Arsenal vs. West Ham
Nicklas Bendtner’s late goal against Hull last week was further evidence of Arsenal’s gathering momentum in the title race. After two tough away games and a Champions League win the Gunners will hope to get the points at home that will take them back to the top – for 24 hours at least. West Ham are in the middle of a difficult season and after two encouraging home results have now lost three on the spin. I can see Zola’s men getting the points needed to stay up, but not at the Emirates this weekend. 3-0.
Aston Villa vs. Wolverhampton
Villa’s busy month continues with a derby against Wolves. Martin O’Neill has pledged to rotate his squad through a run of five games in 15 days as he looks to keep their FA Cup and Champions League qualification hopes alive. Wolves grabbed a massive three points at Burnley last week, giving themselves breathing space at the bottom. Mick McCarthy will have them equally motivated for this one but I fancy Villa to nick the points. 2-1.
Everton vs. Bolton
The Owen Coyle affect is finally taking hold at Bolton. Three wins in their last four, including a thumping 4-0 victory over Wigan, has seen them rise into mid-table. Everton still have hopes of Europa League qualification but know they need to win games like this if they are to leapfrog Birmingham just above them. They are strong at home and I think they will claim the points here. 2-0.
Portsmouth vs. Hull
The inevitable drew ever closers this week as Pompey’s nine-point deduction was confirmed, meaning they are effectively relegated. They may only have pride to play for in the league, but they have shown plenty of that in recent weeks and have a FA Cup semi-final to look forward too. Hull will have Ian Dowie in charge for the first time in what is a must-win game in their survival bid. There will be nerves a plenty and I think that will result in a tense draw. 1-1.
Stoke vs. Tottenham
Stoke are all but assured of a third successive season in the Premier League after another impressive campaign under Tony Pulis. Notoriously difficult to play at home, Spurs will see Stoke as a banana skin on the road to fourth spot. The Londoners lost here last season in what was one of Juande Ramos’ last games in charge. The club have been transformed since under Harry Redknapp and I think they will wreak revenge for that loss and their home defeat to the same opposition earlier in the season. 0-1.
Sunderland vs. Birmingham
After 13 games without a win Sunderland got back to winning ways in spectacular style with a 4-0 battering of Bolton and then were unlucky only to draw with Man City, conceding an equaliser in injury time. They will be up against a spirited Birmingham side who continue to harbour European hopes after a fantastic campaign under Alex McCleish. I think both sides will settle for a draw at the Stadium of Light. 0-0.
Wigan vs. Burnley
It has been typical Wigan in recent weeks – beating Liverpool and then losing 4-0 to Bolton. The result of this game will depend on which Wigan side decides to turn up. The fans began to turn on Burnley boss Brian Laws during last weekend’s defeat to Wolves – a game they couldn’t really afford to lose. This is another must-win for the Clarets, but I just can’t see it. 1-0.
Sunday March 21, 2010
Blackburn vs. Chelsea
Rovers have reached the safety of mid-table mainly thanks to a solid home record, indeed their last win came at Ewood, but they have been defeated in their last two away games. Chelsea will have to recover quickly from their Champions League exit if they are to maintain their Premier league title challenge. Furthermore, the FA Cup odds suggest Chelsea are in with a chance of doing the double this season. Although this game will be one of their trickier fixtures in the run-in, I think they will nick the points. 1-2.
Fulham vs. Manchester City
Fulham are without a win in five – though in that time they have progressed through to the Europa League quarter-finals. They are still to be a force to be reckoned with at home, with the creative instinct of Damien Duff and goal-scoring of Bobby Zamora driving them forward. City started poorly at Sunderland last week, but despite a much improved second half performance they still needed a last minute strike from Adam Johnson to rescue a point. This is another tough test for Mancini’s men and I can see Fulham holding them to a draw. 1-1.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
The game of the weekend is undoubtedly at Old Trafford where fierce rivals United and Liverpool clash. Rafa Benitez’s men famously won here 4-1 last season as they fought United all the way for the title. It has been a different story this season though as the Reds battle to finish in the final Champions League spot, while United remain at the summit. Much of the
pre-match talk will focus on the team’s respective forwards Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres. The United striker is enjoying his best ever goal-scoring season, while Torres, who gave Nemanja Vidic a torrid time in last season’s
fixture, is battling his way back to full fitness. Both players will be looking to make an impact domestically as they look to boost their respective national side’s World Cup chances . The result of the game could depend on which forward has the upper hand, but I think United will have too much for Liverpool, who for me lack enough world class players to compete for the title. 2-1.