Liverpool vs. Blackburn Rovers
Liverpool will be a little shaken after defeat to Chelsea in midweek and may have that playing on their minds. Whether they have the mental toughness to bounce back and get on with the job will play a big part in this match and of course Allardyce will send his team out to get in their faces and keep them under a constant bombardment of pressure and physicality. Whether we see Gerrard or not could make a difference as he has the ability to stay calm and creat opportunities which they will need to do. I think it will be a tight, scrappy affair but Liverpool will probably just about squeeze a win out.
Chelsea vs. Bolton Wanderers
In contrast to Liverpool, Chelsea will be on cloud 9 after their midweek win and though they must guard against complacency, I think their confidence and belief will see them through this match quite comfortably. Bolton never really offer to much on the road, they’ll be solid and try to nullify Chelsea’s attacking play but I think eventually they will succumb and that could open the floodgates a little. I may well be wrong but I think Chelsea will take the three points with ease today.
Middlesbrough vs. Hull City
‘Boro have to win if they want to stay up. They can’t afford to lose any more ground on the teams above them and so they need to win most of their games. It looks to be a nigh on impossible task given how they’ve been playing, but I have to admit, they have got a fair bit of quality in their side, so maybe they will re-find their form. Hull are edging closer to safety, which they really should have secured long ago, and they will see this as a big chance to really but some distance between themselves and the Championship. I finding it hard to separate these two, and to be honest, either team could win or lose it with a moment of magic or a catastrophic error. But maybe they’ll draw.
Portsmouth vs. West Bromwich Albion
Portsmouth are sitting in 16th but they do have a game in hand and will need to make use of it. This match today though, they will have down as a must win. West Brom are all but down, barring an absolute miracle and though they’ll keep fighting, they are the poorest side in the league. They have been off the pace in both defence and attack and I think at home and with crouch a threat, Pompey will probably muscle out another three points and condemn WBA to the drop.
Sunderland Athletic vs. Manchester United
I wonder how Ferguson will approach this match. There’s no doubt that the United players have looked very jaded in recent weeks and so he will be tempted to rest a couple of them against a Sunderland team who he will expect to beat. But that is a risk – he has players to come in that should do the job but they simply cannot afford to slip up at all in the league any more. Sunderland will be encourage by how teams have taken the game to United in recent weeks and gotten results, and should be brave enough to have a go at them, especially at home. I’m not sure if they’ll have enough to break them down though as Ferguson will have been at his defenders since Wednesday and I think United will sneak it.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United
These two sides have both seen a major turnaround in fortunes since the start of the season and now have an eye on European places. Spurs were furious with the red card that lost them the game last week and blighted what has been a good run of form for them. West Ham too have been playing well but Zola’s men are dropping like flies a little and I think a trip to White Hart Lane may be a bridge too far. Still, this should be a flowing and entertaining game and when such open football is on the menu, you never know what can happen.
Wigan Athletic vs. Arsenal
Wigan were rolled over by Everton last week and Steve Bruce will be worried that a disturbed atmosphere at the club may compromise what promised to be a good season. The Zaki saga can’t be helping matters and with the season drawing to a close Antonio Valencia will perhaps have an eye on a summer move and not feel as committed to Wigan’s cause. Arsenal on the other hand, are enjoying having some key players back from injury and need to kick on to secure a Champions League place. I think Arsenal’s form and quality will see them through this one relatively easily.
Stoke City vs. Newcastle United
Stoke’s season depends almost entirely on their remaining home games, despite picking up a maiden away win last week. Newcastle will know that they will have few better chances to pick up points though and Shearer will send his players out to match the passion and intesity that the home players and fans will show. It will take a dogged, workmanlike performance to get at Stoke, but if Shearer has got them fighting for the cause they may be able to pull it off. I think this one may end up a draw though, disappointing for both sides.
Aston Villa vs. Everton (Sun)
Villa have come unstuck a little bit recently though they were unluvky to lose against Man Utd last week. This is a big game in the race for the fourth and fifth spots though and they will surely be up for it. Everton got a confidence boosting win against Wigan last week, playing very well and giving a couple of key players a rest. They will be well up for this game too and I think it could be a really entertaining encounter. I think Everton’s form is better going into the game and if they can play as they did against Wigan, Villa’s side may not be able to handle them.
Manchester City vs. Fulham
Man City have been frustatingly poor away from home this season, given how good they have been, on occasion, at the City of Manchester Stadium. They got a bit of a hiding in midweek and Hughes will have given them a good talking to, but they’ll need to play well to overcome Fulham. The Londoners are a very capable side and only narrowly lost out to Liverpool last week. They usually aren’t as effective away from Craven Cottage but if they get it right at Eastlands they could very well pick up three points.