About Me

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I'm 21-year old Journalism student based in Leicester and a bit of a football obsessive. You'll probably guess from my blog posts that I'm a Liverpool fan and you'd be correct. I post on here, Tumblr and the Kop and also have a Twitter (@MattKenny_LFC) page. Comments are always welcome so have a read and tell me what you think.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Poor punditry as Stoke unfairly stereotyped

As a Liverpool fan I am very privileged to have the majority of my team’s games live on TV and more often than not we are allocated a substantial slot on Match of the Day. This got me thinking, what must it be like supporting a team who are never on TV and who are subjected to 3 minutes of highlights on a Saturday night.

The quality of punditry in this country is very low and the so-called experts more often than not don’t know (and don’t wish to know) anything about players outside the ‘big teams’. It’s no surprise then that this attitude spills over to your casual football fan, who begin to pick up the stereotypes and lazy assumptions that the likes of Shearer, Gray and Hansen spurt out week after week.

The team in question and the subject of this blog are Stoke City football club. Tony Pulis’ side were promoted to the Premier League in 2008 and as with any new top flight team they were patronised by the media. “We don’t know a lot about them but they’ll work hard and make it difficult for the opposition” is the type of sentence you will hear regularly in relation to the likes of Wigan, Bolton and of course Stoke. The media’s attitude towards them is very much ‘we don’t know them and we don’t want to know them’.

It’s often said that staying in the Premier League is one of the toughest tasks in football, so you’d expect that the Potters would receive tremendous amounts of praise after they exceeded expectations by finishing comfortably in 12th in 08/09. Stoke never got that ‘well done’ though and by the end of their first season they had developed a reputation for being a long ball side whose only attacking weapon was the long throw of Rory Delap. Quite how pundits came to this conclusion I do not know, as their only experience of Stoke is through heavily edited 3 minute clips which are impossible to judge a team’s performance from.

Stoke are often labelled ‘anti-football’ which implies that there is a right and a wrong way to play the game. Although Barcelona and Arsenal play a beautiful passing game, I would not say that this idealistic interpretation of football should be adopted by every team. Part of the intrigue of the game is the difference in styles of different sides and clashes between them. Sadly, the Sky era means that there has to be a story behind every game, a favourite, and an underdog. Teams such as Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have obvious identities and the media do not need to make false stereotypes at their expense.

Unfashionable sides are different story though and it’s far easier for fans, Sky and the BBC to watch 5 minutes of Stoke before labelling them ‘dirty’ and packaging them as the team everybody hates to play due to their ‘physical approach’ than to actually watch their games.

In reality, Stoke are actually a decent team whose squad is packed full of very capable players such as Matthew Ethrington, Sanli Tuncay, Ricardo Fuller, Jermaine Pennant and Glen Whelan. Tony Pulis likes to play to his team’s strengths, namely their towering centre backs and the aerial prowess of Kenwyne Jones but there’s nothing wrong with that and why should he set his team out to play tiki-taka if he does not have the personnel to do so? That doesn’t make them a dirty side though; stats show that Stoke play well within the rules. They do not have a player in the top 10 for fouls or yellow cards (unlike Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) and last season there were 5 teams below them in the fair play table. One statistic that may shock fans is that the Potters lie 14th in this season’s fair play standings with Arsenal one place below them (what a surprise that would be to the media!) in 15th.

Teams who believe what the media say about Stoke get a great shock when they realise that the Staffordshire side can actually knock the ball about, are more organised than dirty and are very capable of outplaying a side rather than bullying them. They may use the Delapidator whenever they can but what team wouldn’t take advantage of such a weapon?

Stoke are now in their third season in the top flight and look set for their best finish yet with the team sitting high in 10th. Maybe they will start to get more respect when fans and media realise than the Potters are not one-dimensional and they are here to stay, I wouldn’t count on it though.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Liverpool vs Fulham Match Report - 26/1/11

Liverpool 1-0 Fulham

Pantsil (own goal) ‘52

Liverpool capped a great week with a scrappy 1-0 win over an unlucky Fulham at Anfield.

The only goal of the game came just after the break when a Fernando Torres shot deflected onto the post before John Pantsil fired into his own net amidst a goalmouth scramble.

Mark Hughes’ side dominated the game for the majority of the second half though and Brede Hangeland nearly scored a deserved equaliser late on when his header was cleared off the line.

Moussa Dembele also had a great chance to earn a point for the cottagers but his close range effort was expertly saved by Pepe Reina.

Although the Reds’ performance may not have been impressive, new manager Kenny Dalglish will be encouraged by the fight his players showed to survive a late Fulham rally and hang on to a valuable three points.

The win is the second in a week for manager Kenny Dalglish and his team are now sitting in a European place meaning fans can finally look up rather than down at the relegation places they so often occupied under Roy Hodgson.

Fulham remain near the foot of the table though after struggling to break down the home side in a game in which both sides struggled to convert possession into chances.

It looked as though Liverpool were off to a perfect start as the in-form Raul Meireles slid a perfect pass through to Fernando Torres who controlled well before coolly slotting past keeper David Stockdale, only for the linesman to disallow the goal for offside.

The Fulham stopper was in top form minutes later though, rookie fullback Martin Kelly whipped in a great cross which was flicked towards goal by Meireles and seemingly heading for the bottom corner before Stockdale brilliantly turned it around the post.

He was in action again later in the half, tipping over a swerving effort from Glen Johnson and a 20-yard strike from returning captain Steven Gerrard.

The vistors were begin to frustrate their Merseyside hosts and started to come into the game more and more as the half went on, missing two guilt edge chances in quick succession.

The first fell to Clint Dempsey who capitalised on a mistake by Martin Kelly before seeing his left foot effort parried by Reina and desperately cleared by the Reds defence.

Daglish’s men were panicking again minutes later when former Everton striker Andy Johnson beat Kelly with ease before squaring to Dembele who inexplicably missed from close range when he shot straight at Reina.

It looked as if a goal may never come but seven minutes into the second half there was finally a breakthrough.

A Torres shot was deflected onto the post by Brede Hangeland before Stockdale appeared to palm the ball against Pantsil who fired into his own net.

The goal was a scrappy one but it is the type of luck that has so often being missing for the Reds this season and if the recently sacked Roy Hodgson was watching he would have wondered why that couldn’t have happened during his reign at Anfield.

The visitors piled forward for the remainder of the game, desperately seeking that elusive equaliser and even throwing centre back Hangeland forward as Hughes’ men took a more direct approach.

The move nearly paid off when Hangeland connected with a corner only to see his powerful header cleared off the line by Meireles.

Fulham again went close when Dempsey nodded down a Murphy freekick to Dembele but his close range effort was saved by Reina as Liverpool clung onto their second win in as many games.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

LFC Target Adam continues to prove Rangers wrong

As Rangers prepare to launch a £500,000 bid for Kris Commons to add some creativity to their midfield you can’t help but wonder if they could’ve saved that money and solved the problem with a player who should already be gracing the Ibrox pitch.

In 2009 manager Walter Smith accepted a bid of £500,000, the fee they are set to part with to sign Commons, for winger Charlie Adam from Blackpool, where he had enjoyed a successful loan spell. Fans were happy to see him go, concluding that Adam was lazy, overweight and too flash for a club that was built on hard work, grit and determination.

Fans of the Tangerines were happy to have him though and the Scottish midfielder continued to get to grips with the English game, moving into the centre and proving that his Hollywood passes should’ve been applauded instead of jeered during his time in Glasgow.

It wasn’t long before he was the focal point of the Blackpool side, with his incredible range of passing, deft touch and set piece expertise proving to be too much for the majority of the Championship.

Adam’s influence was beyond measurement and his 16 goals led Holloway’s team into the Playoffs where their talisman reigned supreme once again, scoring the winner in the final at Wembley and confirming Blackpool’s place in the Premier League against all the odds.

The club’s journey to the top flight was an unlikely one but not as unlikely as the ease with which they have taken to the division. Blackpool’s attacking approach, built around Adam, has left them with one of the best away records in the league and two wins over Liverpool have put their star player in the shop window.

Manager Ian Holloway is now dismissing bids eight times larger than the £500,000 he paid for Adam as ‘disgraceful’ which tells you all you need to know about the Scottish midfielder’s success at the Seasiders.

That is quite a transformation for a player who was once seen as a liability and benched for Old Firm and Champions League games so that his extravagant style wouldn’t result in a mistake. It now appears that Rangers were the ones who made the mistake in letting a talent like Charlie Adam out of their grasp.

With his career on the rise you wouldn’t bet against Charlie following in the footsteps of Souness, Dalglish and Liddell and becoming the next Scottish great to grace the Anfield turf in that famous red strip.

Liverpool vs Fulham - Match Preview

Liverpool come off the back of an impressive victory at Wolves hoping to make it two wins in five days as they come up against a resurgent Fulham at Anfield.

Saturday saw both sides continue their recent upturns in form with comfortable wins with Fulham downing Stoke 2-0 at Craven Cottage and the Reds outclassing Wolves 3-0 at Molineux.

That result was the first win for returning manager Kenny Dalglish and he will be hoping that his team can start to build some momentum as the Premier League season starts to reach its climax.

But if Liverpool fans thought this would be a guaranteed three points a few weeks ago then they will have surely changed their tune after Fulham picked up an impressive seven points out of nine to lift them out of the relegation zone.

Mark Hughes faced a difficult task as he took over from Roy Hodgson at Craven Cottage and after winning just two of his first 15 games the Welshman faced the chop. But while his side’s form picked up, his predecessor continued to struggle with the pressure that comes with the Anfield job and was relieved of his duties.

Both sides have got a severe case of the away day blues and have won just twice on the road between them which will make tomorrow’s trip to Merseyside even more difficult for the West London outfit. Having failed to win his first home game since returning Dalglish will be chomping at the bit to get three points and you can be sure that his players will come out all guns blazing to make sure he gets his wish.

Having reverted back to 4-2-3-1 and the pass and move principles that gave Dalglish so much success as a player, Liverpool are starting to hit top form and fans are starting to see the best of the likes of Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles who are suited to a passing game rather than the direct approach of Roy Hodgson.

Meireles in particular showed just how good he can be if played in the right position and Dalglish had nothing but praise for the Portuguese midfielder after his man of the match display against Wolves. He said:

“It takes a wee bit of adjusting getting up to speed with the Barclays Premier League and he’s getting up to that level; he’s a talented footballer.

“Since I came in Raul has been really impressive. He made the first goal and his strike was fantastic. He scored last week and I am sure that has given him confidence to go forward.”

The biggest threat to LFC’s shaky defence will be USA forward-cum-midfielder Clint Dempsey who has filled the void left by the injured Bobby Zamora to become Fulham’s top scorer this season with 8 league goals. Two of those came in Saturday’s win over Stoke and Hughes said of Dempsey’s recent goal-scoring exploits:

“Clint`s been great for me since I came here. He’s had an impact in every game he`s played. It`s been hard on Zoltan Gera because I`ve chosen Clint ahead of him, but because Clint`s done so well for me it`s been unfortunate for him.”

Liverpool will have captain Steven Gerrard back from suspension for the encounter and he is expected to come into the team to give the Reds a real boost. Gerrard’s inclusion will probably be the only change for the Dalglish’s team as he sticks with the rest of the side that demolished Wolves. Visitors Fulham are expected to be unchanged.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Team of the week. 22nd/23rd January

Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan) – Wigan Athletic may have lost 3-0 at the Emirates but the score would have been into double figures had it not been for Al-Habsi. The Oman goalkeeper saved numerous attempts as Arsenal relentlessly attacked throughout the first half.

Martin Kelly (Liverpool) – The rookie defender have been a permanent fixture under new manager Kenny Dalglish and you can see why after this performance. Kelly was up against the tricky Matt Jarvis but managed to keep him quiet all afternoon as Liverpool kept their first clean sheet in 6 games.

Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) - The former Manchester City defender revelled against his ex-club on Saturday as his team climbed out of the relegation zone with a fantastic win. Dunne has struggled for form lately but made last ditch challenge after last ditch challenge to make sure Villa’s lead stayed intact.

Brede Hangeland (Fulham) – Facing Stoke is always a tough task for a defender but Hangeland dealt with the aerial threat of Kenwyne Jones with ease as Fulham made it 7 points out of 9. The Norwegian international was not fazed by the Potters’ direct tactics and was a colossus for Mark Hughes’ side.

Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa) – One of the great successes of Gerard Houllier’s youth movement, Clark has been as good at left back as he was in midfield earlier in the season. The Villa youngster had a tough task being up against Adam Johnson but limited the England international to long range efforts.

Aaron Lennon (Spurs) – It’s been an inconsistent season for the England winger but he hit top form against Newcastle as he scored a brilliant last minute equalizer. Lennon started on the right but soon found himself on the left where he enjoyed great success against the hapless Danny Simpson, cutting inside on numerous occasions and coming close to scoring more than once.

Raul Meireles (Liverpool) – The Portuguese midfielder had a tough start to his Liverpool career under Roy Hodgson and struggled in a right midfield role. But new boss Kenny Dalglish has put him back in the centre, giving Meireles the freedom to get forward and he didn’t disappoint. Meireles set up Fernando Torres for the opener before scoring a spectacular 25-yard volley in a classy display.

Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) – The Arsenal skipper is so often involved in all that is good about his side and he dominated the midfield against a poor Wigan side. Fabregas was on top form as he set up numerous chances for his teammates and he could have had a goal himself if it wasn’t for some great saves by Al-Habsi. His assist for van Persie’s second goal was one of the best passes you’ll see this season.

Kieran Richardson (Sunderland) – It would have been no surprise if Sunderland slipped up against Blackpool after their talisman Darren Bent left for Villa. But Steve Bruce’s side showed that they are no a one-man team as Richardson scored twice in the first half as he revelled in a more attacking role.

Dimitar Berbatov (Man United) – The Bulgarian star hit his third hat trick of the season as Man United maintained their title charge with a 5-0 demolition of Birmingham. Berbatov has hit top goal scoring form this season as he revels in being the main man in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. His three goal haul took his season’s tally to 18.

Robin van Persie (Arsenal) – Berbatov wasn’t the only striker to score a hat trick this weekend as van Persie continued his incredible recent form with three more goals. The Dutch forward slammed in two powerful left foot finishes before missing a penalty. But he wasn’t to be denied and 5 minutes from time he curled in a right footed effort to cap his first treble in the Premier League.

Meireles beginning to show class

Lightweight, off the pace, a liability. These are just a few of the labels Raul Meireles was given by fans under Roy Hodgson as he struggled to adapt to the rough and tumble of the Premier League and an unfamiliar position. But against Wolves on Saturday the Portuguese midfielder showed why Roy Hodgson spent £11m to secure his signature and why he should have been played in the centre from the beginning.

Meireles was often utilised on the right of midfield in a 4-4-2 formation under Hodgson and although he is a talented footballer, he does not have the pace or trickery to beat a man and get to the by-line. His forte is short and long passing, getting into the box and dictating the pace of the game in the middle of the park.

New manager Kenny Dalglish has adopted the 'pass and move' principles that made many Liverpool sides of the past great and has placed Meireles in his preferred role as he looks to give the team a more attacking emphasis.

Liverpool have long been accused of relying on Steven Gerrard to support the attack from midfield and since the goals have dried up for their captain they have struggled to find someone to replace them. The signing of Meireles from Porto was meant to lift the burden off of Gerrard and give Fernando Torres another supply line but up until last week's Merseyside derby it never really materialised.

But one goal can do so much for a player in a game in which confidence is so important and Raul's strike against Everton certainly appears to have given him a boost. Meireles opened his account with a crashing half-volley from 18 yards and after waiting for 17 games to score his first Liverpool goal he got his second the next week at Molineux.

His goal was one of real quality, the type of strike that many players dream of but very few are capable of executing. A long Daniel Agger freekick was headed away by the Wolves defence and fell to Meireles on the edge of the area. The Liverpool number 4 struck it first time and saw his volley nestle in the top corner.

It was not just his goal that earned him the Man of the Match award though, it was his work rate, his vision, his passing ability both short and long and the way he made the game look effortless amongst chaos Wolves attempted to create around him. His performance oozed class and he looked every bit the player Liverpool have been missing since Xabi Alonso left.

If he can maintain this level of form for the rest of the season then Alonso will be a distant memory and Liverpool will be sitting pretty in a European place.

Bent proves his worth on Villa debut

Liverpool fans were crowing yesterday after watching their team string together 31 passes in the lead up to Fernando Torres’s second goal against Wolves. That was in stark contrast to Darren Bent who touched the ball just 29 times on his Villa debut, including just one touch inside the opponent’s penalty area. But like any great goalscorer his one chance ended up in the back of the net.

Bent was under severe pressure to perform after joining Villa from Sunderland during the week in a record £24m deal and did not disappoint after his debut goal defeated Manchester City and lifted the Villains out of the relegation zone.

The goal was not spectacular as Bent finished from a tight angle after Joe Hart saved an Ashley Young curler but Villa did not pay for quality of goal, they paid for quantity and Bent will surely oblige.

Bent has had to deal with criticism over his loyalty, integrity and his footballing ability during an inharmonious week but it will be hard for anyone to question his credentials as a top level striker after he scored his 9th league goal of the season.

Many questioned Gerard Houllier and Randy Lerner’s motives for spending such a large sum on a player who has never been successful at a top club and struggled to break through at international level. But what Bent may lack in finesse and technique he makes up for in instinct and intelligence.

It is clear that Villa believe the man who has scored 83 league goals since the 2005/06 season will put away the chances to keep them up, as he did with Sunderland and Charlton in the past.

Speaking on Bent’s signing Villa manager Houllier said: "We are absolutely delighted to have Darren here and we know he will be a tremendous asset for the months and the years ahead.

"His arrival sends out a clear message about our ambition. We've brought him down here to spearhead our efforts and to help build something strong and lasting at our club."

There have also been questions over Bent’s ambition after he left high-flying Sunderland to move to a Villa languishing in the relegation zone but the England forward insists that the move is a step up in his career.

Speaking on the day of his signing Bent said: "I'm delighted to join Aston Villa. This is a big, big opportunity for me.

"People have asked why I swapped a top six club for one currently in the bottom four. But I believe Villa are in a false position, they have been sixth for the past three seasons."

Bent’s reasoning may yet be justified after his side showed fight and determination to claim their first win in 6 games and if the likes of Albrighton, Downing and Young continue to get balls into Bent then you can be sure that Villa Park’s new hero will score the goals to send them up the Premier League table.

Meireles '36

Torres 50 & 90+1

Kenny Dalglish claimed his first win since returning as Liverpool manager after his team beat a feisty Wolves side at Molineux

Fernando Torres opened the scoring with ease on 36 minutes after tapping in a cross from man of the match Raul Meireles.

Wolves’ chances were limited to set pieces and they came closest through Nenad Milijas’ free kick before Meireles struck an incredible 25-yard volley to double the away side’s lead on 50 minutes.

Fernando Torres claimed his second in stoppage time with another tap-in to seal the win for Liverpool.

Victory came in Dalglish’s fourth game in charge and is sure to lift the Anfield club, who struggled for away form under previous manager Roy Hodgson.

The signs of improvement were clear for all to see with the team’s passing, movement and industry symbolised by the exceptional Raul Meireles.

The win came as revenge after Wolves beat the Reds 1-0 at Anfield in December in a game that signalled the beginning of the end for Hodgson.

Then it was Wolves relentless pressing that stifled Liverpool and Mick McCarthy’s team set out to do the same thing today, at the expense of their own attacking ambitions.

They faced a different prospect here today though and there was no lack of effort or quality from the away side who chased down everything and passed the ball with confidence.

Wolves started with determination but saw no reward for their endeavour as they struggled to fashion any chances from open play, with the best efforts coming from Liverpool.

The first real chance fell to the much maligned Christian Poulsen who burst into the box to connect with a Lucas Leiva pullback but the midfielder saw his sidefooted effort blocked by Christophe Berra.

Forwards runs from midfield by Poulsen, Lucas and in particular Meireles were a new feature of the Reds play and once that signified Kenny Dalglish’s attacking philosophy.

Meireles came to scoring with a 20 yard strike before Maxi Rodriguez came close with shot on the turn that was saved by Wayne Hennessey.

It was Fernando Torres that was causing the Wolves backline the most problems though and his personal duel with Richard Stearman was one of the most interesting elements of the first half.

Liverpool’s number 9 opened the scoring when Poulsen slid through Raul Meireles who beat the offside trap before squaring for Torres to score his 8th league goal of the season. The Spanish forward then chose to pick up the ball and drop it infront of Stearman instead of celebrating.

The gesture showed that the Spaniard’s confidence was back and he was giving the type of performance that fans have been long been praying for.

Wolves came back into the game after adopting a more adventurous approach and Stephen Fletcher came close to taking advantage of what looked to be a shaky Liverpool defence.

Kenny Dalglish had seen his side throw away leads against Everton and Blackpool but there was to be no repeat today as Meireles doubled his team’s tally with a goal of the season contender.

Christophe Berra headed an Agger freekick high into the air and the ball fell straight to Meireles who expertly volleyed into the top corner, his second goal in as many games.

Liverpool appeared to be happy to sit on their lead and this allowed Wolves to come back into the game but with no real success.

The away side’s counter attacking approach led to a chance for substitute Jonjo Shelvey but the youngster fired over after being played through by Meireles.

A third goal did come in the 90th minute as Torres smashed into the roof of the net from close range to finish off a great move that included over 30 passes. The win was only Liverpool’s second away from home this season and saw the team claim their first clean sheet in six games.

Premier League predictions 22nd January

Right, I've been slacking on the predictions front recently so thought I'd give it a go again this weekend. Some cracking games are happening and I'm sure I'll get the scores completely wrong. Here we go then:

Wolves vs Liverpool

Maybe Liverpool fans' biggest gripe with Roy Hodgson was his astonishingly negative approach away from home that resulted in defeats to Everton, Stoke, Newcastle and Blackpool to name just a few. New boss Kenny Daglish will be hoping to change the Red's fortunes on the road and gain his first win since returning to the club. Wolves have already claimed a famous win at Anfield and will fancy their chances due to their fantastic recent record against the Premier League's big boys.

LFC have been much more positive under King Kenny and I expect the team to attack the home side. Wolves thrive on the counter attack though and the Reds will have to be wary at the back if they want to avoid more away day blues. I see this being a tight contest with Liverpool finally getting their first win under Dalglish.

Prediction - 2-0 to Liverpool

Arsenal vs Wigan

The Gooners may be one of the most unpredictable teams in the league at the moment but there is only one way I can see this game going. Home games against the lessers teams are where Arsene Wenger's side thrive and you wouldn't bet against them putting 3 or 4 past the Latics.

Roberto Martinez has been equally frustrated with his side's Jekyl and Hyde tendancies and with his team dogged by injuries to key players, the Wigan manager can't be too confident of a result at the Emirates.

The away side will put bodies behind the ball but with van Persie back and Walcott, Fabregas and Nasri in irresistable form I don't see anything but a comprehensive win for Arsenal.

Prediction - 3-0 to Arsenal.

Blackpool vs Sunderland

There's a danger that both sides could become distracted by the week's goings on with Sunderland still be reeling over the loss of star striker Darren Bent to Villa and Tangerines talisman Charlie Adam close to a move to Liverpool.

Blackpool have been labelled a 'breath of fresh air' this season due to their swashbuckling attacking football and you can be sure that Ian Holloway's team will be going gung-ho again when the Mackems visit. Striker DJ Campbell is in terrific form and will hope to find the net again. Meanwhile the pressure will be on Asamoah Gyan to fill the gap left by Darren Bent with manager Steve Bruce hoping that the Ghana international has what it takes to carry the teams goalscoring burden.

I think this will be a very open game and I expect goals. Blackpool will play with their usual determination but Bruce's team will be looking to show they can cope without Bent.

Prediction - 2-2 draw.

Everton vs West Ham

Could a team have a worse week of preparation than West Ham have just had? First Avram Grant was leaving and Martin O'Neill was taking over, then O'Neill decided he didn't want the job and the owners are forced to keep Grant and give him the least convincing vote of confidence in football history.

Everton will be hoping to take advantage of the chaos in a similar fashion to last week's visit to Anfield, where they came close to winning amid the hurrah over Kenny Dalglish's return. David Moyes' team haven't been at their best this season and have really struggled for goals. But Louis Saha is back and appears to be hitting a bit of form at the right time.

The Hammers will show fight and could be in with a chance if they defend well but I think ultimately Everton will be too strong.

Prediction - 2-1 to Everton.

Fulham vs Stoke

When Mark Hughes became the new manager at Craven Cottage during the summer I saw it as a shrewd appointment having been a big fan of the Welshman for a long time. He did great things at Blackburn and was unfairly removed by Man City but things just haven't happened for him at Fulham and they have quietly dropped into the relegation zone with just 4 wins all season.

Stoke however have shrugged off a poor start and shot up the table into 8th. Tony Pulis' side are one of the toughest teams to beat in the Premier League and always set up to frustrate on the road. But the additions of Pennant and Ethrington have given that extra bit of flair out wide and the Potters are now a real threat on the counter attack.

I think Hughes' woes will continue and Stoke will remain in contention for a European place.

Prediction - 1-0 to Stoke.

Man United vs Birmingham

If you believe everything that the media tell you then you'll know that Man United 'haven't played well all season'. But the fact is that United remain unbeaten this season and are sitting at the top of the Premier League table. Birmingham however remain perilously close to the relegation zone and are really struggling for goals. Alex McLeish will hope the loan signing of David Bentley will mean more chances for the likes of Zigic and Jerome.

This is probably the most predictable game of the weekend. These are the type of games that Sir Alex Ferguson always wins and his United side are always ruthlessly efficient at home. I predict a one-sided game with the home team in control from the very start and Wayne Rooney to score a much-neede goal.

Prediction - 3-0 to Man United.

Newcastle vs Tottenham

I can't really put my finger on where Newcastle stand under Alan Pardew. One week they'll be battering a team at home, the next they won't even put up a fight. The absence of Andy Carroll has obviously been a factor in the Toon Army's inconsistent recent form. Not only is he the team's main goalscorer, he is their out-ball, the man they look to when things are going against them. Leon Best is not in the same class, despite a great hattrick against West Ham recently.

Spurs continue to get stronger and have Modric, van der Vaart and Bale in fantastic form. Redknapp's team are fast becoming a real force and will attack Newcastle from the very start. I expect them to show why many view them as outsiders for the title.

Prediction - 3-1 to Spurs.

Aston Villa vs Man City

It's the battle of the big January signings at Villa Park as £24m Darren Bent takes on £27m Edin Dzeko. Both strikers will be hoping to live up to their price tags and score their first goals for their respective clubs. Villa signed Bent in controversial circumstances during the week and Gerard Houllier believes the former Sunderland man is exactly the player to drag his team away from the relegation zone.

Roberto Mancini's team have bigger ambitions though and will be hoping for another big away with to boost their title credentials. Carlos Tevez has been the main man for City this season and they have won everytime he has scored. With the Argentinian in scincilating form, I can't see past another goal and another win for the Manchester side.

Prediction - 2-1 to City.

Premier League predictions - 30/10/10

Premier League Predictions for the 30th October

Arsenal v West Ham - If Arsenal are the best side on-form in the Premier League then West Ham have to be the worst. They are at the foot of table and it looks like even Scott Parker can't save them. The Gunners look confident and are always dominant at home. I see them winning 4-0 with Walcott again on the scoresheet.

Blackburn v Chelsea - Ewood Park is always a tough trip for anyone and Allardyce will send his team out to be physical and get amongst the visitors. But Chelsea are a colossus of a team and they will not be phased by Rovers' tactics. These are the games that Champions win and I see Ancelotti's side winning 2-0.

Everton v Stoke - Everton had their typical slow start to the season but they seem to be slowly getting back their best. Stoke on the otherhand have been inconsistent. They have the ability to get a win on the road but I don't see it happening today. 3-1 to Everton.

Fulham v Wigan - Fulham haven't really got going under Mark Hughes and they are really struggling for goals without Bobby Zamora. Wigan are a team that you'd never bank on to win on the road, so I'll go with a 0-0 draw for this one.

Man Utd v Tottenham - There's been a lot of talk recently about how Old Trafford is no longer a fortress and that teams go there believing they can get something out of the game. There has also been talk of Spurs' title credentials with Bale and van der Vaart receiving most of the plaudits. I think this game will see the natural order restored with United beating Spurs 3-1.

Wolves v Man City - Wolves have been playing well recently and not getting anything while Man City doing the opposite (largely thanks to Tevez). But without their captain I see the vistors struggling and Wolves will sneak a win that their performances have deserved. 1-0 to the home side.