Here we are again after another hard week of grinding and hustling; the weekend is finally upon us, so we can kick off our shoes and relax our feet because we have got some big games coming up across the world. This weekend is a landmark weekend in many ways; in London, Arsenal’s greatest manager celebrates 20 years in charge of the Gunners; Manchester United seek to bounce back from back to back defeats in the Premier League; there are landmark clashes in Turkey and Italy whilst in Nigeria, the final push for the league title enters its penultimate weekend.
Arsenal v Chelsea
Hate him or Love him; Arsene Wenger is arguably Arsenal Football Club’s greatest manager; this is obviously despite the jury still been out on him not conquering Europe yet; but you cannot fault the man and the impact he has had on English football as a whole. On Top Radio’s Sports Cafe on Thursday; I tagged Arsene Wenger a revolutionary; his coming to England changed the way many managers viewed the game including the Legendary Alex Ferguson; introduction of diverse training methods, a different style of man management (remember the continuous and insistent denials in seeing a tackle or major decision as it concerned his team); introduction of specific and rigorous dietary regiments on his players; the evolution of the Gunners from the boring 1-nil to the Arsenal to a team that mixed quick, zippy and exquisite passing with a huge burst of pace and speed; Wenger’s teams were notorious for putting teams to the sword within the first twenty minutes of a game, it was always brilliant to watch.
In the Saturday late Kick off at the Emirates; Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years as manager at Arsenal Football Club; the French man has seen it all in football, but unfortunately for him Chelsea come visiting not bearing gifts at all other than to be party spoilers and this is they have done before. On the occasion of Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th game; a visit to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea was on the cards and we know there’s no love lost between both manager’s; decked in his new Suit and Tie; Arsene Wenger and Arsenal were on the end of a spanking.
Chelsea have dominated this fixture for many years with the only Arsenal victory that comes to mind been in the Community Shield from last season. Now this is a Chelsea team seeking an identity under Antonio Conte, looking for defensive solidity and midfield balance. The Italian manager has also transferred his never say die attitude to the team as Chelsea recorded victories with some late rallies in the first few games of the season; the team is still yet to play in the Conte mold, but you can see the progress and you can be rest assured that the players would maintain the same intensity and desire going into a game against Arsenal.
The Gunners have only one win in their last eleven meetings with Chelsea; this inspires very little hope that the North London team can get a result against the Blues. It has been quite customary for Chelsea to dominate matches between both sides and I do not think this would be any different especially if Cesc Fabregas gets a start after a great performance in the EFL Cup in mid week. I think its high time; Antonio Conte made a decision relating to the lack of creativity in the middle of the pack from his team; Chelsea seem like a team with a lot of buzz but very little cutting edge in midfield; the introduction of Fabregas is a welcome addition and variation with Oscar my preferred fall guy.
In all of this; a keenly contested and entertaining game is expected from both sides; it would be interesting to see the adjustments both managers decide to make with Arsenal having many options of combinations in their midfield and Chelsea’s ongoing injury worries in defense.
Prediction: Looks like a draw for me; potentially a 1-1 draw.
Betting Punt: Chelsea Win/Draw
Manchester United v Leicester City
Jose Mourinho seems like a dead man walking; the feeling of de ja vu must be giving the Portuguese gaffer sleepless nights and of course the media have had a filled day with varying headlines and criticisms of his players. Jose has labelled some of them Einstein with some other Premier League managers throwing some support his way, but really it doesn’t change the fact that Jose’s United team is struggling and in need of a kick in the back side to get things going.
Leicester City come calling as defending champions but with a mixed start to the season and an early exit from the EFL Cup puts their season in proper perspective especially with their Champions League Campaign getting off to a great start. Leicester would look to bounce back from the mid week defeat to Chelsea; expect Ismail Slimani to make a return to the starting line up after an impressive debut in a much deserved win for the Foxes. Claudio Ranieri seems to have settled on a line up especially with the huge gap left by the departure of N’Kolo Kante, which the presence of Daniel Amartey has helped to reduce the effects of his absence.
Jose Mourinho is rumoured to be considering sending its side out without club captain Wayne Rooney after intense pressure and criticism from the media and United fans alike. You can expect a number of changes to the Red Devils going into this vital and pivotal game as I cannot remember Manchester United losing three straight league games. The likes of Carrick and Herrera are expected to keep their shirts in the starting eleven after strong performances in midweek. Manchester United haven’t lost to Leicester City at Old Trafford since 1998 and have lost only once to the Foxes in their last fourteen meetings; seems easier said than done for a United victory. For victory to be guaranteed; the United set up has to be better, more balance, quicker passing and some ruthlessness upfront.
Prediction: Tough call, but I think Manchester United should Win
Betting Punt: Manchester United win
Besiktas v Galatasaray
With last season’s triumph as Turkey’s top club and the breaking of the duopoly that exist between Fenerbache and Galatasaray; Besiktas have somewhat taken off from where they left off last season aiming to retain their title with a squad that seems much stronger than any composition in the entire Super League.
With a chance to go top of the table available for both clubs; it is expected that both teams will go all guns blazing, it is expected that Besiktas would have the upper hand in this one with players like Eren Derdiyok and Cenk Tosun expected to shine and light up the match.
The Home team would look to milk the support from the home crowd who turn the stadium to a colourful and noisy; the visitors for me have been disappointing for me in their play, but with this been their toughest battles, a victory would give the Gold and Red a huge boost of confidence.
Prediction: Close game expected; but Besiktas should shade this one
Betting Punt: Besiktas Win/Draw
Fiorentina v AC Milan
AC Milan won back to back games for the first time since February, 2016; the signs are ominous for a potential revival at the Rossinerri; Carlos Bacca is scoring goals, Donnaruma is shutting teams out and showing maturity far beyond his age, but they come up against a resilient Fiorentina side that ground out a late winner against Roma and fought back twice against Udinese; they don’t know how to lie down.
Milan have won both of their last two matches in games that last season they would have dropped points to the likes of Sampdoria and Lazio. Vincenzo Montella is gradually putting a compact team together, hopefully when the necessary and expected January investments come in they would be on the right track, It is imperative he has funds to spend in January to potentially rid the instability at the club at this point.
Like every top flight Serie A game, you can be rest assured that it would be a balanced game between two teams who have found form in recent weeks and looking to build on it; victory for either side provides a solid platform to boost morale and ambition for either side.
Prediction: With the current form of both teams, its difficult to separate both sides.
Betting Punt: Draw
FC Ifeanyi Ubah v Enyimba
Its the Penultimate weekend to probably the most competitive run in to the title in recent memory, with as many as four teams still in with a chance of been crowned champions of the Nigerian Professional Football League. Rangers International, Rivers United, Wikki Tourist and FC Ifeanyi Ubah are still in contention for the league title and are separated by just four points with two games to go.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah go into their last home game of the season with defending champions Enyimba visiting in what is an Oriental derby that would either move FCIU closer to the title, a continental slot or as an also ran. With the investments made in the team by controversial billionaire businessman; nothing short of a CAF Confederation Cup slot will be accepted as a minimum reward for a long and hard season filled with different types of issues for the team and their owner.
Enyimba have been quite disappointing this season and I wont be surprised if there are wholesale changes at the team in the off season; a poor showing in the CAF Champions League did very little to boost their reputation; however as we have always known of Enyimba, they are always in contention and still have the Federation cup to fight for; interestingly the final may be between both teams going head to head this weekend.
Enyimba have won only two of their last seven matches; which eventually put paid to the title aspirations they were having; this poor also reflects in their last four games, where they are winless in four; dropping points to teams in the relegation positions like MFM and Ikorodu United.
Ifeanyi Ubah have lost two of their last six and these have been away from home; so their home comforts remain true and they would seek to use this to their full advantage to ensure that they push the battle for the title to the final day.
Prediction: Close game expected; I believe FC Ifeanyi Ubah will win this
Betting Punt: FC Ifeanyi Ubah Win/Draw