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Prediction Panel 2007/8: Premier League 15.08.2007 - previews and predictions

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Antony Melvin


Antony Melvin is the squarefootball.net editor and spends his spare time sifting through needlessly abusive emails....
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15/08/2007 15:00:00.
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The two favourites for the title have very tricky away games tonight; Man United travel to Portsmouth who are always good at home and Chelsea travel to Reading where there was so much acrimony last season - and Chelsea will want a win to exact some revenge. Derby continue their season at Eastlands and Birmingham vs Sunderland could be an early pointer to the coming relegation scrap.

Birmingham (C2) vs Sunderland (C1), KO 19:45


This is the kind of fixture that promoted sides love and dread early in the season. Both sides will go into the match with expectations of victory - but knowing that defeat will leave a horrible yawning hole in their survival hopes. Last season Birmingham won one and drew one against Sunderland - but in recent years Birmingham have dominated this fixture - winning 5 and drawing 2 of the last 8 games played out over five seasons. In recent years this fixture has averaged just 1.5 goals - so don't expect a goal-fest.

Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth; Home
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Antony Melvin: Draw
Magic Hat; Draw

Fulham (16) vs Bolton Wanderers (7), KO 19:45


First Arsenal and now Bolton - the fixture computer has decreed that Lawrie Sanchez will start the season in difficult circumstances. This will be a game between a manager (Sanchez) and a team (Bolton) famed for their fondness for long passes - and if it goes to reputation it could turn nasty. But Sammy Lee wasn't a Liverpool player without learning the finer arts - and hopefully he will be turning Bolton into a more attractive footballing team. Fulham need to win their home games to avoid trouble - they may struggle tonight.

Paul Grech: Draw
Colin Illingworth; Home
Hugh Larkin; Home
Antony Melvin: Away
Magic hat; Home

Manchester City (14) vs Derby County (C3), KO 19:45


By the middle of August surely Sven Goran Eriksson's book of contacts will be running down - with more than 10 new recruits and several likely to be shown the door (if anyone will have them) this is a good time to be playing City because by Christmas they should be a formidable outfit. Whether Derby can benefit from this early season largesse will determine whether they can are likely to be competitive.

Paul Grech: Home Banker
Colin Illingworth; Home Banker
Hugh Larkin; Home
Antony Melvin: Home
Magic Hat; Home

Portsmouth (9) vs Manchester United (1), KO 19:45


A couple of sticky fixtures for the champions to open up with against two of the form teams of last season - first Reading and second Portsmouth. Harry Redknapp has recruited heavily in the summer and will expect to move up a couple of places and into a UEFA Cup spot as a result - so this will not be easy. Are United going to be complacent in the early part of this season? This fixture should provide an answer.

Paul Grech: Away Banker
Colin Illingworth; Draw
Hugh Larkin; Draw
Antony Melvin: Away
Magic Hat; Away

Reading (8) vs Chelsea (1), KO 20:00


There was an awful lot of bad feeling in this fixture last season and whatever the rights and wrongs of the challenges there will always be a measure of revenge in this fixture for Chelsea. Reading may struggle to retain the heights of last season and Jose Mourinho may mischief-make and give Steve Sidwell a start against the team that made him. Chelsea already have injury problems and this could get very rough.

Paul Grech: Away
Colin Illingworth; Away
Hugh Larkin; Away banker
Antony Melvin: Draw
Magic Hat; Away

Wigan Athletic (17) vs Middlesbrough (12), KO 20:00


Wigan are at the start of their third and, for too many pundits, their final season in the top flight but this is the kind of winnable game that Wigan will be targeting. In the last two seasons this fixture has seen honours even with a win each and two draws - interestingly not a home win to be found. Both teams are expected to be in the bottom six this season - so is this too early for a six-pointer?

Paul Grech: Home
Colin Illingworth; Home
Hugh Larkin; Away
Antony Melvin: Draw
Magic Hat; Away

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


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