Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom's Premier League predictions

Not long to go now. Over the next two months all the major silverware will be handed out before we can all concentrate on the World Cup.

This weekend has the potential to be critical at the top and bottom of the Premier League. Sports Editor Steven Beacom gives his predictions on all the fixtures with Paddy Power supplying the odds.

All games kick-off at 3pm on Saturday unless stated.

BIRMINGHAM v ARSENAL

We’ll know after this match if the Gunners have it in them to take the title to the wire. You see, the game at Birmingham is just the sort of fixture in recent years that has tripped up the Gunners. Remember the last time they seriously threatened a title challenge, they lost a lead in the dying seconds and William Gallas sat on the pitch like a big baby. I’ve a nine month old at home who is more mature than him.

Arsene Wenger knows that this will be one of his side’s toughest encounters in the run-in. Alex McLeish will obviously hope to win, not just to underline Birmingham’s fine season, but also to help his mate Sir Alex Ferguson. You have to hand it to Fergie. He is bosom buddies with half of the other bosses in the Premier League — all desperate to shine for the big daddy.

Beacom Prediction: 1-2

PADDY POWER ODDS: Birmingham 11/2 Draw 29/10 Arsenal 8/15

BOLTON v MANCHESTER UNITED

(Saturday 5.30pm)

United’s victory over Liverpool last weekend was massive for them. Last season’s defeat to Rafael Benitez’s men at Old Trafford took them a little while to get over and almost cost them in the title race. Twelve months on what was a pretty comfortable victory over their fiercest rivals will give them great confidence for the weeks ahead. Not that they need any. They look unstoppable at the moment and are able to grind out wins with battling performances as well as produce the dazzling displays they are renowned for.

Owen Coyle has improved Bolton, but while their fans would love to halt United’s title charge, it isn’t going to happen. United to win with something to spare.

Beacom Prediction: 1-3

PADDY POWER ODDS: Bolton 7/1 Draw 3/1 United 4/9

CHELSEA v ASTON VILLA

Chelsea may have got back to winning ways in midweek but don’t forget it was against Portsmouth. Villa will test Chelsea in what is an FA Cup semi-final dress rehearsal. Both need to win for different reasons. It looks like a draw to me.

Beacom Prediction:1-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Chelsea 4/9 Draw 3/1 Villa 7/1

HULL CITY V FULHAM

Fulham have had another memorable campaign, especially in Europe, but I fancy Iain Dowie to grab his first win as Hull boss against the Cottagers.

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Hull 7/5 Draw 23/10 Fulham 15/8

TOTTENHAM v PORTSMOUTH

I know this is strange to believe, but Pompey have won more silverware than Spurs in recent years! The FA Cup triumph was under Harry Redknapp, who left Fratton Park for White Hart Lane. He enjoyed that day and he’ll enjoy tomorrow too.

Beacom Prediction: 3-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Spurs 2/7 Draw 4/1 Pompey 11/1

WEST HAM v STOKE CITY

Stoke have safeguarded their top flight future for another season, but Tony Pulis will still demand a big finish. West Ham’s greater need for points should, however, ensure a home victory. Defeat and it’s surely all over for Gianfranco Zola, no matter what the new owners are saying at the moment.

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: West Ham 11/10 Draw 23/10 Stoke 5/2

WOLVES v EVERTON

Everton to sneak back to Goodison Park with the points. Fair play to Mick McCarthy and Wolves though. They are staying up — an incredible achievement.

Beacom Prediction: 1-2

PADDY POWER ODDS: Wolves 5/2 Draw 23/10 Everton 11/10

BURNLEY v BLACKBURN

(Sunday 12 noon)

Few derbies match this one in the UK in terms of hatred. Obviously Rangers v Celtic is top of the list, but the noise and intensity inside Turf Moor will be something to behold. No wonder this showdown is kicking off at high noon. I enjoy the way Burnley play. Even under Brian Laws, who was a bizarre managerial appointment, they try to produce easy on the eye football. Contrast that with Blackburn who are dreadful to watch. The fact that Sam Allardyce is also manager at Rovers should mean that Burnley will have plenty of neutral support. With their fans roaring them, I’m going for Burnley to do it.

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Burnley 8/5 Draw 9/4 Blackburn 17/10

LIVERPOOL v SUNDERLAND

(Sunday 4pm)

The big question ahead of this game will be if Steve Bruce picks that classy player called Beach Ball for the trip to Anfield. Beach Ball produced a blinding finish to win the game the last time these sides met. I reckon he’ll be mightily deflated not to get the nod.

If he’s really angry with Sunderland boss Bruce, maybe Rafael Benitez should buy him. After all, he’s got more goals than Lucas this season! Bruce would love nothing more than to pile on the woe for Liverpool fans.

After Liverpool went behind to Manchester United last week, there was no way back. Liverpool don’t do comebacks under Rafa Benitez any more. That being the case they better get ahead of Sunderland and build on it rather than retreating into their shell as they did at Old Trafford. Rafa told Fernando Torres to focus earlier this week. Expect to see the Spaniard find the net.

Beacom Prediction: 3-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Liverpool 3/10 Draw 4/1 Sunderland 10/1

MANCHESTER CITY v WIGAN

(Monday 8pm)

Wigan’s last Monday fixture saw them beat a dreadfully out of sorts Liverpool. They won’t get that lucky against City, who are as unpredictable as their manager. So much for Roberto Mancini being a cool Italian. He lost it the other night with David Moyes. Not a wise move. Have you seen the Everton boss when he’s really angry. Even David Haye wouldn’t take him on!

Beacom Prediction: 3-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Man City 4/11 Draw 10/3 Wigan 9/1

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