The Match of the Day for this week’s Premiership round isn’t until Sunday, when Arsenal host Chelsea in one of the most important fixtures this season, a game that will be hugely influential on this season’s title race.
Victory for Arsenal throws the title race wide open; a win for Chelsea will massively disappoint the chasing pack. With both teams having massive European matches to ponder in February, against Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively (and what thrilling prospects they are too, I can’t wait!), victory will be vital to both teams’ moral and self-belief. Having fallen behind in the table, Arsenal’s need is greater and I’m going to call a home win.
Saturday games don’t lack interest however, as Aston Villa will hope in vain to get anything from the visit of an improving Manchester United in the lunchtime game; in the afternoon, Everton v Bolton will be a fullblooded and skillful battle that could go either way but I expect Everton to pinch it; Fulham v Blackburn is another exciting prospect and I believe Blackburn are going to pick up some welcome away points.
The basement battle of Portsmouth v West Bromwich Albion, Pompey’s first home game after the return of Harry Redknapp, will be a fascinating test of which of these new boys have best learned the art of Premier League survival and I believe West Brom, under former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson, are learning faster and will win.
In the other Saturday games, West Ham United entertain Newcastle United but the only thing to unite these two skillful battlers will be the tied result and Wigan Athletic should return to winning ways against a suddenly vulnerable Charlton Athletic. Manchester City stuttered last week whilst Birmingham prospered but I see nothing but role reversal today and the Sky Blues soaring to victory in the late game.
Before this week’s football is brought to a close by the battle of the London titans, earlier Sunday the third London team, the increasingly impressive Tottenham Hotspur, make a visit to moody Middlesbrough, but I predict only depression for the North East of England as Spurs win in style.