Premier League Predictions: The Final Weekend

Rooney Aguero

Rooney and Aguero will be hoping to score the crucial goals in the title deciding games this Sunday

 

Chelsea 3-0 Blackburn

In the grand scheme of things this game means very little as Chelsea are resigned to relying on a Champions League final win to secure Champions League qualification and Blackburn are already relegated after their loss to Wigan in the week.

The game will however provide both managers with a chance to prove why they deserve to keep their jobs. Di Matteo has done a fantastic job with Chelsea since he took over but the success he has delivered to the Blues in the Champions League and the FA Cup hasn’t quite been replicated in the league. His opposite number, Steve Kean, would be well advised to wear a tin hat as he sits in the dug out at the weekend as his own fans are sure to give him yet another rollocking off the back of their slump to certain relegation. I think Di Matteo will sign off in style at the Bridge and hopefully in doing so might convince Abramovic that he is right for the job.

Everton 1-1 Newcastle

Newcastle’s loss to City last weekend has probably ruled them out of grabbing a Champions League spot but that should do nothing to dampen the praise that Alan Pardew and his men have been rightfully receiving for their efforts this campaign. I think that they will struggle to break down David Moyes’ Everton who could live to regret not defeating the likes of already relegated Wolves as they may just miss out on finishing higher than bitter rivals Liverpool. I think this will be a really close game and I wouldn’t be surprised if star January signings Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Demba Cisse score a goal apiece in a score-draw.

Man City 2-1 QPR

Surely the pick of the games on the final Sunday of the season! City must win to secure the title (bar a cricket score at the Stadium of Light where United take on Sunderland) and QPR must draw to guarantee survival (bar another cricket score at the Britannia where Bolton travel to Stoke).

I think City will come out all guns blazing, for want of a better cliche, and will create plenty of chances but I wouldn’t be surprised if the nerves get to them a little on the day and they miss a few gilt-edged chances en-route to a victory by perhaps a smaller margin than should be the case.

I think QPR must try and score because I can’t see them shutting out City at the Etihad. If they can produce a similarly uncompromising and forward thinking performance as they managed earlier this season at home to the champions-elect then maybe, just maybe, they can make this one of the most memorable final days of all time. I reckon City will go a couple ahead within the first hour but that QPR will get one back and send some jitters around the Etihad.

Norwich 1-1 Aston Villa

I can’t see this game setting the world alight and now that Villa are effectively safe from the drop there is actually very little riding on it.

Norwich have had a fantastic season and deserve an enormous amount of praise as I am one of many who though their squad was way too lightweight for them to survive let alone find themselves in mid-table come the end of the season. On the other hand I thought that Villa would have done a lot better than they have this campaign but in fairness to their manager Alex McLeish they have had a rotten season on the injury’s front. This game could even prove to be a scoreless bore-draw.

Stoke 2-2 Bolton Wanderers

I think Bolton will push the home side all the way in this one as they try desperately to avoid the drop but I think their efforts will eventually prove to be futile.

I am surprised to see them struggling so low in the table but they have got themselves stuck in a rut and now I think they will go down. For the sake of the fans and in fact the club as a whole I truly hope they don’t get relegated as they have had an awful lot to deal with this year given the stress and mental torment caused by the Fabrice Muamba’s heart-breaking (no pun intended) collapse against Spurs. I also think that the loss of Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong to injury has been fatal to their hopes of Premier League survival as they were both very impressive throughout last season.

This game will give the likes of Peter Crouch the opportunity to prove that they are worth a place in England’s squad for the Euros and I expect to see his name on the scoresheet in a score-draw.

Sunderland 1-3 Manchester United

United need to win to have any hope of leap-frogging rivals Manchester City on the final day of this year’s title race and I think they will get one against a Sunderland side who appear to be playing just for pride.

Sunderland won’t simply bow down and they do have players that can harm United but I think the stakes are too high for Manchester United to fluff their lines so I can see it being a decent win for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men as they hope for a slip-up at the Etihad Stadium.

Sir Alex will hope for a couple of early goals in order to try and send a message of intent and to try and send a wave of nervousness and tension back home to Manchester where the worries of the City fans could translate into impatience and panic on the field.

Swansea 1-2 Liverpool

Swansea have had an amazing season and their manager Brendan Rogers must surely have attracted the interest of some higher powers at some of the Premier League’s more established clubs. The way he has encouraged Swansea to play ‘real’ passing football and made it a successful match-winning strategy is truly admirable and I think he would make for a fantastic replacement to Arsene Wenger at Arsenal at some point in the future.

Liverpool’s league campaign has been dreadful but their emphatic win over Chelsea in midweek will have instilled them with confidence and I expect them to win this game and finish one point ahead of rivals Everton in the race to be the highest placed club on Merseyside. Watch out for Andy Carroll in this one as he aims to continue his half decent form and push for a place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.

Tottenham 3-1 Fulham

Tottenham have struggled over the past three months but have shown major signs of a revival in their past couple of games as their Champions League hopes have got back on track. They may now need Chelsea to miss out in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich but that is certainly better than not having any hope at all which would be the case if they dropped out of the top four.

Fulham have done very well to have a chance of reaching what could yet be a record points tally for them in the Premier League after a tough start to the season but I think they will lose out to Spurs who have a far greater prize to play for on the final day. If Bale and Lennon find their marauding best as they have done in the last couple of games then Spurs should win.

West Brom 1-2 Arsenal

West Brom have had a very good campaign en-route to further establishing themselves as a Premier League club and departing boss Roy Hodgson must be praised highly for his role in their development…oh wait, he already has…

However, I think the Baggies will lose out in a game which is of far greater importance to their opponents Arsenal who will be keen to finish third and avoid the uncertainty of potentially missing out on the Champions League if Chelsea were to beat Bayern in the Champions League final.

Without the brilliance of Robin Van Persie I think Arsenal would have finished outside of the top five this season but I expect him to score yet again in this crucial final game of the season. If they do secure a Champions League place then it is vital they hold onto their captain as the prospect of him partnering new recruit Lukas Podolski up-front next season is pretty tasty.

Wigan 2-0 Wolves

The visitors to the DW this weekend, Wolves, have endured a pretty torrid season and they might be glad to get this last game out of the way as they plan for life back in the Championship.

Their opponents on the final day, Wigan, might have feared that this weekend would also mark the day that they dropped back out of English football’s top flight given the precariousness of their league position a couple of months ago but manager Roberto Martinez has worked wonders.

Neither side has too much to play for given Wigan’s guaranteed survival and Wolves’ certain departure from Premier League football but I expect Wigan to keep their staggering run of form going with a comfortable win. Martinez might actually want to use this game as something of a scouting mission as Wolves do have a couple of very decent players on their books such as Matt Jarvis and they could be within budget for Wigan over the summer as they try to build on their season of flirting with relegation.

 

 

Relegation Watch: ‘Big Mick’ Perishes as Steve Kean battles on

Having succumbed to a horrific 5-1 derby defeat at the weekend, Wolves have decided to part company with Mick McCarthy after a stay of five and a half years.

McCarthy was left apologetic in his last public appearance as Wolves boss

McCarthy’s period of charge at Molineux has on the whole been a positive one for the football club given that they were a Championship club when he joined, but ultimately a lack of Premier League progress is what has cost the former Republic of Ireland manager his job.

It took ‘Big Mick’ three years to drag Wolves through what initially seemed as if it would be a difficult period for the club and up into the Premier League and though it seemed they had established themselves in the top flight over the past couple of campaigns, this season has proven very tough.

It is often very easy for the directors of a football club to apportion the blame for a lack of progress on the manager, but this move to dismiss McCarthy can’t exactly be described as a ‘knee-jerk reaction’. It may have come in the wake of a humiliating performance and defeat at the hands of one of their fierce rivals but really this decision had been in the offing for some time.

After two successive seasons of survival upon their return to top flight football Wolves, under McCarthy’s tutelage, invested strongly in the most recent summer transfer window in a move to try and move the club forward from persistent scrapes with relegation.

Birmingham stalwart Roger Johnson was brought in  for a sizeable £7 million despite rumoured interest from far more glamorous clubs and the future of Jamie O’Hara was secured in the wake of a very promising loan spell at the club. These two signings were seen as the move that could make-or-break McCarthy’s future at the club and so it has proved.

O’Hara has struggled with form and fitness in his quest to replicate his significant contribution whilst on loan from Tottenham and Johnson ,who was brought in and immediately made captain of the club by McCarthy, has too struggled to match up to the lofty reputation that preceded his arrival from rivals Birmingham City.

While these introductions have failed to settle, established forces from within the Wolves squad have also struggled to find their best. Stars from previous campaigns such as Kevin Doyle and Matt Jarvis have been short of any level of consistency and Doyle in particular has been bereft of his best form throughout the campaign. Such difficulties have led to Wolves failure to move on from being a club entangled in relegation worry and McCarthy’s struggles to cope with his squads stuttering form have eventually led to his removal.

Meanwhile, the season’s most maligned Premier League manager Steve Kean continued on his unlikely rescue mission by guiding Blackburn to a crucial 3-2 home win in their relegation ‘six-pointer’ against fellow strugglers QPR.

Kean's faith in Yakubu and his own managerial ability is paying off for now

This most recent victory was most timely and it elevated Blackburn to a slightly rosier position outside of the ‘relegation zone’. Wolves, formerly managed by McCarthy of course, were the team that slipped into the dreaded drop-zone in place of Keane’s resilient Blackburn who continue to owe an awful lot to Yakubu who scored again on his continuing, to this point, season-long run of goalscoring form. Once again ‘Yak’ scored a vital goal in a huge win for the club, the sort of conquest that might see them overcome all the odds to reach their end-goal of survival come May.

This victory of vital significance in their relegation battle provided the perfect response to their 7-1 hammering against Arsenal just a week earlier and was further proof of Steve Kean’s unrelenting determination to defy his numerous and volatile critics that have been baying for his blood over the past few months. If Blackburn and Yakubu in particular, continue to pull results out of the bag in this tricky mid-season period then they may well just do enough for the club to stay in the league and for their manager Steve Kean to avoid the same fate as Mick McCarthy at Wolves.