Liverpool & Chelsea resume normal service, as Aston Villa come unstuck

Football FanCast columnist Mark Bryans looks ahead to the afternoon's Premier League fixtures
and wonders which supporters will have the bragging rights come this evening.

Chelsea v Newcastle – 15:00

Table-topping
Chelsea host Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, and the Magpies have never won there
in the history of the Premier League. The Blues will be hoping for an easy day
at the office as they look to consolidate their position at the top.

‘Big Phil'
Scolari will be hoping that his side play the brand of football that he has
become accustomed to since taking charge. Critics of Chelsea under Jose
Mourinho and Avram Grant claimed they played boring football, which cannot be
said since the Brazilian took over at the helm. Chelsea are favourites to win
their third league title, and at the minute, you can see why.

Joe
Kinnear would be ecstatic if his Newcastle side come away from this game with
any positive result. With only two draws on their travels this season it is
highly unlikely they will get anything, but remember one of those draws came at
Old Trafford. Kinnear's meeting with owner Mike Ashley was originally scheduled
for after this clash, but it has been put back and Kinnear will still be hoping
for the job fulltime.

Chelsea
are sweating on the fitness of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Juliano Belletti,
Alex and Ricardo Carvalho whilst Didier Drogba is banned. Steven Taylor and
Joey Barton miss out for the visitors, whilst Mark Viduka is back in training
but unlikely to feature.

MY
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 – 0 Newcastle

 

Liverpool v Fulham – 15:00

Liverpool
and Fulham both go into this game looking for a third successive league
victory. The Reds will be hoping they can better Chelsea's result and take over
at the top of the Premier League, whilst Roy Hodgson's ever-improving Cottagers
would be delighted with a point.

Rafael
Benetiz will be looking to build on Liverpool's best ever start to a Premier
League campaign and his side are most definitely in form. Anfield has become a
fortress and Liverpool have not lost at home throughout 2008, the only
Premiership club to boast such a record.

Surprisingly
Fulham have amassed as many points at home as Liverpool so far this season, but
it is their dismal away form which will concern Roy Hodgson. Only a solitary
point has been collected on their travels this season and even the staunchest
Fulham fan will admit they are unlikely to add to that in this fixture.

After
missing England's victory over Germany in midweek Steven Gerrard remains on the
sidelines for Liverpool but Robbie Keane should return and Alvaro Arbeloa is
available after a ban. Other than Diomansy Kamara – who is out with a long-term
injury – Fulham have a full quota of players to choose from.

MY
PREDICTION: Liverpool 4 – 1 Fulham

 

Man
City

v
Arsenal – 15:00

Man City's
billionaire owners expected Champions League qualification this season – that
is not going to happen. Arsenal always qualify for the competition, but it is
not a foregone conclusion this campaign.

Mark
Hughes has the support of the owners for the time being, but desperately needs
some victories. A win against Arsenal would send the right message that the
club are moving forward and that the Welshman is the right man to take them on
to better things. The class in attacking departments is apparent for all to
see, but defensive errors and a lack of cohesion seem to be the main problems.

Arsenal's
season is a bizarre one. Good results, poor performances, shock defeats and dressing
room unrest are just some of the attributes of the Gunners' so far this year.
Arsene Wenger has a big decision to make regarding the captaincy of his side
after William Gallas' Roy Keane-style outburst at his team mates.

Joe Hart
misses out for Man City, who may delve into the market to sign another keeper
on a short term loan. Richard Dunne and Gelson Fernandes return from
suspension, but the latter must overcome a fitness test to feature. Theo
Walcott and Emmanuel Eboue are injured for Arsenal whilst Kolo Toure is
doubtful and Cesc Fabregas is banned. Robin van Persie returns from suspension
and should feature.

MY
PREDICTION: Man City 2 – 2 Arsenal

 

Middlesbrough v Bolton – 15:00

Middlesbrough
go into this game unbeaten throughout November, Bolton are also playing well
and have won as many games away from home as the whole of last season.

Gareth
Southgate's managerial reputation continues to grow, and but for a September
slump Boro could easily be up and around the Champions League spots. Southgate
has a small squad but there is quality and work rate, two key aspects for
success.

Gary
Megson will not want to concede first at the Riverside, his side are yet to
pick up a point from a losing position this season. Skipper Kevin Nolan will
make his 250th Premier League start for the Trotters and he has been
a key player in most of Bolton's seasons in the top flight. Megson would settle
for a point and a victory would be a big bonus.

Joey
O'Brien misses out for the home side whilst Ricardo Gardner and Danny Shittu
face fitness tests, Ebi Smolarek and Gretar Steinsson should return. Meanwhile
Chris Riggott is injured for Middlesbrough but Emanuel Pogatetz, Mido and
Jeremie Aliadiere have all been passed fit.

MY
PREDICTION: Boro 2 – 0 Bolton

 

Portsmouth v Hull – 15:00

Both sides
go into this encounter on a poor run of form. Pompey have won one in six whilst
Hull's sensational start to the season threatens to be undone by a run of one
point from a possible 12.

Tony Adams
would have been hoping for a better start to his Premier League managerial
career, but his side has struggled of late. Still, a good win over Hull will
see Portsmouth leapfrog them in the table and consolidate their top half
position, but key personnel will be missing for the home side, as the team news
below shows.

Hull
surprised everyone at the start of the season and picked up some simply
outstanding victories. Many pundits claimed they had already amassed enough
points to survive, but Phil Brown will know differently. The Tigers are on a
shocking run and need to start collecting more points to avoid a sharp slide
down the league.

Sol
Campell, Niko Kranjcar and Lassana Diarra all miss out through injury for
Portsmouth. The visitors are sweating on the fitness of striker Daniel Cousin.

MY
PREDICTION: Portsmouth 1 – 1 Hull

 

Stoke v West
Brom

– 15:00

Both newly
promoted sides go into this clash after receiving thrashings last time out.
Stoke lost 5-0 at Old Trafford whilst West Brom were turned over 3-0 by
Chelsea.

This is
Stoke's first game against another one of the promoted teams and Tony Pulis
will want to continue their impressive start at the Britannia Stadium this
season. Pulis has admitted that a few heads were still dropped at training on
Monday following their defeat to Man Utd, but they will be back up for this
game.

West Brom
are struggling with life back in the Premier League and are on a dismal run and
have not won in six matches, picking up only a point in the process. Tony
Mowbray will see this game as a chance to improve on this terrible run, and may
even have one eye on a victory, but will also be aware of Stoke City's good
form at home. One piece of good news for Baggies' fans is with every team
beating everyone else they are only two points adrift of the safety zone and
are yet to be left behind.

MY
PREDICTION: Stoke 1 – 1 WBA

 

Aston
Villa

v
Man
Utd

-17:30

Villa will
go into this game full of confidence after securing a victory at the Emirates
last weekend, whilst United will know what is required of them to keep pace
with Liverpool and Chelsea as they will have already played by the time of the
kick-off at Villa Park.

Only a
point behind the Champions in the table is a great place to be, and many
experts believe that Martin O'Neill's Villa can be the team to challenge the
‘top 4.' But the Irishman has already stated he knows how much United love playing
at Villa Park and will be hoping his new breed of players can rewrite the
history books by recording another marvellous win against one of the title
contenders.

Sir Alex
Ferguson will not be resting on his laurels just because United are playing one
of their favoured opposition. A victory would be their 12th
consecutive win against Villa in the Premier League and would see them at least
keeping up with the teams above them.

Carlos
Cueller will be absent for Villa, but Nicky Shorey should return at left-back.
Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand may feature after missing England's friendly in
midweek but Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov definitely miss out.

MY
PREDICTION: Villa 1 – 3 Man Utd