Yes I know that the big boys are matched together this weekend in what has been deemed Grand Slam Sunday but for some teams outside of the top four Saturday’s matches will prove just as important and may provide even more dramatic. While it seems there has been endless analysis of the matchups this Sunday I would like to focus on a few games on Saturday that could decide the season for those teams involved.
Newcastle vs. Fulham
The game between these two in December in which Newcastle won on a late penalty may have been one of the worst played games I have seen all year. I have seen better quality in the local pub league and neither team deserved to gain points on the day. This game looks to me like a train wreck waiting to happen. On one hand you have a team in New Castle desperate for their first win under King Keegan while for Fulham a loss may seal their fate to relegation. Fulham on the road also have been terrible.
I predict an ugly scrappy affair filled with bookings that could easily be decided by an own goal but I think Newcastle will finally prevail at home with a 2 – 0 win. For Fulham this will end their hopes of staying up.
Reading vs. Birmingham
This is a tough game to call with both teams struggling to stay above the bottom three in the league. The two teams are separated by a mere point with Reading on top with 28 points but the loser of this game could be dealt a severe blow to their hopes of staying up. Recent back to back wins against Boro and Man City have propelled Reading out of immediate danger but they still have problems especially when it comes to scoring. There is no consistency this year with the strikers which is odd for this team usually confident in the scoring department. Lita was recently sent on loan and Doyle has not been able to recapture his form from last year. Kitson and Long have shown flashes but have mostly been average.
Birmingham has impressed me however in some of the matches I have seen them in and at times play some quality football. They also seem to be a team that is improving and have only lost one of their last six including four draws. I see this as an all out entertaining game but feel Birmingham will secure an important away point in yet another draw. Final score: 1-1
Everton vs. West Ham
At the start of this season I really believed someone new would crack the Top Four. I pegged Arsenal to drop to fifth and Everton was among a few teams I thought could compete to jump into the fourth spot. Yeah I was completely off base on the Arsenal call but was just as wrong in my Liverpool assessment considering I had them finally taking the league title! Oh well at least there is still a battle for someone to break into for the top four this late in the season. The loss to Fulham last week however could mean that Everton will not be able to keep pace with Liverpool but will still see them having a hugely successful season.
West Ham has nothing but pride to play for after a series of games where opponents were scoring at will on them. The Hammers had a string of three consecutive 4 -0 defeats before they finally stopped the bleeding last week by beating Blackburn. With no fear of relegation and no hopes of Europe West Ham will at least want to close out the season strong. Everton on the other hand has much more at stake and will take this one 2-0 thus putting pressure on Liverpool to gain something at Old Trafford. As much as I would like to see someone crack into the Big Four this season I feel even with a win tomorrow Everton will not be able to keep pace but should be very proud by earning the fifth spot in the end.
I can’t wait for Grand Slam Sunday or whatever you want to call it but I think Saturday has some really interesting and exciting games which should be a great primer for a memorable holiday weekend!