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Midweek Premier League special. Can you beat the panel?


Never let it be said that we at Reuters Soccer Blog shirk a challenge. Our attempts at score prediction on the opening weekend produced results that were modest at best but never fear, we’re straight back in for another shot (that’ll doubtless be blasted over the bar).

Once again, please send in your own predictions … they can scarcely be any worse than ours, and if you do especially well, we’ll gladly let you lord it over us here on the blog.

The six matches this week are as follows:

Sunderland v Chelsea: After Chelsea’s scare in the opening game of the season, and Sunderland’s positive start, the predictions for this are a little more circumspect. Mitch Phillips: 1-1; Owen Wyatt: 0-2; Patrick Johnston: 1-1; Mike Collett: 0-2; Paul Radford: 0-2; Kevin Fylan: 1-0. Late entries: Miles Evans: 0-2; Martyn Herman: 0-2.

Wigan Athletic v Wolverhampton Wanderers: What a result from Wigan on Saturday, eh? Hardly anyone expected them to beat Aston Villa, but I suppose when you consider how badly Villa finished last season it wasn’t such a shocking result. Wigan to make it maximum points from two? Mitch Phillips: 2-0; Owen Wyatt: 4-4; Patrick Johnston: 3-0; Mike Collett: 1-1; Paul Radford: 1-0; Kevin Fylan: 1-0. Late entries: Miles Evans: 0-1; Martyn Herman: 2-1.

Liverpool have a lot to be concerned about


Last November Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane just after Harry Redknapp took over a side that had slumped to the bottom of the table. Redknapp admitted after that game that Spurs had been lucky to win after being battered by Liverpool, who squandered an early lead and then hit the woodwork three times before losing.

Spurs beat Liverpool 2-1 at White Hart Lane again on Sunday and this time there was no doubting that Spurs deserved their victory.

Twitter might not be harmless fun for players


The days when the details of transfer negotiations were closely guarded secrets could be coming to an end with the advent of the ‘Twitter transfer’.

On Wednesday, U.S. national team striker Jozy Altidore all but announced a move to English Premier League Hull City on the micro-blogging site, keeping his fans updated while Hull remained silent.

Too big to go down, too small for the Champions League


Champions League qualifying has begun so the new football season in Europe is well and truly underway.

But while Mogren of Montenegro celebrate their victory over Hibernians of Malta in the first qualifying round last week, spare a thought for those famous European sides who are unlikely to grace the competition even in a qualifying tie, let alone the group stage.

Premier League deja vu creeping in again


As Dimitar Berbatov sluggishly rolled in Manchester United’s winner at Newcastle United on Wednesday it suddenly occurred to me that the Premier League season that threatened a different story is heading for a very familiar ending.

At the top, the midweek matches saw United record their 11th consecutive league win and strengthen their grasp on the title, while Chelsea and Liverpool consolidated Champions League spots and Arsenal made up ground on an Aston Villa side which might just be running out of steam.

Is there a more superstitious industry than football?


After a foray into the mix zone after the English League Cup final, the injured Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe replied to one journalist who asked him why he had cut all his hair off.

“I had to, I only ever seem to get injured when I have longer hair,” he said.

What are United’s quintuple chances now?


Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson dismissed the suggestion in his usual style.

After beating Spurs on penalties to win the English League Cup final on Sunday he was asked if United could complete a “quintuple” of trophies.

UEFA Cup becomes an irrelevance for clubs like Spurs


Twice UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur are most likely heading out of the competition after a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout round on Thursday.

The fact they fielded a ‘B’ team was not surprising. Manager Harry Redknapp had already stated several times that Premier League survival and the League Cup were his priorities. After the game Redknapp said: “I had a 17-year-old playing tonight and I will probably have four playing next week.”
The reason they will play with an under-strength team in the return leg next Thursday is that it comes three days after a crunch league match at Hull City and three days before their League Cup final against Manchester United.

Patience a virtue that would have suited Robbie Keane


Rafa Benitez is often described as a master tactician but when it comes to man-management it can be hard to fathom what the Liverpool boss is up to.

Last July the Spaniard apparently considered Robbie Keane to be worth 20 million pounds. Six months later the prolific Ireland striker was not deemed good enough even for the bench in Sunday’s FA Cup game against Everton – just the sort of fixture that would suit the hard-running Irishman.

A read of the FA Cup rules unlikely to put off Redknapp


Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp’s frank admission that he will send a “mish-mash” side to face Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup tie adds to concerns that the competition has lost its elite status.

Speaking after sneaking through their League Cup semi-final second leg 6-4 on aggregate against Championship (second division) Burnley on Wednesday, Redknapp moaned: