which they won just two out of nine EPL games, Arsenal are back with a bang. The return from injury of talismanic pair Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil has given Arsene Wenger a huge lift as they try to stem off Everton’s relentless surge towards Champions League qualification. Lucas Podolski has proved he the class to be a fixture in the first eleven.