Premier League round-up: Matchday 32

The game of the Premier League weekend undoubtedly came at the Stadium of Light where West Bromwich Albion came from behind twice to eventually win 3-2. Sunderland seemed to be in complete control as Nicky Shorey put through his own net for the away side before Asamoah Gyan wasted a great goalscoring opportunity, but Peter Odemwingie fired in from close range just before the half-hour mark to level the scores.

Within three minutes, though, Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley smashed in a free-kick from thirty yards to restore the Black Cats’ lead. But then came the fightback. Roy Hodgson’s side scored first through Youssuf Mulumbu and then Paul Scharner to propel West Brom to 10th in the table.
It can be safely assumed that West Brom’s Premier League status is all but safe but, sadly, the same cannot be said of Wolves, who succumbed to a 3-0 home defeat to Everton. Despite Mick McCarthy’s side dominating the opening twenty minutes it was Everton who took the lead through a Jermaine Beckford header. Wolves’ ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey tried his best to keep his side in the tie but he could do nothing about Everton’s second and third goals, Phil Neville and Dinyar Bilyaleyetdinov firing in before half-time to condemn Wolves to yet another week in the relegation zone.
A Daniel Sturridge-led Bolton overcame West Ham, the on-loan striker brilliantly curling a shot into the top corner to give Owen Coyle’s side an early advantage. The young Englishman scored again just after half-time after Chung-Yong Lee had doubled their lead. Sturridge’s parent club Chelsea were kept at bay by an inspired Ali-Al Habsi in the Wigan goal but Florent Malouda scored with twenty minutes left to keep The Blues’ title hopes alive.
Manchester United are clear favourites for the title and they easily overcame Fulham at Old Trafford, Dimitar Berbatov rounding off a neat move to give them the lead after twelve minutes. Antonio Valencia then nearly finished for Rooney-less United on the half-hour, heading in from close range.
Two relegation candidates, Birmingham and Blackburn, fought out a tense 1-1 draw at Ewood Park. Lee Bowyer had given Birmingham the lead but Junior Hoillet equalised for Rovers just before half-time.
A quite incredible first half at White Hart Lane saw five goals, three of which went to Tottenham Hotspur as they attempted to recover from their crushing Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the week. Peter Crouch scored two, going some way to making up for that ridiculous and pointless red card, with Luka Modric getting a goal in between. Matt Etherington scored a fine solo goal for Stoke and Kenwyne Jones scored just before half-time, but neither side could gain an advantage in the second half, leaving Spurs in fifth place.
Arsenal comfortably defeated Blackpool at Bloomfield Road thanks to goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin Van Persie. The Tangerines looked incredibly lax at the back and, within twenty minutes, Arsenal took the lead, Diaby finishing with great ease from a Van Persie cross, before Eboue doubled The Gunners’ advantage, firing past stranded ‘keeper Richard Kingson. Gary Taylor-Fletcher did get a goal back for Blackpool but Van Persie rounded off the victory, Theo Walcott squaring for the Dutchman to calmly slot home.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway bemoaned the performance of referee Lee Mason (and, possibly, rightly so) but his side were soundly beaten at home by a team who, after being ruled out of the title race by most pundits just last week, seem to be right back in the mix after this weekend.
Sunday’s other game involved struggling Aston Villa host Newcastle United in a match that saw just one goal. James Collins headed home in the 25th minute to send Gerard Houiller’s side five points clear of the relegation zone.
Monday night’s game Liverpool walk all over Manchester City – the Anfield club scoring three first half goals, two from an impressive Andy Carroll and one from an outstanding Dirk Kuyt. The Dutchman finished off superbly with Carroll striking either side to leave Liverpool just five points off a Europa League spot, a quite phenomenal turn-around given where they were before Kenny Dalglish was appointed manager.
Matchday 32 results: Blackburn 1 – 1 Birmingham; Bolton 3 – 0 West Ham; Chelsea 1 – 0 Wigan; Manchester United 2 – 0 Fulham; Sunderland 2 – 3 West Brom; Tottenham 3 – 2 Stoke; Wolves 0 – 3 Everton; Aston Villa 1 – 0 Newcastle; Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal; Liverpool 3 – 0 Manchester City
Matchday 33 fixtures: Birmingham-Sunderland; Blackpool-Wigan; Everton-Blackburn; West Brom-Chelsea; West Ham-Aston Villa; Arsenal-Liverpool; (Tuesday) Newcastle-Manchester United; (Wednesday) Chelsea-Birmingham; Tottenham-Arsenal
 
This article originally appeared on sports website Sports Haze, which is now unfortunately defunct.
 

Premier League Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers

In my final Premier League preview I focus on Wolverhampton Wanderers. After last season’s impressive 15th place finish manager Mick McCarthy will be looking to make the club into a stabilised Premier League side.

An impressive summer for Wolves has come after a notable 2009/10 season. McCarthy has strengthened his squad with players that have Premier League experience and a few that are going to want to prove themselves in the top flight of English football. Steven Fletcher scored eight goals for Burnley last season in the Turf Moor side’s relegation battle and the Scottish striker will be looking to have a more enjoyable time this term after joining for six and a half million pounds. After Hull were relegated last season Stephen Hunt decided that he wanted to stay in the Premier League and joined Wolves for £3 million. The winger’s pace, quality of crossing and assurance on the ball will be a great asset to McCarthy’s side. Hunt’s teammate at Hull, Steven Mouyokolo, has also signed for Wolves in a deal worth £2.5 million. The centre-back struggled to show his quality last season but Wolves will be hoping that the French defender can stand up to the plate this season. Also joining the club are Jelle van Damme, Adlene Guedioura and Geoffrey Mujangi Bia. Van Damme made 110 appearances for Anderlecht and the Belgian defender, who briefly played for Southampton between 2004 and 2006, will be looking to establish himself as a first team player. Algeria midfielder Guerdioura, who is one of many Algerian internationals who are actually French-born, spent the second half of last season on loan at Wolves, where he played fourteen times, scoring one goal. The central midfielder will be hoping to have an extended run in the first team this season. Mujangi Bia also spent the second half of last season on loan with Wolves and has now rejoined the side on loan for this season. The Belgian right-sided midfielder adds more width to the squad, as well as his  strength going forward.
Wolves could struggle at the back this season. Jody Craddock, Ronald Zubar and Mouyokolo are all decent defenders but can be inconsistent; they could struggle to keep most teams at bay this season. Greg Halford and George Elokobi have not proven themselves at the top level and so, again, could struggle, while Christophe Berra is feeble in defence. Van Damme could add some much needed strength to the back-line but this may not be enough; Wolves could do with another defender who is proven in the Premier League.
The side are a little stronger in midfield with Nenad Milijas and Hunt the main men. Milijas impressed last season after his move from Red Star Belgrade in June 2009. The Serbian midfielder has a powerful shot and links up well with the defence and attack. Young English winger Michael Kightly could use this season to propel himself into the England spotlight but will find it difficult to hold down a first team place. As with the defence Wolves could do with some more experienced midfielders as there seems to be very little quality in their squad.
Goals are going to be hard to come by for Wolves this season, although the fact that Kevin Doyle is now fully fit and raring to go is a huge boost for them. The Republic of Ireland international struggled with injury last season but still managed to score nine goals. Doyle and Fletcher could possibly form a partnership, while Sylvain Ebanks-Blake still fails to live up to the hype created by his Manchester United youth team days. Wolves will stay up like last season and will probably finish above the 15th place mark, but the lack of quality in the squad is going to make it another gruelling season for this squad.
Where will they finish?: 14th
Official relegation odds: 2/1 (Bet365)
Star man: Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle
One to watch: Michael Kightly
Main weakness: They have a sever lack of Premier League experience