EPL Week 26: Bleacher Report Writers Make Their Expert EPL Picks

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIFebruary 8, 2013

EPL Week 26: Bleacher Report Writers Make Their Expert EPL Picks

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    The English Premier League chugs along into Week 26 as we rapidly approach the final third of the competition with the big questions still remaining.

    Can Manchester City catch Manchester United in the race for the title, or will Sir Alex Ferguson's men once again prove their English dominance?

    Who will finish inside the top four this season? Will it be Rafa Benitez's struggling Chelsea or Arsene Wenger's inconsistent Arsenal that miss out? Can Tottenham Hotspur move on from their heartbreak of last season with a Champions League berth?

    Will Liverpool catch Everton, or it will it be the blue half of Merseyside this year?

    Can Harry Redknapp keep Queens Park Rangers alive, or are they destined for relegation? If so, who's going to join them? Reading? Sunderland? Aston Villa?

    As I said, lots of questions still remain unanswered.

    Read on to see how Bleacher Report writers answer those questions and more as they make their weekly predictions for the Premier League.

    * NOTE: At the time of writing, Sam Tighe's selections had not been entered, and he automatically received a 2-0 home win for every match as a result. These selections could be changed prior to start time upon request.

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

    Also, for the next few weeks or so, our writers will try to predict the total number of goals scored over the course of the round—predicting whether the goals will be "over" or "under" a determined amount.

    For example, the goal limit might be set at 28.5 goals. Our writers will predict whether there will be (a) 28 goals or fewer or (b) more than 29 goals over the weekend. A correct selection will earn them five points, with the total goal amount changing from week to week.

    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 World Football Featured Columnist 210 points
    Dan Talintyre World Football Featured Columnist 206 points
    Joe Tansey World Football Featured Columnist 192 points
    Mike Cummings World Football Lead Writer 183 points
    Karl Matchett World Football Staff Writer 181 points
    Sam Tighe World Football Tactical Analyst 174 points
    Will Tidey World Football Editor & Lead Writer 167 points

Over/Under Goals Total for the Week

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    As mentioned before, every week our writers will try to predict the total number of goals scored over the course of the round.

    This week's total goals:

    28.5 goals.

    Picking over 28.5 goals for the week

    Joe Tansey, Mike Cummings, Karl Matchett

    Picking under 28.5 goals for the week

    Dan Talintyre, Mohamed Al-Hendy, Sam Tighe, Will Tidey

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle United

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 7:45 a.m. ET

    After starting the season with a win against Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United have dramatically declined with inconsistent form and mediocre attacking largely at fault.

    Those problems seemed to have turned a corner with their purchases over the winter transfer window, with their new signings performing brilliantly in a shock 3-2 win over Chelsea last week.

    The Magpies will now face an even bigger test when they travel to White Hart Lane this week to take on Tottenham, who have only lost one match from their last 13 fixtures—an away trip to Goodison Park where they were defeated narrowly in the final minutes.

    Andre Villas-Boas' side are certainly playing some quality football right now and will be tough to break down at home. Having said that, Newcastle do already have a win over Spurs to their name this season and are much more prepared for this than they were, say, a month ago, which means we're no doubt set for a very interesting matchup indeed to kick off the weekend.

    Mohamed Al-Hendy Tottenham win 2-1 
    Dan Talintyre Tottenham win 2-1
    Joe Tansey Tottenham win 2-1 
    Mike Cummings Draw, 2-2 
    Karl Matchett Tottenham win 4-3 
    Sam Tighe Tottenham win 2-0 
    Will Tidey Draw, 1-1 

Chelsea vs. Wigan

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

    After a heartbreaking loss in the final minutes to Newcastle United this week, Chelsea will be looking to right their wrongs at home to Wigan Athletic.

    The Latics are winless from their last five and sit inside the relegation zone in 18th position, meaning they really shouldn't be too much of a challenge here for the reigning European champions.

    But if we've seen anything from Chelsea this year, it's that nothing can be taken for granted, with even the 20th-placed Queens Park Rangers picking up a victory at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.

    Expect Rafa Benitez to have his side more than ready to face their opponents here and play the attacking football which we know they can do. Will complacency still slip into the Blues' players here, and can Wigan pull off another shock upset at the Bridge? 

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

Norwich City vs. Fulham

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

    Norwich City will be looking to win their way out of their current form streak when they take on Fulham at Carrow Road this weekend.

    Having gone on a great winning streak at home earlier in the season, the Canaries have hit a rough patch of form lately—winless through their past eight matches—and must now try to regain their form against an ever-growing Fulham side.

    The Cottagers almost got a point at Manchester United last week and picked up a handy win over West Ham the week before that; now they've got to try to take that form on the road here and win at a venue that several of the top teams struggled at during the year.

    Norwich aren't in the greatest form but are typically strong at home, so it will be interesting to see how Martin Jol's men fare in this one.

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

Stoke City vs. Reading

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

    Reading will be looking to make it five games without a loss as they seek to continue their excellent run away from the relegation zone in 2013.

    The Royals—backed by super-sub Adam Le Fondre—have won three of their last four and have suffered just one loss in their past seven matches. However, they face a very difficult encounter this week when they take on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium—typically one of the toughest road trips in the league.

    Stoke went down 1-0 to Arsenal last week without offering too much in attack here, and it seems the question to decide this one as well will be how Reading's attack will fare against a consistently strong and disciplined defensive unit.

    If there's a time to beat the Potters this year, it seems like now, with Tony Pulis' side winless through their last six matches for the first time this season.

    Can Reading continue their survival plan with a remarkable result here?

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

Sunderland vs. Arsenal

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

    Arsenal closed the gap on Everton and Chelsea last week in the race for a top-four finish and will be looking to get even closer to that European position with a strong win this week in the Premier League.

    The Gunners are seemingly in good form following the winter transfer window and will be pushing for four matches without a loss this week—something that their opponents Sunderland were also going for last week before losing 2-1 to Reading in the final minutes.

    The Black Cats are notoriously strong at home this year, having conceded 12 goals at the Stadium of Light so far this year and just two in their last five.

    They'll no doubt be a big test for the attack of the North London club therefore, which has come under increasing criticism this year for not firing when it needs to. A consistent and strong performance here might just quell the doubters, whilst another slip-up will not only raise those concerns once more, but also rob the Gunners of any momentum that they have right now.

    Everton and Tottenham Hotspur both could drop points this week, so this one could well turn out to be a season-defining match for Arsenal this year—however it turns out.

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

Swansea City vs. Queens Park Rangers

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 10 a.m. ET

    Harry Redknapp will be looking to continue his miracle run when Queens Park Rangers take on Swansea City this weekend at Liberty Stadium, having already achieved so much with the London club.

    Whether they avoid relegation or not this season, Redknapp's legacy at Loftus Road will surely remain longer than 2013, with his squad development and player involvement shown to be one of the best in such a short period of time at the club.

    Having said that, they will no doubt be looking for some sort of a result here to close the gap with 19th-place Aston Villa this weekend. 

    Swansea ended their unbeaten streak with a tough away loss to West Ham and will be desperate to ensure that they don't drop to another London club this week.

    But as Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have all found out this year, it isn't easy getting past Harry Redknapp's side when they're on their game.

    Even if they're unlikely to score a lot of goals themselves.

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

Southampton vs. Manchester City

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    Saturday, 9 Feb., 2013 at 12:30 p.m. ET

    Southampton have lost just once in their last eight matches, but they've also only won once in their last eight matches as well—making this one a very interesting fixture indeed for Manchester City.

    With United facing a tough matchup against Merseyside club Everton, Roberto Mancini will know that this week presents itself as a great opportunity to bridge the gap in the title race. However, given the way that the Saints have been playing of late, he must also be careful not to take this fixture against the Premier League newcomers any less seriously than he normally would.

    Southampton have shown that they can really threaten the top sides this year, and with the home crowd at St Mary's Stadium behind them, they'll certainly think they have a real chance to take points off the defending league champions.

    Can their remarkable run in the 2013 campaign continue, or will it be more dominance from the Citizens as they try to keep alive their title defense?

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

Aston Villa vs. West Ham

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    Sunday, 10 Feb., 2013 at 8:30 a.m. ET

    Christian Benteke might be firing for Aston Villa, but that's pretty much it at the moment, with Paul Lambert's men slipping farther and farther down the league table.

    The Villans now find themselves in 19th position following their heartbreaking draw with Everton last week and desperately in need of a strong performance against newcomers West Ham here if they're to avoid relegation from the league this season.

    West Ham ended their losing streak with a solid win at home over Swansea last week and will be looking to back that up with a strong away performance here. The Hammers have been relatively poor on the road this year—conceding 11 goals in their last three games—but given Villa's inconsistencies as well, it's hard to have confidence in the home side in this one either.

    Whose form will prove to be the worst in this one? 

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

Manchester United vs. Everton

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    Sunday, 10 Feb., 2013 at 11 a.m. ET

    Manchester United have only dropped a handful of games all season, but one of those was to Everton at the start of the year, and David Moyes' side will be looking to repeat that performance when they travel to Old Trafford this weekend.

    The Toffees somehow avoided defeat against Aston Villa last weekend thanks to the goal-scoring antics of Marouane Fellaini, and if the big Belgian international can get going again this weekend, you'd have to think that the Merseyside club have a real chance here.

    United's defense has been suspect all season, and with a direct attack like Everton's, there may very well be another upset on the cards here for the league leaders.

    It's hard to rule out any attack that features Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie—especially given the form that the pair are in both individually and collectively—but this one could finish a lot closer than many are perhaps giving it credit for.

    United have either drawn or won by a single goal nine of their last 12 matches, which will no doubt give the Toffees plenty of chances to get a result here.

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

Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion

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    Monday, 11 Feb., 2013 at 3 p.m. ET

    Our Premier League action wraps up for the weekend with Liverpool trying to extent their undefeated streak to four straight Premier League matches when they take on West Bromwich Albion at Anfield.

    The Merseyside club were one Sergio Aguero wonder goal away from beating defending champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last week—proving that they're in some special form at the moment and are truly a side to watch out for.

    Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez are firing at the top of the attack for Brendan Rodgers, who must surely be delighted in how his team are playing together at the moment.

    The same, however, cannot be said for West Brom. The Baggies might only be two points behind the Reds on the table, but in reality, the gap between the two clubs at the moment is very large indeed, with Steve Clarke's men struggling to gain any sort of form, attacking consistency or defensive solidity.

    Playing away from home at Anfield against an in-form Liverpool side believing they can still make the top four is not the place for that to all turn around either.

    Mohamed Al-Hendy Liverpool win 2-1 
    Dan Talintyre Liverpool win 4-1
    Joe Tansey Liverpool win 3-1 
    Mike Cummings Liverpool win 2-1 
    Karl Matchett Liverpool win 3-0 
    Sam Tighe Liverpool win 2-0 
    Will Tidey Liverpool win 2-0

    What did you make of the B/R writers' predictions this week?

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