By Jake Davies
- Aston Villa feature in their first match since sacking Remi Garde
- Norwich and Newcastle meet in a fight to the death for survival
- Van Gaal’s Red Devils pursue the final Top 4 position
Aston Villa vs Chelsea
The Premier League returns this weekend starting with two under-performing outfits, although Chelsea have improved significantly under interim boss Guus Hiddink. Chelsea sit at 10th in the league table and are in sight of the European places. While their opponents Aston Villa are in turmoil. The powers that be sacked Remi Garde after just 147 days in the hot seat at Villa Park- the second manager they have sacked this season.
Aston Villa fans will be hoping the change will stimulate their crop of players, but the dismal run of form for this season’s entirety dictates how disastrous the Villa personnel have been. The problem for Aston Villa this season is the departures of big names like Christian Benteke to Liverpool and letting club captain Ron Vlaar leave and not replacing them accordingly. Benteke, a proven Premier League goalscorer at this level was replaced by a player playing good football in the second tier of English Football, which doesn’t seem rational to many football aficionados. Villa brought in defensive recruitments like Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott, but still have been shambolic defensively this season, letting in 58 goals in 31 league games. The most goals conceded in the Premier League unsurprisingly.
Chelsea go into this as favourites simply because Aston Villa can’t stop leaking goals this season and look increasingly likely for relegation into the Championship.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea
Norwich City vs Newcastle United
Norwich City have looked better in recent Premier League outings. Keeping two clean sheets against West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City, which heaps the pressure on Newcastle United and Sunderland in their bids to fight the drop. Newcastle United, on the other hand, are living on the edge as Sunderland were unlucky not to grab all 3 points in the Derby. New signing Aleksandar Mitrovic grabbed a late equalizer, which gives the Magpies hope that they can get out of the slump that they are in.
It’ll be a tense encounter between both teams, as neither will want to give an inch. We’ll most likely see both teams unwilling to open up the other, as Norwich and Newcastle should look to play not to lose, rather than to go for all 3 points. It’ll be about risk-management for both teams, particularly when you take into account the way typical Rafa Benitez teams have set up in the past. It’ll be about coming away with the point unscathed, rather than driving for the win that’s for certain.
Norwich are in the better run of form, but Newcastle will have a lot of hope considering their first win of the Premier League season came in a 6-2 trouncing of the Canaries back in October.
Prediction: Norwich City 1-1 Newcastle United
Manchester United vs Everton
Manchester United have underachieved under Louis Van Gaal considerably this season, showing very little energy, consistency and intent in a lot of the performances. But Van Gaal knows that achieving Top 4 status and claiming Champions League Football for a second season is crucial and pivotal to the decision-makers pulling the plug on his tenure at Manchester United Football Club.
Manchester United head into this match coming off a great team performance against Manchester City, where they virtually defended for 60 minutes, but got the result they were seeking. The main problematic feature to Van Gaal’s men is picking themselves up for the lesser teams in the Premier League and providing consistent results that matches the performances week in and week out. That’s the key feature that needs to improve drastically if Manchester United are going to steal the Champions League spot from Manchester City and West Ham.
Everton haven’t really progressed either under Roberto Martinez. The importance of Romelu Lukaku can’t be understated and with the news suggesting that Lukaku is striving for Champions League football next season, this could mean Everton will need to replace their star man for the 2016/17 season.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury and Ander Herrera is a slight doubt for this important Premier League game. Wayne Rooney also wil not feature as he continues his recovery from injury.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Everton
Full Weekend Fixtures
12.45: Aston Villa vs Chelsea
15.00: Arsenal vs Watford
15.00: Bournemouth vs Manchester City
15.00: Norwich City vs Newcastle United
15.00: Stoke City vs Swansea City
15.00: Sunderland vs West Bromwich Albion
15.00: West Ham United vs Crystal Palace
17.30: Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur
13.30: Leicester City vs Southampton
16.00: Manchester United vs Everton
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