Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Premier League Preview - Match Day 25: Top Six Games

What a weekend it's been in English football. FA Cup shocks and transfer deadline day drama prelude this midweek round of Premier League matches.

Everton earned a replay at Stamford Bridge in the Fa cup but first they have to travel to North London to face an Arsenal team who have picked up ten points from their last 12. Although the Toffees are haven't lost their last three. Neither team did much in the transfer window so it will be the same old faces on show. The Gunners will be without Samir Nasri after he suffered a hamstring strain while Sebastien Squillaci is suspended after his red card at the weekend.

Tim Cahill is back from the Asia Cup back is expected to be given a few days rest by David Moyes. Louis Saha has stepped up to the plate in his absense and they will be hoping his run of goals continues at the Emirates. They still have their captain Phil Neville after a late offer from Spurs which Moyes described as: 'insulting and disrespectful'. Arsenal have won four of the last six between these clubs, with the other two ending in draws

KEY MAN: Cesc Fabregas - With Samir Nasri missing, the captain needs to step up to the plate.

Birmingham City still hover precariously above the relegation and it doesn't help when they have only won one of their last six. They don't have the best record against Manchester City losing five of their last ten in all competitions. Brum will be hoping their home form continues as that is the only thing keeping them safe right now. David Bentley appears to fitting in well although their other loan signing won't be available until the weekend.

Edin Dzeko scored his first goal for his new club at the weekend and if he can chip in with a few more it will take the pressure of 'superman', Carlos Tevez. Joe Hart will be hoping for a quiet evening after conceding four goals in City's last two league matches. A clean sheet here would boost the young goalkeepers confidence.

Edin Dzeko - It will be interesting to see how he copes in the physical cauldron that is St. Andrews.

'Arry couldn't seem to give his money away in the transfer window after losing out on Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam. Both teams have won three of their last six and and only seven points separate them in the table. New manager Steve Kean is eager to show the owners he is the man to take Rovers forward and a win against Spurs would help do that. Roque Santa Cruz is out after breaking down in their weekend fixture.

Ledley King is due to to undergo a groin operation so I wouldn't expect to see him back anytime soon, while fellow defender Jonathan Woodgate could make a surprise return to the first team after his recovery from injury. Jermain Defoe will again be looking to break his duck as he still hasn't scored in the Premier League this season.

KEY MAN: Jason Roberts - Good chance for the striker to show he is worthy of his new contract.

Ian Holloway breathes a sigh of relief as he still has the services of Charlie Adam until the summer at least. He also welcomes James Beattie who has joined on loan from Rangers until the end of the season and Andy Reid from Sunderland. Blackpool haven't beaten the Hammers in the league since 1965/66 but I doubt Ian Holloway goes in for statistics.

Victor Obinna will start after his hat-trick against Nottingham Forest so Carlton Cole will probably take his place on th bench. Demba Ba and Gary O'Neill may make their debuts for the East Londoners. They still sit bottom of the table and Avram Grant will be hoping the new players can come in and help his team pick up some more wins. In recent weeks they have looked better but while they keep conceding such a high number of goals they will continue to struggle.

KEY MAN: Robbie Keane - The Republic of Ireland forward will be dying to start after falling out of favour at Tottenham.

For a Scotsman Owen Coyle seems very keen to benefit the future England team; after nabbing Jack Wilshere last year, he has now taken striker Daniel Sturridge on loan from champions Chelsea. The youngster will probably start along with Stuart Holden after the American was rested at the weekend. Lee Chung-Yong has just returned from the Asian Cup so may be rested.

Mick Mac's men are level on points with West Ham at the bottom of the table and having scored only nine goals away from home so far it's doubtful they'll get much change from Owen Coyle's men. Jamie O'Hara may play his first game since the FA cup final with Portsmouth. Stephen is out while Kevin Doyle should return from illness.

KEY MAN: Kevin Davies - Has been a little quiet of late.

The Premier League leaders welcome Gabby Agbonlahor, a player who has scored at Old Traffoed on three previous occasions although the Villa man is a doubt. One of only five players to do so. SirAlex should have a much stronger defense than we saw against Southampton; with Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra all back. He will have decisions to make after after impressive Javier Hernandez at St. Mary's. He must be challenging Wayne Rooney to partner top scorer Dimitar Berbatov.

American Michael Bradley is pushing for a start. Stephen Warnock and Fabian Delph are still missing with injuries. Darren Bent will be hoping to add to his tally for his new club. Villa are 13th in the table, 23 points behind their hosts. Gerard Houllier will be worried that they have only won two of the last six in the league.

KEY MAN: Nemanja Vidic - The Red Devils need their captain back to stable their defense.

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