Saturday February 22 2014

Title favourites in cruise mode

Vincent Kompany and his Man City teammates were outclassed by

Vincent Kompany and his Man City teammates were outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League midweek but should get back to winning ways this weekend. PHOTO BY AFP  

By Allan Ssekamatte

Chelsea 2 Everton 0

Jose Mourinho is another manager who must make full use of his expensively assembled squad to prevent fatigue from scuppering his title challenge. Attacking triumvirate Willian, Ramires and Eden Hazard were listless in the Blues’ 0-2 FA Cup capitulation to City. Everton offers a chance for Andrea Schurrle, Oscar and Mohammed Salah to justify their price tags. Chelsea will have to play their A game as Everton beat them in the reverse fixture.
Live on SS3, SS3HD, Maximo 3.45pm

Cardiff City 1 Hull City 1

Did Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bite more than he can chew when he accepted to be Micky Macka’s successor. Cardiff looked clueless as they succumbed to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup last weekend. The home tie against Hull City offers the Welsh side a chance to make swift amends. The January cash splurge that brought in Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic has failed to jumpstart Steve Bruce’s stuttering Tigers.

West Brom 1 Fulham 0

West Bromwich Alion’s wretched home form is the main reason they have been sucked into a relegation dogfight. Pepe Mel’s side have won just three out of their 13 home matches. However, there was visible improvement as they held title contenders Liverpool and Chelsea in their last home ties. The match against Felix Magath’s rock bottn Fulham will therefore be seen as a must-win clash for the beleaguered Midlands outfit.

Man City 3 Stoke1

The Royal Blues’ investment in a big squad is set to yield dividends as the season reaches its final bend. I have been impressed by how Manuel Pellegrini’s side has adopted in the absence of Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero. Despite their marked improvements over the last fortnight, Mark Hughes’ Potters will have no chance against the moneybags. Bit part players like Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia will continue to get playing time.
Live on SS3, SS3, Maximo, 6pm

Norwich 1 Spurs 2

Sam Allardyce has used his team’s anger over embarrassing defeats to generate a great run of form that has taken them into the top half of the table. Unfortunately, I can’t see the Hammers stopping Southampton to register their fourth win in a row. Saints players owe their astute manager Mauricio Pochettino a good turn, as top stars Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert were uncharacteristically shambolic at Sunderland in the FA Cup.

Arsenal 2 Sunderland 0

This is one of the easier fixtures on paper as Arsene Wengers’ Gunners negotiate a punishing fixture schedule. How the experienced gaffer rotates his squad will go a long way in determining whether they can last the distance. I can detect tiredness in influential Germans Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil as Arsenal compete on three fronts. Sunderland are a marked departure from the shambles they were under Paolo di Canio.

Palace 1 Man United 1

I have burnt my fingers often enough backing champions Manchester United to win games this season. The much vaunted Robin van-Persie-Wayne Rooney-Juan Mata attacking trio has failed to lift Old Trafford’s gloom. Van Persie and Rooney are not one hundred percent fit whereas Mata is still finding his feet. I am thus tipping Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace, who are fifth in the current form table to force a draw.
Live on SS3, SS3HD, Maximo 8pm

Liverpool 3 Swansea1

The English Premiership’s team of the season welcome Mauricio Pochettino’s most improved team in the second half of the season. Swansea appear uninterested since winning the Carling Cup, but Michael Laudrup will be keen to put one over Pochettino. This match has the ingredients of a match of the weekend. Live tomorrow on SS3, Maximo at 4.30pm