EPL Week 18: Bleacher Report Writers Make Their Expert EPL Picks

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIDecember 22, 2012

EPL Week 18: Bleacher Report Writers Make Their Expert EPL Picks

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    After a big week of Champions League and Europa League draws, we fix our attention back on the English Premier League this week for another week of football.

    All 20 teams will be out to prove their worth from last week—either continuing their good form or rectifying the mistakes that saw them drop points—with fascinating races developing at the top of the table, around the third and fourth positions, as well as for the relegation battle.

    With the Christmas and New Year festivities approaching and winter transfer window also, teams will know the importance of stringing together some important matches now so that they are in a good position to challenge later on in the season.

    Who do the Bleacher Report writers think will win and lose this weekend? Read on to find out all our predictions and tips for this weekend's Premier League action.

Leaderboard

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    For those not familiar with the way this works, each writer has to pick a team and a score for every match in the Premier League that week.

    A correct pick (e.g. Chelsea win) will earn them one point, and a correct score (e.g. Chelsea win 3-0) sees them earn three points.

    Also, for the next few weeks or so, our writers will try and predict the highest-scoring game of the weekend (the game that produces the most goals). Should there be two or three games that have the same highest total, then we will give out points to whomever picked any of those games. A correct pick will earn them five points.

    Let's take a look at our Bleacher Report experts and how their predictions have held up through the opening weeks of the competition. 

    Mohamed Al-Hendy
    (@Mo_Hendy)

    World Football Featured Columnist 135 points

    Dan Talintyre
    (@dantalintyre) 

    World Football Featured Columnist 125 points
    Joe Tansey
    (@JTansey90) 
    EPL Featured Columnist 125 points

    Mike Cummings
    (@MikeCummings37) 

    World Football Lead Writer 119 points
    Karl Matchett
    (@karlmatchett) 
    World Football Featured Columnist 113 points
    Sam Tighe
    (@stighefootball) 
    World Football Featured Columnist 109 points

    Will Tidey
    (@willtidey)

    World Football Editor and Lead Writer 95 points

Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal

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    Saturday, December 22, at 7:45 a.m. ET

    Kicking off the weekend's action is the high-flying Gunners, who will be buoyed by the recent activity that's taken place in the club during the past week or so.

    Not only did they thump five goals past a hapless Reading to move within a win of third-place Chelsea, the North London club also re-signed a stack of players and will look to secure some more as the transfer window approaches—giving them good confidence about themselves at the moment.

    They head to Wigan this week to take on a Latics side that has only won one of their past seven matches and slipped into the relegation zone with a loss to Norwich City last week. They'll no doubt be looking to improve here and have shown glimpses of form this season to suggest that they could do so—albeit nowhere near as consistent as they would have liked.

    Arsenal, on the other hand, have won back-to-back matches and have only one of their past seven Premier League encounters.

    Dan Talintyre Arsenal win 3-0
    Joe Tansey Arsenal win 3-1 
    Karl Matchett Arsenal win 3-2 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 1-1 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Arsenal win 3-1* 
    Sam Tighe Arsenal win 2-1 
    Will Tidey Draw, 1-1 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Manchester City vs. Reading

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    Bouncing back strong after their heartbreak defeat in the Manchester derby, Manchester City will be looking to make it back-to-back victories when they welcome lowly Reading to the Etihad Stadium.

    City are particularly tough to break down at home and have only been beaten once this season—a fact that looks unlikely to change here if the Royals' performance at home to Arsenal last week is any indication of how they'll play this weekend.

    Reading were simply woeful in defense and moved to last place on the Premier League ladder due to a win to Queens Park Rangers. They've now lost six straight matches and have conceded a league-high 36 goals on the season to date.

    This one isn't going to be a matter of whether or not Manchester City win but rather how much they will win by and with what ease they do so.

    Dan Talintyre Manchester City win 5-1*
    Joe Tansey Manchester City win 4-1 
    Karl Matchett Manchester City win 6-1* 
    Mike Cummings Manchester City win 2-0 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Manchester City win 3-0 
    Sam Tighe Manchester City win 4-0* 
    Will Tidey Manchester City win 4-0 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week


Newcastle United vs. Queens Park Rangers

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    Oh what a week it was for Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers!

    Winless through their opening 16 matches, the London club finally chalked up a win for the year with a 2-1 victory at home over Fulham and also moved off the bottom of the ladder in the process due to a loss by Reading at the hands of Arsenal.

    Rangers now find themselves just two wins from being outside the relegation zone and with the hope that they can still resurrect something from their season, though their trip north this week to take on Newcastle United at St. James' Park is shaping as a real test of character for Redknapp's men.

    The Magpies haven't been strong this season and their home ground hasn't been the fortress that we knew it once was, but they're still a tough side to break down and will be eager to get a result here following their defeat at home to Manchester City last weekend.

    Dan Talintyre Draw, 1-1
    Joe Tansey Newcastle win 2-1 
    Karl Matchett Newcastle win 2-1 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 1-1 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy QPR win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Newcastle win 2-0 
    Will Tidey Draw, 2-2 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Southampton vs. Sunderland

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    Southampton find themselves on the brink of being in the relegation zone this week as they take on Sunderland at St. Mary's Stadium, with only goal difference keeping them above Wigan Athletic, although they do have a game in hand on the Latics for later in the season.

    The Saints have shown at times such great promise in attack—only to fall in the final half an hour or so and drop all three points completely—and they'll be looking to chalk up a strong performance here against Martin O'Neill's men, who sit just one point ahead of them on the ladder.

    Sunderland haven't shown the defensive solidity that they did last season and were comfortably accounted for by Manchester United last weekend. They've won just two of their past 13 matches and have managed just one win on the road all year—making this week's match against Southampton a huge challenge for the Black Cats to overcome.

    Dan Talintyre Southampton win 2-1
    Joe Tansey Draw, 1-1 
    Karl Matchett Southampton win 2-0 
    Mike Cummings Southampton win 2-1 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Southampton win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Southampton win 2-1 
    Will Tidey Southampton win 1-0 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    With victory last weekend against Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur moved back into the top four of the Premier League table and into the elusive last Champions League position—a spot they'll be looking to solidify at home to Stoke City this week.

    Andre Villas-Boas' side are playing some good football following their embarrassing defeat in the North London derby over a month ago, with just their heartbreaking loss to Everton the only points they've dropped in their past five league matches.

    They'll welcome Stoke City to White Hart Lane this week in a match that promises to be a defensive battle—as always when the Potters take the field. Stoke have allowed the fewest goals all season—conceding less than one per game—but have also scored the fewest goals as well, which is meaning that much of their good work defensively isn't being as effective as it could be.

    Still, Stoke are on a surprisingly good run at the moment, undefeated through their last seven matches and will be a tough side for Spurs to break down this week.

    Dan Talintyre Draw, 0-0
    Joe Tansey Tottenham win 1-0 
    Karl Matchett Tottenham win 1-0 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 1-1
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Tottenham win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Tottenham win 1-0 
    Will Tidey Tottenham win 3-1 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

West Bromwich Albion vs. Norwich City

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    West Bromwich Albion's mighty run up the competition ladder has grounded to a screeching halt of late, with the Baggies winless through their past four matches now and dropping further points last weekend at home to West Ham—failing to find the back of the net in the process.

    They'll be looking to bounce back this week when they welcome Norwich City to the Hawthorns—a side that is one of the form teams in the competition of late.

    The Canaries chalked up another three points last week with a win over Wigan Athletic, making it three in a row at the moment and extending their unbeaten streak to 10 league matches—the longest such streak current in the English Premier League.

    Only Manchester United has more points in the last two months than Norwich—making this a very difficult match for Steve Clarke's men to bounce back into form. Having said that, nobody expected the Baggies to even be in seventh this late into the season, so they've already exceeded expectations; maybe they'll do so again this week at home.

    Dan Talintyre Norwich win 1-0
    Joe Tansey Norwich win 2-1 
    Karl Matchett Norwich win 2-1 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 1-1 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Draw, 1-1 
    Sam Tighe Draw, 1-1 
    Will Tidey Draw, 1-1 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

West Ham United vs. Everton

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    Saturday, December 22, at 10 a.m. ET

    Both West Ham and Everton picked up tough but valuable points on the road last week—Everton snapping up a 1-1 draw against Stoke (arguably the toughest road fixture available) whilst the Hammers finished with a scoreless draw against West Brom at the Hawthorns.

    They'll now head to Upton Park to play each other this week, with the Toffees desperate to move back into the top four of the competition with a strong performance here—particularly given the fact that Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea all face slightly tricky fixtures this week.

    Everton haven't lost in their past six matches, but have only won once in that time also whilst the Hammers have only recorded victory once in their past six as well. 

    Dan Talintyre Everton win 2-1
    Joe Tansey Everton win 2-0 
    Karl Matchett West Ham win 1-0 
    Mike Cummings West Ham win 1-0 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Draw, 1-1 
    Sam Tighe West Ham win 1-0 
    Will Tidey Everton win 2-0 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Liverpool vs. Fulham

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    Saturday, December 22, at 12:30 p.m. ET

    Liverpool were humiliated at home last week by Aston Villa in the upset of the round—going down 3-1 in the end and slipping back into the bottom half of the competition ladder in the process.

    Brendan Rodgers' men will be keen to bounce back this week with a strong performance against Fulham, who became the unlucky side to end QPR's winless streak—going down to the last-place side in the competition 2-1 and slipping to 13th position themselves.

    Having lost to QPR on the road last week, it's hard to see the Cottagers mounting too much resistance against the Reds at Anfield this week—particularly given the fact that the Merseyside club will be desperate to make amends for their poor performance from the week before.

    Fulham have held Arsenal and Chelsea to draws away from this year, however—showing that they can surprise a few teams when everything clicks together.

    Dan Talintyre Liverpool win 2-0
    Joe Tansey Liverpool win 3-2 
    Karl Matchett Liverpool win 3-0 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 2-2 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Liverpool win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Liverpool win 3-1 
    Will Tidey Liverpool win 3-2 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Swansea City vs. Manchester United

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    Sunday, December 22, at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Manchester United continued their winning ways last weekend, building on their victory in the Manchester derby by recording a 3-1 win at home to Sunderland.

    The Red Devils will look to make six wins in a row when they take on Swansea City at Liberty Stadium— a side that went down narrowly to Tottenham on road last weekend and could provide an interesting opponent for Sir Alex Ferguson's men this weekend.

    Swansea were beaten in their last home match by a hot Norwich City, but previously hadn't been beaten in their past five home affairs—taking points off Chelsea, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, respectively. They have the top scorer currently in the league in Michu and could well challenge the current league leaders in this one.

    Having said that, this is Manchester United; they have won five matches in a row and currently sit six points clear atop the Premier League ladder. They will enter this match as favorites, but you can't count out the Swans from making a surprise challenge here.

    Dan Talintyre Manchester United win 3-2
    Joe Tansey Swansea win 2-1 
    Karl Matchett Swansea win 1-0 
    Mike Cummings Manchester United win 3-2* 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Manchester United win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Manchester United win 2-0 
    Will Tidey Manchester United win 2-1 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week

Chelsea vs. Aston Villa

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    Sunday, December 23, at 11 a.m. ET

    The Premier League wraps up this week with Chelsea at home to Aston Villa, who stunned Liverpool at home last week and will be looking to do the same at Stamford Bridge this week.

    Christian Benteke is one of the most in-form players in the league at the moment and has the Villans playing some quality football—undefeated in their past six matches and making a surprise climb up the Premier League ladder in the process.

    Chelsea, on the other hand, have had some time off following their postponed game against Southampton—giving the eliminated European champions some much-needed rest from domestic action and the opportunity to get over any niggling injuries or knocks.

    They'll be fresh and fired up in front of the West London crowd here and, having only been beaten once at home all year, will no doubt enter this match as favorites. Still, one win from their past eight Premier League matches? Chelsea are by no means out of the words yet.

    Just ask Rafa Benitez.

    Dan Talintyre Chelsea win 2-1
    Joe Tansey Chelsea win 4-2* 
    Karl Matchett Chelsea win 2-1 
    Mike Cummings Chelsea win 3-1 
    Mohamed Al-Hendy Chelsea win 2-1 
    Sam Tighe Aston Villa win 2-1 
    Will Tidey Chelsea win 4-1* 

     

    *denotes highest scoring game of the week