Welcome to "High Fives" the personal column of our ace Director of Football "Magic Mike".
Magic Mike's football credentials are first class. Last season he handily beat the Beeb’s expert tipster “Lawro” who never got a look in after Magic took an early lead at the start of the 2008/09 season.
A good number of our players were rescued by Magic’s tips in our Five Lives scheme which automatically gives you his tips, up to five times during the season, should you forget to enter them yourself. Magic Mike's canny inside knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of players and teams, combined with a passion for getting it right, is what you need to make an impact in this game. It also means you're going to have to be at your best to outdo him.
The Management - Score Five
And now, once again, over to Magic Mike...
See what Mike had to say in the olden days - visit his 2008/09 season archives.
previous predictions - Round 15.... Round 14.... Round 13.... Round 12.... Round 11.... Round 10
Stoke City vs. Wigan Athletic at the Britannia Stadium. A 2nd defeat in just 9 games for Stoke last Saturday at the Emirates Stadium and an ideal opportunity to bounce back with a home win against a topsy-turvy Wigan, who were beaten at home in a surprising 5 goal thriller against Birmingham. A difficult game to predict but Stoke will start favourites.
Magic predicts: Stoke City 1 - Wigan Athletic 0
Birmingham City vs. West Ham United at St Andrews Stadium. A 3 game winning run has seen Alex McLeish’s Blues surge up to 9th place in the Premier League and suddenly a challenge for a Europa Cup place rather than a relegation battle looks more likely. It just goes to show how tight the Premier League is this season.
West Ham held Manchester United until just before half-time last Saturday. A further 3 second half goals conceded illustrated the gulf in class and West Ham slid to 17th place in the table. West Ham’s Carlton Cole will be missing probably until the New Year and without his presence goals may be a problem.
Magic predicts: Birmingham City 1 - West Ham United 0
Bolton Wanderers vs. Manchester City at the Reebok Stadium. Pressure mounts on Gary Megson as his Bolton side exchanged places in the league with Wolves last Saturday when going down 2-1 at Molineux. Substitute Johan Elmander pulled a goal back for Bolton in that game but it wasn’t enough. These are troubling times at the Reebok and a win over local neighbours would be welcome relief. Skipper Kevin Davies will return from suspension to lead the team. Last season the Wanderers won the corresponding fixture but they will be facing a stronger City side this season, who spent over GPP 100m in the summer and have lost just 1 game all season to Manchester United.
City became only the 3nd team after Wigan and Aston Villa to take points off Chelsea this season and re-ignited their title aspirations after a run of 7 draws. Mark Hughes will be looking for another 3 points against a struggling Bolton but this is a local derby and Hughes will not under-estimate the Trotters.
Magic predicts: Bolton Wanderers 1 - Manchester City 0
Burnley vs. Fulham at Turf Moor. Another defeat for Burnley at bottom club Pompey sees them being sucked into the relegation battle. Owen Coyle knows that even after a good start to the Premier League campaign when everyone was expecting Burnley to be the whipping boys that the real test on his squad will be the dark winter months and the Christmas period will be crucial when the halfway mark in the season is reached. Burnley need to continue winning their home games and they have a chance today after their last 2 matches, on the road, ended in defeats.
Fulham are slowly getting back to their form of last season after the distractions of their first foray in the Europa league. A tight defensive display and a solitary goal from Bobby Zamora was enough to down the Black Cats last Sunday and the Cottagers will be looking for what will only be their 2nd away win of the season, after their opening day victory at Portsmouth.
Magic predicts: Burnley 1 - Fulham 1
Chelsea vs. Everton at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea saw their lead at the top reduced to 2 points following their 2-1 defeat at Manchester City last Sunday. Frank Lampard rare penalty miss was to prove costly. Chelsea will be looking to bounce back for a win at their Stamford Bridge fortress , where they have a perfect record this season. They may have to cope without Michael Essien who damaged a hamstring in the mid-week Champions League fixture against Apoel Nicosia.
Everton can be encouraged by a determined fight back against Spurs last Sunday. 2 down with 15 minutes to go, Everton salvaged a point thanks in part to Luis Saha coming off the bench to score his 9th goal of the season. The Toffees have had an injury hit campaign so far and remain close to the relegation zone. The Christmas period, like for many teams, could prove crucial.
Magic predicts: Chelsea 2 - Everton 0
Hull City vs. Blackburn Rovers at the Kingston Communications Stadium. Hull’s good run of form came to a halt last week with a comprehensive defeat at Aston Villa. More worrying for Hull than the result of the game was the injury to Jimmy Bullard, who has been the catalyst for Hull’s improvement of late. It is reported that Bullard will be missing for up to 6 weeks after injuring a knee in that game but Hull can be thankful it’s not the same knee that required surgery last season.
Blackburn are another side that have shown improved form with just 1 defeat in 5 league games and overcoming Chelsea to reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. Sam Allardyce should be back in command after heart surgery and wil be looking to put one over on his good friend and Hull manager, Phil Brown.
Magic predicts: Hull City 0 - Blackburn Rovers 1
Sunderland vs. Portsmouth at The Stadium of Light. Steve Bruce has been very disappointed with his side’s away form and again witnessed another lacklustre showing against Fulham last Sunday. Sunderland went down to an early strike and only rarely troubled Mark Schwarzer’s goal thereafter. Sunderland have a chance to return to winning ways, after 2 away defeats, against bottom club Portsmouth.
Avram Grant saw his Portsmouth side claim their 3rd victory of the season against Burnley last week and his side can now visit the Stadium of Light in good spirit and looking to inflict what would be just a 2nd home defeat on the Black Cats. Portsmouth are only 4 points adrift of 17th place in the Premier League and even after such a poor start to the season, Pompey will be confident they can avoid the drop.
Magic predicts: Sunderland 2 - Portsmouth 0
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers at White Hart Lane. Harry Redknapp saw his side throw away 2 points at Everton last Sunday and Spurs will be looking to get back to winning ways against strugglers Wolves. Jermain Defoe was again on target against Everton but missed a late penalty that proved very costly. Spurs are still in 4th place in the table and look to be serious contenders for a Champions League spot this season. In their last home game ,Spurs put 9 goals past Wigan and after 2 draws on the road Spurs will be looking for a resounding victory.
Magic predicts: Tottenham Hotspur 3 - Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 (Banker)
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa at Old Trafford. Despite injury problems, Manchester United have shown the great strength in depth in their squad and have kept winning to keep the pressure on leaders Chelsea. In their last 2 away games they have scored 8 and conceded only 1. Sir Alex Ferguson will have to re-shuffle his defence for the visit of Villa in what could prove to be a difficult test for the Red Devils.
Martin O’ Neill’s side will again be looking for a good showing from his side at Old Trafford. Only in April his side suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat and with United’s injury problems in defence this time around, it may be the best chance in years that Villa have to cause an upset.
Magic predicts: Manchester United 1 - Aston Villa 1
The final game of Round 16 is the Sunday clash between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield. This fixture last season proved a classic encounter and ended in a 4-all draw with Andrei Arshavin finally marking his arrival in English football and scoring all 4 goals for Arsenal in that game. It is highly unlikely that this season’s clash will produce as many goals but with both sides desperate for a win to keep their fading title hopes alive ,it should prove an open and attacking game.
Liverpool will have been disappointed to have been held to a draw at Blackburn last Saturday whereas Arsenal after slipping to 2 away defeats returned to the Emirates and a victory over Stoke.
A difficult game to predict but I expect the Gunners to prevail.
Magic predicts: Liverpool 1 - Arsenal 3