Blackburn Rovers vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs got a great result with a win against Chelsea before the international break and with plenty of players available and Ledley King all rested up, Spurs will be fresh and raring to go again against Blackburn. Rovers however, have been scraping points fairly frequently since Allardyce took charge and at home especially are a tough proposition. The battling Rovers will look to stifle a more creative Spurs team here, but I think in the likes of Modric and an in-form Lennon, Spurs will have just enough to overcome a stubborn resistance.
Arsenal vs. Manchester City
Arsenal have been getting better and better in recent weeks as more and more of their injured stars return to action. Rumour has it that Cesc Fabregas will be back in the squad for their match against the Citizens, but even if he is not Arsenal are high in form and confidence. City meanwhile, have been desperately poor on the road this season and I really don’t see that changing today. They have the quality to compete with Arsenal, but all season long it just hasn’t clicked for them. Home win.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough are deep into squeaky bum time now, they need to start winning matches if they are to have any chance of survival. Southgate has been shown a lot of faith by the board and he has to deliver for them now. They need to go at Bolton, who will be very stubborn and resilient as ever at the Reebok, but they’re not safe themselves yet and won’t want to slip up against ‘Boro, because this will be one they have pencilled in as an easier match. If ‘Boro can go out with confidence and take the game to them from the very start they may just startle the home side and snatch a win. But my gut says draw, which is no good for either side.
Hull City vs. Portsmouth
Portsmouth picked up a win against a below par Everton side last time out thanks to two goals from England striker Peter Crouch. The lanky target man continued that good form in midweek and they will be hoping to seal another win against Hull here today, and take a step in the right direction. Hull are perhaps a win or two away from safety though and have had a bit of time to regroup after their defeat to a strong Wigan side. Phil Brown will have them pumped to finish the job they started so well but have let slip. I think Pompey might sneak this one though. They have a lot of confidence and importantly, an in-form striker.
Newcastle United vs. Chelsea
Well, well, well, this will be interesting. Shearer returns to Newcastle as manager and starts with a very big test against Chelsea. Hiddink’s side were undone by Spurs last time out but will have regrouped and be spurred on by the fact that United have slipped up quite considerably – they may be in with a sniff if they can win all eight remaining games. There is no doubt St. James’ will be rocking for this one though, and Newcastle’s players will surely be lifted by the support and optimism that Shearer’s appointment will bring. It’ll be hard fought, and I certainly wouldn’t bet against Newcastle sneaking a win or a draw, but I just have a feeling Chelsea may just scrape a win to ruin the Geordies’ party.
West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City
Stoke haven’t won an away match all season, but they will know that they won’t get a better chance than at the Hawthorns today. West Brom are all but gone and unless they win maybe four or five of their remaining games don’t stand a chance. This is another match that will see a match up between a physical side and a more pleasing on the eye side, and it depends how well WBA can cope with the pressure that Stoke will put them under as to whether they can get anything from it. I have a feeling West Brom might prolong their hope with a win here today.
West Ham United vs. Sunderland Athletic
It’s great to see West Ham doing so well after giving Zola a bit of time when they were struggling earlier in the season and it goes to show that given time, managers can produce results. They’re still suffering from injuries a little, but will be high on confidence and will be keen to push on for a UEFA Cup place with victory over the Black Cats today. Sbragia’s Sunderland are a little up and down at times, but they certainly have the ability to cause the Hammers problems. I think home advantage will tell for West Ham though.
Fulham vs. Liverpool
Going into this match Liverpool are without doubt the league’s form team, coming off the back of a speight of crucial wins and knowing that they are back in with a genuine title chance. But they have had many players away on international duty this last week and Benitez will be hoping they have not been affected too much. Fulham are a very stong side at Craven Cottage and will look to frustrate Liverpool, and I think they may succeed – unless Liverpool can reignite the storming form that saw them demolish Man Utd and Villa.
Everton vs. Wigan Athletic (Sun)
Everton looked to be suffering, at long last, from a long hard season with an incredible injury list in their defeat to Portsmouth last time out, so in a way, the international break came at a good time for them. Some of the squad were in international action but it’s given the others a chance to freshen up and the likes of Tim Cahill may now have shaken off their injuries. Wigan too will be refreshed from the break and will want to keep striving for a UEFA Cup place, but I think at home, Everton should be able to avenge their defeat to Wigan earlier this season.
Manchester United vs. Aston Villa (Sun)
Both these teams had been having fantastic seasons until recent dips in form and now both find themselves under pressure in the table. United have let Liverpool back into the title race while now Villa have been surpassed by Arsenal and have Everton breathing down their necks – 4th could easily become 6th. Ferguson has to really go at Villa here and get back to winning ways, which may play into Villa’s counter-attacking hands. I think there could be some goals in this one but United should just shade it.