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Premier League MatchDay 31 Preview

last updated Saturday 30th March 2013, 11:28 AM

Premiership MatchDay 30 Fixtures
Saturday 30th March 2013
KO Home   Away Ref TV
12:45 Sunderland v Man Utd K Friend Sky1
15:00 Arsenal v Reading C Foy  
15:00 Man City v Newcastle N Swarbrick  
15:00 Southampton v Chelsea J Moss  
15:00 Swansea v Tottenham A Taylor  
15:00 West Ham v West Brom A Marriner  
15:00 Wigan v Norwich H Webb  
17:30 Everton v Stoke M Jones ESPN
Sunday 31st March 2013
13:30 Aston Villa v Liverpool L Mason Sky1
Monday 1st April 2013
20:00 Fulham v QPR L Probert Sky1
Premier League MatchDay 31 kicks off on Saturday at Sunderland who have their work cut out against table-topping Manchester United particularly as they find themselvesin a basement battle, failing to take maximum points from any of their last seven fixtures. Manchester United wil arrive at the Stadium of Light 15 points clear at the summit and Sir Alex Ferguson has already aired his ambition to set a new record points haul.

Arsenal will continue their pursuit of the UEFA Champions League when they host a Premier League relegation-threatened Reading side which could prove tricky opponents having now come under the management of new boss Nigel Adkins. The Gunners remain confident of overtaking derby rivals Tottenham Hotspur in fourth place and Arsenal's momentum with a game in hand is seen as an important factor.

Manchester City will be out to keep the heat on leaders Manchester United with Newcastle's visit to the Etihad Stadium. City boss Roberto Mancini claimed earlier this week that City's title defence was over with nine games remaining. Mancini's men host a Newcastle side who could have one eye on their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie with Benfica in Portugal next week. The Magpies have suffered six straight Premier League defeats to City and will be keen to avoid a seventh.

Premiership table - after 17th Mar 2013
Pos Team Pld W D L F A W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man Utd 29 14 0 1 39 15 10 2 2 30 16 38 74
2 Man City 29 10 3 1 31 11 7 5 3 20 15 25 59
3 Chelsea 29 9 4 2 33 12 7 3 4 25 18 28 55
4 Tottenham 30 8 4 3 22 15 8 2 5 29 22 14 54
5 Arsenal 29 8 3 3 35 19 6 5 4 20 13 23 50
6 Everton 29 8 6 1 27 17 4 6 4 19 18 11 48
7 Liverpool 30 8 3 4 30 14 4 6 5 27 25 18 45
8 West Brom 30 9 2 4 23 14 4 3 8 17 24 2 44
9 Swansea 30 6 6 3 27 21 4 4 7 13 17 2 40
10 Fulham 29 6 3 5 22 17 3 6 6 18 27 -4 36
11 Stoke 30 6 7 2 18 15 1 6 8 9 20 -8 34
12 Norwich 30 6 6 3 16 15 1 7 7 12 31 -18 34
13 Newcastle 30 8 1 6 23 21 1 5 9 18 31 -11 33
14 West Ham 29 6 4 4 23 17 3 2 10 9 26 -11 33
15 Sunderland 30 4 6 5 17 16 3 4 8 16 26 -9 31
16 Southampton 30 5 5 5 22 18 2 5 8 20 34 -10 31
17 Aston Villa 30 4 4 7 14 22 3 5 7 17 34 -25 30
18 Wigan 29 3 4 8 19 32 4 2 8 16 24 -21 27
19 Reading 30 4 6 5 23 29 1 2 12 12 28 -22 23
20 QPR 30 2 7 6 11 22 2 4 9 15 26 -22 23
Southampton and Chelsea go in search of precious points to aid their respective efforts at opposite ends of the table. The Saints remain in relegation trouble, with just four points separating them from the drop zone. The Blues cannot afford to come unstuck on the South Coast, with little margin for error in the race for a top-four finish. Rafa Benitez has The Blues sat third at present, but the chasing pack are poised to pounce on any untimely slip-ups.

Tottenham and Gareth Bale travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea as they look to get back to winning ways after three defeats in all competitions. The Capital One Cup winners will be looking to take advantage of Spurs' late-season slump, although they themselves have lost four of their last six games. Wales star Bale has been the man attracting the headlines with his sensational run of 12 goals in 13 appearances for club and country, but Spurs have lost their last two games after a 12-match unbeaten stretch.

West Ham come into this game in mixed form, having lost at Chelsea in their last game, and picking up two wins amongst the four defeats in their last six, but Allardyce believes that five points from their remaining nine games will guarantee top flight safety. They come up against a West Brom side pushing for a Europa League spot with a respectable recent away record however their record against London clubs is much less pleasing though, having won only four of their 38 Premier League trips to the capital.

In-form Wigan host Norwich looking to pick up another valuable three points in their bid for Premier League survival. Roberto Martinez's side followed up their 3-0 FA Cup quarter-final win at Everton with a 2-1 home success over Newcastle in the league last time. That victory lifted the third-from-bottom Latics to within three points of safety with a game in hand. But it will be tough against a Norwich side who still need the points to guarantee another season in the top flight.

Everton will be looking to keep the heat on their rivals for a Premier League top-four spot when they host Stoke on Saturday evening. While Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal appear the main challengers for a UEFA Champions League place, the Toffees are not yet out of the running, sitting two points behind the Gunners in sixth.

Premier League MatchDay 31 continues on Sunday when Aston Villa will continue their fight against Premier League relegation when they host Liverpool on Easter Sunday lunchtime. Paul Lambert's team could kick off at Villa Park having dropped back into the relegation zone if results have not gone their way on Saturday. Lambert's side stunned Anfield with a 3-1 win 10 days before Christmas and Liverpool will be desperate to evade a repeat in order to avoid letting their season drift towards a drab conclusion after defeat by Southampton before the international break.

Premier League MatchDay 31 continues on Monday with a West London derby between Fulham and QPR. Fulham have lost only one of their past five matches at home - a 1-0 defeat to runaway leaders Manchester United and they are enjoying a bit of a purple patch going undefeated in their past four matches. Fulham defeated Queens Park Rangers 6-0 at Craven Cottage in their last meeting there; both QPR's record defeat and Fulham's joint-record win in the Premier League. QPR head into the weekend bottom of the Barclays Premier League table and seven points adrift of Aston Villa in 17th position with just eight matches remaining. QPR boss Harry Redknapp remains confident his men can claw themselves to safety, particularly in the wake of their recent victories over Southampton and Sunderland.

Saturday 30th March 2013

12:45 - Sunderland (15) v Man Utd (1) Sky1

The weekend begins with Manchester United's Saturday lunchtime trip to struggling Sunderland, where Sir Alex Ferguson's club infamously lost the Premier League title to Manchester City in the final seconds of last season. United will therefore want to erase the bad memories and could, temporarily at least, extend their lead at the top of this campaign's table to 18 points.  Sunderland, in contrast, are sinking like a stone and are just four points clear of the relegation zone while they are without injured Lee Cattermole and Steven Fletcher for the rest of the term.

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has doubts over David Vaughan and Stephane Sessegnon (both groin). Defender Carlos Cuellar has been ruled out with an ankle problem and joins skipper Lee Cattermole (knee surgery) and striker Steven Fletcher (ankle ligaments), who will both miss the rest of the season, on the sidelines.

United have received a triple injury boost with Nani (hamstring), Phil Jones (ankle) and Paul Scholes (knee) all recovering.  All three could be involved as United defend a 15-point lead at the top of the table, with Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia most likely to be excused due to their lengthy travels during the international break.

Last season: Sunderland 0 Man Utd 1, Man Utd 1 Sunderland 0

Last five league matches: Sunderland L L D L D; Man Utd W W W W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Steven Fletcher (Sunderland) 11; Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 23

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

15:00 - Arsenal (5) v Reading (19)

Having been appointed as the new Reading boss during the international break, Adkins has insisted his club can escape relegation. The Royals sit seven points from safety and so are considered by many to be set for the drop. But Adkins has not given up hope and so he is talking about producing what would be a major shock at Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger has injury problems but wins against Bayern Munich, in the Champions League, and Swansea have given his side some momentum as they aim to close the four-point gap on derby rivals and fourth-placed Tottenham.

Arsenal will be without England duo Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Theo Walcott (hip/thigh), while France midfielder Abou Diaby has been ruled out for nine months with anterior cruciate ligament damage in his left knee. Left-back Kieran Gibbs (virus) will be assessed but striker Lukas Podolski (ankle) and right-back Bacary Sagna (knee) should be available again.

New Reading manager Nigel Adkins will have striker Pavel Pogrebnyak available again after a three-match suspension. Former Gunners trainee Stuart Taylor is likely to again deputise for goalkeeper Adam Federici, sidelined with an ankle injury, while midfielder Jimmy Kebe continues to battle against a groin problem. Forward Jason Roberts (hip) remains sidelined.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Arsenal W W W L W; Reading L L L L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 18; Adam le Fondre (Reading) 12

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

15:00 - Man City (2) v Newcastle (13)

Fit-again Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany and manager Roberto Mancini have conceded defeat in the title race and, given that United could be 18 points clear when the defending champions kick off against Newcastle, they do look to be out of contention.

City lost at Everton before the international break and it will be another tough game against a Newcastle side who are still attempting to move on from the controversy surrounding Wigan forward Callum McManaman's tackle on Massadio Haidara.

Captain Vincent Kompany is Manchester City's chief concern. The defender, out for eight weeks with a calf injury, played for Belgium in midweek, much to manager Roberto Mancini's irritation. Striker Sergio Aguero (knee) is fit to return after three games out while right-back Micah Richards and midfielder Jack Rodwell (hamstring) could be back early next month.

Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote is out with a hamstring injury which could also sideline him for the Europa League quarter-final trip to Benfica, while full-backs Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Davide Santon (thigh) and Massadio Haidara (knee) will also be missing. Keeper Tim Krul (ankle) is back in training but not yet match-fit while skipper Fabricio Coloccini (back) is around three weeks away from playing again.

Last season: Newcastle 0 Man City 2, Man City 3 Newcastle 1

Last five league matches: Man City D L W W L; Newcastle L W L W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Carlos Tevez (Man City) 15; Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) 10

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

15:00 - Southampton (16) v Chelsea (3)

Chelsea begin a run of four games in nine days across all competitions when they play Southampton at St Mary's on Saturday. The Stamford Bridge club are facing a punishing fixture list but are determined to finish the season strongly. They are still only five points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal and interim manager Rafa Benitez remains under pressure.

Southampton will also pose a difficult opponent after their impressive victory over Liverpool in their last outing.

Southampton's Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Jos Hooiveld are all dealing with knocks - the trio will be assessed ahead of the clash, although manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes they will all be fit to feature. Vegard Forren could make his Saints debut, having started Norway's World Cup qualifier against Albania.

John Terry is available for Chelsea's trip to Southampton - but Rafael Benitez will select with one eye on Monday's FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United. Chelsea's interim manager reported a clean bill of health following the international break and he is hopeful that Ramires (Achilles) and Gary Cahill (knee) could be fit for Monday.

Last season: No Corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: Southampton W L L D W; Chelsea L W L W W

Top scorers (all competitions): Rickie Lambert (Southampton) 13; Juan Mata (Chelsea) 18

Referee: Martin Atkinson

15:00 - Swansea (9) v Tottenham (4)

Tottenham are hoping to keep hold of a place in the top four in order to secure Champions League football next season. Andre Villas-Boas' Gareth Bale-inspired side currently sit in fourth but they have hit a slump in form at the wrong time of the season after back-to-back defeats by Liverpool and Fulham. It will therefore be vital that they respond.

However, a trip to Capital One Cup winners Swansea, who have lost just three times at home this season, will not be easy.

Chico Flores is set to return to the Swansea squad after seven weeks on the sidelines since rupturing ankle ligaments against QPR. Kemy Agustien (thigh) is unlikely to be involved while Neil Taylor is continuing to make good progress on his return from a broken and dislocated ankle.

Spurs forward Gareth Bale is fit despite suffering from illness on international duty. Winger Aaron Lennon (hamstring and groin) and centre-back Michael Dawson (hamstring) have recovered from their respective injuries and are set to start. Defender Younes Kaboul is likely to be match fit in 10-15 days but fellow knee injury victim Sandro is out for the season.

Last season: Tottenham 3 Swansea 1, Swansea 1 Tottenham 1

Last five league matches: Swansea W L W L L; Tottenham W W W L L

Top scorers (all competitions): Michu (Swansea) 19; Gareth Bale (Tottenham) 21

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

15:00 - West Ham (14) v West Brom (8)

West Ham United are another side who are not yet certain of not being sucked in to the relegation zone. Sam Allardyce's men are 14th but only six points clear of danger and so will want a victory against this season's surprise package, West Brom.

Steve Clarke has had an excellent debut campaign as a manager and has steered the Hawthorns club to eighth in the table.

Hammers captain Kevin Nolan has recovered from a toe injury and is available and fellow midfielder Joe Cole returns after hamstring trouble - but Mark Noble (shoulder) is unavailable. Defender George McCartney is also fit after a knee problem, but back-up goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel (finger) is out so Stephen Henderson has been recalled from his loan at Ipswich.

Midfielder James Morrison (hamstring) is West Brom's major fresh injury concern. Head coach Steve Clarke confirmed striker Peter Odemwingie was part of the squad, despite his latest Twitter attacks against the Baggies which are being investigated internally.

Last season: No corresponding fixture

Last five league matches: West Ham W L L W L; West Brom W W L W D

Top scorers (all competitions): Kevin Nolan (West Ham) 6; Romelu Lukaku (West Brom) 13

Referee: Andre Marriner

15:00 - Wigan (18) v Norwich (12)

Wigan will be hoping the controversial win over Newcastle is the start to their perennial late escape from the relegation zone. Roberto Martinez's side are just three points behind 17th-placed Aston Villa with a game in hand. Another win over Norwich, who are 12th but still six points from the usual safety mark of 40, would only add to optimism at the DW Stadium. 

Chris Hughton's men, meanwhile, will not travel with much confidence having won just once away from home in the league this season, despite producing an impressive performance with 10 men at Sunderland before the international break.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is hoping striker Callum McManaman will be fit after he aggravated an ankle injury during the 2-1 victory over Newcastle two weeks ago. Martinez is also worried about overplaying Antolin Alcaraz following his return from six months out with a groin injury, while he must decide whether to recall goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi and captain Gary Caldwell after two wins in a row without them.

With goalkeeper Mark Bunn suspended after being sent off against Sunderland, Norwich manager Chris Hughton has confirmed Lee Camp will start. First choice keeper John Ruddy returned to training this week following surgery on a thigh problem but will require several reserve games before being considered. Midfielder Alexander Tettey is back in contention after a knee injury and Russell Martin (hamstring) is fit again.

Last season: Norwich 1 Wigan 1, Wigan 1 Norwich 1

Last five league matches: Wigan D L W L W; Norwich D W L D D

Top scorers (all competitions): Arouna Kone (Wigan) 11; Grant Holt (Norwich) 5

Referee: Howard Webb

17:30 - Everton (6) v Stoke (11) ESPN

In Saturday's evening kick-off, Everton will want to build on their victory over Manchester City as they aim to continue to stay in the top six. Poor travellers Stoke are their opponents at Goodison Park and David Moyes, whose future beyond the summer remains uncertain, will want to ensure Tony Pulis cannot celebrate what would be just a second away win of the league season.

Everton could welcome back goalkeeper Tim Howard (back) and defender Phil Jagielka (ankle), who have both missed the last three games. Midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar are both beginning two-match suspensions and defender Tony Hibbert (calf) is still sidelined.

Stoke have Robert Huth back after the defender completed a three-match suspension, having accepted a violent conduct charge from the Football Association relating to an incident in the 1-0 defeat at Fulham. Stoke boss Tony Pulis looks set to have a full squad to choose from.

Last season: Stoke 1 Everton 1, Everton 0 Stoke 1

Last five league matches: Everton D L L W W; Stoke W L L L D

Top scorers (all competitions): Marouane Fellaini (Everton) 12; Jonathan Walters (Stoke) 9

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Sunday 31 March 2013

13:30 - Aston Villa (17) v Liverpool (7) Sky1

Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool will want to get back on track after that disappointing defeat by Southampton when they meet relegation-threatened Aston Villa. The Anfield outfit will travel to the Midlands hoping to avenge the shock loss to Paul Lambert's team on Merseyside earlier in the season.  Villa, meanwhile, could be back in the drop zone when they kick off if results on Saturday have not gone their way.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has Darren Bent (foot), Nathan Baker (head) and Karim El Ahmadi (ankle) back in contention, while Fabian Delph is available after a two-game suspension. But Ciaran Clark and Brett Holman suffered shoulder and hamstring injuries while on international duty and will be assessed over the weekend.

Liverpool have goalkeeper Jose Reina and defender Jamie Carragher fit again after calf and shin injuries respectively, leaving only Fabio Borini and Joe Allen (both shoulder) and Martin Kelly (knee) absent.

Last season: Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 1, Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2

Last five league matches: Aston Villa W L L W W; Liverpool L W W W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 20; Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 29

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Monday 01 April 2013

20:00 - Fulham (10) v QPR (20) Sky1

Mahamadou Diarra remains Fulham's only absentee.

The Mali midfielder, out of contract at the end of the season, will not play again before then after it was discovered his troublesome left knee will require a third operation.

QPR manager Harry Redknapp has Bobby Zamora fit after he used the international break to overcome an ankle injury and a dose of the flu.

Redknapp reported a clean bill of health following the international window and he must decide whether to recall the mercurial Moroccan Adel Taarabt to the side.

Last season: QPR 0 Fulham 1, Fulham 6 QPR 0

Last five league matches: Fulham L D W D W; QPR L L W W L

Top scorers (all competitions): Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) 11; Loic Remy (QPR) 6

Referee: Jon Moss

Source SkySports/Sporting Life
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