Aston Villa vs. Chelsea
The Villa supporters are growing increasingly frustrated with their side’s lack of creativity and progress. An eight point gap between them and the relegation zone should give them a sufficient buffer, but defeat here would raise the anxiety levels, and the calls for Alex McLeish to leave would grow louder. Charles N’Zogbia is out for another month for the home side, while the news that Stilian Petrov has been diagnosed with luekemia is dreadfully sad. Chris Herd is likely to come in for the injured Alan Hutton.
Chelsea lost their home game with Villa 3-1 in December in one of the worst days of Andre Villas-Boas’s reign. A lot has changed since then, namely the manager, and now Roberto Di Matteo continues to help restore confidence around Stamford Bridge. Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Benfica displayed a new found resilience in the ranks. It is largely thought that Di Matteo will stick to the side that earned that win, meaning Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou continue.
It is hard to see the cloud lifting at Villa Park and a re-invigorated Chelsea will triumph. 0-2
Everton vs. West Brom
David Moyes’ side will be in fine spirits having made it through to the FA Cup semi-final with a 2-0 win over Sunderland in the week. That result followed an excellent 2-0 victory at Swansea last weekend. The Toffees seem to have hit form at exactly the right time. Everton have Stephen Pienaar available again having been cup-tied for Tuesday’s game, but they continue to be without Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman.
The Baggies have picked up 14 points from their past 10 game as they continue their steady if unspectacular season in the Premier League. No win in three will be a concern for Roy Hodgson, and they can expect little change at Goodison. James Morrison has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with ligament damage, so Graham Dorrans could come in for him.
Everton to continue their impressive form in 2012. 2-0
Fulham vs. Norwich
Fulham have slipped into some poor form as of late having played well for the early part of 2012. Three defeats on the spin have given Martin Jol something to think about. Monday night’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United ought to give his players confidence, however, and they could well have earned a draw if a last minute penalty had been given. Andy Johnson is a doubt having missed the game at Old Trafford, while winger Alex Kacaniklic has been recalled from loan and could feature.
Having been on a poor run themselves, Norwich got back on track with a 2-1 home victory over Wolves. The Canaries now sit just one point off the magical 40 mark, and to achieve that with seven games to go would be a huge achievement. Last week’s two-goal hero Grant Holt got himself sent-off, and will miss the game at Craven Cottage. Meanwhile Daniel Ayala and Anthony Pilkington face late fitness tests.
Fulham need the win to get back on track for the rest of the season and will prevail. 2-1
Manchester City vs. Sunderland
There have been clear signs of Manchester City beginning to feel the pressure over the past few weeks. Defeat at Swansea, an unconvincing home victory over Chelsea and a 1-1 draw at Stoke have allowed rivals United to take a three point lead at the top of the table. City’s home form is impeccable, having won every game at the Etihad this season, so Roberto Mancini’s side will still be confident of victory. They will have to do without Sergio Aguero again with the foot injury that his manager described as “stupid”. This could lead to the starting return of Carlos Tevez, who has made two substitute appearances since his return.
Sunderland have hit their most inconsistent patch since Martin O’Neill took over as boss. The Black Cats crashed out of the FA Cup on Tuesday to Everton after a fairly insipid display, and Martin O’Neill will demand an improvment from his side. Lee Cattermole likely to join John O’Shea on the injured list, while Wayne Bridge is ineligible to face his parent club. Jack Colback will return however following the birth of his child.
It is hard to see City giving up their impressive record here. 3-0
QPR vs. Arsenal
It’s slowly getting to now or never time for Mark Hughes’ QPR. It shows how tough their run-in is when a home game to Arsenal is deemed one of your better chances of picking up points. Rangers hardly helped themselves last week against Sunderland with Djibril Cisse being sent off for the second time in his short Loftus Road career, and it is imperitave that they keep 11 men on the field. Cisse begins his four match ban, but Heidar Helguson could be fit for his first appearance in two months.
Arsenal swept aside Aston Villa last weekend and, along with Man United, are the form team in the division. They have taken Tottenham’s third place and it seems highly unlikely that they will relinquish it. Laurent Koscielny is fit again for Arsene Wenger, who is set to have Francis Coquelin, Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere back soon.
Arsenal are in great form and with confidence high should quell the QPR challenge. 0-1
Wigan vs. Stoke
Roberto Martinez’s side have now gone three games unbeaten following their famous win over Liverpool last week. Much of the coverage has been surrounding Liverpool’s performance, but the Latics got everything they deserved at Anfield. Having looked doomed for much of the season, Wigan are now only a point from safety and could pull off what would be the most unlikely escape. Hugo Rodellega is a major doubt for them tomorrow which is a blow, but Victor Moses and Mohamed Diame should both feature.
Stoke have had a tough run of fixtures over the past month, and some might say that a return of two points from games with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City is a good result, but Tony Pullis would like to get his team back on the winning trail here. The Potters will be pushing for a top half finish and, sitting only a point behind tenth placed Swansea, they will back themselves. Jonathon Woodgate and Robert Huth return after injury, while Ricardo Fuller has served his three match ban.
This could prove to be a tight affair at the DW, and a draw is most likely. 1-1
Wolves vs. Bolton
Wolves’ form hit a new low last week as they sunk to their fourth Premier League defeat on the spin. It is difficult to see where Terry Connor’s side are going to get any sort of positive result from, with the relegation trap door now looming larger than ever. The desperation will be best displayed if Connor risks Karl Henry, who has been out for four weeks but is now in training. Wolves are boosted by the return of Ronald Zubar who was sent off against Manchester United.
Bolton have been buoyed by news of Fabrice Muamba’s continued recovery from his cardiac arrest, and their fans will be hoping their team can also continue their improvement. A crucial win over Blackburn last weekend was followed by an FA Cup defeat to Tottenham. Darren Pratley is out for Bolton after suffering a gashed leg in that Tottenham, but David Wheater is likely to be recalled having missed the game.
A relegation six pointer that will see each team take one. 2-2
Newcastle vs. Liverpool
This is a game with a huge history, given the pair of 4-3’s in the mid-1990’s, and something anywhere near that level will send everyone home happy. Newcastle are level on points with fifth placed Chelsea now, and a run towards the Champions League places cannot be completely discounted. They go looking for their third win in a row after triumphs over West Brom and Norwich. Alan Pardew will have to do without Fabricio Coloccini, however, after he tore a hamstring last week. Ryan Taylor and Cheik Tiote return to soften that blow.
Liverpool’s form is frankly woeful. Just eight points in 2012 tells its own story. Hopes of Champions League qualification have all but vanished after last weekend’s defeat to Wigan, and a further loss at St. James’ Park will raise further questions over Kenny Dalglish’s reign. Focus is likely to switch solely to the FA Cup semi-final against Everton. Charlie Adam is out with a knee injury, but Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger could all return.
Newcastle will continue Liverpool’s Premier League misery. 3-1
Tottenham vs. Swansea
Spurs’ league form may have hit the skids a little, but their fans will be hoping that success in the FA Cup can transfer to the race for Champions League football. Last weekend’s draw at Chelsea was a marked improvement on recent weeks, and Harry Redknapp will be confident that his team can overcome Swansea. Aaron Lennon has given his side a boost by being declared fit, but Ledley King may be rested having played a full 90 minutes on Tuesday against Bolton.
Swansea may have lost last weekend to Everton, but three wins before that took them up to 10th in the division. Brendan Rodgers has been touted as a potential replacement for Harry Redknapp should the latter take over the England job, and a win here would be the perfect job interview. Garry Monk will deputise for the ineligible Steven Caulker, while Nathan Dyer is available following suspension.
Hard to see Spurs’ winless run continuing. 2-0
Blackburn vs. Manchester United
Just when it looked like Blackburn had completely turned around their fortunes, they lose to Bolton. Steve Kean’s side have greatly improved in the last couple of months – no doubt better than when they won at Old Trafford in December – and they will hope to repeat that shock here. A win would take Rovers to 31 points, which would surely put them out of the reach of two of the bottom three. Steve Kean might name the same side for the fourth consecutive match, although Gael Givet is fit should he be required.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s big red juggernaut keeps on moving, and Monday night’s victory over Fulham took them three points clear at the top. United didn’t perform at their best in the 1-0 win, and a similar display could see Blackburn cause them serious problems. Rio Ferdinand has recovered from a back complaint which saw him removed as a caution on Monday, so United only have their long-term absentees of Michael Owen, Anderson, Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher unavailable.
Blackburn ought to be up for this one and could force a draw. 1-1