Predicting Tuesday Night's EPL Games
It's back to league action, after an intense FA Cup weekend provided plenty of upsets to EPL teams.
The likes of Spurs and Liverpool do not have long to lick their wounds. However, it's Aston Villa who are first to get back on the horse, as they entertain Newcastle at Villa Park.
Manchester City, Swansea and Stoke are also back in action as a full midweek programme gets underway on Tuesday night.
Here's the way I see the fixtures going...
Aston Villa vs. Newcastle
Huge game for both managers, and probably one of the first "six-point" games of the season. These clubs would not have imagined they would be in a relegation battle this early into the season, but that's exactly where they find themselves.
Many will see this as a "must-not-lose" for Paul Lambert, after Villa were unceremoniously dumped out of both cup competitions inside a week at the hands of inferior opposition.
The knives are sharpening, and the Scotsman will be looking to the likes of Christian Benteke to help take him and the club up the table sooner rather than later.
Newcastle are also a club deep in trouble, although many will excuse some of the results due to the horrendous injury list Alan Pardew has had to deal with this season. Add to that the loss of Demba Ba, and it's inevitable the team sheet will be a lot weaker.
But a new love affair with France has yielded plenty of fresh faces, some of which will be unveiled straight away.
It will take time for them to integrate, but with Villa's defence being so leaky, the Magpies should have some joy going forward.
Prediction - Villa 2 Newcastle 2
QPR vs. Manchester City
Harry Redknapp knew he was walking into a volatile environment when he decided to take over the reigns at Loftus Road, but not even he could have anticipated the severity of results that have continued since his arrival—the latest being the embarrassing FA Cup exit at home to MK Dons.
Manchester City's frontmen have had to endure plenty of criticism so far this season, and the imminent departure of Mario Balotelli looks set to cloud over their plans.
But Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko will be licking their lips to get the starting nod from Roberto Mancini.
There are no signs of impending improvement from the R's, and whatever defence is selected, they will struggle to cope with the pace, movement and skill of City for 90 minutes.
Prediction - QPR 1 Manchester City 3
Stoke City vs. Wigan
Stoke will be delighted to get back to the Brittania in the league. Back-to-back heavy defeats at Chelsea and Swansea were a bit of a shock, due to the failure of the excellent defence that the Potters rely on week to week.
But that resilience looked to be coming back at the weekend, as Manchester City just escaped with a 1-0 win in a tight game that could have gone either way.
Roberto Martinez continues to do wonders at Wigan in what many people agree is the weakest squad in the EPL. But his motivation and coaching skills continually allow his players to overachieve season after season.
Saying that, they will find it very tough to go to the Britannia and get a result.
Geoff Cameron is likely to come back into the lineup and there may well be recalls for Charlie Adam, Peter Crouch and Matthew Etherington.
They should have more than enough for Wigan on this occasion, with a fantastic fixture list on the horizon.
Prediction - Stoke 2 Wigan 0
Sunderland vs. Swansea
Probably the most evenly matched of the four Tuesday fixtures sees Martin O'Neill's men desperate to build on their morale-boosting away win at Wigan a fortnight ago.
The game looks set to be played at a high tempo, as both teams sat out the FA Cup weekend. That could suit the likes of Adam Johnson and James McClean—should he be recalled for this one.
Steven Fletcher was magnificent at the DW Stadium, and if he continues to produce that kind of form on a more consistent basis, the $16 million price tag that many people initially baulked at may end up looking like a bargain.
But Swansea have their own talisman in Michu. The Spaniard has been inspirational during his first season and will duel it out with Robin van Persie for the coveted Golden Boot.
The Swans are on the back of an excellent 3-1 win at home to Stoke and another three points will see them go seventh.
It's not going to be easy at the Stadium of Light, but I expect them to score especially, with Carlos Cuellar still not fit enough to start.
Prediction - Sunderland 1 Swansea 1
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