Premier League Preview – March 27-29
So much for Manchester City’s much-discussed game in hand, eh?
After Wednesday’s loss to Everton, City finds itself two points back of Tottenham with eight matches left.
Perhaps a Monday home date with Wigan Athletic will be enough to raise Roberto Mancini’s squad’s spirits.
Of course, after getting sent to the stands along with Everton’s David Moyes during Wednesday’s match, he could probably use a less stressful 90 minutes in the technical area against the Latics.
“”Spurs are favorites now,” City defender Micah Ricards told the team’s Web site. “We thought we could capitalise on our game in hand (against Everton) but it didn’t work out that way and we are devastated in the dressing room. We can just go for it. We don’t have to worry. We have the quality in our side to do that and we will bounce back.”
Wigan, seven points clear of the relegation scrum, will be looking to keep it that way.
That game will be on ESPN and if you want to know the rest of this week’s TV schedule, click here.
Here’s a look at the table:
Birmingham vs. Arsenal
The Second City side, which is still in the top half of the table, will try to put a dent in Arsenal’s title hopes Saturday.
“We can only focus on our own performance because we know our route has to be perfect. To be perfect, it is important we focus on our performances,” Wenger told the AFP. “We needed some help from the other teams, but we know even that only works if we are consistent and can keep our momentum.”
Birmingham has been particularly good at home, as it is unbeaten in its last 11 home league matches.
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa
Fresh off a 5-0 demolition of Portsmouth, Chelsea will play host to top-four hopeful Aston Villa.
Neither side is likely to be at full strength, as Ricardo Carvalho (ankle) and Branislav Ivanovic (knee) will join Michael Essien, Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa on the sidelines for Chelsea. Didier Drogba (knee) is expected to recover in time for the match, however.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey, James Milner and Richard Dunne are all injury doubts for Aston Villa.
Hull City vs. Fulham
Hull City is still in relegation danger, but a home win over Fulham would go a long way towards securing the Tigers’ safety.
New manager Iain Dowie will hope to have injury worries Jozy Altidore, Andy Dawson, Stephen Hunt and Amr Zaki available for the game, and to make matters worse, chairman Adam Pearson is amping up the pressure.
“I think it is the most crucial month in the club’s history,” Pearson told the Telegraph. “It has been an extremely difficult 16 months at this football club and our playing record has been very poor and taken its toll.
“It’s a very expensive club to run and it needs Premier League revenues to run it. For now, all we care about is keeping this club up to allow us the time to try and sort any financial issues that we have and in order to get a squad that can move up the league.”
Fulham, with one eye on a Europa League clash with Wolfsburg, will try to snap a 14-game road winless streak which dates back to the season opener at Portsmouth.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Portsmouth
The mid-week results couldn’t have gone much better for Spurs in their quest for the fourth and final Champions League slot, but they’ll need to back it up in a FA Cup semifinal preview against Pompey.
Goals could be on offer as Portsmouth has failed to keep a clean sheet in its last 13 games – the latest being a 5-0 loss to Chelsea.
West Ham United vs. Stoke City
If the alarm bells aren’t ringing at Upton Park, they probably should be. Tuesday’s 3-1 home loss to Wolves left the Hammers just three points clear of the bottom three with the always tough Potters coming to town.
“I think that (the ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt) chant is a little unfair because the players they tried everything,” Zola said after the match. “The players did their best but in a disjointed way and it made it very difficult for us. They played as individuals. That is very, very painful for me because it is my duty to correct it. The team is not playing very well and I take responsibility for that. If (the fans) want to pick up on somebody they must pick up on me because I am responsible.”
He’s right, but all the heads will likely roll should West Ham fall out of the EPL at season’s end.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Everton
On the flip side, Wolves are suddenly flying high as they prepare to host equally-confident Everton.
Maybe those warm, fuzzy feelings will help Wolverhampton reverse an odd stat: Wolves have more points (16) away from home than they do at Molineux (15).
Everton’s quest for an Europa League spot is in high gear after the 2-0 win at Eastlands on Wednesday.
“We didn’t lack belief, even when we were doing really badly,” Tim Cahill told the BBC. “We hadn’t become a bad team overnight.”
Bolton Wanderers vs. Manchester United
Front-running Manchester United will try to stay on the Premier League perch when it visits Bolton this weekend.
You have to like the Red Devils’ chances when you consider that the Trotters are the only team in the league that hasn’t taken a point off any of the big four sides.
Wayne Rooney (knee) is an injury worry for United, but he still has 17 goals in his last 13 matches in all competitions.
Burnley vs. Blackburn Rovers
The Clarets are mired in the drop zone and will try to climb out when Blackburn visits Turf Moor on Sunday.
A win in the derby would be sweet for Burnley, but a loss would add greater weight to the growing relegation fears at the club.
“We are not putting our heads in the sand,” Burnley defender Graham Alexander told the team’s Web site. “We know we have got to pull out results and wins to achieve what we want to do. But talking to the lads and listening to the lads we are confident we can do it.
“We are banging on the door at the moment but we’ve got to kick it through. We can’t keep saying it’s bad luck, or whatever. The games are there for us to win.”
Blackburn, knocking on the door of the top half of the table, is coming off a 2-1 home win over Birmingham in mid week.
Liverpool vs. Sunderland
Liverpool’s quest to finish in the top four faces two large hills: A four-point gap and one less game to play than its chief rivals.
Still, a win at Anfield against Sunderland is a good place for the Reds to start trying to make a push for it.
Maybe the news that midfielder Javier Mascherano is planning to stay with the club will help bolster the mood a bit.
This is the reverse fixture of the infamous beach ball game earlier this season, where Sunderland beat Liverpool, 1-0, on a beach ball-deflected goal.
It seemed like an odd omen at the time, didn’t it?