Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Euro 2012 Predictions

Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

It’s fair to say the host nation Poland would’ve taken this group if offered it before the tournament, and I feel they’ll progress from the weakest group of the tournament. The Borussia Dortmund duo of Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski are a threat, and in their recently friendly results they’ve not only put in good performances but achieved good results. Prediction: 1st.

Russia in 2008 lit the tournament up and despite some of their key players from that squad now the wrong side of 30 I still fancy them to qualify along with the hosts. With an attacking quartet of Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Alan Dzagoev they should score goals, and against defensive minded Greece and the Czech Republic that should be enough to see them edge through. Prediction: 2nd.

Czech Republic only had themselves to blame for failing to get out of their Euro 2008 group (letting a 2-0 lead slip against Turkey) and since then their squad has decreased in quality. Some of their under21 squad that did so well at last year’s Under21 European Championship are likely to be included; however I think they’ll narrowly miss out. Prediction: 3rd.

Since winning the tournament in 2004, Greece has unfairly received abuse for their defensive displays at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. To put it simply they lack any real goal scoring threat, meaning defensively they have to be strong. I don’t think they’ll be the whipping boys of the group, I expect all four teams to have a chance going into the final group game; however I don’t  think Greece have enough about them to progress. Prediction: 4th.

League predictions
Poland 1 Greece 1, Russia 2 Czech Republic 1
Poland 2 Russia 1, Czech Republic 1 Greece 0
Poland 2 Czech Republic 0, Russia 2 Greece 0.

Group top scorer: Pavel Pogrebnyak 

Shock of the group: Poland to beat group favourites Russia. 

Group B: Holland, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Not only is Group B the strongest, it’s also the hardest to predict; however I’m tipping them to win it so I’ve got to go with them to top the group, Germany. Their squad has improved since a good run at the 2010 World Cup, and their knowhow at tournaments is vital. Joachim Loew has done a brilliant job with a young Germany and I think they’ll top the group. Prediction: 1st

After another brilliant qualify campaign Holland go into the tournament confident, and if they can keep their injury prone match winners fit I.E. Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, then there is nothing stopping them winning the tournament. Despite a good defensive record at the 2010 World Cup, Holland’s suspect area is at the back, and for me come the latter stages of the tournament the brilliant sides will expose that; however I think they’ll progress, narrowly, through the group. Prediction: 2nd.

A hugely disappointing World Cup saw Denmark fail to get out a favourable group (Holland, Japan and Cameroon). However at Euro 2012 they’ve been pitted against three of Europe’s finest, and I can’t see them progressing. They did top their qualifying group, which included Portugal, and I think their qualifying counterparts out for the league’s 3rd spot. Prediction: 3rd.

Boasting Europe’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo, many think Portugal could knock out one of the tournament favourites in the group stages; however for me the Portuguese camp is divided, with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho and Tiago retiring from international duty. On their day they could easily win the group, but for me they won’t. Prediction: 4th.

League predictions
Holland 2 Denmark 0, Germany 2 Portugal 1
Holland 1 Germany 1, Denmark 2 Portugal 1
Holland 1 Portugal 1, Germany 3 Denmark 1

Group top scorer: Mario Gomez

Shock of the group: Denmark to beat Portugal

Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia

There is only one side who are going to top the group for me and that’s the current holders Spain. Despite winning the World Cup they struggled to score goals, and with David Villa injured and Fernando Torres horribly out of form, their wastefulness could rear its ugly head; however their midfield is the best in the world and will send them through. Prediction: 1st.

There is always one group shock and I’m going for it here, I fancy Croatia to edge out Italy for the second qualifying spot in group C. I think they’ve got worse since their last European Championships; however they’ve a strong midfield and two good goal scorers in Eduardo and Nikica Jelavic and I think they’ll beat Italy in what’ll be the group game of these Championships. Prediction: 2nd.

Italy defended their World Cup throne with a whimper in the Summer of 2010, and despite a strong qualifying campaign where they only conceded two goals; and despite an overhaul of the old guard that were so poor in South Africa, I’ve just a hunch that’ll lose to Croatia. Prediction: 3rd.

Make no mistake about it the Irish deserve their place at the tournament; however in such a strong group I can’t see them finishing anywhere else but bottom. They lack real quality and when your best player is your goalkeeper you’re going to be in trouble. I think they might get a point against Croatia and Italy; however they’ll lose to Spain and two draws won’t see you through. Prediction: 4th.

League predictions
Spain 2 Italy 0, Ireland 1 Croatia 1
Spain 4 Ireland 0, Croatia 2 Italy 1
Italy 2 Ireland 1, Spain 2 Croatia 1

Group top scorer: Nikica Jelavic

Shock of the tournament: Croatia to edge out Italy for second

Group D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England

Patriotic? Maybe. Excited? Definitely. Optimistic? Yeah a little. Can we top the group? Yeah! Will we? That’s a totally different question all together. On paper it’s a nice group for us, and I expect us to beat Sweden and Ukraine who are both average sides. We need to top the group to avoid Spain in the quarters and I’m hoping that incentive will be enough for England to top the group even without Wayne Rooney for the first two games. Prediction: 1st.

I think France has put to bed the ghost of Raymond Domenech and under Laurent Blanc are a better side. Despite nearly letting qualification slip to Bosnia, they come to Euro 2012 with a brilliant squad for of fantastic individuals. If they play as a team they could even win it. I think they will narrowly lose top spot to England but will progress into the knock out rounds. Prediction: 2nd.

The tournament is the perfect end to a fantastic career for Andriy Shevchenko who has been Ukraine’s greatest ever footballer; however despite beating Sweden in their opener they won’t progress for me. If they weren’t hosting the tournament I don’t think they would have qualified, but home advantage means they should edge Sweden for third. Prediction: 3rd.

Sweden qualified as the best runners-up; however they won’t be getting second in this group. Zlatan Ibrahimovic aside they’ve got no world-class players and they’re better ones are ageing, they could get something on their day against all three sides in the group, saying that I don’t think they will. Prediction: 4th.

League predictions
Ukraine 1 Sweden 0, France 1 England 1
Ukraine 1 France 1, Sweden 0 England 2
England 2 Ukraine 1, France 3 Sweden 2

Group top scorer: Karim Benzema

Predicted knock out rounds

Quarter finals 
Poland vs. Holland – Despite being the host nation, Holland should have too much for Poland and will win by a couple of goals.
Spain vs. France – I’ve got a sneaky feeling this would be a close one and Spain would edge through in extra time.
Germany vs. Russia – This is the stage of the tournament where Germany really get going and I fancy them to have too much for Russia.
England vs. Croatia – England to bury the demons of Euro 2008 qualifying with a narrow win.

Semi finals 
Holland vs. Spain – A re-run of the 2010 World Cup final, and I fancy Spain to edge it again by a goal.
England vs. Germany – Ok this is when I wake up and realise England will be defeated. Germany by two goals.

A repeat of Euro 2008, simply because they are the two best countries in Europe; however Germany to win this one.

Top goalscorer – Karim Benzema, France
Player of the tournament – Mesut Ozil, Germany
Shock of the tournament – Croatia to beat Italy 
First red card - Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece

Can Murray end his grand slam jinx?

With the French Open a little over a month away, all British hopes will once again be placed solely on Andy Murray.

After an agonising five set defeat to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January, many experts have said the gap between him and the three greatest players (Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer) is closing; however going into his least favourite grand slam event, can we really expect Murray to reign victorious at Roland Garros?

In last year’s event Murray was a semi-finalist, his best run to date at the French Open, and will no doubt go into the fortnight as one of the tournament favourites. However the way Nadal comfortably overcame the Scot only exposed how much stronger Nadal is on clay, and having won six of the seven French Open’s he has attended the ‘King of Clay’ will no doubt be the man to beat again.

Nadal came from behind to beat Federer in last year's final by three sets to one

To say Djokovic has had a brilliant 16 months would be quite the understatement, having won four of the five available grand slams in that time, with last year’s French Open the only one to elude him; meaning many expect the Serbian to make history by completing a personal grand slam at Roland Garros this year.

Federer, arguably the most gifted player of all time, has had to play second fiddle to the likes of Djokovic and Nadal in recent months, and after going a year without a grand slam victory, something almost unimaginable a few years ago, the former World number one will want to remind the people that he hasn’t lost any of his ability.

As for the rest, it’s unlikely anyone will realistically challenge for the title; however in recent Grand Slams the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo Wilfred-Tsonga have gone far deep into the second week. For me however this is only to be one winner and that is Rafael Nadal, meaning Murray’s wait will have to go on. 

French Open odds (via Ladbrokes)
Rafael Nadal evens
Novak Djokovic 6/4
Roger Federer 10/1
Andy Murray 14/1
Juan Martin Del Porto 16/1

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Top 10 performances of the County season so far

1) Slow defence of a Championship award goes to Lancashire who have lost both their opening games. Having been easily beaten by Sussex in their opener, many expected them to bounce back against Warwickshire; however despite reducing their opponents to 52-5 in their run chase, it wasn’t enough, meaning Lancashire sit bottom of the County Division One table.

2) Graham Onions will no doubt of impressed the English selectors after taking 10 wickets in the rain affected draw with Middlesex. After losing his England place due to injury, Onions’ brilliant start to the season, 20 wickets at 9.40, has certainly improved his chances of a re-call for the Windies and South Africa test series in the summer. In both innings Onions removed the England captain Andrew Strauss for a second ball duck and 6 respectively, ensuring Strauss’ poor run of form was extended.

3) The game of the County Championship so far surely has to go to the Middlesex and Surrey, which saw the latter fail to chase down 141 to win their opening match. At 101-4 Surrey had looked set to win comfortably; however for the second time in the match they blew a good batting start (having been 85-0 in the first innings before finishing on 222 all out) and Middlesex claimed an unlikely yet extraordinary victory.

4) A combination of injury and wanting to go with 5 bowlers, meant Ravi Bopara missed out on selection for both of the tests vs. Sri Lanka in; however his return for Essex was perfectly timed scoring a brilliant 117 not out. A not out ton is always a good knock, but when you consider his score made up 59% of Essex’s first innings total with only two other Essex batsmen making double figures, makes his score all the more impressive.

5) Ravi Bopara wasn’t the only batter to carry his side in a batting collapse. England’s forgotten wicket-keeper Chris Read scored 104 not out as his Nottingham side were skittled out for just 162 inside 57 overs. Only one batsmen (Steven Mullaney, 10) joined Read in scoring double figures.

6) Warwickshire top Division one having won back-to-back dramatic matches. Despite their top order struggling to score runs (with their top 5 averaging just 19.4 runs per person in their four innings so far this season) a first innings 224 8th wicket partnership between Darren Maddy and Rickie Clarke meant they were only chasing down 70; however another top order failure meant they were 52-5 before William Porterfield and Tim Ambrose edged them home.

7) Like I touched upon above, Warwickshire were struggling in their County Championship Division One match against Lancashire at 81-7; however Maddy and Clarke put on a massive 224 to turn the game on its head. Despite the score line when the duo arrived the both scored at an impressive rate with the number 9 Clarke in particular enjoying his 140, which included 13 boundaries and 3 sixes. The ton from Maddy ended a barren run for the former Leicestershire man who hadn’t scored a ton in a first class game since August 2008.

8) As debuts go, there was no better then Steve Magoffin’s for Sussex in his sides 10 wicket victory against Lancashire. Match figures of 9-55 were good; however his second innings demolition of the Lancashire score card was the match winning spell as the Australian Magoffin took 7-34 from 19.5 overs.

9) In a bowler friendly start to the County Championship, Somerset’s Nick Compton became the first man to hit a double ton in their rain affected draw with Nottinghamshire. In an attempt to force a result, Compton’s second hundred came off from just 81 balls; however his attempts were in vein as the weather meant Notts got away with a draw.

10)  The player of the fortnight has to be David Balcombe of Hampshire. 16 wickets from 2 County Championship matches at an average of 9.50 is a brilliant start for the Englishman. Hampshire having set the Division on fire just yet, with a win and a defeat from their opening fixtures; however Balcombe’s 5-33 in the first innings in their last match against Glamorgan gave Hampshire the platform they needed to win the game.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Copa America - An Overview Part Two

Quarter finals
After a mixed group stage, it’s fair to say the quarter finals of the 2011 Copa America really exceeded peoples estimations. Four matches and four shock results. South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina were both defeated via a penalty shoot out, whilst Chile and Colombia who both impressed in the group stage were defeated by Peru and Venezuela respectively.
The first quarter final saw Colombia, who topped Group A, meet Peru, a third placed finisher in group C. The Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes stadium, named after the former Argentina striker who helped Argentina to the World Cup in 1978, saw a poor match, with neither side threatening to break through in normal time. However in extra time strikes from Carlos Loboton and Juan Manuel Vargas of Fiorentina saw Peru, twice Copa America Champions overcome Colombia.
In the best looking match of the tournament, the host nation Argentina came up against Uruguay, the South American side who went the furthest at the 2010 World Cup. Despite a poor start to their Copa America, many predicted Argentina to still progress; however Diego Perez gave Uruguay a deserved lead after just five minutes. It wasn’t long before parity was restored through Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain; but the expected Argentina winner never arrived and the match went to a penalty shoot-out. Uruguay were faultless with their penalties, scoring five from five, ensuring that Carlos Tevez’s missed penaltywas to prove ever so costly as the host nation went out earlier then most had expected.
Argentina’s exit meant that Brazil were installed as tournament favourites before they met Paraguay in their quarter final. The two sides had already met in the group stage, with Fred rescuing a point for the Brazilians in a lively affair. This encounter however was tepid and for the second match in a row a penalty shoot out was required to separate the sides. In incredible fashion the Brazilians amazingly missed all four of their spot-kicks, meaning Paraguay’s two from four was more than enough to qualify for the semi-finals.
Chile probably couldn’t believe their luck, having seen two of three favourites knocked out before their quarter final with the lowest ranked side in the tournament left Venezuela; however Chile fell the way of Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in a fourth straight surprise result. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo gave Venezuela a deserved lead, but when Humberto Suazo levelled for Chile, it looked as they had saved themselves, only for Gabriel Cichero to score a late winner for Venezuela.
The first semi-final saw Peru take on Uruguay. After a goalless first half,Liverpool’s Luis Suarez scored twice in little under five minutes to comfortably book a place in the final for his country. Diego Forlan’s long range effort was parried by Raul Fernandez in the Peru goal and Suarez was the quickest to react and he earned himself an easy tap-in to open the scoring. For his and Uruguay’s second Suarez played on the line of the Peru defence, and after receiving a perfect through ball he rounded Fernandez before tapping into an open net.
The second semi was a closer affair as Paraguay edged out Venezuela on penalty kicks to progress to the final. Incredibly with a penalty shoot-out win Paraguay made the final despite not winning a game the whole tournament (three draws in the group stage and two penalty shoot out victories). With Paraguay converting all five spot-kicks, Franklin Lucena’s miss proved costly. Paraguay’s shoot out win was their third in the last two tournaments, having overcame Japan at the 2010 World Cup.
Peru proved too good for Venezuela in the 3rd/4th place play off, easily winning 4-1 with a hat-trick from Hamburg’s Pablo Guerrero. In the final itself, Uruguay and in particular Luis Suarez had too much for Paraguay, easing to a 3-0 victory. Uruguay came out of the traps in ultra quick fashion and Suarez opened the scoring from a tight angle after just 11 minutes. A second wasn’t long in coming, as Diego Forlan, who had a relatively quiet tournament by his high standards, smashed home a brilliant second. In the second half Paraguay had a legitimate call for a penalty ignored and hit the bar; however Uruguay on the counter attack always threatened  a third and it duly arrived as the deadly duo of Suarez and Forlan combined, to set up the latter to place the ball home
Team of the tournament
Villar (Paraguay)
Da Silva (Paraguay) Coates (Uruguay) Perea (Colombia) A.Pereira (Uruguay)
Vargas (Peru) Vidal (Chile) Arango (Venezuela)
Aguero (Argentina)
Suarez (Uruguay) Guerrero (Peru)

Copa America - An Overview Part One

The 2011 Copa America in Argentina as a tournament had everything from a side reaching the final despite not winning a game the whole tournament to a well deserved winning side. Uruguay, the South American side who went the furthest at the 201o FIFA World Cup, got better as the tournament went on and were comfortable winners in the final against Paraguay. The pre-tournament usual favourites, Brazil and the host nation Argentina, were poor, with both just winning one of their four games.

The Group Stages
Group A 
Host nation Argentina were given on paper a relatively simple progression into the knock out round; however they had to settle for second place in the group as Colombia edged them out. Argentina were poor in their opening two matches, and were fortunate to collect successive draws. Under Sergio Batista, Argentina opted for three defensive midfielders in their opening two games and only a change in their approach (which saw the inclusion of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero) saw them progress. Defensively, despite conceding just the one goal, Argentina were poor and only a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Sergio Romero, especially against Colombia, ensured no first round humiliation for the hosts. With a vast amount of their players well known across Europe, Camilo Zuniga of Napoli and Radamel Falcao Garcia of Atletico Madrid, to name but two, it was no surprise to see Colombia progress, and they really should have progressed with a 100% win ratio, with a goalless draw against Argentina the only blight on their copybook. Bolivia and Costa Rica were the other two sides in Group A, and despite both recording one good result (For Bolivia a draw with Argentina, whilst Costa Rica overcame Bolivia in what was the battle to avoid being bottom), they never really threatened to progress, with the latter always going to struggle without their star player Brian Ruiz.

Group B
Brazil (arguably undeservedly) topped Group B thanks to victory in their final Group B match against Ecuador. For the most part Paraguay were the best side in the Group, and if it wasn't for late collapses against Brazil and Venezuela they would have been easy winners of Group B. After the opening round of fixtures in Group B failed to produce a goal, the all important second matches saw Brazil rescue a late point against Paraguay thanks to the former Lyon striker Fred, whilst surprise package Venezuela stunned a Antonio Valencia less Ecuador. The game of the group stages saw Venezuela book their last eight spot thanks to an incredible comeback against Paraguay. 3-1 down with just two minutes to go, late strikes from Miku and Grenddy Perozo rescued a point for the Group underdogs. Despite throwing four points away Paraguay were through (ironically thanks to Argentina's victory over Costa Rica, as two of the groups needed three qualifiers and Paraguay had a better goal difference then Group A's third place side). Going into the last game Brazil themselves needed a result against Ecuador, and thanks to two goals apiece from Neymar and Alexandre Pato they eased past their opponents 4-2, in their most convincing performance of the tournament.

Group C
Uruguay like many of the other pre-tournament favourites started in slow fashion; however they like Chile and Peru qualified in comfortable fashion. A Mexico side (made up of predominately under 23 year old's because of their decision to take their strongest squad to the Gold Cup rather then the Copa America) battled well but ended up pointless and bottom. Chile, despite being under different leadership to Marcelo Biesla, continued to play three at the back, and their style of play was brilliant to watch, with Alexis Sanchez's fantastic team goal in their draw with Uruguay the highlight. Uruguay and their embarrassment of attacking riches (Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and Alvaro Pereira) required at least a draw with Mexico in their last Group game to ensure progression and thanks to Pereira's early strike, they eased through in second place, edging out Peru who lost to Chile, but still did enough to qualify.

Part two to follow soon.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sergio Torres interview

It’s fair to say you don’t get many Argentines’ plying their trade in the third and fourth tier of English football; however Sergio Torres has bucked that trend, having played for no less than four football league clubs.

After leaving Banfield der Mar del Plata in his native Argentina, his agent made a 10 minute clip of him, in an attempt to earn him a contract in Europe.

Though a two week trial with Mark McGhee’s Brighton and Hove Albion in 2004 didn’t result in Torres being offered a contract, it was the start of his love affair with England. Being used to a more technical style of football, Torres was surprised with how different England and Argentina was in playing style.  “I had come from Argentina where I’d get more time on the ball, and it was a shock to me how quick the English game was. That was a reason why I didn’t get a contract with Brighton.”

Shortly after his trial with Brighton, Torres joined non-league Molesey before moving to Basingstoke Town. Whilst with the latter club it is well documented that he worked in Boots pharmacy store to earn extra money.

In 2005 he finally earned a professional contract with a league club in the form of Wycombe Wanderers. “I had worked so hard to earn the chance to play with a professional club, and when John Gorman offered me a contract, it was the greatest moment of my career.” Torres said. Before going on to mention he still keeps in contact with Gorman, who is now assistant manager at the MK Dons.

His big career move came when he joined Peterborough, a side who were well backed by owner Darragh MacAnthony; however Torres was transfer listed when the club were promoted to the Championship in 2009. 

A loan spell at Lincoln City was followed by a permanent move to another well backed club in the form of Crawley Town. “It was a fresh start for me. It was the chance to join a club on the up and now we’ve a great chance at promotion to League One, and the move has worked for me.”

Whilst at Crawley, Torres has been fortunate enough to enjoy a couple of good F.A Cup runs, with last year’s run to the 5th round of the tournament putting the club on the football map. “I scored the winner versus Derby and it was and still is my favourite ever goal.” Torres dedicated his goal to the late Richard Butcher, a former colleague during his time at Lincoln, who died in the week leading up to the match.

Despite defeat, the real highlight of his career was playing at Old Trafford, which ultimately brought their brilliant 2010-11 F.A Cup run to an end. “To play at Old Trafford was a dream come true for me, and we gave them a good game and probably should’ve got a result.”

Crawley and Torres currently sit fourth in League Two and despite the recent loss of manager Steve Evans to Rotherham, the club are look set for back-to-back promotions.

Other questions I asked will be used for a piece on 'Why South American's come to England' which will be on my other website shortly

Monday, 2 April 2012

Villa are in trouble of being dragged into the relegation dog fight?

In 2009 Aston Villa beat Chelsea 2-1 under Martin O'Neill and despite never really being in contention to qualify for the Champions League that season, the previous two seasons they were genuinely close to finishing fourth in the Barclays Premier League.

The team they fielded that day was as follows: Brad Friedel, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, James Milner, Steve Sidwell, Stiliyan Petrov, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew.

Fast forward to Saturdays Aston Villa side that, all be it bravely, lost to Chelsea: Shay Given, Eric Lichaj, James Collins, Nathan Baker, Stephen Warnock, Gary Gardner, Chris Herd, Barry Bannan, Stephen Ireland, Andres Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Not only has the side changed completely, its changed for the worse. The former European Cup winners have gone from top four contenders to relegation candidates.

Less then three years apart are these matches, and only three of the Aston Villa side that beat Chelsea, the champions of the league that season, played on Saturday. Them three (Collins, Warnock and Agbonlahor) are all out of form and nowhere near as good as they were three years ago.

Looking at the Villa side that lost on Saturday there are no leaders. Local boy Agbonlahor captained the side. He is not a leader.

Despite captaining the side on the weekend, Agbonlahor's form has been poor since the turn of the year

I appreciate Villa have lots of injuries; however the side that lost on the weekend is poor (Barry Bannan, Stephen Ireland and Shay Given aside)

It's fair to say McLeish wasn't the fans number one choice to replace the retiring Gerard Houllier. And despite a decent start to the season, they've won just seven league games this season, collecting just 16 points at Villa Park.

If things wasn't bad enough for Villa, their football this season has been dire. Though Roberto Martinez rejected Aston Villa, if the club really wanted him, they could have got him. There was the chance to bring in a young manager who could be at the club for years and genuinely approach the game in the right manor. However Villa took the easy option and appoint someone who has been there and done it, despite just an OK track record in England.

In December of this season Villa went to Stamford Bridge and played them off the pitch in a 3-1 win. The next game they lost 2-0 at home to Swansea. What is the point of winning at Stamford Bridge if you can't win at home against of QPR, Swansea, Wolves and West Brom? Their inconsistency is there for all to see, something even mirrored in the managers past who won the Carling Cup with Birmingham last year; however they ended up being relegated to the Championship.

Currently Aston Villa sit three places above the drop zone; however the difference between them and QPR is just three points. The club are in trouble make no mistake about it, and I can't see them getting ANY points from their next three matches (Liverpool away, Stoke home, Manchester United away).

Villa's remaining fixtures (predictions in brackets)
Liverpool away (loss)
Stoke home (loss)
Manchester United away (loss)
Sunderland home (draw)
Bolton home (win)
West Brom away (loss)
Tottenham home (loss)
Norwich away (draw)

The bottom five sides (with the exemption of Wolves) are in decent form, Aston Villa are not and the Midlands club are worryingly looking over their shoulders. With just 10 points from their last 10 games (most of them favourable fixtures), Villa are in poor form and despite me writing a piece about last week about the bottom five, for me now its a bottom six.

I think the five points I've predicted them to get from their remaining fixtures will be enough to keep Villa in the league; however the club should never have been dragged into the dog fight to remain in the Barclays Premier League. I feel the club at the end of the season should relieve their manager of his duties and attempt to bring in either Brendan Rodgers, Owen Coyle or Paul Lambert.