Monday, 5 December 2016

Arsenal's Champions League Trip To Basel Previewed

Arsenal face a trip to Basel tomorrow night in their final Champions League group game. Despite being unbeaten and level on 11 points with PSG their chances of winning the group are somewhere very far south of slim. After the 2-2 draw at the Emirates a couple of weeks away they fell behind PSG on their head to head record as they had drawn 1-1 in Paris back in September.

The way the head to head rules work away goals come into play and PSG are ahead on that count. The only way they can finish ahead of PSG is if the French champions fail to win at home to Ludogorets and it's something that I just cannot see happening. Arsenal put six goals past them at the Emirates and I cannot see PSG slipping up with the prize of first place in the group so close at hand.

It means Arsenal will probably finish second in the group yet again and with second place comes a last 16 game against a group winner. At the moment the choices for them are Napoli, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Monaco, Borrusia Dortmund and Juventus, but not all of the groups are decided yet and a few of those teams might not win their groups. It would be a brave person to bet against Arsenal drawing Barcelona and I will not be at all surprised to see them come out of the hat together.

As for the game against Basel it seems Arsene Wenger is taking a full strength squad for the game and it looks like he will possibly play the strongest team he has available. The 5-1 win at West Ham on Saturday was a great result and it moved Arsenal up to second in the table behind Chelsea. There's a lot to be said for keeping a winning or unbeaten run going, but I suppose you could also say that run ended when Southampton put us out of the EFL Cup last week.

I wasn't too upset with that exit as it's a competition we're not going to win using just the reserves and fringe players. The value of resting players for that game was shown in the win at West Ham while our conquerors were beaten 3-0 at Palace after playing a strong team against us. Maybe a second string side would be the way to go against Basel with a Stoke team on a good run coming to the Emirates on Saturday.

I think the boss will go for a bit of a mixture and maybe rest one or two players who might just need a bit of recovery time before Saturday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Alex Iwobi play and of course David Ospina will play in goal as he has done in every other Champions League game this season. I doubt if Hector Bellerin will be risked even if he is fit to return as we need him back in tip top shape for the Christmas games.

Basel are no pushover on their own ground and they need to get at least a point from this game to have a chance of finishing third and qualifying for the last 32 of the Europa League. At the moment they're behind Ludogorets on their head to head records and can only beat them by taking more points off us than Ludogorets take off PSG. They have done very well against English teams over the last few years and will hope for more of the same in this game.

They've not as good as they were in previous season's though and we should be able to beat them even with a few changes to the team. Ideally I would like to see Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil rested, but we are pretty blunt in attack without them and I wouldn't be surprised to see them play. I hold no hope of PSG dropping points so our result won't really matter too much, but it would still be good to finish the group unbeaten with 14 points in the bag. As I said before the Southampton game last week though, it's more important to see all the players come through the game unscathed and ready to go over the festive period.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 14

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I did alright last week with two perfect outcomes, three correct outcomes and five incorrect. Those results helped me to increase my lead at the top of my predictions league as you can see from the table below.

NameBadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 5+110830
 2 (2)  Rutland Gooner 3-10645
 3 (4)  Wayne Hubbard +85625
 3 (3)  Karl-Yngve Lund 2+20625
 5 (5) sensisoccerworld 10460


 
Saturday December 3

Manchester City v Chelsea 

12.30pm GMT, Etihad Stadium, Manchester 

City fought hard to get a win at Burnley last week and they took the three points thanks to a Sergio Aguero brace of goals. They are one of the four teams still unbeaten at home, but they have taken more points and scored more goals away from home. They are unbeaten in six league games, but they have drawn their last three in a row at home.

Aguero is the City player to have as always for fantasy managers with Kevin de Bruyne a pretty good option too.

Chelsea had to come from behind at home to Spurs last week, but their 2-1 win kept them at the top of the table. They have won four of their six away games, but they have only managed nine goals in those six games compared to the 20 they have scored at home. They have won their last seven league games in a row and the goal they conceded last week was the first goal they conceded in those games.

Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and all of the Chelsea defenders have done very well for fantasy managers while Victor Moses and Nemanja Matic have been pretty good value for money too.

I think this will be a very close game and it might just end in a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Crystal Palace v Southampton 

3pm GMT, Selhurst Park, London

Palace played their part in a crazy game away to Swansea last week and ended up losing 5-4. They have only won once in their six home games and no other team has taken less points on their own ground. They have lost their last six games, conceding 18 goals in those games and they're the only team without a clean sheet so far.

Christian Benteke and James McArthur are the Palace players most likely to succeed for fantasy managers at the moment, but it's not easy to pick any of their players right now.

Southampton won 1-0 at home to Everton last week to move into the top half of the table. They have only won once in their six away games, but only three other teams have conceded less goals on the road. They have kept five clean sheets in their last nine games with only Chelsea and Spurs conceding less goals.

Charlie Austin still looks like the Southampton player to have for fantasy managers with their defenders doing pretty well too.

It's not too easy to call this game, but I think it could be very close with a draw the most likely outcome.

Prediction: 1-1

Stoke City v Burnley

3pm GMT, BET365 Arena, Stoke

Stoke got a good win away to Watford last week to put their disappointment of the previous week behind them. They have lost half of their six home games and only the bottom three have conceded more goals at home. They have only lost once in their last eight games and they kept three clean sheets in those games, but only five teams have scored less goals than Stoke.

Joe Allen has been the best of the Stoke players for fantasy managers, but their defenders look like a better bet at the moment.

Burnley gave City a run for their money last week, but ended up losing 2-1 at home to them. They have only managed one point and one goal in their five away games and only four other teams have conceded more goals away from home. They lost their last two games and conceded six goals in the process and only Hull have scored less goals.

Tom Heaton has been the best of the Burnley players for fantasy managers, but Burnley players don't do well away from home.

I think Stoke should be strong enough at home to win this game by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 2-0

Sunderland v Leicester City

3pm GMT, Stadium of Light, Sunderland 

Sunderland lost 2-0 away to Liverpool last week and that defeat sent them back to the bottom of the table. They have only taken four points from their six home games with only Swansea conceding more goals on their own patch. They won the two games before that defeat at Liverpool, but only Hull have scored less goals than Sunderland.

Jermain Defoe is still by far the best of the Sunderland players for fantasy managers.

Leicester could only draw at home to Boro last week and they can't get away from the wrong end of the table. They have lost five of their six away games and no other team has conceded more goals away from home. They have only taken two points from their last four games and haven't kept a clean sheet in the last six.

Riyad Mahrez has improved in recent weeks, but it's still not easy for fantasy managers to pick Leicester players at the moment.

This has the makings of a very close game between two teams struggling for points and I have a feeling the spoils will be shared.

Prediction: 2-2

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City 

3pm GMT, White Hart Lane, London

Spurs lost their unbeaten record away to Chelsea last week and they're losing ground at the top of the table too. They are one of four teams still unbeaten at home and no other team has conceded less goals at home, but they have struggled to score goals on their own patch. They have only won once in their last six league games, but no other team has conceded less goals so far.

With Harry Kane back in action he's the best fantasy choice in the Spurs team along with Dele Alli and all of their defenders.

Swansea got their first win since the opening day last week in a nine goal thriller at home to Palace. They have only won once away from home, but have only taken one point from their last five games on the road. The win last week was their first one in 12 games and only Hull have conceded more goals than Swansea.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is still the best of the Swansea players for fantasy managers and Leroy Fer can do well at times too, but only when I decide to remove him from my team.

I think Spurs should be too strong for Swansea and should win by a couple of goals at least.

Prediction: 2-0

West Bromwich Albion v Watford 

3pm GMT, The Hawthorns, Birmingham 

West Brom drew away to Hull last week in a game they probably should have won. They have won as many games as they have lost at home and have actually taken more points away from home. Their only two defeats in their last nine games were against Liverpool and City, but they have only kept one clean sheet in their last 10 games.

Ben Foster and Gareth McAuley have both done well for fantasy managers while Matt Phillips is looking like one to have and Nacer Chadli certainly is too if he's fit.

Watford weren't up to much in their defeat at home to Stoke last week, but they're still only two points off sixth place. They have won as many games as they have lost away from home and no other team in the top half of the table has conceded more away goals. Their results are up and down and they have conceded more goals than any other team in the top 12.

Troy Deeney hasn't done too badly for fantasy managers while Etienne Capoue can be pretty good on his day too.

I think this will be another very close game and it might just end with the honours even. 

Prediction: 1-1

West Ham United v Arsenal

5.30pm GMT, London Stadium, London

West Ham got a very good draw away to United last week, but they went out of the EFL Cup to them in midweek. They have only won two of their six home games with only Middlesbrough scoring less goals at home. They have only taken two points in their last four games and only three other teams have conceded more goals than them.

Dimitri Payet is the West Ham player to have for fantasy managers and Michail Antonio hasn't done too badly either.

Arsenal put a relatively poor run of results behind them last week with a 3-1 win at home to Bournemouth. They are the only team unbeaten away from home and no other team has conceded less goals away from home. They are unbeaten since the opening day, but the win last week was only their second one in five league games.

Alexis Sanchez remains as the Arsenal player to have for fantasy managers with Theo Walcott and their defenders doing quite well too.

I think this will be a very close game, but Arsenal should just get the better of proceedings.

Prediction: 1-2

Sunday December 4

Bournemouth v Liverpool 

1.30pm GMT, Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth 

Bournemouth lost 3-1 away to Arsenal last week, but they were in the game for a long time and very nearly got something out of it. They have taken 10 points from their six home games and no other team in the bottom half of the table has conceded less goals at home. They have only won once in their last five games and they have only scored three goals in those games.

Calum Wilson has done well in recent weeks and he could be worth considering for fantasy managers.

Liverpool struggled for a while last week but they ended up beating Sunderland 2-0 even if it did cost them Phillippe Coutinho for at least a month. They have taken 14 points from their seven away games, but only City have scored more goals away from home and the rest of the top six have all conceded less goals on the road. They are unbeaten in their last 11 games and have kept clean sheets in their last two and they're the top scorers in the league so far.

With Coutinho injured Roberto Frimino looks like the best fantasy choice in the Liverpool team with Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and maybe Daniel Sturridge (if he's fit) pretty good options too.

I think Liverpool will have too much in attack for Bournemouth and should win by a few goals.

Prediction: 1-4

Everton v Manchester United 

4pm GMT, Goodison Park, Liverpool 

Everton lost away to Southampton last week and they need to do something to reverse their current fortunes. They are one of the four teams still unbeaten at home and no other team has conceded less goals on their own patch. They have only won once in their last eight games and they failed to score in three of those games.

Despite Romelu Lukaku being one of the top fantasy performers this season I still don't see any Everton players to recommend to fantasy managers.

United could only draw at home to West Ham last week and they continue to lose ground on the pacesetters at the top of the table. They have taken 10 points in their six away games, but they have only managed eight goals in those games. They have only won once in their last seven league games and they failed to score in three of those games.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks like he might have found some form again while United's defenders haven't done too badly either.

I think this is going to be another very close game and the chances are it will end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

Monday December 5

Middlesbrough v Hull City

8pm GMT, Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough 

Boro got a good point away to champions Leicester last week to stay just clear of the bottom three. They have only won once in their six home games and have scored less goals at home than any other team. They have only lost once in their last five games and no other team in the bottom half of the table has conceded less goals.

I'm still not convinced any of the Boro players are worth including for fantasy managers.

Hull drew at home to West Brom last week, but they're still in the bottom three even if it's only on goal difference. They have lost four of their six away games with only Burnley and Sunderland scoring less goals away from home. They have only won once in their last 11 games and have failed to score in five of those games as well as being the lowest scorers and conceding the most goals too.

Robert Snodgrass is still by far the best fantasy choice in the Hull team.

I can't see too many goals in this game and I have a feeling Boro might get the only one.

Prediction: 1-0

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Arsenal v Southampton: EFL Cup Quarter Final Preview

It's EFL Cup Quarter Final action tonight for Arsenal and a win would leave them within sight of Wembley. So far they have seen off Nottingham Forest and Reading, but it's a step up against Premier League opposition tonight. Southampton might only be a mid table team in the Premier League, but a full strength team from them would be a very tough proposition for a second string Arsenal team.

I suppose it depends on how seriously Southampton treat the game and the chance to get within one round of a Wembley final. I would be pretty sure Arsene Wenger will try his best to change every player who started against Bournemouth on Sunday as he will want his strongest team possible to play West Ham at the weekend. If at all possible he will make 11 changes, but he might not be able to do so given the current injuries.

Certainly he can change all of the starting back four and goalkeeper with Emiliano Martinez, Kieran Gibbs, Karl Jenkinson, Gabriel Paulista and Rob Holding all available. In midfield we could see Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi come in while Jeff Reine Adelaide and Lucas Perez could start in the attacking trio. I wouldn't be surprised to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain play even if he did start on Sunday as I still think he needs as much game time as possible.

I'm not sure if Lucas is fit enough to play as he is only just back from the knock he picked up in the last round. With Chuba Akpom injured too I wonder if Yaya Sanogo is still alive and if so could we be privileged enough to get a rare sighting of him. He's a player who has promised so much but seldom delivered due to injuries and just maybe he might get a chance to shine.

Southampton might have the Europa League and their Premier League position to worry about, but I doubt if they will turn their noses up at a chance of making the semi finals. If they play their strongest team tonight they will have to be the favourites to progress and I have a feeling they will play a strong team. That doesn't mean Arsenal aren't in with a chance of winning, but it will certainly make the task a lot tougher.

It's always good to see the youngsters and fringe players get a run and a quarter final exit would be far from a disgrace. I still think they're in with a chance though even against a strong Southampton team and there is still a possibility of a two legged semi final in January to fit in. Once the players come through unscathed I'll be happy and a win would be a nice added bonus too.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek 13

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I didn't do too well last week with one perfect outcome, four correct outcomes and five incorrect. Yet again others struggled too and I actually increased my lead at the top of my predictions league as you can see from the table below.

NameBadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (1)  Michael Sheehy 4+10720
 2 (2)  Rutland Gooner 3-25655
 3 (3)  Karl-Yngve Lund 2+20605
 4 (4)  Wayne Hubbard +40540
 5 (5) sensisoccerworld 10460


 
Saturday November 26

Burnley v Manchester City

12.30pm GMT, Turf Moor, Burnley

Burnley were well and truly beaten by West Brom on Monday night, but they're still in a relatively healthy position in the table. Only Chelsea have won more home games than Burnley and no other team in the bottom half of the table has scored more goals at home. They have failed to score in half of their games so far though with only Boro and Hull scoring less goals.

Tom Heaton and the Burnley defenders have done well for fantasy managers in their home games in particular.

City got a very good win away to Palace last week for only their second win in six games. They have won more away games and scored more away goals than any other team with only Arsenal and Spurs conceding less goals on the road. They are unbeaten in five games since losing to Spurs, but they have drawn three of those games and only Liverpool have scored more goals than City.

Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are the best options in the City team for fantasy managers.

Despite Burnley's pretty good home record I think City will take the three points in this game.

Prediction: 1-3

Hull City v West Bromwich Albion

3pm GMT, KCOM Stadium, Hull

Hull lost 3-0 away to Sunderland last week and they're still in the bottom three. No other team has lost more home games than Hull and they're the lowest scorers at home too with only the two teams below them conceding more goals at home. They have lost seven of their last eight games and failed to score in four of those games with no other team conceding more or scoring less goals than Hull.

If any of the Hull players are going to make a difference for fantasy managers then Robert Snodgrass is the player to do it.

West Brom got a very good 4-0 win at home to Burnley on Monday night to move into the top half of the table. They have taken as many points on the road as they have at home with only Arsenal and Spurs conceding less goals on their travels. They won their last two games after failing to win any of the previous five and half of their 16 goals came in just two of their 12 games.

Nacer Chadli is the best of the West Brom players for fantasy managers when he's fit while Matt Phillips seems to be coming good too and their defenders haven't been too bad either.

I think West Brom might just be good enough to win by the odd goal in this game.

Prediction: 1-2

Leicester City v Middlesbrough 

3pm GMT, KC Stadium, Leicester 

Leicester were beaten yet again last week when they went down 2-1 at Watford. They have only lost once in their six home games and only Chelsea have conceded less goals on their own patch. They have only won once in their last seven league games and find themselves only two points above the relegation zone despite having already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.

None of the Leicester defenders have exactiy set the world alight for fantasy managers this season, but their defenders haven't done too badly at home.

Boro lost 1-0 at home to Chelsea last week to put an end to their recent revival. They have only lost one of their six away games, but they have drawn four of them with only Arsenal and Spurs conceding less goals away from home. They have only won once in their last 10 games and failed to score in four of those games with no other team scoring less goals than Boro.

I still don't think there are any Boro players to interest fantasy managers although their defenders have done well in recent weeks.

With a place in the last 16 of the Champions League secured surely Leicester will get back to winning ways in the league in this game.

Prediction: 1-0

Liverpool v Sunderland 

3pm GMT, Anfield, Liverpool

Liverpool drew 0-0 away to Southampton last week and they surrendered top place in the league to Chelsea as a result. They are one of the four teams still unbeaten at home with only Chelsea scoring more and conceding less goals at home. They have taken 24 points in their last 10 games and they're the top scorers in the league even if they have conceded more goals than the rest of the top four.

Phillippe Coutinho and Roberto Frimino are doing really well for fantasy managers while Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana haven't done too badly either.

Sunderland got a really important 3-0 win at home to Hull last week to climb off the foot of the table. They have only won once in their six away games with four defeats and only Burnley have scored less goals away from home. They have won their last two games after failing to win in their first 10 games, but they will face a huge task trying to get anything from this game.

Jermain Defoe continues to impress for fantasy managers and who knows where Sunderland would be without him.

I can't see anything other than a comprehensive Liverpool win in this game.

Prediction: 4-1

Swansea City v Crystal Palace 

3pm GMT, Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Swansea looked like they were going to get their first win since the opening day last week, but Everton hit back with a very late equaliser. They're the only team without a home win with no other team scoring less goals at home and only Sunderland conceding more at home. They haven't won in 11 games and only Hull and Boro have scored less goals than Swansea.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is still by far the best fantasy option in the Swansea team.

Palace lost at home to City last week and they're only a point above the relegation zone. They have taken more points away from home than at home and only five other teams have won more games away from home. They have lost their last five games and conceded 13 goals in the process and they are the only team without a clean sheet in their opening 12 games.

Christian Benteke and James McArthur haven't done too badly for fantasy managers, but on current form it might be best to avoid Palace players.

Both teams could do with a win in this game, but I think the chances are it will end with the honours even.

Prediction: 1-1

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur 

5.30pm GMT, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea got the better of Boro in a dull game last week to move to the top of the table. They have won more games, scored more and conceded less goals at home than any other team. They have won their last six league games in a row without conceding a goal and they scored 17 goals in the process.

Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and all of the Chelsea defenders look like must haves for fantasy managers at the moment.

Spurs came from behind to beat West Ham last week with two very late goals. They are one of only two teams unbeaten away from home, but they have drawn four of their six away games and no other team has conceded less goals on the road. They are the only unbeaten team in the league, but they have drawn half of their games and went out of the Champions League in midweek before they had even played all of their group games.

Harry Kane looks to be back to his best for Spurs while Dele Alli and the Spurs defenders are pretty good bets too.

This is a very big game for both clubs and I think Chelsea will just about get the better of a very close affair.

Prediction: 2-1

Sunday November 27

Watford v Stoke City

12pm GMT, Vicarage Road, Watford 

Watford won 2-1 at home to the champions last week to put the thrashing by Liverpool in their previous game behind them. They have taken 10 points from their six home games, but no other team in the top 12 has conceded more goals at home. They have taken 17 points from their last nine games, but only five teams have conceded less goals than them.

Troy Deeney looks like the best long term fantasy choice in the Watford team while Etienne Capoue has done well too.

Stoke were on a good run until they lost 1-0 at home to Bournemouth last week. They have only won once in their six away games, but only six other teams have conceded less goals on their travels. Before losing to Bournemouth last week they had gone six games unbeaten, but they are still scoring too few goals for their own good.

Marco Arnautovic is probably the best long term fantasy choice in the Stoke team even if Joe Allen has done very well so far.

I think this will be a very close game and I wouldn't be surprised to see the spoils shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Arsenal v Bournemouth 

2.15pm GMT, Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal left it late last week, but they managed to snatch a point away to United. They have only won half of their six home games and only two teams in the top 12 have conceded more goals at home. They are unbeaten in 11 league games, but they have only won once in their last four games and have struggled to create chances recently.

Alexis Sanchez still looks like the best fantasy bet in the Arsenal team and their defenders have done pretty well too while Olivier Giroud could be worth a punt if he can get a game.

Bournemouth got a very good 1-0 win away to Stoke last week to put an end to a poor run of results. That win at Stoke was their first away win of the season with only Burnley scoring less goals away from home. The win last week was their first in four games and they have lost more games than any other team in the top half of the table.

Bournemouth's defenders have done pretty well for fantasy managers and they're available at a pretty good price too.

Arsenal might not be at their best at the moment, but I still think they will take the three points in this game.

Prediction: 3-1

Manchester United v West Ham United

4.30pm GMT, Old Trafford, Manchester 

United looked to have beaten Arsenal last week, but they were pegged back late on and had to settle for a 1-1 draw. They have only won two of their six home games and no other team in the top half of the table has scored less goals at home. They have only won once in their last six games and have only scored five goals in those games.

I still can't see any United players setting the fantasy world alight, but their defenders haven't done too badly.

West Ham looked to have taken the three points at Spurs last week when they led in the last minute, but they ended up taking nothing from the game. No other team has lost more away games than West Ham with only Leicester and Hull conceding more goals on their travels. They have taken only one point in their last three games and are only one point above the bottom three with only Hull having conceded more goals.

Dimitri Payet still looks like the best fantasy option in the West Ham team and Michail Antonio seems to have found some form again too.

I think United will get the better of a close game.

Prediction: 2-1

Southampton v Everton

4.30pm GMT, St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton 

Southampton put up a good defensive performance to draw 0-0 at home to Liverpool last week. They have only lost one of their six home games with only three other teams scoring less goals on their own patch. They haven't won in their last four games and have failed to score in three of their last six games , but only three other teams have conceded less goals than them.

Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond have done reasonably well for fantasy managers while the Southampton defenders haven't done too badly either.

Everton drew at home to Swansea last week and they're a long way from their impressive start to the season. They have lost three of their six away games and have conceded more goals than they have scored on their travels. They have only won once in their last seven games and have only scored six goals in those games.

If Everton can rediscover some form Romelu Lukaku is their player most likely to do well for fantasy managers.

I think Southampton will be good enough at home to take the three points in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

That's it for this week.

See you next week.