PUN-ting ahead 03 (22&23-DEC-12)

22 is the new infinity!!  Somewhere out there a group of Mayan PUN-dits are probably getting ready to do their own version of the “SUP-aaaaargh SLOWMO” review blog-post to explain how their Apocalypse prediction was off base.  Then again they could have been right and what we are experiencing now is nothing more than the requisite Fergie-time!  Anyway, without much more time-wasting, let’s see if I can affect your weekend sporting oppinions by DIVING straight in.

FOOTY

EPL:-

Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City

Spurs nervy 1-nil win over Swansea did a whole lot more than just help to launch them into the top 4.  That result not only made it 3 Premiership wins on the trot at The Lane but, perhaps more importantly, saw Spurs buck their worrying trend of conceding both goals and points late on in matches.  Stoke City have earned themselves the reputation of being the EPL hardmen and last week Marouane Fellaini lost his head & showed an illegal way of dealing with the “hands-on” defensive tactics of Ryan Shawcross.  Ryan Shawcross will most likely be left with a different sort of headache, due to Spurs’ attacking options’ ability to not only run rings around him and his defensive lieutenants, but also because Gareth Bale’s return means that Spurs has a player who can manipulate any percieved illlegal contact to his advantage.

PUN-dit Pointers

  • Stoke have failed to win 17 of their last 18 away matches in thePremier League.
  • Tottenham have won four of eight Premier League games between the two sides,
    with Stoke winning three.

Compassionate leave means that Tony Pulis will not be able to deploy Charlie Adam to make real contact with Gareth Bale for all the times he may choose to take “evasive” action.  That is probably as close to Spurs as The Potters were going to get, in spite of the head-2-head (not the Fellaini on Shawcross type) record saying otherwise.  So I am going to PUNt this one in favour of another HOME WIN FOR TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR…..(with some late drama)

Manchester City v Reading

Oh what a difference a year makes…! At this stage of the season last year the Premier League champions were seemingly indomitable, crushing opponents and scoring for fun (especially at The Etihad), and were leading the league (even if it was on goal difference).  The wheels were soon to fall off at Citeh, with them handing over the title initiative to the red half of Manchester, and a lot of that was blamed on Mancini’s handling of the Tevez fallout.  Fast forward to NOW, and the once impregnable Etihad has been breached in spectacular fashion by their loathed Red rivals, no less, who have also snatched a 6 point initiative.  The goals have dried up somewhat, comparatively that is…..BUT, as they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.  Mancini v Tevez has been replaced by Mancini v Balloteli and though the effects of this latest fallout is yet to be determined, one thing we can bank on is that Reading are on a hiding to nothing.  If the aforementioned away record of The Potters is bad, then 2 points collected out of a possible 27, makes Reading’s away form nothing short of woeful!

PUN-dit Pointers

  • Reading have lost heir last 6 matches in the Premier League (conceding 17 goals in that time, including 8 in their last 2 outings against Sunderland and The Arsenal).
  • Reading have failed to score in their last 3 away matches in the Premier League.
  • Manchester City are undefeated in 22 of their last 23 matches in the Premier League.
  • Mancini’s side have won all 13 of the Premier League matches that Sergio Aguero
    and Carlos Tevez have started together. They are also unbeaten in the 21 league
    games in which Aguero has scored (W20, D1).
  • Brian McDermott’s Royals have dropped an unrivalled 17 points from winning positions this season. They are the only team not to have won a game in which they opened the scoring (D3, L2). In contrast The defending league champions have recovered more points from losing positions (15) than any other side bar Manchester United.

This all points to a potentially ROYAL walloping of McDermott’s boys.  Eight defeats in a row helped to relegate the Royals last time, and with expectations being of The Champions “Reading” the riot act, the writing is on the wall for A MORE THAN COMFORTABLE WIN FOR CITEH!  The “Hunt for the Red-half of Manchester” starts now.

Swansea v Manchester United

United snatched a late winner in the corresponding fixture last season, and while there is every chance of that happening again this Sunday, I have my doubts that this match will be limited to a solitary goal.  Many expected Swansea to struggle this season for a number of valid reasons including; the effects of second-season-syndrome, plus the departure of Brendan Rodgers, Vertonghen & Joe Allen.  Clearly the present squad have not read that version of the story.  Prefering instead to continue the fairytale run of this beautiful Swansformation.  Michu has been the protagonist thus far in a script that has relied on a distinct Spanish flavour with Pablo Hernandez & Angel Rangel also featuring prominently.  Add to that Michael Laudrup’s directorial input (which is understandably attuned to the Spanish theme, what with his successful Barcelona and Real Madrid links), and it’s understandable that they are on course for a memorably succesful season in their centenary year.  That being said though, in table-topping Manchester United, the Swans will justifiably feel that they are hosting an opponent who is not only capable of, BUT also revels in, flipping the script (even when not playing in their own Theatre).

PUN-dit Pointers

  • Only seven of Swansea’s 26 goals have come in the first-half of Premier League games this season.
  • The Swans have only kept two clean sheets in their last 15 top-flight matches.
  • Manchester United have won 10 of their last 11 matches in the Premier League.
  • The Red Devils have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 Premier League matches.
  • Manchester United have scored at least 2 goals in 14 of their last 16 matches in the Premier eague.

High DRAMA is rightly to be expected this time around and with a fair share of goals to add some festive cheer.  No one will be leaving early in this rivetting encounter.  The Swans will give it a go but I suspect that when they roll the closing credits they will include……….. A WIN FOR MANCHESTER UNITED.

Chelsea v Aston Villa

“…We know what we are…we know what we aaaaare…..CHAMPIONS of EUROPE!….we know what we are!…”  Well, until another team lifts the Big-Eared trophy at Wembly on May 25th, Chelsea will retain every right to make that chant.  It has become a lot more tongue in cheek in light of recent events on the European front, BUT everyone at The Bridge will take every opportunity to remind you of their status.  It is a status that fondly reminisces on one of the most unlikely of results and clearly if Lady Luck smiled on Chelsea then, she has taken her charms elsewhere and left the CHAMPIONS of EUROPE clutching around for any stroke of luck.  Unfortunately for them though, BENTeke, Weimann and co will be looking to capitalise on Chelsea’s fatigue which should be directly proportional to the frequent flier miles they clocked up on their way to & from Japan.  4 games in about 11 days will affect any squad, and with Rafa not being blessed with an abundance of depth (The Blues have used 20 players in this season’s Premier League, fewer than any other side).  At this point I am more than willing to cue the Stamford Bridge Boo-Boys.

PUN-dit Pointers

  • Chelsea have drawn their last 3 home matches in the Premier League.  If they fail to win on Sunday it will be their worst home run in the top flight since a 12-match streak between November 1994 and March 1995.
  • Chelsea have failed to score in their last two top-flight home matches. It is 250 minutes since their last league goal at Stamford Bridge, which was scored by John Terry in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on 11 November.
  • Aston Villa are undefeated in their last 5 matches in the Premier League.
  • Aston Villa’s last five matches at Stamford Bridge have produced a total of 28 goals. That run includes 3-3 and 4-4 draws (in 2011 and 2007 respectively), a 7-1 defeat in 2010 and a 3-1 victory last season.

Chelsea would have hoped to be chanting “…CHAMPIONS of THE WOOOOOORLD….we know what we are….!” But alas they may have to settle for “….CHUMPions of THE Capital One Cup…we know what we are…”.  Hang on a bit, even that is not guaranteed because just like in this weekend’s final Premier League fixture they may find that The Villans (who they may have to face in a lesser Wembley League Cup Final) are no pushovers.  My PUNt is for A SCORE DRAW…..which, should it materialise along with my other aforementioned PUNts, will mean that Chelsea will not even be able to call themselves the Champions of London, going into Christmas.

NB* majority of quoted football stats above were sourced from www.whoscored.com and www.bbc.co.uk/sport

QUICK PUNts

  1. India v England (2nd T20) – England will put up more of a fight….BUT…it won’t really matter coz the result should be a = WIN FOR INDIA.
  2. South Africa v New Zealand (2nd T20) – Captain DuPlessis and his charges should ensure that there is no FAFf-ing about resulting in = ANOTHER EASY PROTEAS WIN.
  3. NFL = Andrew Luck (Indiana Colts) and RG3 (Washington Redskins) will lead their teams into the playoffs.  Adrian Peterson (Vikings) will fall short of the rushing yards record.
  4. NBA (Christmas Day Fixtures) = New York Knicks beat LA Lakers (in LA); Miami Heat beat Oklahoma City Thunder (in Miami); Houston Rockets beat Chicago Bulls (in Chicago); LA Clippers beat Denver Nuggets (in LA) 

There you have it.  The world may not have ended but the reduction of sporting activity in the coming weeks will most likely lead to some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.  Thankfully we won’t have to go cold turkey and the measly portions of the EPL and NFL and NBA should tide us over until normal transmission resumes from around BOXING Day.  Until the Post Festive Season “Sup-ah SLOW-Mo Review” enjoy your “Fergie-time”…..ooops, that’s right this aint Mayan Apocalyptic Fergie-Time anymore, so in the same gracious way that you have overlooked the Mayan inaccuracies I pray you will also ……PardonthePUN-dit!

Blessed Holidays & ….Be Great!

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