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Prediction Panel 2007/8: Premier League 11.08.2007 - previews and predictions


Antony Melvin

Antony Melvin is the squarefootball.net editor and spends his spare time sifting through needlessly abusive emails....
[full biography]
10/08/2007 15:00:00.
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The season kicks off with a series of intriguing clashes. Can Liverpool win at a tough venue like Villa Park; will big Sam get the better of little Sammy as Allardyce takes Newcastle to Bolton; and will the promoted Sunderland and Derby be reaching for plan B next week? My match of the day is in east London where Sven Goran Eriksson manages his first English club game after spending tens of millions in the summer - and facing another big spender in West Ham. But who will be the fiddler on the roof?

Aston Villa (11) vs Liverpool (3), KO 17:15

Aston Villa are one of the more competitive home teams and only coughed up three points at Villa Park to four teams in the league last season, three of them during a desperate run-up to Christmas and one in the spring. But defeats to Man United, Arsenal, Bolton and, err, Man City show that they are not easily beaten. But this is the perfect fixture for Rafa Benitez to open up his new model red army and attack to victory. Or will it be another re-run of the cagey don't-lose-at-all-costs approach that have derailed many recent title tilts? The title race could be blown wide open in this one fixture - after unveiling his King Charles-like facial hair, surely it can't still be Rafa the Roundhead? Can it?

Paul Grech: Draw
Colin Illingworth: Draw
Kieran McHugh: Away
Antony Melvin: Draw
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Bill Urban; Away
Magic Hat: Away
Stephen Orford: Draw

Bolton Wanderers (7) vs Newcastle United (13), KO 15:00

Two teams that are widely tipped to swap positions as Sam Allardyce returns to the club that gave him his shot at the England manager's job and allowed him to build a reputation that encouraged Newcastle to stay with a British manager. Bolton are in the UEFA Cup and that distraction could cost Bolton's rookie-manager, Sammy Lee quite a few points - and surely Allardyce will do something with Newcastle's defence, once he has stopped buying forwards. This will be tight as a lot of Bolton players may feel they have something to prove to their old boss.

Paul Grech: Home
Colin Illingworth: Away
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Kieran McHugh: Away
Antony Melvin: Draw
Bill Urban; Draw
Magic hat; Home
Stephen Orford: Draw

Derby County (C3) vs Portsmouth (9), KO 15:00

Most pundits feel that this will be a single season in the top flight for The Rams - but they are an obdurate side that rarely concedes goals. Whilst Portsmouth are absorbing quite a number of new faces. Harry Redknapp is a master at buying or selling a dozen players in a couple of months and yet still having a competitive side - but Derby will be desperate to avoid defeat and may play for a 0-0; a result that may suit both sides.

Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth: Away Banker
Hugh Larkin; Home
Kieran McHugh: Draw
Antony Melvin: Draw
Bill Urban; Away
Magic Hat; Home
Stephen Orford: Away

Everton (6) vs Wigan Athletic (17), KO 15:00

Everton have struggled to recruit some of their targets this summer as transfer inflation has been too hot for David Moyes. But they are more likely to pick up a couple more players in the next couple of weeks and by the time this piece is published may have recruited Leighton Baines from Wigan. Wigan are most pundits idea of relegation shoo-ins - inexperienced manager, struggling to recruit and coaching a side that barely escaped the drop last time. Everton are a good home team and will expect to win by a couple of goals.

Paul Grech: Home Banker
Colin Illingworth: Draw
Hugh Larkin; Home
Kieran McHugh: Home Banker
Antony Melvin: Home Banker
Bill Urban; Home
Magic Hat; Home
Stephen Orford: Home

Middlesbrough (12) vs Blackburn Rovers (10), KO 15:00

A summer of uneasy recruitment has left Middlesbrough bereft of the weighty Yakubu/Viduka partnership - and if Yakubu goes too then there must be a danger of relegation. A late run pushed Boro eight points clear of the drop - winning the last two putting a little more distance between them and the drop than seemed likely. Before that late flourish only two wins since January had dragged Boro down. Blackburn started slowly and gathered pace through the season almost as if the Lucas Neill affair was holding them back. A late dart for Europe proved too late but Mark Hughes will be expecting to move his team a little closer to the top six this season - and that means winning games like this. Middlesbrough finished as the top north-east club last season, Blackburn were fifth within the proper Lancashire boundaries.

Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth: Away
Hugh Larkin; Away
Kieran McHugh: Away
Antony Melvin: Draw
Bill Urban; Home
Magic Hat; Home
Stephen Orford: Away

Sunderland (C1) vs Tottenham Hotspur (5), KO 12:45

Roy Keane would be forgiven for thinking that this management lark is an easy one. But after a series of expensive recruits and a fair few snubs will Sunderland fare better than in their recent horrible seasons? It would be difficult for Sunderland to do worse and I would expect a mid-table finish on about 50 points - but whether the side will gel quickly is another matter. Money is no problem at Spurs and if they can take their late season form (unbeaten in seven) and goals (15 in the last 7 games) into this fixture they will surely expect to get their bid for a top four spot under way.

Paul Grech: Draw
Colin Illingworth: Away Banker
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Kieran McHugh: Draw
Antony Melvin: Away
Bill Urban; Home
Magic Hat; Away
Stephen Orford: Away

West Ham United (15) vs Manchester City (14), KO 15:00

These two finished a point apart as West Ham roared to safety and City spluttered towards the end of Stuart Pearce's ill-starred tenure. Both sides have been rebuilding extensively and expensively in 2007 - so what the line-ups will be is difficult to guess. If I had to guess I'd say that City's vastly changed team may start the season with a few communication problems - but will improve as Eriksson's signings gel. Whereas West Ham will probably carry their 2006/7 momentum into the new season. Interestingly City scored more away goals than Liverpool did last season.

Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth: Home
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Kieran McHugh: Home
Antony Melvin: Home
Bill Urban; Home
Magic Hat; Home
Stephen Orford: Away

(The 'Banker' games are the ones that our panelists are most sure of. Last season's finish in brackets.)

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