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Manchester City vs. Aston Villa
Villa will be very upset with their result at the weekend, especially with the manner in which they conceded two goals late on. It is getting to the point in the season now where both nerves and fatigue will be setting in and Villa may find it hard to keep up the form they’ve shown through most of the season. Man City still don’t seem to know whether they’re coming or going and a defeat to West Ham at the weekend leaves them still just six points off the drop zone. Hughes will really hope they can get a performance against Villa today, as they need to capitalise on home games going into the run in. I think Villa should return to winning ways here though, they’re great on the counter and Man City will over commit – simply because their strength lies in their attack.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester United
Usually when I write these predictions I try and consider the pros and cons of each team involved, but to be honest, it’s getting to the point where if United are involved, it doesn’t really matter who the opposition is. The Champions are in such good form, and have such strength in depth right through the squad, that it is really difficult to look past them at all. Of course, Newcastle’s form of late has been shaky too, and I don’t think they’ll provide much of a test for the rampant reds.
Stoke City vs. Bolton Wanderers
Stoke know the value of their home games and fair play to them, have made the Britannia a difficult place to visit at times this season. It’s not that people don’t know how to handle them though it’s that as a rule, they can’t. But Bolton are a team that will be able to match Stoke physically and so Stoke’s home advantage will be reduced in this one. What’s more, Bolton have far more quality to go with their muscle and so if any football gets played, expect Bolton to be the victors. They will be well up for it, having picked up a good win against Newcastle at the weekend I think one more would just about secure their survival. Stoke need to pick up points fast, but I don’t think they’ll get any today.
Wigan Athletic vs. West Ham United
West Ham’s freestyle football has suffered a bit of late as they start to really miss the presence of the likes of Craig Bellamy in their squad. They don’t have the biggest squad and his running and energy was almost worth two players at times. Still, they’ve a great spirit about them and were too good for a poor Man City side at the weekend, but today’s will be a tougher test. Wigan are a very well organised side under Steve Bruce and have an admirable front line, plenty of powerful players that have some quality about them. I reckon this will be a very tight game, Wigan have the home advantage but West Ham have a few players that could maybe swing it for them. I’ll play it safe and say a draw for this one.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Everton
Everton continue to suffer from a long injury list going into this game but it hasn’t stopped them so far and I think they will band together once again. They shouldn’t be short of goals, despite being short of strikers, with Tim Cahill and Louis Saha in rich form and Jo a predatory presence too. Still, they lacked some fluidity against West Brom and will hope that Moyes can adequately fill the hole left by Mikel Arteta. Blackburn picked up a narrow victory from Hull at the weekend but despite progress under Big Sam are very much still in the thick of a relegation battle. Sam will instill a fighting mentality in them, but Everton aren’t afraid to scrap and have a touch more class. I think (and hope) that Everton will be able to avenge two previous defeats to Blackburn earlier in the season.
Fulham vs. Hull City
Fulham made Arsenal sweat at the Emirates on the weekend and came away with a point that they’ll be delighted with – especially as they haven’t hit the heights of their home form on the road this season. At home Roy Hodgson’s men really know their business, so much so that they old fella’ has been mentioned in association with the Manager of the Year accolades. Hull just can’t seem to recapture their former spark and are now regarded with a sort of pity by the footballing public that not so long ago embraced their unexpected success in the big League. I can’t see where a win is coming from and I think the only thing that may save their season from complete disaster is the incompetence of some of the other teams at the bottom there.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough seem to have rediscovered themselves as they have been threatening to for a long time now and so they will hope to get another win to try and keep their upward momentum going. Tottenham will be disappointed by their penalties defeat in the Carling Cup Final on Sunday, especially to such a young United side but they shouldn’t be too downhearted as they know that the League is the priority and like ‘Boro, they still have some serious work to do. ‘Boro, even in better form, rely quite heavily on a few individuals though and a good solid defensive performance should keep them quiet, and I think Spurs have enough inventiveness and energy going forward to break through Middlesbrough’s defence.