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 - FA Cup 5th Round.... Round 26.... Round 25.... Round 24.... Round 23.... FA Cup 4th Round
The weekend is dominated by Merseyside/ Manchester encounters, the first one being the early Saturday kick-off that sees Everton take on Manchester United at Goodison Park. Everton aim to repeat what they did to Chelsea 10 days ago, when they defeated the league leaders after coming back from a goal down. Everton are out to improve their league position between now and the end of the season and will relish an opportunity to dint United’s title prospects.
United couldn’t take advantage of Chelsea’s slip against Everton as they had their own survival battle to rescue a point against Aston Villa after going a goal down and playing most of the game with 10 men following Nani’s sending off. United have a good record at Goodison Park and Wayne Rooney has hit a purple patch and returns to the club where he started his career and is sure to face the wrath of the home crowd.
Magic predicts: Everton 1 - Manchester United 1
Arsenal vs. Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal got back into the Championship race with their 1-0 victory over Liverpool and at the same time saw their title rivals drop points. The Gunners lost against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light 1-0 in November and will be out for revenge. They badly need to secure 3 points from this game to maintain pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United.
Sunderland are without a win in the league since they beat Arsenal in November. Steve Bruce’s side are now in the thick of the relegation battle being just 3 points above the relegation zone. These are worrying times but a win and 3points will ease the pressure.
Magic predicts: Arsenal 2 - Sunderland 0
West Ham United vs. Hull City at Upton Park. West Ham secured a vital home win last time out against Birmingham and they need to make the most out of their remaining home games because out of 13 games on the run-in to the season West Ham are facing the Premier League’s top 4 sides away from home and wouldn’t be expecting to pick up too many points from those games. Their fate this season will be determined in their remaining home games. Carlton Cole scored his first goal on his return to the side from injury against Birmingham and will lead the line against the Tigers.
Hull narrowly lost out to Blackburn and find themselves just 1 point above the drop zone. It’s an important game for Phil Brown’s men not to lose. Hull have played a game or, in some cases, 2 games more than the rest of the relegation threatened teams and despite good recent results against Chelsea and Manchester City the pressure is still on.
Magic predicts: West Ham United 2 - Hull City 0
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea at Molineux. Wolves completed a double over Tottenham for the season, completing their second 1-0 victory of the season last time out. The win lifted Wolves out of the relegation zone and was a welcome boost to Mick McCarthy’s men. Wolves were well beaten at Chelsea earlier in the season and a result against Chelsea today would be an unexpected bonus.
Chelsea had their lead at the top of the Premier League cut to 1 point with their defeat at Everton. Chelsea did bounce back with a comfortable passage to the FA Cup quarter-finals with a defeat of Cardiff but Carlo Ancelotti knows his team will be in for another scrap against a team battling for their Premiership lives. Failure to come away with anything less than 3 points at Molineux could mean Manchester United will take over their top spot.
Magic predicts: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - Chelsea 2
Portsmouth vs. Stoke City at Fratton Park. Portsmouth are still looking for new investors to save the club from bankruptcy but it seems the Pompey players have been able to put all the uncertainty about the club’s future to the back of their minds as evidenced by their 5th round FA Cup victory over local rivals Southampton. Pompey booked their place in the quarter-finals and a trip to Birmingham. In the league, they have an 8 point to make up on 17th place and that may become academic if new investors are not found but the players will not go down without a fight.
Stoke forced a replay against Manchester City but have been dealt a difficult draw should they win the return, an away day at Chelsea. The Potters have been in good form in recent weeks and will be aiming to improve on their league position. They are particularly dangerous with set plays especially using Rory Delap’s long throw which has resulted in many of Stoke’s recent goals.
Magic predicts: Portsmouth 1 - Stoke City 1
Aston Villa vs. Burnley at Villa Park. A battle of the Clarets; the earlier meeting of the 2 sides ended in a draw when Emile Heskey’s late equalizer rescued a point for Villa. Villa will be facing a fixture pile-up as they are still involved in all 3 domestic competitions with a Wembley Carling Cup final against Manchester United scheduled for next Sunday. Martin O’Neil will still have a Champions League place as a priority for this season. At this stage last season, Villa began to fade but with more strength and depth to his playing squad this term, Martin O’Neil’s side looks set to maintain their challenge.
Burnley Manager Brian Laws earned his first victory with a vital home victory against West Ham but 4 days later saw his side notch their 12th defeat of the season on the road at Fulham. On their travels Burnley have so far managed just 1 point at the visit to Manchester City and if that record isn’t improved upon by the end of the season Burnley will surely find themselves back in the Championship. Villa Park is a difficult place to visit at the best of times.
Magic predicts: Aston Villa 2 - Burnley 1
Fuham vs. Birmingham City at Craven Cottage. Fulham and Birmingham made it through to the FA Cup quarter-finals last weekend and the Cup represents both clubs best chance of Europa League qualification for next season. Both managers have moulded teams that are difficult to beat, built on tight defence and it all points to a tight low scoring contest. Birmingham won by the only goal at St Andrews in November and this game will be just as tight.
Magic predicts: Fulham 0 - Birmingham City 1
Manchester City vs. Liverpool at the City of Manchester Stadium. The second of the Merseyside/Manchester derbies; Manchester City took a point at Anfield earlier in the season in a game they will felt they should have won. With the teams lying in 5th and 4th in the table respectively but with City having 2 games in hand over their Merseyside rivals, this is a game that Liverpool cannot afford to lose. A defeat would leave Liverpool with 11 games to play and 3 point difference to make up, which, with City’s games in hand, could turn into a possible 9 point deficit. Roberto Mancini will see this as a game that could take out one of his rivals for the 4th Champions League place. A win for Liverpool would leave them still very much in contention.
Magic predicts: Manchester City 1 - Liverpool 1
Wigan Athletic vs. Tottenham Hotspur at the DW Stadium. Wigan were on the receiving end of the biggest defeat of the season so far when they went down 9-1 at White Hart Lane and no doubt the Wigan players and manager alike will be out to salvage some pride with a better display in front of their home supporters. The Wigan players reimbursed their fans who made the journey to White Hart Lane for that horror show that day but a win against Spurs and easing of relegation fears would best erase that nightmare.
Harry Redknapp was disappointed his side couldn’t beat Bolton at the first attempt in their FA Cup 5th round meeting last Sunday. Redknapp wants to avoid fixture congestion as his side battles both for FA Cup glory as well as a challenging for the a 4th place Premier League finish. Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch are a potent threat for Spurs and David Bentley has taken his chance, coming into the side after Aaron Lennon’s injury, after spending most of his Spurs career on the sidelines. Redknapp will be warning his players of a Wigan backlash.
Magic predicts: Wigan Athletic 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 2
The Monday night fixture serves us with Lancashire hotpot Blackburn Rovers vs. Bolton Wanderers at Ewood Park. Blackburn were the needier of the 2 sides for points when they met for the first time this season in November and they took all 3 points in a 2-0 victory. The roles are reversed for today’s game with Blackburn’s form having lifted them to mid-table but this game gives Sam Allardyce’s side the opportunity to further distance themselves from the relegation dogfight and leave his old club staring down both barrels of the relegation shotgun.
Bolton have shown improved form of late. They have competed well and dominated for long periods in recent games against Manchester City and Tottenham but have not been able to sustain the pace for an entire 90 minutes. Owen Coyle will be hoping that against teams that lie closer to Bolton based on league position that his side can show some 3 point returns and start moving away from the danger zone. Bolton come into the game following a mid-week away game against Wigan and anything less than a 2 or 3points will be a disappointing outcome for the Trotters.
Magic predicts: Blackburn Rovers 1 - Bolton Wanderers 1
Manchester United vs. West Ham United at Old Trafford. A win for Manchester United on Saturday and a win in this fixture would give the Red Devils the lead in the race for the Premier League title. Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt have earmarked 6 points ahead of these games to give his side the psychological lead over Chelsea. This fixture is brought forward from the original weekend meeting due to United’s date with Aston Villa in the Carling Cup. After defeating West Ham 4-0 comfortably in early December anything other than a win would be a major surprise.
West Ham won’t be expecting any points from this game so should go out, relax, and give it their best shot. With new owners at the club and a win against Birmingham under their belts that lifted them to 14th place in the table, things are looking up for Gianfranco Zola’s men
Magic predicts: Manchester United 3 - West Ham United 0 Banker