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MONDAY UPDATE: The games really are coming thick and fast. We have only just worked out the weekend scores and now they all play again just two days later.
Who’d be a Premier League footballer at Christmas? Well, I wouldn’t mind money for a Ferrari.
So here are the panel’s weekend scores (Neil Maidment, Asia and my good self top-scoring with 15) followed by the Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday fixtures. Please play along in the comments with your predictions.
Reuters Soccer blog panel: Patrick Johnston 183, Paul Radford 170, Mitch Phillips 167, Neil Maidment 151, Mark Meadows 141, Kevin Fylan 137, Simon Evans 135 (including 2 bonus points for Mancini saying ‘situation’ twice in post-match interview), Mike Collett 128, Julien Pretot 120, Asia Sports Desk 108, Miles Evans 107, Martyn Herman 99, Sonia Oxley 56, Justin Palmer 41
David Beckham can look forward to en emotional evening at Old Trafford, after AC Milan were drawn to play Manchester United in the second round of the Champions League.
Beckham had said in the days leading up to the draw that he would love a chance to return to his old stamping ground and the England man has his wish in the pick of the matches (although Inter Milan v Chelsea isn’t bad either, for all you Mourinho watchers).
Inter Milan’s colourful coach Jose Mourinho has hit the headlines again for a foul mouthed rant at an Italian journalist, the latest in a number of spats with the soccer-obsessed media here.
The Portuguese has admitted using offensive language, said he made a mistake, but has not publically apologised. He also said there was no physical contact during the incident outside the team bus following Inter’s 1-1 draw at Atalanta on Sunday.
Did Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy damage the integrity of the Premier League or did he make a valid, pragmatic choice to help keep his side safe by playing a virtual reserve team that lost 3-0 at Manchester United on Tuesday?
Most Wolves fans felt cheated when they saw that the team he fielded at Old Trafford showed 10 outfield changes from the side that beat Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday with only goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann keeping his place.
Arsene Wenger is known as the The Professor but the halftime ear-bashing he inflicted on his Arsenal team at Anfield on Sunday had more in keeping with the “hairdryer” technique often used by his great rival Alex Ferguson.
It was out of character for the Frenchman but it certainly had the desired effect as his team overturned a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 with a much-improved second half performance.
But why was he so animated?
Perhaps the reason was because he realised that Arsenal may never have a better opportunity to break the Manchester United/Chelsea domination of the Premier League.
Both of the top two appear vulnerable at the moment and Arsenal, despite losing to both of them already this season, are the best-equipped to muscle in on the title race.
Earlier this season Wenger stated that the Premier League could be won with a relatively low points total this season. Judging by recent results he looks like being proved right.
Chelsea are suddenly leaking goals at an alarming rate, United’s defeat at home to Aston Villa illustrated just how much they are missing the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool are going backwards and Manchester City are yet to maximise the huge amount of money spent on their team.
With a couple of good signings in January, Wenger and Arsenal may have plenty to shout about in 2010.
MONDAY UPDATE: A truly appalling week for the panel. Admittedly, it was hard to predict Manchester United losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and Chelsea’s 3-3 home draw with Everton but nevertheless it was dreadful.
Some serious soul searching must go on in the coming weeks whilst eating our mincepies and finding yet another pair of socks when opening our Christmas presents.
Monday update: You would think 14 games into the season we would have learnt who was likely to beat who in the Premier League. Sadly not. I did OK for a change but only Martyn Herman really covered himself in glory with two five pointers for Villa 1-1 Spurs and Manchester City collecting yet another draw against Hull City.
But I wouldn’t celebrate like Jimmy Bullard just yet, Martyn, you’re still third bottom.
Thursday update: Nothing to do with this incident, of course, but worth noting that Ferguson has been banished to the stands, receiving a two-match ban and a fine of 20,000 quid for the comments he made about Alan Wiley in October.
So, the FA has decided to get tough with the United boss. Are they right to do it? Read the full story here.
TUESDAY UPDATE: Whatever you think about the penalty which gave Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Birmingham, it certainly made a difference to our prediction league.
Miles Evans got a full five points for correctly predicting that score while he was even more pleased that John Terry ignored some newspaper headlines and secured a 1-0 win for Chelsea over Manchester United.
So it was an even worse week than usual. Ok, there were some surprise results but generally it was pitiful, some panelists only picked up one point and even most of our outside contributors struggled despite showing us up in recent weeks.
On behalf of all of us, I’d like to point out that the Premier League is more evenly balanced than it has been for a while (see Kevin’s blog) so we have a slight excuse….