Friday, 11 February 2011

Premier League Preview - Match Day 27

Just 11 games to go until the end of the season and admittedly this has been the most exciting race in years.  Only seven points separate the bottom ten teams and one win can see sides shooting straight up the table.  Both those going for the title and those fighting relegation have the time to completely turn around their season.

The North Londoners have won their last ten games against Wolves in all competitions, in those games Arsenal have scored 27 games while Wolves have scored a meagre five. The last time they lost against them was at Highbury in 1979 in the Old First Division, so Mr Wenger may be feeling slightly confident in the build up to this match. Although he would do well not to underestimate Mick Mac's men as they beat leaders United last time out.

The away team are likely to have the same starting-11 as last week. Jamie O'Hara should get his first start with Stephen Hunt still missing with a calf strain. Arsenal have no new injury worries but hopefully they haven't been affected too much after losing a four-goal lead at Newcastle last time out.

KEY MAN: Andrey Arshavin - With Nasri still missing Arsenal need the Meerkat to be at his best.

Alex McLeish can finally welcome Obafemi Martins to the squad after the forward got his visa this week. Birmingham start the game just one point above the relegation zone and they need a win to break away from the bottom three. Ben Foster should be back following the thumb injury that made him withdraw from the England squad in midweek.

After scoring for the reserves last week Mamady Sidibe is back on the sidelines after getting injured in training. Stoke seem to be allergic to draws, either winning or losing their last six games. Stoke are ninth in the table and will have an air of confidence after coming back to beat Sunderland although Birmingham are hard to break down, particularly at home.

KEY MAN: Kenwyne Jones - The record signing needs to increase his tally of five goals from 23 league games.

Fan favourite Roque Sanata Cruz should return to the squad after being kept out for two weeks with a groin injury. Phil Jones is recovering from his knee operation quicker than anticipated although he still has around another eight weeks to go, while Gael Givet is still out. Rovers have taken all 18 points in the last six games between the two.

After their great comeback against Arsenal, some of the pressure has been taken of Alan Pardew and his team. Leon Best and Nile Ranger are both available for the club even though they both withdrew from international duty in midweek. Surprise signing Shefki Kuqi will be in the squad though it is unlikely he will start as he lacks match fitness. Stephen Ireland is still out with his knee issue while Steven Taylor will return to training next week.

KEY MAN: Kevin Nolan - Newcastle star man needs another whole hearted performance.

Blackpool are down to their bare bones with only one goalkeeper fit in Richard Kingson. Both Paul Rachubka and Matthew Gilks are out with knee problems and Ian Holloway is hoping to get Premier League permission to sign another stopper as back-up. Blackpool have been dropping nearer the relegation candidates and they will need to defend better than they did against Everton.

Villa have had a good start to the year with the signing of Darren Bent and vital players returning from injury. Bent has got three goals in his last three games for England and Villa. Marc Albrighton will be hoping for a recall to the starting-11 after the clubs last match on the bench. Gerard Houllier has no new injury worries. It will be interesting to see if him and Holloway shake hands after their disagreement over Villa's attenpt to sign Charlie Adam last month.

KEY MAN: Ashley Young - Can hopefully carry his great performance for England into the Premier League.

Owen Coyle will check on the fitness of those returning from international duty before picking his team to face the Toffees. Five places and three points are between the teams with Bolton sitting comfortably in eighth after a great start to the season. Ricardo Gardner, Joey O'Brien and Sean Davis are all still missing while Jloyd Samuel has returned to training after his six months out. Wanderers only lost their last match after a Niko Krankcar wonder goal.

This will be a big test for a revitalised Everton side after their eight goal thriller with Blackpool. Tim Cahill should return to the starting line-up after being away with Australia; it couldn't have come at a better time with Louis Saha out with a hamstring strain and Jack Rodwell out for a month after injuring his groin on England Under-21 duty. Phil Jagielka is pushing for her first start in over a month.

KEY MAN: Daniel Sturridge - The Chelsea teenager has shown proof of Owen Coyle's eye for young talent with two goals in two games.

The South West London derby see the prudent residents of Craven Cottage welcome big spending neighbours Chelsea. Both teams have won three of their last six games, with the clubs taking 11 and ten points from 18 respectively. Booby Zamora is still three weeks away from full fitness but Mark Hughes can be happy after the hitman scored in a reserve game. Eidur Gudjohnsen could make his debut against his old club after being a late substitute last weekend against Aston Villa.

Carlo Ancelotti will be looking for an instant reaction after his team lost after a disappointing display against Liverpool. Hopefully the front men have been practising the new formation as he'll probably continue with the three up front. The eyebrow-man (Jose Bosingwa) has a slight knock so David Luiz should get his first start. Hopefully Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic have decided to communicate after last weeks misunderstanding.

KEY MAN: Clint Dempsey - Fulham's in form player will be looking to take advantage of Chelsea's defensive deficiencies.

King Kenny's men will hope to make it five wins in a row as they return to Anfield this weekend. Martin Skrtel is unlikely to play as he missed the midweek international and a late test will be made on Stevie G and his groin injury. Luis Suarez may get his first start after impressing in two substitute appearances. The home team sit sixth in the table and are looking to close the gap on Tottenham Hotspur who have six points more.

Captain Gary Caldwell could play with a mask on his face after he was allowed to train with Scotland in midweek. James McCarthy could start after resting his injured ankle and being withdrawn from the Republic of Ireland squad. Twelve places split the teams and Wigan sit just two spots off the bottom.

KEY MAN: Raul Meireles - Now we understand why Roy Hodgson bought him, has finally got into his stride in the Premier League.

The Manchester derby could turn out to be a key match in this years title race. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans are out with calf and knee injuries respectively, leaving youngster Chris Smalling to partner Nemanja Vidic. Javier Hernandez will start on the bench, having only returned to Manchester this morning after playing for Mexico against Bosnia.

Roberto Mancini's men have to win this match if they want to continue their race for the title. Hopefully they will be the attacking threat we saw against West Brom as opposed to the bus drivers we saw against Arsenal. They have only scored one goal in their last five matches against the top five, a statistic that needs to improve quickly. Nigel De Jong is a doubt while Micah Richards is back in contention to play at Old Trafford.

KEY MAN: Nemanja Vidic - The captain will need to lead by example, particularly with rookie Smalling next to him.


Both teams have taken 11 points from their last six games, having lost just one game each. Michael Turner and Frazier Campbell have returned to training but this game still comes too early for them. Jordan Henderson is rated 50:50 so will likely start on the bench while Craig Gordon should be fit.

Spurs could be back in the top four if they take three pints at the Stadium of Light; it will be interesting to see if they can do that with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart all out and Peter Crouch a doubt. After playing in a reserve game, Jonathan Woodgate will probably make the numbers up on the bench.

KEY MAN: Jermain Defoe - Spurs need him to start scoring, especially with AC Milan on the horizon.

Two clubs who have been in the press all week but for different reasons. West Brom are expecting Roy Hodgson to be unveiled as heir new manager later this week after the sacking of Roberto di Matteo. Caretaker Michael Appleton will take charge of this match with Albion only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

New signing Robbie Keane is out for up to six weeks which will be a big blow to Avram Grant. Matthew Upson and James Tomkins are both doubts but Manuel de Costa is available. The Hammers have won their bid to move to the Olympic Stadium in 2014. The away team are still bottom on 24 points, two points from safety.

KEY MAN: Scott Parker - Was superb against Denmark, is always impressive for West Ham.

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