Friday, 25 February 2011

Premier League Preview - Match Day 28

We only have eight games this week due to Sunday's Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Birmingham. So Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur get a break after their winning Champions League exploits. Those few days rest could be vital for Carlo Ancelotti's men, as Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Both clubs have had a relaxing fortnight since their last games so here is hoping for an interesting attacking encounter. Gerard Houllier's team are still not comfortable in the table as they sit a lowly 16th. The best they can aim for is a mid-table finish with the hope that they get off to a better start next season. Darren Bent has been discussing how happy he is at the club and as always, he will be looking to get on the score sheet. And congratulations to former player Ian Taylor who has been appointed the newest club ambassador.

The away team's last game was a stalemate with Newcastle United. Steve Kean has taken just seven points from a possible 18 and he will need to start doing better, hopefully they can beat the team that knocked them out of the FA Cup last month. Roque Santa Cruz should be fit to lead the line. Ryan Nelsen declared his intention to finish his career at the club and he will need to keep his eyes open for Ashley Young.

KEY MAN: Phil Jones - Apparently the 'big clubs' are watching him so he better put in a good performance at the back.

Sunderland haven't beaten their hosts in ten Premier League games; with the Toffees winning seven and the other three ending in draws, in that time Everton have a +18 goal difference. The home team should be feeling confident after their extra-time and penalty win against Chelsea in the FA Cup. David Moyes has completed the signing of Swedish teenager Johan Hammar while Jack Rodwell is in contention to play this weekend.

Sitting seven spots and points above Everton, the Black Cats have lost their last three league games. Michael Turner, Frazier Campbell and Lee Cattermole have returned to training but are still a couple of weeks away from being in the team. While John Menseh and Ahmed Elmohamady are both playing for long term contracts.

KEY MAN: Leighton Baines - Needs to carry on where he left off against Chelsea.

Mark Hughes should receive a good reception as he returns to Eastlands for the first time since his unceremonious sacking. City have won three of the last four meeting between the two, scoring ten to Fulham's five goals. After a brace from Edin Dzeko in the Europa Cup, Roberto Mancini will have to decide who to start up front although Mario Balotelli will likely be the one to miss out after his strop.

Bobby Zamora may have to wait for his first start since recovering from injury after an impressive substitute appearance against Bolton. Now they are out of the FA Cup, Mark Hughes will be looking for his men to consolidate their league spot in the league against a club who are 18 points ahead of them.

KEY MAN: Eidur Gudjohnsen - He looks to be enjoying his football again after his spell at Stoke.

Both teams have won a third of their Premier League games this season with only a point separating the two. Both managers will be happy with their clubs current position and this could be an intriguing game between two sides who could yet reach Europe. Shola Ameobi is still two weeks away so Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best will continue up front. While Joey Barton continues contract talks with the club.

After scoring two winning goals in two games, Ivan Klasnic will be hoping for a start but he may have to settle for the bench as Owen Coyle looks to rotate his squad. JLloyd Samuel played a reserve match in midweek, his first minutes for the club since getting crocked during pre-season.

KEY MAN: Danie Sturridge - Has been impressive since he arrived.

It shows how tight the league is this year as Stoke have lost won more game than the Albion yet sit seven places above them. The home team are only seven points away from that elusive 40 and a win against the relegation candidates would be welcome. Tony Pulis will hoping his men start quicker than they did against Arsenal in midweek, when they lost 1-0 to the Londoners.

Albion have lost ten of their last eleven league matches but they already look tighter at the back after the appointment of Roy Hodgson. The manager is confident he has the team to fight off relegation, a hard task as they still have to play Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea away from home in their six games. Carlos Vela scored to give them a point against Wolves and he should start.

KEY MAN: Jermaine Pennant - Some good crosses could give Stoke's strikers the ammunition they need.

Can Thomas Hitzlsperger be this seasons' Carlos Tevez for West Ham? Avram Grant certainly hopes so as the German international aims to get his first start for the Hammers against King Kenny's men. Carlton Cole also got two last time out but as we have seen before, Grant likes to rotate his squad. Matthew Upson is still out with his Achilles but could return within the month. The Hammers are in 19th but they have the same points as Wolves who are below them.

Andy Carroll could be on the bench although it is likely King Kenny will give him another week to be fully fit for the game against long-standing rivals Manchester United. Stevie G should return to the starting-11 and Liverpool visibly missed his presence in their Europa League game. Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez should lead the line as the Argentinian didn't play in Europe.

Mark Noble - Will be interesting to see his battle with Stevie G.

Wigan need to draw and hope other results go their way in order for them to get out of the bottom three. They have a new pitch and who knows whether that will work in their favour as other clubs have regularly moaned about the poor condition of their playing surface. After seeing Wolves against the leaders they will hope they can also spring a surprise.

With Rio Ferdinand still out, Chris Smalling will start alongside Nemanja Vidic. The Red Devils were disappointing in France but it is often the sign of champions not to play well and still get a result. Paul Scholes is in the process of penning a new deal to end his career at the club. Leading scorer Dimiar Berbatov may start as a loan man with Wayne Rooney just behind him.

KEY MAN: Nani - Are we due another wonder goal from the midfielder?

I won't even try to predict the outcome of this as both teams are more sporadic than the English weather. If Wolves games ended after 80 minutes they might be further up the table. Michael's Kightly and Mancienne have both returned to training and should be back for the last few games of the season. This is the clubs' second game against each other in the Premier League with Blackpool winning the reverse fixture, 2-1.

Ian Holloway will hope this is the start of a winning run after beating Spurs 3-1 in midweek with Charlie Adam, DJ Campbell and Brett Omerod getting on the score sheet. Although they sit in 12th amongst more seasoned members of the Premier League he knows more bad results will quickly drag his team further down the table.

KEY MAN: DJ Campbell - Finally finding his feet in the league.

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