Saturday January 11 2014

Pressure building in title race

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is enjoying the view from the

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is enjoying the view from the summit with the Gunners top of the Premier League in what is shaping up to be a three-horse race. PHOTO BY AFP  

By Allan Ssekamatte

Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 1

The Gunners are keen to atone for their opening day loss to the Villains. It was a loss that sent the French manager into the transfer market where he recruited Mesut Ozil. Since then, Arsenal have been playing with the swagger of champions. The league leaders have the division’s best away record, which should hold them in good stead at Villa Park

Hull 0 Chelsea 1 `

Steve Bruce has come in leaps and bounds from the hesitancy of his early days as a manager. Hull City is easily the most comfortable side playing the 3-5-2 formation in the entire division. It is a system that has allowed them to be frugal defensively, meaning goals will be at a premium when Jose Mourinho’s side visit the KC Stadium.

Man United 1 Swansea 1

The pressure is piling on David Moyes to turn around the champions after they capitulated 1-2 to Sunderland in the Capital One Cup. It was the first time since 2001 that United had lost three games on the trot. Nothing in the aforesaid performance suggests they can get the better of a Swansea side that beat them in the FA Cup.

Cardiff 2 West Ham 1

Nicknamed the baby faced assassin because the nature of his finishing, the Norwegian won the fans’ applause after masterminding a memorable 2-1 victory over Newcastle in the FA Cup on his debut. He can reap similar dividends against West Ham as the hosts are equipped to handle the aerial threat posed by the returning Andy Carroll.

Everton 2 Norwich 0

Roberto Martinez’s burgeoning reputation received a further boost when his side run over Harry Redknapp’s QPR 4-0 in the FA Cup. Norwich are a different kettle of fish, but they should suffer a similar fate if the Goodison Park outfit put their mind to it. Chris Hughton’s visitors are potentially plucky opposition though they are blighted by poor finishing. Starlets Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku will hammer the Canaries.

Stoke City 1 Liverpool 1

These two teams have experienced contrasting fortunes since Simon Mignolet’s late penalty save denied Stoke a share of the spoils at Anfield. While Brendan Rodgers’ Kop have been close to the Premiership summit, Stoke City have flirted to deceive, interspersing some brilliant performances with lethargic, almost uninterested football.

Tottenham 1 Palace 0

Crystal Palace are unrecognisable from the cast iron certainties for relegation that they were under Ian Holloway. Tony Pulis has given them bite. They are organised, defend well and counter-attack with venom. It is hard to tell which Spurs side will show up today. The North Londoners have added attacking zest under Tim Sherwood, but have lost the orderliness that was the hallmark under Andre-Villas Boas.

Newcastle 2 Man City 2

Which Manchester City side will show up at St James Park? Will it be the swash-buckling, all conquering champions that swept aside Newcastle on the opening day of the season, or shall we see the uncertainty that saw the Magpies forced to an FA Cup replay by Blackburn Rovers?

Fulham 1 Sunderland 1

Saints 2 West Brom 1