Friday, 4 February 2011

Premier League Preview - Match Day 26

Lets be honest, there is only one match everyone is looking forward to this weekend. Chelsea v Liverpool but if you are a fan of neither he's a quick rundown of the rest.

A game between two low scoring teams; combined they have scored only 54 goals this season, the same as leaders Manchester United. Both have also lost two of their last six leagues games although their injury lists are shrinking which will please both managers. USA star Michael Bradley is in the squad, while Stewart Downing has been declared fit and should start. Luke Young's return date is unknown after he was told to rest by a specialist.

Statistically, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. They both have nine points each from their last six meetings in the league. New signing Eidur Gudjohnsen will be considered for this match although it is likely he will start on the bench after his lack of minutes played while at Stoke. Midfielder Dickson Etuhu has returned to the treatment table after further problems with his hamstring. Mark Schwarzer will continue in goal after displacing David Stockdale.

KEY MAN: Darren Bent - Can he make it three goals in three games for his new club?

Fernando Torres could start his first game for champions Chelsea against his (not so) old club Liverpool. You couldn't make it up, could you? Although Carlo Ancelotti has said the Spaniard may start on the bench. Other new signing David Luiz featuring is doubtful as he is not even in the country yet. Alex and Yuri Zhirkov are amongst the names still injured. The home team have won 75% of league games between these two.

Luis Suarez will be hoping he can help the Anfield faithful forget all about their former no. 9 after scoring in his first match for the club. Jamie Carragher may again have to settle for a place on the bench if Christian Poulsen shakes off his back spasm. Joe Cole requires a late fitness test before the decision will be made on him facing his former employers.

KEY MEN: Frank Lampard and Stevie G - This match will be won or lost by the England midfield men.

The Toffee's top scorer Tim Cahill is back and will be expected to start as the home team look to get nearer the top half of the table. Everton welcome Phil Jagielka back into their defense after his brief appearance against Arsenal earlier in the week. Six of the last ten meetings between these two teams have ended in draws, in all competitions.

James Beattie could start up front for the Seasiders along with fellow new boy Andy Reid. Captain Charlie Adam requires a late fitness test with David Vaughn also a doubt due to a knee injury. Blackpool sit one point and two places above their hosts in the league and Ian Holloway must be looking for a more improved performance than the one in midweek.

KEY MAN: Tim Cahill - The player who can be the catalyst to get his team back to winning ways.


Another Roberto v Roberto clash as the Baggies travel to the City of Manchester stadium. Thankfully Micah Richards is fine after his collision with team-mate Nigel de Jong, but he will be rested as a precaution. Shay Given can't buy a start in the league s Roberto Mancini keeps faith in Joe Hart after the England goalkeeper conceded six goals, including three penalties in the last four games.

Peter Odemwingie is back and the away team will need him to test City's shaky defence. The club will give Graham Dorrans a late fitness test after the player returned to training. Albion desperately need three points and Roberto Di Matteo will be looking from another good attacking performance from winger Jerome Thomas after his storming show against Wigan.

Edin Dzeko - Looks quite comfortable in the Premier League.

Alan Pardew will be glad to welcome Cheik Tiote back against an Arsenal team who have taken 14 from a possible 18 points. He will have to wait on the fitness of Fabricio Coloccini with ex-Gunner Sol Campbell as a possible replacement. With Shola Ameobi due to have surgery later this week, the Toon boss only has 18 players to choose from.

Mr Wenger announced this week that Lukasz Fabianski is out for the season and he will fly to Germany for surgery on his shoulder. Samir Nasri and Alex Song are both missing with hamstring and thigh injuries respectively. Arsenal have not lost their last four in the league at St. James Park and will need to keep that run going if they are to keep pace with Manchester United.

KEY MAN: Andrey Arshavin - Could start in place of Nasri and should be high on confidence following his superb goal against Everton.

The early kick-off see the home team welcome back defender Ryan Shawcross after his suspension. Although we send our best wishes to Ricardo Fuller who has returned to Jamaica on compassionate leave. Unlike his opposite number Tony Pulis has a near full-strength squad to pick from.

Sulley Muntari will be in the squad along with fellow January signing Stephane Sessegnon, after the latter showed he could be a great signing for Steve Bruce. The Black Cats have an injury list which includes captain Lee Cattermole, Danny Welbeck and defender Michael Turner.

KEY MAN: John Carew - A good chance for him to step up to the plate as Stoke lack goals.

Steven Pienaar is available for selection after a training ground incident and Michael Dawson is back after picking up a red card against Fulham. Peter Crouch will keep his fingers crossed he'll keep his spot after his goal against Blackburn Rovers. Jermaine Defoe is still waiting for his first Premier League goal and the word is Gareth Bale has returned to training after his back injury. 'Arry puts it down to his £100,000 car and it's low slung seats - interesting.

Owen Coyle has no new injury worries and although Jloyd Samuel, Ricardo Gardner and Sean Davis have returned to training, they are not yet match fit. Daniel Sturridge will be pushing for a start after his goal-scoring substitute showing. The Chelsea youngster has come to the club to increase his first team appearances and hopefully score more goals.

KEY MAN: Stuart Holden -The American has been a key player for his team this season.

18th play 17th in Sunday's other match. Two teams who will be disappointed when looking at their league spots, although the Blues have a slight advantage as they have two games in hand over the Londoners. In my opinion this is an ideal game for Robbie Keane, it will be physical and we all know the Irishman can mix it with the best.

Obafemi Martins is still waiting on a work permit which will obviously affect his place in the squad. Barry Ferguson, Cameron Jerome and Roger Johnson are all fighting to be fit. Curtis Davies may get his first start if Johnson doesn't make it.

KEY MAN: Robbie Keane - He will thrive in the Upton Park atmosphere.

Maynor Figueroa is doubtful and defender Gary Caldwell is out while he recovers from an operation on his fractured cheekbone. Top scorer Hugo Rodellega has only converted 3% of his shots and manager Roberto Martinez will need him to increase that rate if they are to get out of their relegation trouble.

While the drama in the boardroom continues, things are more settled for Steve Kean on the pitch with Christopher Samba recently signing a new long term contract. Roque Santa Cruz and Gael Givet are both missing due to knee problems.

KEY MAN: Charles N'Zogbia - Wigan's star man needs to put on a star show.

Bottom v top could not come at a worse time for Mick Mac's men, particularly with Wayne Rooney hitting the goal trail again. Although maybe they could surprise us all and get something from this match, sometimes players play at their best when the odds are against them. After all, they have beaten Chelsea AND Liverpool this season. Stephen Hunt is kept out with his calf strain so Jamie O'Hara will start in his place.

If United win this match they will be halfway to reaching Arsenal's 49 game unbeaten run. Darren Fletcher has blurred vision in his eye so he will miss the game, although right-back Rafael may return to the starting-11. Minus Owen Hargreaves and Antonio Valencia, the Red Devils have a fully fit squad to choose from. The manager and leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov will be celebrating after being named Barclaycard's boss and player of the month for January.

KEY MAN: Ronald Zubar - Needs to quickly make amends for his midweek mistake.

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