Michael Owen vs The £10,000,000 Colossus
I don’t think anyone saw Sunderland’s 8-0 defeat at Southampton coming, and the problem for Colossus players now is deciding how Gus Poyet’s team will react to that humiliation when they face Arsenal on Saturday.
Will they roll over again, or was it just a one-off?
You would like to think that professional pride would dictate that Poyet will get a positive reaction from his players – and they are unbeaten at home this season – but it’s no given that they will get a result even if the level of performance and commitment improves.
Last season, they were thumped 5-1 at Tottenham and were beaten 1-0 at home to Everton in their next match.
So, for all that Arsenal have been largely unconvincing this season, I have to fancy them to win this comfortably. And they won this fixture 3-1 last season, as well as winning 4-1 at the Emirates.
So I take 2-0, 3-1 and Any Other Away (AOA) here.
In the next game in the Colossus, it was honours even between the two sides in the league last season, with West Brom winning this fixture 2-0 before losing 3-1 at Palace, and I think they could share the points here.
West Brom made a pretty moderate start to the season but they have really picked up recently, winning at Tottenham, perhaps unfortunate not to get a point at Liverpool and, of course, come here on the back of a 2-2 draw with Man Utd on Monday night.
But Palace haven’t been playing too badly either and have been scoring a lot more goals this season, as we saw in a 3-2 win at Everton.
So I go for a scoring draw here, either 1-1 or Any Other Draw (AOD). But if there is to be a winner you gave to fancy the home side, so I will add in 2-1.
One thing is for sure in El Clasico is that you get goals. Indeed, you have to go back 12 years to find the last goalless match between Real and Barcelona.
And while invariably three or more goals are scored in the games, it is rare for any of the sides to score four. In fact, Barca’s 4-3 win at Real Madrid in this fixture last season was the only time in their last 19 meetings had either side notched up an “Any Other” scoreline.
Real have lost twice this season and may be without Gareth Bale here, but they have looked in rude health with successive 5-0 league wins recently and I fancy them to nick a tight one, perhaps 2-1 or 3-2.
However, I will add in AOD too, as top of the table Barcelona are unbeaten in eight games, and of course a certain Luis Suarez is set to return, too.
It was good to see Ross Barkley back at the weekend, but that is bad news for Burnley, still winless after eight games and beaten 3-1 at home by West Ham last weekend.
Everton look to be coming good after a poor start to the season, beating Villa 3-0 last weekend, and I take them to win this 2-0 or 2-1.
Tottenham’s 4-1 loss at Man City in a crazy, wide-open game last weekend doesn’t tell half the story as that match could have finished 6-6. And the scoreline could have been very different had Tottenham converted their penalty to make it 2-2, and not had a man sent off soon after.
They are one of the most inconsistent sides in the league but, if they tighten things up at the back, then I think they could beat Newcastle by the odd goal, either 2-1 and 1-0.
Newcastle sit 18th in the table despite their badly-needed home 1-0 home win at Leicester last time but actually won here 1-0 last season. Judged on their overall form this season, I have to fancy the home side to edge it.
Man Utd v Chelsea is the game of the weekend, and I think it promises to be more disappointment for the home side as I fancy Chelsea to win this either 2-0 or 2-1.
These big games are where Jose Mourinho comes alive, and he doesn’t lose them too often. In fact, he’d probably settle for a draw right now and move on to QPR next weekend.
But, given the manner in which Man Utd have been playing for most of this season – and more, importantly how his side have been performing so ruthlessly – I have to think Chelsea will take all three points.
If the City-Tottenham was a crazy game, then the final 10 minutes or so of QPR’s 3-2 loss to Liverpool on Sunday was proper madcap stuff.
And even Villa, without a goal in four games since winning 1-0 at Liverpool, will be fancying their chances of finding the net after watching that.
But QPR showed enough against Liverpool – and they could have easily been 2-0 up at half-time there – to suggest that their second win of the season is achievable here. I go 2-1 to home side.
By Michael Owen