Premier League Preview: 3rd/4th April

Saturday 3rd April

Manchester United (1st) vs Chelsea (2nd) – Old Trafford – Kick Off: 12:45pm

This game has been overshadowed by the ankle ligament injury suffered by Wayne Rooney in midweek, which is somewhat understandable given that it’s a World Cup year. United will look to Dimitar Berbatov to lead the line, and prove his doubters wrong while doing so. United return from Munich with their tails between their legs, but will be boosted by the news that both Owen Hargreaves and John O’Shea are pushing for a spot on the bench.

Chelsea head into this fixture having not score in 3 of their last 4 visits to Old Trafford, but recent victories over Aston Villa and Portsmouth in which the Blues have notched 12 goals will have them full of confidence. Didier Drogba’s return could see Joe Cole dropped to the bench, but Chelsea’s defence still suffers from an injury crisis with Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Carvalho and Essien all ruled out.

With just a single seperating the top 2, a United victory could go a long way to bringing a 4th Premier League title in as many years back to Old Trafford. Were the Reds to open up a 4 point lead with only 5 games left, Chelsea would have it all to do.

Form Guide: Manchester United (L W W W W W) Chelsea (W L W D W W)

Match Facts:

  • Carlo Ancelotti has won 5 of his last 6 meetings against Sir Alex Ferguson.
  • Man Utd are unbeaten in their last 4 meetings with Chelsea at Old Trafford.
  • United have only conceded 25 goals in 32 league games this season – the best defensive record in the league.
  • Meanwhile, Chelsea have scored 82 goals in the same time – making them the league’s top scorers.
  • Man Utd have won their last 9 games in which Wayne Rooney has been missing.

Arsenal (3rd) vs Wolves (14th) – Emirates Stadium – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Arsenal head into this fixture, and indeed their remaining fixtures this season, knowing that captain Cesc Fabregas will not play again this season (broken fibula).  William Gallas and Andrey Arshavin are also out for the Gunners, adding to injuries to Ramsey, Gibbs, Djourou and Van Persie, but Gael Clichy and Denilson are fit to play.

Wolves could name an unchanged side following the news that striker Sylvain Ebanks-Blake is suffering from a virus. Mick McCarthy’s side have stepped up to the challenge of avoiding relegation, and are unbeaten in their last 4 games.

Arsenal have had somewhat of a bad week, conceding a 90th minute equaliser to Kevin Phillips at St. Andrews last week and were on the receiving end of their own breathtaking brand of attacking football against Barcelona midweek. Any result for Wolves would go a long way to helping them avoid relegation, but it would also surely put the final nail in the coffin of Arsenal’s title challenge.

Form Guide: Arsenal (W W W W W D) Wolves (L L W D W D)

Match  Facts:

  • Arsenal are unbeaten against Wolves in their last 10 meetings.
  • Wolves have weakest attack in the Premier League, only scoring 28 goals this season.
  • A draw for Wolves  will see them equal their points tally of 33 in 2003/2004, which saw them finish bottom.
  • Manuel Almunia is set to make his 100th Premier League appearance for the Gunners.

Bolton Wanderers (15th) vs Aston Villa (7th) – Reebok Stadium – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Bolton look set to welcome back Paul Robinson, who faces a late fitness test on the ankle injury that kept them out of their defeat to Man Utd last week. Johan Elmander plays, despite receiving stitches for a head wound suffered in the same game.

Aston Villa have worries over the fitness of several key players, including Richard Dunne, James Milner, Emile Heskey, John Carew and Gabby Agbonlahor.  Meanwhile, Marlon Harewood and Nigel Reo-Coker remain on the injured list at Villa Park.

Martin O’Neill’s future at Villa Park has been in question this week following their spectacular 7-1 defeat to Chelsea last week. Villa seem to be suffering the same fate as they did last year, running out of gas as the battle for 4th place reaches it’s climax. They are currently 7 points behind Spurs in 4th place. Owen Coyle’s Bolton side have picked up 9 points from their last 6 games which sees them stay clear of the relegation zone by 6 points. A result against Villa on Saturday would surely be enough to remain in the top flight for another year.

Form Guide: Bolton (W W L W L L) Aston Villa (W D W D D L)

Match Facts:

  • Bolton haven’t beaten Villa at home since 2002.
  • Paul Robinson will make his 150th league appearance for Bolton if he plays.
  • Kevin Davies has 7 goals in his career against Aston Villa.
  • Villa’s recent poor form has seen them win only 3 of their last 13 games in the league.

Portsmouth (20th) vs Blackburn Rovers (10th) – Fratton Park – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Portsmouth fans may be forgiven for believing the whole world is conspiring against them, as following their troubles off the pitch, they are now suffering from a severe injury crisis. With an FA Cup semi-final against Spurs next week, Pompy would liked to have the luxury of resting a few players given their relegation fate is now sealed, but now may not have the numbers to be able to do that. Belhadj, Ben Haim, Boateng, Dindane, Diop, Webber, Yebda, Hreidarsson and Wilson are all unavailable, while James, Rocha, Smith and Utaka remain doubts.

Blackburn could welcome back Yildiray Basturk and Paul Robinson, with Keith Andrews being Sam Allardyce’s only major doubt. Allardyce has hinted that he may use the remaining league games to experiment with this team, given that his club have almost certainly played themselves out of the drop zone with a good run of home form.

Should Portsmouth fail to win and either Hull or West Ham pick up 3 points in their respective games, Avram Grant’s men’s fate will be confirmed with Championship football looming next year.

Form Guide: Portsmouth (W L L W L L) Blackburn (W L L D W W)

Match Facts:

  • There has not been a goalless league match between these two since 1934.
  • Pompy have failed to keep a clean sheet since their 2-0 win against Liverpool in December.
  • They have also failed to win 16 of their 17 games against teams in the top half the league this year.
  • Blackburn are looking for their 3rd league win a row for the first time in over 2 years.

Stoke City (11th) vs Hull City (18th) – Birtannia Stadium – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Dean Whitehead returns for Stoke following suspension, while late fitness tests will determine whether Ryan Shawcross, Dave Kitson and Abdoulaye Faye take part or not. James Beattie and Salif Diao remain sidelined for The Potters.

Hull will be without Ibrahim Sonko who is ineligible to play against his parent club. Stephen Hunt is doubtful with a foot injury, while Ashbee, Zaki, Zayatte, Cooper and Gardner all miss out on an important game for Iain Dowie’s side.

Hull’s season looks set to end in the same fashion as last year’ adventure in which they avoided relegation on the final day of the season. They currently occupy the final relegation spot, although they are level on points with West Ham and have played a game less than the Hammers. A win or a draw will see them leapfrog Gianfranco Zola’s men for 24 hours at least. Stoke’s season also seems to following a similar path to last year, with Tony Pulis’ side 1 position better off than last year’s 12th.

Form Guide: Stoke (W L D D L W) Hull (L L L L L W)

Match Facts:

  • Hull have only won 1 of their last 7 meetings with Stoke.
  • Stoke have only managed to win 2 games in a row on one occasion this season.
  • The Tigers have lost all 5 of their last away league games.
  • Hull have the second fewest number of clean sheets this season, with 5.

Sunderland (13th) vs Tottenham (4th) – Stadium of Light – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Andy Reid and George McCartney miss out for Sunderland, while Alan Hutton is ineligible to play under terms of his loan deal. John Mensah and David Meyler will be assessed before kick-off.

Spurs are without Tom Huddlestone, Vedran Corluka and Michael Dawson, who join long-term absentees Carlo Cudicini, Aaron Lennon, Jonathan Woodgate and Jermaine Jenas on the sidelines. Wilson Palacios is also a doubt for Harry Redknapp, but Jermaine Defoe is fit to start.

Spurs are on an exellent run of form, and the chance to finish in 4th place remains in their own hands. Difficult fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd lie ahead, so Harry Redknapp knows that 3 points at Sunderland is a must.

Form Guide: Sunderland (D W D W D L) Tottenham (L W W W W W)

Match Facts:

  • Spurs have not won at the Stadium of Light in their last 4 visits.
  • Sunderland have lost just 1 of their last 15 home league games.
  • Harry Redknapp’s side are looking to win 6 games on the trot for the first time in 20 years.
  • The last time Spurs won 6 in a row in the league, they finished in 4th place.

Burnley (19th) vs Man City (5th) – Turf Moor – Kick Off: 5:30pm

Burnley welcome back skipper Stephen Caldwell after an absence of 4 months, while ex-City full back Stephen Jordan will be assessed for a knee injury before kick off.

Pablo Zabaleta is ruled out through suspension for Roberto Mancini’s men, and Stephen Ireland misses out with an ankle injury. Lescott, Bridge and Petrov remain on the sidelines.

City will be full of confidence after a blistering second half performance against Wigan on Monday thanks to a Carlos Tevez hat-trick, who moves to 19 league goals for the season, 25 overall. City will be hoping the Argentine can add to his tally in the late kick-off at Turf Moor, for the Citizens have not lost a league game in which Tevez has scored. Burnley face a tough task in attempting to avoid the drop – City are the first of three 4th place challengers to visit Turf Moor before the end of the season; Liverpool and Spurs are to follow.

Form Guide: Burnley (L L D L L L) Man City (D W D W L W)

Match Facts:

  • Man City have won 5 of their last 6 meetings with Burnley, with the other result being a draw.
  • The last 4 league meetings between these 2 have seen 6 goals scored in each game.
  • Burnley have only won 1 of their last 21 league games.
  • Mancini’s side have not kept a clean sheet in their last 10 games on the road.

Sunday 4th April

Birmingham (9th) vs Liverpool (6th) – St. Andrews – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Alex McLeish could very well name the same side that snatched a draw against Arsenal last week, with no fresh injury concerns for his side. Carsley, O’Connor and Murphy all remain on the treatment table.

Liverpool’s Alberto Aquilani is suffering from an ankle injury, and joins Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurélio on the sidelines.

Liverpool will be looking to recover from a midweek defeat in Benfica whe n they travel to a Birmingham team who defied all the odds to occupy a top 10 position. Fernando Torres is in great goal scoring form, although the striker may well be feeling the effects of being target by Benfica on Thursday week having been suffered several hard challenges. Meanwhile, Birmingham are undefeated against any of the top 5 at St. Andrews this year, and could prove a thorn in Liverpool’s side yet again and dent the Red’s hopes for a 4th place finish.

Form Guide: Birmingham (W W D L L D) Liverpool (D W L W L W)

Match Stats:

  • Rafa Benitez has never beaten Birmingham in 7 attempts so far in the league.
  • Birmingham are unbeaten in their last 12 home games.
  • The Blues have only managed one clean sheet in their last 12 league games.
  • Liverpool are without an away win in 6 league games.
  • Fernando Torres has bagged 5 goals in his last 3 Premier League games.

Fulham (12th) vs Wigan (16th) – Craven Cottage – Kick Off: 3:00pm

Fulham will be under pressure to name a strong side, following news of West Ham’s intentions to launch an official complaint to the Premier League after the Cottagers controversially rested several key players last weekend. Stephen Kelly is in line to return after missing the midweek victory over Wolfsburg.

Wigan have recalled midfielder Ben Watson from his loan spell at West Brom following an injury to Hendry Thomas.  Gary Caldwell misses out, while keeper Chris Kirkland returns from a virus.

Fulham are the new darlings of English football following their Europa League heroics over Juventus, and another good win against Wolfsburg on Thursday means Roy Hodgson will have his eyes on the return leg next week. Wigan travel to London for the first of three visits to the capital in the final 6 gameweeks and will be looking for a win to steer themselves clear of a relegation battle they should  never have become involved in.

Form Guide: Fulham (W W D L L L) Wigan (L W L L W L)

Match Facts:

  • Fulham and Wigan have drawn in 5 of their last 6 meetings.
  • There has not been more than 2 goals in the 12 previous meetings between these two.
  • Fulham had the 2nd worst points tally in March, following the best tally in February.
  • Wigan have not scored more than 1 goal in any of their last 12 matches.

Everton (12th) vs West Ham (8th) – Goodison Park – Kick Off: 4:00pm

Everton will still be without dynamic midfielder Mikel Arteta, and have been hit by the news that up and coming star Dan Gosling faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines following a cruciate ligament injury. Captain Phil Neville makes his 200th appearance for the club.

West Ham expect to welcome back Jack Collison and James Tomkins, but Kieron Dyer is doubtful after coming off injured against Stoke last week.

West Ham will be playing this game 24 hours after Hull, and could find themselves in the relegation zone should the Tigers have picked up a point the day before. With 6 defeats on the trot, the Hammers are up against it against an in-form Everton side, who are pushing for a European qualification spot for the 5th time in 8 years.

Form Guide: Everton (L W D W W D) West Ham (L L L L L L)

Match Facts:

  • Everton have won their last 3 meetings with the Hammers, and are unbeaten in their last 5.
  • West Ham have only won 1 of their last 14 visits to Goodison Park.
  • Only Manchester United have amassed more points than Everton in 2010.
  • West Ham are one defeat away from equalling the clubs record losing streak of 7.
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One Response to Premier League Preview: 3rd/4th April

  1. ajeffares says:

    Great preview

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