Friday, 2 March 2012

The Weekend's EPL Fixture Previews:


The Weekend's EPL Previews:
This is the 27th Round of this year's EPL.
This week's fixtures are crucial at both ends of the table with the season coming to an end soon (with only 11 matches left to play)


Tomorrow (15:00pm unless stated):

Liverpool vs Arsenal: LIVE at 12:45pm


The first EPL match of the weekend is also my featured Saturday match which will be played at Anfield as Carling Cup winners Liverpool face a morale boosted Arsenal side who thrashed rivals Tottenham 5-2 last Sunday.
Arsenal have injury concerns over captain (and striker) Robin van Persie (groin) and centre-back Thomas Vermaelen (ankle). Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey (ankle) has already been ruled out while Czech winger Tomas Rosicky (groin) faces a late fitness test. Midfielder Abou Diaby returns from a long absence after a hamstring problem.
Defender Francis Coquelin (hamstring) remains sidelined for at least another three weeks, along with centre-back Per Mertesacker (ankle) and Brazil full-back Andre Santos (ankle) is two weeks away from returning to training.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is awaiting an update on captain Steven Gerrard's fitness.
The midfielder has a tight hamstring, suffered in England's friendly match against Holland on Wednesday while defender Glen Johnson is expected to be fit after pulling out of the (England) national squad on Monday as a precaution.
Centre-back Daniel Agger is very likely to miss the next couple of weeks with cracked ribs, meaning defender Jamie Carragher is likely to get a recall.

FACT:  

Blackburn Rovers vs Aston Villa:
This match will be played at Ewood Park as 18th placed Blackburn host 15th placed Aston Villa. 
Villa could move up to 10th place (if results go their way) and Blackburn could move out of the relegation zone (if results go their way).  
Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov will return to action tomorrow against Blackburn after recovering from a thigh injury.
Striker Darren Bent will be out for the remainder of the season with a bad ankle injury putting his Euro 2012 hopes in doubt.
Right-back Alan Hutton (hamstring) and centre-back James Collins (knee) are expected to be available after withdrawing from mid-week international duty with Scotland and Wales respectively.
Blackburn welcome midfielder David Dunn back from injury but are worried by the fitness of Martin Olsson.
Dunn missed last weekend's 3-0 loss against Manchester City due to a thigh injury but has trained all week while wide man Olsson picked up slight knee and ankle problems on international duty with Sweden.
Olsson's twin brother Marcus could make his home debut for the club but defenders Jason Lowe and Gael Givet serve the final matches of their suspensions.
Rovers will be sorely miss centre-back Christopher Samba who moved to Anzhi Makhachkala last Friday for £12million.


Manchester City vs Bolton Wanderers:
This match comes from The Ethiad Stadium as 1st placed City host 19th placed Bolton in a big mis-match between the top and bottom of the table.

City are close to a full strength squad for the match against Bolton.
Manager Roberto Mancini is still to fully assess the fitness of all his players following their return from midweek international duty but has not reported any problems.
Striker Carlos Tevez had a successful run-out for the reserves this week after returning to training but is not yet ready for a first-team comeback.

Bolton midfielder Mark Davies (hamstring) is hoping to be fit ahead of the game.
Striker Kevin Davies (knee) is again doubtful while Defender Gretar Steinsson (calf) will be assessed after suffering a knock on international duty for Iceland.
On-loan defender Dedryck Boyata is ineligible to play against his parent club but fellow defender Joe Riley (foot) is back in contention.

FACT: The last time Bolton beat Manchester City away from home was the 23rd of December 2006. 

Stoke City vs Norwich City:
8th placed Norwich face a tough trip to Stoke (who are in 12th place).
Stoke have defender Robert Huth back for tomorrow's clash with Norwich at The Britannia Stadium.
Huth is set to return to the home side having completed a three-match suspension following his sending-off against Sunderland last month.
Manager Tony Pulis will check on the condition of midfielder Glenn Whelan, who picked up a knock on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, ahead of kick-off.
Midfielder Jonny Howson could make his Norwich debut after finally returning to fitness from a knee injury.
Striker James Vaughan has picked up a hamstring problem which will delay his return from knee surgery, while full-back Marc Tierney (knee) is also out.
Centre-back Daniel Ayala (hamstring) trained this week, but may not be rushed straight into action. England under-21 defender Ryan Bennett has now joined up with his new club following a loan spell back at Peterborough.


QPR vs Everton:
This match comes from Loftus Road as 17th placed QPR face 10th placed Everton.
Everton striker Nikica Jelavic could be set for a return to the squad for tomorrow's trip to QPR.
The Croatian, has missed the last two matches with a groin problem but he played 45 minutes in an international friendly against Sweden in midweek so he should be fit.
Midfielders Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Leon Osman (knee) could also be in line for a recall after appearing for the reserves but January signing Darron Gibson is missing, as he suffered a knee injury.
Full-back Luke Young could feature for the hosts after a month sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Striker Djibril Cisse and midfiedler Samba Diakite will both miss the game through suspension.
Fitz Hall trained with the squad this week but manager Mark Hughes does not believe the defender will be ready for the game.
Striker DJ Campbell is set to return to training from a hamstring injury next week.



West Bromwich Albion vs Chelsea:
13th placed West Brom host 5th placed Chelsea in an interesting match-up between mid-table and top 6 fighters.....
Strikers Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge are expected to be fit for tomorrow's match against WBA.
Drogba has shaken off the knee problem that forced him to miss the Ivory Coast's friendly against Guinea, while Sturridge is expected to recover from the toe injury picked up in England's 3-2 defeat against Holland.
Captain John Terry is progressing well following minor knee surgery, while full-back Jose Bosingwa remains a doubt with a hamstring strain.
Winger Jerome Thomas is the hosts main fitness doubt after suffering a hamstring injury during the 4-0 win over Sunderland.
Skipper Chris Brunt has returned to training after a two-month lay-off with a broken foot but Roy Hodgson is weighing up whether he is ready to return against The Blues.
Fellow midfielder Paul Scharner is making good progress with his rib injury but, even if available, is only likely to be among the substitutes in this match....

Wigan Athletic vs Swansea:
14th placed Swansea go to the DW Stadium where 20th placed Wigan have only scored 23 goals this season out of 26 matches which is the worst goalscoring record for any team in the EPL this season.
Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm has overcome a virus to be available against Wigan.
Strikers Danny Graham and Leroy Lita are also expected to be fit after being hit by the same illness.
But midfielder Kemy Agustien is facing a lengthy lay-off after surgery revealed that his ankle injury was worse than first thought.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will have to make a late decision on the fitness of some of his internationals.
Paraguay defender Antolin Alcaraz and Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa both had long trips after playing for their countries in South America and were not expected to arrive back until late on Friday.
Defender Gary Caldwell sustained a cut leg playing for Scotland in midweek but he is expected to recover.

Sunday:
Newcastle United vs Sunderland: LIVE at 12:00pm
The North-west derby comes from The Sports Direct Arena as two in-form sides (6th and 9th place respectively) face each other in a tasty match which could change the shape of the table completely.

Fulham vs Wolverhampton Wanderers: LIVE at 14:05pm
This match will be played at Craven Cottage as 11th placed Fulham host 16th placed Wolves.
Wolves' leading scorer Steven Fletcher is available after illness for the Premier League clash at Fulham on Sunday after missing the 2-2 away draw with Newcastle last weekend.
Caretaker boss Terry Connor has to decide how to accommodate Fletcher and fellow striker Kevin Doyle, who scored the equaliser at the Sports Direct Arena, in the same line-up.
Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and midfielder Dave Edwards should both be fit after being ruled out of the Gary Speed Memorial Match against Costa Rica with ankle injuries.
Mahamadou Diarra could make his Fulham debut.
The former Real Madrid midfielder penned a deal until the end of the season earlier this week and manager Martin Jol has confirmed he could be involved at Craven Cottage this weekend.
Fulham right-back Stephen Kelly is a doubt with a little tear in his right quad, while midfielder Dickson Etuhu will be assessed when he flies back from international duty today. Zdenek Grygera (knee) and Steve Sidwell (hernia) are the only first-team players unavailable.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United: LIVE at 16:10pm


My Sunday featured match comes from White Hart Lane as 3rd placed Tottenham host 2nd placed Manchester United in a hot battle at the top of the table. There is 8 points between the two sides, and if United prevail then Spurs' title challenge is virtually over.

Louis Saha could play against his former club United on Sunday, while Carrick could also play against his former club (Spurs).
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is confident that Gareth Bale will be fit to face Manchester United on Sunday despite the winger suffering a hamstring injury in midweek.
Kyle Walker is fit despite suffering an ankle injury against Arsenal last week and Redknapp is also confident that Rafael van der Vaart (calf) and Ledley King (knee) will feature.
Scott Parker is suspended following his sending off at the Emirates Stadium last weekend while long-term absentees William Gallas (calf) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) remain sidelined.
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is doubtful after needing stitches in a head wound sustained during England's friendly defeat to Holland.
Wayne Rooney has recovered from a throat infection but Antonio Valencia (hamstring), Tom Cleverley (ankle) and Michael Owen (thigh) are all out.

FACT: Tottenham have not beaten Manchester United since the 19th of May 2001.
FACT: Spurs have only lost once at home this season, third best record so far this season in the EPL (behind Liverpool and Manchester City).