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Eastlands welcome champions


Chelsea’s Florent Malouda should give another commanding performance from the midfield against Man City at the Eastlands tomorrow. AFP

Man City keeper Joe Hart has been a revelation in goal but faces a tough test tomorrow against the might of the Chelsea forward line. AFP

Manchester City v Chelsea
Saturday September 25 - 6:45pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-2
Key players: Joe Hart &
Didier Drogba

This weekend should kick off with a bang as Chelsea head up north to play Manchester City.
City might be able to outdo Chelsea in the transfer market but when it comes to the real business of winning football matches, they finish a distant second.

Despite defensive injuries, City have been rock solid at the back this season and frustrating Chelsea could be their best chance. If they are going to pull off a shock victory then England keeper Joe Hart will have to have a stormer.

Chelsea won’t have it easy, but it’s hard to see them getting beat. They’re watertight in defence and have a handful of potential scorers. Malouda from midfield and the irreplaceable Drogba up top are the likeliest candidates to find the net. The champions should have enough to triumph in what could be an absolute classic.

Liverpool v Sunderland
Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players: Joe Cole &
Darren Bent

Liverpool host Sunderland in a fixture they must win to get back on track.
Sunderland pinched a last gasp draw against Arsenal last week and they’ll fancy their chances at Anfield. The Black Cats game plan will include stopping the supply line to Torres, while they’ll also hope to get enough support up to goalmachine Darren Bent.
One would think that Liverpool should win this game, but with their confidence being so brittle, they’re going to need their fans to back them to the hilt. Joe Cole could be the man to push them up the table, and a piece of magic from the Londoner could be just what the doctor ordered.

Arsenal v West Brom

Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 3-1
Key players: Samir Nasri & Peter Odemwingie

West Brom visit the Emirates to play Arsenal in a game which seems destined for plenty of goals.
The Baggies come in to this game with nothing to lose, as everyone expects them to get handsomely beaten. Odemwingie is a breath of fresh air for West Brom, and he’s going to have to be on fire to stop the inevitable.
Arsenal may be without Fabregas, but Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere are in great form and they’ll comfortably fill the void. The Gunners should stroll through this one without too much trouble.

Fulham v Everton
Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players: Danny Murphy & Tim Cahill

Fulham entertain an Everton side under intense pressure.
Everton not only lost at home last week but they were dumped out of the League Cup by lowly Brentford. David Moyes needs to eliminate the basic mistakes and find a goal scorer quickly. The Toffees will keep this one tight and hope the likes of Tim Cahill can finally find his shooting boots.
Fulham under Mark Hughes won’t lose many games and they’ll welcome Everton’s combative style. The Cottagers boast some class, and the likes of Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey should give them at least a point to maintain their unbeaten record.

West Ham v Tottenham Hotspur
Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-2
Key players: Scott Parker & Rafael Van Der Vaart

Tottenham call at Upton Park Saturday for a fiery London derby against West Ham.
The Hammers got their first point of the season last week and Avram Grant will demand more of the same. If West Ham are to take a strangle hold over the game then Scott Parker and Mark Noble are going to have to conquer the midfield battle.
Spurs have an excellent record against West Ham and as long as they can keep the crowd quiet, they should be able to let their superior footballing skills do the talking. The left foots of Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale should prove too hot for the shaky Hammers back four to handle.

Birmingham v Wigan
Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-0
Key players: Sebastian Larsson & Hugo Rodallega

Wigan travel south to play Birmingham at St Andrews.
Wigan are hot favourites to get relegated, and last week against City they were woeful going forward. Rodallega has goals in him but he is deprived of any decent chances because of the Latics’ weak midfield.
Birmingham will forget what happened at the Hawthorns and should bully Wigan all over the park. Larsson has a stunning left foot and his delivery should cut open Wigan to set Alex Mcleish’s team off towards a vital three points.

Blackpool v Blackburn
Saturday September 25 - 9pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players: Charlie Adam & Christopher Samba

Blackpool v Blackburn is certainly the least glamorous of the weekend matches.
The Tangerines will forget their thumping by Chelsea, and they’ll know that a win from this type of game is what can keep them up. Charlie Adam has continued his form from last season and he’ll be at the heart of everything that is good about their play.
Blackburn, led by the giant Chris Samba, will be a tough nut to crack and could nullify the game’s flow. Blackpool don’t seem to play many dour games, but I fancy this one to be a low scoring draw.

Bolton Wanderers v Man United
Sunday September 26 - 6pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-2
Key players: Kevin Davies & Dimitar Berbatov

Bolton welcome Man United to the Reebok Stadium in the early kick off on Sunday.
Bolton would have witnessed United’s recent frailties in defence and it will give them hope that they can get something out of this game. Martin Petrov on his day can produce some deadly crosses and he’ll be aiming for the bruising Kevin Davies.
It will be interesting to see if Sir Alex sticks with the 4-4-2 formation that smashed three past Liverpool. Berbatov finally has lift off, and along with Rooney, they should toy with Bolton. I doubt it will be a walk in the park but The Red Devils should pick up their first away win of the season.

Wolves v Aston Villa
Sunday September 26 - 8:05pm
Dring’s prediction: 1-1
Key players: Matthew Jarvis & Stewart Downing

Aston Villa take the short trip across the West Midlands to play Wolves.
Gerard Houllier has inherited a decent side and with almost a completely fit squad to choose from, he’ll be expected to start picking up points from the off. Stewart Downing and Ashley Young will as always be key for Villa, as long as they can get themselves in the right areas.
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy will demand another battling performance from his troops and hope his more gifted players can make the difference. Steven Fletcher and Matthew Jarvis will be their biggest threats in a game too close to call.

Newcastle United v Stoke City
Sunday September 26 - 10:10pm
Dring’s prediction: 2-1
Key players: Kevin Nolan & Kenwyne Jones

Newcastle host Stoke, looking to find some consistency.
The Toon Army aren’t as attractive to watch as they used to be, but they should be effective enough against the Potters. Kevin Nolan’s endeavour epitomises the new look Newcastle that makes them favourites in this match.
Stoke still haven’t got their season properly up and running and they’ll need to hold their nerve as Newcastle push forward.
Kenwyne Jones has started paying off his huge price tag and the mammoth forward will be Stoke’s best hope of getting something out of the match.



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