Archive for April 2016

Bi-weekly match previews – Jason Pettigrove

Not too long now until we wind up the Premier League for another season.

Every game has something riding on it and you can watch them all on Here we look at six games in more detail:

Everton v Southampton

This game should be an absolute cracker for the neutral, if not for the two managers.

Both teams love to play an expansive and attacking brand of football that’s very easy on the eye.

The visitor’s have fared better during the campaign and still have European football in their sights.

Roberto Martinez’s side should be pushing for a Champions League spot with the quality of personnel he has in situ and it’s hard to put a finger on exactly where the Toffee’s have gone wrong in the campaign.

A long journey north could benefit the hosts but only if their defence is on point on the day.

For Romelu Lukaku, read Graziano Pelle. For Ross Barkley, read Saido Mane.

The Saints have as good a squad as any in the division and in Ronald Koeman, a manager that knows only how to play one way.

John Stones was once a nailed on England regular but on current form it’s doubtful he’ll make the Euros. Another poor showing here might well hand the win to the away side.

Newcastle v Swansea

Rafael Benitez showed his desperation last week when the Magpies were toothless in their defeat to Southampton.

The Spaniard is a great manager but he isn’t a miracle worker. Well, perhaps he was in Athens in 2005 but this is a wholly different scenario.

In a sign of what modern football has achieved, there are barely any players at the club who genuinely give two hoots whether they stay up or not.

As long as they’re getting their inflated wages at the end of each week, they’re happy.

But Newcastle have always been about much more than that and 55,000 proud Geordies at St. James’ Park will put them right on that score.

It’s a must win game for Benitez and Co. as Norwich start to disappear over the horizon and with the games running out for the north east club to make a late surge for safety.

Swansea were, at one stage, staring into the abyss and although they haven’t had the best of seasons, far from it, they’ve managed to claw themselves out of the dogfight in good time, and can relax going into this one.

The frustration from the home support will only grow as the pressure gets too much for some.

Chelsea v Man City

There was a time when the games between these two heavyweights would be gold standard Premier League fare.

Not anymore.

Both have fallen from grace significantly this season, and both new incoming managers have a job on their hands to get either club back to where they belong.

By the time this game comes around, City will know whether they’ve entered the semi final stages of the Champions League for the first time or not.

They’re just about clinging onto the qualifying place for next season’s competition at this stage and arguably Pep Guardiola wouldn’t have countenanced a Europa League tilt when agreeing to take over.

The Blues aren’t even in the spots for European football’s ‘other’ competition, so a win here is imperative for Guus Hiddink.

Antonio Conte won’t enjoy managing a club out of Europe but given that they are in a transistional period, a 12-month hiatus might not be such a bad thing.

Bournemouth v Liverpool

Liverpool are finally beginning to get back to somewhere near their swashbuckling best.

Jurgen Klopp always said to judge him at the end of his contract, or at the very least, the end of the current campaign.

There’s enough in the current set-up to see that the German is taking the Reds in the right direction.

Superb showings against both Spurs and Dortmund, despite not winning either game, gave the locals something to chew over, and getting over the line in games will be Klopp’s immediate focus.
With some studious transfer activity over the summer, there’s no reason why Liverpool won’t be challenging come this time next season.

A Europa League spot beckons at this point as they fight it out with a handful of clubs in these next few weeks.

Eddie Howe will be delighted how this debut Premier League season has gone.

At one time, Bournemouth were looking every inch the club that all supporters loved because of their philosophy but they just weren’t good enough for the top flight and would go back down to the Championship with their heads high.

To Howe’s credit, nothing of the sort has happened and the Cherries have rallied to the extent that they now sit in 11th in the table and well clear of relegation.

They’ll give the visitors a game at the Vitality Stadium too.

Leicester v West Ham

Who’d have thought at the beginning of this season that a fixture between these two sides would take top billing, with respect?

The Hammers are just starting to rock on their heels a little and although Slaven Bilic’s focus remains heavily on the FA Cup, should his side get knocked out or not win the trophy outright, it’s beginning to look less and less likely that West Ham could enjoy a Europa League campaign in their debut season at the Olympic Stadium.

Leicester by contrast will be mixing it with the big boys in the Champions League unless we say a collapse of truly epic proportions.

Another victory against Sunderland, more importantly another shut out, saw that the Foxes could relax for another week in their lofty perch.

This could be one of the games of the season between two very evenly matched sides and it’s not far off the mark to describe the hosts as the irresistible force, their visitors the immovable object.

West Ham have some superb physical specimens in their ranks who’ll ensure that Leicester have to work for a result.

Stoke v Tottenham

The Potters were well beaten at Anfield last time out and Mark Hughes will be looking for a reaction from his staff.

It would be a little unfair to suggest that his team have over performed this season but they have surprised many by the culture of their football.

Smooth transitions, quick and accurate passing, a more continental style of play….all a far cry from the days of lumping it forward to Peter Crouch.

It’s that kind of change that has given Stoke hopes of getting into Europe but they have to pick up as many points as possible between now and then and hope their closest rivals – Liverpool, West Ham, Southampton – all slip up.

It’s a big ask and they certainly wouldn’t want high-flying Tottenham up next on the calendar.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been the best team to watch in the division this year. Their vibrant football has harked back to yesteryear when the likes of Hoddle and Ardiles were in their pomp.

In Harry Kane they have a marksman supreme and as we head into the European Championships, he’ll be keen to show Roy Hodgson that he has to be a starter.

Other live games available on are: Manchester United v Aston Villa, West Brom v Watford, Arsenal v Crystal Palace and Norwich v Sunderland.

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Bi-weekly match previews – Jason Pettigrove

I find it astonishing that people are still questioning whether Leicester have what it takes to win the Premier League.

The Foxes have won at least two games more than anyone else, have lost just three times all season and are just two goals shy of top-scorers Tottenham. Oh yeah, and they just happen to be five points clear with seven games left to play.

About time to give Claudio Ranieri and his players a little more respect don’t you think?

There are some intriguing games in this round of fixtures, none more so than a classic top flight match up at Anfield.

Let’s take a look at four of the games on offer, all of which can be watched via our friends at

Manchester United v Everton

This could be the first of two fixtures between the sides in April.

If United manage to overcome West Ham in the last ever cup tie to be played at Upton Park, then they’ll face the Toffees for the right to meet Crystal Palace or Watford in the final.

Looking that far ahead will be a mistake of course.

Louis Van Gaal hasn’t been sacked yet, nor will the United board commit to announcing Jose Mourinho as his replacement. But the Dutchman is a dead man walking.

If anything, it’s Everton that are playing the swashbuckling style of football that the Old Trafford faithful crave.

Unfortunately for Roberto Martinez, for all of their attacking verve and spirit, and despite having some of the best young players in their ranks, Everton just aren’t good enough in defence.

John Stones was once touted as the replacement for John Terry at Chelsea. Barcelona were even said to be interested in his services. But the 21-year-old clearly has a lot of maturing to do as a player.

His battle with Anthony Martial could author the outcome to this one.

At this point it’s arguable that the Red Devils are in greater need of the points than their visitors.

Currently out of the Champions League places, they could fall out of European contention altogether with a couple of poor results.

The two clubs immediately below them, Southampton and Stoke City, are just three and four points behind and playing well.

Mourinho’s tenure could therefore end up starting on the worst possible footing. What big names would want to go to the Theatre of Dreams knowing that they can’t showcase their talents on the biggest stage?

West Ham v Crystal Palace

Nothing would give Alan Pardew greater pleasure than putting one over his old employers, especially when they’re enjoying arguably their most successful period since Pardew himself was in charge at Upton Park.

Slaven Bilic has transformed essentially the same crop of players, with one or two expert additions. Also rans to European contenders in the space of 12 months, and one game away from the FA Cup semi finals.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

The Eagles were flying high at one stage and were as high as sixth position. However, they’ve fallen way down the pecking order over the last couple of months and whilst they’ll not go down, the lack of fight will concern the manager.

We can expect the south Londoners to rough their east London brethren up a little and do their utmost to knock them out of their stride.

That won’t sit well with a capacity Boleyn crowd who are praying that Bilic can squeeze every last ounce of commitment out of his players and make Champions League football a reality for the first season at the Olympic Stadium.

Emanuel Adebayor will prove, as always, to be a tricky customer, and Yohan Cabaye has the skills to mirror Dimitri Payet’s influence for the Hammers.

Arsenal v Watford

Can lightning strike twice at the Emirates Stadium? Gunners fans will hope not because another surprising win for the Hornets will severely dent their hopes of a top four finish.

At present Arsene Wenger’s side have a healthy four-point gap over Manchester City but they play a Watford side who need just one more win to hit the safety mark of 40 points for the season.

Given the limited funds available to Quique Sanchez Flores, some Premier League stability will be the best indicator of his acumen in the role.

Arsenal haven’t been used to looking upwards and finding arch rivals and near neighbours Tottenham above them, and as things stand at the moment there are six points between the pair.

Spurs have a tricky away fixture to overcome so this represents a perfect opportunity for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud et al, to fire the Gunners to something approaching where they should realistically be in the table, given the quality of their exponents.

The ‘Wenger Out’ brigade have been in full voice since their last humbling at the hands of this opponent. The noise will become a cacophony of sound if the Frenchman is unable to inspire yet again.

Liverpool v Tottenham

The quality of Jurgen Klopp’s starting line up will be an indicator of how seriously he takes the Europa League.

A date at this former club Borussia Dortmund follows this clash just four days later and whilst most are expecting the Germans to dump the Reds out over two legs, if anyone has the keys to that particular lock it would be Klopp.

Injuries have played the fullest part in Liverpool’s team selections to this point and although managers never like to use excuses, it’s reasonable to infer that the club would be placed higher if Daniel Sturridge and others weren’t in and out of the side so frequently.

Spurs arrive on Merseyside as one of the favourites for the title and in Harry Kane have one of the form strikers in the division.

Any Leicester slip up at this stage gives Mauricio Pochettino and co. more than a sniff of silverware, given that it would bring the Lilywhites to within two points of the leaders.

Man for man, Tottenham arguably have the best young side in the division and their football isn’t too different to the ‘rock and roll’ high octane gegenpressing that Klopp enjoys.

It promises to be a fantastic game of football and one that could have a huge impact on the destination of the title this season.

Other games available on (please check our listings for channel details) are: Aston Villa v Chelsea, Sunderland v West Brom, Stoke v Swansea, Norwich v Newcastle, Bournemouth v Man City and Leicester v Southampton.