Goal.com Predicts: Manchester United 5-0 Blackburn, Arsenal 2-1 QPR, Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa

Our reporters expect the Premier League champions to deliver yet another five-star performance when they face Steve Kean's side at Old Trafford as 2011 comes to a close
With enough surprising results and talking points to fill even the biggest of Christmas stockings, the festive season in the Premier League has been an absolute whirlwind and now, with 2011 nearing its end, there's one last set of fixtures for our reporters to sink their teeth into.

The fixture that has arguably given us more great games than any other in the division over the years is Liverpool against Newcastle, and the two will meet again on Friday night. The Reds will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing draw with Blackburn last time out but will host Alan Pardew's side without Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan was banned for directing an offensive gesture at Fulham fans earlier this month.

New Year's eve kicks off with Manchester United only needing a point to move to the top of the Premier League table but they will be aiming for all three when they host Steve Kean's Blackburn at Old Trafford.

Saturday also sees Arsenal attempt to break into the top four against QPR following their frustrating 1-1 draw with Wolves earlier in the week, in what will provide Robin van Persie his final chance to break Alan Shearer's record of Premier League goals scored in a single calendar year.

Elsewhere in the capital, Chelsea's fading title hopes will require a lift when Andre Villas-Boas' side play host to Aston Villa, while further afield Norwich welcome Fulham to Carrow Road and Wolves travel to Bolton.

Wigan will be desperate to bounce back from being hammered by the champions last time out and face a difficult trip to Stoke, whereas Tottenham will be full of confidence as they travel to south Wales to come up against Swansea to round off Saturday's matches.

The first game of 2012 in the Premier League will be between West Brom and Everton at the Hawthorns before league leaders Manchester City head to Wearside as they look to overcome Sunderland.

So there's plenty of action yet again in the Premier League and our reporters will be in position all over the country to bring you all the coverage you could want, but how do they see the games playing out?

Newcastle United


If Andy Carroll is going to kickstart his Liverpool career, then a couple of goals against his former club on Friday night will do the trick.
The £35 million signing has struggled to find any sort of form or rhythm since his move from Tyneside in January but is expected to take on the responsibility of leading the line with Luis Suarez suspended.

For all of Carroll's problems at Anfield, Newcastle fans would take him back in a heartbeat and are only too aware of the threat he poses, particularly when attacking crosses into the penalty area. Reds manager Kenny Dalglish has been getting increasingly feisty in his defence of Carroll but even he must know that the striker is running out of time to start producing the goods.

Liverpool have been dealt a few blows recently but captain Steven Gerrard's return to fitness is the boost they need as they look to compete for the Champions League places.

Newcastle have an excellent defensive record but I just have a feeling that Carroll will score against his old club - and no doubt he will celebrate with a pint or two in his local pub. Liverpool's major problem so far this season has been their failure to win home games, but I think they will scrape through this one with a narrow win.

Manchester United


Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson could not have been nicer to under-fire Steve Kean over the last few weeks but the Blackburn boss will have to contend with his compatriot’s ruthless side even though it is his 70th birthday.

There will be no compassion from Sir Alex and surely no stopping the reigning champions from ending the year on a high by leapfrogging Manchester City and improving their goal difference in the process against the Premier League’s bottom club.

Rovers might have earned a morale-boosting point at Liverpool on Monday but this will be a daunting task for Kean’s charges and it is hard to see the Lancashire club avoiding a hammering against a side who have scored 17 goals in their last five league games.

The Ewood Park club have just posted annual losses of £18.3m and visiting supporters will be braced for another awful set of statistics will be recorded on Saturday lunchtime and a goal by Rovers old boy Phil Jones would rub salt into raw wounds.


JOE DOYLE says...

Arsenal stuttered to a draw against Wolves on Tuesday in a game where the opposition goalkeeper and defence had an outstanding performance.

Sadly for QPR, I don't see that happening again. Arsenal were lacking drive on the right side of the attack, and Arsene Wenger revealed on Tuesday that Theo Walcott should be back to give former Gunner Armand Traore the run-around.

While the R's do have some fine players such as Alejandro Faurlin, their defence is considerably weaker than that of Wolves, and I don't think they will be able to hold out against the same sort of barrage seen in midweek.

With Wenger keen to get the side back on track, a win against a tricky team like QPR would give them a big boost before the January, when Thierry Henry is expected to complete a romantic – albeit only temporary – return.

Bolton Wanderers


My first trip to the Reebok Stadium is to be a meeting of two sides that have really struggled to find the form they would have hoped before the season. Owen Coyle and Mick McCarthy added well to their squads in the summer.

Ambitions of a top-half finish gone - a relegation battle looks far more likely and the dreaded mention of a ‘six-pointer’ is sure to be on the lips of the fans, so a nervy, full-blooded encounter is to be expected.

A possible farewell appearance for Gary Cahill is on the cards, with the defender's move to Chelsea sure to leave a gaping hole in the already fragile Bolton defence, and with Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher up front I predict goals.

Aston Villa


Villa are on the kind of run – both in terms of results and general excitement – that makes Chelsea’s three consecutive 1-1 draws feel like a rollercoaster of emotion.

With both teams really struggling to get much of a foothold in their efforts to climb out of their respective ruts, I’ve got fingers crossed that this could be the game that begins a renaissance for one of them.

That said, the well-documented attacking plights of both Villa and Chelsea suggest that this encounter may well be settled by a single moment of madness at the back rather than many of magic up top. The likely omissions of Emile Heskey, misfiring Darren Bent and perpetually off-form Fernando Torres only serve to reinforce this suggestion.

With Villa’s attacking impotency and Chelsea's stronger backline, I can’t see anything but a home win.



Saturday sees Norwich City play Fulham for the first time since the Cottagers relegated them back to the Championship on the last day of the 2004-05 season, a match the Canaries lost 6-0.

Although revenge probably won’t be prevalent in the minds of many Norwich players, they will definitely be confident of getting a win with Fulham’s away record in 2011 being dreadful – the Cottagers have picked up just three victories – while Paul Lambert’s team are the fourth highest scorers on home soil this season with 16 strikes.

Despite Fulham picking up a creditable draw at Chelsea and Norwich losing to Tottenham in their last matches, now is arguably the best time to play Martin Jol’s team with rumours of rifts in the changing room perhaps giving the hosts something to pounce upon as they look to move back into the top half of table.


SAM BISBY says...

Stoke City are fast becoming one of the top-10 staples in the Premier League, currently sitting comfortably in eighth position, and have had some positive results of late, with wins over Everton and title hopefuls Tottenham.

Recent results have not been quite as favourable, but they host relegation battlers Wigan on the final day of the year in a game that could help them finish on a high.

Roberto Martinez’s outfit haven’t had too bad of a time during the festive season – if you forget Monday’s 5-0 drumming at the hands of Manchester United – and draws against Liverpool and Chelsea and a win away at West Brom have shown that they are not ready to wave the white flag.

Both sides will obviously be looking to end the year on a positive note, but Stoke should see out 2011 with three points.


JAY JAFFA says...

Tottenham travel to Wales knowing that a win at the Liberty Stadium would do little to stop suggestions of a title challenge.

It is small wonder that Kemy Agustien has told his manager that he does not fancy filling in at right-back against Spurs, especially after watching Gareth Bale's mesmeric display against Norwich.

The attacking verve seen at Carrow Road on Tuesday suggests Brendan Rodgers will have a task on his hands to mastermind a way to suffocate such a threat.

However, credit must go to a backline that has kept eight clean sheets in the Premier League so far – second only to Manchester United.

At the other end, goals have been hard to come by and that will be the worry for Swansea fans. They have netted just once in their last 270 minutes of football. This will be a tight game, but one I expect Spurs to edge.

West Brom

JOEL LAMY says...

West Brom became the first side in the league to shut out Manchester City, but facing Everton the onus will be on Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long to improve what is a poor home record. Odemwingie has found some of his form from last season but Long has just one goal in his last four and missed what for him was an easy header against City. Whether two strikers used to being the main threat can work together will be a test of Roy Hodgson's management with his side struggling to score.

The visitors face a similar problem. Leon Osman has chipped in but where is the Tim Cahill of old? Unless he can finally come to the fore David Moyes may have to unleash Royston Drenthe; will he able to replicate the match-winning performance delivered by a similar type of player in Victor Moses a few weeks ago?

Manchester City


It is fair to assume that Manchester City will be facing one of the first of many tests of character when they arrive at the Stadium of Light on New Year’s Day.

Barring an incredible surprise at Old Trafford the previous day, Roberto Mancini’s team will be trailing Manchester United when they kick-off against a Sunderland side rejuvenated by Martin O’Neill’s arrival in the manager’s office.

Mancini might have a squad that is vastly superior to that at O’Neill’s disposal but the hosts will be buoyed by a partisan crowd which has plenty to shout about, ensuring a crackling atmosphere.

City fans might not have anything good to say about Carlos Tevez, but Sunderland supporters will be ruing his absence. They watched in amazement last term when he posted his contender for miss of the season before Darren Bent scored a late winner from the penalty spot.

Mancini has three world-class strikers to choose from and O’Neill’s biggest test will be to bring the best out of Nicklas Bendtner, a player who thinks he belongs in that same bracket.

4 CORRECT            0 PERFECT            6 WRONG

The Christmas turkey has been polished off and and Goal.com Predicts has put its shiny new toys away to look back on what was a pretty poor week from our reporters last time out. Surprising results such as Wigan's draw with Chelsea rocked the boat somewhat but with not a single perfect prediction from our team, they'll be hoping for a big improvement for the last edition of 2011. Let us know how you see the weekend's fixtures panning out it in the comments section below...

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