EVERTON v. FULHAM 15.00, Goodison Park (Saturday)
With nothing really left to play for in the Premier League this season for either team, both managers may see this as an ideal opportunity to try some tactics or players not yet experimented with this season. David Moyes in particular may take the opportunity to lend some first-team experience to new blood, Everton’s limited transfer budget continuing to prevent significant outside investment in his team. If he is able to uncover some talent within his ranks, now may be the perfect time to do so.
What to watch out for: Youngsters proving they can cut it at the top.
Everton: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines; Osman, Gibson, Fellaini, Pienaar; Cahill, Jelavic
Fulham: Schwarzer; Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Murphy, Dembele, Ruiz, Dempsey, Duff; Pogrebnyak
Recent form: Everton – LWWDWD; Fulham – LLWWDW
STOKE v. ARSENAL 15.00, Britannia Stadium
Unlike Stoke, Arsenal still have it all to play for. A slip-up from the Gunners could see them relinquish their tentative hold of third place should results go against them elsewhere, and so they will need to chase the win here. The Britannia Stadium, however, is a notoriously hostile environment to force a result, and Arsene Wenger’s men will have to put up more of a fight than they have recently in order to come away with the three points.
What to watch out for: Van Persie recently won the PFA Player of the Year, and will be looking to add to his impressive goal tally as suitable thanks to all fellow professionals who voted him worthy winner of the award.
Stoke: Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Pennant, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington; Crouch, Walters
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Song, Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, Rosicky, van Persie
Recent form: Stoke – DDLWDL; Arsenal – WLWWLD
SUNDERLAND v. BOLTON 15.00, Stadium of Light
Bolton have given themselves every hope of survival with their victory over Aston Villa last week, and will be looking to repeat the feat against a Sunderland side whose season is all but over. The Black Cats will be pleased with a mid-table finish given the awful start to the season that they endured, and can look positively to the future.
This security in mid-table may play into Bolton’s hands, and this could be the perfect time for the Trotters to be making the trip to Wearside. This is a hugely important match for only one of the sides, and it should not be surprising if battling Bolton once again emerge victorious away from home.
What to watch out for: A gritty display from Bolton. They simply cannot afford not to win and will be fighting until the final whistle is blown.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, Colback; Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole, McClean; Sessegnon, Bendtner
Bolton: Bogdan; Ricketts, Ream, Wheater, Alonso; Miyaichi, Davies, Reo-Coker, Petrov; Klasnic, Ngog
Recent form: Sunderland – WDDLDD; Bolton – WWLLDW
SWANSEA v. WOLVES 15.00, Liberty Stadium
Wolves’ relegation was unsurprisingly confirmed last week, and the club are left to pick the bones of their complete capitulation before the start of the Championship season in a few months. So abject was the way in which Wolves surrendered their position in the Premiership that changes will have to be made, and we can expect to see the likes of Jarvis, Doyle and Fletcher – potentially amongst others – returning to the top division next season.
Swansea have been a revelation, and should enjoy playing a demoralised Wolves side at this stage of the season, with neither team playing for anything more than pride.
What to watch out for: Gylfi Sigurdsson has been linked with a move to several top sides during the week, and if he hopes to secure such a transfer this is the ideal showcase for the exciting forward.
Swansea: Vorm; Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor; Routledge, Britton, Sigurdsson, Allen, Sinclair; Graham
Wolves: Hennessey; Stearman, Johnson, Bassong, Ward; Kightly, Davis, Edwards, Jarvis; Ebanks-Blake, Fletcher
Recent form: Swansea – LLLLWD; Wolves – LLLLDL
WEST BROM. v. ASTON VILLA 15.00, Hawthorne Stadium
For years West Brom have had to sit and watch as Aston Villa remained the most successful team in the West Midlands, and the Baggies will relish the opportunity to plunge their neighbours further into the relegation mire. In truth, Villa ought to have enough to secure safety, but a loss to Roy Hodgson’s side – who have shown they are more than capable of pulling off impressive victories – would ensure that their fans are left waiting to avoid the drop for certain.
What to watch out for: Anti-Alex McLeish fervour from disgruntled Villa fans. They were not hesitant in showing their disappointment in the former Birmingham manager following the home defeat to Bolton last week, and another defeat here could see some ugly scenes from the Villa faithful.
West Brom: Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Brunt, Andrews, Scharner, Tchoyi; Long, Odemwingie
Aston Villa: Given; Lichaj, Collins, Baker, Warnock; Gardner, Herd, Agbonlahor, Ireland, Bannon; Weimann
Recent form: West Brom – LLWLWW; Aston Villa – LDDLDL
WIGAN v. NEWCASTLE 15.00, DW Stadium
Back in August, few would have thought this fixture would have such huge importance for both teams. Now, Wigan need a win to aid in their battle against relegation, and Newcastle need three points to chase fourth spot – and potentially third, should Arsenal slip up.
With Chelsea in the Champions League final, fourth spot may no longer be enough to secure a place in next years’ competition, and so Alan Pardew’s team cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Their recent form has been nothing short of astounding, and if anyone is able to travel to the DW Stadium and win, it is Newcastle on recent form.
Wigan, however, have demonstrated little regard for form so far this season. Arsenal and Manchester United have fallen in recent weeks, and there is plenty to suggest the Latics operate at full tilt when – and perhaps only when – their backs are well and truly up against the wall.
What to watch out for: Attack, attack, attack. Both teams have been playing beautiful football, to varying degrees of success, and there should be no reason for either to change that now, such is the importance of maximum points to both.
Wigan: Al Habsi; Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce; McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Moses; Di Santo, Maloney
Newcastle: Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Perch, Gutierrez; Guthrie, Tiote, Cabaye, Ben Arfa; Cisse, Ba
Recent form: Wigan – WWLWWL; Newcastle – WWWWWW
NORWICH v. LIVERPOOL 17.30, Carrow Road
Along with Wolves, Liverpool are prime contenders for most disappointing team this season. Cup runs aside, the Reds have rarely been anything above mediocre, and a league position of 8th going into this game will not please anyone. All at Anfield will want this season to end so they can perhaps reshuffle their team and start afresh next year.
On the other hand, Norwich ought to be immensely satisfied with their year, and will sense the opportunity to add to Liverpool’s woes by denying them victory for a second time this season.
What to watch out for: Grant Holt caused havoc after coming on as a substitute at Anfield in October, and may fancy his chances again.
Norwich: Ruddy; Ward, Whitbread, Bennett, Martin; Naughton, Surman, Hoolahan; Morison, Holt
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Spearing, Gerrard, Downing, Henderson; Suarez, Carroll
Recent form: Norwich – WLDWLL; Liverpool – LLLDWL
CHELSEA v. QPR 13.30, Stamford Bridge (Sunday)
For QPR, Stamford Bridge is probably the last place they would want to visit right now. Needing three points to help avoid relegation, the Hoops face a buoyant Chelsea side in a West London derby of huge importance. Chelsea have been an entirely different beast since Roberto di Matteo took over, and Didier Drogba has been performing like a man possessed. Reports suggesting that the striker was over the hill now look premature, and the Ivorian will fancy his chances to cause havoc amongst the QPR defence, having tormented none other than the Barcelona back line in such vivacious fashion recently.
QPR will no doubt give this their all, but it really does take some doing to see past a Chelsea victory.
What to watch out for: With the traditional pre-match handshakes abandoned, and John Terry willing to atone for his mid-week Champions League madness, tempers may flare once again at the Bridge.
Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard, Meireles, Mata; Kalou, Torres
QPR: Kenny; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Young; Barton, Diakite, Derry, Taarabt; Cisse, Zamora
Recent form: Chelsea – LDWWDD; QPR – LWLWLW
TOTTENHAM v. BLACKBURN 16.00, White Hart Lane
Tottenham must see the visit of Blackburn to White Hart Lane as an opportunity to belatedly get their season back on track. So strong was the first half of their season that even their almost-catastrophic recent derailment has not removed them from the top five, but they cling to their potential Champions League spot by the skin of their teeth. A win here against a struggling Blackburn side would come some way to securing fourth, but Spurs must not rely on results elsewhere. Anything less than three points may leave them short come the end of the season.
Blackburn simply must win. Of the teams yet to secure safety, Rovers look the most likely to go down, and they must now rely on their excellent team spirit to help them squeeze more points from their remaining fixtures.
What to watch out for: Team spirit. Both sides are struggling to secure their respective goals, and must pull together if they are to avoid missing out on their targets.
Tottenham: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro, Modric, Parker, van der Vaart, Bale; Adebayor
Blackburn: Robinson; Lowe, Dann, Hanley, Olsson; Orr, Pedersen, N’Zonzi, Olsson; Hoilet, Yakubu
Recent form: Tottenham – DDWDLL; Blackburn – LLLLLW
MANCHESTER CITY v. MANCHESTER UNITED 20.00, Etihad Stadium (Monday)
The biggest Manchester derby of all time. A fascinating title race may ultimately come down to this fixture, both Manchester sides still with huge claims on the Premiership trophy.
City have played much the better football of late, and Roberto Mancini’s insistence that the Championship belongs to United must have fallen upon deaf ears in the home dressing room. His players have steadfastly refused to give up hope of their maiden title, and the recall of Carlos Tevez appears to have been a masterstroke.
United, in contrast, have not been playing as well as they are capable. What they lack in form, however, they more than make up for in experience. Whilst such a lofty league position may be new to City, many of United’s players have been here before – and Ferguson always seems to have a knack of getting results when they count.
If his side win here, the noisy neighbours’ challenge to the red crown is all but over. But if Tevez, Aguero and co. can secure three points, the most exciting title race of recent years will continue to go right to the wire.
What to watch out for: Carlos Tevez. The Argentine has always had a point to prove, and it is hard to imagine a larger statement to the Red half of Manchester than scoring against them and wresting the title back into Manchester City’s hands.
Man City: Hart; Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy; Barry, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Silva; Aguero, Tevez
Man Utd: Da Gea; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Valencia; Welbeck, Rooney
Recent form: Man City – DDLWWW; Man Utd – WWWLWD
Tags: Anton Ferdinand, Barclays Premier League, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, John Terry, Manchester City, Manchester United, Premier League, QPR, Tottenham Hotspur