Andy Gray & Richard Keys: EPL predictions - Week 16
In what is, arguably, the best match of the season so far, Manchester City take on league leaders Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium. Here Andy Gray and Richard Keys, who front Al Jazeera Sport’s English Premier League coverage discuss the game.
Andy Gray: Both sides will fancy this, which means it should be a belter. City have the best home record in the league; seven games, seven wins, 29 goals.
Arsenal have the best away record; seven games, five wins, a draw and their only defeat against Manchester United and they didn’t deserve to lose that, so this is set up for a fascinating encounter.
I always believe that in big games home advantage is decisive. For example, so far this season, Liverpool have beaten Manchester United at Anfield, United beat Arsenal at Old Trafford, Arsenal beat Tottenham at the Emirates and Man City beat United at the Etihad. So you can see the pattern is there.
City had a great result at Bayern Munich in midweek while the Gunners got beaten by Napoli but I don’t think those results matter one jot today when there is a totally different mind-set.
I think Arsenal will be better prepared for this match than they were for their visit to Old Trafford when it took them 45 minutes to get going against United. They won’t make that mistake this time but they have their work cut out against a very good City side.
The four players that Manuel Pellegrini left out of the Bayern Munich game, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are the four most important components of the Man City team.
They will all play today which means City will be rock solid right down the spine of the side and with David Silva back and Aguero and Negredo firing on all cylinders this will be the biggest test Arsenal have faced so far this season.
Arsene Wenger’s side has got enough top talent to worry City all over the pitch with Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, and Mesut Ozil. They have the ability to keep the ball away from City and if they can do that for long spells then it will nullify their attacking potency.
That’s why, although City look unbeatable at home, I think the Gunners will get something out of this. I’m going 1-1.
Richard Keys: My heart says Arsenal but my head tells me that they are due a little setback and City at home are a daunting prospect.
I don’t think Arsenal looked great against Napoli in the Champions League while City did well at Bayern although I was staggered that the manager didn’t realise they could have finished top of the group with one more goal.
However, they did win and because of that and the fact that they are at home and always seem to raise their game against the bigger sides I can see City winning.
There is no doubt that Arsenal are genuine title contenders and if they can come away with a draw it will be a magnificent effort. However, I think home advantage will be the key so I’m going 2-0 City.
CHELSEA v CRYSTAL PALACE
AG: I know Palace have looked better with Tony Pulis in charge but it’s one thing having a little bit more confidence and another beating Chelsea at home. I think Palace will be taken apart. 3-0.
RK: The gulf in class here is just too great despite the fact that Chelsea are nowhere near as good as Jose Mourinho would want. I don’t think he enjoys managing this Chelsea side and expect to see him move for new blood in the January transfer window. However, Palace won’t get anything out of this. 3-0.
TOTTENHAM v LIVERPOOL
AG: Spurs record against Liverpool is very good particularly at White Hart Lane. Liverpool are without Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard, two of their most influential players and Tottenham come into this game after a good win in midweek when Roberto Soldado scored a hat-trick which will have boosted his confidence and should earn him a start in this match. I can’t see anything but a Spurs victory. 2-1.
RK: I like this Tottenham side and don’t agree with those who say Andre Villas-Boas is not good enough to manage Spurs. Liverpool have surprised me by how well they have done but they will miss Sturridge and Gerrard. If Tottenham can keep Suarez quiet then they could win it but I think an entertaining game will finish 2-2.
ASTON VILLA v MAN UNITED
AG: The news that Robin van Persie is out for a month is a blow for United but they have Wayne Rooney back for this one. Villa Park is a very happy hunting ground for United but they are struggling at the moment. The pressure of qualifying for the Champions League is over so they can spend the next couple of months concentrating on their league form and I think they will be good enough to win 1-0.
RK: Villa are so bad at home that I think they should request to play this at Old Trafford. That way, they might have a chance. However, this is a poor United side desperately in need of an influx of new players to make them a force again. Because of that I’m saying 1-0 to Villa.
CARDIFF v WEST BROM
AG: I thought West Brom would be okay this season but they are struggling with a lack of firepower. Cardiff are also indifferent but home advantage will be key. 1-0.
RK: The Baggies are in real trouble now. One win in nine and they can’t score goals. I always fancy Cardiff at home. 2-1.
EVERTON v FULHAM
AG: Fulham got a decent win against Aston Villa last weekend but I still think they are average at best and I cannot believe an inform Everton will slip up against this side.
The slight risk is that having had great results against Manchester United and Arsenal they might fall into the complacency trap of thinking a home match against a side everyone expects you to beat will be a doddle and they will come unstuck. I don’t think that will happen so I’m going 2-0.
RK: I can see Everton winning this 4-0. In the last two weeks after the win at Old Trafford and the performance at Arsenal where they could have folded after they went behind but kept fighting to earn a well-deserved draw there is a real belief about them. If they get up a head of steam expect to see a poor Fulham side battered.
NEWCASTLE v SOUTHAMPTON
AG: After having a great start Southampton have stuttered a little bit but their confidence should be back up after they stopped the rot with a good draw against Manchester City last week. They face a Newcastle side coming off the back of a terrific win at Old Trafford so both teams will be up for this and I think we are going to see some goals. 2-2.
RK: Newcastle’s win at Old Trafford was fantastic but we saw against Man City last week that Southampton aren’t going to get beaten by too many sides so this should be a really good match. 1-1.
WEST HAM v SUNDERLAND
AG: I wouldn’t be paying money to watch this. Both teams are struggling to score goals and I fear for West Ham who are getting beaten too easily. Sunderland have been playing okay but still losing and that is the making of a side that’s going down. This is going to be a turgid game but I think the Hammers will nick it 2-1.
RK: I think West Ham are in real trouble and Sam Allardyce is favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job. I can’t see a goal in the Hammers and if they lose to Sunderland, which I think they will, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Allardyce sacked. 1-0 Sunderland.
HULL v STOKE
AG: Hull have a decent home record with just one defeat and they will be ultra-confident after beating Liverpool last time out. Stoke had a big win against Chelsea, which nobody saw coming, which relieved the pressure on Mark Hughes but I don’t think they will be able to put back-to-back wins together. 1-0 home win.
RK: Hull’s home record and the fact that have a solidity about them which they put to full effect against Liverpool makes them a very difficult side to beat. Stoke had a great win last week but the wheels will come off here. 2-1 home win.
NORWICH v SWANSEA
AG: Norwich boss Chris Hughton will be glad Swansea played in the Europa League in midweek while he had a week to train and prepare his team for this match. I think there will be goals in this with Norwich winning 3-1 because of home advantage and the fact that Swansea might be a little tired.
RK: I think Andy is right about this one with Swansea suffering from the after-effects of their European efforts in midweek. I think Norwich will grind out a 2-0 win.