Blogs & Opinion


Hell-Bent on Darren?

Merse gives his verdict on the festive fixtures

Paul Merson - Paul Merson Posted 23rd December 2011 view comments

You can follow all the Premier League action on Boxing Day and beyond on Sky Sports.

We've got three live matches for you with Stoke v Aston Villa on Boxing Day then Swansea v QPR and Norwich v Tottenham on Tuesday.

You can keep up to date with all of the other games on Sky Sports News HD and see extended highlights on Football First.

Bent: should he head back to London?

Bent: should he head back to London?

We asked Soccer Saturday expert Paul Merson to look at the fixtures and give us his verdict on where the games will be won and lost.

So read on for his shouts and don't forget to let us know your views in the comments box...

Chelsea v Fulham
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0

Fulham were very poor against Man United the other day, while I thought Chelsea were decent against Tottenham. Martin Jol's team did well at Stamford Bridge in the Carling Cup and anything can happen in a local derby, but I can't see anything other than a home win here.

Bolton v Newcastle
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-2

Newcastle have had injuries lately and lost a few games but I still fancy them to beat Bolton. Fabricio Coloccini struggled against Shane Long's pace during the defeat to West Brom but Bolton haven't really got many quick players. Plus, with Demba Ba up front Newcastle can always nick a game and I'd back him to do that against a poor home defence. I know Bolton got a big win against Blackburn, but I don't see them suddenly surging to safety.

Liverpool v Blackburn
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0

Liverpool's Achilles heel is putting the ball in the net and you aren't going to get in the top four if you don't do that - but they should rip Blackburn apart. The home side will play Yakubu up front on his own and it will only be a matter of time before Liverpool score. To be fair, Blackburn have been unlucky in a lot of games this season but you can't keep using that as an excuse for not getting results.

Man Utd v Wigan
PAUL PREDICTS: 4-1

Manchester United were rampant against Fulham and they should win on Boxing Day, too, However, Wigan have been outstanding recently. I couldn't see them getting anything out of Chelsea and Liverpool but they got draws in both matches and could even have beaten Chelsea. Victor Moses has played very well for them and has helped fill the void left by Charles N'Zogbia. He is a match-winner because he's very quick and very creative. He can't score for toffee but he will cause anybody problems. Still, Wigan will have to go some to get anything here.

Sunderland v Everton
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1

Everton are very inconsistent but they could easily go to Sunderland and win. It will be a difficult game for Sunderland because their fans will expect a victory to continue their good start under Martin O'Neill. I don't think they'll get that, but they are steelier now and I think they'll put another point on the board.

West Brom v Man City
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-3

West Brom have won their last two away games and I think they like playing on the road more than at home. They've got major pace with Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie up front and that really stretches teams on the counter attack. This could actually be like an away game for them because Man City will have more of the ball so that could work in their favour, but City look so good and you can't back against them.

Stoke v Aston Villa (7.30pm, Mon, Sky Sports HD1)
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-1

I'm glad that Marc Albrighton is back in Villa's starting line-up because they are a team that's all about width; 4-4-2, plenty of pace, two wingers, crosses in to the strikers. They've stopped doing that this season. I know they lost Ashley Young and Stewart Downing but Albrighton and N'Zogbia are players of similar ilk. Villa were very unlucky against Arsenal and it was probably the best game they have played this season. I think they can match a Stoke team who were beaten very heavily by Man City in midweek - but only if they defend set-pieces properly!

Arsenal v Wolves
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1

The goal Arsenal conceded against Villa was absolutely atrocious. If a little kid had made Per Mertesacker's mistake you'd be shocked but for an international player to do it was terrible. Wolves will test Arsenal because they do have a real go and normally raise their game against the big boys. They were unlucky to only draw with Norwich on Tuesday but I can't see them getting anything at the Emirates. I like Steven Fletcher, though, and I think he can help Wolves get a goal.

Swansea v QPR (4.30pm, Tue, Sky Sports HD1)
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0

Swansea don't win away from home so there is a bit of pressure on them here - but there's much more on QPR, who are on a real slide at the moment. It seems like they've got the funds to strengthen in January and they need to. They need a goalscorer and I wouldn't be surprised if they went for someone like Darren Bent. Villa are a much bigger club but Bent and QPR could be a good match. He needs to score goals to cement his place in England's Euro 2012 squad and the Hoops need someone to fire them to safety. QPR create more chances than Villa where, at the moment, Bent is feeding off scraps. That wasn't in the brochure when he joined.

Norwich v Tottenham (7.15pm, Tue, Sky Sports HD1)
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-3

Norwich have been outstanding this season. They've had a real go in every game, a la Blackpool, but they're much better than Ian Holloway's men were at the back; they get men behind the ball and break at the right time. They were bang unlucky at Wolves in the first half but by the end they could have lost the game and they did well to hold on for a draw, a point that could prove crucial at the end of the season. They'll give Tottenham a game. Spurs were brilliant in the first 20 minutes against Chelsea and you thought they were going to win by a cricket score, but they fell away a bit in the second half. When either of their wingers, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, are missing, they aren't the same team. Tottenham have no-one to replace them, while Man City have about 18 replacements if one of their star men gets injured. That's why I can't see Tottenham winning the league.

Comments (3)

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Alf Alf (Liverpool fan) says...

With the quality players that are in villa squad. a defensive manager like mcleish won't work...Ireland, Petrov, Bannan, Delph, Albrighton, Jenas, n'zogbia...all quality players that can try the tiki-taka with bent or delfouneso at front...a change for the villa or another indiferent season for a great club!

Posted 12:39 26th December 2011

Si Tatton (Aston Villa fan) says...

Darren Bent to QPR behave yourself, I agree Villa arn't playing that great at the minute But leave Villa for a tiny club is just laughable !

Posted 13:15 23rd December 2011

Philip Bembridge (Aston Villa fan) says...

no Merse, it was in the brochure when he joined because he was playing alongside Young and Downing until they left. McLeish has been trying to fidn the right formation for his team and so far it hasn't worked.

Posted 12:33 23rd December 2011

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